Although much of the attention surrounding the ongoing Team Phonak saga has focused on American Tyler Hamilton, Santiago Perez has continued to protest his innocence. Just as with Hamilton, Team Phonak last week announced that they had also cancelled Perez?s contract after he tested positive in October for a homologous blood transfusion. If found guilty the rider could face up to a two year ban. "I am young and even if the worst comes to the worst, I would still be able to come back, but it would be a very big blow," he told Marca. "I am preparing to show my innocence, but first I would like them to show that I am guilty...I continue to wait for the opinion of the scientists on the [testing] method, whether or not it is reliable." Despite sacrificing Hamilton and Perez, the team were still excluded from the 2005 Pro Tour. Click here to read Tyler Hamilton?s thoughts in his Roadcycling.com diary.
Following the signature of Joseba Beloki last week, Manolo Saiz and his Liberty Seguros team this week announced they had secured the services of 25 year-old Italian Climber Michele Scarponi from the Domina Vacanze team. Scarponi won six races in 2004 and will add a further solid rider to the Spanish squad that has looked a little lightweight since the demise of the all-conquering ONCE team.
Blue Sea Services, the management company behind Domina Vacanze, issued a statement shortly after Liberty Seguros had announced the transfer. According to the Italians, Scarponi still has a valid contract with them for 2005 and legal action will be taken if necessary. "I understand that he wants to go to Spain because of the sunny and warm weather," said Vincenzo Santoni, the Domina Vacanze Director Sportif. "But the contract will be carried out. There will be no alternative or consensual separation. He is still one of our riders." Velomania.net last week reported that following the amalgamation of Domina Vacanze with the De Nardi team for the inaugural Pro Tour, the team would be known as Elitron-Portalupi Salumi. To date, Santoni has been able to confirm a 15-rider roster.
Despite delaying his departure by a few days due to a light cold, German Jan Ullrich will next week be heading to South Africa to begin his 2005 season preparations. Despite just turning 31, Ullrich is optimistic of regaining his form of 1997 and winning a second Tour de France. The German will meet up with Andreas Kl?den, Matthias Kessler, Andr? Korff, Eric Baumann, Olaf Pollack and Gerolsteiner's Danilo Hondo at his training camp.
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Until next week,