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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest News for August 20, 2003

Edited by Jeff Jones

Petacchi chases Baffi Senior's Grand Tour record

By Tim Maloney, European Editor

Alessandro Petacchi crossing the finish line just ahead of Erik Zabel
Photo ©: AFP

When Alessandro Petacchi took the sprint in the 185 kilometre first stage of the ENECO Ronde van Nederland between Middelburg and Rotterdam on August 19, it was his 18th win of the 2003 season for the Fassa Bortolo rider. Petacchi has had a breakthrough season in 2003 with multiple stage wins in the Giro and Tour and may now be headed to the Vuelta a España.

"After riding many criteriums in Holland and Belgium after the Tour, which was a great experience, I'll see at the Tour of Holland what my real condition is," declared Petacchi. "I have to decide if I'm going to do the Vuelta or not...if I'm feeling really good, I want to ride since I really like the Vuelta."

Should Petacchi win stages in the Giro d'Italia, Tour De France and Vuelta a España this year, he will be only the third rider in history to manage that exceptional feat.

45 years ago, riding for the Chlorodont team in 1958, Pierino Baffi, father of Adriano Baffi, won six stages in Grand Tours that year; Stage 12 of the Giro, Stage 10, 16 and 24 of the Tour as well as the 3rd and 14th stage of the Vuelta. Also Miguel Poblet won stages 4, 8, 14, and 16 of the 1956 Giro, Stage 8 of the Tour de France that year, and stages 3, 5, and 6 of the Vuelta. "It would be great to leave my mark on all three Grand Tours this year," said Petacchi.

Perhaps the Fassa Bortolo man will renew his match with Mario Cipollini at the Vuelta, as the World Champion will likely ride the Spanish race. "If Mario is (at the Vuelta), the sprints will be even more spectacular. That won't be my main reason for riding the Vuelta, but it will give me extra motivation if Mario is there."

Verbruggen calls for a "BeNeLux Tour"

UCI president Hein Verbruggen managed to put a few Dutch (and Belgian) noses out of joint before the first stage of the ENECO Ronde van Nederland (Tour of Holland) yesterday with talk of streamlining the tour calendar. Speaking in Middelburg's Town Hall yesterday, Verbruggen discussed his plans for a "UCI Pro Tour" in 2005, in which the top 20 teams would all battle it out in the World Cups, Grand Tours and Hors Categorie (HC) races, between 30 and 50 races in total.

In this new "Pro Tour", it's unlikely that there would be room for the tours of Holland, Belgium, and Luxembourg, as Verbruggen doesn't consider that they have big enough markets. "80 million people live in Germany while there are 38 million in Poland," Verbruggen was quoted by ANP as saying. "For that reason the races there would be more interesting, also for television, and they would earn a place in what we would call the UCI Pro Tour. Maybe the organisations from the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg could look at a combined race: the BeNeLux Tour."

Verbruggen and the UCI haven't worked out the details of which races will make the cut, but he pointed out that cycling is most popular in four countries: Spain, Italy, France and Belgium, "while German, Portuguese and Polish races can earn more attention."

The news that their races would likely not be big enough to make the "UCI Pro Tour" was not received well by some of the organisers. "I don't get it," said Tour of Belgium organiser Rob Discart to Het Nieuwsblad. "Three years ago Verbruggen was happy that we were starting again. Every year they're pleading for shorter races and now they want a big tour because the so called market is too small. But there are also national sponsors. Furthermore, if you have cycling without second division teams the foundation of the sport is broken."

The Tour of Belgium is currently ranked as 2.3, while the Tour of Luxembourg is 2.2 and the Tour of Holland is 2.1. None of these races would be assured a position in the new Pro Tour, although a promotion to 2.HC for the Tour of Holland would probably secure a spot for it.

Casagrande hoping for win in Agostoni

Lampre's Francesco Casagrande is hoping that he can repeat his 2001 victory in the Coppa Agostoni, the second race in the Trittico Lombardo series that takes place today (August 20). The 199.5 km race starts and finishes in Lissone. "I know this circuit very well," said Casagrande. "In 2001, the year of my victory, it was my springboard to the finish line. I hope to repeat that performance. I'm particularly fond of this course as it takes us through the home streets of our sponsor, the Galbusera family."

