UCI President David Lappartient has admitted that the complex nature of Chris Froome’s salbutamol case means a verdict is unlikely to be reached before the Giro d’Italia starts, meaning the Team Sky leader will almost certainly be in Israel for the start on May 4.
Froome returned a positive test for salbutamol en route to victory at last year’s Vuelta a España, but as salbutamol is considered a specified substance, the Team Sky rider remains free to race pending the resolution of the case. Froome has always denied any wrongdoing, saying he respected medical guidelines for the use of his salbutamol asthma inhaler. He began his season at the Ruta del Sol and recently rode Tirreno-Adriatico, determined to push on with his plans to target the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France in 2018.
The Frenchman attended Saturday’s Milan-San Remo and admitted to La Gazzetta dello Sport that the complexity of the case could mean it will not be resolved in time for the start of the Giro d’Italia.
“When will it end? I don’t know to be honest. I hope as soon as possible. I said I hope before the Giro d’Italia but I don’t think so and I’m not sure that this is possible,” La Gazzetta dello Sport quote Lappartient as saying.
“We’re pushing for as soon as possible. And that’d be the best thing for the rider, the team, race organisers and the UCI. But it involves technical issues. It’s not simple and needs time.”
After two bunch sprint stages in the Volta a Catalunya, the race moves into much hillier, less predictable waters on day three, and breakaway specialists such as Britain’s Steve Cummings (Dimension Data) could come to the fore.
The reigning British national road race and time trial champion finished 175th, and last, on Monday’s opening stage, at 6:13 down. A further 7:42 was shipped on stage 2.
“He was tired after doing Milan-San Remo and then coming straight here,” Dimension Data director Bingen Fernandez told Cyclingnews after stage 2. However, the time lost has its advantages, given that whatever Cummings tries to do he is no longer likely to suffer from collateral damage in the on-going GC battle.
“The great thing about Steve is nobody knows when he could try to make it into a breakaway,” said Fernandez. “It just happens. I think that sometimes not even Steve knew it was going to happen. It’s all a bit unpredictable.”
The Volta a Catalunya enters equally uncharted terrain on stage 3 following the cancellation of the toughest climb to Vallter 2000 because of the risk of avalanches. Fortunately, the weather forecast is for it to stay dry, with only a minor risk of snow showers, although it will be very cold.
The GC battle will likely dominate on stage 4’s summit finish at La Molina, but there could well be further opportunities for breakaways in the final half of the race.
Scott Sunderland‘s racing return following a severe concussion has ended at the Tour de Langkawi after the Australian suffered another serious head injury. Although the original diagnosis of fractured vertebrae proved to be incorrect, Sunderland was still hospitalised following the accident.
“Scott had a crash about 4.5km to go. He got caught on the wheel of another rider and just didn’t manage to get off it and went over the handlebars,” Bennelong SwissWellness team official Neil Walker told Eurosport and Cyclingnews on the morning of stage 4.
“He’s sustained a head injury and there was talk about a possible fracture to his vertebrae but as far as we know this morning from a doctors report, that is not the case. He is obviously suffering from a concussion and there is a concern because of the crash he had in China.”
Sunderland, who turned 30 the day before the race, won the opening stage of the Tour de Langkawi last year and went on to his enjoy his best season to date. However, his high-speed crash at the Tour of China II abruptly ended his season and delayed the start of the New Year for the former track world champion. The Tour de Langkawi was to start his 2018 season, and having placed eighth on stage 1, it appeared Sunderland was ready to challenge in the sprints.
However, a DNF on stage 3 due to the crash was followed by a night in hospital, where he posted a photo of his facial injuries on social media, and the race is now over for Sunderland.