Di Rocco would stop Contador from racing Giro if he could
After an ultimatum from the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) president Giovanni Petrucci to tell cyclists to stop doping, Renato Di Rocco, president of the Italian cycling federation, said he would exclude Alberto Contador from racing the Giro d'Italia if he could.
Contador is currently awaiting a hearing with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). The appeal, brought by the UCI, is fighting the Spanish federation's ruling that cleared him of doping offences for his Clenbuterol positive found at last year's Tour de France. He is free to race until the CAS makes its ruling, but that will not happen until after the Giro d'Italia in May.
The presence of Contador in the race is only part of Italy's doping problems. The country has been hit by a number of high-profile cases, including that of two 2009 Giro d'Italia podium finishers, Danilo Di Luca (EPO) and Franco Pellizotti (blood passport), 2008 runner-up Riccardo Riccò (EPO), 2006 winner Ivan Basso, who admitted to involvement with Operación Puerto, as well as 2008 Olympic silver medalist Davide Rebellin.
CONI president Giovanni Petrucci, responding to a recent inquiry into more than 30 top riders and team staff over an alleged doping affair in Mantova, said that doping has become so prevalent that the federation needs to tell the riders "to stop because nobody believes you anymore," AP reported today.
The CONI announced yesterday that it would look into the evidence assembled by the public prosecutor in Mantova now that the preliminary investigation has concluded.
A judge will decide if any of those named will go on trial for criminal doping activities, while the CONI's anti-doping prosecutor would look into possible sporting sanctions. Amongst those on the dossier are a number of riders on the Lampre-ISD team including Damiano Cunego and team manager Giuseppe Saronni as well as former riders Alessandro Ballan and Marzio Bruseghin.
"We've asked for strong action because this really requires something serious: the reality is that the number of positive riders forms a good chunk of cycling history," Petrucci said. "I'm extremely worried, and it's got to be cycling itself that takes concrete moves and says, 'Enough'."
Di Rocco agreed that something needed to be done. "We've got to stop this situation, which is dramatic," said Di Rocco. "If I could stop some riders from participating in the Giro, I would, starting with Contador. But that's not in my powers, so we'll think of something else."
Spaniard now recovered from illness earlier in the season
Carlos Sastre (Geox-TMC) will go to the Castilla y Leon on Wednesday in search of some much needed form having had a forgettable and largely anonymous start to the season. The Spaniard will lead his Geox-TMC team but sees the race more as an indicator for his participation in the Giro d’Italia.
Having last raced at the Vuelta a Catalunya in Spain where he finished sixth last, Sastre will hope he can put the start of the season behind him.
"I had a lung infection at Catalunya which meant I struggled, and I decided to take a break from racing," explained the Spaniard.
"I think I made the right choice, if I had not done so, things could have been much worse. Now I just want to work on my form in peace at the Castilla y Leon."
Sastre still feels despite a less than ideal lead up that he can perform well at the Giro.
"Fortunately I still have three weeks before the start of the Giro, so I can hopefully refine my condition going into May."
Geox-TMC management have put no pressure on Sastre to ride well but will be hoping for bigger things in three weeks time.
"Sastre will be there to test himself rather than to ride for the general classification. We have other cards to play with sprinters Matteo Pelucchi and Marko Kump - so there are opportunities."
The Vuelta Castilla y Leon starts on Wednesday with a 179.4 km stage to Palencia.
US champion survives first attempt at Queen Classic
First year pro Ben King (RadioShack) was a last-minute draft for this year’s Paris-Roubaix after Robbie Hunter was ruled out. The first-year professional admitted that he was scared of the race before the start on Sunday but the US road champion finished the race in 76th place having spent the first half the race working for his team and surviving until the finishline.
“It was pretty special and I’m proud of having finished. I think we as a team accomplished all of our goals with a rider in the break and then a top five finish,” he told Cyclingnews.
“I was scared of this race and I’d heard so many horror stories. It’s really different to any race I’ve ever been a part of. It really is carnage with crashes all over the place and cobbles that weren’t’ made to ride a bike on.”
