Welcome to the this week's edition of the Wednesday Session... on Thurs....er Friday. The days of the week, they're all the same right?
We begin today - yesterday, tomorrow, whatever day it is - in Italy with the Di Luca case, which promises to provide a steady stream of entertainment well into the off-season. Di Luca paid CONI a visit earlier this week. He wore black. At the hearing, Di Luca received a month delay in order to prepare his defense. Apparently, he and his legal team have not yet received information they requested from the UCI. No word on exactly what information they want. The Italian continues to claim that he never ever took the banned drug CERA, for which he tested positive on two occasions during this year's Giro d'Italia. In a press conference after his tea party at CONI, Di Luca suggested that he is the victim of a conspiracy. I've been framed, I tell ya! The former Giro winner is determined to prove that the testing process is flawed and that he is innocent. In the meantime, he continues to train with the goal of winning another Giro d'Italia. It's good to have goals.
On the subject of doping, the Via col Doping investigation continues to grind along in Padova. For those trying to play along at home, this is the case involving Davide Rebellin, his doctor Enrico Lazarro, and assorted extras. Evidence given by Emmanuele Sella, after he tested positive for CERA last summer, jump-started the case. The authorities have so far identified 30 suspects, including ten pro riders and five doctors. Of particular interest are the activities of amateur cyclist Paolo Bonin, who allegedly served as dealer and wanna-be dealer to the stars. According to phone transcripts in the case, Bonin worked for Aleksandar Nikacevic, the former U23 national team coach in Serbia, who was arrested in the case. Bonin bought CERA for €350 and sold it for €700. Nice mark-up there. Matteo Priamo, team-mate to Sella, was allegedly one of Bonin's customers. Bonin also approached current World Champion Alessandro Ballan, who has given evidence in the case. Ballan recounted, "When I heard the warning bell, I was staying with [Matteo] Tosatto. Bonino approached me and asked if I wanted CERA. I refused." Thanks, but no thanks. Filippo Pozzato also encountered Bonino while training, and investigators have called him to provide evidence in the case. Neither Ballan nor Pozzato are under investigation in the case. Just say no to drugs, kids.
Team Big Hug is growing. The Belgian press reports that Sébastian Rosseler, formerly of Quick-Step, and sprinter Gert Steegmans, who parted ways with Katusha over an anti-doping contract provision, have signed with the new team. Stijn Devolder reportedly also wants a Hug, but remains under contract for one more year with Quick-Step. In a recent press conference, Lance Armstrong announced that the Merry Shacksters will make their race début at the Tour Down Under in January. Armstrong also said he aims to win the 2010 Tour de France, and revealed that his 2009 performance rated a "7." No doubt he bribed the Bulgarian judge.
The Contador Confusion, meanwhile, continues unabated. In a recent interview, Alejandro Valverde said that he would be happy to work for Alberto Contador, if the two-time Tour winner came to Caisse d'Épargne. Valverde, who will chase the general classification at this month's Vuelta a España, explained that there were plenty of races of the calender for both riders. Alexandre Vinokourov, meanwhile, who has returned to race the Vuelta for Astana, claims that Contador will continue with the Kazakh team for another year. Vino promised that Contador would receive undivided support for the Tour de France. Undivided support, huh. I suppose that means Vinokourov will only attack every other day, rather than his usual program of daily dive-bombing. Of course, all these plans assume that the ASO deigns to invite the new-old-new (er, whatever) Astana team to the Tour de France. From Contador, silence. The Spanish grand tour specialist will detail his plans for next season sometime next week. Four more shopping days until 1 September!
On the subject of shopping, Garmin-Slipstream has reportedly signed four new riders. Australian Jack Bobridge comes to Garmin-Slipstream from the track, where he finished second at this year's World Championship in the pursuit. Travis Meyer, brother of Cameron Meyer who already rides for the team, has also reportedly signed on. Meyer won five World Championship titles on the track in the junior ranks. Fredrik Kessiakoff, a Swedish climber and mountain bike racer, meanwhile, comes to the American team from Fuji-Servetto, and Robbie Hunter joins the team to bolster the sprint lead-out for Tyler Farrar. From the Rabobank development team, Garmin-Slipstream has signed Michel Kreder, who won stages at the U23 races, Circuit de Lorraine and Circuit de Montanes.
So, the Vuelta a España begins tomorrow in the Netherlands with a short time trial. The weather is supposed to be Northern European. Translation: Rainy and windy. The Vuelta races four stages in the Netherlands before returning to Spain and many Mountains of Unusual Size. The race counts eight mountain stages and four Especial mountain-top finishes. On the subject of the Vuelta, Javier Guillen who has recently taken over as director of the Spanish grand tour, would like to move the race back to its old spot on the calender in the Spring. Guillen is pessimistic about the chances of actually moving the race, though. In a recent inteview, he explained that the UCI preferred to keep the Vuelta in its present position in order to prolong the season, and moving the Spanish grand tour to Spring would leave a great gaping hole in the fall calender. One change is certain for 2010: The Vuelta leader's jersey will change from Gold to Red.
Also this weekend, the U.S. Pro Championship races goe off in Greenville. Any bets on His Tweetiness showing up at the last possible moment? Magic Eight Ball says: Concentrate and ask again. Stupid Magic Eight Ball. Garmin-Slipstream is bringing a ginormous team for the road race in the hope of avenging their second place finish of last year. Go find @podiuminsight on Twitter for lots of updates. If you do not have a Twitter account, one may be provided for you. And yes, the elite women's championship should also be in Greenville this weekend. But it isn't. Yo USAC, make it so!
That's all for this week. The Wednesday Session will return to its usual time and place next week. Due to the Vuelta thingy, the Sesh may be a tad short next week, but this is a temporary condition. Promise.
Have a happy weekend!