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By Andrew Hood
Roberto Heras – the disgraced Spanish climber who saw his 2005 Vuelta a España victory stripped after he tested positive for EPO – vows to return to the professional peloton.
His two-year ban ends October 27 and the 33-year-old insists he will be with a top team next season and wants to be in a host of major races on the international calendar. Heras says he’s considered offers from Spanish and foreign teams.
“I am planning to return and there are several teams interested in me,” Heras told the Spanish daily El Mundo. “I never lost the rhythm of training and I never lost the idea that I would return to competition.”
Heras, who rode for three years alongside Lance Armstrong at U.S. Postal Service, has continued to deny that he took the banned blood booster EPO. The test results were controversial in that his initial “B” test returned negative and only to have a follow-up test of small quantities of the remaining urine samples confirm the EPO positive.
Heras challenged the test results through Spanish civil court, but officials refused to hear the case. He never made a formal appeal through the Spanish cycling federation or the Court of Arbitration for Sport and saw his record fourth Vuelta victory stripped. Runner-up Denis Menchov was awarded the victory.
Heras has had initial contacts with his former Kelme director Vicente Belda, who now manages the Spanish continental team, Fuerteventura-Canarias.
Despite a two-year absence, Heras insists he will be competitive.
“I did it before, so why not again?” he said. “Several teams have shown interest in me, but they have to meet certain criteria, such as the calendar and the sporting goals of the team. Money is important and I’m not going to race for free, but the most important thing is the calendar.”
Under existing ethics rules, Heras won’t be allowed to sign with a ProTour team for another two years. His name was also linked to controversial Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes at the center of the Operación Puerto doping scandal.
Gallopin to join Bruyneel at Astana
Despite reports coming out of Astana’s current management to the contrary, it’s full steam ahead with Johan Bruyneel’s imminent takeover of the troubled Kazakhstan-sponsored team.
The Belgian has tapped veteran French director Alain Gallopin to take over as lead sport director for Astana as Bruyneel is poised to move into a managerial role when the takeover deal is formalized in the coming weeks.
Gallopin told AFP that he will move into the lead sport director position with Bruyneel slotting in as general manager. The 50-year-old Frenchman is a current DS at Team CSC and has previously worked with FDJeux, Mercury and Coast.
“I made my decision earlier this week. I leave CSC with good terms with Bjarne (Riis). He told me he understood my decision,” Gallopin told AFP. “Being the first director is a new challenge for me.”
Longtime Bruyneel confident Dirk Demol, who served as assistant sport director with Bruyneel at Discovery Channel from 2000-07, is reportedly joining a Belgian team next season and will not follow the Discovery-Astana migration.
Sources confirmed to VeloNews last week that a Bruyneel takeover at Astana is imminent and said Tour de France champion Alberto Contador, American Levi Leipheimer and four other riders will join him.
The only remaining stumbling block is the departure of current team manager Marc Biver, but he recently returned from a trip to Kazakhstan without reaching an agreement with sponsors. Astana officials last week denied that Contador is being recruited by the team.
CAS confirms Landis appeal
The Court of Arbitration for Sport on Thursday confirmed that US cyclist Floyd Landis has lodged an appeal against doping charges that could strip him of his 2006 Tour de France title, AFP reported.
Landis hopes the Lausanne-based CAS will overturn the decision handed down on September 20 by a panel of three US arbitrators, who ruled 2-1 that Landis was guilty of using synthetic testosterone during his triumphant Tour campaign.
“The American Arbitration Association (AAA) had disqualified Floyd Landis from the Tour de France 2006 and had imposed a two-year ban on him. The American rider requests the CAS to annul the AAA decision,” the CAS said in a statement.
Landis had announced he would appeal to international sport’s top court late Wednesday.
– Agence France Presse
Coppa Sabatini apertivo for Lombardia
The fall classics keep rolling with the 55th Coppa Sabatini on Thursday in Italy. The 200km race around Pisa will draw many of the top favorites for next weekend’s Giro di Lombardia.
The race will also serve as an homage to recently double-crowned world champion Paolo Bettini and Italian national coach Franco Ballerini, who’s won three world titles since 2002 as leader of the Italian selection.
Teams for Coppa SabatiniQuickStep-InnergeticTeam CSCMilramSaunier Duval-ProdirLiquigasLampre-FonditalAstanaPredictor-LottoBarloworldAcqua & SaponeLPRCeramica FlaminiaSerramenti PVC DiquigiovanniTinkoff Credit SystemsOTC Doors LauretanaMicheKio EneUniversal Caffè