“I know now why people are scared of the race, why they hate it and why they love it also because it’s definitely a unique experience.”
King’s task was to mark early moves in the race and although he missed the major selection that included Johan Van Summeren (Garmin-Cervelo), his RadioShack team were represented by Nelson Oliveira, with Grégory Rast latching on after the Arenberg Forest.
“I covered a few moves early on and Nelson got in the move that actually stuck. I had trouble and the hardest part for me was when the real fighting happened and staying at the front. I could get to the front but I had trouble staying there and I think that’s something you have trial and error with and you work out with experience.”
“But the fans were amazing and there were so many people on the course screaming and showing their support. You can tell they have so much respect for the riders.”
RadioShack’s director was Dirk Demol, who won the race in 1988, a year before King was born.
“He had a lot of practical advice that was easy to apply after the race on positioning and how to handle the cobbles because there’s an art to it and which line you pick and where you hold the bars and how you do it.”
In this exclusive video, King talks to Cyclingnews a day before the race about his fears and expectations ahead of the biggest one-day race.
Kurt-Asle Arvesen was determined to make it to the finish line in the velodrome in what was probably his last Paris-Roubaix, but the Sky rider was not ready to do so by riding on the cobblestones without a saddle. A crash with about 60km to go broke his saddle and it eventually fell off entirely and he was forced out of the race.
“It would have been fun for me personally to get into the velodrome. Right then it was pretty bitter, though I would only have gotten into one of the last groups,” he told Procycling.no
The crash was his own fault, he freely admitted. He hit a cobblestone, flew over the handlebars and landed in a field. “I remember thinking – now I will break my collarbone. But it went smoothly.”
He was uninjured, but the same could not be said of his bike. The Norwegian climbed right back on and took off, only to discover that one of the screws holding the saddle on had come loose. Finally the whole saddle came loose before falling off.
“I tried to continue for another 20 kilometres, but I had to give up after one of the worst cobblestone sections (Mons-en-Pevele).”
Riding on the cobbles without a saddle was not easy. “Usually you can sit back a little and rest a bit, but my back got really tired as did the upper body in general. It was hard and brutal,"
Still, he was able to laugh about it. “If you aren't good enough to win, you have to find something else to draw attention.”
Alberto Contador will line up at the start of stage one of the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon as the defending champion but a recent cold may affect him as he aims to win his third stage-race title of the season.
Contador has won Castilla y Leon on three occasions, finishing second once.
“This will be a difficult race because the mountain finish is not very demanding and cannot make so much of a difference. The time trial is also very short so any rider who arrives in time has a chance of victory.”
Contador’s first major objective remains this year’s Giro but he will face stiff opposition this week in Spain with Igor Anton (Euskaltel), Carlos Sastre (Team Geox) and Xavier Tondo (Movistar) all set to start the five-day event.
Forward to CAS
While his on-the-bike situation has been next to perfect this season, his off-the-bike problems have been anything but clear. Cleared to race by the Spanish Federation, he must go the Court of Arbitration for Sport after the UCI appealed the decision.
Contador and his legal team have selected Ulrich Haas as their representative on the three-person panel to decide the Spaniard’s fate. Haas was the chief judge who decided to uphold a ban for Alejandro Valverde last year. Valverde was given a two-year suspension.
Paradoxically, the UCI and WADA, have chosen Quentin Byrne-Sutton, who chaired the CAS and ruled in favour of Valverde after the UCI tried to stop him from participating in the Worlds in Stuttgart 2007. The third and final member of the panel will be chosen by the CAS.
"Ulrich Haas is one of the referees with more respect and prestige and one of the world's leading experts on doping, and has worked for the AMA,” sources have sold AS.com.
Haas is also a professor at the University of Zurich, and was a member of the legal team appointed to review the current WADA World Anti-Doping Code.
Rabobank's Dane making alternate plans if not in form after knee problems
Knee problems and surgery have destroyed Matti Breschel's Spring Classics season, and the Rabobank rider has acknowledged the rest of the season is also being affected. He still hoped to ride the Tour de France, but if he is not back in shape by July, he has started planning for other races.
