Ricco Idolizes Pantani, Not Doping Claims
Riccardo Ricco' has asked to be left alone following days of reports in the French media which claim he could be among several cyclists to be targeted by the anti-doping authorities. Ricco claimed a second victory at the Tour de France inside four days here on Sunday when he triumphed on the mammoth 224km ninth stage, the first of three to be held in the Pyrenees.
But the 24-year-old Italian, who cites the late Marco Pantani as his idol. said he is getting sick and tired of reports in the French media claiming he is one of several riders to have aroused suspicion at the French Anti-Doping body (AFLD) which is carrying out all the doping controls at the race. "I'm not angry. I'm just disappointed," Ricco said of the reports following his victory on the ninth stage which took in two first category climbs. "I know I have nothing to worry about. My blood values are high, but for me they are totally normal because I've had them since I was a child." In fact, in 2005, Ricco' had special testing at a UCI accredited lab in Lausanne, Switzerland in order to obtain a special certificate from the UCI before he could obtain a professional cycling license. However, one downside of the AFLD doping testing at the Tour De France is that the French authorities are not in possession of the special UCI certificate and it's medical test information and so may be extra suspicious of Ricco' and other riders with this kind of documentation.
"The International Cycling Union (UCI) know that and I have a certificate from the UCI to prove that they are naturally high." Ricco reportedly has a naturally high haematocrit level of 51, meaning the volume of oxygen-rich red blood cells in his blood is higher than the norm. In 1999, the UCI introduced a 'legal' limit of 50, after many cyclists and endurance athletes were found to be using the banned blood booster EPO (erythropoietin) in dangerous proportions. EPO and other blood boosting drugs increase the volume of red blood cells, pumping more oxygen into the blood and therefore allowing athletes to work harder and longer.
Haematocrit is widely cited as the principal parameter measured in doping analyses, although scientists now also look at other readings such as haemoglobin (an oxygen-carrying protein in red blood cells), reticulocytes (young blood cells) and by employing the 'off-score' test. The off-score test has become a crucial weapon in the anti-doping armoury which takes into account both mean (or average) levels of haemoglobin and reticulocytes.Evans Bounces Back For Stage 10
After his close call crash on Stage 9, Tour favorite Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) explained before Stage 10 "After the crash yesterday, I got a quick bike change; my mechanic did a great job and my teammates were really good. There was no panic after the crash and once we got going again, Robbie McEwen went back to the doctor's car to tell him I was bleeding all over my left arm and I had a big headache. I was really glad I was wearing a helmet! I was broken in three pieces and that made me realize how important it is to be careful. It's a good idea to tell everyone to remember to be careful on your bike and always wear your helmet!"
Cadel Evans Silence-Lotto team director Roberto Damiani told Italian TV via telephone during the early phases of Stage 10 "Cadel is doing OK today. He's relaxed and slept well last night despite the injuries to his left side. His worst part is that he hit his left shoulder, where he's broken his collarbone three times and we're lucky he didn't break anything." Damiani explained what happened in the Stage 9 crash, saying "there was a left-hand turn downhill and Euskaltel went wide. Cadel was behind and his front wheel slid out on some sand and he fell hard at about 60km/hr. He hit the ground hard but it worked out OK. After the stage, Cadel showed his real character because he called all the guys together and told them he was OK and to focus on winning the Tour. That is what kind of rider he is." Tour Jitters Strike Hard Before Stage 10
As the terrible Stage 10 loomed for the Tour De France peloton this morning in Pau, nerves and jitters were the order of the pre-stage morning. At CSC-Saxo Bank, there were reportedly bad vibes between team leader Carlos Sastre and the Schleck Brothers. It seems that Sastre was upset that when Ricco' attacked Sunday on the Col d'Aspin, none of his teammates, particularly the Schlecks, tried to cover the move of
the flying Italian. Although Sastre is the CSC-Saxo Bank leader, it seems that the ambitions of the Schleck Brothers may be bigger than previously thought at the 2008 Tour. At Columbia, Maillot Jaune "Grim" Kim Kirchen had a particularly sour look on his face before the start of Stage 10. Kirchen had a bad day on Stage 9 and his team imploded, leaving the Maillot Jaune all alone on the day's final climb. If Kirchen has another bad day on Stage 10, it's au revoir Maillot Jaune for the 30 year old Luxemburger.