Latest: Tirreno-Adriatico starts Wednesday; judge drops <i>Puerto</i> case

Italy's race of the two seas gets under way on Wednesday, with many starters looking to use it as pr

Italy's race of the two seas gets under way on Wednesday, with many starters looking to use it as pr
PIC © TIM DE WAELE Tirreno-Adriatico kicks off on Wednesday The 42nd Tirreno-Adriatico will run between March 14th and 20th and kicks off from the Italian town of Civitavecchia, near Rome. The seven stage 'race of the two seas', as it's known, will be used by many top riders as preparation for Milano-Sanremo on March 24. This year's race follows a similar format to last year, consisting mostly of point-to-point road stages but also including a 20.5km time trial in Civitanova Marche (stage 5). Stage 6 finishes on in San Giacomo on Monti della Laga, and is likely to be the decider for the general classification. The final stage ends in San Benedetto del Tronto after 1100km of racing. 22 teams have been invited by organisers RCS Sport to take part in the race, which is nominally a ProTour event. But ProTour team Unibet.com has been left out, just as it was in Paris-Nice. Instead, Tinkoff Credit Systems, Acqua e Sapone and Ceramica Panaria have been granted entries. Team CSC has ambitions for the race with Jens Voigt as team captain. "Jens is our leader in this race and he has shown great form so far, so I think he'll do really well in the general classification," said team director Scott Sunderland. "Lars Bak also looks good at the moment and he' s very confident, so I'm hoping he'll be among the top 10 overall. "Matti Breschel is starting to feel better and better after his back injury even though he's not a hundred percent yet. But he'll definitely be able to help Stuart O'Grady in the sprints, and he might make a couple of breaks as well and the same goes for Marcus Ljungqvist, Lars Michaelsen and Allan Johansen. Fabian Cancellara will have to chose a couple of days, where he wants to try and achieve some results, but other than that he's mainly here for the training and of course the time trial is his main job down here." On the T-Mobile front, Linus Gerdemann looks to be one of their leaders. "Linus is in good shape and he has the potential to make his mark on the GC over the course of the week," said team director Valerio Piva. Kim Kirchen (3rd in Milano-Torino), Lorenzo Bernucci, Marco Pinotti, Andreas Klier, Servais Knaven and sprinters Bernhard Eisel and Gerald Ciolek complete the T-Mobile line-up. "Bernhard suffered health problems directly after the Tour of Algarve, but he's fit again now. Let's see if he is recovers enough to challenge for top places in sprints," said Piva. Liquigas is bringing a strong team to the race, led by Het Volk winner Filippo Pozzato. "Pozzato is in great form and has proved it: he will aim at a stage win," said team manager Roberto Amadio, who also pointed to Vincenzo Nibali for the final ranking. Both Danilo Di Luca and Leonardo Bertagnolli had to withdraw from the team due to illness. The full Liquigas line-up is Kjell Carlstrm, Francesco Failli, Enrico Gasparotto, Vincenzo Nibali, Roberto Petito, Filippo Pozzato, Manuel Quinziato and Alessandro Spezialetti. Team managers: Stefano Zanatta and Mario Chiesa. Stage list Stage 1 - Wednesday, March 14: Civitavecchia - Civitavecchia (175 km) Stage 2 - Thursday, March 15: Civitavecchia - Marsciano (202 km) Stage 3 - Friday, March 16: Marsciano - Macerata (213 km) Stage 4 - Saturday, March 17: Pievebovigliana - Offagna (161 km) Stage 5 - Sunday, March 18: Civitanova Marche - Civitanova Marche Alta (ITT 20,5 km) Stage 6 - Monday, March 19: San Benedetto del Tronto - San Giacomo Monti della Laga (164 km) Stage 7 - Tuesday, March 20, Civitella del Tronto - San Benedetto del Tronto (177 km) Spanish judge drops Puerto case Spanish judge Antonio Serrano has shelved the investigation known as Operacion Puerto because there was insufficient evidence to say whether crimes had been committed against public health. The probe began last May, when 200 blood bags and doping substances were seized by police in Madrid. Judge Serrano did say that doping had occurred, but at that time there was no law against it in Spain. A new law against prescribing, dispensing or facilitating the use of doping substances only came into effect in February 2007. Six were accused in the inquiry: Dr Eufemiano Fuentes, his sister Yolanda, Jos Luis Merino Batres, who ran a blood transfusion clinic in Madrid, Manolo Saiz, the then Liberty Seguros team manager, Ignacio Labarta, assistant team director at Comunidad Valenciana, and mountain biker Alberto Le¢n. In addition, more than 50 cyclists were named in the affair, including high profile riders such as Jan Ullrich, Ivan Basso, Oscar Sevilla, Roberto Heras, and Francisco Mancebo. The judge questioned the riders, but couldn't determine whether they had been harmed by Dr Fuentes' treatments, which included autologous blood transfusions. Only ex-Kelme rider Jesus Manzano claimed that he suffered as a result of them. "The fact that the blood to be injected belonged to the person themselves minimized the risk," judge Serrano told the International Herald Tribune. "The medications involved were not out of date nor had they deteriorated nor were they administered outside medical control. The conclusion is that the events cannot be considered to be criminal according to the law in operation at the time." The Spanish prosecutor, Jesus Manzano and the Spanish cycling federation can all appeal the decision to drop the case. They have three days to do so. Should they not appeal, then it opens the way for sporting disciplinary processes to commence. Up until now, judge Serrano has forbidden any of the evidence gathered to be used outside his own investigation, much to the frustration of the international cycling union (UCI). But the UCI has now been granted permission to see the Puerto files once the Spanish case is definitively close. "We have to wait until [a possible appeal] happens before taking any further action," said UCI president Pat McQuaid to AFP. "Our intentions are still to do the maximum we can to get access to the files and to use what is in them if we see evidence of doping infractions." Got a comment? Discuss this in the Procycling forum. What else is new? Check out the Procycling blog.

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