By Andrew Hood
Valverde press conference turns ugly
A press conference with defending Flèche Wallone-Liège-Bastogne-Liège champion Alejandro Valverde turned ugly Monday when Belgian journalists tried to corner the Spanish rider on links to the Operación Puerto doping investigation.
When pressed that his name might be among the scores of nicknames found in police documents as part of the Spanish investigation last May, Valverde said he had nothing to worry about.
“I am tranquil,” Valverde told journalists. “I know that I don’t have any problem, because if I did, I wouldn’t have been able to race in 2006.”
Belgian journalists jumped on Valverde following reports that the recent Tour of the Basque Country saw a peloton racing “at two speeds” and rumors that alleged Puerto ringleader Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes is back in operation.
“I don’t know if (Fuentes) is active or not,” Valverde said. “What happened at País Vasco was that some riders were very good and some just good, just like it all the races. There are always riders who win and others who lose.”
Caisse d’Epargne sport director Eusebio Unzue had to cut off inquiries when the questioning heated up over Puerto.
“The Spanish are being watched with a magnifying glass. If you look at the results of the races this year, you will see that there have been exhibitions by everyone, not just among the Spanish riders,” Unzue said. “When the Spanish do something, everyone thinks that Eufemiano Fuentes is behind it. You have to be fair with everyone.”
Concerning the upcoming Ardennes classics, Valverde said in a calmer moment that he “feels good.”
“I have a lot of motivation and of the two upcoming classics, I’d be happy to win one,” he said. “If I had to choose, I’d elect Liège, but the winner of the race can’t be chosen here.”
Di Luca confident ahead of Flèche
Danilo Di Luca is sounding confident for Wednesday’s Flèche Wallone after finishing a solid third behind Amstel Gold Race winner Stefan Schumacher on Sunday.
“The Killer” won Flèche in his breakthrough 2005 season and knows the finishing climb at the Muur de Huy well. Well enough to realize when he has a possible win in his legs
“I am very satisfied with my third place,” Di Luca said in a Liquigas team press release. “From the brilliance of my pedaling I have the confirmation that all the work carried out in the past months is giving the fruits I expected.”
When asked which of the Ardennes classics he prefers – Flèche Wallonne or Liège-Bastogne-Liège – Di Luca said he’d be content with either one.
“Between the two races, Fléche is the one that suits me more, but I can’t hide that both are in my purpose,” he continued. “To have a chance with it the most important thing is to be in a good position in the final kilometers. It’s a pity that this year we could be too many.”
After the Ardennes campaign, Di Luca enters the 2007 Giro d’Italia with something to prove.
“Even though much people can’t believe it, I am sure I will be able to do a good job for the overall ranking,” he said. “I will try to demonstrate that [my fourth place] of the 2005 was not by chance.”
Liquigas for Flèche WalloneDanilo Di LucaMichael AlbasiniPatrick CalcagniEros CapecchiKjell CarlströmFrancesco FailliRoman KreuzigerAlessandro Spezialetti
Thor Hushovd is hoping to end his disappointing spring with a stage victory at the Giro d’Italia (May 12-June 3). The Norwegian sprinter was forced to pull out of Milan-San Remo with a bad bout of stomach flu and struggled through the northern classics after not being fully recovered.
Hushovd will lead Credit Agricole’s chances in the spring while Pietro Caucchioli, third overall in 2002, will be aiming for a podium run in the first grand tour of the 2007 season.
The French team will also see the presence of Nicolas Roche, eldest son of Stephen Roche, who won the Giro 20 years ago en route to becoming only the second rider ever to claim cycling’s “triple crown” of the Giro, the Tour de France and the world cycling championships in the same season.
Credit Agricole for Giro d’Italia (May 12-June 3)Francesco BellottiPietro CaucchioliAngelo FurlanLaszlo BodrogiJulian DeanPatrice HalgandChristophe KernThor HushovdNicolas Roche
Cunego back for Trentino
The road to Liège passes through the Giro di Trentino for Damiano Cunego, who will go for his third victory in four years as he lines up today for the 31st edition of the northern Italian stage race.
Cunego is hoping to hone his form ahead of Sunday’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège, where he finished third last year and is making no bones about his ambitions of winning La Doyenne.
Other big names lining up are Stefano Garzelli and Michele Scarponi (both Acqua&Sapone) as well as Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas)
31st Giro di TrentinoTuesday, April 24 Arco to Terlago, 165kmWednesday, April 25 Santa Massenza to Predaia, 144.4kmThursday, April 26 Cavareno Valle di Non to Toscolano Maderno, 176.4kmFriday, April 27 Toscolano Maderno to Arco, 164.6km19 teamsElk Haus-SimplonVolksbank (AUT)Barloworld (ENG)Euskaltel (ESP)Ceramiche Panaria (IRL)Acqua & SaponeAurum HotelsCeramica FlaminiaLampreLiquigasOTC DoorsTenaxUniversal Caffe (ITA)Amore&VitaMiche (POL)Cinelli-Endeka OPD (SEM)Adria Mobil (SLO)Team LPR (SUI)Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni (VEN)
Rujano breaks clavicle
Venezuelan climber José Rujano (Unibet.com) cracked his right clavicle in a spill in Sunday’s Amstel Gold Race and will be out for at least four weeks, the team reported.
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