Banned substances may have been found at Bernucci's home
Italian police have searched the houses of Lampre-Farnese Vini riders Alessandro Petacchi and Lorenzo Bernucci as part of an investigation, with several banned drugs apparently found in Bernucci's house according to a report on the website of the La Repubblica newspaper.
The searches were carried on Bernucci's home in the Tuscan town of Quarrata near Florence and at Petacchi's home near the Tuscan coast.
They were done by the Italian Guardia di Finanza that usually investigates financial cases. However this could be because Petacchi has been linked to a major fraud case in Milan and is suspected of not paying tax on money earned outside of Italy.
The Lampre-Farnese Vini team said Bernucci pulled out of the Tour of Flanders on Friday due to a temperature but he had already been told of the search by his wife.
According to the story published by La Repubblica, several banned substances were allegedly found in Bernucci's home. These included Albumin, which can be used to dilute blood and so lower haematocrit levels, Sibutramine, an appetite suppressant, and several phials of other drugs from outside of Italy that were taken away to be analysed.
The report suggested Bernucci could be suspended by the Lampre-Farnese Vini team, although there was no immediate reaction from the team when contacted by Cyclingnews on Sunday afternoon. He could also be banned for two years for possession of illegal doping products and face penal charges because doping is a crime in Italy.
Bernucci has already served a ban after failing a test for Sibutramine in 2007 when he was riding for the T-Mobile team. He claimed at the time that he did no know the drug had just been added to the WADA list of banned substances. He made a comeback with the tiny Cinelli team and then joined close friend and frequent training partner Alessandro Petacchi at LPR Brakes in 2009. Both riders moved to Lampre-Farnese Vini for this...
But solid teamwork indicates good form by two-time Ronde winner
Stijn Devolder had the chance to follow the footsteps of legendary Italian rider Fiorenzo Magni by winning the Tour of Flanders three times in a row, however, the Belgian rider didn't manage to pull off the third win. Neither did his teammate Boonen, who came short of winning his own third Ronde after Fabian Cancellara rode away on the Kapelmuur.
Devolder finished the race in twenty-fifth position from the group that sprinted for fifth place, but in his mind, his performance during the race was a bright spot in a season where he has so far failed to shine.
Coming into this Monument the Belgian had received criticism from not just the media but also from team manager Patrick Lefevre for failing to deliver results in any other races since he recorded last year's win.
When the finale got underway Devolder was spotted at the back of the peloton, but by the time the race hit the Taaienberg he was back up front, playing an important role in protecting teammate Boonen's move with Fabian Cancellara. At the finish line in Meerbeke Devolder expressed his relief for his strong performance.
"I had very good legs and rode a good race," Devolder said at the team bus. "I worked very hard to get at this level of form and it's morale-boosting to keep up with the best again, especially if I take in mind what has been thrown at me the last few weeks. It has been a rough year for me," Devolder said.
"I never doubted myself. I just worked hard to get back. I did it like during today's race, by fighting back. I answered those who criticized me with my legs," Devolder said.
Cancellara was one of the people saying that Boonen and Devolder didn't want to work for each other, or protect each other's moves. In the last two years Devolder was able to exploit his solo attempts, also helped by the presence from Tom Boonen in the chase groups.
"This year the roles in the team were turned around as Tom was in front and I was the one...
Tough HTC-Columbia rider looking for redemption at Scheldeprijs
Bernhard Eisel started the Tour of Flanders in the form of his life after winning Gent-Wevelgem last week, but crashes and having to chase at the wrong time in the race meant the HTC-Columbia leader finished in 18th place, 2:35 down on winner Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank).
Eisel was distanced after the first major selection with around 80 kilometres to go but fought back soon after. He then went on the offensive, attacking with Matt Hayman (Sky), Daniel Oss (Liquigas) and Maarten Wynants (Lotto) with 50 kilometres to go. The foursome had a small lead heading onto the crucial Molenberg but they were caught and then blown away by Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) and Tom Boonen (Quick Step).
