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.

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.”

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

Stannard sees Rome after birthday pain
Di Luca out to topple Menchov on the Blockhaus
Bruyneel tips Menchov to win Giro
Giro Britannia: A long, hot slog in Italy
Leipheimer: Lance had to wait for me today (Stage 16)
Millar climbs off and heads home from Giro
Basso discovers he has few friends at the Giro (stage 15)
Froome agonisingly close to stage victory (stage 14)
Cavendish quits the Giro d’Italia
Cheeky Cipo sneaks a ride in the Giro
Cavendish: His most important Giro win yet (stage 13)
Comment: Lance vs the press, some things never change
Menchov’s first pink jersey (Stage 12)
Wiggins: ‘I went too hard at the start’ (Stage 12 TT)
Lance and Levi: Ready for Giro time trial
Cavendish: ‘Today brought back memories of San Remo’ (stage 11)
Is Di Luca trying too hard, too soon?
Wiggins loses time in the Giro (stage 10)
Armstrong and Basso say sorry for Giro protest
How are the Giro favourites doing?
Cavendish says ‘I’m addicted to winning’
Riders stage go-slow protest during Giro stage in Milan
Cavendish cool before Milan sprint
No sympathy for Armstrong from Giro boss
Boasson Hagen celebrates his birthday early
Cavendish overjoyed for Boasson Hagen
Armstrong ‘livid’ at dangerous Giro stage
Astana riders wear faded kit in protest over unpaid wages
Armstrong sees Leipheimer in pink
Giro news round-up: 14 May
Wiggins: ‘I can’t keep smashing away on the climbs’
Wiggins eyes top 20 finish overall
Armstrong after Giro stage 5: ‘That was hard’
Cavendish looking for Giro revenge
Armstrong happy with stage four performance
Lovkvist will fight to keep Giro lead
Giro could be last race for Armstrong’s team
Vande Velde crashes out of Giro
Petacchi claims he didn’t know of Cavendish crash
Cavendish struggles to find consolation in pink jersey
Petacchi: I’ve been working out how to beat Cav
I’m wearing pink on behalf of the team, says Cavendish
Wiggins ready to win Giro team time trial
Friday, May 8: Giro news round-up
Cavendish out to topple Garmin in Giro team time trial
Team time trial start times
Cycling Weekly’s Giro d’Italia top ten prediction
Brits in Venice for Giro presentation
Armstrong overshadows overall favourites at Giro presentation
Armstrong confident of finding new sponsor for Astana
Armstrong working to save Astana team
Wiggins in top form for Giro
Garmin Slipstream kitted out for Giro opener
Dan Lloyd gets late Giro call-up
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
Bennati to take on Cavendish in Giro 2009 sprints
2009 Giro d’Italia to start in Venice
Evans and Silence-Lotto disagree on Giro 2009 ride
Armstrong to ride 2009 Giro
Tuttosport reveals 2009 Giro d’Italia route
Dolce & Gabbana design new Giro jersey

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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