NAPOLITANO WINS RUTA SPRINT, CONTADOR DEBUTS IN PORTUGAL

The Tour of California is hogging the cycling limelight this week but other racing is being held in Europe.

Danilo Napolitano gave Katusha another win in the Ruta del Sol, beating Tom Veelers (Skil) and Jurgen Roelandts (Silence) in the opening sprint. Napolitano got a perfect lead out from team mates Filippo Pozzato and Gert Steegmans.

Contador and Astana team mate Andreas Kloden make their season debut in the Volta ao Algarve. The race begins on Wednesday with a 173km stage from Albufeira to Olhao. The stage three hilly stage up to Alto do Malhao and Saturday?s 33.5km time trial stage are expected to decide the race.

Also riding are Robbie McEwen (Katushha), 2008 winner Stijn Devolder (Quick Step), Damiano Cunego (Lampre), Gerald Ciolek (Milram) and David Millar (Garmin).


CUNEGO SPEAKS OUT, BASSO RESPONDS

Damiano Cunego confirmed he will ride the Giro d?Italia at the Lampre team presentation on Tuesday and sparked an immediate war of words with Italian rival Ivan Basso during an interview in Gazzetta dello Sport.

Cunego has been outspoken about Basso?s return in the past and the two have both admitted they do not get on. In the Gazzetta interview, Cunego did not mention Basso by name but his call for a level playing field and honesty did not go down well with Basso who is competing in the Tour of California.

According to Gazzetta dello Sport, Cunego said: ?I just hope that everybody competes at an equal level, otherwise all those who have talked about honesty should have kept quiet.?

In a twitter message in English, Basso responded sarcastically: ?I?m reading gazzetta del sport if cunego refers to me about transparency. I find it very funny..?

Cunego also had strong words for Alejandro Valverde and the many Professional Continental teams, including LPR that includes Giro rival Danilo Di Luca, who are so far not part of the UCI?s biological passport.

?If the accusations are confirmed, I?ll feel I?ve been taken for a ride yet again,? Cunego said.

?I?ve heard that some riders aren?t part of the Adams system. We?re not all equal.?


VALVERDE BRINGS IN ITALIAN LAWYER FOR PUERTO DEFENCE

Alejandro Valverde has teamed up with expert Italian lawyer Federico Cecconi for his hearing in Rome with the Italian anti-doping investigators.

Cecconi is known as the most expensive but most successful lawyer in Italy when it comes to defending riders caught up in doping scandals. He has represented almost every high profile rider found positive in recent years and helped many of them to get off or reduce their bans.

Cecconi struck a first blow for Valverde on Tuesday when Coni, the Italian Olympic Committee, accepted to further delay the first round of questioning. Cecconi is busy in court with another case on Wednesday and so Valverde will now travel to Rome for questioning on Thursday afternoon.

The Italian investigators have allegedly compared Valverde?s DNA against that of a bag of blood discovered in a fridge during the Operacion Puerto raids and are accusing him of doping.

Cecconi was contacted by the Spanish AS sports newspaper but refused to reveal details of his defence strategy.

?This is a rather complicated case,” Cecconi said, adding he has “confidence in taking it forward” ?but I do not want to advance what will be my strategy.?

However he admitted there are “many important elements to the defence of Valverde.? “We are talking about a Spanish cyclist tried by an Italian and an alleged crime which, if so, it seems clear that it is not committed in Italy.”

Cecconi also noted that he is still not familiar with the accusations against Valverde.

“It is very important to know if you are accused of use or attempted use of doping. And also how and when the action was committed,” he told AS.

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