“I though, I’d better let this motorbike come by but when I turned around and looked it was Cancellara,” Eisel said. “Then Boonen came passed me on the left but I couldn’t go anywhere with them so I just waited for Flecha, as he was in good form, but it cost me too much.”
Eisel had good legs but a succession of chases and problems sapped him of crucial energy and although he had no qualms with admitting Boonen and Cancellara were the strongest in the race, he was left thinking of what might have been.
“It wasn’t my day. My legs were good and I fought. I was always at the front staying out of the crashes but Sven Tuft (Garmin-Transitions) crashed in front of me after I stopped for a toilet break and he took me out. I landed on both of my knees and my hands.”
With skin taken from his hands and mechanical problems from the crash, Eisel was forced to chase. “It wasn’t a problem, even though I had to change my wheel but I was going back and forth in the bunch and it cost me too much power but Sky and Saxo did an awesome job.”
With the two leaders away, a chase and then the battle for third began. But as Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) attacked, Eisel found...
Leif Hoste, a triple runner-up in the Tour of Flanders, was only an outsider for the win in Meerbeke after failing to show good form this season, but he was encouraged by a strong ride on Sunday.
After being dropped out of the early breakaway on the first stage of the Three Days of De Panne-Koksijde, Hoste bounced back in the Tour of Flanders with a steady performance, featuring near the front of the peloton during the finale and covering his teammate Philippe Gilbert's counter-attack.
"I'm not surprised myself - I said before the race that I would be competitive," Hoste told Cyclingnews. "I did lack a bit of sharpness but I'm satisfied. It was a weird race with the slow start but in the end I was there," Hoste added.
Gilbert was the Omega Pharma-Lotto leader for the Tour of Flanders and he had expressed his annoyance with the lacklustre performances of some teammates. Hoste might have been one of the riders Gilbert was hinting at, but his display in Flanders was impressive.
"Staf Scheirlinckx was very good as well. It's an answer to the criticism we received," Hoste said. When asked whether he had the legs to place better than his 29th place, Hoste explained he didn't have much choice than to sit back in the third group since his teammate Gilbert was in the second group.
"When Phil is gone, what can I do," Hoste replied, indicating that third was the best the team could have done, but they are looking for a better result in next Sunday's Paris-Roubaix. "Well, those two [Cancellara and Boonen] were a level above the others, but surely next week is a big goal. I'll be slightly better and my form should be even better too," Hoste concluded before heading off to his team bus.
WADA asks UCI to extend German's ban another year worldwide
David Kopp faces the possibility of further suspension related to his 2008 positive test for cocaine. The German returned to competition this year after serving a one-year ban, but the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has appealed the original decision to the International Cycling Union (UCI) and is seeking an extend the penalty by a further year.
Kopp tested positive for cocaine in September 2008 at a Belgian national race while riding for Team Cycle Collstrop. The Flemish cycling federation handed him a one-year suspension, which ended December 31, 2009.
The 31-year-old had announced his retirement before hearing of the positive test, but has since decided to return to racing. After sitting out last season, he signed with the German Continental-ranked Team Kuota-Indeland for this year. He recently won the race Köln-Schuld-Frechen and was scheduled to ride in Monday's Rund um Köln.
The WADA had already appealed the one-year ban to the Flemish federation, and the ban was subsequently suspended so that Kopp may not ride in Belgium until September of this year. Now the WADA has asked the UCI to extend the ban worldwide.
It is not known when the UCI might make a ruling. “Actually I figure every day that I might be banned. Every race could be my last one,” Kopp told the German site radsport-news.com. “That is a situation which is almost unbearable.”
Kopp turned pro in 2002 with Team Telekom. He also rode for Teams Lamonta, Wiesenhof, Gerolsteiner and Cycle Collstrop.
Tom Boonen's second place finish at the Tour of Flanders on Sunday has seen the Quick Step rider move into the same position in the International Cycling Union's (UCI's) latest World Rankings, announced on Monday.
Luis Leon Sanchez (Caisse d'Epargne) remains the leader of the individual rankings, however Boonen's Flanders performance saw him move up 10 places from his previous position on the UCI list.
