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Spanish Vuelta follows Tour, Giro with no defending champion

Spanish Vuelta follows Tour, Giro with no defending champion

Just like the Tour de France and the Giro d'Italia, the Spanish Vuelta will be without a defending champion at Saturday's start line due to doping controversies.
Last year's winner Alexandre Vinokourov is absent after testing positive for a blood transfusion during this year's Tour, handing a tainted start to all three of cycling's most important races.
With 2006 Tour winner Floyd Landis still contesting his positive testosterone sample and 2006 Giro winner Ivan Basso suspended for "attempting doping," Vinokourov's absence at the 62nd edition of the Spanish classic comes with little surprise.
"It's now been three years since we had a competition without any kind of doping scandal, and for cycling it's very important to not have another one if we can avoid it," UCI president Pat McQuaid said.
"It's very important that the Vuelta goes well without any doping implications."
Two of the past three champions tested positive for doping, including 2005 winner Roberto Heras.
Of the 189 riders set to compete, last year's 1-2-3 are missing due to doping scandals.
Runner-up Alejandro Valverde continues to be dogged by Operation Puerto, a Spanish investigation that has implicated over 50 cyclists. Vinokourov's Astana teammate, Andrej Kashechkin, also tested positive for homologous blood doping in an unannounced control earlier this month _ a result that ultimately led to Astana being barred from the competition.
Kashechkin's positive result was one of the more than 70 surprise tests undertaken by organizers in August following a scandal-marred Tour de France. Rasmussen was kicked out of this year's Tour while leading the race by his Dutch team for allegedly lying about his whereabouts to evade drug testers.
Vuelta organizers announced at least 80 surprise tests, with half of those for the blood-booster EPO. Earlier Friday, all riders passed routine drug tests.
"The controls are more than enough, they are even slightly excessive which can be a shame for the riders, but with so much attention, it's necessary," two-time Vuelta and 1988 Tour winner Pedro Delgado said.
Instead of opening with a time trial, Saturday's 153.4-kilometer (95.3-mile) first stage around the Galician port city of Vigo sets up a tough first week, with three of the first four stages ending with climbs.
It's been 24 years since riders were forced up the Lagos de Covadonga _ one of the event's toughest ascents, which ends the fourth stage.
The first of two individual time trials begins on Sept. 8 with a lengthy 52.2-kilometer (32.4-mile) race against the clock, with riders then facing two consecutive mountain finishes ending at the ski stations at Cerler and Ordino-Arcalis before a first rest day on Sept. 11.
Former winner Dennis Menchov (2005), Cadel Evans, Damiano Cunego, and Vladimir Karpets are some of the all-around climbers expected to be among the leaders by then.
Fans will not get to see Tour de France winner Alberto Contador after his Discovery Channel Team left the 24-year-old Spaniard off its Vuelta roster to avoid exhaustion following his Tour win.
Instead, hopes for a 21st Spanish winner rest with 2006 Tour runner-up Oscar Perreiro, Jose Angel Gomez Marchante and Carlos Sastre _ who is coming off back-to-back fourth place finishes at the Tour de France and a runner-up place here in 2005.
Leading sprinters are also expected to compete for the yellow jersey through the 21 stages, with Oscar Freire, Tom Boonen and Discovery Channel's Janez Brajkovic and Allan Davis in the mix.
Alessandro Petacchi will also race after missing the Tour due to his refusal to sign the UCI's anti-doping charter after the Italian returned a "non-negative" test for an asthma drug at the Giro. His case will be heard by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The 3,291.3-kilometer (2,045-mile) race ends in Madrid on Sept. 23.


Updated : 2021-04-10 22:16 GMT+08:00