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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

First Edition Cycling News for January 23, 2004

Edited by Jeff Jones & Chris Henry

Gaumont's admission

Philippe Gaumont
Photo ©: CN

The two most recent cyclists to be questioned by French police in the ongoing doping investigation surrounding members past and present of the Cofidis team have each been released from police custody. Philippe Gaumont and Cédric Vasseur, both current members of Cofidis, were taken for questioning by French police Tuesday as they returned to Paris from the team's training camp in Calpe, Spain. Both appeared before a judge to face questioning concerning their possible involvement in either the use or transfer of prohibited substances.

Gaumont was the first to be released from police custody, but according to a l'Equipe report Thursday, he has admitted his own use of prohibited substances in competition. No charges have been filed against Gaumont, who stated to police that use of doping substances was habitual, even as recently as the 2003 Tour de France. Notably, Gaumont admitted to the use of EPO.

His confession is said to be prompted by statements by former Cofidis rider Robert Sassone, the third person to be arrested in the widening investigation, implicating Gaumont. This is the second drug investigation in which Gaumont has been called for questioning, the first being the case surrounding Bernard Sainz and Frank Vandenbroucke in early 2002.

Cédric Vasseur was held an extra 24 hours by police, before appearing before a judge Thursday morning. He was not charged after questioning, and his lawyer affirmed his innocence in the affair, saying "For now he has not been charged with anything. I found him to be relaxed despite the pressure of the questioning. When you're capable of riding Paris-Roubaix, you can stand up to an interrogation."

Damage control for French teams

By Chris Henry in Paris

Jean-Luc Jonrond
Photo ©: CN

Thus far five people have been questioned in the investigation, which came into public view following the arrest of Polish rider Marek Rutkiewicz, formerly of Cofidis and destined to ride for the new French team RAGT Semences-MG Rover this season. Although released from police custody, Rutkiewicz's future in cycling is cloudy, and he his new team has tried to distance itself from the doping headlines. Following RAGT's team presentation in Paris, directeur sportif Jean-Luc Jonrond shared his disappointment in Rutkiewicz's implication in the doping case.

"It's too bad that there are still people who behave improperly, but I think it's a question of individuals," Jonrond told Cyclingnews. "We still have the same philosophy as the other big French teams, and that's to do what we can to escape this cloud of doping that surrounds us. In particular, concerning Marek Rutkiewicz, I've spoken with my colleagues including [Cofidis directeur sportif] Francis Van Londersele, who believed him to be a clean rider. Today, we all have the same feeling that a rider who betrays us like this shouldn't remain in cycling. It's too bad, but we've reached this point and we'll react accordingly."

While Jonrond phrased Rutkiewicz's absence from the team as a 'provisional suspension', pending the outcome of the ongoing investigation, his new team sponsors, including RAGT Semence's chairman Alain Fabre, took a much stronger tone.

"Marek Rutkiewicz betrayed our confidence and he will no longer be welcome our team," Fabre said in his opening remarks at the team's presentation Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Cofidis president François Migraine is none too pleased with his team being dragged into the widening doping case, but remains adamant that he will not back down from his support of the sport, and will tackle the problem from within.

"I will not make those who don't cheat pay for what the cheaters have done," Migraine said in a statement published in l'Equipe. "Packing up and leaving is not the way to help cycling get out of this, and in any case this affair is far from over. I don't know yet if Cédric or Philippe are really at fault; for the moment I'll give them the benefit of the doubt.

"I won't be led to believe either that it is only riders from my team that are concerned," Migraine continued. "You're now looking at a man who's going to battle, and I hope that this follows through to the end, both here [at Cofidis] and throughout all of cycling. If not, cycling is dead..."

More interrogations for Museeuw

Johan Museeuw, Mario De Clercq, Jo Planckaert and Chris Peers will be questioned again by the court in Kortrijk over the José Landuyt doping investigation. The four Belgian professional cyclists were linked to the affair when their homes were among 21 houses searched by police last September. The investigation is centred on José Landuyt, a veterinarian under suspicion of supplying doping substances to cyclists, and to the horse and pigeon racing world.

