By Andrew Hood
Oscar Pereiro finally feels comfortable enough to put on the yellow jersey from the disputed 2006 Tour de France.
The Spanish rider donned the maillot jaune for a photo shoot with the Spanish daily AS and said it rightfully belongs to him following last month’s ruling against Floyd Landis.
“A lot of time has passed but I feel good. And I’m not afraid to put it on,” Pereiro said. “Since I received a fax from the UCI (on Sept. 21) informing the news about the 2006 Tour, I know that putting on the yellow jersey again isn’t a provocation. I have nothing to hide.”
In the eyes of the UCI, Pereiro is the official winner of the 2006 Tour despite the remaining opportunity for Landis to challenge the 2-1 ruling to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Landis still has not announced whether he will appeal.
For Pereiro, who finished second to Landis after Phonak let him ride into the yellow jersey after losing 30 minutes in the Pyrenees, says he finally feels like the Tour winner.
“They’ve proven he cheated,” Pereiro said of Landis. “It’s not up to me to condemn Landis. I was only a secondary actor in all this circus. What really annoys me is that the UCI and the Tour organization have only said that the ‘second’ who will be the Tour winner. They have never mentioned my name, as if it would cost them something to recognize that I should be the champion.”
When asked what he would say to Landis, Pereiro replied, “That’s a complicated question. I don’t know.
“Landis believed that he wasn’t guilty and he took his case until the end of the process. I don’t understand him, but I respect him,” he said. “I would act in a different manner. If the same thing happened to me tomorrow, I would admit it without hesitation. I would do like Oscar Camenzind did. He was positive for EPO, he knew that he did something wrong and he just went home. That’s the road I would follow.”
Pereiro said it’s “incalculable” to measure the economic loss of not being able to enjoy his status as the 2006 Tour winner.
“I was out of my head until June,” he said. “I didn’t win anything this season. The only thing I won in 2007 is the 2006 Tour.”
Pereiro will return to competition this month for Paris-Bourges, Paris-Tours and the Giro di Lombardia.
Bettini aims for history
After celebrating his second consecutive world title with 500 of his best friends and neighbors earlier this week in his hometown of La California, Paolo Bettini will get back to the business of racing.
He will start the Region Emilia and the Coppa Sabbatini before his last major goal of the 2007 season. The Quick Step-Innergetic captain will be aiming for this third consecutive victory at the Giro di Lombardia, a feat equaled by Alfredo Binda (1925-27) and Fausto Coppi (1946-49).
Grand tours unveiling routes
Cycling’s major three-week tours will be unveiling their respective routes for next year in the coming weeks.
The Tour de France will announce its 2008 edition in a lavish ceremony October 25 in the Congress Palace in Paris in what’s always one of cycling’s big rendezvous ahead of the off-season.
What’s known about the 2008 edition is that Tour organizers have decided to skip the prologue and get right down to business, starting July 5 with a traditional road stage from Brest to Plumelec in France’s Britanny region. Stage 2 will run from Auray to Saint-Brieuc with Stage 3 starting in Saint-Malo.
The Giro d’Italia will unveil its route December 1 in Milan. The Giro will start May 10 on Sicily. The Vuelta a España will have its unveiling December 12 in Madrid, with the season’s final grand tour starting August 30 in Granada.
Hunt joins CA
English veteran Jeremy Hunt has joined Crédit Agricole for the 2008 season, in part to replace the departing Julian Dean, who’s heading to Slipstream-Chipotle. Hunt, winner of the 2002 GP Ouest France Plouay, will help Thor Hushovd in the sprints.
Also joining the French team for next season are French riders Eric Berthou, Maxime Méderel and Julien Simon along with Aussie Simon Gerrans, Lithuanian Ignas Konovalovas and Norwegian Gabriel Rasch.