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By Andrew Hood
Giro d’Italia champion Danilo Di Luca, banned this week for three months for alleged links to controversial Italian doctor Carlo Santuccione, has been disqualified from the ProTour series.
The UCI made the ruling late Thursday in a decision that will push Cadel Evans into the overall series lead going into the ProTour finale at the Giro di Lombardia on Saturday in Italy.
Di Luca, 31, was slapped with a three-month ban Tuesday by the Italian Olympic Committee for alleged contact with Santuccione, the controversial doctor at the center of the “Oil for Drugs” doping investigation dating back to 2003.
The Liquigas captain was initially prevented from racing at Lombardia, but still held out hope of winning his second title in three years after holding a 15-point lead to Evans (Predictor-Lotto). Evans would have needed to finish sixth or better to erase the difference.
The UCI, however, cited internal rules and disqualified him from the season-long series.
“Having learned the decision sentenced by CONI who condemned Danilo Di Luca for a three month suspension period starting on 16th October 2007, the UCI announces that the Italian rider is excluded from the UCI ProTour ranking in accordance to the article 188.8.131.52 of the UCI regulations,” a UCI statement read Thursday.
That article, under “Section 5: UCI cups, series and classification,” provides for the exclusion of suspended riders from such events: “In case of suspension until the last event counting for the ranking, the rider is immediately excluded from the classification.”
Di Luca’s season victories, namely Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the 2007 Giro, will remain intact because his sanction is not linked to any anti-doping activities during the 2007 racing calendar.
The ruling will push Evans into first place and all but assure the series crown for the Aussie all-rounder.
Tour de France winner Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel) slots into second at 36 points back, but he’s not racing in Italy this weekend.
Defending ProTour champion Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d’Epargne), now third at 37 points back, is the only rider within shot of dethroning Evans at this point.
With 50 points going to the victor, Valverde would have to win and have Evans finish well out of the points to have a shot at the series crown.
Revised ProTour standings for Giro di Lombardia:
1. Cadel Evans (Aus), Predictor-Lotto, 227 points
2. Alberto Contador (Spa), Discovery Channel, 191
3. Alejandro Valverde (Spa), Caisse d’Epargne, 190
4. Oscar Freire (Spa), Rabobank, 182
5. Davide Rebellin (Ita), Gerolsteiner, 172
6. Denis Menchov (Rus), Rabobank, 172
7. Kim Kirchen (Lux), T-Mobile, 165
8. Vladimir Karpets (Rus), Caisse d’Epargne, 145
9. Alessandro Ballan (Ita), Lampre-Fondital, 135
10. Carlos Sastre (Spa), Team CSC, 127