After David Etxebarria was forced to sit out the Bicicleta Vasca by the UCI’s ‘vampires’, some are a
While the first stage of the Bicicleta Vasca was going the way of this season’s consistent runner-up, Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero, the issue of David Etxebarria’s enforced rest after his haematocrit level was tested at more than 50% has continued to hog the headlines in the Basque Country. His Euskaltel team manager, Julian Gorospe, put Etxebarria’s raised red blood cell count down to dehydration brought on by a couple of days of diarrhoea, but the Spanish press don’t appear to be satisfied with the explanation, just as Gorospe had predicted. Etxebarria was prevented from starting the Bicicleta Vasca race in his home region together with Cafs Baqu riders Alberto Hierro and Unai Elorriaga, whose test readings also exceeded the 50% limit. As with the better-known Etxebarria, these two Spaniards were also said to have been suffering from dehydration brought on by diarrhoea. A dodgy pre-race meal has been blamed, and something certainly affected Baqu team leader Felix Cardenas, who finished 13 minutes down on a seven-mountain stage he had been tipped to win. According to the Euskaltel team doctor, Etxebarria and a number of other team riders were affected by “acute gastroenteritis since May 30”. If that was the case, asks sports daily AS, why was Etxebarria preparing to start the Bicicleta Vasca at all? Gorospe has said it was simply because Etxebarria wanted to compete on home ground. Euskaltel team boss Miguel Madariaga shone further light on the health problems affecting some of his riders, telling Marca two of them had to go to hospital because their diarrhoea was so severe. Etxebarria, says Madariaga, hid his symptoms from the team because he wanted to race and this ultimately led to his elevated haematocrit reading. Asked if he would still be selecting Etxebarria for the Tour de France, Madariaga stated: “I don’t see why not, because it hasn’t been a positive test, simply a health problem. We are going to send all of the documentation to the Tour so that they know what has happened, and I hope there won’t be any kind of penalty.” AS concludes its piece by explaining that Etxebarria has, in an apparently similar way to Giro winner Damiano Cunego, got an exemption from the UCI for his haematocrit level to reach 52%. According to the paper, Etxebarria’s level before the Bicicleta Vasca yesterday was 52.8%, and must have been higher given the UCI’s give a margin of error of one per cent on the test.