By Andrew Hood
The war of words between the UCI and the three major grand tours is heating up again, threatening to derail the ProTour just as the new series is gaining traction.
The organizers of the Tour de France, Vuelta a España and Giro d’Italia issued a strongly-wordedcommuniqué Wednesday that resists what they call “the UCI’s maneuvers designed to divide them.”
It’s a real alphabet soup as the three businesses behind the grand tours – ASO for the Tour, RCS for the Giro and Unipublic for the Vuelta – have once again closed ranks to resist changes that they insist are imposed in an top-down manner.
The issue came to a head this week after a meeting of the ProTour council in Brussels when the ProTour teams issued an ultimatum to the Giro d’Italia that they would not be taking part if insurance payments are not resolved before the scheduled May 7 start.
At the heart of the latest spat are efforts by the UCI to create a new professional racing body, the CUPT, to replace the former body called the CCP, which the major stage races are not a part of.
The grand tours threatened that if the ProTour teams don’t participate in the Giro it would undercut the Dec. 1 “cease-fire” that called for the Giro, Tour and Vuelta to be included in the 2005 ProTour calendar.
In what’s a power struggle with the UCI and the ProTour teams on one side and the three grand tours on the other could still result in the Giro, Vuelta and Tour in pulling out of the ProTour.
Hondo fired after B Sample confirms positive
The Gerolsteiner team has announced the firing of Danilo Hondo after being informed by the UCI that the “B sample” from a recent doping test conducted on the German sprinter is positive.
A urine sample taken from the 31-year-old Hondo during the recent Tour of Murcia showed traces of Carphedon. Hondo won two stages and finished in eighth place overall at the Spanish race. The banned stimulant is regarded as effective in increasing physical endurance.
The Swiss-based cyclist, who came second in the season’s first one-day classic the Milan-San Remo on March 19, now risks a two-year suspension.
Agence France Press
b>Efimkin in yellow with Aragon win
Russian Vladimir Efimkin gave his Team Barloworld a stage victory and the leader’s jersey after zipping ahead of fellow escapee Luis Perez (Cofidis) in the second stage of the Vuelta a Aragon on Thursday. Perez and Efimkin slipped away from the main bunch in the long, 206.5km stage from Alcañiz to Sabiñánigo that saw the peloton split apart coming over a Cat. 2 climb some 30km from the finish.
Overnight leader Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) fell off the pace coming over the climb, but the peloton came within 22 seconds of catching the hard-driving duo with just 10km to go before throwing in the towel.
Petacchi coasted across the line 41st at more than two minutes in arrears to save his strength for another day.
Efraín Gutiérrez (Andalucía-Paul Versán) broke his femur in a crash and was taken to a local hospital for treatment.
The 42nd Vuelta a Aragon continues Friday with the 173.5km third stage from Sabiñanigo to Zaragoza, with a Cat. 2 and Cat. 3 early on, but likely will end in a sprint but the peloton must be careful with echelons in the windy flats.
Tour doubts for Peña
Colombian mountain specialist Victor Hugo Peña says he may miss the Tour de France after injuring his back while falling before Sunday’s Paris to Roubaix. The Phonak rider crashed on the neutralized start and pulled out after about 20km when the pain became too much.
The 30-year-old Peña will have to wear a back support for up to four weeks after cracking two vertebrae in the fall. “I am worried about my preparations for the Tour de France,” he told the AFP. “I will have to rest the injury for two weeks and then we will see how much time it will take me to fully recover.”
Peña said that his plans were to compete in the Tour of Colombia in May followed by the Dauphiné Libéré in June and then the Tour de France as his main objective in July.
Hoste to miss Giro
Leif Hoste, the Discovery Channel rider who fractured his sternum and suffered a tear in one of his lungs in a crash in Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix, will miss the Giro d’Italia.
Hoste went down in on the Orchies cobbles, yet still finished the race despite the injury. Team officials reported that Hoste is out of a Belgian hospital but won’t be racing for at least four weeks. Hincapie to lead Discovery at Amstel
George Hincapie, fresh off his breakthrough second-place podium at Paris-Roubaix, will lead Discovery Channel in Sunday’s Amstel Gold Race in Holland.
“George is the leader of the team and he’s in great shape,” sport director Johan Bruyneel said on the team’s web page. “He’s never done very well in the few times he has taken part in the race because it used to be the last race of the spring. Now, I think he’s fresher at this stage as he was out for a longer time with his illness. I think he can do a good race. He’s in good shape, both mentally and physically.”
Discovery Channel for Amstel Gold
Jurgen Van den Broeck
Max van Heeswijk
Discovery readying for Georgia
The final pieces of the Discovery Channel team for the Tour de Georgia will fly from Europe to the United States as Lance Armstrong prepares to defend his title.
The six-time Tour de France champion will arrive in Augusta on Monday while sport director Johan Bruyneel Viatcheslav Ekimov, Jose Azevedo, Chechu Rubiera will travel from Europe to meet Tony Cruz, Tom Danielson, Michael Barry and Jason McCartney, who are already in the United States.
“I think we’re bringing a strong team to the race, with riders like Eki, Michael, Tony, all of those guys,” Bruyneel told paceline.com. “Obviously Lance wants to do a good race and defend his title but we have other guys that can do well also. We’ll go to the race with several riders that can do well in the overall classification. … With the big teams coming this year, I think the American teams will be even more motivated than last year. It’s going to be a tough race.”
Liberty ready for Ardennes
David Extebarria and Jörg Jaksche will lead Liberty Seguros in the upcoming Ardennes classics. Etxebarria, a two-time Liège podium finisher, is fresh off winning Amorebieta’s spring classic in Spain, while Jaksche will be motivated to make up for some frustrating results so far this year despite strong form. Koen de Kort, not slated for Amstel, will race Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Liberty Seguros for Amstel Gold Race: Carlos Barredo, David Etxebarria, Jörg Jaksche, Isidro Nozal, Sergio Paulinho, Marcos Serrano and Ángel Vicioso.