Retired rider provided evidence on Ferrari to Padova inquiry
The Italian Olympic Committee has handed the already-retired Leonardo Bertagnolli a reduced ban of 17 months following a hearing before the national anti-doping tribunal in Rome on Thursday to discuss his biological passport case. CONI said that it had suspended half of the full sentence of two years and ten months due to Bertagnolli’s collaboration with prosecutors, although he would still have to pay the UCI a fine of €50,000 (reduced from the full €98,000) if he were to return to racing.
Bertagnolli announced his retirement in June 2012, on the very day that the UCI revealed that it was opening proceedings against him after detecting anomalies in the blood profile of his biological passport. It subsequently emerged that Bertagnolli had already confessed to doping in May 2011 when questioned by investigators from the Padova-based anti-doping inquiry, which centres around the activities of Dr. Michele Ferrari.
Bertagnolli’s statement to the Padova investigation provided detaisl on his blood doping while he was a Ferrari client, and it was used as evidence by the US Anti-Doping Agency as it built its case against Ferrari and the doping system in place at Lance Armstrong’s US Postal Service team.
Bertagnolli also named a number of his former Liquigas teammates as Ferrari clients during the 2007 season in his statement to the Padova investigation, including Roman Kreuziger, Franco Pellizzotti, Enrico Gasparotto and Francesco Chicchi. The Liquigas team denied Bertagnolli's assertion that he had been given its permission to frequent Ferrari for the treatment of a thyroid problem.
The long-running Padova investigation has yet to reach its conclusion, but has already indirectly seen Filippo Pozzato, Michele Scarponi and Giovanni Visconti serve three-month bans after they admitted to CONI that they had been Ferrari clients.
The 35-year-old Bertagnolli was a professional for eleven seasons, racing for Saeco, Cofidis, Liquigas, Amica Chips, Diquigiovanni and Lampre. He won stages at the Giro d’Italia (2009) and the Vuelta a España (2005), as well as the San Sebastian Classic in 2007.
Gazzetta dello Sportreports that Bertagnolli has found a new job outside of cycling since announcing his retirement, and it is understood that he has no intention of making a return to racing when his ban expires on November 24 of this year.
Movistar were first up on the second day of press conferences on the Tour de France’s floating HQ, the Mega Smeralda. Sitting alongside Colombian climbing ace Nairo Quintana and team director Eusebio Unzue, Movistar leader Alejandro Valverde admitted Sky’s Chris Froome is very much the rider to beat over the next three weeks, but declared himself as more confident and convinced of his chances than he’s ever been. “If all goes well I see myself as finishing on the podium, although I can’t say which step that will be,” said the 33-year-old Spaniard.
“The Tour is very long and very hard as well this year. Froome is the big favourite, he’s got a great team around him, but we’ve got a great team as well,” said Valverde. “There are lots of stages where things could change, the kind of stages that we saw last year at the Vuelta where Alberto [Contador] took the lead from Purito [Rodríguez]. It wasn’t one of the toughest stages, a medium mountain day, but the whole race turned there.”
Valverde refused to be drawn on his team’s tactics beyond the opening few days of the race, but did admit: “The one key thing we are going to have to do is to break the rhythm of Team Sky.” He added: “The key thing during the first week is to stay out of trouble because it will be very nervous, so I will ride more towards the front in order to avoid crashes.”
The Spaniard said he has plenty of respect for Froome’s achievements and ability, but has no fear of him. He explained he’s been buoyed by the strength of his team and also his impressions of the course. “The route is not unfavourable to me – it’s well balanced. I certainly like the mountain stages,” he said. “Looking at the first time trial I only see Froome as being a level above the other contenders. But we’ve got a very strong team for the team time trial, one that could even fight for victory, and the course of the final time trial suits me well.”
Quintana has spent the last two months preparing for the Tour at home in Colombia. Although talked up by many as a dark horse for the yellow jersey, the 23-year-old Tour debutant played down his own prospects, insisting he is at the Tour to help Valverde in whatever way he can. But he acknowledged he likes riding in France and is looking forward to his Tour debut, describing it as “a dream come true”.
