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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest Cycling News for April 15, 2004

Edited by Chris Henry

Astarloa on the market

World champion Igor Astarloa has grown restless amidst the Cofidis team's break from competition, and could be back on the market, looking for a new employer. Having focused his early season training and his season's objectives largely on the Ardennes classics (Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne, Liège-Bastogne-Liège), Astarloa now finds himself sitting on the sidelines as the peak classics period arrives. Cofidis' management appears prepared to let the Spaniard out of his contract if he so desires.

Astarloa has yet to formally request a transfer, but with no date set for Cofidis' return to competition, a move would appear quite possible.

"I know this is hard for him," Cofidis manager Alain Bondue commented in l'Equipe. "If he asks us to join another team, if he confirms that he's found a new employer, we'll let him go without any opposition. We would do that for the man, and for the jersey he has on his back."

Astarloa reportedly sent Bondue a text message expressing his solidarity with the team, followed several days later by a fax requesting confirmation of Cofidis' plans to compete (or not) in Amstel Gold. Not surprisingly the answer remains no.

"Our interest is not in punishing [Astarloa]," Bondue added. "He's the reigning world champion, he's just joined the team, and he shouldn't pay for the damage done in previous years."

Early theories on a new destination for Astarloa would seem to focus on the Italian teams. While he would likely be happy to return to his former Saeco squad, no places exist. Lampre, desperate for results and a leader for the Tour of Italy after Francesco Casagrande's injury-plagued sprint, could ink a deal in the near future. Lampre president Galbuseria is an avid cycling fan and would be more than happy to have the world champion sporting his colours. Fassa Bortolo is another interested party, but Astarloa has thus far made no indication of specific plans.

The Cofidis situation

Voluntarily removing itself from the peloton on the eve of Paris-Roubaix to regroup after the widening revelations and allegations of doping within the team, Cofidis has yet to offer a clear indication of its intentions for the coming weeks or even months.

"The decision has allowed everyone to realise now just how serious the situation is," Bondue explained. "The team's existence is what's at stake. Everyone needs to reflect. Right now we're not going to stop. But, if the measures I propose to Cofidis aren't convincing, the team will stop."

The team's three track riders, Arnaud Tournant, Mickaël Bourgain, and Laurent Gané, are in fact clear to race in competition in the colours of the French national team. The entire road squad remains in a waiting game pending developments within the team direction.

"I know that a rumour has hinted at the Four Days of Dunkerque in May, but that would be an ideal scenario," Bondue said of a possible re-entry. "I would rather be pragmatic. We shouldn't rush just because of the time passing, rather we should do things right. I have to propose to Cofidis measures that guarantee an ethical program following the values of the company."

Super Mario comes to Georgia

For only the second time in his long and illustrious cycling career, Mario Cipollini will be racing on the shores of USA this month. The last time Cipo pounded a pedal in anger in America was at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia. Next week he'll be back in the same state, riding stage 1 of the Dodge Tour de Georgia which begins in Macon. Thursday's La Gazzetta dello Sport confirmed that Cipollini will participate, although there has been no official announcement yet from the race organisers.

Cipollini will reportedly bring his sprint train of Lombardi, Scirea and company, for what is expected to be his only race before the Giro d'Italia beginning May 8th. Cyclingnews will have live coverage and extensive reports from the second edition of the Tour de Georgia, April 20-25.

Garzelli on track

With a strong second place in the tough opening stage of the Vuelta a Aragon Wednesday, former Giro d'Italia winner and Cyclingnews diarist Stefano Garzelli (Vini Caldirola) is pleased with his progress as his national tour looms on the horizon (May 8). Garzelli was quite happy with his form, finishing on the mountain summit at the Valdelinares ski station, a Cat. 1, 1430m climb, just behind a flying Denis Menchov (Illes Balears-Banesto).

"I thought I could have won, but I had to make a big extra effort to catch Gil in the last 700 metres and Menchov took advantage of that," Garzelli told La Gazzetta dello Sport's Luigi Perna. "I've only had ten days of racing so far this year and I didn't think I'd be that strong on the climbs. My form has just come along naturally and now I have to really focus on quality."

