The Week That Was
The past week has seen its share of drug accusations. Jesus Manzano, a former Kelme rider who was fired for having sex with a woman during the 2003 Vuelta a Espana, opened fire with both barrels. In an interview with the Spanish periodical AS, Manzano stated that the drug tests were easy to beat because the riders knew when they would occur and could go off of the drugs before testing.
The past week has seen its share of drug accusations. Jesus Manzano, a former Kelme rider who was fired for having sex with a woman during the 2003 Vuelta a Espana, opened fire with both barrels. In an interview with the Spanish periodical AS, Manzano stated that the drug tests were easy to beat because the riders knew when they would occur and could go off of the drugs before testing. He added that the team had a systematic doping program and used actovegin, oxyglobin, nandrolone, erythropoetin (EPO), blood doping, and human growth hormone (HGH), among others. Former Kelme riders Dario Gadeo and Eligio Requejo and current Costa de Almeria rider Pedro Diaz Lobato have borne out Manzano's account. In response to the allegations, Tour de France director Jean-Marie Leblanc announced that Kelme would not receive an invitation to the 2004 Tour.
Gerard Porte, head doctor at the Tour de France, has challenged Manzano's story. Porte treated the Spaniard when he crashed out of the 2003 Tour. Porte stated that Manzano showed no signs of drug use and that Leblanc's diagnosis was heat exhaustion. Moreover, at the Catalan Week, riders staged a two-minute "strike" as a way of requesting the public not to blame all riders for the actions of a minority. The Spanish Sports Council and the Spanish Anti-Doping Commission will investigate Manzano's claims.
Fortunately, some cycling news has involved riding. Two riders made comebacks last week, although with differing amounts of success. Joseba Beloki (Brioches La Boulangere), who crashed out of the 2003 Tour de France, made his season debut in the Criterium International. During the first stage, the Basque rider crashed and was never in contention. May the rest of his buildup to the 2004 Tour go better than the Criterium International did!
Levi Leipheimer (Rabobank), who crashed out of the 2003 Tour, won his first race in two years at the Catalan Week. The American won a tough mountain stage of that race and might have won the overall if he had not lost half a minute in a crash earlier in the week. It is good to see him riding--and winning--again.
Jens Voigt (CSC) continued the Danish squad's run of success. The German won the second and third stages of the Criterium International en route to the overall win. With victories in the Mediterranean Tour, Paris-Nice, and the Criterium International under its belt, CSC will be a team to watch during the spring classics.
In the coming week, the Three Days of De Panne will let us know who is ready for the Tour of Flanders, which will take place on April 4. Who will prevail in these two races? For news about these races and more, check at www.roadcycling.com and find out!