Latest: Settimana Internazionale; Riis accused, responds; Hoste recovering; LeBron James and Cannond

The Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali starts today, with Ricardo Ricc• the one to watch. Also

The Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali starts today, with Ricardo Ricc• the one to watch. Also
PIC © TIM DE WAELE Ricc favourite in Settimana Internazionale Saunier Duval's in-form rider Ricardo Ricc headlines a strong field at the Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali this week. The five day race kicks off on Tuesday with a 95km stage between Riccione, followed by an 11.8km team time trial around Misano Adriatico. Stage 2 is between Castel San Pietro Terme and Faenza over 175km, and includes a tricky couple of climbs in the final 35km. The third stage from Scandiano to Serramazzoni (166km) ends with a 10km climb and should be decisive for the general classification. Stage 4 from Carpi to Finale Emilia is a dead flat 194km run for the sprinters, while the final stage from Casalgrande to Sassuolo (169km) is two sets of three laps around two testing circuits. There is still a chance for the classification to change on this last leg. 25 teams will take part, including 10 ProTour squads. In addition to Ricc, Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step), Alessandro Petacchi (Milram), Paolo Savoldelli (Astana), Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto), Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas), Tyler Hamilton (Tinkoff) and Michael Rogers (T-Mobile) will all take part. Teams: Team Milram, Navigators Insurance Cycling Team, Amore & Vita-McDonald's, Tenax, Lampre-Fondital, Team Universal Caffe'-Ecopetrol, Miche, Astana, Tinkoff Credit System, Team Volksbank, OTC Doors Lauretana, Gerolsteiner, Ceramica Flaminia, Predictor - Lotto, Ag2R Prevoyance, T-Mobile Team, Quick.Step-Innergetic, Team L.P.R., Liquigas, Barloworld, Ceramica Panaria Navigare, Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni Selle Italia, Saunier Duval-Prodir, Acqua & Sapone - Caffe' Mokambo, and Aurum Hotels. Stage list Tuesday, March 27 - Stage 1a: Riccione - Riccione, 95.2 km Tuesday, March 27 - Stage 1b: Misano Adriatico - Misano Adriatico team time trial, 11.8 km Wednesday, March 28 - Stage 2: Castel San Pietro Terme - Faenza, 175.6 km Thursday, March 29 - Stage 3: Scandiano - Serramazzoni, 165.9 km Friday, March 30 - Stage 4: Carpi - Finale Emilia, 194 km Saturday, March 31 - Stage 5: Casalgrande - Sassuolo, 168.9 km Riis accused, responds CSC team manager Bjarne Riis has been accused of doping during his time as a rider. Ex-Telekom soigneur Jef D'Hont declared on the Panorama program in Belgium, "I knew that Riis had a haematocrit of 64 in the Tour [of 1996, which he won]. When I said that he should be careful, he started to have problems. He got rheumatism because of the EPO and whatever else he probably took." D'Hont said that EPO was introduced to Telekom in the early 1990s by Uwe Ampler, whose good results encouraged other riders to use it. But not all the riders did, according to D'Hont. "Our sprinter Erik Zabel didn't take it. He tried a small dose, but was categorically against it. He said that he didn't need doping. And look, so many years later he is the only one who could build a long career." Telekom's then-manager Walter Godefroot denied that there had ever been organised doping within the team, and urged people not to dwell on the past. "We have learned enough. Let us leave history for what it is, and build a new story." Bjarne Riis responded to the allegations in a statement, saying, "I have never had a particularly close relationship with Jef D'Hont and he has no validation for the allegations he is making. There will always be some one out there trying to make money by talking about the past and in my opinion that is probably, what he is trying to do here. "This is probably not the first nor the last time these kinds of stories surface. To me, it's all in the past and I do not wish to be held accountable every time some one finds it interesting to bring up some ten year-old story. I truly believe the future is much more important than the past. I want to be judged on the work I'm doing with my team today, and the results we achieve - that is what's important to me." Hoste skips Dwars door Vlaanderen Leif Hoste (Predictor-Lotto) will not race in Wednesday's Dwars door Vlaanderen in Belgium. The Belgian is having an easier lead-up to Saturday's E3 Prijs, especially after crashing in Milan-San Remo. There were fears that he had damaged the same hip that he fell on in Tirreno-Adriatico, but team manager Marc Sergeant played it down. "He fell on his hip again, where he already had the bruise," Sergeant told Sporza. "But they are mainly abrasions. This won't cause any problems." LeBron James buys stake in Cannondale NBA star LeBron James, through his company King James Inc., has acquired an undisclosed ownership stake in Cannondale. "We're very excited to have LeBron as an owner," said Cannondale's CEO Matt Mannelly in a statement. "LeBron is one of the world's most accomplished athletes and we are proud to provide him with bicycles for his cross-training." LeBron plays basketball for the Cleveland Cavaliers. He has been selected to the NBA All-Star team every year since 2003 and is also a co-captain of the U.S. Olympic basketball team. Off the court, he is involved in the James Family Foundation charity and organises the annual King for Kids Bike-a-thon in Akron, Ohio. Cannondale will now be supplying bikes for the latter event, which benefits children and single mothers. Got a comment? Discuss this in the Procycling forum. What else is new? Check out the Procycling blog.
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