By Andrew Hood
Jan Ullrich will decide by next week whether or not he will start the 2006 Giro d’Italia. The 1997 Tour de France champion is still undecided about his racing schedule, but T-Mobile sport director Rudy Pevenage said Ullrich ought to ride the Giro.
“He should ride it, for him it would be good,” Pevenage said. “It’s one of two options to get ready for the next Tour, either the Giro or the Tour de Suisse. He needs to decide soon.”
Casero hangs it up
Spanish veteran Angel Casero ended his career Sunday with a victory in the Criterium Internacional de Ciclismo de la Comunidad Valenciana.
Igor Astarloa and Oscar Freire (in his first race since June) each won one of the elimination legs, but Casero claimed the overall after finishing second each time. An emotional Casero later waved to fans from a convertible that toured the course.
Going into Sunday’s event, Casero had only finished seven of the 13 races he started this season and didn’t score a victory. Last year, Casero was forced to sit out the entire season with Comunidad Valenciana due to contract problems.
A winner of the 1994 Tour de L’Avenir, Casero was once hailed as a successor to Spanish great Miguel Indurain. He finished fifth in the 1999 Tour de France and won the 2001 Vuelta in a final-day time trial at the expense of Oscar Sevilla. He was marred by injury and poor results since then.
Spanish officials urge caution in Heras case
Spanish government officials insisted that Roberto Heras should be presumed innocent until a counter-analysis is conducted later this month, but urged that strict anti-doping laws be adopted.
Jaime Lissavetzky, sports minister in the Spanish government, said Heras should not be considered guilty of doping unless the follow-up tests confirm the presence of EPO.
“You can’t make any kind of conclusion until the second test is conducted,” Lissavetzky told the Spanish wire service EFE. “We are going to try to penalize anyone who releases the names of anyone until the second test is made.”
The four-time Vuelta a España champion tested positive for the banned blood booster EPO in a sample taken on the penultimate stage of this year’s Vuelta. If the second test comes back positive, Heras would be stripped of the Vuelta victory and issued a two-year racing ban.
The Heras case comes just as the Spanish government is considering an anti-doping bill that would put some teeth into the fight against doping in professional sports.
Following the model approved in France and Italy, where doping in sport is considered a crime, Lissavetzky said any new law should demonstrate “zero tolerance” and include “strong sanctions.”
Spanish officials also presented Madrid as a candidate city to host the third World Anti-doping Conference set to be held in 2007.
No major changes in Tour of Flanders
There look to be no major changes for the 2006 Tour of Flanders route as race officials revealed course details for the week-long Semaine cycliste flamandeseries of Belgian classics and minor classics slated for March 25 to April 2.
One of the “monuments” of cycling, the 90th Flanders route will be 260km from Bruges to Meerbeke with 16 rated climbs and 20km of pavé. The main obstacles include some familiar names, with the Molenberg, Vieux Quaremont, Peterberg, Koppenberg, Taaienberg, Eikenberg, Leberg, Berendries, Valkenberg, Mur de Grammont and Bosberg.
Other events in the preceding week include the GP E3-Harelbeke (March 25, 200km), the Flèche Brabançonne (March 26, 196km) and Three Days of de la De Panne (March 28-30).