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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Regional Cycling News for December 5, 2003

Edited by Chris Henry & John Stevenson

Tasmanian carnival series relaunches Trial Wheels

By Rod Morris

A joint initiative between the Mersey Valley - Devonport Cycling Club (MVDCC) and Latrobe Bicycle Race Club (LBRC) will see two traditional bike races added to the Tasmanian state calendar before the 2003-04 Basslink Tasmanian Christmas Carnival Series.

The Patrick's Latrobe Trial Wheel will return next Tuesday night after an absence of almost 10 years and the Devonport Trial Wheel will be held the following Tuesday night at the Devonport Oval.

The move to re-instigate the trial wheel races arose because of the unavailability of the Devonport Oval on December 9, forcing the MVDCC to re-locate its weekly track race meeting to Latrobe. An approach to the LBRC was met with open arms.

Both the Patrick's Latrobe Trial Wheel and Devonport Trial Wheel will carry prize money of $350, with the first four riders over the line to share in the spoils. Both handicap wheelraces will be held over 3000m and should prove to be a fantastic opportunity for Tasmanian riders to test themselves out before the tough Christmas week of action starts.

The Latrobe Trial Wheel used to be a traditional part of the build-up to the Christmas Carnivals, but since the Latrobe Carnival has operated over one day only the event has elapsed. The MVDCC resurrected the Devonport Trial Wheel some years ago, but has struggled to attract big numbers. With the 2003-04 Basslink series shaping as one of the best ever, trial wheel hit-outs will be viewed as valuable practice runs by all riders.

In-form riders at the early carnivals to date have included Nathan Clarke, Ryan Johnson, Adam Hartley, Ben Price and Jason Johnson. The MVDCC will also conduct a 1000 m Lightning Handicap and graded scratch races for senior riders, as well as junior handicap and scratch events.

Action on both nights will start a 6 p.m. and riders can enter on the night. Entry cost for senior riders will be $10. Outside of race sponsorship from the MVDCC and LBRC, well known cycling identities Steve Daley, Craig Price and "Taffy" James have made considerable financial donations to the running of the two trial wheel carnivals.

The MVDCC will also operate canteen facilities and both trial wheels are expected to attract the majority of Tasmania's track riders, particularly those who are keen to feature in the action at Christmas.

USA Cycling announces espoir MTB program

The country that gave the world mountain bike racing has had a pretty tough time of it at world level in the last few years. The last elite male cross-country world champion from the USA was John Tomac and only Alison Dunlap has broken the long drought in the women's cross-country since Ruthie Matthes' 1991 world's win.

In an effort to do something about this sorry situation, USA Cycling has announced an under-23 national mountain bike team, with a program intended to prepare the best American espoir mountain bike athletes for top domestic and international competition. The ultimate goal, according to the federation, is to produce gold medal performances in World Championship, Pan American and Olympic Games competition.

"After two years of working to secure the resources, I am very pleased that we are launching the USA Cycling Men's U23 Mountain Bike Program in 2004," said Steve Johnson, USA Cycling's COO and director of athletics. "This program is really the off-road analog of the very successful USA Cycling U23 Road Program, and I am expecting similar results."

The 2004 season will kick off with a testing and training camp in Colorado Springs, Colorado. January 5-11. The goals of this camp are to establish baseline physiological data to be applied to training throughout the year. Subsequent testing will follow to determine the progress made through training. Two months later the racing season will start with the NORBA National in Waco, Texas and the Nova Desert Classic in Arizona, followed by a week of road racing at the Redlands Bicycle Classic in Redlands, California.

A significant training activity for the U23 National Team will also include several weeks of racing on the road in Belgium in conjunction with the USA Cycling U23 Road Program. The athletes will be based in Izegem, Belgium and will compete in single and multi-day events with some of the best U23 road riders in the world.

The remainder of the year will find the athletes competing in the vast majority of the eight events that make up the 2004 NORBA National Mountain Bike Series, World Cups #2, 5, and 6, World Championships, and the inaugural US Mountain Bike National Championships.

Irish 'cross nationals moved

By Tommy Campbell, Irish Independent, Evening Herald, Sunday Independent

In a surprise development, the National Cyclo-Cross Championships have been moved to Bray, Co. Wicklow Saturday. Situated between Bray Head and the Little Sugar Loaf (1,120 feet) is Kilruddery, seat of the Earl of Meath that will host the event that was originally listed for Powerscourt in an idyllic setting. No doubt, from information coming out of the Cycling Ireland offices, the new location and the fact that the racers are going to get a close up view of the Elizabethan Mansion which was built in 1820 to the design of Sir Richard Morrison and his son, William Vitruvius, will act as bonus to the proceedings. It is not every day that the opportunity arises for competitors to be so close to such a historic building.

