Tour de France race leader Alberto Contador on Thursday refused to respond to queries relating to his stunning climbing performance in the 15th stage.
Spain's 2007 Tour champion took another step towards overall victory in Annecy when he won the 18th stage time trial to take a virtually unassailable lead of 4:11 over Luxembourg's Andy Schleck.
Coming less than a week after his impressive victory on the summit of Verbier in Switzerland, it has cemented Contador's reputation as the best stage racer in the world.
But asked to react to doubts expressed by former Tour de France winner Greg Lemond, present at the race Thursday, on his performances Contador refused to answer.
"I won't answer this question," Contador said through his translator when asked to explain his impressive climbing performance to Verbier.
Last Sunday Contador attacked a small group of favourites containing teammate Lance Armstrong 5.6km from the summit of the 8.8km climb to the summit finish of Verbier to win the stage and take command of the yellow jersey.
Moments later the determined reporter repeated his question.
"Otra pregunta (next question)," said the 26-year-old Contador.
When asked to reveal his V02 max, his maximum capacity to transport and use oxygen while racing, the Spaniard was evasive.
"Otra pregunta (next question)," said Contador again.
So far on the Tour, and despite increased efforts to weed out the cheats, there have been no positive doping cases.
Contador won his first Tour in 2007 and, after his Astana team were not invited to the 2008 edition, he won the Tour of Italy and Tour of Spain that year.
Ventoux will determine second place, Armstrong says
Lance Armstrong admitted suffering during Thursday's time trial in the Tour de France, but says his aim now is to defend his third place overall in Saturday's climb up Mount Ventoux against Andy Schleck.
Armstrong finished the time trial around Lake Annecy in 16th at 1:30 behind stage winner Alberto Contador, his Astana teammate and the yellow jersey-holder.
The American's main rival for second place is now Saxo Bank's leader Schleck.
Armstrong, who has won the Tour seven times, is 5:25 behind the Spaniard overall, while second-placed Schleck is at 4:11. And Armstrong says the battle for second could well be decided on Saturday's 21.1km climb up Mont Ventoux.
"I want to protect my position with Andy climbing so well, I just have to watch for the moves and don't let him get away," said Armstrong.
Having started Thursday's time trial well, Armstrong tired on the 2.5km climb, which began near the 26km mark, while Contador blitzed the course to take complete control of the race and is set to be in the yellow jersey on the Champs Elysees on Sunday.
Armstrong said the exertion of Wednesday's five challenging climbs from Bourg Saint Maurice to Le Grand Bornand on the 17th stage had taken its toll.
"I suffered; I probably started too hard and maybe I was just empty from yesterday and those cramps I suffered at the end of the stage," he said. "I felt good at the beginning, I felt smooth, but there was a tail-wind, so maybe everyone felt good. I just wasn't that strong on the climb, maybe the end result was good in terms of the general classification.
"I have mixed emotions; 16th in a time trial is not a good result, but my ambition is to get on the podium, so I have to be happy with that," he added.
It was a busy day for Armstrong on Thursday, after it was announced he will race for Team Radioshack in next year's Tour with a new American ProTour cycling team being formed. Armstrong will race for his new outfit as a cyclist, runner and triathlete.
Armstrong, who successfully battled cancer in 1998 to return to cycling and win the first of seven consecutive yellow jerseys in 1999, said the fight against the disease through his Livestrong Foundation would remain a priority.
UCI 'rejects' Rasmussen's stance on anti-doping costs
World cycling's governing body said Thursday that it "strongly rejects" banned rider Michael Rasmussen's refusal to contribute to the costs of anti-doping procedures, shortly before a planned comeback.
Cadel Evans (L), Michael Rasmussen (in yellow), Alberto Contador and Levi Leipheimer during stage 16 of the 2007 Tour
The International Cycling Union said that while it would not oppose Rasmussen's decision to return to competition, it believed that the Danish cyclist should stay away until he has paid the sum.
The Dane's two-year suspension on a charge related to dope testing expires on Saturday.
The UCI pointed out that by signing the "Riders' commitment to a new cycling," Rasmussen had committed to paying the equivalent of his annual salary to the campaign if he was suspended for two years or more for doping.
However, he failed to pay the sum committed according to the UCI.
While putting forward its position that Rasmussen should therefore stay away from competition, the UCI noted however that another banned rider Alexandre Vinokourov did not pay up, but had appealed to world sports top court, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
The court had ruled that Vinokourov should be allowed to return to competition pending a ruling on whether riders should be obliged to honour their signed commitments.
"As Mr Rasmussen has also appealed to the CAS to contest his pledge, the UCI has decided not to oppose Mr Rasmussen's return to competition, pending the CAS's judgment," said the UCI.
"Nonetheless, the UCI strongly rejects the attitude displayed by Messrs Vinokourov and Rasmussen; despite committing serious violations of the anti-doping rules they have rejected any form of reparation by refusing to contribute to the costs of anti-doping procedures," it added.
Rasmussen was thrown off the 2007 Tour de France by his team, Rabobank, while wearing the leader's yellow jersey for lying about his whereabouts the previous month when he was being sought out for doping tests.
© 2009 AFP & BikeRadar
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