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Second Edition Cycling News, Saturday, April 9, 2011

Date published:
April 09, 2011, 1:00 BST
  • Ballan accused of undergoing blood transfusion

    Alessandro Ballan (BMC) goes in pursuit of Gilbert of the Bosberg
    Article published:
    April 09, 2011, 9:51 BST
    Barry Ryan

    BMC say Italian will take part in Paris-Roubaix in spite of allegations

    Alessandro Ballan (BMC) has been accused by investigators in Mantova of undergoing an autologous blood transfusion in 2009. According to reports in Italy, the former world champion is one of 32 people who could face charges following the conclusion of a lengthy inquiry, but his BMC team says that he will line up as normal at Paris-Roubaix on Sunday.

    The wide-ranging investigation was focused around the activities of Mariana Mantovana-based pharmacist Guido Nigrelli and his involvement with the Lampre team, and with phone taps taking place between late 2008 and July 2009.

    Mantova public prosecutor Antonino Condorelli explained that Ballan was one of a number of people tailed by Italian police in that period, and he is accused of undergoing an illegal blood transfusion in Montichiari in 2009.

    “Beyond the intercepted telephone calls, carabinieri from the NAS [the Italian anti-drug squad], carried out shadowing and ambush operations,” Condorelli told Corriere della Sera. “That is how we discovered that Alessandro Ballan would have undergone an auto-blood transfusion in a surgery in Montichiari, where a doctor, Fiorenzo Egeo Bonazzi, is also under investigation.”

    Gazzetta dello Sport reports that the alleged transfusion took place a little before the 2009 Giro d’Italia, which Ballan subsequently did not ride. He was riding for Lampre as the reigning world champion at the time, and then signed for BMC ahead of the 2010 season.

    When Ballan’s involvement in the Mantova...

  • Rasmussen not worried by Mantova doping investigation

    Michael Rasmussen (Christina Watches)
    Article published:
    April 09, 2011, 10:27 BST
    Cycling News

    Team Christina Watches calls it undramatic

    Michael Rasmussen has confirmed that he was interrogated as part of  the Mantova, Italy, doping investigation, but said that as far as he knows, he is not accused of anything other than knowing the pharmacist involved.

    “Everyone who in some way knows the pharmacist has long since been questioned. I was questioned in April last year, but I'm not accused of anything. I have not been accused of something," he told the Danish newspaper Ekstrabladet.

    Rasmussen's home in Italy is near Mantova and he said that he knows Guido Nigrelli's pharmacy, using it for his family's needs.

    “I shop there for the simple reason that it is the only pharmacy that I know where I can get a discount. It gets a lot of riders.”

    Rasmussen said he assumed that he was questioned because police have checked the telephone records from riders under investigation.  One of those said to be involved is Lampre rider Daniele Pietropoli, with whom the Dane said he trained and called often.

    Team calls the investigation “pure fantasy”

    Rasmussen now rides for the small Danish team Christina Watches, and team president Claus Hembo refused to worry about any possible connection of his star rider to the doping investigation.

    “Although it might be a new story in public, then there is nothing new for us. It is quite undramatic,” he told the Ekstrabladet.

    “Michael was in Italy for questioning by the police last year in connection with the case. And just like with  the blood doping case in Austria, they took a DNA sample and fingerprints, and since there has not...

  • Basque Country disqualification a disgrace, says Freire

    Oscar Freire (Rabobank) speaks to the media after stage five.
    Article published:
    April 09, 2011, 11:17 BST
    Cycling News

    Spaniard relegated to 47th place on stage 5

    Oscar Freire (Rabobank) has voiced his anger at being relegated from first place on stage five of the Tour of the Basque Country. The Spaniard was first across the line in the sprint in Zalla on Friday, but was stripped of his win after television images showed his teammate Luis Leon Sanchez appearing to push him with 200 metres to go.

    Francesco Gavazzi (Lampre-ISD) was awarded the win as a result of Freire’s relegation to 47th place on the stage. The Italian told Freire that it was Lampre-ISD directeur sportif Maurizio Piovani who had lodged an objection rather than the rider himself.

    Nonetheless, the triple world champion Freire was indignant on hearing of the commissaires’ decision.

    “It’s a disgrace,” Freire said afterwards, according to Marca. “Neither I nor anybody else expected it. I asked the guy who was second, Gavazzi, if he was ashamed to climb onto the podium because he was with me with 200 metres to go and I was quicker.”

