By Andrew Hood
Attorneys for Roberto Heras promise they’re ready for a fight if a counter-analysis scheduled for Monday confirms the four-time Vuelta a España champion used the banned blood-booster EPO. Andreu Garriga, the attorney for four-time Vuelta a España, is promising a lengthy legal battle if tests come back positive. “We will enter judicial and sporting (actions) and will support it with all the available resources,” Garriga told the Spanish daily AS. Heras is denying allegations that he used EPO en route to a record fourth Vuelta crown in September. Spanish cycling has been rocked following Heras’s failed doping test in the penultimate stage of this year’s Vuelta. Heras’s counter-analysis is scheduled for Monday and the results could be revealed within days. According to Garriga, Heras has decided not to be present during the laboratory tests. Under testing rules, two witnesses are allowed to watch laboratory technicians. Heras wanted to go, but Garriga talked him out of it. In his place will be an Italian, whom Garrigo only identified as a University of Florence chemist he’s worked with before. “Roberto really wanted to be there, but we convinced him it’s preferable that someone is there who can support something,” he said. “He has not much to do there at all.” Garriga conceded that “95 percent” of “B” samples come back positive in EPO tests, but he said he expected a “surprise” this time around, especially in light of Heras’s vehement denials. “In this same situation, I would be very worried, but Roberto has been very calm,” he said. McEwen, Evans confirm Tour Down Under starts
Australian stars Robbie McEwen and Cadel Evans will be adding a bit of local star power to the 2006 Jacob’s Creek Tour Down Under in January to kick start their seasons. McEwen is looking forward to going against Tour de France green jersey winner Thor Hushvod (who’s already been confirmed to start) while Evans said he’ll use the Aussie race as the first step toward improving his eighth-place Tour debut in July. “My 2006 season will revolve around the Tour de France so the Tour Down Under will be perfect race for me to get some solid work in,” said Evans, who recently got married. “The stages are not too hard and I always love to race in Australia as much as I can.” The Davitamon-Lotto tandem will be joined by compatriots Henk Vogels, Nic Sanderson and Nick Gates as well as Belgians Wim Vansevenant, Mario Aerts and Johan Vansummeren.
McEwen – who lost a shot at the green jersey in July after being relegated when judges ruled he head-butted Stuart O’Grady – said he relishing the chance to go up against a quality sprinter like Hushovd so early in the season. “If I’m going good then I want to win stages and even if I’m not going so good I want to win stages and I’ll find a way,” McEwen said. “He won the Tour green jersey but I showed I was the fastest. But it’s not always about being the absolute fastest it’s about being consistent and he rode well and picked up some points on days that I didn’t.” Too bad O’Grady won’t be starting. The pair has been at each others’ throats for years and the tension hit a breaking point in 2005 when O’Grady refused to ride the world championships in support of team captain McEwen. They might have been head-butting again, but this time perhaps straight-on. O’Grady, who recently signed on to join Team CSC for 2006, will be attending the team’s famously brutal training camp instead.
Roulston quits Discovery Channel
It’s not often that riders walk away from a professional contract, but that’s just what Hayden Roulston did on Wednesday. The oft-injured Zealander asked the team to release him from his contact for the 2006 season just weeks ahead of the team’s annual pre-season camp in Austin. Roulston joined Discovery Channel in 2005, but suffered through an injury-plagued 2005 season that made him doubt his future with the team. “Although it was me who asked to leave the team, it was still a very hard and emotional decision to make,” Roulston said on paceline.com. “The team has been nothing but supportive through this very difficult year and I thank them for that.” No word from the team yet on whether his slot will be replaced. Vazquez re-ups with Maxxis-MSC
David Vázquez, Spain’s best downhiller in a generation, has signed a contract that will keep him with Maxxis-MSC for three more seasons. That kind of job security is rare these days in the gravity circuit and Vázquez said his primary focus will be the World Cup as well as the Maxxis Cup International and the Spanish Open. The Barcelona-based rider – who still lived with his parents between international junkets – joins teammates Markolf Berchtold and the Lacondeguy brothers to round out the Maxxis-MSC gravity team. The sponsor has committed five additional years to the gravity world. Eight French teams for 2006
When the French aren’t burning cars, they’re racing bikes. Or so it would seem, as eight French teams will line up for the 2006 racing season. According to the UCI, no less than eight French teams will be racing at the ProTour and continental level for the upcoming season. Four ProTour teams – Bouygues Telecom, Cofidis, Crédit Agricole and Française des Jeux – will be joined by ProTour wanna-be Ag2r (its ProTour application is still pending) and its continental tour cousins, Agritubel, Auber 93 and Jean Floc’h. Now, only if they could win the Tour de France.