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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

First Edition Cycling News for February 1, 2004

Edited by Jeff Jones

European calendar opens in Mallorca

The European road season officially opens on Sunday, February 1 with the 13th edition of the Challenge Illes Balears (Vuelta a Mallorca). This five race series is ridden as five separate UCI 1.3 races, with points on offer for each one. There is also a final general classification, but there are no UCI points on offer for this as it is not compulsory to start each stage.

The Challenge will see many of the top Europeans stretch their legs for the first time this season, with the likes of Erik Zabel (T-Mobile), Oscar Freire (Rabobank) and Alejandro Valverde (Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme) riders to watch in the bunch sprints. Johan Museeuw (Quick.Step) will start his final season as a pro in Mallorca while the first ever Baleares professional team, Illes Balears-Banesto, including Antonio Colom, José Luis Arrieta and Aitor Osa, will take part in the Challenge.

The racing will commence with a short 82.5 kilometre stage in Palma, held on a flat circuit traditionally suited to the sprinters. Stage 2 from Alcudia to Port d'Alcudia (159 km) includes the first mountain in the race, the Cat. 2 Col d'Honor (558m) which comes after 69 km. The third stage from Soller to Port de Sóller (150 km) is the toughest on paper, and features four Cat. 2 climbs with the Coll de Puig Major (871m) coming with just 6.8 km to go.

Stage 4 is another one for the sprinters, taking them 160 km from Calabona to Manacor. Only the Cat. 4 climb of Son Tovell with 18 km to go will disrupt the rhythm of the peloton. The final stage is from Magaluf to Palmanova over 149.3 km, and is dotted with Cat. 2 and Cat. 3 climbs (five in total).

The teams

Team CSC
Euskaltel Euskadi
Illes Balears-Banesto
Comunidad Valenciana - Kelme
Café Baqué
Liberty Seguros
Costa Almeria-Paternina
Phonak Hearing Systems
Saunier Duval-Prodir
Spanish track team
British track team
Team Wiesenhof

The stages

Stage 1 - February 1: Palma-Palma, 82.5 km
Stage 2 - February 2: Alcudia-Port d'Alcudia, 159 km
Stage 3 - February 3: Soller-Port de Sóller, 150.6 km
Stage 4 - February 4: Calabona-Manacor, 159.8 km
Stage 5 - February 5: Magaluf-Palmanova, 149.3 km

UCI Pro Tour takes shape

By Jeff Jones and Chris Henry

The UCI is moving forward with its plan to reform cycling, with the introduction of the "Pro Tour" - a series of approximately 30 races that are accessible to the top 20 teams, with other teams able to take part subject to invitation by the organisers. The Pro Tour will include Grand Tours, World Cups, Hors Categorie and other top level races.

The current system of x.1, x.2, x.3 etc. races will be compressed. 1.1 and 2.1 races will become "Hors Classe", 1.2, 1.3, 2.2 and 2.3 races will become "Class 1", and the remainder (1.5, 1.6, 1.7, 2.5, 2.6, 2.7) will become "Class 2" under the new scheme. These non-Pro Tour events will be grouped into "Continental Circuits", the details of which are to be finalised.

There will be five levels of teams, starting with the 20 "top level professional teams", which have the option of applying for a four year license, thereby ensuring they keep their spots in the top club. According to the UCI, licences will be granted on sporting, ethical, legal and financial grounds.

The next tier will be the "professional teams", which will undergo an annual audit by the UCI to determine their eligibility for this status. Tier three is made up of the "continental teams", which are "professional and non-professional structures recognised by the national federation of the country." Each national federation can register up to 15 continental teams of between 8 and 16 athletes, all aged under 28 years.

The fourth level is that of the "national teams", which will be similar to the current system of national teams. However, the UCI intends to raise their status by giving them "a central role in continental circuits."

Finally there are the "regional and club teams" which will have access, to a limited extent, to races on continental circuits.

The UCI will evaluate the potential Pro Tour races in 2004, and make a decision at the end of September as to which events will make the cut.

