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Latest Cycling News for July 3, 2007

Edited by Gregor Brown

Rodríguez takes championship thanks to Caisse work

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Joaquím Rodríguez in the Spring Classics
Photo ©: Erik Van Breugel
(Click for larger image)

The script dictated by team Caisse d'Epargne before the Spanish Nationals was fulfilled, with the exception being that Joaquím Rodríguez took the jersey instead of teammate Alejandro Valverde.

Joaquím 'Purito' Rodriguez attacked into the last kilometre on the ascent to the top of Castillo, in Cuenca. The 28 year-old rider reached an untouchable advantage over the other riders, among them was his teammate, Valverde, who controlled the rivals. The roles were reversed, because it is Rodriguez who usually works in the last kilometres of the Spring Classics for Valverde. Maybe that was the reason why, yesterday in Cuenca, Valverde allowed Rodríguez to take the Spanish Championship.

"Before the attack, Rodríguez asked me for permission. He said to me that he had good legs," Alejandro Valverde explained to Cyclingnews.

On the other hand, the winner Joaquím Rodríguez expressed his disagreement with the decision adopted by the Caisse d'Epargne staff. "I have demonstrated that I am ready for disputing the Tour de France; I feel very well," stated Rodríguez. (Read Cyclingnews' May interview, Not your average domestique, for more information on Rodriguez.)

The development of the race was controlled by the Caisse d'Epargne from the beginning. Several Caisse d'Epargne riders were present in some important breaks, such as Rubén Plaza, Oscar Pereiro and José Vicente Garcia. In fact, Pereiro led a small group that stuck until the last ten kilometres. The Caisse d'Epargne riders amassed at the front of the peloton for the narrow two-kilometre final climb, so that it was easy for Rodríguez to attack. Valverde took the silver medal and the Karpin-Galicia's Eladio Jiménez bronze.

Francisco Pérez is ready to help Valverde

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Francisco Pérez of Caisse d'Epargne is an all-terrain rider and usually trains with Alejandro Valverde in their home region of Murcia (southeastern Spain). Pérez, delighted with his Tour de France inclusion, will travel to London with Valverde and the rest of the team on Wednesday afternoon to London for the Grand Départ.

Directeur Sportifs José Miguel Echavarri and Eusebio Unzue needed Pérez to complete the strong roster that must support the three Caisse d'Epargne leaders (Vladimir Karpets, Oscar Pereiro and Alejandro Valverde) in the fight to win the the Tour.

"It has been a very pleasant surprise but foreseeable because I had done the traditional calendar for competing in the Tour," Francisco Pérez noted to Cyclingnews. The 28 year-old rider explained with enthusiasm that, "I am ready to work very hard during the following three weeks in order to help to Valverde to win the Tour, because I am convinced that he is able to do it."

Pérez will debut in the Tour de France, although it will not be the first time that the Spaniard has disputed a three-week race because he had already started the 2006 Giro d'Italia where he shared the Caisse d'Epargne leadership. Pérez will be encouraged for a strong performance in the Tour because he will renew his contractual agreement before the end on the current season.

Visconti for Worlds and Vuelta

Visconti kisses Italian gold
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Giovanni Visconti's first Grand Tour, the Giro d'Italia, proved its benefits by allowing the 24 year-old to take the Maglia Tricolore of Italian Champion Sunday. The rider from Monreale, Sicily, has announced that now he will aim for a good ride at the Vuelta a España and a sport on the national team for the World Championships.

"I would like very much to wear the maglia azzurra at the Worlds in Stuttgart," Visconti of team Quickstep stated to AGR. "To do this I need to have a good August and Vuelta, then, obviously, it will be the decision of Franco Ballerini."

The first ever rider ever from Sicily to wear the national champion's jersey received many congratulations for his victory. "They arrived from everyone. One from my friend-rival Vincenzo Nibali and one from my captain Paolo Bettini." Visconti has been roommates on the road with Bettini since the start of the season.

Visconti road as an amateur for the Tuscan team of Luca Scinto (professional from 1994 to 2002) and Angelo Citracca before turning professional in 2005. "It was Citracca who first offered me a spot as a Directeur Sportif, and then he talked to me about Visconti," recalled Scinto to La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Scinto is from Livorno and Visconti makes his home same Tuscan region, in Pistoia. "I remember one time I met him [Visconti] when I was still racing and he seemed to be tired. 'Today, six hours of training,' he said. 'Too much,' I responded. 'Three and a half, if you do it well, is enough.' We then went and did Montecatini Alto all out. I was not able to take him off of my wheel.

"He is serious, nice and sensible," continued Scinto. "He just bought 95 square metres of land on San Baronto and he was ready to go and live there and furnish it. I raised my voice, 'Now you have to think of racing and if you want we can talk of it [the home] after [the Giro di] Lombardia.' He did it. He still rents with his mom, who prepares the food for the boys on our team, and his sister, who is a lawyer. One step at a time; in life and in cycling."