In addition to Boonen leap, the results of Belgian Classic saw Philippe Gilbert jump up to fourth (from 21st). Tour of Flanders winner Fabian Cancellara entered the rankings for the first time this season, and currently sits in 10th.
There was no change at the top end of the teams rankings, with Caisse d'Epargne, HTC-Columbia and Katusha holding their positions after strong early season performances. Astana leapfrogged Liquigas-Doimo for fourth, while Saxo Bank, Quick Step and Omega Pharma Lotto used the onset of the Classics to charge into the top-10.
Spain still rules the roost in the national rankings, though Belgium has now moved ahead of Italy for second. The Classics performances of George Hincapie (BMC Racing Team) and Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Transitions) have seen the United States shift from 13th to sixth, and Cancellara's heroics has seen Switzerland jump from 25th to eighth.
Cervélo TestTeam's depleted Classics squad was able to find some comfort from their performance at the Tour of Flanders on Sunday, but know they will face an uphill battle to be ready for next Sunday's Paris-Roubaix.
Cervélo's best-placed rider at Flanders was Roger Hammond, who sprinted to a seventh place finish in Meerbeke. In contrast, the team's captain for the race, Thor Hushovd, finished 57th, after fading in the latter stages of the 262-kilometre event. Although the Norwegian finished well down the day's result sheet, sports director Jean-Paul van Poppel said it hadn't come as a complete surprise.
"The team did an excellent job. They brought [Hushovd] up to the Oude Kwaremont in very good position. Everything went well, and then at one point, 50 kilometres from the finish, he was empty, the power was no longer there," said Van Poppel. "We always try to stay positive, but you know that he lost a lot of competition and I think that is what broke him in the last 50.
"He was fresh the last couple of days. He was feeling really good in the race and up to 200 kilometres there wasn't a single problem, but when the finale came he was empty."
Hushovd's performance throughout the first 200 kilometres of Flanders was indeed consistent with his Classics reputation, but after several weeks of illness he was unable to follow the pace of his rivals over the race's latter bergs. With a week to go until his major Classics objective, Paris-Roubaix, Van Poppel was optimistic that Hushovd's first race since his early abandon two weeks ago at E3 Prijs-Harelbeke, could be the trigger for a return to form.
"Next Sunday is perhaps Thor's most important race of the year, we hope we get the team well organised and fit," he said. "I have to believe we can. I know Thor gets his form really fast and you see he's not really down [about today]. He knows he's running out of time, but we have the hope that he will be up there on...
HTC-Columbia sprinter worked for Eisel, gained experience
Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) rode the Tour of Flanders with two objectives: helping Bernhard Eisel to the win and to experience the race first-hand, having never competed in the Belgian Classic. After he crossed the line it was time to reflect on his day in the saddle and his first experience in the 'Ronde'.
"I tried to look after Bernie as much as I could at the beginning," said a visibly weary Cavendish as he sat on the steps of the HTC-Columbia bus. "It wasn't too hard then, I was just trying to keep him out of the wind."
However a crash and subsequent mechanical problems after 160km put an end to his work in the front group and from then on it was just a matter of survival. "I crashed just before Kluisberg. It was just a crash in the peloton, the kind that happens all the time and someone went into me from behind.
"That wrecked my rear mech and it wouldn't go into the 25 or down into the 11 so coming down into the Oude Kwaremont it was a downhill at full gas sprint and I was going backwards. It was a hard race and I ran out of sugar big style."
Cavendish was still determined to ride to the finish and despite being recorded as s DNF (did not finish) by the organisers he crossed the line to complete his first Tour of Flanders.
"I was alright but I went back three groups in the last 50 kilometres and I was dropped by all three. Boom, boom, boom."
Cavendish came into the race looking to gain experience in an event he grew up watching as a child and dreams about one day winning. The sprinter has had a difficult year to date though, recording just one win after a winter disrupted by dental problems.
"It's a hard race but everyone said it was a hard Flanders to start with due to the course. There's no time for recovery and it's just stress, big stress for everything," he said.
His passion for the race remains and although unsure about whether he can come back and win, it's something he will return to...