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Tour Countdown! July 1st
 
By Janna Trevisanut
Date: 7/1/2004
Tour Countdown! July 1st
 

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With the Tour de France starting in two days, the announcements last week by the Tour director, based on the wishes of the French Minister of Sports, that any rider part of an official doping investigation not ride, here's the latest.

The July 1st Report

Euskaltel's Gonzalez

Pre-race blood testing of riders today have resulted in one rider declared unfit: Euskaltel-Euskadi's Gorka González, whose hematocrit level tested over the maximum allowed by the UCI. Per UCI regulations, González will have to repeat test in 15 days have in order to have his license again.

Vasseur

Cedric Vasseur's court appeal to be allowed to compete in the Tour de France has been denied. The court stated: "The image and the reputation of the race can be tarnished by suspicion alone of involvement with dopage."

Vasseur's attorney said, "I am very concerned about the respect of human rights in France. A person under investigation can undergo the effects of condemnation before even being condemned. The presumption of innocence once existed; it doesn't exist anymore."

The lawyer also commented on the "triumph of a private organization," meaning the Tour de France's organization, "against an important constitutional principle: the presumption of innocence."

No Di Luca

The Saeco team announced today its lineup for the Tour de France, which will not include Danilo Di Luca, who just moved up to 14th in the most recent UCI rankings. The team stated today that:

Danilo Di Luca was originally selected for the race and travelled to Liege but will not now start the race. Against its wishes Team Saeco has had to take note of the desire of the race organisers not to allow the participation of Di Luca, believing that his recent involvement in a judicial enquiry about doping could create problems for the race.

In a meeting held this morning in Liege, the director of the Tour de France Jean Marie Leblanc confirmed to Di Luca and Saeco team manager Claudio Corti the line adopted by the organisers and the decision not to allow him to start the Tour on Saturday. With this Team Saeco has had to accept the decision and insert David Loosli into the team.

Team Saeco's lineup:  Gilberto Simoni, Stefano Casagranda, Mirko Celestino, Salvatore Commesso, Gerrit Glomser, Jorg Ludewig, Evgueni Petrov, Marius Sabaliauskas and David Loosli. The directeurs sportif will be Giuseppe Martinelli and Guido Bontempi.

Millar

David Millar of Cofidis was interviewed for two hours today by Judge Pallain, who is conducting a doping investigation that involves the allegations of ex-Cofidis rider Richard Gaumont. Millar was not placed under judicial control. Various reports attribute Millar's attorney stating that Millar admitted to the judge he had used EPO.

Top-rated Petacchi Speaks

The UCI rankings of June 27th put Fassa Bortolo's sprint king Alessandro Petacchi on the top rung:

(This ranking, previous rank, name, team, nationality, age, points)
1 2 Petacchi Alessandro Fas Ita 30 2137.00
2 3 Zabel Erik Tmo Ger 34 2122.00
3 1 Bettini Paolo Qsd Ita 30 2066.00
4 5 Valverde Belmonte Alejandro Kel Esp 24 1977.00
5 4 Rebellin Davide Gst Ita 33 1931.00
6 6 Cunego Damiano Sae Ita 23 1675.00
7 7 Armstrong Lance Usp Usa 33 1592.00
8 8 Mayo Diez Iban Eus Esp 27 1440.00
9 9 Ullrich Jan Tmo Ger 31 1437.00
10 11 Martin Perdiguero Miguel Angel Sdv Esp 32 1374.00
11 10 Boogerd Michael Rab Ned 32 1364.00
12 12 Boonen Tom Qsd Bel 24 1308.00
13 13 Voigt Jens Csc Ger 33 1278.60
14 17 Di Luca Danilo Sae Ita 28 1189.00
15 14 McEwen Robbie Lot Aus 32 1170.00
16 15 Hamilton Tyler Pho Usa 33 1159.20
17 16 Freire Gomez Oscar Rab Esp 28 1136.00
18 18 Nozal Vega Isidro Lst Esp 27 1121.00
19 19 McGee Bradley Fdj Aus 28 1105.00
20 20 Honchar Serhiy Den Ukr 34 1042.50

Petacchi talked at a press conference today, saying that the sprints in the Tour are different than those in the Giro. He cannot say what role "his train" will have at the Tour, since his teammate Aitor Gonzalez is a GC contender, so he will not have all his leadout companions as he did in the Giro.

The sprinter also said, "I think I've arrived at this race well prepared, even if, since the end of May, I have only participated in the Italian championship. I have trained a lot, but I have also tried to recover. The first objective will be to try to win a stage, then we will think about the rest. The green jersey would surely be a prestigious finish even if, sincerely, it is not something I anguish over. I will live for the day and if I do well I will have my satisfactions.”

Di Luca Talks

Saeco's "Gibo d'Italia," Gilberto Simoni, was interviewed yesterday and had this to say:

”I’m still convinced I’ve got the right characteristics to be a contender at the Tour. Naturally the experience of last year taught me a lot and I’m trying to use it all this year. I’m going to start the race quietly and prudently. I’m going to wait to see what happens in the team time trial and then day after day I’ll try and understand what I can do”.

As with Petacchi, Gibo has raced little since the Giro: "I haven’t race since the Giro except for a few criteriums and so I can’t really know how well I’m going. However I spent 10 days in Maloia in Switzerland with my family and I’ve done a very careful final build up for the Tour.”

