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Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

First Edition Cycling News for April 17, 2004

Edited by Chris Henry

Saeco dissatisfied with Pieri

Pieri on notice
Photo ©: Cyclingnews

The Italian Saeco team issued a strongly worded statement Friday in response to reports of classics specialist Dario Pieri's groin injury, an abscess developed after Paris-Roubaix, for which he underwent surgery this week in Pisa. Pieri, second in last year's edition of Paris-Roubaix, has had a lacklustre spring classics campaign, which his team attributes to more than an unfortunate injury.

"From the beginning of the season during the first team training camps, the team has notified Dario Pieri that he was over weight due to the poor managing of his diet and of a general damaging lifestyle not suited to the needs of a professional cyclist," the team statement read. "For this reason Pieri has been verbally warned several times and a sent a registered letter by team manager Claudio Corti on March 22."

Concerning Pieri's abscess, worsened after Sunday's Paris-Roubaix, the team insists that he did not adequately attend to the problem of a saddle sore in 2003, allowing the problem to grow more severe. Pieri mentioned that the problem had returned in this year's Three Days of De Panne, after which he was treated by the team's medical staff. He rode the Tour of Flanders, and although team doctors say he did not carefully follow their prescribed treatment, Pieri indicated he was ready for Paris-Roubaix.

"Since our doctors had not noticed an abnormal evolution of the inflammation or the rider having shown signs of worry, his participation at Paris-Roubaix was never questioned, even though the team staff knew that his precarious fitness would not have allowed Pieri to be competitive. The sensational declarations made by Dario Pieri [after Paris-Roubaix] seem mainly a strategy to distract attention away from the real problem of this rider: his incapacity to lead the life style of a true professional rider.

The team also noted that Pieri must "accept full responsibility for his affirmations," and that Saeco reserves every right to make decisions regarding Pieri's contractual position with the team.

Pieri himself issued a statement Friday both to downplay statements printed in the Italian paper La Repubblica, which quoted the rider as saying his physical condition was severe enough to have threatened his life at Paris-Roubaix. Pieri commented Friday that he did not say his life had been threatened, and furthermore he would undergo additional examination Tuesday at the suggestion of Doctor Marco Pallini.

Pieri acknowledged that his early season preparation was based on a good performance at Paris-Roubaix, but insists that he can regain the confidence of his directors and sponsors at later rounds of the World Cup such as the HEW Cyclassics in Germany and Paris-Tours in France, as well as set his sights on the Italian national championships and stage victories at the Tour de France.

Bettini back for Amstel

After a short break from competition following the Tour of Flanders, Italian champion Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step-Davitamon) will be back in action at Sunday's Amstel Gold Race. Last season Bettini missed Amstel Gold, Flèche Wallonne, and Liège-Bastogne-Liège- a race he has won twice before- due to injuries sustained in a crash in Gent-Wevelgem. This year, the defending World Cup champion is ready to make amends.

"This time last year I was at home with an arm and shoulder support after a fall during the Gent-Wevelgem," Bettini explained. "This past I've trained well with my teammates [Luca] Paolini and [Davide] Bramati, who joined me in Tuscany for a brief training stage along with our team trainer Luca Guercilena and masseur Stefano Cerea.

"We did some intense training with sessions lasting even up to seven and a half hours," he added. "I am feeling good. We'll have to watch out for the Dutch riders, especially those of the Rabobank team. The Amstel Gold Race is like the world championships for them. There are also lots of others to compete with too. As always, this will be a very tough race that is hard to forecast the winner”

For Quick.Step and most teams in the peloton, rosters at Amstel Gold Race represent a transition from the true Flemish classics of the previous weeks to the hillier Ardennes classics around the corner.

Quick.Step-Davitamon for Amstel Gold Race: Paolo Bettini, Davide Bramati, Pedro Horrillo, Luca Paolini, Michael Rogers, Bram Tankink, Jurgen Van Goolen, Stefano Zanini.

Alessio-Bianchi for Amstel

On the heels of Magnus Bäcksted's big win at Paris-Roubaix, a confident Alessio-Bianchi team will line up at the Amstel Gold Race with its roster for the Ardennes classics. Andrea Tafi will still figure in the team, but new faces will arrive including Cristian Moreni and Franco Pellizotti. Bäcksted has earned a break from competition, but the big Swede will be back in the peloton in Denmark in May.