    Freire maintained that he had not been deliberately pushed by Luis Leon Sanchez, but rather that his teammate patted his back in order to let him know that he could pass.

    “He touched me to tell me to pass,” Freire insisted. “There was still long enough to the finish and it was in the final 100 metres that I made the difference, not when I was touched.”

    The eventual stage winner Gavazzi was one of 32 people named by Tuttobici yesterday as possibly facing charges...

  • Team washing machine takes Mørkøv out of Paris-Roubaix

    Men's Madison - Michael Morkov flies the Danish flag after he wins the championship
    Article published:
    April 09, 2011, 12:05 BST
    Cycling News

    Soapy water on the street causes crash and shoulder injury

    A freak accident has taken Michael Mørkøv out of Paris-Roubaix.  The Saxo Bank-SunGard rider slipped on soapy water from the team's overflowing washing machine and crashed, apparently breaking his shoulder.

    "It was a really unlucky crash and of course, I'm very unhappy right now,”  Mørkøv said on the team's website.

    "I was just going out for a quick spin. When I crossed some sewage from our truck, my front wheel just slipped, and I crashed down on my shoulder. I did do our training ride afterwards, but back at the hotel I knew something was wrong.

    “I got some treatments, but it didn't help me. We fear that I have some kind of fracture in my shoulder, so late last night it was decided that I wouldn't ride.”

    The Dane expects to be out of racing for several weeks.  His place at Paris-Roubaix will be taken by Australian David Tanner.

  • Ochowicz adamant that Ballan will start Paris-Roubaix

    Jim Ochowicz of Team BMC
    Article published:
    April 09, 2011, 12:29 BST
    Daniel Benson

    BMC rider accused of blood transfusion by Mantova investigation

    Despite being accused by investigators in Mantova of undergoing an autologous blood transfusion in 2009, Team BMC boss Jim Ochowicz is adamant that Alessandro Ballan will start tomorrow's Paris-Roubaix.

    According to reports in Italy, the former world champion is one of 32 people who could face charges following the conclusion of a lengthy inquiry.

    “We have no comment on that. We’re here to race,” Ochowicz told Cyclingnews at the team’s hotel in Compiègne.

    “I haven’t seen it and it’s just not something I can comment on. It’s just some article in a newspaper.”

    Asked if the team had been contacted by Italian investigators, Ochowicz added: “Not me, no. The team has not.”

    Ballan signed for BMC at the start of 2010 after spending six years at Lampre, where the alleged blood transfusion took place.

    “I can’t comment on something that happened on another team or somewhere else and then again we don’t want to comment on a newspaper,” Ochowicz said. “We’re here to race Paris-Roubaix, we’re doing that and he’s taking to the start tomorrow.

    “I know what’s been in the newspaper but I can’t read Italian anyway so I’ve got to wait for a translation anyway and blah blah blah.

    “It’s got nothing to do with BMC. Not at the moment, not here today as I’m standing here.”

    Finally, Ochowicz was asked if he had talked to Ballan since the allegations were broken last night. “That’s internal stuff within the team so I don’t want to...

  • Gran Fondo USA's Italian ride series kicks off in San Diego

    It was extremely wet but that didn't stop the 2nd Colnago Gran Fondo San Diego from going ahead.
    Article published:
    April 09, 2011, 15:06 BST
    Kirsten Frattini

    Alitalia signs on board as support sponsor

    The Gran Fondo USA will kick off with the first of four Italian-style mass-start group rides at the third annual Gran Fondo Colnago San Diego on Sunday, April 10. Former professional cyclist from Austria, Peter "Paco" Wrolich, will line up alongside roughly 2,500 participants under the Little Italy arch on India Street in downtown San Diego, California.

    Unlike the previous year's rainy conditions, participants will welcome expected sunshine and 60-degree Fahrenheit weather while riding the Gran Fondo's 168km and the Medio Fondo's 100km routes. Both routes will start on India Street and pass more than 5,500 feet of climbing that includes a timed King (and Queen) of the Mountain ascent on Honey Springs Road, a 10.7km ascent that average a 5.2 percent gradient. Last year, the top three finishers of the KOM were Vincent Lombardi, Soren Krebs and Eric Marcotte and Deya Guerrero won the QOM ahead of Christine Gregory and Mari Holden.

