After posturing from Pantani about him ‘teaching Armstrong a lesson’ before the season, he and Lance have buried the hatchet during the Tour of Murcia last week.
The bitterness stems from accusations that Lance had let Pantani win last years Mont Ventoux stage, while Pantani said he couldn’t have beaten him if he’d tried. Armstrong revealed on his website that the bad blood had been settled while talking after a race stage.
“A few nights ago we sat down face to face and ironed out our differences. There is a lot of mutual respect and admiration there and so it was a good thing. He’s a good guy and was very much the gentleman in the meeting. In fact, he’s going to donate a Giro d’Italia Pink Jersey for the Ride for the Roses silent auction – he’s actually a pretty classy guy.”
He concluded “The rivalry lives but now it’s only on the bike, it’s a sporting one only,”
Meanwhile Pantani has been interviewed by Italian Police in relation to drug use by Italian Olympic riders but this time he’s been helping them with their enquiries as “someone informed of the facts,” rather than defending his own name.
Convicted doper Richard Virenque has had his ban shortened to reflect time already served, but the his new start date of August 14th means he’ll still miss the Tour. His appeal for a suspended ban was rejected by the appeals board as “his admission was not spontaneous, but only belatedly and in the framework of a court case.”
The French have also tightened up the banned substance list, with specific inclusion of ‘plasma volume expanders’ which have been at the centre of recent doping charges levelled at the Finnish XC ski team. The new rulings also prohibit manipulation of blood, “except in proven medical need”, thereby making blood transfusions and artificial oxygen transporters illegal.
Meanwhile back at the racing, Belgian riders have been having a field day in the Paris – Nice. Nico Mattan and Fabien de Waele took the first two stages respectively, while Peter van Petegem stormed to another sprint victory today, making it 3 in a row for Tin tin’s compatriots. Unfortuantely Belgium’s leading contender for overall honours, Axel Merckx crashed out of the race 2 km from the finish and is now out of the running.