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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest News for September 15, 2003

Edited by Jeff Jones

Aitor Gonzalez stronger

Sitting in seventh place on GC at 4'00, Aitor Gonzalez (Fassa Bortolo) is certainly not out of this year's Vuelta. The defending champion who lost time to the other favourites as early as Stage 2, has been at the forefront of the action in the Pyrenees, and his accelerations on the climbs have put everyone under pressure.

After less than stellar performances in the Giro and the Tour this year, there were murmurings that Aitor had lost his focus after signing a lucrative contract with Fassa Bortolo. "If I had come back feeling comfortable, I wouldn't have put in the extra effort of racing the Vuelta," he told AS. "One day you're fashionable, the next day someone else is."

About his attacks in the mountains, Aitor explained, "It was high time to show myself among the front runners. I am the one who needed it most...if I continue my progress without stopping, I can put myself in a podium position. I won't give up. I can try, because it's not impossible."

A good ride by Van Goolen

Jurgen Van Goolen
Photo: © AFP
Click for larger image

Young Belgian rider Jurgen Van Goolen (Quick.Step-Davitamon) made up for his teammate Richard Virenque's disqualification by going on the attack on the lower slopes of the Port d'Envalira. Only Leonardo Piepoli (iBanesto) went with him, but the Italian did not do a stroke of work.

"If Piepoli cooperated better with me, then we had more of a chance," said Van Goolen to VRT. "But he couldn't cooperate because Unai Osa was coming from behind. I was nonetheless no danger for the classification."

"Every day I have improved in the Pyrenees," added Van Goolen, who finished 18th in the stage and is sitting in 39th overall at 44'30. "I think that in the coming years I can do something in the grand tours. Regarding the World Championships, if I feel like I do now, then maybe I can make a case for a protected role. In the following stages I'll show myself again."

Virenque and Perez DQ'd

Richard Virenque (Quick.Step-Davitamon) and Sergio Pérez (Labarca 2-Cafés Baqué) were disqualified from the Vuelta during stage 9 for drafting behind their team cars, the organisers said. Virenque was lying in 45th place at 36:13 down, while Pérez was in 171st position at 1:40:24. The organisers have also expelled the second team cars of Quick.Step and Labarca 2.

Museeuw still interested in World's

It's all or nothing for Johan Museeuw, who is continuing his racing program despite being involved in the José Landuyt affair. Museeuw raced in Saturday's Paris-Brussels, where he told Belgian coach José De Cauwer that he was still interested in riding the World's in Hamilton.

De Cauwer will make his final selection for the World's on September 24. "I am only counting on the rider Museeuw, not with the affair," De Cauwer was quoted in Het Nieuwsblad. "What do I know about the doping affair in which Johan is named in? Officially nothing. What right do I have to condemn him then? Let the court do its work."

Quick.Step team director Patrick Lefevre echoed these comments. "As a team we have nothing to hide and we will continue standing behind Johan. The court has the file. Not me, not Johan. I would gladly know what I'm talking about. That is not the case here, thus I am silent."

In the Belgian TV program Sportweekend, Lefevere said "It's better that Johan doesn't talk to the press, because that makes an A and a B. It's better if he works with the court than to irritate it."

"Riders are pursued too much. We even asked for blood testing, and now the minister has decided to do random drug testing. Would an Anderlecht match ever be stopped for a control? Cyclists are targeted. There should be a uniform method for controls."

New Zealand loses track coach

By Alan Messenger

Cycling New Zealand received a blow to its coaching program with the resignation last week of its Director of Track Coaching, Max Vertongen. The resignation followed the retirement two months ago of Vertongen's son Lee, a senior member of the NZ Track squad, but Max Vertongen said that the two decisions are not related.

Max Vertongen said that he could not afford to continue in his cycling job and to look after his business, a Palmerston North real estate company. He said that he had seriously considered quitting after the Manchester Commonwealth Games, but had agreed to take the Kiwi track riders to the World Championships at Stuttgart in July. "On my return I realized that I needed to focus on the continuing expansion of my real estate business," said Vertongen.

BikeNZ Chief Executive Rodger Thompson acknowledged Vertongen's huge contribution to NZ Cycling. "He first took on a coaching role with Cycling NZ in 1976."

Cycling NZ has not had time yet to consider a replacement for Vertongen, but a source close to the track squad who would not be named said that the leading contender must be recently retired pursuit squad member and highly experienced trackie Tim Carswell. "He been doing some good work, helping with the squad," the source said.

De Goede to leave Farm Frites-Hartol

Suzanne de Goede will leave Farm Frites-Hartol at the end of 2003, the team announced. The national champion did not take the option to extend her contract for another year. Although there were no personal conflicts between De Goede and the team, she had different ideas about her role in Michael Zijlaard's squad. After not being selected for the Rotterdam World Cup, De Goede discussed it with Zijlaard and they came to the decision that their differences were too great to continue working together.

In addition, Farm Frites-Hartol will lose Arenda Grimberg and Christa Pirard next year, while Miho Oki and Sandra Missbach have both extended their contracts. In the coming weeks, the team will fill up its roster with new riders and staff. The staff changes include the appointment of Jean-Paul Van Poppel as team director while Michael van der Wolf will leave the team to follow his business career.

Otxoa back on the podium

Former Kelme professional Javier Otxoa, who was seriously injured by a car in 2001, has won a bronze medal in the 1 km time trial (cerebral palsy division) at the EPC Cycling Open European Championships in Prague. Otxoa finished sixth in overall the event, but was the third best European rider.

It was an impressive comeback for the rider who won the Hautacam stage of the 2000 Tour de France, but nearly lost his life in a training accident that claimed his brother Ricardo. Otxoa will also race the individual pursuit and the road race next weekend at the IPC European Championships.

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