Monday's EuroFile: Valverde at Burgos; No Vuelta for Astana; Farrar on reserve
Filed: August 13, 2007 at 07:00 A.M. EST
Alejandro Valverde headlines this week's Vuelta a Burgos starting Tuesday in northern Spain in a race that's replete with Vuelta a España favorites.
The likes of Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and José Ángel Gómez Marchante (Saunier Duval-Prodir) are using the five-day stage race as a trampoline for the Vuelta podium, but Valverde is skipping the Spanish grand tour to prepare especially for the world championships.
Valverde will skip the Vuelta a España to concentrate on world's, but the Vuelta a Burgos fits into his plan.
photo: Agence France Presse - 2007
Valverde disappointed Vuelta organizers last week when he said he would be skipping the September 1 start in Vigo, leaving the Spanish tour bereft of its 2006 podium finishers (see below).
Valverde, meanwhile, expressed satisfaction with his sixth-place overall at the Tour de France, the first time in three starts he made it to Paris. He now has eyes set on the world championship race September 30.
The road to Stuttgart for Valverde goes through the wide-open expanses of Burgos, the regional capital perched on the northern edge of Spain's central meseta.
Whether "Balaverde" will still have enough gas in the tank to improve on his three stages and the overall title like he harvested in 2004 remains to be seen.
The mid-August race is typically a Spanish affair, but such riders as Lance Armstrong and Marco Pantani have raced there. Of the 16 starting teams, only four ProTour teams will be able to squeeze the once-popular race into their racing schedules.
Joining Marchante at Saunier Duval will be Ruben Lobato y Juan Jose Cobo while Basque climbing aces Igor Antón and Amets Txurruka (fresh off winning most combative rider at the Tour) will flesh out the Euskaltel-Euskadi team.
Iban Mayo (Saunier Duval) won't be back to defend his title. The Basque climber is facing a two-year ban for testing positive for EPO at the 2007 Tour.
The 630km route includes a traditional climbing stage to Lagunas de Neila with an equally important 15km race against the clock. The remainder of the stages takes in the wide-open roads and punchy climbs around the Burgos area.
Vuelta a Burgos (August 14-18)
Stage 1, August 14 - Miranda de Ebro-Miranda de Ebro, 150km
Stage 2, August 15 - Areniscas de los Pinares to Lagunas de Neila, 149kmStage 3, August 16 - Burgos to Aranda de Duero, 158km
Stage 4, August 17 - Ribera de Duero (ITT), 15km
Stage 5, August 18 - Ona to Burgos, 158km
Starting teams for the Vuelta a BurgosEuskaltel-EuskadiCaisse d'EpargneSaunier Duval-ProdirUnibet.comRelax-GAMAndalucía CajaSurKarpin GaliciaFuerteventura CanariasChocolate JacquesAcqua SaponeBarloworldLPRAgritubelTinkoffExtremadura SpiukViña Magna Cropu
Astana Vuelta invitation withdrawn
Following the positive blood doping tests of its two biggest stars, the Astana team has been disinvited from next month's Vuelta a España.
Vuelta organizer Unipublic issued a statement Monday noting that the decision is based on the Spanish tour's effort to conduct a clean race. Like the Tour de France, the Vuelta has suffered several embarrassing doping scandals, including the negation of the 2005 victory of Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros).
In July, last year's Vuelta winner, Alexander Vinokourov, test positive for homologous blood doping at the Tour de France. Last week, Andrey Kashechkin, the third-place finisher at the Vuelta also tested positive for the same banned technique. Homologous blood doping involves the injection of red blood cells from a donor.
While applauding team efforts to investigate the matter, Unipublic noted that time would not permit a full investigation of the two cases by the September 1 start of the Vuelta.
While they were both issued ProTour licenses by the UCI, the Astana and Unibet.com teams were the subject of an ongoing dispute between the governing body and the organizers of the world's three grand tours, the Vuelta, Tour de France and Giro d'Italia. Under the original structure of the ProTour, participating race organizers were obligated to invite all 21 ProTour teams to their events.
The big three organizers refused to recognize the two latest licensed teams, but each had issued "wild-card" invitations to Astana, largely because the team was filled with popular stars, like Vinokourov, Kashechkin and German Andreas Klöden. Unibet never received such invitations by organizers who cited the fact that the team was sponsored by an on-line gambling firm.
In addition to the two blood doping positives, the team's Matthias Kessler was suspended in June after testing positive for testosterone. Italian Eddy Mazzoleni was dropped from Astana's Tour de France roster because of doping allegations, although he has yet to be formally charged with anything.
