By Andrew Hood
oung Russian Vladimar Karpets (Illes Balears-Banesto) retained theoverall lead at the 84th Volta a Cataluyna in Wednesday’s summit finishup the Coll de Pal after finishing fourth behind the persistent MiguelAngel Martin Perdiguero (Saunier Duval). Martin Perdiguero, a winner in Tuesday’s roller-coaster stage,proved he can win on any terrain and put the Russian under pressure. Itlooked like Colombian Félix Cárdenas (Cafés Baqué)would win, but he was reeled in by a group of four riders. Perdiguero shotaway in the final punch and trimmed Karpets’ hold on the leader’s jerseyto just six seconds.Things are sure to change in Thursday’s decisive 12.4km climbing timetrial from Llorts to Ordina-Arcalis at 2,200 meters.84th Volta a Cataluyna (SPA 2.HC)
Stage 3, Les Borges Blanques to Andorra (Coll de Pal)
1. Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero (Spa), Saunier Duval, 200.7km in 5 hours, 43 minutes, 46 seconds
2. Eladio Jimenez (Spa), Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme +0:03
3. Roberto Laiseka (Spa), Euskaltel-Euskadi +0:06
4. Vladimir Karpets (Rus), Illes Balears-Banesto
5. David Latasa (Spa), Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme — all same timeOthers
30. Michael Barry (Can), USPS +3:00
45. Christian Vande Velde (USA), Liberty Seguros +6:42Overall standings after three stages
1. Vladimir Karpets (Rus), Illes Balears-Banesto 9 hours, 50 minutes, 22 seconds
2. Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero (Spa), Saunier Duval +0:06
3. Roberto Laiseka (Spa), Euskaltel-Euskadi +0:25
4. Eladio Jimenez (Spa), Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme +0:32
5. David Latasa (Spa), Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme +0:41Others
27. Michael Barry (Can), USPS +3:50
40. Christian Vande Velde (USA), Liberty Seguros +7:01
Beloki out of Tour
Spanish rider Joseba Beloki has left Brioches La Boulangère and will not race in next month’s Tour de France. According to reports in the French and Spanish media, Beloki walked away from his lucrative two-year deal worth a reported 3 million euros late Tuesday evening and will look for a new team.
Beloki – third in 2000 and 2001 Tours and runner-up in 2002 – struggled to regain his form after breaking his right leg, elbow and wrist in a dramatic crash in last year’s Tour. In recent weeks, the 30-year-old clashed with his French team over the use of an allergy medicine. Poor form coupled with news the team would be losing its title sponsor at the end of the season helped ease the way for Beloki’s exit.
“It was a unilateral decision that in the end satisfied both parties,” Jean-René Bernaudeau told the French daily L’Equipe. “He was contracted to race the Tour and the situation was getting complicated. With a month to go to the race, he had to justify his status and make guarantees to his teammates, who would sacrifice for him in July.”
Since crashing out of last year’s Tour, Beloki struggled with to regain winning form and things came to a head at Bicleta Vasca earlier this month when his team wouldn’t allow Beloki to use his preferred allergy medicine for fear of failing a doping test.
Although Beloki had UCI permission to use the medicine (Pulmicort), the French cycling federation would not allow the team to clear the medication. Exasperated, Beloki and his brother, Gorka, who also suffers from asthma, both abandoned the Spanish race.
Beloki is free to find another team, but under conditions of his departure, he won’t be allowed to race in the Tour. Instead, Beloki said he will continue training and focus on the Vuelta a España in September.
“Either he rides the Tour with us or no one,” Bernaudeau said.
Mayo downplays ‘favorite’ status
Iban Mayo (Euskaltel-Euskadi) held a press conference Tuesday and begged off the media to give him “peace and quiet” in the final two weeks before the Tour de France.
Fresh off his victory at the Dauphiné Libéré, Mayo said he hopes to finish on the Tour podium but downplayed his status as giant-killer going into the season’s most important race.
“For me, the favorites are Armstrong and Ullrich,” Mayo told nearly 100 journalists who showed up for the press conference. “Behind them, the podium is open and my objective will be to fight for that, even though in the Tour to win a stage and be among the top 10 is already pretty good.”