Daniel Majewski freed

Polish semi-professional Daniel Majewski has been freed by French police, two days after his arrest last Wednesday in Limoux. Majewski was questioned over his relationship with Cofidis soigneur Bogdan Madejak, as part of the widening investigation into the trafficking of banned substances by past and present members of the Cofidis team.

Verbrugghe to miss Qatar

Rik Verbrugghe (Lotto-Domo) has not started his 2004 season on a high note, being forced to miss the Doha International Grand Prix and the Tour of Qatar due to an injured knee. It's expected that Verbrugghe will start in the Etoile des Bessèges on February 4.

Deutschland Tour to start in Karlsruhe

The 28th edition of the Deutschland Tour (Tour of Germany) will begin on May 31 in Karlsruhe with a 23 km time trial, the organisers announced at a press conference last week. The rest of the route has yet to be unveiled, but the seven stage race will certainly travel through Austria, the Czech Republic and the Erzgebirge before finishing on June 6 in Leipzig. It's likely that the toughest stage will start in Kulmsbach and finish on top of the 1214m high Gipfel.

The Deutschland Tour will serve as one of Jan Ullrich's final preparation races before the Tour de France. Ullrich finished fifth in the race in 2003, and went onto place second in the Tour.

USADA unveils new anti-doping campaign

The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) has unveiled a series of six public service announcements to combat doping entitled, "My health. My sport. My victory. I compete clean." The announcements will feature seven athletes who are 2004 Olympic hopefuls, including a pair of past Olympic medal winners.

"These public service announcements were developed to showcase athletes, who work hard, elect not to use performance enhancing substances and compete with the spirit of the sport in mind," said USADA's CEO Terry Madden. "We anticipate that these PSAs provide an encouraging message to athletes of all ages and abilities throughout the nation that you can succeed and live a healthier life without the use of performance enhancing drugs. The relationship between an athlete and sport is special and worth protecting."

The athletes include track cyclist Giddeon Massie, shot putter John Godina, weightlifter Tara Cunningham, softball pitcher Jennie Finch, kayakers Jeannie and Marie Mijalis and archer Guy Krueger. Godina collected a bronze medal at the 2000 Olympics and a silver medal at the 1996 Olympics, while Cunningham won a gold medal in the women's weightlifting competition in 2000.

"I believe in what USADA is doing," commented Massie. "It is unfortunate that some athletes are taking the "easy" road to become successful. I thought it (PSA) would be a wonderful opportunity for a hard working and dedicated athlete to speak out. I am hopeful that this message will impact young athletes, so they can see that it is possible to reach the world class level by working hard and staying focused.

"Last summer, I won a silver and bronze medal at the Pan American Games. The athlete that beat me in those two events tested positive for a banned substance, which in turn allowed me to receive the gold and silver medals, respectively. There is no greater feeling in sport then winning or achieving your goals than knowing that you put in the time and hard work and that it has paid off."

106th Austral Wheelrace

Darren Young
Photo: © Mikkeli Godfree
Click for larger image

The world's oldest track cycling event, the Austral Wheelrace, will be staged for the 106th time on Saturday February 7 at Vodafone Arena, Melbourne. The Austral is widely regarded as Australia's greatest track cycling event, with competitors including Sid Patterson, Russell Mockridge, Danny Clarke, Brett Aitken, Gary Neiwand and Shane Kelly.

The Austral Wheelrace is a handicap cycling race, where riders are handicapped according to ability over a series of heats and finals run over a distance of 2000m. Whilst the advantage is provided to the lesser riders, the quality of the field means that it is traditionally won from the back marks.

This year's 150 plus field includes Shane Kelly and Brett Aitken, as well as Darren Young, the winner of the last two Australs and the only rider to achieve back to back wins. The night will also feature the Victorian Under 19 Keirin Championship featuring Daniel Thorsen, medallist at the 2003 Junior World Championships and Shane Perkins, 2003 Junior World Championships representative and National Champion. Other support events include the Aces Scratch Race, the women's handicap, and a special event featuring Brett Aitken and Shane Kelly.

Tickets are available from Ticketek from $20. Doors open at 5.30pm, and racing starts at 7pm.

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