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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for February 10, 2004

Edited by Chris Henry

Saiz supports Pro Tour plan

Spanish team director Manolo Saiz, who this year embarks on a new chapter in his career with Liberty Seguros following the end of ONCE-Eroski's sponsorship, supports the UCI's initiative for a new Pro Tour concept to debut in 2005. With 20 teams destined to be selected for the elite Pro Tour level of competitions, Saiz is pleased to see a distinction made between large and small budget teams. With selection to the grand tours increasingly important for a team's survival, Saiz hopes to see only the best teams- with the biggest sponsorship support- competing in the most visible races.

Implicit in Saiz's support of the Pro Tour is the notion that the debate over wild card selections for national tours will be lessened, and concerns that teams selected by the organisers will be selected on merit more than national origin.

"If, for example, the Pro Tour is comprised of twenty teams and the Vuelta takes twenty two teams, there will still be two wild cards," Saiz explained in an interview in Tuesday's l'Equipe. "If, after the twenty teams of the Pro Tour there are no more places for other teams, there are no more places. I can't say that a team that has invested one tenth of what we've invested should be at the start of the same race.

"You have to know what you want," Saiz insisted. "If you want the Vuelta to become a regional race, then [continue to accept smaller teams].

Saiz has enjoyed a good start to the season with his new sponsor, with young Australian Allan Davis taking two sprint victories at the Challenge Illes Balears. With Roberto Heras signed as team leader (ostensibly replacing Joseba Beloki), Saiz once more has his eyes set on the Tour de France, and certainly a place among the top twenty teams of the proposed Pro Tour.

Cipollini at Tour Med, Piil out

Former world champion Mario Cipollini has confirmed his presence at the upcoming Tour Méditerranéen in France, which begins Wednesday, February 11 and wraps up on Sunday the 15th. Cipollini began racing at the Italian season opener last Sunday, the GP Costa degli Etruschi. Despite a fall in the closing kilometres, Cipo escaped essentially unscathed and will look for his first win of the year at the Tour Med.

"The Tour Méditerranéen will allow us to work on the leadout train for Mario in the sprints," Domina Vacanze directeur sportif Antoni Salutini explained. "Our objective for the Tour Med is to win at least one stage."

Cipollini will have faithful leadout man Mario Scirea to count on, as well as his top pilot fish from the Saeco days, Gian Matteo Fagnini, who returns to Cipo's side after several seasons working for Erik Zabel at Telekom.

In the Team CSC camp, Jakob Piil has decided not to race the Tour Med, suffering from a sore throat. He will be replaced by Kurt-Asle Arvesen. Jörg Jaksche is also an unknown, with stomach problems perturbing his preparations.

"[Sunday] night Jörg got a bad stomach, but I've spoken with him today and he's feeling better already," directeur sportif Alain Gallopin explained. A decision on Jaksche's condition is expected Tuesday. If he skips the Tour Med, Jaksche will be replaced by Vladimir Gusev.

Passuello to Amore & Vita

Italian Domenico Passuello has signed a contract for 2004 with the Amore & Vita-Beretta team. Passuello, 26, turned professional in 2002 with Colombia-Selle Italia, then moved on to Quick.Step-Davitamon in 2003, alongside friend and team leader Paolo Bettini. He will ride his first race for Amore & Vita at the Giro dello Provincia di Lucca (February 24-27).

Guimard passes on Palmans offer

French cycling guru Cyrille Guimard has said no thank you to the Belgian Mr Bookmaker-Palmans team, which offered him a post as directeur sportif for the 2004 season. Guimard recently joined the Vélo Club Roubaix amateur team in northern France as an advisor and technical director, and will remain with Roubaix for the coming season.

More racing on the Cauberg

Historic Cauberg climb
Photo ©: Sport-Express

Following the Amstel Gold Race, and previous editions of the World Road Championships, more racing will hit the slopes of the famed Cauberg climb in Valkenberg in the Netherlands this year. The Ster Elektrotoer (June 16-20) will tackle the Cauberg on the third of five stages, after a prologue in Veldhoven. Another climbing stage is also planned in the Belgian Ardennes.

The Ster Elektrotoer organisers hope to profit from a shift in the calendar, placing the race in June rather than its customary September time slot. The most recent World Championships visit to Valkenberg and the Cauberg was in 1998, when the road race was won by Swiss Oscar Camenzind.

Queensland women get team pursuit

As a part of the Gel-Tech Women's Grand Prix Series, eight women took to the track on Saturday, February 7 to participate in Queensland, Australia's first ever team pursuit race for women. In near perfect conditions at the Chandler velodrome in South East Queensland, the 'Marcellettes' women's pursuit team (Liz Young, Wendy Habermann, Liz Lawson and Nicole Hanssen) took on Rockhampton's best and came out winners.

The Marcellettes won the 2000 metre event by over four seconds, and now look forward to the upcoming state championships in March where a 3000 metre pursuit race will be held for women for the first time. The team only began track racing this season, but showed its experience having won the State Road Team Time Trial in 2003.

The Marcellettes are a team of nine Brisbane women cyclists who compete regularly on the road in elite and master events. Seven are competing on the velodrome in the Grand Prix series boosting the number of women racing regularly on the track to over twenty. The Marcellettes credit their coach Marcel Bengtson, who came up with the idea of a women's team pursuit to maintain team unity. Bengtson has been actively supported by Cycling Queensland.

Courtesy of Marcel Bengtson, ACF Cycling Coach

One in, one out at

The women's cycling team has announced that 21 year old Julia Oh will not be racing with the team in 2004 as planned. An American collegiate standout who successfully graduated to USCF elite-level competition in 2003, Oh was expected to be a top sprinter this season, however due to a combination of factors, she has temporarily put cycling on hold.

At the same time, Virginia native Tracy Cundiff joins the team for this season. Cundiff, a third-year racer who is a chef and graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, is an all around rider who has steadily progressed in recent seasons.

2004 Women's Cycling roster:

Tracy Cundiff
Andrea Dvorak
Sarah Faulkner
Magen Long (Associate, races for OBRU/The Bicycle Store)
Jessica Peil
Aimee Vasse

Mexican MTB national series

The full calendar for the Mexican MTB National Series Calendar has been announced. The opening round of the "Copa Jumex Sport" was held in Pachuca, Hidalgo on Saturday, February 7. The rest of the calendar is as follows:

February 7 - XC#1 - Pachuca, Hidalgo
February 22 - DH#1 - Calvillo, Aguascalientes
March 6 - XC#1 - Hermosillo, Sonora (UCI E-2)
March 14 - DH#2 - Morelia, Michoacan
April 3-4 - XC#3, DH#3- Guadalajara, Jalisco
May 1 - XC#4 - Mazatlan, Sinaloa
May 9 - DH#4 - Oaxaca, Oaxaca
June 12-13 XC#5, DH#5- Toluca, Mexico
July 17-18 XC#6, DH#6- Puebla, Puebla
August 14 - XC#7 - Monterrey, Nuevo Leon
August 21 - DH#7 - Mexico City
September 18-19 - XC, DH - Queretaro, Queretaro (National Championships)

For more information see

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