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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

First Edition Cycling News for January 8, 2004

Edited by Jeff Jones

Petacchi and Bettini set goals

Top Italian riders Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) and Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step) have set down their main goals for 2004. The former, who was far and away the best sprinter of 2003, wants to win Milan-San Remo among other goals.

"I want to ride a big Giro d'Italia, my duel with Mario Cipollini in the sprints will be as exciting as the one between Gilberto Simoni, Francesco Casagrande and Dario Frigo in the mountains," Petacchi told RAI radio.

Last year, Petacchi became the first rider since 1958 to win stages in all three grand tours, winning a total of 15 stages in the Giro, Tour and Vuelta. "It will be difficult to repeat that," he continued. "After Milan-San Remo, which remains my principal objective, I will miss the Belgian classics in order to be better prepared for the Giro before putting the cap on for the Tour de France."

Paolo Bettini, who is still smarting from his fourth place at last year's World Championships, says that he will go for the World Cup again. "No-one has ever managed to win it three times in a row, and this will be my absolute priority," said the winner of the 2002 and 2003 World Cup.

This coming Friday, Bettini will be awarded with the Mendrisio d'Oro in Switzerland, in recognition of his achievements in 2003.

Rebellin dreams of Liege

Italian one day specialist Davide Rebellin will be back in action at the latest on February 17 in the Trofeo Laigueglia, with the possibility of starting in the Giro della Liguria (February 12-15). The 32 year old Venetian has his sights set on several races this year, but one he would like to win is Liege-Bastogne-Liege, the World Cup classic where he finished 2nd in 2001 and 3rd in 2000. "Considering everything I would like to take home a World Cup: Above all I'm thinking of Liege," Rebellin was quoted by La Gazzetta dello Sport. In addition to this he wants to try and win the World Championships in Verona. "In the 1999 World's [also in Verona] I had to withdraw due to a fall, but I was in great condition."

Astarloa to aim for World Cup

Spanish World Champion Igor Astarloa intends to aim for the World Cup this year, relying on his abilities as a canny one day rider to try and beat Paolo Bettini at his own game. The newly signed Cofidis rider, Astarloa told Marca that "I'm not a Petacchi, who wins 30 races a year, nor am I as quick as [Oscar] Freire, therefore I am thinking more of the overall classification. But I'm going to be in front and one thing leads to another."

Astarloa also commented on the "curse of the rainbow jersey" which supposedly afflicts wearers of the arc-en-ciel stripes with bad luck for the next season. "The only jinx that could happen is not being able to win anything, everything else is foolishness, save for the fact that they will be watching me now."

In addition to the World Cup, Astarloa is also thinking of the Olympic Games and the World Championships this year.

Casero gets ready

Although he has not officially signed yet for Kelme, Angel Casero is looking forward to joining his new team with plenty of ambition for the coming season. "After the hard year that I've had with the disappearance of Coast, the change to Bianchi and the non-payments, which still need resolving, you can imagine the peace of mind it gives you to sign for a team from your own country," Casero commented to AS. After winning the Vuelta in 2001, "I've had two very difficult years. In 2002, knee problems prevented me from racing the Tour and I couldn't prepare well for the Vuelta, where I was only sixth. And last year the situation with the team went really chaotic. It's hard to be focussed in an environment like that."

As to any potential rivalry between him and the young Alejandro Valverde in Kelme, Casero says that he will leave it up to the director to decide. "Alejandro is a rider with a great future," said Casero. "It will be [DS Vicente] Belda who will decide the strategy. It wouldn't matter to me to help Valverde. The fundamental thing is always the team."

Jayco Bay Classic news - day one

By Karen Forman in Geelong

The Australian Sports Drug Agency swooped on the 2004 Jayco Bay Classic at Geelong yesterday to perform blood and urine tests on a number of athletes. But, as severe as the gentlemen from ASDA appeared as they interviewed riders outside the dining hall at race headquarters at the Mercure Hotel - and even sat inside chaperoning one rider as he ate his evening meal and waited for him to complete a urine test - their actions they say were nothing out of the ordinary. They were simply doing some random drug tests.

ASDA Victorian field coordinator, David Townsend, told Cyclingnews his team had decided to make the most of the opportunity to complete some of the quota of six or seven drug tests they had been set for the sport of cycling for the quarter, because the Jayco series attracted elite international class athletes and was one of the few events of its kind held at home in Australia.

"At an event like this you know there will be a lot of elite athletes who are usually out of the country for long periods of time, so it's a good opportunity to fulfil the set quota," he said. He also said while the tests were "random", that it was "good to look at situations which are lead ups to Olympics."

As to which riders were targeted, that was not a question Townsend was prepared to answer, for privacy reasons. But he said Cycling's governing bodies provided the names of riders to be tested. "There is an onus on the sport to give us a list of riders they want tested," he said. "If they are not on our program to be tested, then we don't test them."

The ASDA staff were conducting two kinds of tests on the first day of the five day criterium series yesterday - blood and urine, and urine only. The former, when 12mL of blood and 120mL of urine are taken from each athlete, specifically looks for the presence of EPO. The latter, also known as the "half screen test" which Townsend described as a "normal out of competition test" looks for steroids, diuretics and outlawed masking and blocking agents.

"It's nothing out of the ordinary. At the Herald Sun Tour we attended to do actual and random out of competition tests. Sometimes they are for ASDA. Sometimes WADA contracts us to do them."

