By Andrew Hood
Italian star Francesco Casagrande (Lampre) and Spanish rider Carlos Golbano (Paternina-Costa de Almería) won’t be starting the Vuelta a España on Saturday after UCI blood tests conducted Wednesday evening revealed the pair “unfit” to start.
The 189 starting riders in the Vuelta, which starts Saturday with a team time trial in León in northern Spain, were given blood screening to test levels of hemotacrit, hemoglobin and reticulocytes. While not considered a positive doping test, inconsistent indicators can suggest, but not prove, the use of EPO, Nesp or other banned blood boosters.
Vuelta officials promised stricter doping controls in this year’s Vuelta and are using one of two machines that use the “Australian” method of blood screening. One was used during the recent Olympic Summer Games while the other was used during the 2004 Tour de France.
Neither team will be allowed to replace the evicted riders and will start the team time trial with only eight riders.
Farrar fourth in Avenir opener
American Tyler Farrar finished fourth in the opening stage of the Tourde l’Avenir, which opened Thursday in northern France with a time trial.Farrar finished 28 seconds behind stage-winner Thomas Dekker (Rabobank),who roared to a dominant victory on the 12.2km course near the blusteryAtlantic Coast in northern France. Spanish rider Gustavo Cesar Veloso finishedsecond at 24 seconds, giving Dekker an impressive win to confirm his placeas one of cycling’s rising time trial specialists.The other Americans gave up more than one minute to Dekker, with PatrickMcCarty finishing 32nd at 1:03 slower. Tim Duggan stopped the clock at1:07 to finish 44th while Kevin Bouchard Hall was 74th at 1:22 and SaulRaisin came through 80th at 1:26 slower.The Avenir is the top European race of the year for riders under 25and has seen such riders as Greg LeMond take victories since its inceptionin the 1960s. The race continues Friday with the 153km second stage fromCayeux-sur-Mer to Fort-Mahon.Tour de l’Avenir (FRA 2.5), Stage 1,
1. Thomas Dekker (Ned), Rabobank 14:16
2. Gustavo Cesar Veloso (Sp), +0:24
3. Christian Muller (Ger), +0:27
4. Tyler Farrar (USA), +0:28
5. Eelke Vander Wal (Ned), Boulangere +0:29Other Americans
32. Patrick McCarty +1:03
44. Tim Duggan +1:07
74. Kevin Bouchard Hall +1:22
80. Saul Raisin +1:26
Rebellin wins in Italy
World Cup leader Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) got some revenge onhis home turf after winning the Trofeo Melinda, the first of three one-dayraces that continue in Italy through the weekend.Rebellin, who is attempting to secure an Argentine passport to securea spot in the world championships next month in Italy, won ahead of compatriotsPaolo Tiralongo (Ceramiche Panaria) and Dario Frigo (Fassa Bortolo), whocame through third.13th Trofeo Melinda (ITA 1.2), 194km
1. Davide Rebellin (Ita), Gerolsteiner 5 hours, 1 minute
2. Paolo Tiralongo (Ita), Ceramiche Panaria +0:01
3. Dario Frigo (Ita), Fassa Bortolo +0:03
4. Leonardo Bertagnolli (Ita), Saeco +0:15
5. Luca Mazzanti (Ita), Ceramiche Panaria +0:21
Colombian takes over in England
Colombian Mauricio Ardila (Chocolade Jacques) won the hilly secondstage and jumped into the overall lead of the Tour of Britain. Ardila crossedthe line in centre of Sheffield one second ahead of Belgium’s Nick Nuyens(Quick Step) and Italy’s Paolo Savoldelli (T-Mobile).The trio was part of a seven-rider attack which went clear on the toughclimbs of the Peak District. Ardila took the race lead from Stefano Zanini(Quick Step) after the Italian finished in the main pack several minutesbehind.Tomorrow’s third stage from Bakewell to Nottingham is over a distanceof 119.5 miles and includes loops round Derby and Leicester. The Tour ofBritain ends in London on Sunday with a circuit race around Westminster.Tour of Britain (ENG 2.3), Stage 2, Leeds to Sheffield,172km
