The 2021 Dakar Rally route through Saudi Arabia features 12 stages of competition, a seeding round and a rest day. Carlos Sainz looks to defend last year's win in cars while America's Ricky Brabec defends his motorcycle title.
Shane Sutton, the former technical director of British Cycling, has been accused by a former team-mate of misleading a Commons select committee in 2016 when he said he had “no experience” of doping either during or after his cycling career. Kvetoslav Palov, a former team-mate of Sutton’s at British team ANC-Halfords in the late 1980s, told a medical tribunal on Tuesday that Sutton would have seen the exact same thing he did when he entered the toilets of a McDonald's restaurant in Edinburgh prior to the first stage of the 1987 Tour of Britain and found “syringes all over the place from bike riders”. The Czech ex-pro also told the tribunal of rumours that the team’s soigneur at the time, Angus Fraser, had “spent £10,000 on drugs” for Sutton at that year’s Tour de France. Palov was speaking at the fitness-to-practise tribunal of Dr Richard Freeman. The former British Cycling and Team Sky doctor is accused by the General Medical Council of ordering testosterone to the national velodrome in 2011 “knowing or believing” it was intended for an athlete. Freeman has admitted to 18 of the GMC’s 22 charges but denies that central charge, insisting he ordered the drug to treat Sutton’s erectile dysfunction. Sutton has rejected those claims and called Freeman a “liar”. Palov’s recollection of the McDonald's incident was queried. Simon Jackson QC, for the GMC, said that the witness had requested to change his statement to the tribunal and was not claiming to have visited the toilets “with Sutton” in person, but was merely speculating that Sutton would have seen what he had. “Everybody in that peloton who started that race would have used that toilet,” Palov countered. “Shane would have been there as well. I am not saying we went in there holding hands. My point was that anyone saying they had no [experience] of drug use was absolutely not true.” “You signed a document that you stated that is not true,” replied Jackson who also noted that the first McDonald's in Scotland did not open until two months after the alleged incident took place, adding that it was in Dundee. “I will take your word for that,” Palov said. “It was a fast-food place. It was right on the square where the race started. It could have been a different restaurant.” Palov, who was called as a witness for the defence, was speaking via video link from Australia where he now resides. He said it was fanciful for Sutton to suggest that he had no experience of doping. “Anyone who has been in and around pro cycling for so long and isn’t aware of anyone taking drugs is absolutely lying,” he said. Meanwhile, Tony Cooke, the father of 2008 Olympic champion Nicole Cooke, has described UK Anti-Doping as “not fit for purpose”. In a statement to the tribunal, which was released to media overnight on Monday after he had given evidence in person, Cooke said that he and his daughter had separately raised concerns with UKAD and Team Sky’s then head of medicine Dr Steve Peters about Sutton in 2013, but that neither had acted. Cooke said that he had gone to UKAD and identified to them “an ex team-mate of Sutton’s who wished to be taken on the record as having witnessed Sutton using PEDs and giving UKAD other anecdotal evidence to support this account”. “I believe that UKAD is not only not fit for purpose, its self-imposed construct and operating constraints, facilitate an avenue that the unscrupulous exploit,” Cooke wrote. “UKAD is a significant part of the problem.”
Tony Cooke, the father of 2008 Olympic champion Nicole Cooke, told a medical tribunal on Monday that Shane Sutton discovered an empty phial of EPO in his car at the Five Valleys road race when he was national coach of Wales. Cooke was called as a witness for the former Team Sky and British Cycling doctor Richard Freeman, who is accused of ordering testosterone for an unnamed rider in 2011. Freeman has admitted to 18 of 22 charges in his fitness-to-practise hearing but denies that central charge, insisting he ordered the drug to treat Sutton’s erectile dysfunction. Sutton has rejected the claims and called Freeman a “liar”. The hearing was due to finish by Thursday, but will now run into a third year. Under cross-examination from the General Medical Council’s QC Simon Jackson, Cooke told the tribunal on Monday that he had heard a story relating to a phial of banned blood booster EPO at the Five Valleys road race. It was not specified at which edition of the race the incident took place but Sutton was coach at Welsh Cycling in the late 1990s before joining British Cycling in 2002. Cooke said he heard from Sutton’s driver at that race that both men had left the car unattended and returned to find the empty phial in it. “Your informant said Mr Sutton was very angry about this being left in the car in which he was travelling?” Jackson asked. “He thought it had been left there deliberately by a rider?” “That's correct,” replied Cooke. “My own interpretation of it at the time was one of his [Sutton's] innocence.” “But you also say you felt uncomfortable that the Welsh national coach would have recognised a phial of EPO ?" continued Jackson. “That was the point,” Cooke said. “I interpreted it at the time as Mr Sutton rightly being angry. Why was it there? Etc But how would one know in such a short space of time? Mr Sutton was obviously able to recognise it according to the account given to me.” Cooke also alleged that he and his daughter went to UK Anti-Doping with a number of concerns in 2013, including concerns about Sutton, but said that none of them were acted upon.
Aprilia has named three riders for its 2021 MotoGP line-up, but only Aleix Espargaro remains confirmed while one of Lorenzo Savadori and Bradley Smith will be his teammate.