By Andrew Hood
Two riders have been excluded from the Giro d’Italia two days before Saturday’s start in Genoa after failing pre-race blood tests.
Colombian Uberlino Mesa Estepa (Colombia-Selle Italia) and Slovenian Jure Golcer (Formaggi Pinzolo) were found with blood values above the limits allowed in tests carried out by the Union Cycliste Internationale.
The UCI said on Thursday the two riders had been suspended for 15 days and would have to undergo further blood tests before being allowed to race again. –Reuters
French judge orders Rumsas arrested
A French judge has issued international arrest warrants against Lithuanian cyclist Raimondas Rumsas and a Polish doctor aimed at bringing them to trial in a doping probe, a source close to the inquiry said on Friday.
The public prosecutor’s office at the court in the Alpine town of Bonneville declined comment.
Judge Franck Guesdon on Wednesday ended his investigation, launched in July 2002 after Rumsas’s wife, Edita, was arrested by French customs officers with 30 different drugs in her car on the day her husband finished third in the Tour de France.
Edita Rumsas said the drugs were for her sick mother. Neither Rumsas, nor his wife, who was released on bail three months after her arrest, have returned to France since.
Rumsas was subsequently suspended by the Lampre team for failing a drug test in May 2003.
Edita Rumsas faces trial in France on charges of administering and aiding the use of performance-enhancing drugs. The trial could now include her husband and Polish doctor Krysztof Ficek, the second man targeted by the arrest warrants.
Guesdon has charged Raimondas Rumsas with importing and possessing banned substances and Ficek with prescribing the drugs, according to the daily Le Monde.
A Lithuanian news agency reported last year Rumsas had been banned by cycling’s governing body for 12 months until July 2004 over the failed drugs test in 2003 and was living in Italy. –Reuters
Vande Valde gets his papers
Christian Vande Velde (Liberty Seguros) will be racing next week for the first time since February after securing working papers to legally compete in Europe. The former U.S. Postal Service rider returned to his European home base in Girona, Spain, on Wednesday night after a week-long trip to obtain his work visa from the Spanish consulate in Los Angeles. Vande Velde hasn’t raced since the Tour of Valencia in February after he and his team were caught by surprise by new work visa rules introduced in the European Union. “My future was in doubt at all times. I didn’t know if I would be racing again until after the Tour,” Vande Velde told VeloNews. “I had to go out there and train, but it was difficult. I’m just ready to race. I’ll do my best.” Spanish authorities required Vande Velde to travel to California to formally request the permit. Vande Velde said a recent clamp-down following the March 11 terrorist attacks in Madrid made the already bureaucratic process even slower. “It was pretty much a nightmare,” he said. “I didn’t know when I’d be done or if I’d even get it. The whole time I was there it was purgatory. I got the okay the last day I was there. Luckily I had my flight the next day. It was a rough week.” Vande Velde had the support of his Liberty Seguros team, two-time Vuelta a España champion Roberto Heras as well as endorsement letters from scores of Spanish senators and congressmen. The 28-year-old is ready to race and will start the Tour of Asturias next week in northern Spain. Concerning a start position in the Tour, Vande Velde remains optimistic. “They want me to be there as much as I want to be there. That’s why the team’s been so supportive to get this done as soon as possible,” he said. “I’ll try to get as much racing in as possible so I can progress.”
Giro: Simoni remains quietly confident
Two-time winner Gilberto Simoni will start as one of the main favorites for the Tour of Italy despite an unusually quiet start to his season, the AFP reported.
The first major stage event in the cycling calendar gets underway here on Saturday with a 6.9km time trial and after snaking around Italy and a two-day incursion into Croatia concludes on May 30, 20 stages later, in Milan.And Simoni, last year’s winner, says his softly-softly approach to the 87th edition should not be misinterpreted by his rivals as suggesting any dip in form.
