After the admission of Ivan Basso to involvement in Operación Puerto, last year's winner will not be participating in the upcoming 90th Giro d'Italia. The honour of the number one back-number will instead be given to World and Olympic Champion Paolo Bettini (Quickstep-Innergetic).
The organisers of the Giro d'Italia have invited 22 teams to make up the 198 rider field, but due to the voluntary exclusion of riders who have been named in Operación Puerto, several teams are making last-minute subsitutions.
According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, Caisse d'Epargne issued a statement just three days before the start of the Giro that read, "Constantino Zaballa and Rubén Plaza will not ride the Giro because it was not in their program." In fact, the riders were originally listed on the start list, but pressure from the sport's organizations meant the two riders linked to Eufemiano Fuentes were not welcome in Sardegna.
Zaballa was part of Caisse d'Epargne last year before the Operación Puerto investigation came to the public's attention, while Plaza was signed this last winter. The team's sponsor, a French bank, is said to have also influenced their non-participation.
With their exclusion there will not be one rider from the first list (June 2006) of 58 riders linked to the Spanish investigation. The biggest names missing are Jan Ullrich (retired) and Ivan Basso (soon to be suspended). Michele Scarponi (Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo) will also stay at home after a voluntary withdrawal, added to yesterday admission that "I am Zapatero."
Two Tinkoff Credit Systems riders are due to have their exclusions confirmed today by team owner Oleg Tinkoff according to La Gazzetta dello Sport . American Tyler Hamilton, who had hoped to make the Giro his biggest race back in 2007, and German Jörg Jaksche both have been allegedly linked to Eufemiano Fuentes.
T-Mobile confirmed that Serguei Gonchar will not take part. The 36 year-old, who spent two days in the maglia rosa in last year's Giro is complaining of tendonitis while his team is stating he has a cold.
In an unusual switch, Wladimir Belli will take part in his 14th Giro d'Italia. Belli rides for the Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Selle Italia squad, which did not earn an invitation to the race. He will instead wear the jersey of Tinkoff Credit Systems after being given the green light by his team manager Gianni Savio. Belli has finished inside the top ten of the overall classification three times, taking sixth in 1997 and seventh in 2000 and 2004.
All riders will undergo UCI sanctioned medical controls Thursday morning.