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Thursday’s Eurofile: Millar: Reform begins with management; Ventoux on tap in June

David Millar says the only way to rid doping from cycling will be if the major teams and sponsors drive change from within the sport. “To me, the buck stops at team management. They can’t just go around and blame it on the riders,” Millar told VeloNews. “They should know what’s going on, they should sign the right kind of riders. [It won’t stop] until the teams and the sponsors take responsibility.” Millar, 30, returned to competition before last year’s Tour de France after serving a two-year ban for admitting to using the banned blood booster EPO. He’s since become an outspoken proponent

By Andrew Hood

Millar - seen here in the yellow jersey at Paris-Nice - says that doping reform will only happen if teams get  ...

Millar – seen here in the yellow jersey at Paris-Nice – says that doping reform will only happen if teams get …

Photo: Agence France Presse (file photo)

David Millar says the only way to rid doping from cycling will be if the major teams and sponsors drive change from within the sport.

“To me, the buck stops at team management. They can’t just go around and blame it on the riders,” Millar told VeloNews. “They should know what’s going on, they should sign the right kind of riders. [It won’t stop] until the teams and the sponsors take responsibility.”

Millar, 30, returned to competition before last year’s Tour de France after serving a two-year ban for admitting to using the banned blood booster EPO. He’s since become an outspoken proponent of clean sport and called for stricter doping controls.

The Saunier Duval-Prodir rider said it’s up to sponsors and team management to put a stop to the pressure piled on riders to secure results at any cost. He said some teams are already taking the necessary steps.

“Look what T-Mobile is doing, the team management is making a decision and you can make a difference,” he continued. “You screen the riders properly when you sign them onto the team. You be very vigilant in regards of what’s going on with their medical situation. You have to stay on top of it. It’s more work, but that’s what you have to do to. That’s the only way it’s going to change; sponsors and teams making decisions. The race organizers aren’t going to do it, obviously not the UCI, though they’re doing everything they can. [The riders] want the sport cleaned up.”

Cycling has taken more than its fair share of lumps recently following a string of doping scandals, including the positive test by 2006 Tour winner Floyd Landis and the Operación Puerto doping investigation in Spain last year.

Speaking with VeloNews earlier this year, Millar said the 2007 season is critical if the sport hopes to recover its standing among fans and media.

“Let’s be honest, cycling has no credibility whatsoever,” he said. “Whoever says otherwise is either naïve or just ignoring the situation. We have to sort it out.”

Millar – who lost his 2003 world time trial championship crown as part of his sanction – hasn’t shied away from speaking openly about doping since his return to competition.

“Journalists know the story they’re going to get from me. They tend to come to me when there are some doping stories because I have something to say about it,” he said. “No doubt we haven’t heard the end of all doping stories. It’s a fundamental problem in our sport. It’s not going away. I don’t know if it will go away in the near future.”

Ventoux on tap for Dauphiné
Mont Ventoux will be the featured highlight of the eight-day route for the 2007 Dauphiné Libéré. Race organizers revealed a balanced and challenging course for the favorite French stage race that draws many Tour de France favorites honing their form.

Several big-name riders have already committed to racing the Dauphiné, including defending champion Levi Leipheimer (Discovery Channel), Alejandro Valverde and Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d’Epargne), Frank Schleck (CSC), Michael Rogers (T-Mobile) and Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana).

The 60th anniversary of the race opens with a 5km prologue in Grenoble and rolls south with two transition stages into Roanne and St. Etienne, respectively, well suited for sprinters. Stage three features a 40.7km individual time trial in Anneyron that will prove decisive.

The knee-busting steeps of Mont Ventoux will have added significance this year as it is the biggest cycling event to be contested on the slopes of the feared mountain during this the 40th anniversary of the death of British rider Tom Simpson. Simpson died on July 13, 1967 from exhaustion and dehydration, exacerbated by the lethal mix of amphetamines and alcohol he consumed before and during the 13th stage of the Tour de France.

The “queen stage” will come in stage six in a tough climbing day across the Alps from Gap to Valloire, with climbs up the Bayard, d’Ornon, de la Croix-de-Fer, Mollard and Télégraphe. The final stage into Annecy also features a climb at Forclaz.

2007 Dauphiné Libéré (June 10-17)
Prologue, June 10
Grenoble, 5kmStage 1, June 11 Grenoble to Roanne, 219kmStage 2, June 12 Saint-Paul-en-Jarez to Saint-Etienne, 157kmStage 3, June 13 Anneyron- Anneyron, 40.7km (ITT)Stage 4, June 14 Hauterives to Mont Ventoux, 197kmStage 5, June 15 Nyons to Digne-les-Bains, 195kmStage 6, June 16 Gap to Valloire, 198kmStage 7, June 17 Valloire to Annecy, 129km

Valverde back for CI
Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d’Epargne) returns to competition this weekend for Criterium International in northeast France. The defending ProTour champion won the Vuelta a Valencia in late February but skipped Paris-Nice to train for the upcoming Ardennes classics.

“I’ll start with a lot of motivation because I have good form,” Valverde said in a team statement. “I am happy because I am better than I expected to be at this time of year and I hope to be at my best in April for the spring classics, which are the first goals for me this season. I studied the Criterium route and the truth is I really like it. The first sector on Sunday is good for me. It’s short, but hard at the same time and corresponds with my characteristics. Later I’ll try to make a good time trial to try to finish on the podium.”

Caisse d’Epargne for Criterium International
March 31-April 1
Imanol ErvitiFran PérezMathieu PergetNicolas PortalSébastien PortalVicente ReynesLuis León SánchezAlejandro Valverde