French Customs Clear Papa Schleck After Car Search
A car driven by the father of Tour de France stars Andy and Frank Schleck was searched by French customs during the 18th stage which began in Bourg d’Oisans on Thursday. It was later confirmed by an official source in Grenoble that “no doping products or banned substances” were found during the long search which took place at Vizille in the Isere region of the Alps. Johnny Schleck, a former professional cyclist who raced with Belgian legend Eddy Merckx, was stopped along with another vehicle from the advertising caravan which precedes the stage itself.
Schleck Skoda: photo Roberto Bettini
Several journalists and photographers witnessed the scene, at the 30km mark of the 194.5km stage. Customs officials for the Isere region confirmed two Luxembourg-registered cars were stopped and searched. “One of the vehicles was taken out of the public’s view for a more thorough search,” said a customs official who added that the search would last throughout the afternoon. The other, being driven by a journalist, was allowed to go on. Johnny Schleck was driving a Luxembourg-registered Skoda for one of the advertisers linked to the race. After an intensive search at customs HQ in Grenoble, nothing was found and Johnny Schleck was allowed to proceed to the stage finish in Saint-tienne as nothing of concern was found by the obviously paranoid French officials.
Pippo Power: photo Roberto Bettini
Pozatto To Katuscha, Chavanel Inks Two-Year Deal with Quick Step
Italian star Pippo Pozatto confirmed today to Italian TV that he will leave Liquigas at the end of the 2008 season for the new Italo-Russian superteam Katuscha. “Well it’s been a rumor, but now I can confirm that we have concluded an agreement and I’ll be the team leader at Katuscha for the classics. They have a lot of confidence in me and I think it will be a good team for me.”
France’s top cycling star Sylvain Chavanel of Cofidis has agreed a two-year deal with Belgian Quick Step team, it was confirmed here. Cofidis manager Eric Boyer said prior to the 18th stage of the Tour de France that Chavanel, his team leader had informed him earlier this week. “I wished him good luck,” said Boyer, who is nevertheless disappointed to see the 29-year-old national time trial champion depart. Chavanel has been involved in numerous breakaways and attempts to win a stage at the Tour this year but has so far failed. Chavanel is the third rider to leave Cofidis. Belgian Nick Nuyens will sign for Rabobank while his compatriot Kevin De Weert is also joining Quick Step.
Cunego Crash: photo Roberto Bettini
Cunego Crash K.O. For Italian Star At Tour De France
Damiano Cunego has had a disappointing Tour De France in 2008, although the Italian finished a respectable 18th on L’Alpe de Huez and was sitting in 14th on gc. Today in Vizille after 30km of Stage 18, the Lampre man touched wheels with Belgian Phillipe Gilbert and crashed hard while the peloton was racing at 50km/hr, slamming into a concrete wall and smashed his face hard, requiring several stitches in his chin before he could continue.
photo Roberto Bettini
Four Lampre teammates, Mori, Marzano, Righi and Tiralongo waited for Cunego and the little Veronese spent most of the stage in major pain, 20′ + behind the peloton, and eventually rode to the finish in Saint-tienne 20 minutes behind the winner and climbed right into an ambulance that took him to a local hospital for a check. “It’s a miracle I made it! Thanks to my teammates for helping. I hope I can start tommorrow”, the injured Cunego told Italian TV after the stage. After a check at the Saint-tienne hospital emergency room, Cunego decided to retire from the Tour De France as his injuries were more extensive than
previously thought and will not start Stage 19 tommorrow in Roanne.