Denis Menchov (Rabobank) held onto the Giro d’Italia lead after the mountain finish to Blockhaus on Wednesday and appeared to be unruffled by boos when he climbed on the podium. He also faced questions about doping after reports in Austrian and German press that he could be implicated in the Bernhard Kohl Humanplasma investigation in Austria.

Menchov has always worn a poker face during the Giro and when speaking to the press but he wasn’t happy when the word Humanplasma came up.

Humanplasma is the name of a laboratory in Vienna at the centre of a doping investigation by Austrian police. Disgraced 2008 Tour de France polka-dot jersey winner Bernhard Kohl has reportedly confessed to prosecutors that he received blood transplants at Humanplasma and other riders are suspected of sharing the cost of a blood centrifuge as part of a blood doping programme.

“I’m surprised to be asked about it. It’s not a new story for me,” Menchov said.

“I gave lots of explanations last year and don’t think I’ve got explain any thing else. I’ve got nothing to do with it and want to stay focused on the race.”

When pushed if he has to appear before a judge as a witness as part of the Austrian investigation, Menchov said: “Maybe. I haven’t got any problems, I’ve got nothing to do with it. If someone wants to question me I’ve no problem.”

Menchov was vague with his answers but his Rabobank team was more forthcoming. According to the Austrian APA agency, Rabobank spokesman Luuc Eisenga said: “Police investgators have made contact with us. We’ve assured them of our complete cooperation.”

According to APA, no rider is directly involved in the police investigation but they could be questioned as witnesses, perhaps like in the Operacion Puerto case, where riders were considered victims of Dr Fuentes work with their blood.

BOOED FOR BEATING DI LUCA

Menchov was booed by the thousands of Di Luca fans who packed the finish of the stage on the Blockhaus climb. The atmosphere was more like a football stadium and Stefano Garzelli was in tears after also being booed for finishing second ahead of Di Luca. Menchov insisted he was not bothered by the hostile atmosphere.

“It’s not a problem. I think it’s normal. For him it was a very important day. He’s from this area and has a lot of fans. It might have given him psychological advantage but I think it’s nice to see people cheering for him. I wish I could have so many fans cheering for me.”

Menchov said that he was not worried about losing 13 seconds to Di Luca and confirmed he will continue to mark the little LPR rider closely and then hopefully secure in the Giro in the final time trial in Rome on Sunday.

“It was important to stay with Di Luca. What happened in the last 250m is normal in cycling, it can happen because you’re using a different gear or something. I gained a time bonus the other day and so I’m not worried it.”

“I’m very happy with how the stage went. After the rest day you never know how your body responds but I felt good even if I just didn’t have that little change of pace.”

Menchov insisted he does not need to go on the attack and said he will continue to ride a defensively.

“I’m pretty tranquillo with the gap I’ve got (26 seconds on Di Luca and 2-00 on Franco Pellizotti). On Mount Vesuvius I’ll try and stay with Di Luca again and if I do, I’ll be satisfied.”

RELATED LINKS

The Wednesday Comment: Kohl’s bombshell

Kohl admits he started doping at 19


Giro d’Italia 2009 links

Stage reports

Stage 17: Pellizotti wins on Blockhaus, Menchov remains in pink

Giro rest day review (May 26)

Stage 16: Sastre wins stage to Monte Petrano

Stage 15: Bertagnolli gifted stage win by Cervelo mix-up

Stage 14: Gerrans solos to win

Stage 13: Cavendish takes his third Giro win and prepares to head home

Stage 12: Menchov storms to Giro TT win and race lead

Stage 11: Cavendish romps to second Giro stage win

Stage 10: Di Luca lays down the gauntlet

Giro rest day review (May 18)

Stage nine: Cavendish blitzes rivals to win in Milan

Stage eight: Siutsou makes it two in a row for Columbia-Highroad

Stage seven: Boasson Hagen takes treacherous stage

Stage six: Scarponi wins longest stage with big break

Stage five: Menchov wins mountain battle as Di Luca grabs the pink jersey

Stage four: Di Luca denies Soler on the line; Lovkvist takes pink jersey

Stage three: Cavendish loses pink jersey after being caught behind late crash

Stage two: Petacchi denies Cavendish the stage win

Stage one: Cavendish in pink as Columbia prove their point to Garmin

Photo galleries

Stage 17 photo gallery

Stage 16 photo gallery

Stage 15 photo gallery

Stage 14 photo gallery

Stage 13 photo gallery

Stage 12 photo gallery

Stage 11 photo gallery

Stage 10 photo gallery

Stage nine photo gallery

Stage eight photo gallery

Stage seven photo gallery

Stage six photo gallery

Stage five photo gallery

Stage four photo gallery

Stage three photo gallery

Stage two photo gallery

Stage one photo gallery

Desktop wallpaper photos

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Cavendish: His most important Giro win yet (stage 13)

Comment: Lance vs the press, some things never change

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Wiggins: ‘I went too hard at the start’ (Stage 12 TT)

Lance and Levi: Ready for Giro time trial

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Armstrong’s special Giro bikes unveiled

Daniel Lloyd overlooked for Giro ride

Cummings and Thomas not selected for Giro d’Italia

Cavendish tests Giro form at Tour of Romandie

David Millar confirms he’s riding in 2009 Giro

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2009 Giro d’Italia guide and features

Find the pink jersey competition

Giro d’Italia 2009: The Big Preview

British riders to have led the grand tours

CW’s Giro top ten prediction

Brits in the Giro 2009

Brits in the Tours: From Robinson to Cavendish

CW Classic: the 1987 Giro d’Italia


2008 Giro d’Italia archive

Giro d’Italia 2008 coverage index – race reports, photos, results

From rule Britannia to cruel Britannia

Giro 2008: The final word on this year’s race

Brits at the 2008 Giro: photo special

Five days to go, what’s in store?

Giro d’Italia 2008: Rest day review (May 27)

Giro d’Italia 2008: Rest day review (May 19)

Giro d’Italia 2008 preview

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