By Andrew Hood
Tour de France hope Michael Rogers got a reprieve Friday when the UCI officially cleared him of any suspicion following testimony by ex-T-Mobile teammate Patrik Sinkewitz last week.
Some media reports suggested that Sinkewitz, following testimony he gave to the Germany cycling federation (BDR), hinted that Rogers could be among riders who might have undergone banned blood transfusions ahead of and during the 2006 Tour.
On Friday, the UCI issued a statement confirming that Rogers is not implicated in any doping affair.
“Contrary to reports in certain sections of the media, the Australian rider Michael Rogers has not been implicated by his teammate Patrik Sinkewitz,” the UCI stated. “This was revealed after the UCI examined the dossier sent by the German Federation (BDR) following the statements made by the German rider. The document sent by the BDR showed that Michael Rogers is not implicated in any way.”
The statement comes as a relief to Rogers, who reacted angrily last week and strongly denied any link to Sinkewitz’s allegations.
Sinkewitz, who tested positive for testosterone in a control taken before the 2007 Tour and was later fired by T-Mobile, gave a tell-all confession to German cycling officials in hopes of receiving a reduction in what’s likely to be a two-year racing ban.
In his testimony, the 27-year-old German said he used the banned blood-booster EPO and underwent banned blood transfusions beginning in the 2003 season. Sinkewitz rode with QuickStep until joining T-Mobile in 2006.
Sinkewitz said all doping practices at T-Mobile ended in the wake of Jan Ullrich’s firing from the team ahead of the 2006 Tour. New management has since introduced strict anti-doping measures on the team.
Riis: McCartney good choice
Team CSC boss Bjarne Riis said he’s pleased he could sign American Jason McCartney in a move that helps maintain a high-profile American presence on the international team.
“He can really develop on our team. He’s a nice guy and he’s a good rider,” Riis told VeloNews. “We think he can become a better rider on our team. It was a good choice to sign him.”
Riis said he was keen to sign at least one American rider to join the team following the departures of Dave Zabriskie and Christian Vande Velde. That pair joined Slipstream for the 2008 season and even McCartney was close to joining Jonathan Vaughters’s team before finally penning a deal to join Riis at CSC.
“We lost two American riders this year and I wanted to have at least one more than Bobby (Julich). It was important that we could sign McCartney,” Riis said. “America is important for us. Our sponsor is American and the team is very popular in the U.S. That is something we want to continue. We have a lot of fans in the U.S. and we cannot ignore that.”
Riis also confirmed that Team CSC will participate in the Tour of California as well as hold a team training camp in California for nearly two weeks ahead of the race.
Vuelta back to basics
Officials will unveil the route of the 2008 Vuelta a España on December 5 in Madrid in what’s expected to see a return to a more mountainous circuit for next year’s Spanish tour.
Set to begin August 30 in Granada and finish September 21 in Madrid, the route is likely to see more difficult mountain stages packed into the final week of racing to ensure suspense in the race.
Some rumors point to the return of the legendary Angliru climb, not seen in the Vuelta since 2002.
This year’s course – with its long, 52km Tour de France-styled time trial and with most of the most challenging mountain stages packed into the first half of racing – was roundly criticized.
Vuelta race director Victor Cordero said despite the criticism, he was satisfied with the 2007 edition.
“The critics don’t hurt me. When people say that this Vuelta has been blander than previous editions, I don’t agree because a lot of riders have said it was very hard. What it might have missed was a harder summit finish in the last week, that much I can admit,” Cordero told VeloNews.
“And the time trial at Zaragoza was too long. That was something that I wanted to try, to add a long time trial like we see at the Tour de France. We have seen at the end of the season that it really proved too much. The criticism you have to accept, but I leave this Vuelta with a good flavor in my mouth.”