By Shane Stokes
Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) may be leading the ProTour but he will miss the final race of the series due to the three month suspension announced on Tuesday. It remains to be seen if there will be bigger repercussions than that for the Italian rider, such as the loss of his white jersey.
Because the matter in question [namely his collaboration with controversial doctor Carlos Santuccione] relates to previous seasons rather than the current one, the situation is less than clear-cut. Di Luca current heads the ProTour classification going into the final race, the Giro di Lombardia, but is just 15 points ahead of Cadel Evans.
When contacted by Cyclingnews, ProTour manager Alain Rumpf said that the UCI is studying the matter. "We are currently investigating the consequences of today's decision of the CONI on Di Luca's status in the 2007 UCI ProTour rankings," he said. "As we have not yet received the official decision of CONI, we do not expect to come to a conclusion before tomorrow [Wednesday]."
Should the UCI decide that there are no grounds to disqualify Di Luca, Evans would still need to pull out a strong performance on Saturday in Lombardia before taking what would be a first-ever Australian victory in the ProTour series. Sixth place is worth 20 points, with seventh netting 15.
Speaking prior to the news of Di Luca's suspension, Evans said that he was motivated to do well in the weekend's race. "It is the most suitable one-day of the race for year for me, but unfortunately it is also the last race of the year," he stated early on Tuesday. "Considering that my other home race is the Tour Down Under, which is the first race of the year in January, that makes things difficult for me.
"It is certainly the most suitable one-day race for me but also, by that standard, the same for Di Luca and Bettini," he continued. "He won there last year so when he is good, he can be right up be there as well. Rebellin and Schleck are also climbing really well at the moment. I am going there aiming to do a good race, not just thinking of the ProTour. If I did win it [the series] it would be very prestigious…coming second isn't such a big deal, it seems."