Naming Lance Armstrong as his favorite for the Tour, Simoni wants this for the Tour:  "To be in the action, to fight on equal terms with the best because I’ve got the conviction to know that I’m up to it. I’d like to get some results just as I did last year when I won the stage in the Pyrenees, but this year I want to do it without losing sight of the overall classification.”

The heat is the most worrying thing now that July is here: "If it’s as hot as last year and suddenly hits, the Tour it could seriously affect the race. So far this year, we’ve raced in pretty unusual conditions and a lot of riders would feel a big change in temperature”.


The June 30th Report

Vasseur, Millar

The French team Cofidis has chosen not to include David Millar or Cedric Vasseur in its team roster. Millar announced on his website that he is scheduled for an interview Thursday in Paris with the judge presiding over the investigation, Richard Pallain, but has not made any public comments since his detention last week in Biarritz.

Vasseur appeared in court Monday to force Cofidis and the Le Tour organization, Amaury Sports Organization, to allow him to ride. Vasseur's stance is that the Sports Minister's position is contrary to law, that under a presumption of innocence an individual only under investigation may not be barred from a competition - Vasseur is not under any national federation sanction and has not been suspended by his team. Cofidis argued that it wished to avoid blacklisting of the team by the media.

Vasseur has requested a fine of 50.000 euros for each day of delay, and an injunction to force the ASO to accept his inclusion on the Tour team. The court finished this hearing today and Vasseur is awaiting the court decision.

Saeco

Team Saeco, whose rider Danilo Di Luca also falls under the "ban," has made no comments for several days. The last was a comment by Di Luca and his manager Claudio Corti, which can be read in the above link. Today is the deadline for submitting team rosters to the Tour de France organizers, and it remains to be seen whether Saeco will present Di Luca as one of its riders.

As an aside, the Saeco Team website will be providing live biometric information on its riders during the Tour via GPS transmitters, so that their efforts on the bike (heart rate, power output, cadence and speed) can be monitored by race fans. Visit the Team Saeco website here. Team T-Mobile will also offer this information; visit T-Mobile's site here.

Euskaltel-Euskadi

The Euskaltel-Euskadi team doctor, Jesús Losa, has not traveled to France with the rest of the team. There is apparenly an indirect reference, in the French investigation, to "the Euskaltel doctor," which could make him subject to appear before the French Court.

In that case, the Tour de France regulation that could theoretically cause problems for Euskaltel would be this one:

Article 29 - Dismissal
Where it is deemed that the image or reputation of the Tour de France may be blemished, notably with regard to anti-doping laws, to the behavior of any member of a trade team, the organizer, in consultation with the stewards committee, reserves the right at any time during the race to exclude the rider(s) or the team member(s) involved from the race.

Therefore, to avoid any type of problems, Miguel Madariaga has decided to do without his doctor, avoiding any temptation the French police might have during the Tour.

Raids?

Tour director Leblanc warned this week that police raids might be possible during the Tour, though he said, "We understand, that, if it becomes necessary, the police or the customs officials may intervene. But it is necessary, that if this happens, the utmost respect for the riders and the stages in this three week,  and that disputes the dignity of the athletes, that reaches a three week, difficult race, is maintained."

Testing

Starting with this year's Tour de France, blood testing should be able to detect the use of synthetic hemoglobin, transfusions and human growth hormone. Up to this point, blood testing could only show if certain blood factors were higher than an established norm, which in the case of a hematocrit, would trigger a two week ban for being over the norm, after which the rider would be re-tested. The UCI has been working on tests to detect these additional factors in the blood. Blood testing will be done in the urine testing facilities at the race as well as at rider hotels.

Lance Says...

"I think we are near [100%]. But we must remember that the most complicated days are three weeks away, therefore it is important to be ready, but not to the limit. Being at 90 percent on the eve of competition is better than being 101 percent. However, the last tests [we did] were, very good."

"Jan is the greatest threat. There are many things in his favor: the team, experienced technicians, big motivation and his time trial specialization."

"Tyler has an advantage because he is really strong in the time trial, and the final time is 60 kilometers long! [Besançon, Stage 19.] This puts him a step above Mayo."

"I indeed hope [that Simoni can be a proganist]. We need protagonists, especially in the mountains. The more rivals, more hostile they are, the better I am. I am sure that Simoni will go strong, because he was embittered by the Giro and it will do everything show his true value. It will be a good show.

"[Cunego] has impressed me. And to think that he was born in 1981! It doesn't seem real. Damiano is the big Italian hope. He can improve his time trial (he must) and he is a good climber. He is sure of himself riding and has a lot of charisma. I like this boy. I have a message for him: Let me know when you are ready to come to Team Discovery Channel..."

Will Sheryl Crow will be the "tenth mail carrier?"

"She will be with us occasionally. And she is very excited about the Tour and is a great companion. The boys in the team love to have her in the group."

Trust?

Jean Marie Leblanc also commented on a Lance Armstrong expose that has gained considerable media exposure in the past two weeks - on Friday a French court will rule whether Armstrong will be able to have a denial placed in the book.

Leblanc spoke admiringly of Armstrong, who is going for his sixth consecutive Tour win starting Saturday, and was dubious of the allegations made in the book, stating in conclusion that "In general, I am someone who has trust in people."

In Memoriam - Stive Vermaut 1975-2004

Professional from 1998-2002
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2000: US Postal Service
2001- 2002: Lotto - Adecco
2002: Palmans - Collstrop

 
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