Also the handicapper will be redundant as everybody comes out of the starting blocks, more or less on level pegging. The seeded competitors have a slight advantage as they are on the front grid. So, many of the competitors will from the outset will be off the pace as the heads roll off for the start of the championships.

Robin Seymour goes for his 13th victory as champion, but in all probability he'll be conscious of the number 13 and the connotations that surround the merits or demerits of that infamous number depending on his belief in superstition. He can't take it for granted that he'll have it all his own way because of the transition this year of Roger Aiken from Banbridge Cycling Club, who has put in some solid displays over the last seven weeks.

Last weekend's margin of over 50 seconds on his rivals, particularly Aiken, will be uppermost in the champion's thoughts.

The start time for the championships is scheduled for 1:00pm but there is a precursor to the main event with races for the under age which are tomorrow's champions.

The joker in the pack could be Stephen O'Sullivan, the Criterium champion from the Cycleways-Lee Strand CC, who could upset the best laid plans of the favourite. On the other hand, as Seymour is regarded as home and dry, Aiken's team Banbridge CC can have some comfort in the knowledge that the club award is destined for the Co. Down club.

Verge NECCS comes to Rhode Island

The fifth round of the Verge New England Championship Cyclo-Cross Series will take place this Sunday in South Kingston, Rhode Island. The W.E. Stedman Grand Prix of Cyclo-Cross (UCI Cat.3) will see the showdown between the best riders in New England continue, as Mark McCormack (Saturn) and Anna Milkowski (Gearworks/SpinArts) both look to solidify their leads in the series overall standings and tune up for the following weekend's national championships

Last weekend Mark McCormack won his first Verge NECCS race this season with a dominating performance at the Chainbiter 5.0 Cyclo-Cross, and he will be the big favorite this coming Sunday. His biggest rival should again be under-23 star Jeremy Powers (NCC/, who finished second to McCormack last weekend, after chasing solo for much of the race. Also in the mix will be Ben Turner (7-Up/Maxxis) who has been in excellent form recently, and should be challenging for a podium spot in Rhode Island.

After winning the first Verge NECCS race of her career, Anna Milkowski will be looking to repeat her excellent results in Rhode Island. Her chief competition should again be her teammate Marianne Stover (Gearworks/SpinArts) who finished second at last weekend1s Verge NECCS race. Other riders to watch will be Katrina Davis (Richard Sachs), Maureen Bruno (Dansko/Wheelworks) and Sara Cushman (Gearworks/SpinArts).

Following the W.E Stedman Grand Prix of Cyclo-Cross, the Verge NECCS will conclude on December 21 with the Patterson Construction/NEBC Cyclo-Cross (UCI Cat.3) in Merrimack, New Hampshire. Double points will be awarded at the series finale, and riders must be present at the post-race awards party to receive their cash and prizes. $2000 will be on hand for the overall Elite Men and Women, with merchandise prizes from Series sponsors in the other categories.

State vs state at Brisbane Grand Prix

Australia's three best cyclists will come together this weekend to compete in the first of two cycling Grand Prix events on Sunday 7 December at South Bank Parklands, Brisbane. Queensland's Robbie McEwen, winner of the Green Sprinters Jersey in the 2002 Tour de France, Victorian Baden Cooke, the man that took it from him in 2003, and New South Wales' triple Olympic medalist Brad McGee will once again do battle. All three will be riding for individual glory but also for state pride.

While the three riders were born and bred in different states, the defending champion and Queenslander, Robbie McEwen reckons he has the hometown advantage. And he has a point to prove after losing the green jersey to Cooke earlier this year. "I'm hoping that the crowd will help me get to the finish line first, I'm going to need all the support I can get out there," said McEwen.

Cooke is back in the saddle after recovering from surgery for a cyst earlier this year, and McGee is deep in his preparation for 2004. "The fun builds all the way to Paris-Nice, the classics, Tour de France then the Olympics," said McGee. McGee has also been busy with the New South Wales Institute of Sport team funded by his squad.

Next year will be a big one for the Australian trio and the weekend will be a rare chance to see all three of them at the Cycling Grand Prix at Southbank. Racing begins at 10:00am with the elite event from 1:00pm.

Former rider sentenced in France

Frenchman René Foucachon, a former professional, was sentenced to eight months in prison (suspended) and fined €7,000 after being convicted of selling prohibited doping substances to other riders. Foucachon, 37, sold EPO to riders between 1996 and 1998, including sales made during the 1997 edition of Paris-Nice, according to a l'Equipe report. He confessed to buying the EPO regularly at a pharmacy in Bologna, Italy, while he was riding professionally, and continuing to sell the the drug for a higher price to other riders after he had retired

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