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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for April 21, 2004

Edited by Chris Henry

Bettini extends

Italian national champion, two-time World Cup series winner, and Cyclingnews diarist has inked a deal to remain with Quick.Step-Davitamon for another two seasons. Bettini and team manager Patrick Lefevere signed the contract Tuesday in Belgium.

"We're very satisfied with the agreement we reached," Lefevere commented. "Bettini is the best rider of the group for one day races, and a guarantee for the team."

Bettini too expressed his satisfaction with Quick.Step, which he joined after riding for Lefevere on the former Mapei squad.

"I had a fantastic year in 2003 with this team," Bettini said. "I integrated myself with a very professional group which has allowed me to work at my best. Working in this kind of environment is the first step to reaching very big results."

Verbrugghe back for Ardennes

It's been some time since Belgian Rik Verbrugghe (Lotto-Domo) tasted big success. The 2001 winner of Flèche Wallonne has struggled through several seasons of injury and illness, but hopes to once more be approaching his best form for the remaining Ardennes classics. The Vuelta a Aragon provided new hope for Verbrugghe, who could re-emerge as a team leader after several seasons on the sidelines.

"I'm ready for the two Wallonne classics," he told Cyclingnews before the race start in Charleroi. "I rode the Vuelta a Aragon and the condition was as good as I hoped. Now I hope it's also good for the Wallonne classics."

Grateful for continued support from his team, Verbrugghe is ready to repay the confidence of his directors- and his fans.

"Even in the toughest moments I kept my morale," Verbrugghe commented in La Dernière Heure earlier this week. "I know it will pay off soon. I'm coming into good condition. I wouldn't say I'm going to win since I'm not yet at my 2001 level, but I'm not far either."

Wallonne weather

The riders of the 68th Flèche Wallonne classic took to the start in Charleroi, Belgium under hospitable weather conditions. The temperature was 12 degrees when the race got under way with cloudy skies and wind from the south.

Cyclingnews' Live coverage of Flèche Wallonne begins at 14:30 CEST.

Start list

Raimbaud steps down

Philippe Raimbaud, director of the French Brioches La Boulangère team, has decided to step down from the post and leave the operations of the team in the hands of his longtime collaborator Jean-René Bernaudeau. The announcement of the decision follows a resignation from the French professional team association AC 2000. Raimbaud and Bernaudeau spent 15 years working together on a project which began as the Vendée U amateur squad and later grew into the Bonjour and subsequent La Boulangère professional teams.

"Philippe Raimbaud has decided to take a step back and leave the management of the team to Jean-René Bernaudeau," a team statement read. "The two men have reached an agreement to ensure a smooth transition in the coming weeks."

While disagreements are said to have emerged between the two in recent months, La Boulangère president Alain Fadié expressed some surprise at the decision. "Both of them created something fantastic and we've become a part of it," he said. "I didn't find out until today that things weren't going well. Now I want to see what that consequences of this decision will be."

Moncoutié keeps faith

Despite interest on the part of the Belgian Mr. Bookmaker-Palmans team, French climber David Moncoutié insists that he has no intention of separating from the Cofidis team. Moncoutié is often considered a mainstay of the team and an ideal image of a clean professional by Cofidis management, and while he is currently prevented from competing due to the team's voluntary suspension of all racing, he has not lost faith in a turn for the better.

"I don't see myself going anywhere," Moncoutié commented in La Dépêche du Midi. "I was never commented by Mr. Bookmaker as was said... It's with [Cofidis] that I want to continue."

Admitting some surprise at the scope of the ongoing doping affair surrounding the team, and the allegations of former teammate Philippe Gaumont about practices within the team, Moncoutié offers no excuses for those who decide to take drugs.

"Everyone who dopes does it with consent," he said simply. "In any case, it's the rider who's responsible. Nobody's required [to dope].

"After the Cofidis affair, I hope things will be even better," he added, referring to some improvement having been made in the wake of the 1998 Festina scandal. "It's best not to generalise. I think that the cases being talked about are extremes, and people tend to focus on the worst."

Beloki to Languedoc-Roussillon

It's been a less than perfect start for Joseba Beloki in his first season with Brioches La Boulangère, forced to withdraw from a series of spring races as a result of poor form and continued complications from tendinitis and rehabilitation from his season-ending crash in last year's Tour de France. As the 2004 Tour looms on the not too distant horizon, Beloki has begun to augment his racing schedule, adding the newly dubbed Tour du Languedoc-Roussillon stage race, the reincarnation of the Grand Prix du Midi Libre.

Beloki will line up in France for Languedoc-Roussillon (May 19-23), which will feature five road stages in five days. Beloki will also come across his top Tour de France rival Lance Armstrong, who after deciding to enter the Dauphiné Libéré in June has also added Languedoc-Roussillon to his preparation. Armstrong won the race in 2002.

Time out for Zberg

Beat Zberg (Gerolsteiner) will face at least two months out of racing following his crash in last Sunday's Amstel Gold Race. Zberg went down heavily and fractured his kneecap. He will miss major races in his home country of Switzerland, notably the Tour de Romandie and the Tour de Suisse, and could be out of the Tour de France as well.

Nazon coming back

Crédit Agricole's Damien Nazon is back in training, hoping to overcome continued difficulties from an early season ankle injury. Nazon crashed in his first race of the year, the Doha International Grand Prix in Qatar, and has abandoned the only two other races he's done this year: Classic Haribo and Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne. Nazon is on the bike and hoping to return to competition at the Tour de Picardie in mid-May.

More Giro drug tests

Organisers of the Giro d'Italia, the first grand tour of the season, have announced plans for ever more drug controls during the three week event. The Giro, which begins in Genova on May 8, will include up to 150 random tests in addition to the UCI testing procedures already in place. The race will also rely on urine samples to detect the use of EPO, based on a testing procedure developed in Australia.

Cyclo-cross World Cup

The UCI has formally announced the dates and venues for the 2004-2005 cyclo-cross World Cup. Among other changes, the UCI is looking to increase the number of competitions in the World Cup in the coming seasons. The new series will begin October 10 in Belgium and wrap up in mid-February in France.

National championships will beheld on January 9th, while the 2005 world championships will be held in St. Wendel, Germany on January 29-30.

2004-2005 Cyclo-cross World Cup:

Round 1 - October 10: Wortegem-Petegem (Belgium)
Round 2 - October 28: Tabor (Czech Republic)
Round 3 - November 14: Pijnacker (Netherlands)
Round 4 - November 27: Koksijde (Belgium)
Round 5 - December 5: Wetzikon (Switzerland)
Round 6 - December 8: Milan (Italy)
Round 7 - December 28: Hofstade (Belgium)
Round 8 - January 2: Aigle (Switzerland)
Round 9 - January 16: Nommay (France)
Round 10 - January 23: Hoogerheide (Netherlands)
Round 11 - February 13: Lanarvilly (France)


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