Unipublic added that despite the exclusion of Astana there would still be 21 teams starting the Vuelta on September 1, but has yet to name a replacement.
by VeloNews.com editor, Charles Pelkey
Teams confirmed for the 2007 Vuelta a EspañaAg2r PrévoyanceBouygues TélécomCaisse d'EpargneCofidisCrédit AgricoleDiscovery ChannelEuskaltel-EuskadiFrançaise des JeuxGerolsteinerLampre-FonditalLiquigasPredictor-LottoQuickstep-InnergeticRabobankSaunier Duval-ProdirT-Mobile CSC MilramAndalucía-CajasurKarpin-Galicia
Farrar on Vuelta back-up list
American classics man Tyler Farrar is busy racing this month, but it looks like his hoped-for grand tour debut might not happen this year.
The Cofidis rider is an alternate for the nine-man Vuelta team. The second-year European pro missed his planned debut at this year's Giro d'Italia after crashing at Ghent-Wevelgem.
"As for now, it doesn't look like I will be lining up for the Vuelta. I am still on as a replacement, so you never know," Farrar told VeloNews. "For the moment I am slated to do the Eneco Tour and the Tour of Poland."
Moreni says he didn't intentionally dope
Italian rider Cristian Moreni, who tested positive for testosterone at the 2007 Tour de France, said he thought a cream he bought on the Internet was natural and wouldn't cause him in problems in doping controls.
Moreni was wrong, of course, and in an interview with the Journal du Dimanche, the Cofidis rider said insisted he "never intended" to cheat.
"I wasn't aware that the cream that I bought on the Internet could cause problems in a doping control. For me, it's like taking aminoacids or proteins. I know a lot of riders who are taking them," Moreni told the French weekly. "I committed a stupid error and now I'm paying a very high price."
Moreni was hauled away by French police waiting for him at the top of the grueling Col du Aubisque after news leaked he tested positive during a control taken in Montpellier in stage 12.
His Cofidis team later decided to abandon the Tour with only four days left, infuriating his teammates who had suffered and endured the hardest stages of the race.
"I didn't want to dope and I wasn't trying to cheat," Moreni said. "It wasn't like I had bought testosterone patches and stuck them to myself in the middle of the night in my room. I've never doped. That's why I haven't won 50 races during my career. I've always worked within the rules."
On Friday, the Italian Olympic Committee recommended a two-year ban for the veteran Italian.
At 34, Moreni admits his career is likely over.
"It's hard to think that my career is over, but I have to accept it. I committed an error. I cannot erase it or go back in time," he said. "My life will go on."
Gil cleared of Puerto link
Koldo Gil's days in cycling purgatory seem to be over.
The Spanish rider has been stuck in a no-man's land since his name was loosely connected to the Operación Puerto doping scandal that erupted in May 2006 in Spain.
The UCI absolved Gil of any connection to the alleged blood doping ring, according to the Spanish wires, and cleared him to compete in any race on the international calendar.
That comes as a relief for Gil, who was left off the Vuelta a España team by his Saunier Duval-Prodir team last year after suspicions about Puerto links. The UCI decision essentially gives Gil the green light to start the Vuelta on September 1 in Vigo.
Gil, 29, insisted on his innocence yet was among dozens of riders who've been either forced to end their careers or race very limited schedules because they were initially linked to the Puerto ring.
Like others, Gil was never clearly tied to Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes and his alleged blood doping ring.
Evidence such as phone taps, doping calendars or codenames that connected riders to some nearly 200 bags of blood prodded names such as Ivan Basso, Jörg Jaksche or Michele Scarponi to admit they worked Fuentes.
Gil's name, however, appeared among heaps of police evidence collected in a series of raids.
From 2003 until joining Saunier Duval in 2006, Gil raced on teams managed by Manolo Saíz. The ex-Liberty Seguros manager was one of five people arrested in May 2006 as part of an investigation that blew the cover on one of Europe's biggest blood doping rings.
Gil said he never worked with Fuentes with doping.
Tour de France winner Alberto Contador also received UCI clearance to compete after initially being listed among Puerto suspects. Doubts about possible links to Fuentes still haunt Contador despite the ruling.
Botero wins Colombia tour
Santiago Botero - sidelined last year when his name was linked to the Operación Puerto doping ring - won the Vuelta a Colombia on Sunday.
Botero, 34, was dropped by his Phonak team last year after his name was linked to Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes, but was cleared by the Colombian cycling federation in November.
The tainted Botero couldn't find a ride with a European team this year and signed with Colombia-based UNE-Orbitel. He raced his national tour only for the second time of his career and won three stages en route to the overall of the 15-stage race by nearly five minutes ahead of Hernán Buenahora.