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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest Cycling News for April 1, 2004

Edited by Chris Henry

Vandenbroucke's rift with Lefevere

With a return to his best form in years, Frank Vandenbroucke is counted as one of the favourites for Sunday's Tour of Flanders, this year lining up with the Italian Fassa Bortolo team. Vandenbroucke marked a return to top competition last year with a gratifying second place in Flanders behind Peter Van Petegem (Lotto-Domo), but despite his own satisfaction with his best result (he also finished 2nd behind Van Petegem in 1999), the race proved a turning point in his relationship with Quick.Step-Davitamon team director Patrick Lefevere.

Lefevere, who by all accounts saved Vandenbroucke's wayward career by offering him a position on Domo-Farm Frites in 2002, seems to have lost faith in Vandenbroucke after what he considered a disappointing finish behind Van Petegem last year in Flanders.

"When I finished second at the Tour of Flanders- an extraordinary result for me given the period I was coming out of- he said it wasn't good enough, that a team like his should win and nothing else," Vandenbroucke said in an interview with l'Equipe. "Nobody thanked me or congratulated me. On the contrary, they said I collaborated with Van Petegem, and this misunderstanding lasted the rest of the year."

While some were surprised by Vandenbroucke's move to Fassa Bortolo, coming from a seemingly positive relationship with Lefevere and arguably the top Belgian team for the classics, Vandenbroucke insists that the relationship was damaged beyond repair after accusations of giving the race away to his compatriot Van Petegem.

"[Lefevere] had it in his head that I had made a deal with Van Petegem to finish second," Vandenbroucke said. "But there was nobody behind me from the team. What was I supposed to do, not ride and finish seventh or eighth? Never in my life would I sell a Tour of Flanders! The race is a dream for me, but in my team the word was that I had been bought... Why would I do that? I don't need money, I need victories."

Vandenbroucke eventually called a meeting of his team at the Tour of Belgium several months later to express his disappointment and anger at the accusations.

"When we separated, we agreed not to talk about the subject," Lefevere commented. "If Vandenbroucke doesn't keep his word, that's his problem. I never accused him of having sold anything. It's true we had a meeting at the Tour of Belgium because there were suspicions. But there's never smoke without fire."

Clain questioned in France

Another Cofidis rider has been called for questioning before the French judge Richard Pallain as part of the ongoing investigation into drug trafficking the peloton sparked after the arrest of former Cofidis pro Marek Rutkiewicz in January. Médéric Clain is the eigth person questioned in the affair, and is suspected of having purchased growth hormones from Oktos-Saint Quentin director Oleg Kozlitine, according to a l'Equipe report. Kozlitine was recently questioned by Pallain, and is said to have provided Philippe Gaumont with EPO.

Cédric Vasseur, questioned earlier this year, is expected to appear before judge Pallain Thursday to learn the results of the counter-analysis of his hair samples from his original questioning at the end of January. L'Equipe reported on the eve of Paris-Nice that Vasseur's hair sample had revealed the presence of cocaine, something the rider firmly denied. A subsequent test carried out in Strasbourg was returned negative. Today's result is a second test on the original sample.

Fanini believes in second chances

Ivano Fanini, director of the Amore e Vita team, is a firm believer in second chances. Having signed Jesus Manzano, presenting the embattled ex-Kelme rider with his team at a presentation Thursday at the Vatican, Fanini hopes Manzano can redeem himself and rebuild a career on the road. Given the extensive admissions of doping, however, Manzano does face a risk of suspension for his actions.

"I hope he doesn't receive a suspension, because that would be a serious case for the world of sport," Fanini told Marca. "Manzano deserves to be rewarded and helped."

Fanini at once says he takes a hard line against doping, and his Amore e Vita team is based on a philsophy of clean competition, yet he is willing to give riders a second chance after they make mistakes.

"I have been among the first to drop riders because of doping, like Massimo Gimondi, the nephew of Felie Gimondi, plus Fillipo Meloni and Tim Jones," he said. "Later, when they had confessed to how they had doped, when the took the substances and where they bought them, I let them back into the team. I believe that it's important to help people who truly have regrets."

As for Manzano, this is clearly Fanini's motivation following the Spaniard's extensive revelations about his own doping while at Kelme. "I don't see the motivation in not helping the ones that have regrets, who can give something back to the team and, perhaps, teach the world something and work toward a clean sport."

Lazzerini dropped

The Italian team La Grassi-Fausto Coppi has dropped Luca Lazzerini from its roster. Lazzerini tested positive for norandrosterone on February 14 at a race in Italy. The team's vice president Roberto Cecchi told La Gazzetta dello Sport that the team reserves the right to take legal action against the rider for damages caused.

Phonak for Flanders and Pais Vasco

Former world champion Oscar Camenzind will lead the Phonak Hearing Systems team at Sunday's Tour of Flanders, along with emerging classics specialist Martin Elmiger, Michael Albasini, Bert Grabsch, Nicolas Jalabert, Uros Murn, Gregory Rast, and Alexandre Usov. René Savary will act as directeur sportif.

Meanwhile, at the GP Miguel Indurain on Saturday, Phonak will field a team including Tyler Hamilton, Niki Aebersold, Gonzalo Bayarri, Santos Gonzalez, Alexandre Moos, Daniel Schnider, Alex Zülle, and Santi Perez, guided by Spanish director Alvaro Pino.

Di Luca hones form in Spain

Increasingly in view during the Crit&eaacute;rium International last weekend, Saeco's Danilo Di Luca will continue to hone his form for the Ardennes classics at next week's Vuelta Ciclistica Pais Vasco (April 5-9). Di Luca is targeting the Flèche Wallonne, Amstel Gold Race, and Liege-Bastogne-Liege in the second half of April.

Defending Giro d'Italia champion Gilberto Simoni will lead a team at the Clasica Primavera (April 11), along with Leonardo Bertagnolli, Damiano Cunego, Eddy Mazzoleni, Evgueni Petrov, Marius Sabaliauskas, Juan Fuentes, Gerritt Glomser, and Sylvester Szmyd.

Perez back on the bike

Luis Perez, thought to have fractured his wrist and clavicle in a fall in last week's Setmana Catalana, is back on the bike in training. The Cofidis rider underwent further tests this week and found that in fact there were no fractures, despite heavy swelling in his wrist which had clouded the diagnosis. Perez will continue to train lightly and should be back in competition for this weekend's Grand Prix Miguel Indurain.

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