By Andrew Hood
Italian Alessandro Bertolini (Alessio) claimed what will be a memorable overall victory on the final day of the Tour of Lucca in Altopascio, Italy, on Friday.
The fourth and final stage of the Italian season-opener was won by Florent Brard (Chocolat Jacques), a victory made easier for the Frenchman by the absence of most of the peloton.
On Thursday, organizers disqualified 120 riders – including Italian sprinters Mario Cipollini and Alessandro Petacchi – after they were deemed to be taking too long to finish the stage, a situation which had also been decided by the need for locals to regain use of the roads.
Only 18 riders started the final stage on Friday, which Bertolini managed to control to add the overall win to his stage win on Thursday. As for Brard, who rode for Credit Agricole before he was sacked for testing positive for a banned cortisone-based medicine, he finished the stage nine seconds ahead of Italians Gabriele Balducci and Matteo Tosatto. – Copyright 2004/AFP
1. Florent Brard (F), Chocolat Jacques, 138km in 3:24:41
2. Gabriele Balducci (I), at 0:09
3. Matteo Tosatto (I), s.t.
4. Kyrylo Pospyeyev (Ukr), s.t.
5. Elio Aggiano (I), s.t.
6. Niki Sorensen (Den), s.t.
7. Thomas Ziegler (G), s.t.
8. Piero Gavazzi (I), s.t.
9. Emanuele Sella (I), s.t.
10. Przemyslaw Niemec (Pol), s.t.
1. Alessandro Bertolini (I), Alessio, 16:17:03
2. Thomas Ziegler (G), 16.18:54
3. Matteo Tosatto (I), 16.19:53
4. Vladimir Mihaljevic (Cro), 16.20:01
5. Nicki Sorensen (Den), 16.20:05
6. Gabriele Balducci (I), 16.20:22
7. Emanuele Sella (I), 16.21:01
8. Nicola Gavazzi (I), 16.23:24
9. Kyrylo Pospyeyev (Ukr), 16.23:47
10. Oscar Pozzi (I), 16.25:15
Garcia takes Campello, Valverde retains lead
Jorge García (Cafés Baqué) shot to his first victory as a pro after beating Mikel Astarloza (Ag2r) to the top of the Alto de Campello to claim the fourth stage of the Vuelta a la Comunidad Valenciana.
Alejandro Valverde (VC-Kelme) came through safely with the top contenders to retain the overall lead heading into Saturday’s final stage.
Strong head winds pelted the riders from the gun and the stage finished more than 30 minutes behind the expected arrival. García and Astarloza were the day’s main protagonists, attacking early in the stage while the main contenders waited for the summit finish up the Category 1 climb, with ramps as steep as 17 percent.
“This is my first win as a pro,” García said. “It wasn’t easy because of the strong wind, especially on the sections on the highway. Fortunately, we arrived to the base of the climb with enough of a gap.”
Leonardo Piepoloi (Saunier Duval) attacked the main bunch, and Cadel Evans (T-Mobile) also made a run to test his legs. Valverde, meanwhile, easily matched moves by Toni Colom (Illes Balears), and teammate David Blanco (CV-Kelme) helped control the pace.
“The wind complicated things a bit, but my rivals conformed better than I could have hoped,” Valverde said. “I’ve made an important step to achieve the final victory.”
Saturday’s final stage is a 165km circuit course in Valencia that hits the Cat. 2 Alto de Rio Juanes.
1. Jorge García (Sp), Cafes Baque, 158km in 4:38:55
2. Mikel Astarloza (Sp), Ag2r, at 0:13
3. Leonardo Piepoli (I), Saunier Duval, at 5:23
4. Alejandro Valverde (Sp), CV-Kelme, at 5:24
5. Alex Zuelle (Swi), Phonak, same time
58. Christian Vande Velde (USA) Liberty Seguros, at 7:55
Overall after four stages
1. Valverde, 16h29:48
2. Toni Colom (Sp), Illes Balears, at 0:05
3. David Blanco (Sp), CV-Kelme, at 0:18
4. Piepoli, at 0:21
5. Zuelle, at 0:25
64. Vande Velde, at 15:09
‘Black list’ to haunt pro ranks
Cycling’s governing body sent a letter to every professional team this week warning them new drugs tests could soon be available and that it had compiled a “black list” of doping suspects, Reuters reported.
UCI chief doctor Mario Zorzoli told Reuters it was “reasonable” to believe that tests would be available before the Athens Olympics for products such as human growth hormone, synthetic hemoglobin or practices like blood transfusion.
Zorzoli said research at IOC laboratories in Lausanne and Paris led to optimism about these tests. His comments were a clear warning to riders in the Tour de France, which takes place in July, just a month before the start of the Olympics.
UCI boosted its anti-doping policy after the 1998 Tour de France scandal. However, recent doping-related arrests in the French team Cofidis and soul-searching caused by the death of Marco Pantani prompted the UCI to launch a new initiative.
Zorzoli said the UCI would intensify random out-of-competition testing on suspect riders. The UCI will also use the medical records of riders gathered since 1999 and could ban riders with abnormal results from competing.
“We realized that some riders would vanish in the middle of the season, especially before taking part in a big event,” he said. “We have doubts about some of them. You could say that they will be placed on a black list of riders closely watched by our (anti-doping) services. The same will apply to riders with oddities in their medical records.” Zorzoli said that the UCI was determined to track evasive riders and know of their whereabouts when training.
“Riders will be asked to let us know their place of residence, their schedule and if some live in hotels and move about, we want to know,” he said.
Most team chiefs welcomed the new plan, saying it was time for the sport to clean up its act.
“It’s going in the right direction,” said FDJeux.com team chief Marc Madiot. “It was ridiculous that riders who had been not been racing should return stronger than others who had kept racing.”
Zorzoli said he was confident the fight against doping was making progress.
“There’s more talk about doping than about what is being achieved against it, especially with the help of the chemical industry,” he said. “Thanks to chemists and pharmacists, we have been able to detect some products like RSR13, Nesp or Aranesp even before they were on the market.” – Reuters