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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, November 16, 2015

Back to news and opinion index page for links to archived stories | Commentary

La Gazzetta dello Sport reports police investigating
Marco Pantani's Giro expulsion

Here's the link to the Gazzetta story.

La Gazzetta dello Sport is reporting that Bologna's Anti-Mafia is investigating whether Marco Pantani, who was set to win the 1999 Giro d'Italia, was sabotaged by the Camorra (Naples' crime syndicate) by somehow altering Pantani's blood sample. Pantani was tossed from the 1999 Giro.

Pantani had come to the 1999 Giro in absolutely scintillating condition. When the Giro hit the high mountains he was even more dominating than in 1998. At the end of the second of the three Dolomite stages Pantani had a firm grip on the lead. On the morning of the penultimate stage Pantani was ejected from the Giro after a blood test revealed he had a hematocrit above the allowed 50%.

Marco Pantani

Marco Pantani wins at Madonna di Campiglio in the 1999 Giro

The question asked is if the Camorra had laid down bets huge totalling several billion lire against Pantani and therefore sabotaged Pantani to avoid taking a large loss.

Assertions that the Camorra had sabotaged Pantani date back to 2004, but new evidence has emerged that has led the Anti-Mafia to re-open the inquiry. Several knowledgable friends in Italy at the time found the entire scenario unbelievable and felt there was something amiss with Pantani's expulsion.

My feeling is that Pantani's dominance over what we now know to be a doped peloton (a few days after the Giro ended four riders were removed from the Tour of Switzerland because they had overly-high hematocrits) was so profound that it could only have been achieved through exogenous substances.

Whether or not the Camorra facilitated his removal, surely knowing Pantani was doped, should be considered a separate question.

Wanty-Groupe Gobert re-signs Gasparotto, Napolitano and Dron

Here's the news from the team:

Enrico Gasparotto, Danilo Napolitano and Boris Dron will also ride for Wanty-Groupe Gobert in 2016. This brings the number of riders on the Belgian pro-continental team to 22, including nine new signings.

With Enrico Gasparotto, Wanty-Groupe Gobert brought a lot of experience to the team in 2015. The Italian finished 8th, 15th and 16th in the Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège respectively.

“It was a new experience in this team and I am happy to stay with Wanty-Groupe Gobert,” Gasparotto declared. “In 2016 I want to try to achieve my results and do my races in the Ardennes where the team is based. My role in the team is to be a leader on and off the bike and to pass on my experience to the young riders and that’s something I really like to do. I am really motivated to give my best for another year.”

Enriuco Gasparotto

Enrico Gasparotto

Boris Dron had a promising start to the season but got stopped by ongoing injury. “Therefore I am happy to get a second chance to try and show my best in 2016. I hope to get back to the level I had at the start of the season. My goals is to do the cobbled classics but also the stage races which include a time trial. I have noticed that I have potential in this discipline,” Boris Dron said.

Danilo Napolitano has been a part of Jean-François Bourlart’s team since 2013. This year the Italian won a stage in the Boucles de la Mayenne and finished second in the final classification of the World Ports Classic. Unfortunately Napolitano also had more than his share of injuries.

“My goal is to have more luck next year,” ‘Napo’ smiled. “I had two surgeries on my collarbone and crashed in the Tour de Wallonie again. I want to win again if I get the chance to be the team leader in certain races, preferably in my beloved Belgium. For next year I want to contribute to the team’s success again and help and teach the younger guys.”

With the contract extensions of Gasparotto, Napolitano and Dron the Wanty-Groupe Gobert now consists of 22 riders from six different countries. The average age dropped from 30 to 28 years.

“One of the objectives was to rejuvenate the team. We succeeded in doing so. The team also becomes more international with six nationalities in 2016. We have strenghtened the team and are now able to get good results in all sorts of races. With our strong partners I look forward to 2016 with confidence,” general manager Jean-François Bourlart declared.

Michael Rogers to retire after 2016 season

Michael Rogers (Tinkoff-Saxo), three-time world pro time trial champion and Olympic bronze medalist, plans to retire at the end of the 2016 season.

In an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, Rogers said, "it's time to be a father" and 16 years is enough in the "physically demanding" sport of cycling.

Rogers will start his 2016 season with the Tour Down Under, which he won in 2002. From there he will focus on being ready to help teammate Alberto Contador win the Tour de France. Since Contador could only get fifth in the Tour in 2015 after winning the Giro d'Italia, both Contador and Rogers will take a pass on the Giro.

Michael Rogers

Michael Rogers riding in the 2015 Tour de France

After the Tour Rogers would like to head for Rio and represent Australia in the Olympics.

Movistar has first 2016 team meeting

Here's the news from the Spanish team:

The Movistar Team's new project for 2016 took its first steps forward this week in the Castillo de Gorráiz hotel near Pamplona, Spain, where the telephone squad's 27 riders and its full staff gathered for technical meetings, tests and presentations by some of the Blue squad's main partners.

At the end of the events and following a celebration dinner on Thursday, where Pablo Lastras was paid a tribute in form of standing ovation while all team members received a replica of the 2015 UCI WorldTour winners' trophy, the two big leaders of the Movistar Team -Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde- explained, together with general manager Eusebio Unzué, some of its main goals for the 2016 season.

Alejandro Valverde

Alejandro Valverde climbing in the 2015 Vuelta

It will be a year with plenty of new additions to Valverde's race schedule, the Spaniard riding his maiden Giro d'Italia as well as several classics in the spring -including his first-ever Ronde van Vlaanderen- before joining Quintana for the Tour. "The idea is focusing on those one-day classics to reach the Rio Olympics in fresher condition - it will be another of my biggest goals. This year will be a good occassion to try the Giro, which was a wish from me for many years, and I also liked the idea of riding some cobbled races like De Ronde." The four-time UCI World number one cyclist will be present in only one spring stagerace: "Tirreno-Adriatico looks like the most feasible, as it's located between Strade Bianche and Sanremo, which are both on my calendar."

Quintana will be seeking again the Yellow Jersey after two runner-up titles in the 2013 & 2015 Tours de France. "My main personal goal will be again" the Grande Boucle. "I've got more responsibility on my shoulders this year while I'm more experienced to face that challenge. We'll seek for some early form in San Luis before riding some other stageraces like the Volta a Catalunya or the Vuelta al País Vasco, important both for the team and for myself. Alejandro will be a huge support for us all in the Tour, after completing quite an interesting calendar." Following the Tour and the Olympics, the Colombian will presumably ride the Vuelta a España.

​"After so many years as pro, we through it was a good opportunity this season for Alejandro to ride the Giro," says Unzué, "though we depend on Telefónica's choice - they don't usually argue about our decisions, but this is a choice we need their approval on. We've been suggested many times to try and ride more and more classics with Valverde, and even though he does many every season, the first part of his schedule will be all around them. We think that, with help from team-mates, he'll be able to do very well in the pavé, possibly the thing standing out the most in his calendar. Regarding Nairo, after what he did in 2015, the idea is keeping the Tour as his main, primary goal - he's already shown he's more than capable fighting for overall success."

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