Asked if he had given any thought to challenging for the white jersey of best young rider, he said: “I’m not thinking of it at all for now. I’m just focusing on Alejandro. We will see how the race unfolds and then the team strategy might change. One of my most important tasks will be to break the momentum of the Sky train.”
Winner of the Tour of the Basque Country back in April, Quintana pointed out he’s also got a decent record in France. “I do like the climbs in France. I first revealed myself on them at the Tour de l’Avenir and I’ve done well here again at the Route du Sud and the Dauphiné. I’m coming here with no fear whatsoever even though it’s my debut. I can tell you I was very happy when they told me that I was going to be making my debut in France,” he said.
Team boss Unzue also stressed that Quintana is in the race to learn and help Valverde, but admitted that could change. “We’ve got a lot of hope for Nairo’s future. He could be a Tour de France contender and even winner in the short to medium term, but for now he’s here to learn,” he stated.
“I’m afraid to say this is my 31st Tour, so I’ve got a good idea of how to approach the race. We’ve almost always come into it with a leader and a future leader alongside him. We started with Arroyo and Delgado, then it was Delgado and Indurain, then Indurain and the likes of Zülle, Olano and Mancebo, and now we’re doing the same with Alejandro and Nairo. But we’re not going to put the brake on him if he shows he’s got the form and the confidence to make an impact. The main goal, though, is to give Nairo some base experience of the Tour, so that he can see what the race is all about and has something to work on, so that he can come back here in future with bigger ambitions.”
As for his team leader, Unzue said: “The key thing for Alejandro is to get out of the three stages on this island safely. I think it’s clear Chris Froome is the number one favourite, but the Tour de France is a race apart. All kinds of things can happen, good and bad. One of Froome’s weaknesses is that he lacks experience as a leader in races of this stature, and that’s certainly the case when he’s compared to Alejandro, Purito and Alberto.”
Trek have unveiled their second generation Trek Madone 7-Series, the bike that team RadioShack Leopard Trek riders will pilot during the 2013 Tour de France. BikeRadar have got one to hand, and you can take a closer look in the video below.
We used Trek’s Project One website to configure this Fabian Cancellara replica – custom paint, carbon Bontrager wheels, Dura-Ace and a full smattering of Bontrager lightweight carbon parts. The bike has arrived ahead of the Tour, in time for our coverage and nicely up specced to the next generation 7-Series. The same artists that created Fabian’s RadioShack-Leopard bike have crafted the Spartacus paint finish you see here. It’s all done by hand.
The frameset now drops in at a claimed weight of just 725g – that's a 25g reduction compared with the 2012 Madone 7-Series. Trek say that's down to a reworking of the composites and layup used for construction.
A lot of time and effort has been focused on the rear chainstays; Trek say the new design has improved both ride quality and stopping performance from the direct-mount integrated brake units.
"I would like to say Jakob [Fuglsang] but it’s pretty obvious that Froome is flying. If everything goes okay for him they he should win it. You know how the Tour is, it’s three weeks and anything can happen but on paper Froome is the favourite," Brajkovic told Cyclingnews.
"I think that Contador will be there but personally I think Froome is better in time trialing. If I had to bet then I’d bet on Froome."
Alberto Contador held his pre-race press conference in Porto Vecchio on Thursday morning but somewhat surprisingly there was no sign of his team manager and mentor Bjarne Riis.
The Saxo-Tinkoff team was tight-lipped about the reasons for his absence, only saying he will soon be at the Tour. The Dane is apparently holed in Tuscany on holiday, with speculation rife that he's avoided the Grand Depart in Corsica to avoid facing the media and a barrage of questions about recent revelations about doping in the nineties, Jan Ulrich's confession and Laurent Jalabert's past and the whole Lance Armstrong affair.
Riis, nicknamed Mr. 60% for his alleged sky-high blood haematocrit while racing, confessed to his own doping in 2007 and offered to give back his 1996 Tour de France winner's yellow jersey. However he has yet to confess his sins as a team manager and explain what went on when Jalabert, Tyler Hamilton, Ivan Basso and a long series of other riders rode for his teams.
Contador gets lost in training
According to today's L'Equipe newspaper, Alberto Contador got lost during his first training ride in Corsica, leaving the team in panic.