Garzelli's chief rival and defending Giro champion Gilberto Simoni (Saeco) rode a steady tempo on last climb and lost nearly 22 minutes. Simoni may be behind on prep for Giro but says he is still feeling good. This may indicate that Simoni is serious about going to the Tour de France with good legs, aiming for a peak in form later in the Giro than in previous years.

Enough bad luck for Nazon

French sprinter Jean-Patrick Nazon, winner of the final stage of the Tour de France in Paris last year, has decided he's had enough bad luck during this classics season. The Ag2r-Prévoyance rider is hoping for a turnaround at Thursday's Grand Prix de Denain, run in similar territory as Paris-Roubaix but without the emphasis on the pavé.

"It's a flat race, so a lot of riders have ambitions," Nazon told l'Equipe. "You can't get fooled by a breakaway. But if it finishes in a sprint, we have our chances."

Nazon suffered a poorly-timed puncture before the Oude Kwaremont in the Tour of Flanders, a bout of conjunctivitis which forced him out of Gent-Wevelgem, a cold before the GP Pino Cerami, but finally finished Paris-Roubaix. "It was important for me," he said of Roubaix. "My family was waiting in the velodrome, and it's good experience for the years to come. Nazon finished 88th, half an hour behind race winner Magnus Bäcksted.

Nazon's last victory was the opening road stage of this year's Critérium International.

Australian masters championships

Sydney, Australia is set to play host to more than 300 competitors for the 2004 Australian Masters Road & Track Cycling Championships from April 18-24. Cyclists from Australia and New Zealand will line up in a host of track events at Dunc Gray Velodrome including individual pursuits, time trials, teams sprint and scratch races. The track events will run from April 18-20.

The competition moves onto the road with the road races on April 21-23 at Landsdowne Park, the individual time trial on April 22nd at the Sydney International Regatta Centre at Penrith Lakes and the criterium on April 24th at the Dunc Gray Velodrome circuit.

Favourites for gold in the men's events are dual 2004 masters sprint world champion, Geoff Stoker, 2003 Australian men's masters cyclist of the year, Ron Boyle, who claimed two gold and set a new masters best time at last year's world championships, and Dennis Fahey, the 2004 individual pursuit masters world champion.

In the women's racing Lorraine Schutz, a dual gold medallist at the 2004 world championships, will be hard to beat on the road. Further details are available on the CNSW web site:

Tour of Hope: Two wheel inspiration

Join the 2004 Tour of Hope Team of Twenty

By Tim Maloney, European Editor

Looking for twenty
Photo ©: Tour of Hope

Hope can be defined as a theological virtue as the desire and search for a future good, difficult but not impossible to attain with God's help. In the case of the Tour of Hope, cancer survivor and five time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong is involved with this week-long journey across America by 20 cyclists, chosen from the cancer community that Armstrong and Bristol-Myers Squibb hope will inspire and inform people about the importance of participating in cancer research. As in 2003, the 20 riders will ride over 100 miles a day for eight days this October from Los Angeles to Washington, DC.

The Tour of Hope Team will be organized into smaller teams that will ride each stage together. Each team member will participate in an individualized 16-week training regimen developed by Lance Armstrong's coach Chris Carmichael. In addition to their cycling adventure, team members will also have the opportunity to share their personal stories with the media and audiences along the route, bringing life to the importance of cancer research.

Research is our hope for the future. The nearly nine million cancer survivors living in America today are a testament to the miracle of cancer research. Cancer research offers the ultimate miracle—the cure. Hundreds of potential new treatments could become the next cutting-edge therapies. More people are needed to participate in clinical trials so these therapies can become life saving cures. Bristol-Myers Squibb is a leader in discovering innovative therapies to treat cancer and provided the medicines that helped Lance Armstrong beat his cancer.

You can join them and help fight cancer. Lance Armstrong and the Tour of Hope are still searching for "20 outstanding men and women" to ride across America this fall and help the search for a cure for cancer. The application deadline for the 2004 Tour of Hope Team of Twenty has been extended until Tuesday, April 20th. Check the Tour Of Hope website for more details. Each of the 2004 Tour of Hope Team of Twenty members will participate in an personalized 16-week training program devised by Chris Carmichael of Carmichael Training Systems, better known as Lance Armstrong's coach.

