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Vuelta News for September 18, 2003

Edited by John Stevenson

Lefevere defends Virenque

Quick.Step-Davitamon team boss Patrick Lefevere has defended Richard Virenque over the incident that led to Virenque's disqualifation from the Vuelta on Sunday.

"Richard never tried to cheat," Lefevere told l'Equipe, "it was the circumstances of the race that sealed his fate. The moment we asked the Vuelta organisers for a release to authorise Vandenbroucke to race in Belgium, we couldn't let Richard quit the race. We did everything we could to avoid a big misunderstanding. The directeur sportif [Luca Guercilena] who was behind also shares some responsibility, even if it was in the team's interest to act like that, to salvage things."

Apparently Virenque had stopped at the feed zone in Sunday's stage, intending to retire from the race but his team said he had to continue. By the time he got going again he was behind the last grupetto and thus ended up hanging on the car in an attempt to regain contact with the last group.

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