The Spaniard apparently got lost in the hills above Porto Vecchio and the team was unable to find him or contact him for a while. The team gave him a two-way radio to ensure he did not get lost again.
Less than ideal start for Steegmans
The 100th Tour de France, the rider's fifth, got off to a rough start for Omega Pharma-Quick-Step's Gert Steegmans. The Belgian had a few nervous hours on Thursday with his luggage delayed back at Nice airport while he made the trip to Corsica.
"Very annoying" he told Het Nieuwsblad while retaining his sense of humour. "If I do not get my clothes on time, I can immediately return home."
Luckily, shortly before the start of the Teams Presentation, Steegmans' luggage made it to Corsica, with the 32-year-old happily posting a photo of his bag to his twitter feed
Tony Martin's flying adventures
Tony Martin's flight from Paris on his way to Corsica started out with strained nerves but ended with a pleasant surprise. His flight from Paris was delayed for over an hour due to technical problems, and the Omega Pharma-QuickStep rider was sure he would miss his connection at Marseilles.
The flight finally took off, and as the landing neared, a steward told him to move to the front so that he could deplane quicker. The world time trial champion was not sure what to do, as there were no seats free.
Then to his surprise, the cockpit door was opened and he was given a seat behind the pilot, allowing him to witness the landing up close. And yes, he did catch the connecting flight.
2014 team time trial to end in Ypres?
The 2014 Tour de France “will in all probability” hold a team time trial from Mons-en-Baroeul, in northern France, to Ypres, Belgium. The Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad reports that the stage will finish “amidst the battlefields and cemeteries of the first World War.”
Van Garderen says his role will be to soften up rivals for the Australian
Although there has been plenty of debate outside the BMC Racing Team about who might or should lead their Tour de France challenge, the team left no doubt about their intention to put their full weight behind 2011 Tour de France champion Cadel Evans. Sitting alongside last year’s best young rider, Tejay van Garderen, who placed fifth on GC, Evans said he had recovered well from one of the hardest editions of the Giro d’Italia in recent years and described the team around him as even stronger than the one that helped him win the yellow jersey two years ago.
"After the Giro I had a bit of trouble waking up in the mornings for quite a while, but that’s normal," said the 36-year-old Australian. "But day by day you get better and the focus is more on recovery than on training. The important thing is recovery and this time around, as opposed to 2010, the last two weeks coming into the Tour I’ve felt a lot fresher."
Evans said he is unconcerned by the fact that other riders are being touted as the favourites, commenting: "It’s two years since I won it and everyone seems to have forgotten about me. Most people’s attention is focused on other riders, which is fine by me. It leaves me free to do my job."
The BMC leader said he had full confidence in his team. "We had a good team in 2011, good enough to win the Tour, but I think we’re coming here with a better team, a slightly more focused team, a team that knows how to win the Tour, a team that comes with the confidence of having won the Tour, and that certainly helps."
One key addition is van Garderen, who immediately nixed any idea that he might be thinking about personal objectives. "The first goal is to get Cadel on the podium or the win. Part of that strategy is having me as an extra card to play to attack Sky, or Contador, or some of the other favourites. That kind of strategy only works if you’ve got two guys who are close on GC. If I attack and I’m half an hour down then they don’t care, but if I’m a minute down then Cadel can maybe sit there, they chase and Cadel can make an attack on top of mine. That’s the strategy. If we gave a guy capable of winning this race, it’s going to be him and not me," he admitted.
The American said he is not thinking about defending the white jersey, describing it as "not the immediate goal. If it happens, it happens." Of his own prospects of finishing on the Tour podium he said, "I think it will be a couple of years before I’m ready to do that."
He confirmed he always knew he would be riding this Tour in support of Evans and is not disappointed to have that role in spite of his success in the Tour last year. "I knew Cadel had a few more years on his contract and a few more years of capability and motivation. He’s won the Tour, so I wasn’t expecting to be the captain," van Garderen affirmed. "The team’s been really fair. Just about every race I’ve done this year I’ve been the leader. I’ve stood on three stage race podiums this year and just off a couple more. I can’t say the team hasn’t been fair to me."
