Italians threaten boycott; Ullrich in negotiations

Several top Italian riders have threatened to boycott the Giro d'Italia presentation. They're protes

Several top Italian riders have threatened to boycott the Giro d’Italia presentation. They’re protes

PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM The Italian riders are not at all happy with the ongoing media coverage of Operaci¢n Puerto. Several of them, including Danilo Di Luca, Damiano Cunego, Alessandro Petacchi and Gilberto Simoni, threatened to boycott the presentation of the Giro d’Italia, scheduled for December 2. The reason? Cycling has once again been getting a bad rap in the press compared to other, more high profile sports. Procycling has learned that on Tuesday morning, there was a flurry of phone calls between Di Luca and co. to discuss a course of action. They were angry that all the coverage of Puerto has focused on cycling, while other sports such as football have escaped the attention of the newspapers. This is despite the assurances of Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes, a central figure in Puerto, that he treated many types of athletes in his clinic in Madrid. Adding fuel to the fire is news out of Spain that the number of blood bags seized in the raids has been revised down from the originally reported 116 to 106. After holding their meeting, the Italian riders called Giro organiser Angelo Zomegnan. They voiced their grievances and told him that they would not be turning up to the race presentation in Milan on December 2. But Zomegnan managed to cool things down, assuring the riders that newspaper journalists will be made aware of their situation. Zomegnan also promised to meet the riders – who will now turn up – at the presentation. Basso still welcome Initial rumours had suggested that the riders’ revolt was in response to Zomegnan’s decision to invite Ivan Basso to the presentation. Speaking to Procycling on Tuesday evening, Alex Carera, who manages Simoni, Cunego, Di Luca and Petacchi, said that this suggestion was “complete nonsense”. If this will have reassured Basso, then so will comments by UCI president Pat McQuaid to Procycling this morning. While calling the return to the peloton of riders involved in Operaci¢n Puerto “unfortunate”, McQuaid ruled out the possibility of those riders and their teams being excluded from the Tour de France. “The Tour de France is on the ProTour calendar and it has to abide by the ProTour rules,” McQuaid said. “There are regulations that we don’t like but we have to abide by and the same goes for the Tour.” Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme was not available for comment. Ullrich in teams talks Jan Ullrich is in negotiations with various teams for a place to ride next season. The ex-T-Mobile rider, who is still in search of a racing licence, wrote on his website, “It is an open secret that there are negotiations with teams and sponsors, but nothing has yet been decided.” Tinkoff Credit Systems, which recently signed Tyler Hamilton, said that it was highly unlikely that Ullrich would be joining them. Ullrich was talking to Tinkoff, but things have been quiet for the last month. Ullrich hasn’t raced since winning the Tour de Suisse in June. He was set to ride the Tour de France, until Operaci¢n Puerto broke and linked him to alleged blood doping. He has maintained his innocence in the affair, but the Swiss anti-doping commission has started an investigation against him, which is expected to be heard in January. Besides that, Ullrich has been riding his bike in Austria and Italy. “The focus in Austria was to work on overall fitness and training sessions on the mountain bike,” he wrote. While in Italy, he increased his training intensity. “At the start it was hard, that is clear. But it feels good to sit in the saddle again, and it’s fun to push your limits in training. Our preparations are going according to plan.”