Casagrande will be accompanied by Simone Bertoletti, Alberto Loddo, Gabriele Missaglia, Manuel Quinziato, Marco Pinotti, Eddy Ratti and Patxi Vila in the Coppa Agostoni. However he won't be present in the Coppa Bernocchi tomorrow, with the Lampre team being Sergio Barbero, Simone Bertoletti, Alberto Loddo, Manuel Quinziato, Marco Pinotti, Marco Serpellini and Eddy Ratti.

New sponsor for Saiz?

There are indications that ONCE manager Manolo Saiz has secured a new sponsor for 2004, after major sponsor ONCE announced its withdrawal recently. The name of the company has not yet been announced, however many of ONCE's riders are choosing to stay with Saiz rather than transferring to new teams, even those in demand.

Joseba Beloki, who has offers from Phonak and Euskaltel among others, has decided to wait a little longer to see whether Saiz comes up with something. In addition, Jörg Jaksche, who has a preliminary agreement with Gerolsteiner, would be able to stay with Saiz if the deal comes off. Jaksche was one of the few ONCE riders with a contract until the end of 2004.

Courageous Javier Ochoa back on his bike

By Tim Maloney, European Editor

Javier Ochoa
Photo ©: AFP

Who can forget the dramatic images of former Kelme rider Javier Ochoa courageously holding off the onslaught of Lance Armstrong to win Stage 10 of the 2000 Tour De France to Hautacam? Seven months later, on February 15th, 2001, Javier and his twin brother Ricardo, both Kelme pros were run over by a car in Malaga. Ricardo was killed and Javier was severely injured, with a crushed left leg, five broken vertebrae and severe cranial trauma. Javier was in a coma for 64 days and finally, after a long hospital stay and an extensive program of physical therapy, Ochoa was able to ride a bike for the first time in 22 months last December.

"I know to make a full recovery, I still need a lot of time", Ochoa explained recently. "I still suffer a lot, but one day, I'll put my race number back on."

Ochoa started riding indoors on a home trainer 20 minutes a day because he's still deathly afraid to ride on the open roads. However, in June, Ochoa made good on his promise and despite his physical and mental difficulties, rode the Spanish championship for (mentally) disabled persons last June, finishing a remarkable second.

Currently, despite ongoing physical travails, Javier Ochoa is able to train between two and three hours a day, covering 70 to 80km. at a time. His father Ricardo follows him in a car with the emergency flashers on so the former pro feels safe enough to ride on open roads. With his encouraging result in June, Ochoa will likely compete in the European championship for (mentally) disabled persons in the Czech Republic in September. Should this race go well for Javier, he may compete in the Paralympics in Athens next summer.

Driedaagse de Panne 2004 takes shape

The organisers of the Driedaagse van de Panne-Koksijde have started to shape the race for next year. The Driedaagse 2004 will definitely start in Middelkerke, and there is a possibility that there will be a short prologue time trial on Monday, however the UCI has yet to give its permission for this. No matter what, the first stage will definitely take place on Tuesday between Middelkerke and Zottegem.

Landbouwkrediet gets a boost

Belgian first division team Landbouwkrediet-Colnago will have a larger budget next season, according to VRT teletekst. "We've already received an contract extension from both of our sponsors, and our budget will even be higher," said manager Gérard Bulens. "We would happily stay as a first division team next year. As far as transfers go we are waiting. There are a few teams stopping, and so there will be a few transfers coming from them."

Belgian juniors bikeless at Track World's

The Belgian junior team suffered a major setback in its World Track Championship plans when it arrived in Moscow without bikes, which hadn't made it out of Latvia. The World's begin today (August 20) and run through until August 24, but national coach Michel Vaarten isn't too hopeful about the team's chances.

"I can't think of them having to start in the qualifications of the team pursuit and sprint," said Vaarten to Het Nieuwsblad. "That is battling with unequal weapons. After six weeks preparation we had a real chance of a good result in the points race and the madison."

05 Orbitel looking to move up

Colombian team 05 Orbitel, which this year moved into Division II, is aiming even higher according to team sources. Division I is the goal for 05 Orbitel in 2004, which would give it greater scope for invitations to races outside Colombia. This year the team tasted success in Spain's Vuelta a la Rioja, won by Felix Cardenas, who also won a stage in the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon.

Vanhoudt stagiaire with Vlaanderen

Vlaanderen-T Interim will feature Belgian Andy Vanhoudt in its roster as of September 1. Vanhoudt has secured a stagiaire's contract with the team, and will ride out the rest of the season with them.

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