Asked about Evans doubling up the Giro and Tour and about the toll that might have taken, van Garderen said he believes the Australian is one of the few riders who could cope with that kind of workload and added that other team-mates had told him Evans had been in great shape during a pre-Tour high-altitude training camp. He also played down the likelihood of having to step into the Australian’s shoes in the event of some unexpected setback.
"I don’t think anything’s going to happen with Cadel. I think he’s strong. I think he’s coming here with good form and a lot of confidence. He’s probably one of the most skilled when it comes to surviving the hectic first week," said van Garderen.
Cannondale rider unveils a custom Hulk design bike
Peter Sagan unveiled a new look Cannondale bike for the Tour de France decorated with green 'Hulk' eyes. He refused to reveal details of any planned victory salutes but he confirmed that he targeting a second green point jersey and has the full backing of the Cannondale team.
Sagan turned 23 in January and has developed and matured quickly in 12 months. He has a goatee beard and is leaner this year, but is as determined, relaxed and confident as ever.
"It's my second Tour de France and I'm happy to be back. There's perhaps more pressure but I'm also more relaxed about it all," he said in his pre-race press conference on Friday afternoon, switching from Italian to English with the same ease he often beats his rivals in sprints.
"After taking the green jersey in my first Tour, we've got an even bigger objective this year: the same things but with more expectations for the green jersey. Last year I hoped to win it and gain experience. This year we know it's possible and we've built a team to defend it."
Sagan is targeting Saturday's first stage finish in Bastia in the hope of taking the first yellow jersey, but he knows he can also take yellow on stage two or three because he can handle the climbs better than any pure sprinter. However, the yellow jersey is just a goal for the early part of the Tour. The big goal is to again reach Paris in green and climb on the podium in the Champs Elysees, all while having fun on his bike.
"The first stage is the first step in this Tour de France but the race last 21 days, not one," he pointed out.
"It could go well tomorrow or maybe not good and it could turn out to be a bad day. We'll see. Whatever happens I know I can make up for it the day after or later in the race."
"It's difficult to predict what will happen in the race. It'll be a battle from start to finish. To finish the Tour without any problems is almost possible. Every rider has a bad day. Maybe I won't win any stages or maybe I'll win a lot."
Chasing points on every stage
Sagan dominated the points competition last year, winning three stages on the way to Paris and racking up 421 points during the 21 stages. Andre Greipel was a distant second with 280 points.
He will again use his better all-around ability to score points in intermediate sprints, on hilly stages, where the pure sprinters will struggle, and also take on the likes of Mark Cavendish, Greipel and Marcel Kittel in the hectic high-speed finishes.
"For sure I've got to do something every day," he said.
"I'm not just a sprinter, I can do a lot of things in hillier stages and come up with something. We've selected a team to help me in the sprints but also control the harder stages and take intermediate sprints."
Sagan will no-doubt clash with his rival sprinters but despite the rivalry in the Tour de France, he insisted he does not really have any enemies in the peloton. He was pleased to hear that Cadel Evans had earlier named him one of the riders that inspires him.
"I've got respect for the older riders like Evans or Contador, Gilbert or Boonen. I'm new to cycling and I'm winning a lot now and I'm happy they accept me. Perhaps they like that I win," he said.
"Before I was a professional, I looked at them like idols. Now I'm in the peloton with them things have changed, they're more like friends. I like that because we all do the same job, we all racing together and have the same lifestyle. It's nice to have friends in the peloton. I'm sure I've got so enemies too, but I prefer to be friends with everyone."
Secret victory celebration plans
The You Tube video of Sagan 'parking' his bike on a car roof has already been seen 350,000 times and his Forrest Gump and Hulk victory celebrations in last year's Tour de France also captured huge attention. He said his working on his plans to entertain people with other, equally as original victory celebrations this year.
"I started thinking about them yesterday, I've been talking to some friends and my teammates but I'm not going to say what my plans are for now," he said.
"But I think it's nice to put on a show for the fans and entertain them. People take holidays to come and watch races, so its good to give them something special, to thank them for watching."
When Jonathan Vaughters presented the Garmin-Sharp riders at the team's Tour de France press conference in Porto Vecchio, he divulged a 'factoid' about Andrew Talansky, revealing that his talented young American rider is the only one who was able to match the climbing rate of Chris Froome one day at the Critérium du Dauphiné.