Belgian newspaper De Standaard reports that Museeuw and co. will have to answer questions as to why illegal products were allegedly found in their homes. Kortrijk investigating magistrate Tom Janssens said that the riders are not being questioned again because "a glass of milk" was found. According to De Standaard, laboratory analyses have been carried out on all the products, and some of these are illegal to possess under Belgian law. "

"We're not interested in a product that could be used for doping, but something that is not legally produced, such as captagon for example," said Janssens.

The investigators will not reveal what products were found, and the riders have the right to ask for a counter analysis if they so desire. So far in the case, all riders have maintained their innocence.

No holding back for Gerolsteiner

Gerolsteiner 2004
Photo ©: AFP

German Division I team Gerolsteiner wants to establish itself at the top of the pecking order for 2004, as it revealed at its team presentation in Gerolstein on Tuesday. The team which won 27 races and finished sixth on the world rankings at the end of last year, a performance that impressed team boss Hans Michael Holczer. "After what was for us a certainly surprising tenth placing in the world rankings in the year 2002 and sixth place in the year 2003, we are now counting on maintaining our position," said Holczer at the launch.

The team will be spearheaded by established riders such as Davide Rebellin, Michael Rich, Uwe Peschel, Georg Totschnig and Marcus Zberg, with 23 year old Fabian Wegmann (60th on the UCI rankings) a major up and coming talent. Rebellin said that he will focus on the World Cups, Olympic Games and World Championships, and will also participate in the Giro d'Italia (but not the Tour).

With seven new acquisitions in 2004, the 24 member team should be able to meet its expectations. 30 year old ex-Telekom sprinter Danilo Hondo will be an important part of this, as "more and more races are decided in sprints," according to Holczer. "Danilo is established among the sprinting world elite. But what we really appreciate about him is that he can win races in other ways than in a sprint."

The other new signings including Swiss riders Beat Zberg and Sven Montgomery, who will strengthen the team in the grand tours, while 31 year old Marco Serpellini will add his experience to the classics team. Gerolsteiner has also signed three young riders in Markus Fothen, Sven Krauß and Thomas Ziegler. Fothen, the U23 World and European time trial champion, hopes to be able to follow in the footsteps of Michael Rich and Uwe Peschel, Gerolsteiner's big motors against the clock.

Gerolsteiner team roster for 2004

New sponsors line up for USPS-Berry Floor

By Tim Maloney, European Editor

Two new sponsors will be featured on the USPS-Berry Floor jersey for 2004. The Silicon Valley microprocessor giant Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) logo will be prominently displayed, likely as a way to promote the perennial second place chip maker (to Intel) new AMD Athlon 64 bit microprocessor. Industry insiders tell Cyclingnews that AMD is perhaps a year ahead of chip giant Intel in the vital new 64 bit processor market and so what better way to get noticed on a global scale but to put its logo on Lance Armstrong's shoulders and posterior.

Outdoor Life Network will also sponsor the USPS-Berry Floor squad this season: OLN will debut a weekly 13 part half hour High Definition TV documentary on five time Tour de France Champion Lance Armstrong and the United States Postal Service Pro Cycling Team. OLN's show should provide viewers with unprecedented access to Lance and the USPS-Berry Floor squad, not only focus on racing, but perhaps inspired by MTV's "Real World" franchise, but go "behind the scenes showing what transpires when the team members are off their bikes."

Besides alleged "tension and drama", we'll may have even more scary moments like Floyd Landis drinking gallons of coffee, watching massive quantities of pasta being devoured in team meals and perhaps even hear a few of Chef Willy's racy (and certainly not ready for prime time) post prandial stories. The last time OLN sponsored a pro cycling team, it was Mercury, who never got to the Tour De France, so at least we can be sure that the cable network's documentary will cover USPS-Berry Floor and Lance Armstrong in his quest for a sixth consecutive Tour win.

Team CSC extend for three years with Cervélo

Riis Cycling, the management company of Team CSC, and Cervélo Cycles have announced the continuation of their partnership through to the end of 2006. The team officially rode on Cervélo bikes for the first time in 2003, and both team management and Cervélo were happy with the results, which included three stage wins and a fourth overall in the Tour de France.

