By Andrew Hood
Christian Vande Velde will be back to the Tour de France for the first time since 2001 after getting the news Monday afternoon that he’s part of the nine-man squad lining up in Liège for Saturday’s start.
After weeks of waiting to hear his Tour fate, the 28-year-old was nervously awaiting news from Liberty Seguros manager Manolo Saiz and finally couldn’t take it anymore. He called the Spanish team manager and learned the good news.
Also getting a last-minute thumb’s-up is Aussie sprinter Allan Davis, so now at least Vande Velde will have someone to talk to at the team dinner table.
Vande Velde will travel to Belgium on Wednesday to start his third Tour. In 1999 as a Tour rookie, Vande Velde was a key member of the U.S. Postal Service team that delivered Lance Armstrong to his first Tour victory.
His 2000 Tour start was derailed by an infected spider bite but he came back to make the 2001 Tour team. Vande Velde crashed in the team time trial on rain-slicked roads — and also brought down Liberty’s current captain, Roberto Heras. Vande Velde later crashed out with a broken arm.
Troubled with health problems, Vande Velde was overlooked for the 2002-2003 Tour teams and decided to join Heras at Liberty Seguros.
Vande Velde’s 2004 season was in jeopardy, however, when he learned in February he wouldn’t be able to continue racing until he obtained working papers. A months-long paper chase finally ended in May after a trip to the Spanish consulate in Los Angeles. Vande Velde returned to racing in mid-May and quickly recovered his form to earn a spot on the Liberty Seguros team.
Lance’s appeal slated for Wednesday hearing
Lance Armstrong’s appeal of a ruling denying his attempt to insert his denial of doping accusations into a book released last week will be heard on Wednesday — three days before he begins racing in the 2004 Tour de France.
During a hearing last Friday, Armstrong’s lawyers slammed “L.A. Confidentiel: les secrets de Lance Armstrong” by David Walsh and Pierre Ballester as a “sensationalist” attack on the rider’s character.
Lawyers acting on behalf of French publishers La Martiniere argued that finding in favor of the plaintiff would signal the end of investigative journalism. The court apparently agreed, rejecting Armstrong’s bid and fining him a single euro for abuse of the judicial process.
The book focuses on statements attributed to Emma O’Reilly, a physiotherapist who worked with Armstrong during 1998-2000. O’Reilly claims Armstrong used the banned blood booster EPO.
Armstrong has a clean doping record and has always strenuously denied taking any such products. —Agence France Press
Cofidis accepts banishments
World time trial champion David Millar’s Cofidis team has accepted his banishment from the Tour after the Scot was implicated in a doping investigation.
“They have confirmed they will not enter any rider implicated in legal proceedings or a police enquiry,” said Tour director Jean-Marie Blanc.
Millar was detained 48 hours last week over allegations he had used EPO. The 27-year-old, who has never failed a drugs test, was expected to be charged with illegal possession of toxic products this week, and it remains to be seen whether he will be eligible to join the British Olympic team for the Athens Games, where he had hoped to race in the road race, time trial and individual pursuit. —Agence France Press
Tour drug testers vow strike
Doping checks during the Tour de France appeared to be under threat Monday after three unions representing staff at France’s national drug-screening laboratory warned they would go on strike when the event starts Saturday.
Citing a clash with management over employee rights, the unions warned the strike would be “renewable until the settlement of the situation.” The laboratory handles drug screening during the Tour de France, the run-up to which has been plagued by doping allegations. —Agence France Press