Talansky is also a major contender for the best young rider's white jersey and part of the Garmin-Sharp pack of 'wild dogs' who intend to attack this year's Tour de France en masse, making it unpredictable and uncomfortable for the big overall favourites such as Chris Froome (Team Sky) and Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff).
He is riding the Tour de France for the first time in his career. Yet he has already gained vital experience this year with a spell in yellow at Paris-Nice and some strong rides at Critérium di Dauphiné and is wiser beyond his years, speaking with authority and confidence despite only turning 24 last November.
"It'd be wonderful to end up in the white jersey but it's just one component of what we will consider a successful Tour de France," Talansky told Cyclingnews.
"It's my first Tour de France and you need to go to a race and learn a race before you can go back and win it or go on the podium. I've seen that with Paris-Nice and other races. I'm looking forward to learning more about the Tour and the way it's raced but I know I enjoy racing on French roads. It should be familiar."
Nerves does not seem to be a problem, despite the grandeur and pressure of the Tour de France.
"The Tour de France is only as big as you make it. Everyone can make it as big or as small as you want in your head. It depends on how much it affects you but I generally don’t let it affect me much," he said wisely.
Ripping up the Tour de France script
Talansky is perhaps confident because he knows the other riders at Garmin-Sharp will watch his back, protect and help him in the race, and share their experience to ensure he does as well as he can on the road to Paris.
"When you're surrounded by such an experienced group of riders, it helps take the pressure off you," he said.
"David (Millar) has won multiple stages, Tom (Danielson) has been in the top ten, Christian (Vande Velde) has been top five, Ryder (Hesjedal) has won the Giro. Riding with these guys takes the stress off."
Garmin-Sharp has opted for a strong team of climbers and overall contenders for the 2013 Tour de France, leaving out sprinter Tyler Farrar and former Paris-Roubaix winner Johan Van Summeren.
With the likes of Talansky, Vande Velde, Hesjedal and Dan Martin in their starting nine, Garmin-Sharp intend to rip up any script that the Tour de France traditionally follows.
"As Jonathan said when in our press conference, we don’t have the rider who can say he will win the overall race, so we have to adopt a different tactic to win stages and hopefully attack our way into the front of the race. That's the plan and we have the team here to do that everywhere," Talansky explained.
"We'll be going for it but not in a haphazard way and throwing people off the front. We'll do it in a very intelligent, very calculated manor."
Although journalists asking Tejay van Garderen for a reaction to Lance Armstrong's comment in this morning's Le Monde misrepresented the Texan's comments, van Garderen insisted that any suggestion that a rider must be doped to win the Tour de France is wrong, "because it's been done," he said.
Like the many of the new generation of cycling stars, van Garderen admitted Armstrong had been one of his cycling heroes when he was a kid, saying, "I had his poster on my wall. I was a Lance fan."
Yet it is now up to these young riders to prove to fans and journalists alike that cycling is different from what it was in Armstrong's era.
"I think the sport has turned a corner," van Garderen said. "I finished fifth in the Tour and I did that clean. I believe Cadel [Evans] won the Tour clean, I believe [Bradley] Wiggins won the Tour clean. If Lance chooses not to believe that, I would say that's a pity for him because I think cycling has turned a corner since his era."
Pressed on what he thinks Armstrong's role should be and whether the now-former Tour de France champion should keep his counsel, van Garderen responded: "If he's saying things like he doesn't think it's possible to win the Tour clean then he should be quiet, because it is possible. But if he wants to come out and say, ‘I'm sorry for what I did and I'm glad things are better now,' which is the actual truth, then I think he's a voice that people should listen to. Whether people should listen to him really depends on what he's going to say."
The young American confessed he was "disappointed" when he heard Armstrong admit to doping to win all of his seven Tour titles, but added: "In my mind, he still won those Tours. Yes, there's an asterisk next to that era, but if you look at [Jan] Ullrich, who just admitted [blood doping], back then it was different and he still had to weather the conditions and the elements and the roads and he did all of the training.
"I still think he won those races, but it was certainly disappointing for me as a cycling fan to have all that stuff come out and learn the ugly truth of what was really going on then."