Last escape for Durand? D-Tour heading for the hills? Yates banned for two years, Pichon returns aftPICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE Has professional cycling seen the last of Jacky Durand's crazy but occasionally highly successful escapades? According to the French Velo101.com site, the 37-year-old Frenchman is still without a contract for next season after his Landbouwkrediet team decided to opt for youth rather than experience as it prepares its continental circuit campaign. Durand was offered another one-year contract by the Belgian team earlier in the year, but opted to wait until the end of last summer before committing himself. When Durand belatedly decided to take up Landbouwkrediet's offer, he was knocked back because of the change of strategy. There is still a chance that the Belgian team will find sufficient budget to sign the Frenchman, but for the moment the odds are on Durand joining fellow veteran and team-mate Ludo Dierckxsens out in the cold. - Plans for next year's Deutschland Tour to visit all 12 cities hosting games in football's 2006 World Cup appear to be receding. Having been included on the Pro Tour calendar but moved from its previous May/June dates to a mid-August slot, things are continuing to look up for the German national tour, and the indications are that that is the way next year's route will look as well. "We are moving away from those plans," said D-Tour organiser Kai Rapp of the planned promotional tour of World Cup cities on the T-Mobile website. Instead race on August 15-23 will market itself as a post-Tour de France opportunity for revenge. "The new time slot gives us new opportunities. The riders are in top form at this time of the season. Bearing that in mind, you can expect this edition of the Deutschland-Tour to have a tougher route than ever before," said Rapp, which probably means some serious mountain stages in Austria. The D-Tour's organisers are keen on getting Lance Armstrong to their event and, according to Rapp, they have stepped up contact with the Texan. If Armstrong does miss the Tour, it might just be that he will still have his annual battle with Jan Ullrich, but this time on Ullrich's home ground. - Promising Kiwi rider Jeremy Yates has been banned for two years by the Belgian federation after testing positive for an elevated level of testosterone and failing to deliver a B Sample in March. Yates's ban takes effect from December 1. He has already been suspended by his Crdit Agricole team. Yates can appeal against the decision to the Court for Arbitration in Sport. - Brioches La Boulangre rider Mickael Pichon is planning to return to the sport in April following a serious crash into a ravine at June's Dauphin Libr that left him in a coma and could have ended his life. Pichon, 31, spent three months in hospital after the crash, but has rejoined his team-mates for their first pre-season training camp in France's Vende region this week. "My helmet saved my life," Pichon told the Ouest France newspaper. "I've got no memory of the fall and it's perhaps better like that. I've had no fear of falling since I got back on the bike." As well as severe head trauma, Pichon suffered several fractures in his cheeks and jaw, damage to his chest and lungs, a broken shoulder and a broken leg. "I got back on the bike when I was still in hospital, at least an indoor bike" Pichon said. "Now I am doing rides of two to three hours. I am progressing well but I don't want to force things too quickly." - Former Milaneza-Maia team leader Klaus Moller is returning to a Portuguese team after an undistinguished season with the Italian Alessio outfit. Moller will be riding for the Barbot-Pascoal team next season.