By Andrew Hood
Spanish star Alejandro Valverde will return to competition next weekend for the summer classic Clásica San Sebastián, but isn’t expected to race the weeklong Vuelta a Burgos.
Valverde, 26, fractured his clavicle in stage three of the 2006 Tour de France and will use the one-day race on Aug. 12 in northern Spain to prepare for his run at the Vuelta a España title.
Illes Balears-Caisse d’Epargne officials said Valverde isn’t quite in condition to race the Burgos tour, set for Aug. 6-10.
“As of today he won’t race the Vuelta a Burgos but he will be at the Clásica,” sport director Eusebio Unzúe told EFE. “Even though it’s not impossible, it’s going to be very difficult for him to be at Burgos.”
Instead, Burgos organizers will settle for the Spanish re-appearance of Astaná (formerly Liberty Seguros) led by Alberto Contador and Rubén Plaza of Comunidad Valenciana as the top Spanish stars.
Astaná names Biver as new manager
Astaná – fresh off winning its first race under its new sponsor at the opening stage of the Deutschland Tour on Wednedsay – announced a new general manager to take over the troubled team.
Marc Biver – former race director of the Tour de Suisse and the Tour de Romandie – was named as manager while Walter Godefroot, former manager of T-Mobile, was named as sport director.
“The team will soon be born officially because we will submit our request for a ProTour licence to the UCI in the coming day,” Biver said. “The Astana team will have a license that is 100 percent Kazakh and will have nothing to do with the team previously managed by Manolo Saíz.”
The moves come in the wake of the arrest of Saíz as the “Operación Puerto” doping investigation in mid-May. Saíz’ detention prompted Liberty Seguros to pull the plug on its sponsorship deal, opening the door for the Kazakh consortium to come onboard as lead sponsor.
The team is currently working out a deal to transfer ownership of the team from Saíz’ Active Bay to new Kazakh owners and secure the team’s ProTour license.
Rogge recommends easing Tour, Giro; Italian federation wants review
Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee, has suggested that the three-week Giro d’Italia and Tour de France are too difficult and should be shortened.
“A commission of experts should analyze it. I am not the only who thinks the stages are too demanding,” Rogge told the Belgian paper Sportwereld. “World champion Tom Boonen shares my opinion.”
Tour de France officials poo-pooed the idea. When asked by VeloNews last fall if the Tour is too difficult, ASO president Patrick Clerc said riders train specifically for the long distances.
In Italy, officials from the Italian cycling federation have called for efforts to reorganize cycling to avoid future doping scandals that are threatening to undercut the credibility of the sport.
Renato Di Rocco, in a letter to UCI president Pat McQuaid made public, said the current system of doping controls “doesn’t work” and suggested a complete reworking of the system to save the sport.
Lampre takes on two Chinese stagiares
Two Chinese cyclists are set to compete for top cycling team Lampre in races in Italy in August it was announced by the outfit on Wednesday.
Wu Kin San, 21, from Hong Kong, and 22-year-old Xu Gang from Shanghai will spend a month in Italy and will make their debuts in Saturday’s Tour of Latium.
“Lampre’s aim is to broaden its base, which could potentially be rich in talent, without forgetting the financial aspects of opening up a new market,” said the team in a statement, looking ahead in particular to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
A decision on whether to extend their stay will be taken at the end of August.
Agence France Presse
French rider Laurent Mangel has signed a two-year contract extension to stay with Ag2r. A pro since 2005, Mangel won the sixth stage of the Tour of Langkawi in FebruarySpanish rider David Lopez penned a deal to extend for two more years with Euskaltel-Euskadi. A pro since 2003, Lopez raced both the Giro d’Italia and Tour France this yearBelgian racer Kevin De Weert is set to switch from Quick Step-Innergetic to Cofidis in a two-year deal. A pro since 2002, the 24-year-old will join Nick Nuyens on the French squad.