“It’s no mystery,” the 33-year-old who failed tamely in his pronounced aim to give Lance Armstrong a run for his money in last year’s Tour de France, told AFP. “I’ve started quieter than usual so it’s only normal that I start here with less form. But I should say that I’ve been pleased with my last few outings, particularly in Larciano last Saturday.”I’ve got good vibes, I assure you.”
Noted as a hardened climber Simoni leads the Saeco team which numbers in their midst the up-and-coming Damiano Cunego who at 22 years of age has his career before him.
“Cunego’s arrival gives me great pleasure. If you think I’m jealous you’d be making a big mistake – I’ve got confidence in my team and in Cunego. He can enjoy a first rate Giro -he’s got everything to succeed,” he said. “He’s a young guy who is at the same time modest and ambitious, and he knows how to take the initiative.”
Simoni’s win last year followed up his debut success in 2001. In 2002 he was forced out of the race after testing positive for cocaine for which he was eventually cleared.
Assessing this year’s route Simoni added: “The most testing days will for sure be those in Falves and Bormoi.
– By AFP
Giro: McGee favorite for prologue
Bradley McGee (FDJeux.com) is the favorite for Saturday’s 7km prologue to open the 87th Giro d’Italia. The Australian won the prologue at the Tour de Romandie less than two weeks ago and enters the Italian grand tour with eyes on capturing the first maglia rosa to go along with the yellow jersey he won in last year’s Tour de France.
“Brad started the season with some healthy problems, but he’s rediscovered his form at Romandie,” team sport director Marc Madiot told L’Equipe. “McGee is very interested in winning the prologue.”
Other favorites include Serhiy Honchar (De Nardi) and Juan Carlos Dominguez (Saunier Duval), winner of the prologue in 2002.
“I’ve done some special training before and after the Castilla y León race,” Dominguez told the Spanish daily MARCA. “I haven’t felt well since winning Ruta del Sol, but after the climbing stage at Castilla y León I felt better. I’d love to win another pink jersey.”
Anglophones at the Giro: Record 10 English-speakers start in Genoa
While there’s only one American starting the 87th Giro d’Italia, a record 10 riders with English as the mother tongue will be starting the Italian grand tour. Joining Fred Rodriguez (Acqua & Sapone) are eight Aussies and one Brit. The Aussie contingent includes Brad McGee and Matt Wilson (FDJeux.com), Robbie McEwen and Nick Gates (Lotto-Domo), Trent Willson and Russel van Hout (Colombia-Selle Italia) and Brett Lancaster and Scott Davis (Ceramiche Panaria).
The lone Brit is Charlie Wegelius (De Nardi).
And while Paris-Roubaix winner Magnus Backstedt is originally from Sweden, the poly-lingual Alessio-Bianchi rider speaks English like a native. That’s a benefit for VeloNews.com readers, as Backstedt will be offering up a daily Giro diary as the big man takes on Italy’s national tour.
Valverde sets racing schedule
With eyes on an Olympic gold medal, Spanish sensation Aljeandro Valverde (CV-Kelme) will take a break from competition until the Tour of Cataluyna in June.
Fresh off winning three straight stages at the Tour of Castilla y León, Valverde will train near his home in Murcia to prepare for his next major goal: a run for a gold medal at the Athens Summer Olympic Games.
With the troubled CV-Kelme team not invited to start the Giro d’Italia or the Tour de France, Valverde will be closely watching developments with the team. New sponsor Comunidad Valenciana has hinted it might pull out following the team’s setbacks on the international calendar.
After Athens, Valverde is expected to race the GP de Ordizia, the Tour of Burgos and the Clasica San Sebastian before the Vuelta a España, where he finished third overall last year. Valverde also expects to race the road world championships in Verona, Italy. Racing today
The 50th Four Days of Dunkirk (FRA 2.1) continues Friday with the challenging third 203km stage that follows the coast before a hilly finish with two difficult climbs. Race leader Marc Streel (Landbouwkrediet) will have his jersey under pressure.