Spanish Vuelta reduces format for 1st time in 35 years

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MADRID — The Spanish Vuelta cycling race has reduced its format for the first time in more than three decades because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Organizers said Wednesday this year’s race will have 18 stages, three fewer than the usual format. The last time the event did not have 21 stages was in 1985.

The change was confirmed after the three initial stages that were set to take place in the Netherlands were canceled earlier on Wednesday. The Vuelta was supposed to start on Aug. 14 in the Dutch regions of Utrecht and North Brabant but the rescheduling of the race because of the coronavirus forced local organizers to cancel the country’s participation.

Dutch organizers said the project “had been designed as a big summer party” but would not be able to take place later in the year.

All three of the Grand Tour races – the Giro d’Italia, the Tour de France and the Vuelta – have been pushed back because of the pandemic. A new starting date for the Vuelta and Giro have yet to be announced, but they are expected to take place after the world championships, which are scheduled for Sept. 20-27.

Vuelta organizers decided not to replace the stages in the Netherlands and will start the race in the Basque Country city of Irun in northern Spain. It will be the first time since 1961 the race will begin in the Basque Country.

“Obviously, when you design the race, you hope to never have to make changes of this magnitude, but we have to be sensible with the current situation and we have to accept that it is very difficult to replace an official departure at this late stage, given all the institutional and logistic planning that it involves” Vuelta director Javier Guillen said.

Davide Rebellin dies after hit by truck while training

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MILAN — Italian cyclist Davide Rebellin, one of the sport’s longest-serving professionals, died after being struck by a truck while training. He was 51.

Rebellin was riding near the town of Montebello Vicentino in northern Italy when he was hit by a truck near a motorway junction. The vehicle did not stop, although Italian media reported that the driver may have been unaware of the collision.

Local police are working to reconstruct the incident and find the driver.

Rebellin had only retired from professional cycling last month, bringing to an end a career that had spanned 30 years. He last competed for Work Service-Vitalcare-Dynatek and the UCI Continental team posted a tribute on its social media accounts.

“Dear Davide, keep pedaling, with the same smile, the same enthusiasm and the same passion as always,” the Italian team said. “This is not how we imagined the future together and it is not fair to have to surrender so suddenly to your tragic absence.”

“To your family, your loved ones, your friends and all the enthusiasts who, like us, are crying for you right now, we just want to say that we imagine you on a bicycle, looking for new roads, new climbs and new challenges even up there, in the sky.”

Rebellin’s successes included victories at Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico as well as winning a stage in the 1996 edition of the Giro d’Italia, which he also led for six stages.

Rebellin won silver in the road race at the 2008 Olympic Games, but he was later stripped of his medal and banned for two years after a positive doping test. He had denied wrongdoing.

CAS upholds Nairo Quintana DQ from Tour de France for opioid use

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland – The disqualification of two-time Tour de France runner-up Nairo Quintana from his sixth place in the 2022 race for misuse of an opioid was confirmed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

CAS said its judges dismissed Quintana’s appeal and agreed with the International Cycling Union that the case was a medical matter rather than a doping rules violation. He will not be banned.

The court said the judges ruled “the UCI’s in-competition ban on tramadol was for medical rather than doping reasons and was therefore within the UCI’s power and jurisdiction.”

Traces of the synthetic painkiller tramadol were found in two dried blood spot samples taken from the Colombian racer five days apart in July, the UCI previously said.

Quintana’s case is among the first to rely on the dried blood spot (DBS) method of collecting samples which the World Anti-Doping Agency approved last year.

Tramadol was banned in 2019 from use at cycling races because of potential side effects. They include the risk of addiction, dizziness, drowsiness and loss of attention.

Quintana finished second in the Tour de France in 2013 and 2015, won both times by Chris Froome. He won the 2014 Giro d’Italia.