Liquigas for the Tour de France with Pozzato and Beltrán

Manuel Beltrán (Liquigas)
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

General Manager Roberto Amadio has announced the nine riders featuring the Liquigas squad at the Tour de France, scheduled from July 7 to 29. The nine men will be Filippo Pozzato, Manuel Quinziato, Manuel Beltrán, Michael Albasini, Kjell Carlström, Murilo Fischer, Aleksandr Kuschynski, Charles Wegelius and Frederik Willems.

Next Saturday, at the start in London, the acid-green team will include Pozzato and Quinziato. The two athletes, back from a comforting performance in the Italian Championships, are planning to show well in La Grande Boucle.

"My condition is good," Pozzato explained. "As I proved by yesterday's race [at the Italian championships], I lost only due to a few mistakes. The morale of the team is high; we aim at showing up well and above all at reaping the results of our work. I don't like to hide myself; my purpose is at least a stage win."

On of the most consistent riders approaching the Tour is Manuel Beltrán. The Spaniard is likely to show well in mountain stages. Wegelius, with good form from the Giro d'Italia, will shepherd Beltrán in the Alpine and Pyrenean passes.

The riders will be lead by General Manager Roberto Amadio and Team Managers Dario Mariuzzo and Mario Scirea.

CSC team doctors respond to Jaksche

CSC team doctors have retorted to Jörg Jaksche's interview in Der Spiegel. The German rode for the team in 2004 and has recently come out in the media making statements trying to explain the doping system in cycling.

He had spent years with Manolo Saiz's ONCE and Liberty Seguros but in between was one year with CSC. He noted the training controls were "pretty lax." Jaksche said he stopped taking EPO after the 2004 Paris-Nice, as it had become too risky. "Cortisone, however, we took pretty much all season long," he admitted of that year.

Doctors Joost De Maeseneer, Piet De Moor and Piet Danneels noted in their press release that "The medical staff of Team CSC has always been working in an ethical, professional way. In case of illness or injury's we try to help our riders, by treating them according to the rules of the UCI (eg. medication, physiotherapy, etc.)

"No products were used that are on the prohibited list. The use of glucocorticosteriods for injury's (local infiltrations) and beta – 2 agonists (by inhalation) is part of our treatment-possibilities. We only use these when that treatment is medically appropriate and the use of alternative medications, not on the Prohibited List, would be unsatisfactory for this condition. In those cases, the UCI was always informed, the TUE (Therapeutic Use Exemption) was signed by the cyclist and one of our medical doctors."

Team CSC has led the way with their own anti-doping program in the wake of recent scandals. The statement reminded the public of this stance. "We support the new UCI ProTour Anti-Doping Programme 100% against doping completely."

Discovery Channel's Gusev and Devolder national champions

Belgian Champ Devolder
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

The Discovery Channel team has pushed its overall win count for the year to 21 with the recent crowning of two national champions, Vladimir Gusev as Russian Time Trial Champion and Stijn Devolder as Belgian Road Race Champion. Gusev won the same title previously, but the win for Devolder was a first.

"Both wins, by Vladimir and Stijn, are fantastic as they show that the guys are in top form. Stijn's win in particular was impressive to me as he won solo ahead of Boonen and Gilbert and from a very strong field," said Sports Director Johan Bruyneel via thepaceline.com. "It is always great to have national champions as a part of your roster and I hope our recent success continues into the second half of the season."

The two newly crowned champions will be racing in the next ten days, Gusev at the Tour de France and Devolder at the Tour of Austria.

Antequera on Puerto and riders' agreement

By Antonio J. Salmerón

The national cycling selector, Francisco Antequera, expressed his concerns over the Operación Puerto developments in Spain. He considered that the Spanish Sport Superior Council "built the house by tiling roof" when Operación Puerto was handled "before the establishment of the current anti-doping laws."

People in charge of the investigation "made mistakes ... the data mentioned were established without any legal base to punish those practices," he continued to EFE.

Antequera emphasized that, "we only know 20 cyclists supposedly linked when all we know that there were many more blood bags. The other sportsmen have covered themselves. They [Spanish Sport Superior Council] wanted to close the subject because they do not know how to do it, that is the reason why Operación Puerto continues without resolution." Antequera expressed his desire that "all the truth is known."

As far as Alejandro Valverde is concerned, Antequera indicated that, "he is being put under pressures for a year in order to not be at the Tour, although he does not appear implicated."

He questioned cycling's governing body. "What did the UCI President do?" he questioned by referring to the riders' commitment that some riders reluctantly signed. "Instead of helping the cyclists, perhaps the UCI is interested in having as much doping affairs as possible because they would receive that salary of a year."

Relax-GAM sign riders' agreement

By Antonio J. Salmerón

The Relax-GAM riders have finally signed the UCI riders' agreement. According to a official press note, in which it is added its intention to maintain the always-firm commitment "in favour of the fair-play, the Professional Continental squad assured that the totality of its members. The decision follows on a meeting of the Spanish Professional Cyclists Association (ACP) last Sunday.

The team has mailed the documents to the UCI as well as to the Spanish federation (RFEC). In this way the team wished to reiterate "its commitment to promote to the new values of cycling."

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(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2007)

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