Spanish judge prepares for Operacion Puerto whitewash, Mayo aiming to relaunch with Saunier Duval an
PIC BY TIM DE WAELE
– It’s could be the day some were dreading and others were praying for: according to reports emanating from Spain, the Spanish Cycling Federation is poised to follow the lead of the Italian Olympic Committee’s exoneration of Ivan Basso and close all disciplinary proceedings against riders involved in Operacion Puerto. The news follows the investigating judge’s statement last week that none of the evidence collected by the Guardia Civil can be used by sporting federations to impose sanctions. Meanwhile, the criminal case which sees Eufemiano Fuentes suspected of masterming a vast doping network remains ongoing. According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, the estimated 200 bags of blood seized in the initial wave of arrests in May are currently undergoing analysis in a Barcellona laboratory. In an interview with Le Monde on Monday, UCI president Pat McQuaid hinted that he still harbours hopes of penalising riders identified as Fuentes’ clients, possibly by appealing the Court of Arbitration for Sport. McQuaid reiterated his recent claims that new information on the implicated riders could come to light soon.
– Iban Mayo says that he hopes to end his three-year slump with new team Saunier Duval next season. Mayo confirmed on Monday that he has signed a two-year contract with the team managed by Mauro Gianetti, and said that he aims to rediscover the form which earned him victory on Alpe d’Huez and sixth poisition overall in the 2003 Grande Boucle. Since that breakthrough performance, the 29 year old’s decline has been widely documented but never adequately explained or understood. The Basque briefly hinted at a return to form with a stage win at La Dauphin Libr in June, only to implode as spectacularly as he did in the 2004 Tour in the Pyrenees. A spat with a TV cameraman as he pulled out of the race on stage 11 to Pla-de-Beret enraged his Euskaltel bosses and made Mayo the target of widespread derision. Saunier Duval directeur sportif Joxean Fernandez Matxin said yesterday that the move would “give Mayo the chance to relaunch his career”.
– Gerolsteiner climber Georg Totschnig has announced his retirement from the sport at the age of 35. At a press conference in Salzburg on Monday, the Austrian told reporters “now is the perfect time for me to retire”. Well-timed it may have been, but Totschnig said that his decision wasn’t easy. “I spent a lot of time thinking about it, weighing up the pros and the cons, and I came to the conclusion: cycling was my passion, my life. Now I want to do something new and I can end my career just as I’ve always hoped; healthy, satisfied, successful and with people still making me good offers to carry on riding.” Having turned pro with Polti in 1994, Totschnig went on to establish himself as one of the peloton’s most doughty and consistent climbers. Top ten finishes in each of the three major tours and a stage win at Ax 3-Domaines in the 2005 Tour testify to these qualities. The Austria is one of a glut of riders calling time on their career at the end of this season – a group which includes Erik Dekker, Jan Kirsipuu, Viatcheslav Ekimov and another Gerolsteiner man, Sven Montgomery.