1. Mauricio Ardila (Col) Chocolade Jacques 4 hours, 26 minutes,26 seconds
2. Nick Nuyens (Bel) Quick Step +0:01
3. Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) T-Mobile
4. Eric Leblacher (Fra) Credit Agricole
5. José Luis Rubiera (Spa) US Postal – all same timeOverall standings after two stages
1. Mauricio Ardila (Col), Chocolade Jacques 9:27:39
2. Nick Nuyens (Bel), Quick Step +0:05
3. Eric Leblacher (Fra), Credit Agricole s.t.
4. Paolo Savoldelli (Ita), T-Mobile +0:07
5. Christopher Baldwin (USA), Navigators Insurance +0:09
Lochowski wins in Germany
German rider Roberto Lochowski (Team Wiesenhof) won in a solo breakin the second stage of the Hessen Rundfahrt (GER 2.3), finishing 2:02 aheadof the fast-charging pack led by Danilo Hondo (Gerolsteiner). Spanish riderUnai Yus (Boulangère) retained his lead over Hondo going into Friday’sthird stage.Hessen Rundfahrt (GER 2.3), Overall standings after two stages
1. Unai Yus (Spa), La Boulangère 8 hours, 48 minutes, 2 seconds
2. Danilo Hondo (Ger), Gerolsteiner +0:04
3. Lubor Tesar (Cze), Ed’ System – Zvvz s.t.
4. Jean Nuttli (Swi), Volksbank-Ideal-Leingruber +0:20
5. David Kopp (Ger), Lamonta +0:24
Cunego: ‘I feel strong’
Going into Saturday’s start of the Vuelta a España, defending Giro d’Italia champion Damiano Cunego remains an enigma. The young Italian seems more intent on being ready for the world championship road race Oct. 3 in his hometown of Verona than thinking about a run at the Vuelta title.
“The idea is to only race part of the Vuelta. For sure this race is important and prestigious, but the world championships in Verona remain one of my most important goals for the season,” Cunego told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “It’s rare to have to the world championships in your hometown and I have already won one world title in Verona, in my case the junior world title in 1999. It’s a very important event for me.”
Saeco officials are saying will stay in the Vuelta if he’s in position to win the race, but sources say he’s expected to pull out after two weeks to be able to completely prepare for the world’s. Cunego promised to at least put up a good show.
“I am feeling stronger and regaining my rhythm that I had at the Giro,” he said. “The Spanish riders will be the favorites, especially riders like Beloki and Valverde who didn’t race in the Tour. There are a lot of teams that will be fighting and Saeco will be among them.”
Mancebo still in doubt
Francisco Mancebo won’t make the decision to start the Vuelta until the last possible moment. According to his Illes Balears team, the reigning Spanish champion is still nursing a wrist injury from a fall in the Vuelta a Burgos last month. Despite recent treatments and additional, the Madrileño is still in doubt.
If Mancebo can’t race, Toni Tauler will take his place on the team. Mancebo is one of the favorites going into Saturday’s start. If he races, he’ll share leadership duties with Denis Menchov, the Russian winner of the Vuelta al Pais Vasco who was forced to drop out of the Tour. The other riders include José Luis Arrieta, Toni Colom, Chente García, Joan Horrach, Pablo Lastras, Unai Osa and Mikel Pradera.
Euskaltel: Back in the spotlight for Vuelta
Euskaltel-Euskadi won’t be counting on star rider Iban Mayo, who’s sidelined with mononucleosis, but the Basque team vows to make a strong Vuelta to help it erase the disappointments from the Tour de France.
“We want to do in the Vuelta what we couldn’t do in the Tour,” sport director Julián Gorospe told the Spanish daily MARCA. “Before we did some important results, such as the victory at the Dauphiné. We went to the Tour with ideas but things didn’t go our way. But now we’re in the last part of the season and we want to be there.”
The orange clad runners will come with a trio of leaders, with Roberto Laiseka, Samuel Sánchez and Haimar Zubeldia ready to pick up the mantle. Like most observers, Gorospe says this Vuelta is “for the climbers.”
“The final week will be decisive, with the climbing time trial to Sierra Nevada and the summit at La Covatilla,” he said. “There are so many summit finishes that any one of them can eliminate a favorite. It’s a very hard Vuelta.”
No Vuelta for Gonzalez
Jonathan González (Paternina-Costa de Almería) won’t be starting the Vuelta after bing unable to recover from injuries he suffered in a training accident last week. The Basque rider was hit by a truck and thrown nearly 200 feet. He wasn’t gravely injured, but suffered enough cuts and bruises that it’s impossible for the fast-improving rider to start.
Brandt back with Lotto
Belgian cyclist Christophe Brandt, cleared last week after failing a drugs test during the Tour de France, has accepted an invitation to return to his team.
Brandt was let go by Lotto in July after testing positive twice for methadone, a legally available drug which is used to treat heroin addicts but banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) unless there is a medical justification.
But the rider was subsequently cleared by the Belgian Cycling League that found that particles of methadone were found in capsules of legal dietary supplements of amino acids that he had taken.
He said on Thursday: “Lotto asked me to see out my contract until the end of the season and I accepted immediately.”
The Tour de l’Avenir (FRA 2.5) opens with a 12.2km time trial in Fort Mahon.Favorites include Rabobank’s Thomas Dekker and Koen De Kort, who sweptto victory last month in the two-man time trial race at GP Eddy Merckx.The upstart Tour of Britain (ENG 2.3) continues with the 172km second stagefrom Leeds to Sheffield. The opening stage ended in a bunch sprint takenby Stefano Zanini (Quick Step) despite problems with traffic. Organizersare hoping for a smoother ride today.Spanish rider Unai Yus (La Boulangère) takes the lead into the second stage of the Hessen Rundfahrt (GER 2.3).American rider Tom Danielson would rather be starting Saturday’s Vuelta,but instead lines up for the Trofeo Melinda (ITA 1.2), the first of a threeone-day races the Fassa Bortolo rider will be contesting through the weekend.