Spanish national federation president Juan Carlos Castaño has hit out at what he sees as Italian attempts to undermine the Spanish team prior to the elite men's world road race championship race in Mendrisio, Switzerland on Sunday. Responding to comments attacking the participation of Vuelta winner Alejandro Valverde by UCI ProTour president Vittorio Adorni, Castaño said, "What the Italians are saying is simply designed to increase the pressure on us and gain some kind of advantage."
Adorni told Corriere della Sera that he is opposed to Valverde's participation in Mendrisio and that he will be pressing UCI president Pat McQuaid to block the Spaniard from starting the UCI's blue riband event on Sunday.
"The fact that the Valverde has been condemned by the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) [for involvement in the Puerto Affair] and is still racing is shameful and disturbing," Adorni told the Italian paper. "I am going to speak to president McQuaid in Mendrisio and we will evaluate the situation .The Worlds is not the Vuelta, it's a race organised by the UCI and this organisation ought to be saying 'We don't want Valverde.'
"This won't be an easy thing to do," continued Adorni.
Indeed not. The UCI did attempt to bar the Spaniard from the 2007 Worlds in Stuttgart because of his alleged links to the Puerto affair. That ban was subsequently overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), and Valverde was able to compete in Stuttgart.
Speaking to Spanish sports paper AS, Castaño indicated he had no concerns about Valverde starting Sunday's road race. "Valverde is registered for the Worlds, we've got his accreditation. The contacts that we've had with the UCI over this affair are reassuring," he said.
Asked about why the Spanish team were staying at a hotel in Italy, where Valverde is banned from riding for two years, Castaño said, "We just want to give a sense of normality. If the police want to carry out any checks or if the CONI want to do any anti-doping controls we are at their disposal. We've got nothing to hide. We chose this hotel because it is close to the circuit, offers us the best conditions and is cheaper than any Swiss hotel. It's not the federation's way to waste any money."
The UCI has already indicated that it won't take any action against Valverde until the CAS gives its ruling on two appeals lodged with it regarding the status of the Spanish rider. The verdicts are due in November.
Rather than attempting to undermine the Spanish, it would appear that Adorni is more concerned with protecting the reputation of the World Championships. Following his victory at the Vuelta, Valverde is set to start as the favourite for the road title and if he wins could have that victory stripped away in November if the verdict from the CAS goes against him. At the very least, a Valverde win will mean two months of uncertainty for Adorni, Castaño and everyone else in the cycling world until that the verdict from CAS is known.