Details have emerged in the Basque press regarding the defence Euskaltel's Mikel Astarloza is likely to put up against his positive test for EPO in June, which could see him stripped off his Tour de France stage win in July.
According to Deia, that defence is being organised by ex-pro and now lawyer José Rodríguez, who believes that Astarloza's problems stem from a session on his home trainer in a hyperbaric tent immediately prior to undergoing a random test on June 26. Hyperbaric tents are designed to replicate the effects of riding at altitude, thereby stimulating the natural production of red blood cells and boosting the haematocrit level.
"The fact that two minutes before [the testers turned up] he had been on the home trainer in this tent altered his values to the point where it led to errors being made when the results were analysed," Rodríguez told Deia. "This isn't something that the scientists have made up. Professional studies have been published on this subject." Rodríguez added that "if the control had been done an hour later we would not now be talking about the Astarloza case."
Another Basque rider in the news is Pedro Horrillo. The Rabobank rider suffered a horrific crash at the Giro d'Italia in mid-May. Despite initial fears that he may never ride again, Horrillo has been gently easing his way back into the saddle, first on a home trainer, then on a tourist bike with his young son sat in a seat on the back. On Wednesday, for the first time since the crash, Horrillo donned his Rabobank kit and headed out for a training ride. He hopes to return to racing next season.
Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).
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