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By Andrew Hood
Gert Steegmans ? the Belgian sprinter who’s refused to sign an anti-doping charter that includes hefty penalties for violations ? has been left off Katusha’s nine-man Tour de France team.
Steegmans was put on “non-active” status and not included in the Russian team’s nine-man roster.
“All I can say is it’s too bad, I can’t say much more on the topic,” Steegmans told the Belgian daily La Derniere Heure. “I cannot answer anymore questions. I am not even sure I am going to be able to race the Belgian championships (Sunday).”
Steegmans and Katusha brass have been at loggerheads since he has refused to sign an addendum to his contract that includes language that would force riders to pay five times their salary if they’re caught for doping.
Steegmans – who won the final stage on the Champs Elysées in last year’s Tour – was the only Katusha rider who refused to sign off on the new language.
Katusha officials have strong-armed its riders to sign the contract amendment following damaging EPO positives involving team riders Christian Pfannberger and Antonio Colom.
Steegmans also refused to speculate on whether he would try to follow the example of compatriot Kenny Dehaes, who jettisoned Katusha to sign a deal to join Silence-Lotto for the remainder of the 2009 season.
Taking Steegmans Tour spot is Russian attacker Mikhail Ignatiev, who recently raced the Giro d’Italia.
Also missing the Tour due to injury is Australian sprinter ace Robbie McEwen, leaving the new Russian team without two of its most reliable performers.
Stepping in to the fill the void in the sprints will be Italian Danilo Napolitano, who only has one Tour start under his belt, in 2008, when he missed the time cut in stage 8.
Headlining the team will be stage-hunter Filippo Pozzato and GC man Vladimir Karpets, who recently finished fifth in the Tour de Suisse.
Katusha for Tour de France
- Filippo Pozzato (Ita)
- Vladimir Karpets (Rus)
- Alexandre Botcharov (Rus)
- Sergei Ivanov (Rus)
- Mikhail Ignatiev (Rus)
- Nikolai Trusov (Rus)
- Joan Horrach (Spa)
- Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel)