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April 20, 2007

Tour director Prudhomme wants Puerto riders excluded again

Guardian Unlimited Sport | Doping probe riders told to skip Tour de France

Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme still wants riders implicated in last year's Operación Puerto to be banned from this year's race, potentially derailing Ivan Basso's plans to ride for wins in the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France.

In a story in L'Equipe, Prudhomme said, “Cycling cannot afford to let riders named in the case enter the Tour if they are not cleared of suspicion.”

Jan Ullrich, who announced his retirement last month, is the only rider currently facing charges for involvement in the investigation. Other riders, including Basso, were named by investigators as possible clients of Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes, but, one by one, the others have been cleared by their national federations. The case was closed when a Spanish judge found that no laws were likely broken in Spain, which had no anti-doping law.

Prudhomme told L'Equipe that the DNA link that German officials claim to have made between Ullrich and 9 bags of blood stored by Fuentes gives him hope: “Now we know it's possible to establish the truth.”

Also:

VeloNews | Tour chief says Basso's participation not certain

Posted by Frank Steele on April 20, 2007 in Doping, Francisco Mancebo, Ivan Basso, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (2)

Leipheimer takes Georgia TT; Brajkovic takes race lead

Dave Zabriskie
Dave Zabriskie,
originally uploaded by Frank Steele.
Discovery Channel won 2 races Thursday, as Levi Leipheimer topped CSC's Dave Zabriskie and Health Net's Nathan O'Neill for the stage win, and Janez Brajkovic was the fastest of the riders who made the break on Stage 3.

Brajkovic's time was enough to put him in the race leader's jersey in advance of today's climb up Brasstown Bald, but just 12 seconds ahead of Christian Vande Velde of CSC.

I've posted 96 pictures from the stage, including shots of Brajkovic, Dave Zabriskie (and at left), David Millar, Tyler Hamilton, and others.

Posted by Frank Steele on April 20, 2007 in Christian Vande Velde, Dave Zabriskie, David Millar, Levi Leipheimer, Tom Danielson, Tour de Georgia, Tyler Freaking Hamilton | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 18, 2007

Runaway choo-choo: Tour de Georgia turned upside-down

Gianni MeersmanThe youngest Discovery Channel rider, Belgium's Gianni Meersman, came out on top after a wild ride into Chattanooga.

Discovery Channel, Quick Step, Saunier Duval, and Health Net all put two riders in a 13-rider break that formed about 30 kilometers in. The Tinkoff Credit Systems team, behind race leader Daniele Contrini, was short-handed (because of injuries and the Euro schedule, they brought only 6 riders, and Tyler Hamilton is apparently focused on individual results), and none of the teams with riders in the break would cooperate to chase.

As a result, as the break worked through four categorized climbs, the gap went out and out, to 17 minutes, then 21 minutes, about 23 minutes as the break finished the course, and ultimately 29:07 when the peloton arrived.

In the break, Saunier Duval's Rubens Bertogliati and Quick Step's Kevin Seeldraeyers were the first to make a move, on the day's last climb. They were quickly reabsorbed, and Health Net's Jeff Louder, CSC's Christian Vandevelde, and Louder again went for victory as 8 survivors streaked through the streets of Chattanooga.

In the end, it was Meersman who carried the day, ahead of David Cañada and Janez Brajkovic. Cañada is the immediate beneficiary of the daylong break, taking the leader's jersey, 3 seconds up on 5 riders: teammate Bertogliati, Vandevelde, Brajkovic, Louder, and Seeldraeyers. BMC's Scott Nydam sits another 20 seconds back, with every other rider at least 2 minutes back, and ex-race leader Contrini sitting 14th, 27:47 back.

A lot of big names sit even farther back: Tom Danielson, Levi Leipheimer, Gilberto Simoni, David Millar, Dave Zabriskie, and Tyler Hamilton among them.

I'm following the race in more detail over at my Tour de Georgia weblog, and have posted a photoset from Tuesday's stage between Thomaston and Rome to Flickr. I'll probably do quick stage wrap-ups here through Sunday's finale in Atlanta.

Posted by Frank Steele on April 18, 2007 in Christian Vande Velde, George Hincapie, Gilberto Simoni, Tom Danielson, Tour de Georgia, Tyler Freaking Hamilton | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 16, 2007

Tour de Georgia kicks off

My hometown tour, the Tour de Georgia, gets underway today in Peachtree City, just south of Atlanta.

I'll be on the road chasing the race at least 2-3 days this year, and uploading as much to Flickr as I can. Most of my coverage of the race will be over at my site targeted to the Tour de Georgia, predictably enough called TdGblog.com.

I'm really happy we're seeing a 5th edition of the Tour de Georgia, but I'm obviously concerned about the race's future, between the uncertain sponsorship, the emergence of the Tour of California, and the continuing association by the public of bike racing with doping (rightly or wrongly). Once the pedals turn, all that's forgotten, though.

If you're in Georgia, or near Georgia, come and see it: this is a great race. There's a tremendous variety of terrain, from the open rolling countryside around Macon to corkscrewing little roads through the piney woods in the Appalachian foothills. This year, the downtown Atlanta circuit on Sunday means you can watch the race and socialize in Centennial Olympic Park or any of myriad bars and cafes. And the race has drawn some awesome performances: Jason McCartney's epic win in Dahlonega in 2004, the Landis/Danielson showdown on Brasstown Bald last year, and triggered the emergence of Juan José Haedo, who's starting to mix it up with the ProTour's best. You'll never have a better chance to get up close and personal with the riders.

Here's my stage/race preview.

Posted by Frank Steele on April 16, 2007 in Tour de Georgia | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 05, 2007

McEwen will skip Tour of Flanders

Eurosport | Robbie drops Flanders

After dropping out of the Three Days of De Panne yesterday, Robbie McEwen will not start Sunday's classic, the Tour of Flanders.

"Robbie McEwen isn't hurting anymore in his back, after his crashes at Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-Sanremo, but is suffering from a stomach bug," said Predictor-Lotto team manager Marc Sergeant.

Cycling4All has the provisional Tour of Flanders start list.

Posted by Frank Steele on April 5, 2007 in Robbie McEwen | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 04, 2007

German officials say Ullrich DNA in Fuentes fridge; ProTour embraces DNA tests

NBCSports.com | ProTour bike teams commit to DNA testing

So it looks like the other shoe may have dropped from Jan Ullrich's retirement last month. German officials announced yesterday that a DNA sample they took from Ullrich was a match for some of the refrigerated blood recovered from an Operación Puerto raid. The Bonn prosecutor said charges are likely to be filed “relatively soon,” for fraud or for violating German medical regulations.

Ullrich's lawyers are saying that even a DNA match is no proof of doping. That is strictly true, in the same sense that a DNA match on Monica Lewinsky's blue dress was not strictly proof of oral sex. If in fact Ullrich's blood was in Eufemiano Fuentes' refrigerator, then Ullrich clearly lied when he said he didn't know Fuentes, and clearly was receiving medical treatments from a doctor whose specialty appears to have been sports doping.

On a related note, the UCI chose today to announce that all 20 ProTour teams and a large majority of riders have agreed in principle to DNA testing. Six riders reportedly refused to join in, but should suffer no consequences. For now, at least.

Posted by Frank Steele on April 4, 2007 in Doping, Jan Ullrich, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack