Not satisfied to sign every one-day rider on the planet (he just snagged Spanish road champ Manuel Garate), Quick-Step DS Patrick Lefevre seems to have his sights set on throwing together a solid GC threat as well. Not content to wait for Spanish up-and-comer Jose Pecharroman to develop, the man behind Mapei now wants two-time Giro winner Gilberto Simoni, who is slated to leave Lampre at the end of this year, on his 2006 squad. Simoni’s penchant for indignant loudmouthery should help Quick-Step keep the Belgian gossip columnists busy as well; since the departure of Frank Vandenbrooke, the squad has lacked a true source of ridiculous sound bites.
All this wheeling and dealing seems to be doing Lefevre’s squad good. Even without a still-injured Tom Boonen in the line-up, Quick-Step put two riders (former Fleche-Wallone winner Rik Verbrugghe and former Paris-Roubaix winner Servais Knaven) in the top three in the prologue of the innaugural Benelux Tour. The race, which is a UCI ProTour event, and mashes several post-tour flat stage races together, is an odd amalgam of TTs, steep bergs, windswept plains and twisty, narrow roads. With such an unusual parcours, the overall title is almost entirely up for grabs; should be an interesting race to watch (for those who get Eurosport, anyway…)
Finally, there’s a new report out from those challenging the UCI’s drug tests today. No, it’s got nothing to do with chimeras and vanishing twins (though the final hearing for that case is set for Sept. 6), but instead seems to rest on more solid legal grounds. The study says that because the EPO urine test, which was rushed into service after the 1998 Festina scandal, traces so many proteins, it has an unacceptably high rate of false positives. Could this mean that the drugs in Rumsas’ car really were just for his sick grandmother? No, I doubt it.