Townsend said while he had informed Jayco organisers that ASDA planned to attend the series, "they have been very supportive and good about keeping it to themselves." Organiser Karin Jones, meanwhile, said the committee was more than happy to "cooperative with ASDA in every way."

"We do try to give as little notice as possible for obvious reasons," Townsend continued. "If you've got athletes using something they shouldn't and they know we are coming, they might just pull out of the event, not that I am suggesting that anyone here might have done that. I can say the riders today have been very cooperative."

Each test takes about 15 minutes...unless a rider cannot produce the required amount of urine. "If he or she cannot, then ASDA will chaperone them until they can produce it," Townsend said. "The longest we have waited is 10 and a half hours, but that wasn't in cycling."

Recent changes by WADA to the banned drug list, which came into effect on January 1 (which took out pseudoephedrine and caffeine), would be taken into account with the tests taken this week, he said. "I am not really aware of them yet but put it this way - the samples will not be tested for what is no longer on the list."

Results of the tests would be known in two weeks, he said.

In other Jayco Bay Classic news:

The Korean national road team arrived in Geelong yesterday, racing licences in hand, asking for a start in the first stage of the Classic. "Can we play today?" The team is Down Under "doing some training".

Spokesperson for the organisers, Karin Jones, said unfortunately they had to be turned away as the quota of 14 teams had been reached. However, Victorian Cycling has given the approval for the riders to take part in support events on Thursday. As a result, two women and one man will ride, or as they said to Mrs Jones: "Play". If it rains on Thursday like it did yesterday, "play" might just fit.

SBR rider Hilton Clarke was a later than expected arrival for dinner at the race headquarters at the Mercure Hotel in Geelong last night after spending two hours in the emergency room at Geelong Hospital. Clarke suffered three deep puncture wounds to his face, a nasty contusion to his ankle and "a bump on the head" during the first stage of the event at Hastings.

"It was the first intermediate sprint - myself, Joel Pearson and Robbie McEwen diving for the second last corner and we also got a bit entangled with a lapped rider," said Clarke. "We were probably going a bit fast for the wet roads and in the wet, if you brake, your wheels slip...I landed on my face."

Officials were concerned when Clarke continued to ride with blood dripped from his face and pulled him over to determine whether he should continue. "The officials were quite worried," he said. "I wanted to keep going but in the end my team manager Mark Heinz decided it wasn't worth it. I was checked by the Victorian Institute of Sport doctor and I had a few holes in me. I was a bit dazed, too so I might have had a bit of concussion." He was expecting to get stitched up and be back for the second stage on Thursday.

International cycling commentator Phil Liggett arrived in Geelong last night to commentate the Jayco Bay Classic, starting at Port Arlington today and continuing for the rest of the series. Liggett commonly makes the most of his annual trip to Australia for the Tour Down Under to attend and support the Jayco series.

Illes Balears to continue with Pinarello

The new jersey and bike
Photo ©: Pinarello

Spanish team IIles Balears-Banesto managed by Jose Miguel Echavarri will race on Opera bikes supplied by Cicli Pinarello Spa in 2004. Echavarri will thus continue a long standing relationship with the Italian manufacturer, which began in the early 1990's when Pinarello sponsored Banesto during the "Indurain years".

Through its current sponsorship, Pinarello hopes to promote the Opera line of bikes, and the IIles Balears boys will ride with the top of the range carbon fibre Leonardo bikes, equipped with Campagnolo group sets and wheels, Vittoria tubulars, Look pedals, Deda Elementi bars, Selle Italia saddles and Elite bottle cages and bottles.

Mersey Valley-Devonport Carnival

By Rod Morris in Devonport

An American versus Tasmania International Teams Pursuit will be one of the drawcard events at this Sunday's annual Mersey Valley-Devonport Cycling Club Carnival at the Latrobe Recreation Ground. Fresh from a hugely successful Basslink Tasmanian Christmas Carnival series, the MVDCC will offer a wide range of events for cyclists and athletes with the first of 61 events, starting at 11 a.m.

The USA will be represented by scratchman Jame Carney, Kevin Belz, David Wiswell, Andy Sparks, Gui Nelessen and top female riders Sarah Hammer and Becky Conzleman in the unique seven rider Italian pursuit against a team made up entirely of MVDCC members. Carrying the flag for Tasmania against the Americans will be Australian scratchmen, Nathan Clarke and Darren Young, along with the Atkins brothers, Gareth and Matthew and Ulverstone teenage sensation Ben Price, while the two female riders will include Natasha Mapley and Carrie Price.

The race will entail four laps (2000 m) and teams must finish with at least three riders, with the race time being taken on the third rider over the line.

The MVDCC's feature event will be its 2000 m Open Wheelrace. Reigning champion is Burnie's Michael Johnson, who - unless he is a late entry - won't be defending his title. The early favourite is Launceston's Dwayne Smith, who has been knocking on the door of a major wheelrace title of late, although he can expect stiff opposition from Ben Price, Ryan Johnson and Kaidan Homan.

Aside of the MVDCC Wheelrace, other cycling events will include a 1000 m Lightning Handicap, graded scratch races and a derby. Runners will also be well catered for with a 100 m maiden, 100 m sprints for both men and women, 400 m handicaps for both gender and a 1600 m "mile" handicap. The MVDCC Carnival will be the penultimate hit out for Tasmanian cyclists before the season-ending St Helens Carnival on January 17.

The MVDCC Carnival has been robbed somewhat of numbers with more than a dozen Tasmanian cyclists competing in the popular Bay Criterium series, which started in Victoria on Wednesday and continues through till Sunday.

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