198 riders start the Tour of Flanders

Bernucci pulls out as police search his home in Tuscany

198 riders rolled out of Bruges for the start of the Tour of Flanders on a wet Easter Sunday morning. Most teams had a full line-up of eight-riders but Lampre-Farnese Vini and Ag2r-La Mondiale started with just seven riders after late withdrawals on the eve of the race.

Gatis Smukulis did not start for Ag2r-La Mondiale, while Lorenzo Bernucci was missing from the Lampre-Farnese Vini line-up.

His team said the Italian was suffering from a temperature and he returned to Italy on Saturday. However Gazzetta dello Sport has reported that Bernucci returned to his home in Quarrata in Tuscany after the Italian drug police searched his home.

According to a report in Gazzetta, the police apparently took away a medicine they found at his home. It is unclear if the product was for Bernucci or his wife or if it was a regularly prescribed drug.

The 30 year-old Italian is close friends with Lampre-Farnese Vini teammate Alessandro Petacchi and the two rode together at Fassa Bortolo. Bernucci joined T-Mobile in 2005 but was sacked from the team in 2007 after testing positive for Sibutramine, an appetite suppressant. He claimed he did not know that the substance had recently been added to the WADA list of banned substances and had used it for years.

Bernucci's only comment to Gazzetta dello Sport, was: "How is it going? Pretty bad", before refusing to comment further. According to Gazzetta, the Lampre team knows about the police search at Bernucci's home but claimed not to know the details of the medicine that was taken away.

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