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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for April 2, 2004

Edited by Jeff Jones & Chris Henry

88th Ronde van Vlaanderen

Boogerd and Dekker fancy their chances

Michael Boogerd (Rabobank)
Photo ©: Gert Starckx

Michael Boogerd and Erik Dekker, together with World Cup leader Oscar Freire, will form Rabobank's main strike team for the Ronde van Vlaanderen. Boogerd is in excellent form, just missing out on two victories in last weekend's E3 Prijs and Brabantse Pijl. The Dutchman rode the parcours of the Ronde with Erik Dekker on Wednesday, and feels ready for Sunday's main event.

"The self confidence is there," he was quoted in Het Nieuwsblad. "There's no more room for improvement, I am in my usual good form. The Ronde is a brilliant race. I feel also a bit like a Flandrien."

Erik Dekker says that he feels like his old self again. "The only thing that remains is to say that in results. Hopefully Sunday, because Vlaanderen is for me still the nicest of the classics. Furthermore that damned sprint of three years ago gives me extra motivation. In any case, I'm ready to play a role in the finale."

But Freire doesn't

Unlike his other Rabobank teammates Michael Boogerd and Erik Dekker, Oscar Freire is less than enthusiastic about his chances for the Ronde van Vlaanderen. The Spaniard, winner of two rainbow jerseys and the last edition of Milan San Remo, told today's Het Nieuwsblad, "For a Spaniard, the Ronde is insanely difficult, hard and dangerous. It is more than a race, it is a total spectacle."

"Last week together with team director Frans Maassen I rode in the car too look at the parcours between kilometre 100 and 200. The same afternoon I'd forgotten half of it. Let me go alone and I'd get lost...The Muur and the Bosberg I know roughly, but what comes before it...Just as hectic as the Amstel Gold, but still completely different. I'll try to ride in the company of my teammates as much as possible. In Milan-San Remo that's not necessary. That's a simple race in comparison to the Ronde."

Freire intends to hold his World Cup jersey if possible. "The World Cup is really an ambition, after the Olympic Games and the World Championships in Verona. If I'm still in the lead after the spring season, I have a good chance. The Ronde van Vlaanderen is the most difficult snag. I'll pass on Paris-Roubaix. That's a fantastic race...to watch."

Live coverage

Don't miss Cyclingnews' live coverage of the 88th Ronde van Vlaanderen, which will cover the race in its entirety from the start in Brugge at 10:00am local time. Live coverage times are as follows: 10:00 CEST (Europe)/04:00 EDT/01:00 PDT (USA)/18:00 EST (Australia).

Preview
Map
Full start list

Lefevere: Dutch are bad losers

Relations between the Quick.Step-Davitamon and Rabobank teams were slightly stretched after yesterday's fourth stage time trial that ended the Driedaagse van De Panne, the overall classification of which was taken by George Hincapie (US Postal-Berry Floor). Hungarian Laszlo Bodrogi (Quick.Step) took the stage victory over Robert Bartko (Rabobank) by the very narrow margin of 41 hundredths of a second, and Rabobank team director Adri van Houwelingen was not too impressed. Van Houwelingen claimed that Bodrogi rode for three kilometres in the slipstream of a tram, but the UCI ruled that he had not broken the rules, and allowed Bodrogi's winning time to stand.

"This is extremely sour for us," Van Houwelingen was quoted in Het Nieuwsblad. "Patrick Lefevere could show his best side and say: 'This victory does not belong to us'. We've become victim here of a straight out duel."

Lefevere's response was short but to the point, telling the post-race Quick.Step-Davitamon press conference with a smile, "The Dutch are bad losers. With all that sand flying up, Laszlo had more disadvantage than advantage. Bodrogi is by nature a slow starter and a strong finisher."

History of trouble at Cofidis

More revelations for the French Cofidis team concerning drug use within the team have been announced in Friday's edition of l'Equipe. The paper cites a 1999 study, now made public, which focused on the psychological state of members of the Cofidis team and highlighted a number of behavioural concerns stemming from use of the drug Stilnox, a common drug typically used as a sleeping pill. The study was in fact commissioned by Cofidis management in the year following the Festina scandal, reportedly acknowledging concerns about erratic and improper comportment within the team's ranks.

The 1999 analysis of the riders was written by Dr. Jean-Christophe Seznec, a sports psychiatrist at the Bicêtre hospital in France and published originally in the Annales médico-psychologiques. In his report he outlined a variety of observations of drug use and dependency, though the focus on Stilnox as a common thread was aimed more at the behavioural traits of the riders as the drug does not feature on the UCI's list of banned substances and is not thought to be a enhance athletic performance. Its hypnotic effect, however, is of concern particularly for the riders' safety, as it has prompted disorientation and a dangerous fearlessness, such as passing from one hotel room to another by way of an eighth story balcony.

