BETTINI CELEBRATES CAREER

Paolo Bettini officially retired at the world championships road race but finally celebrated his career with a party in Italy on Sunday, attended by 300 friends, former team mates and supporters.

Dubbed the “La notte della leggenda”, the evening recalled Bettini?s career, starting from his emotional but disappointing fourth place in the under 23 world championships in Lugano, his first year riding as a domestique for Michele Bartoli and then his rapid development as a classics rider after winning Liege-Bastogne-Liege in 2000.

Bettini?s gold medal in the Athens Olympics was also remembered with images of his winning attack and interviews with the riders who were part of the Italian team. The evening ended with memories of Bettini?s two world titles and the tragic death of his brother Sauro and his moving victory in the Tour of Lombardy.


VINOKOUROV FACING TWO-YEAR BAN

Alexandre Vinokourov hoped to make a quick return to racing despite being caught for blood doping in the 2007 Tour de France. However it is now likely he will only return in the summer of 2009 after the UCI activated their appeal with the Court for Arbitration for Sport against his one-year ban.

?We won?t accept a ban of one year. For us it has to be two years.? UCI President Pat McQuaid told French newspaper Equipe on Monday.


ARMSTRONG WILL NOT RIDE LA SARTHE-LOIRE RACE

It seemed that Lance Armstrong was going to add the short French stage La Sarthe-Loire (April 7-10) to his comeback race programme over the weekend after announcers confirmed he would ride.

However, Armstrong quickly corrected things with a message on his Twitter account saying: ?See some reports I’m racing La Sarthe-Loire (France) in April . Cool race… raced it before … but no plans to be there in 2009. Thanks.?

Armstrong kick-offs his comeback at the Tour Down Under in January. He has already confirmed he will ride the Giro d?Italia and the Tour de France.


JAKSCHE TO RACE AGAIN FOR ONE EURO A MONTH

Germany?s Jorg Jaksche will make a comeback in 2009, riding for the tiny Italian Cinelli-OPD team for just one Euro a month.

Jaksche was implicated in the Operacion Puerto doping investigation and confessed to working with Dr Fuentes. He was banned for two years but was ostracised by the professional peloton for about doping to the press and accusing former Milram team manager Gian Luigi Stanga.

?I?m the first professional rider to ride for a Euro but it?s important for me to end my career on my terms and when I want,? Jaksche said.

Jaksche is expected to make his debut at the Tour of Mediterranean in early February and will ride along side Frank Vandenbrouke, who has also signed with Cinelli after serving a ban and recovering from personal problems.


CANCELLARA TO RIDE 2009 GIRO D?ITALIA

The impressive start list of the 2009 Giro d?Italia has added another big name rider, with Olympic time trial champion Fabian Cancellara confirming he will be part of the Saxo Bank team for the centenary edition of the three-week stage race in May.

Cancellara will again target the cobbled classics but is expected to boost Saxo Bank?s chances of victory in the opening team time trial in Venice.


UNDER 23 WORLD CHAMPION CLEARED TO RIDE

The UCI has clarified the position of under 23 world champion Fabio Duarte, insisting he did not test positive for testosterone in 2007.

Duarte won the world title in Varese with a powerful sprint. However, a dubious test for testosterone arose in 2007, leading to accusation in some media that his world title victory was somehow tarnished. The UCI now says the little Colombian has a naturally high testosterone level.

?At no stage has Mr Duarte been under investigation by the UCI for an Anti-Doping Rule Violation. However, in relation to media reports during the World Championships, the UCI has conducted a review of results from Mr Duarte?s samples taken by the UCI, including those taken at the 2008 World Championships. This review confirmed that Mr Duarte has a naturally high testosterone level,? the UCI said in a statement.

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