Ofoto Cycling Team 2004

The Ofoto Cycling Team has announced its line up for 2004. New to the team will be: Scott Swizanski (ex- Snow Valley), Jason Bausch (ex-Schroeder Iron), Nieko Biskner (ex-Sierra Nevada-Clif Bar) and Zach Walker. Returning are America's National Madison Champions Erik Saunders and Jackson Stewart, as well as Andy Bajadali, Tim Larkin, Peter Lopinto and national U23 Road Champion Jon Erdeyli. The team is looking at adding two or three riders in the near future.

Following a successful 2003 season which included over 50 wins including four National Titles, the Ofoto Cycling Team continues into 2004 again as a UCI Division III professional team. The Team's focus will again be on the US road racing scene, with specific emphasis on the US Pro Cycling Tour, the National Racing Calendar events, and UCI-Sanctioned Tour de Georgia.

The Ofoto Cycling Team will be riding Litespeed titanium bicycles again this season. Other sponsors include Lombardi Sports, Hansen's Beverage Inc., Rolf, Profile, Time, SRAM, Fizik, Michelin, Louis Garneau, Rudy Project, Craft USA and Polar.

Team Roster

Andy Bajadali (USA)
Jason Bausch (USA)
Nieko Biskner (USA)
Jon Erdeyli (USA)
Tim Larkin (USA)
Peter Lopinto (USA)
Erik Saunders (USA)
Scott Swizanski (USA)
Jackson Stewart (USA)
Zac Walker (USA)

Surgery for Micha de Vries

Dutch mountain biker Micha de Vries (Holland Pro Cycling Team) had to undergo surgery last weekend for a groin rupture. He was carrying the injury for quite some time, and was even able to train and race with it, finishing 9th at the Dutch national cyclo-cross championships nearly two weeks ago.

"The surgery was a success and next week I'll be hearing from the doctor when I'll be able to start training again," reported De Vries, who will start his training in Calpe, Spain. "Good thing the season will be lasting till the end of October. I'll be stronger then before when I get back in shape later on in the season, you can count on that!."

29th Vuelta Ciclista a Cuba

Taking place between February 10-22 is the 29th edition of the Vuelta a Cuba, a UCI 2.5 category stage race. Run over 14 stages and 1979 kilometres, the Vuelta a Cuba will start with a 153 km stage between Baracoa and Guantánamo on February 10 and finish with a 109 km leg from San Cristóbal to Havana on Febuary 22. Two time trials are planned, a 74 km team time trial between Bayamo and Holguin (Stage 4) and a 40 km individual time trial between Cárdenas and Matanzas (Stage 10b).

The stages

Stage 1 - February 10: Baracoa - Guantánamo, 153 km
Stage 2 - February 11: Guantánamo - La Gran Piedra, 138 km
Stage 3 - February 12: Santiago de Cuba - Bayamo, 125 km
Stage 4 - February 13: Bayamo - Holguín TTT, 74 km
Stage 5 - February 14: Holguín -, Camaguey, 202 km
Stage 6 - February 15: Camaguey - Ciego de Ávila, 116 km
Stage 7 - February 16: Ciego de Ávila - Sancti. Spíritus, 193 km
Stage 8 - February 17: Sancti Spíritus - Santa Clara, 157 km
Stage 9 - February 18: Santa Clara - Cienfuegos, 169 km
Stage 10a - February 19: Cienfuegos - Cárdenas, 176 km
Stage 10b - February 19: Cárdenas - Matanzas ITT, 40 km
Stage 11 - February 20: Matanzas - San Antonio de los Baños, 120 km
Stage 12 - February 21: San Antonio de los Baños - Pinar del Rió, 207 km
Stage 13 - February 22: San Cristóbal - Ciudad de la Habana, 109 km

America's Cycling Team wants rider for Cuba

America's Cycling Team presented by UPMC (the Pittsburgh/New York/Uruguay squad formerly known as the UPMC cycling team) is in need of a sixth rider for the Vuelta a Cuba (UCI 2.5), to be contested 10-22 February. "A combination of injury and schedule conflicts with several of our foreign athletes has created the opportunity for a non-contracted rider to compete in the Tour of Cuba with us," said team captain Joe Papp, who last year won two stages of the event. The rider must hold a valid 2004 UCI license from his national federation, and be able to travel to Cuba no later than 6 February. The rider will be responsible for his travel costs to and from Havana, though all expenses will be covered upon arrival in Cuba. Interested athletes should contact team director Mike Fraysse in the USA at 845-856-3335.

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