By VeloNews Interactive, and wire services
Heras wants fourth Vuelta … and a Tour to go with it
Spain’s Roberto Heras has his eyes firmly fixed on a record-breaking fourth Vuelta a España title after organizers unveiled the course Wednesday, but admitted the Tour de France was an even bigger goal.
Last year’s win was the 30-year-old’s third in five seasons and he now has the chance to go one better than Swiss racer Tony Rominger, who bagged a hattrick of crowns from 1992.
“The Vuelta motivates me a great deal, but the Tour (de France) is an obsession,” Heras told sports daily Marca after the presentation for the event, which will precede the world championships taking place in the Spanish capital of Madrid one week after the race ends.
“I would like to make history in the Vuelta but certainly the French event is what moves me and I’d like to do something big in that before I retire,” said the Liberty Seguros rider.
He pinpointed the 10th stage going into Andorra in the Pyrénées mountains and the 14th, another mountain stage in the northern region of Asturias, as make-or-break race days for his hopes.
Spaniards have won the last five editions of the race since Jan Ullrich of Germany nabbed the title in 1999.
Phonak appeals ProTour snub
The Phonak cycling team has asked the international Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland to overturn a decision in which it was denied a ProTour license because of a doping scandal.
The Union Cycliste Internationale, the sport’s governing body, ruled November 30 that granting a ProTour license to Phonak would “harm the image of cycling as a sport.” The team has been hit by drug accusations involving Olympic time trial champion Tyler Hamilton, Spain’s Santi’ Perez and Switzerland’s Oscar Camenzind. Camenzind was sacked after admitting EPO use, but Phonak, Hamilton and Perez have denied claims of blood doping, which emerged after the initial sample of the rider’s drug test at the Athens Games showed evidence of a blood transfusion.
That case was dropped after his backup sample was frozen, leaving too few red blood cells to analyze. But Hamilton tested positive again at the Vuelta a España in September, and he since has been fired from the team.
Both Hamilton and Phonak officials have questioned the reliability of the testing system.
The CAS could take several months to reach a decision. But even if the Swiss court fails to rule in Phonak’s favor, the team hopes to enter next year’s Tour de France and other top races as a wild card, a category open to non-ProTour teams.
Durand declares ‘time to stop’
Jacky Durand, one of the most popular riders in French cycling, has decided to retire.
“There is a time for everything, and it is time to stop,” Durand declared in Wednesday’s edition of the French regional newspaper Dauphiné Libéré.
Nicknamed “Dudu,” and known for his jovial character and fighting spirit, Durand is the last Frenchman to win the Tour of Flanders. In 1992, he put an end to 36 years of failure in the great Belgian classic, one of the monuments of cycling, winning after a 217km breakaway.
“I either win or lose, nothing in between,” he said Wednesday.
Other notable victories include the French national championship in 1993 and 1994, the 1998 Paris-Tours and two stages in the Tour de France.
A professional since 1990, Durand spent the 2004 season racing for the Belgian team Landbouwkrediet. He said he would like to remain in the sport in some capacity.