Although some cynics may dismiss the Tour of Hope as a commercial for Bristol-Myers Squibb, talking with Bart Knaggs of Capital Sports & Entertainment will quickly change your mind. Knaggs, one of Armstrong's business associates, might be familiar to readers of Armstrong's recent book. But Knaggs participated in last year's Tour of Hope as one of the group of twenty-six cyclists for anything but prurient commercial reasons; his younger brother David was in a desperate struggle against cancer and Knaggs told Cyclingnews that this was what inspired him to take part in the Tour of Hope.

"There are three types of people that become involved with the Tour of Hope," explained Knaggs. "The cancer survivors, who believe anything is possible, the cancer caregivers, who understand how important it is to spread the message of cancer research and prevention, and the nurses doctors and cancer researchers who live with cancer every day."

Knaggs and Williams
Photo ©: Tour of Hope

Besides the obvious inspiration of Lance Armstrong, Knaggs also singled out inspirational cancer survivors like Ron Williams and Jodi Gold. Ron is a para-Olympian and cancer survivor who lost his right leg to bone cancer at 15 and Jodi Gold is a marketing executive for Hilton Hotels who had an inoperable brain tumor but was cured with drugs in a clinical trial.

"When I met people like Ron and Jackie, I was inspired myself to do the Tour Of Hope. It was really helpful for me to have this outlet to direct my anxiety over my little brothers fight with cancer and feel like I could do something myself to help fight it," said Knaggs.

After his transcontinental travel via the Tour Of Hope, Knaggs felt a catharsis as the group arrived in Washington, DC. "After 3,200 miles in seven days non-stop, we rode the last forty miles into Washington with Lance, the US Surgeon General and the CEO of Bristol-Myers Squibb among others." Knaggs related his 'ah-ha' moment when he "realized then that I was making a difference in the fight against cancer by participating in the Tour Of Hope. The right people were getting the message, the right people were working to get everyone together to find a cure for cancer."

As Knaggs and the other 25 riders arrived at the finish in the US capital, it all came together for him. "It was such an emotional moment for all of us... We were all crying and I slowed down because I didn't want it to end. It was a moment that the Tour Of Hope was filled with magic and we all knew that we had give our all to promote cancer research, promote cancer survivorship and lead in the fight to find a cure."

Regrettably, Bart Knaggs' brother David passed away late last year and Knaggs remains a strong advocate for the Tour of Hope to continue to inform and inspire in the fight against cancer.

"I encourage interested people to go to the website and sign up," says Knaggs. "We only have 20 spots but we really want the twenty best people to participate." The deadline for sign-up to join the 2004 Tour of Hope Team of Twenty is Tuesday, April 20th, so don't delay if you want to inspire yourself and others to join the fight against cancer.

Dick Lane Velodrome update

The month of March has brought several major developments for the East Point Velodrome Association (EPVA), which operates the Dick Lane Velodrome near Atlanta, Georgia. The EPVA has been in the process of securing funding for major renovations for the velodrome, which it will assume operational control via a long-term lease from the City of East Point. Efforts to secure donors and sponsors for the EPVA are starting to bear fruit, and the EPVA has announced two major fundraising efforts for May.

eBay benefit Auction: The EPVA will be holding a benefit auction on eBay from May 19-25. Cycling-related items will be auctioned off, including a copy of the 2003 Sports Illustrated "Sportsman of the Year - Lance Armstrong" issue autographed by the Armstrong himself. Check the EPVA website at for an auction flyer and further details as items are added to the auction.

Lenox Square Spin-a-Thon: The EPVA's other May event will be a Spin-a-Thon, in conjunction with The Forum Athletic Club. On May 15th, local cyclists are invited to help the EPVA Spin to Win. There will be prizes for the largest single donation, the largest number of donors, and most importantly, the largest team presence. This is a chance to put your club or team in front of a large audience, and claim bragging rights for the most team spirit. Sign up at the EPVA website and download the pledge form (

The EPVA is also pleased to announce the arrival of its "Velodrome Angel", who has stepped forward and committed to match all donations (up to $50,000 total) that the EPVA receives from March 23rd on. This means that the EPVA is now only $75,000 away from commencing repairs to the facility and now is the time to donate, as donations will be matched dollar for dollar. The EPVA is a registered 501c3 Non-Profit Corporation, and all donations to the EPVA are tax deductible.

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