Alessio-Bianchi for Amstel Gold Race: Alessandro Bertolini, Ruslan Ivanov, Cristian Moreni, Vladimir Miholjevic, Andrea Noé, Franco Pellizotti, Ellis Rastelli, Andrea Tafi.

Cyclingnews will be covering the 39th Amstel Gold Race live from start to finish. Coverage starts at 10:15 CEST (Europe)/4:15 EDT (USA East)/1:15 PDT (USA West)/18:15 AEST (Australia East).

Main page
Map and time schedule
Start list

Mr. Bookmaker bids on Moncoutié

The Mr. Bookmaker-Palmans team has expressed interest in Cofidis climber David Moncoutié as a team leader for the Belgian Division I outfit. Currently the team counts just six non-Belgians in its ranks, including British riders Roger Hammond and Jeremy Hunt, Australian Ben Day, and Frenchmen Frédéric Gabriel, Philippe Koehler, and Eddy Lembo. The team's management, however, is interested in changing the demographics of its roster.

"The main goal of Mr. Bookmaker is to become a true Franco-Belgian team," directeur sportif Hilaire Van Der Schueren said in a written release Friday, adding that he was looking for an even split of French and Belgian riders.

"Moncoutié as a leader, surrounding by young French hopefuls, is a configuration that would please my sponsors," Van Der Schueren added.

He indicated his intention to ask Cofidis if the team would allow Moncoutié to leave, but the French team will likely be less willing to see its star French rider go than world champion Igor Astarloa. Cofidis president François Migraine has said on occasion that if he could have ten Moncoutiés, he would. No doubt the team is not eager to see its riders begin to jump ship as a result of its stop in competition, but manager Alain Bondue has acknowledged that Astarloa could likely be given more freedom given his status as reigning world champion.

Verbruggen rejects Pro Tour critiques

UCI President Hein Verbruggen has rejected notions put forth by Brioches La Boulangère director Philippe Raimbaud that the planned Pro Tour initiative should be put on hold pending further efforts in the fight against doping in the sport. Raimbaud, who recently resigned his post as president of AC 2000, the association of French professional teams, expressed concerns about the UCI's focus in an open letter to the international professional team association (AIGCP).

Raimbaud objects
Photo ©: AFP

"I believe in the necessity for reform, but we can't act as if nothing is happening in cycling," Raimbaud wrote, noting what he considered a lack of ethical criteria outlined in the Pro Tour charter.

"I'm convinced about the objective of the Pro Tour, but to talk right now about the number of points to be assigned to the Tour of Germany or Flèche Wallonne is crazy when at the same time people are telling horrible stories- whether true or false- to the newspapers."

Raimbaud's concerns, however, fell on deaf ears with UCI president Verbruggen, who called the current 'panic' in France pathetic.

"This letter leaves me perplexed," Verbruggen said, quoted in Friday's l'Equipe. "What does Mr. Raimbaud want to accomplish? What would stopping the Pro Tour do? I don't know."

Verbruggen's take on the escalating doping scandals in France was equally frank. "In fact it's in France that we're finding that even the French have been doping, when just before I was hearing about a cycling at two speeds."

Verbruggen concluded by saying the UCI would be prepared on Thursday to introduce the ethical criteria to be included in the new Pro Tour, "and we'll be very firm on the subject," he said.

French support home dope tests

FFC's Pitallier
Photo ©: AFP

French cycling federation (FFC) president Jean Pitallier held his 'round table' discussion Friday with various representatives from France's professional teams, race organisers, and the federation. The meeting, held at the FFC's headquarters in Rosny-sous-Bois, France, was called by Pitallier with some urgency in the wake of the widening drug scandal surrounding the Cofidis team, which pulled itself from competition on the eve of Paris-Roubaix one week ago.

Among the topics discussed was the possibility of unannounced drug controls at riders' home, something currently prohibited under French law. At a meeting of French riders last week in Rennes, members of the peloton voiced their support for the idea, as well as other propositions, such as holding all training camps during the season (from April to September) within France, to accommodate random tests. Pitallier noted that the riders also favoured stiffer sanctions for doping offenses.

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