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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for February 3, 2004

Edited by Chris Henry

McEwen dreams of Milan-San Remo

Robbie McEwen left Australia after the Tour Down Under on a different flight than his Lotto team-mates but realizes he is the one they count on to make the Tour of Qatar a success. The Australian sprinter started his season well with two stage wins in the six day event.

"They told me that all the stages will finish in a sprint here," Robbie McEwen told La Dernière Heure, speaking about the Tour of Qatar. "Plus, it's good for me that I can cut the long journey from Australia to Belgium in half, which means less of a time difference to deal with; not that I ever suffer from jet-lag. Arriving in Doha, I've put my watch on Qatar time immediately, and I have slept my eight hours straight right away."

Asked about his rivals in this race; McEwen makes it clear that he doesn't fear Belgian Tom Boonen, who besides being the country's next big hope for the classics has also shown that he can hold his own in a bunch sprint.

"Boonen is quick, but you can't say he's a born sprinter," McEwen said about the Quick.Step-Davitamon rider. "I think that he has the ability to rank amongst the first three in a big sprint, when the circumstances are favourable, but winning is another matter, even with Zanini there to lead him out! Well, maybe I'm a bit quick saying this because anything can happen really in a mass sprint.

"My season has started really well, with two wins in the Tour Down Under, and that makes me believe that I can relive the good season I had in 2002. I hope to add more flowers to it here in Qatar. In Australia I really went well... I finished well placed in all but one stage.

"2002 was exceptional," McEwen added. "To keep going at that pace would have been a miracle. But hey, the most important is that I am back. People always talk to me about the green jersey in the Tour, as if that is my only objective. In reality, I have the habit of focusing on a longer period of good form instead of targeting one event in particular. From now until mid-April I will gain in strength. Milan-San Remo is also a race that I have to be able to win. One day, luck will smile at me on the Via Roma..."

De Clercq questioned again

On Tuesday morning, cyclo-cross star Mario De Clercq (silver medal in Pont-Château) had to present himself in the office of the federal police in Kortrijk, Belgium, once again concerning the investigation into the practices of veterinarian José Landuyt and soigneur Herman Versele. De Clercq was asked to appear there to receive the results of the blood and urine samples that were taken last September.

According to De Clercq all results were negative. "I knew that already for over four months," De Clercq told the Belgian press, but he refused to comment further. The court in Kortrijk has announced that the whole investigation will conclude in a few weeks, at which point it will be decided who will face prosecution.

Earlier reports had indicated that a diary was seized in which Mario De Clercq meticulously noted down all the medication he took.

Baal worried for cycling

Former director of cycling at the Amaury Sport Organisation Daniel Baal has declared himself concerned for cycling's future following the recent wave of arrests and interrogations surrounding members past and present of the Cofidis team. Baal, in an interview with French newspaper Le Monde, noted that he was worried about the continued problems with doping and cycling's lack of professionalism.

"This [Cofidis] affair is very damaging for cycling," Baal said. "I'm worried for the sport's future."

Baal noted that the current law in France which protects medical privacy is a barrier to proper testing and doping controls out of competition. He indicated a particular concern over riders who "disappear to who knows where" in June, a month before the Tour de France, presumably to train with the aid of banned substances, out of the line of sight of doping controls. The return to competition of riders implicated in doping offenses also perturbs Baal.

"Cycling was to be managed in a more professional manner," he said. "I find it scandalous that a rider like Frank Vandenbroucke, who has appeared often in doping investigations, can find a place in the world's top-ranked team [Fassa Bortolo]."

Ullrich on the mend

Jan Ullrich has recovered completely of the cold he suffered from since Mallorca, and has planned another training camp; this time to the Italian Tuscan area. Ullrich's teammate Tobias Steinhauser and personal trainer Rudi Pevenage are joining him.

The former Tour de France winner will stay in Italy for three weeks and will start his first race in the Tour of Murcia, where he will meet Tour de France rival Lance Armstrong.

Clarke and O' Loughlin Honoured

By Tommy Campbell, Irish Independent, Evening Herald, Sunday Independent

Raymond Clarke and Martin O' Loughlin were among the award winners at the Tipperary Sports Star Awards for 2003 which were presented at the annual gala dinner in Clonmel, Ireland on Saturday night. Bulmers Limited Stars from twelve sports were honoured by the United Sports Panel in the 39th edition of the awards.

Clarke received the cycling award in recognition of his bronze medal in the keirin event on the track in the B World Championships in Aigle, Switzerland, along with his three golds and a silver medal in the Irish national track championships. In 2003, he became the first cyclist to represent Ireland in all three disciplines of road, track and mountain bike. Unfortunately, a delayed ferry crossing from his training base in Newport, Wales meant that Clarke was too late to collect the award personally. His mother Margaret received the award in his absence.

Martin O' Loughlin received the sports executive award following a season that, in his own words, "didn't go to plan". A broken elbow and collarbone in February curtailed his racing ambitions. At the last minute, he was asked to manage the Team Ireland in the four day Ras Mumhan. This led to his appointment to the Cycling Ireland High Performance Commission and as manager to the Irish road teams in the B World's in Switzerland where Ireland secured two places in the Olympic Games.

His experience in managing the Irish U23 team in the European Championships in Athens was recognized when the board of Cycling Ireland appointed him to the post of Olympic manager, following the resignation of Philip Collins. In between these administrative functions, O' Loughlin also managed to race himself, and picked up two All-Ireland team gold medals in the national road race and time trial championships.

Change of plans for Lecaër

In light of an 11th hour disagreement, female downhill mountain bike rider Nolwenn Lecaër will not join Team Lapierre International, as previously reported.

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