Seznec described the drug's effect, when taken in heavy doses, as hypnotic and intoxicating, also prompting "antisocial" behaviour among its users, including riders slipping out of hotels during stage races to spend the night with a mistress or prostitute (returning early the next morning before the next stage), using other drugs such as Viagra or drinking alcohol, 'hazing' new team members by mixing drugs in their food, etc. The doctor expressed concern that professional athletes are among the most susceptible to chemical dependency, due to a variety of cultural and biological factors.

"The lifestyle of the riders...is organised around races that take up their days, taking them from one hotel to another," Seznec wrote in his report. "It takes away their sense of reality, causing a loss of reference or identity. At night they prefer to escape to a dream-like world."

In his report, Seznec also underlined the implications of the Festina affair and doping scandals in general on the riders' mentalities. "The judicial reality blew apart the ties that bound the riders," he wrote. "The harsh reality caused loss of cohesiveness in the group and provoked values that put each person in a defensive, and somewhat depressive state... The team management doesn't have the stature to handle a crisis like that."

Seznec further implies that Cofidis' management did not do enough to control the situation, of which it was apparently aware.

"The crisis wasn't dealt with, and it was allowed to grow," he said. "The absence of an effective authority gave the riders a feeling of power. The only action taken by the management was to send the riders a letter explaining the danger of the drug."

Vasseur and Clain out

Cedric Vasseur
Photo ©: Daniel Schamps

With the opening of their judicial investigations confirmed, Cédric Vasseur and Médéric Clain have both been suspended from competition by Cofidis, according to a charter signed by all riders within the team. Vasseur is thus out of the Tour of Flanders on Sunday, while Clain was scheduled to compete in the Coupe de France events Route Adélie and Grand Prix de la Ville de Rennes this weekend.

For both, this also means that they are ineligible for the Olympic Games in Athens. France's ministry of sport announced in January as part of its increased effort to control doping in cycling and other sports that any athlete put under investigation would no longer be allowed to represent the country in an Olympics that year.

Manzano investigation hindered

The investigation by the Spanish Sports Council (CSD) into Jesus Manzano's allegations of systematic doping within Kelme has seemingly ruffled a few political feathers. Spanish newspaper AS, which has reported extensively on the Manzano affair, claims that the president of the CSD, Gómez Angulo, is trying to block the investigation and has withdrawn his confidence in the CSD's sports director and president of the Anti-Doping Commission, Guillermo Jiménez.

AS alleges that Gómez Angulo has received instructions from the Popular Party to save the image of Kelme, which is sponsored by the Valencian government. Gómez Angulo publicly expressed his desire to travel together with the team's executives to Paris last week to plead with ASO to let Kelme into the Tour de France. He also prevented Manzano from giving his press conference in the CSD yesterday, so it had to be transferred to the Press Association.

A spokesman for Gómez Angulo has officially denied that he is hindering the CSD investigation.

Kings Valley Road Race in Oregon

The 2004 edition of the Kings Valley Road Race, Oregon, USA's longest continuously running road race, will be run on the second Saturday in April (April 10th) in Kings Valley, Oregon. Chief among the protagonists this year will be Canadian Craig DeMars, who has been tearing up the local Oregon scene lately with a series of impressive wins and equally impressive near wins. After missing the race last year, DeMars will definitely be among the riders to watch in this year's edition. Another rider to watch will be cagey veteran and past Oregon State Time Trial and Road Race Champion John Bravard, who will be searching for his first win at the event. Bravard has been the perennial nearly man at Kings Valley; twice fourth and another two results in the top eight to show for four starts in the race.

More information: www.obra.org/flyers/2004/kings_valley.html

Australian Masters Road & Track Championships

The 2004 Australian Masters Road & Track Cycling Championships will be hosted by Cycling NSW in Sydney from April 18-24. Over 250 of Australia and New Zealand's best Masters cyclists, including dual World Sprint Champion Geoff Stoker, will converge on Bankstown, home of Sydney's Dunc Gray Olympic Velodrome to compete for a week.

Events on the track include the individual pursuit, time trial, team sprint and scratch races. Road championship events will include the road race, criterium and road time trial. The time trial will be run at the Sydney International Regatta Centre on Thursday, April 22. All other events will be conducted at the Dunc Gray Velodrome complex or nearby Lansdowne Park.

More details: www.nsw.cycling.org.au/news.html

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