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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

First Edition Cycling News for July 5, 2004

Edited by Chris Henry & Jeff Jones

Kirsipuu powers back

Jaan Kirsipuu (Ag2r-Prévoyance)
Photo ©: Sirotti

"I'm not a Petacchi or a McEwen, but I've got power," Jaan Kirsipuu said of his sprinting style, which carried him to victory in the first road stage of the Tour de France Sunday.

The 34 year old Estonian veteran, who has faithfully ridden his entire professional career for Ag2r-Prévoyance team director Vincent Lavenu, powered back to Tour glory with a convincing sprint win ahead of a deep field of fast finishers. Kirsipuu got the better of Robbie McEwen and Thor Hushovd, while heavy favourite Alessandro Petacchi found himself caught short and out of position in the frantic finale in Charleroi.

"I didn't expect to win the sprint today," Kirsipuu admitted. "Up until the Tour de France, I wasn't really in good condition and I did a very bad prologue yesterday. But today at the halfway point in the stage, I started feeling better and when I saw that I was going well in the intermediate sprints, I got some more confidence."

Sunday's win was Kirsipuu's 116th career win. Kirsipuu will celebrate his 35th birthday on July 17.

Stage 1 full results, report & photos
Live report
Stages
Final start list
Tour FAQ

McGee suffering

It's been a difficult start to the Tour for Brad McGee (FDJeux.com), winner of the prologue last year and wearer of the yellow jersey. McGee entered the Tour in excellent form this year, following his prologue victory and breakthrough performance in the general classification in the Giro d'Italia and overall victory in the Route du Sud in June. McGee didn't repeat his prologue performance, citing a lack of power due in part to his effort to drop weight and improve his climbing skills. Stage 1, however, went much worse.

McGee finished in 186th place on the day, limping across the line after a day of chasing with the help of his faithful teammate Matthew Wilson. Suffering from intense back pain, McGee was dropped from the main field on each of the climbs and following repeated accelerations before the bonus sprints.

"My back is cut in half; I couldn't feel my legs," he explained after the finish. "I couldn't get any power out of them. I upset it last weekend and it's just been on and off ever since. It's complicated. Basically my hip has just fallen out of place. It just falls in and out from where it has to be. Today it was obviously out of place.

"Last weekend I took some time out to plant two olive trees in my garden," he explained. "That night I felt a little back pain and I did something stupid: the next day, instead of taking it easy, I went out and did five hours, doing a climb and then a series of intense intervals to lead out Baden Cooke in the sprints. I shouldn't have done that..."

Cipollini OK

Mario Cipollini
Photo ©: Olympia

Caught in an early crash along with Oscar Sevilla and Guillaume Auger, Mario Cipollini (Domina Vacanze) didn't suffer any serious injury in Sunday's wet, wild stage 1. Cipollini, who abandoned this year's Giro d'Italia after a crash, hasn't spent much time racing this season and considers himself a bit short of form in his big return to the Tour de France.

"My crash, which wasn't long after the start, shouldn't have any real consequences," the former world champion said. "I think after the team time trial I'll be ready to contest the sprint victories. I'll be in the rhythm a bit better."

Sevilla and Auger also were up and riding after the crash and finished the stage without incident.

Voigt chases yellow

Team CSC's Jens Voigt, a former stage winner in the Tour de France, is never one to shy away from an attack. An aggressive rider by nature, Voigt went on the offensive in stage 1 with the goal of gaining bonus seconds in the intermediate sprints to move him closer to the top of the leader board. Voigt finished in seventh place, just 11 seconds behind prologue winner Fabian Cancellara on the Tour's opening day. Thanks to his breakaway effort in stage 1 he gained four seconds the first intermediate sprint of the day Sunday.

"I was aiming to take the maillot jaune however I could," Voigt explained after the stage. "I started early, getting in a break almost immediately after the start, and I tried to stay in front the whole day to contest the bonus sprints.

"We were a bit unlucky because Bernhard Eisel from FDJeux.com fell. We all waited a bit for him, but that perhaps lost us the few seconds we needed to stay clear for the second bonus sprint. Things didn't work quite as I hoped, but I tried anyway."

Voigt's reward was the first combativity prize, and a handy €2,000 payday. Both Voigt and team director Bjarne Riis have a clear intention to get the big German as close to the yellow jersey as possible, with the hope that a strong team time trial performance could land him in yellow next Wednesday.

Voigt's teammate Jakob Piil carried on with the attacking ways, breaking clear with Rabobank's Marc Wauters and putting in a strong effort that fell just short of the finish in Charleroi.