    Participants will be treated to a two-day event expo that will showcase more than 70 exhibitors along with an Italian-style lunch. Guests visiting the VIP area will be treated to Brunello di Montalcino wine, Grana Padano cheese and other delectable Italian gourmet foods. In addition, the ride will include aid stations located every 32kms along route.

    Returning supporters of the event include the Italy-based bicycle manufacturer Colnago, who renewed its sponsorship for an additional three years. Other returning sponsors are Campagnolo, Fulcrum, Gaerne, Speedplay Ride Strong Bike Tours and New partners include the Italian airline company, Alitalia, along with Full Speed Ahead, Michelob Beer, Italy Bike Hotel, and Ferragamo's family wineries, Cuore Italiano, Villa Sandi, the Italian Trade Commission, GU Energy, Il Borro and Castiglion del Bosco wineries, Prologo, Maxxis, Italy Bike Hotel and Il Palagetto winery.

    The Gran Fondo USA series typically offers three distances that include approximately...

  • French Paris-Roubaix hopes rest on Chavanel's shoulders

    The long road: Chavanel powers on, three fans watch on
    Article published:
    April 09, 2011, 15:55 BST
    Cycling News

    Former winner Madiot names French favorites

    French hopes for a Paris-Roubaix win on home soil rest firmly on the shoulders of Sylvian Chavanel (Quick Step). The 31-year-old rider is in the form of his life, but it has yet to bring him a win in any of this year's cycling Monuments. After falling just short of the win in the Tour of Flanders last Sunday, Chavanel hopes to bounce back with a victory in Paris-Roubaix.

    "I'm still regretting my loss in the sprint (in Flanders), but if I can win on Sunday, that will make up for it," said Chavanel.

    With teammate Tom Boonen having won previously on the vélodrome in Roubaix three times, it seems obvious that the Belgian will be leading the team again in the Hell of the North Classic, but sponsor Frans De Cock from Quick Step said that from a publicity point of view, a win from Chavanel in Roubaix would be more interesting.

    Boonen agreed and pointed out that there's no hierarchy among the team leaders, so Chavanel will be able to fight for his chances on the cobbles, too.

    "After Flanders, I rested a lot and avoided reading newspapers," said Chavanel. "I want to point out that there's no polemic with Boonen. I made a mistake in the sprint, too. In hindsight, it's always seems easier."

    The likeable Chavanel noted that he benefits from riding with Boonen on the same team. "I lack the experience in these races, and he knows the races very well. He gives me a lot of advice. I can learn from him," Chavanel said.

    When asked about how he rates his chances for Paris-Roubaix, Chavanel, who is nicknamed "Mimosa" said, "The fact that there are many more French journalists compared to our press conference last week (in Flanders) says something about the expectations....

  • Picture gallery: Paris-Roubaix team presentation

    Tom Boonen (Quick Step) in Compiegne.
    Article published:
    April 09, 2011, 17:28 BST
    Barry Ryan

    Ballan set to start in spite of weighty accusations

    Although the spectre of a major doping investigation involving one of the pre-race favourites hangs over Paris-Roubaix, it was a case of business as usual at the team presentation at the Chateau de Compiegne on Saturday afternoon.

    While Saturday morning’s Italian newspapers carried accusations by investigators in Mantova that Alessandro Ballan (BMC) had undergone an autologous blood transfusion in 2009, his team has decided not to remove him from its roster for the Hell of the North.

    In a somewhat macabre scene at the team presentation, the former world champion was presented as normal along with his teammates, and he was greeted with warm applause by the crowds gathered in Compiegne. Ballan was not available to field questions after descending from the podium.

    The Mantova investigation is centred around Ballan’s erstwhile team, Lampre, and the Italian squad was also present in Compiegne, although its Paris-Roubaix line-up does not include any of the riders who were cited as likely to face charges in a report on on Friday.

    Meanwhile, Tom Boonen (Quick Step) was in relaxed mood as he spoke to reporters at the presentation, even though he admitted he is still feeling the effects of his double crash at Scheldeprijs on Wednesday.

    “After Flanders I was on the way up, but Wednesday has made it a little more difficult,” Boonen smiled. The three-time Paris-Roubaix winner is Fabian Cancellara’s biggest challenger, but he was reluctant to discuss his plans to beat the Swiss rider, explaining that tactics soon go out the window in the Hell of the North.

    “There aren’t many tactics you...