cQuaid asks Spanish to help with Operaci¢n Puerto; Bettini wins Velo d'Or; T-Mobile enjoying the suPIC BY TDWSPORT.COM UCI president Pat McQuaid has asked the Spanish secretary of state for sport, Jaime Lissavetzky, for help in dealing with the Operaci¢n Puerto affair. In the past month, most national cycling federations have dropped or suspended their cases against riders allegedly linked to Puerto. The main reason for this is that the investigating judge in Spain has banned anyone from using information in the case to sanction anyone before the case finishes. That's expected to be mid-2007. Thus, many of the riders who were in limbo for the second half of this season have been cleared to race again. But the climate of suspicion and doubt remains. McQuaid sent Lissavetzky, the IOC and the Spanish cycling federation a letter describing the situation as "ridiculous, serious and exasperating for the UCI." He asked Lissavetzky to help speed things up. "Although I am aware that your only interest lies in the criminal nature of the matter, I desire that you intervene because of the damage it's doing to our sport," wrote McQuaid. "We would thank you for your contribution in order to preserve the credibility of cycling." If the case drags on into 2007 with no more information forthcoming, then McQuaid believes that there will be "irreparable damage" to cycling. "Although we are conscious of the independence of the Spanish judicial system, I appeal to you to do everything in your power to make the court understand the seriousness of the situation." UCI's hands tied The Spanish press recently reported that traces of EPO were found in eight of the blood bags seized in the Puerto raids. "This information overwhelms the cyclists to whom it refers," added McQuaid. "The UCI can do absolutely nothing about this, since we, the UCI, cannot use this information to start a disciplinary procedure against the riders implicated. "In fact, by law we should allow these riders to continue competing during the 2007 season, until the investigation finishes, at which time we might have sufficient evidence to pursue those riders allegedly implicated." Bettini wins Velo d'Or World Champion Paolo Bettini has taken out this year's Velo d'Or award, arguably cycling's best known prize. Bettini scored 68 points in the voting, beating Alejandro Valverde (56 pts) and Fabian Cancellara (34 pts). The accolade is bestowed on the season's best rider by France's Vlo Magazine, which appoints a jury of 16 journalists from around the world to decide. Bettini rode a full season this year, starting in February and finishing in October. His accomplishments include winning the world and Italian championships, stages in the Giro, Vuelta and Tirreno Adriatico, and the points competition in the Giro. He was also second in Lige-Bastogne-Lige and top 10 in the Ronde van Vlaanderen and the Amstel Gold Race. "I am proud of this prize," Bettini told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "It's the Ballone d'Or [football prize] of cycling, and its meaning goes beyond that of simple recognition. I have finished ahead of two champions that, I believe, will win it in the coming years. They are champing at the bit. "I consider myself a rider who has spanned two eras of classics hunters: the era of Bartoli, and the new vogue of Valverde and Cancellara." In accepting his prize, Bettini mentioned Isaac G lvez, who was tragically killed while racing in Ghent last weekend. "I was very touched by the Isaac G lvez drama," he said. "He was in the box next to me in the Six Days of Munich. When I return [from holidays], I want to call the wife, to give her strength." T-Mobile enjoying the sun T-Mobile's second winter get together is happening this week in Lanzarote, on the west coast of the Canary Islands. 15 of the magenta lads are taking advantage of the sunny conditions to start their training for next season. "Rolf Aldag [sports director] has already been here a week and raves about the mild 25 degrees," said Linus Gerdemann. "That's fantastic of course, but we will also have to deal with the hard wind that constantly blows across the island. "We are taking a relaxed approach. Those who want to spend time on other non-sporting leisure pursuits will have the chance to do so." The riders taking part in the camp are Erik Baumann, Thomas Ziegler, Bernhard Eisel, Stefan Schreck, Marco Pinotti, Kim Kirchen, Linus Gerdemann, Lorenzo Bernucci, Frantisek Rabon, Giuseppe Guerini, Marcus Burghardt, Jakob Piil, Roger Hammond, Andre Greipel and Gerald Ciolek. The team's sports directors and support staff are also on the island. CSC continues with Skoda Team CSC has extended its contract with Czech car manufacturer Skoda. Bjarne Riis and the boys have been driving Skodas for the last two seasons, and will do so for at least another year. "This sponsorship is very important to us and I'm extremely happy, that we have been able to agree on extending our contract," commented team manager Bjarne Riis.