The 26-year-old knew it was important not to force his way back. “It is going quietly forward, it is up and down. I make sure to take care of myself so I don't come back too early. I would rather take a week too long.”
Breschel signed with Rabobank this season to lead the Dutch ProTeam in the Spring Classics, but the knee problems have given him only minimal racing time this year. His next objective was the Tour de France, and he realized that it too might be questionable.
“If I'm only 90 per cent ready, I shouldn't ride the Tour and take the place of a rider who might be 100 per cent,” he said.
The Dane has come up with a fall back plan. “I would rather spend the time concentrating on the Tour of Denmark, the Vuelta a Espana and the world championships, and then hope that the form stays all the way to the Giro di Lombardia.”
But that would definitely be his second choice. “My plan A is still to get ready for the Tour, but if it turns out that I can't, then I have a Plan B. It is good to have that in mind, so I won't be disappointed not to ride the Tour.”
Leukemans did the best of the three in the Flanders races, finishing 13th in Paris-Roubaix. His best Amstel Gold result was seventh in 2005. Marcato was eighth in the race last year.
In Amstel the three will be joined by Uzbekistan champion Sergey Lagutin, Wout Poels, Johnny Hoogerland, Rob Ruygh and Pim Ligthart. First-year pro Ligthart recently took his first win, at the Hel van het Mergelland.
Poel and Hoogerland will be protected riders in the race,with the latter declaring, “I want to be in front in the finale of the race."
“I have high expectations and we have a strong team with several riders which can do the final,” said sport director Michel Cornelisse. “We will need a strong collective against the other teams but I am confident in a good result.”
The team also announced its long list for its first Giro d'Italia. Nine of the following 12 riders will be selected: Johnny Hoogerland, Martijn Keizer, Joost van Leijen, Jens Mouris (The Netherlands), Matteo Carrara, Alberto Ongarato, Mirko Selvaggi (Italy), Borut Bozic Slovenia), Sergey Lagutin (Uzbekistan), Michal Golas (Poland), Frederik Veuchelen (Belgium) and Maxim Belkov (Russia).
RadioShack announced its line-ups for the GP de Denain on Thursday, April 14, as well as for Amstel Gold Race.
GP de Denain: Sam Bewley, Philip Deignan, Robbie Hunter, Ben King, Geoffroy Lequatre, Robbie McEwen, Nelson Oliveira and Jesse Sergent
Amstel Gold Race: Philip Deignan, Ben Hermans, Markel Irizar, Geoffroy Lequatre, Sergio Paulinho, Gregory Rast, Jesse Sergent and Haimar Zubeldia
This week marks the transition from the cobbled Classics of Flanders and Northern France to the hills of the Ardennes Classics, with today’s Brabantse Pijl the marking the end of the spring for some riders and the start for many others.
The 51st edition of the race again started in Leuven, in the northern Brabant part of Flanders. However the race includes 31 short hills that will give the riders a taste of what is to come in the Amstel Gold Race, La Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
The 200km route starts with a ride to the south of Brussels and then heads back to Overijse for the final 75km on a tough circuit that includes a short but painful climb to the finish.
The sun was out for the start in the centre of Leuven, with the local cycling fans out chasing autographs and photographs with the riders. Unfortunately several big-name riders from the pre-race start list did not start, including last year’s winner Sébastien Rosseler (RadioShack). Italian national champion Giovanni Visconti (Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli) also failed to start after coming down with a cold.
Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) did start, as he looked to test his legs before Sunday’s Amstel Gold Race after missing Paris-Roubaix. Oscar Freire topped a strong Rabobank squad that also included Australia’s Michael Matthews and Luis Leon Sanchez.
Brabantse Pijl often allows smaller teams to grab the spotlight and both Team Spidertech and UnitedHealthcare were at the start, along with the likes of AN Post –Sean Kelly, Team NetApp, Andalucia, Colnago-CSF Inox and Acqua & Sapone.
They will all be looking to snatch the glory from the big ProTeams and local Belgian teams.