Mayo said he believes five-time champion Lance Armstrong will be ready for the Tour despite not having winning form at the Dauphiné Libéré, where Mayo took nearly two minutes out of the Texan on the climbing time trial to Mont Ventoux.
“It’s true he wasn’t as strong as other years, but perhaps that’s the way he wanted it to be,” said Mayo, who doubted Armstrong will be much affected by the growing scandal surrounding new allegations of doping. “He’s overcome a lot of things in life and he’s more motivated than ever to become the first one to win six.”
Mayo refused to bite when journalists insisted he could topple the Texan.
“You have to be realistic. I’ve never even been on the podium and Armstrong and Ullrich have won,” Mayo said. “You have to keep your feet on the ground, but I will give it my all.”
Former Postie Vermaut in coma
Former U.S. Postal Service rider Stive Vermaut – a Belgian who was forced to end his racing career last season for heart arrhythmia – suffered a heart attack Sunday and remains in critical condition.
According to reports in the Belgian media, the 28-year-old is in critical condition in a hospital in Roulers, Belgian, since suffering a heart attack Sunday afternoon after returning from a training ride.
Vermaut raced with U.S. Postal Service in 2000 and switched Lotto then Palmans in 2003. Early in the 2002 season, Vermaut suffered from irregular heartbeat at the Trofeo Laigueglia and again at Tour du Haut Var. Despite treatments, doctors urged him to quit racing and he opted to retire in early 2003.
Garzelli to skip Italian championships
Stefano Garzelli (Vini Caldirola) will not race in the Italian national championships June 27 in Tuscany, the Italian wires reported Wednesday.
Garzelli, who pulled out of the Tour de Suisse on Tuesday suffering from a pinched nerve, will take a rest to recover in time to race the Vuelta a España in September with hopes of earning a spot on the national team for the world championships in October. The former Giro d’Italian champion will not be racing the Tour de France.
Tour chief seeks to have suspect riders banned
Tour de France chief Patrice Clerc has called on the world’s top team todrop three Italian riders named in a doping scandal from competing in thisyear’s classic which starts on July 3. Le Monde reported that Danilo Di Luca, Alesandro Spezialetti andEddy Mazzoleni, who ride for the top-ranked Saeco outfit, had been chargedin an Italian police investigation into doping, which is a criminal offencein Italy.The daily said it had obtained police records of mobile phone callsof the riders talking with a debarred doctor nicknamed Ali the Chemist,Carlo Santuccione, about using the blood booster EPO.Clerc, who heads the Amaury Sport Organisation which owns the Tour,also called on under-fire French team Cofidis to drop Cedric Vasseur whohas been charged in a French police investigation into drug trafficking.Cofidis said Vasseur was innocent until proven guilty, but Clerc appealedto the team to exclude the rider for the good of the sport.”I don’t see how they can start the Tour if they are found guilty ofdangerous links through tapped phone calls, ” Clerc said of the Italianriders.He said police investigations were making it more difficult for drugscheats to escape.”There are still cheats out there,” he told l’Equipe. We haveto own up to it and fight to eliminate not only the riders but everyonein their set-up involved in it.”And he called on the International Cycling Union to step in more vigorously.”I would hope the UCI play a capital role in the war on drugs, withtheir own investigations and a zero tolerance policy,” he said.The Tour gets underway with five-times winner Lance Armstrong fightingto clear his name after instrucing his lawyers to sue a British and Frenchjournalist for libel over a book claiming he used performance-enhancingdrugs.One big name missing will be Spain’s Joseba Beloki whose contract withLa Boulangere team has been torn up after he failed to turn up for altitudetraining this week.Beloki, back after breaking his leg in last year’s Tour, has finishedon the Tour de France podium three times from 2000 to 2002.He had already hit out at his team and the French federation for barringhim from using asthma medication during the Tour de France.The drugs he has taken since childhood contain the steroid cortisone.Kazakhstan’s Alexandre Vinokourov, third in last year’s Tour, has alsobeen forced out after tearing shoulder ligaments when he crashed in theTour of Switzerland.