HAMMOND: "TOO MANY GREY AREAS LEFT BY PUERTO CLOSURE"
Britain's Roger Hammond has said the symbolic protest at Paris-Nice against the end of the Operacion Puerto investigation took place because it had left "too many grey areas."
Speaking moments before the start of stage one on Monday morning, Hammond told CW that, "I don't know if it's my background, but I like things to be right or wrong, and instead Puerto has all been left up in the air. Whilst there's no clear decision it's always going to be resurfacing in the press."
"It feels like a great big rock to be dropped on cycling when they feel like it. To be totally American, we need some closure on this one, it's not fair on the sport to have it all left undecided."
The start of the first road stage of Paris-Nice was slightly delayed whilst riders held their symbolic protest.
After a minute’s silence before the start in memory of Andrei Kivilev who died in a crash on March 12 during the 2003 edition of Paris-Nice, the riders rode to the zero kilometre mark and stopped in protest for a further minute.
“This symbolic protest shows that the teams and riders do not intend to forget ‘Puerto’ and that all the teams have signed the code of conduct,” the AIGCP, the international riders association announced in a communiqué.
“We demand that the judge handling the Puerto case allows the use of the evidence so that justice can be done.”
"This is a protest to say that Puerto can't end in the same way that it began a year ago, with huge doubts still hanging in the air." race leader David Millar's team manager, Joxean Fernandez Matxin added. "If there's nothing there, then it should be made official that there's nothing, but if there's something, then that should be published, too."
"For the good of the sport, they can't just end Puerto by saying that it is over, and that's all there is to it, with nothing resolved."
On Monday Reuters ran a report from Madrid saying that, as expected, it had been made offical that Puerto has been definitively archived.
The stage then began as normal, with four riders immediately attacking and opening a large gap on the bunch. The stage is expected to finish in a bunch sprint and depending on the outcome David Millar could hold onto the leader’s yellow jersey after winning the prologue time trial in Paris on Sunday.
There will be a report from Cycling Weekly’s Alasdair Fotheringham from Buzancais immediately after the stage finish.