By Andrew Hood
Millar eyes Vuelta stage
David Millar couldn’t score his dream comeback stage victory at the Tour de France, but he’s hoping to at the upcoming Vuelta a España.
Millar survived the Tour in his first race back from a two-year racing ban for admitting to using the banned blood-booster EPO and enters the August 26 start of the Vuelta much stronger.
“I would like to win a stage, a road stage or a time trial, it doesn’t matter,” Millar told VeloNews at last weekend’s Clásica San Sebastián. “I came out of the Tour feeling strong, stronger than I expected and I have recuperated well. I think the legs should go OK.”
Millar said the Tour proved harder than expected, both in the physical demands of coming back from his ban after a forced two-year stop and the media pressure that came with it. He was hyped to win the opening prologue, but faded out of contention in Strasbourg and in the first time trial.
The time trial specialist – who had his 2003 world’s crown stripped away as part of his punishment – bounced back in the penultimate stage and finished 11th, a harbinger of good fortune for the future.
Millar is spending a few days in his old haunting grounds in Biarritz, France, before hunkering down for some intense training in southern Spain to get accustomed to the heat ahead of the Vuelta start in muggy Málaga.
The Scot almost missed Saturday’s Clásica after getting stuck in London’s Heathrow airport following Thursday’s terrorist scare. His scheduled Thursday flight to Spain was cancelled and he was forced to spend the night at his sister’s apartment in London ahead of catching a Friday afternoon flight down to Spain.
Gorospe out at Euskaltel
Julián Gorospe will not continue as sport director at Euskaltel-Euskadi for the 2007 season, the team confirmed late Monday in a press release. The Basque ProTour said it was looking new direction in the upcoming season.
“Having realized a sporting cycle, [the team] has decided to commit to a new project with new goals, new systems and new methods of working and new objectives which require renovating the team’s sporting structure,” the team said.
Gorospe’s days at Euskaltel seemed numbered after the arrival this season of Igor González de Galdeano, the former ONCE pro who took over as assistant to team manager Miguel Madariaga at the beginning of the year.
Gorospe has also butted heads with star rider Iban Mayo. With Mayo’s contract up at the end of the season, the move is seen by some to try to placate the Basque star and entice the popular rider to stay with the team. Mayo has been linked to a possible move to Saunier Duval-Prodir for the 2007 season.
Hesjedal Vuelta-bound for Phonak
Spanish veteran Miguel Angel Perdiguero will lead Phonak for the Vuelta with Canadian Ryder Hesjedal expected to have plenty of room to roam.
The ex-mountain biker finished fourth at the Volta a Catalunya in May and in the top 20 at a challenging Dauphiné Libéré in June and is hoping for an equally impressive Vuelta ride in what will be the final grand tour for the Phonak team.
Phonak for Vuelta
Miguel Angel Perdiguero
Rabobank loaded for Vuelta
Rabobank is set to bring a formidable team to the Vuelta a España later this month as Denis Menchov lines up as defending champion. Also set to start are King of the Mountains champion Michael Rasmussen, Dutch star Michael Boogerd and three-time world champion Oscar Freire.
“Rabobank is bringing a very strong team, so something good is bound to happen,” said Rasmussen, who won a Vuelta stage in 2003. “I am not coming with any specific goals or ambitions. I would like to win a stage if things go my way, but the team will be working for Denis.”
Also starting with be Colombian climber Mauricio Ardila, Tour stage-winner Pieter Weening and Spanish workhorse Pedro Horillo. Not racing the Vuelta is Thomas Dekker, the much-hyped Dutch star who raced the Giro d’Italia earlier this year but skipped on his Tour debut.
Menchov was named official winner after outright victor Roberto Heras failed tests for the banned blood booster EPO.
The Russian will receive honors as official winner in a special ceremony a day before the Vuelta is set to begin with a team time trial Aug. 26 in Málaga.
Rabobank for Vuelta
Ullrich fires back
t seems Jan Ullrich is finally fed up with a string of experts who have come out of the woodwork insisting that the 1997 Tour de France champion’s wins have come from more than hard work alone.
Ullrich revealed on his personal web page Monday that he’s filed suit in a Hamburg court against a German professor who charged that Ullrich spent upwards of 35,000 euros a year to buy illegal performance-enhancing drugs.
Ullrich asked the court to put a gag order on Werner Franke, a biology professor and respected expert on doping. If Franke makes more allegations against Ullrich, he could face a 250,000 euro fine or six months in jail.
Earlier this month, Franke alleged the German star was working closely with controversial Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes.
“I have had access to the [dossier] about Jan Ullrich and all I can say is that it’s been a long time since I have since so much bullshit,” Franke said in an interview. “Certain people around him are truly diabolical, advising him to take these products and putting him in contact with the Spanish doctor.”
Ullrich and T-Mobile teammate Oscar Sevilla were not allowed to start the 2006 Tour after their names were linked to Fuentes, who’s at the center of an ongoing investigation into an alleged doping ring in Spain.
Ullrich was later fired by T-Mobile after not meeting the team’s demands to prove his innocence. Ullrich has vehemently denied allegations he worked with Fuentes.
Spanish authorities discount Sáiz’ claims
Officials from Spain’s top sports agency insisted it acted within the law concerning its handling of the “Operación Puerto” doping investigation and said a lawsuit filed by ex-Liberty Seguros boss Manolo Sáiz has no merit.
Sáiz filed suit last week in a Spanish court, charging that the Consejo Superior de Deportes (CSD) lied and manipulated documents relating to him and his Active Bay holding company, which owns and manages Astana team (formerly Liberty Seguros).
Sáiz was among five people arrested in May and his Astana team was left out of the 2006 Tour de France because five of the team’s riders had alleged links to the case. Those five riders have since been cleared and Sáiz has not been charged with any wrongdoing.
Officials from CSD insisted it handled documents within the limits of Spanish law when it passed them to Spanish cycling authorities ahead of the Tour de France.