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Rumours that Formula 1 drivers may be implicated in the Operacion Puerto blood doping affair have produced angry responses from seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher and his brother Ralf. "It's not an issue in our sport," said Michael Schumacher, while Ralf stated: "I have already been tested this year." Drug testing within F1 has been boosted this season in line with World Anti-Doping Agency recommendations.
- The relationship between Iban Mayo and the Euskaltel team management has often been difficult, but it now seems to be heading for breakdown after Mayo's still unexplained abandon from the Tour on Thursday and rumours of him joining Saunier Duval at the end of the season. Euskaltel team boss Miguel Madariaga kept being forwarded on to Mayo's messaging service when calling the 28-year-old's mobile on Thursday evening and Friday.
Mayo has reportedly turned for advice to his long-time coaching consultant Sabino Angoitia, who is also a deputy team manager at Saunier, only increasing reports of his impending departure for them when his Euskaltel contract runs out at the end of the season. The problem for all sides in this saga is, unsurprisingly, money. Euskaltel are reported to have made the inconsistent Mayo an offer below what he currently earns, while Saunier are said to have money available having failed to attract Oscar Freire, but that money is said to come from a sponsor looking to boost the recruitment of Cantabrian riders. Mayo is, of course, Basque.
- During a brief spell on the Tour earlier this week, 12-time stage-winner Mario Cipollini gave his opinion on why Robbie McEwen has dominated the sprints at this year's race and why world champion Tom Boonen has failed to win at all. "There is no one with a 'train' like I had at Saeco. There we thought of just one thing: the faster my lead-out was, the better chance I had of taking advantage of my speed," Cipollini told L'Equipe.
"If, at 200 metres from the finish, I was riding at 50kph, it was all over for me, I couldn't reach the speed of 75kph which was my best sprinting speed. Consquently, McEwen would be able to pass me even though his top speed is perhaps only about 68kph. I took on domestiques who were able to progressively build up the speed, so that one rode at one kilometre, another at 800 metres, another at 500 metres. but Boonen ends up at the front without knowing whether to start sprinting or not.
"McEwen has a lot of experience and explosiveness, and remains calm, and his rivals have handed the initiative to him. They have to impose their own rhythm, otherwise McEwen is unbeatable. He is the only sprinter capable of increasing his speed in a few metres, so if Boonen hesitates a little bit, McEwen gets a gap of 10 metres.
"Boonen's problem is that he is not an instinctive sprinter, he needs a strong train but instead finds himself going elbow to elbow with his rivals 400 metres out. He's not well supported, so he ends up surrounded by less talented riders without knowing what trajectory to take."
Interestingly, Cipollini added that Boonen may well have been more successful if injured Italian sprinter Alessandro Petacchi had been on the race, because Petacchi's Milram team would have kept the pace extremely high over the closing kilometres of stages, effectively putting many riders out of contention in the sprints and enabling Boonen to take advantage of his pure speed.
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