Stage 1 - Aussie reactions

Baden Cooke (FDJeux.com, 6th)

"I felt good but it was rough as in the sprint. I saw Stuey [O'Grady] go down next to me with four kilometres to go."

Nick Gates (Lotto-Domo, 188th)

"It was a terrible day for me. I crashed with 90 km to go and I smashed my knee on my handlebar. I had a lot of trouble getting to the finish. If it's like this tomorrow I won't be starting."

But Gates has no choice in the matter now, as the race jury determined that he was five minutes outside the cutoff time for the stage and he was eliminated.

Stuart O'Grady (Cofidis, 153rd)

Stuart O'Grady just shook his head after he crossed the line in the back part of the peloton, clearly very angry at the crash that took him out with 4 km to go.

Weather report

The weather for tomorrow's second stage from Charleroi to Namur should be kinder than it was today, as it's expected to be dry for the whole stage. The wind will be blowing at 15-20 km/h from the southwest, which will assist the riders in the final part of the stage. The predicted temperatures are 17-18 degrees at the start, rising to a maximum of 20-22 degrees in the afternoon.

Medical communique

Bradley McGee (FDJeux.com) suffered serious lumbar pain.

Several other riders crashed today, but none had serious injuries according to the race doctors: Mario Cipollini (Domina Vacanze), Oscar Sevilla and Oscar Pereiro Sio (Phonak), Guillaume Auger (RAGT), Dimitry Fofonov (Cofidis), Bernhard Eisel (FDJeux.com), Alessandro Bertolini (Alessio-Bianchi), Nick Gates (Lotto-Domo) and Benjamin Noval (USPS-Berry Floor), among others.

Cycling Australia hits back

After an inquiry into the allegations of Mark French cleared the five riders named of any wrongdoing in the affair, Cycling Australia has hit back at the Australian media, which it claims damaged the credibility of the athletes and the sport by assuming French was telling the truth. While the investigation was still in progress last week, Shane Kelly (who was named by French) and Bradley McGee (who wasn't) lost lucrative sponsorship contracts simply because they were cyclists - potential sponsors clearly did not want their names associated with doping in any way.

The affair could also have an impact on funding for cycling, which is largely provided by the Government. It was no surprise therefore that Cycling Australia's CEO Graham Fredericks issued a statement saying that it was "disappointed and angry at the continued persecution of cycling and individual cyclists in light of the clear findings of the 'Anderson Inquiry' and our honest and open response to the report."

"The television reports aired last night on Channel 9 [60 minutes] grossly distort and misrepresent the 'Anderson Inquiry' report," added Mr Fredericks, who said the report wouldn't be released publicly yet. "The selectively edited excerpts of sections of the report used were taken out of context of the full report."

Fredericks came down hard on French, saying, "That some party has chosen to play a dangerous game with the truth is threatening the very future of these athletes. And I can add to that the verbal advice from Mr Anderson when he reported on his findings that, in the course of his questioning, Mr French withdrew and contradicted his earlier evidence to the point of 'vanishing it' raising very serious concerns about the credibility of his testimony."

Pointing out that there was "no evidence" to suggest that any of the five cyclists that were implicated by French were guilty, CA reiterated its zero tolerance doping policy, saying that if further evidence did come to light, "it will be acted on immediately."

Euskaltel doctor suspended

Euskaltel-Euskadi has suspended Jesus Losa, a team doctor who is said to have prescribed EPO for David Millar (Cofidis). Millar confessed to the use of EPO last week, saying he used the substance in 2001 and 2003. During his testimony before judge Richard Pallain in Nanterre, Millar indicated that it was Losa who helped him with his use of EPO before certain big races.

Di Luca wins in Italy

Danilo Di Luca wasted no time taking a bit of revenge after being prevented from starting this year's Tour de France. Di Luca, who figures among a list of names under investigation in Italy in a widespread doping case, was not allowed his place in the Tour after race organisers adopted a policy that no rider under legal investigation would be accepted. Di Luca made the trip to Liège hoping to take the start, only to be firmly denied once more.

"I've never tested positive and I follow the rules of my profession," Di Luca told l'Equipe's Philippe Brunel. But [Jean-Marie Leblanc] didn't want to listen. He told me it would be best for cycling and for the Tour if I didn't start."

"He also told me 'if you win a stage, the journalists will only talk about doping.' I could see we were getting nowhere..."

Di Luca promptly returned to Italy, replaced in the Tour by David Loosli. Sunday, the day of the first road stage in Belgium, Di Luca put his frustration to good use by winning the UCI 1.2 Trofeo Matteotti ahead of Paolo Bossoni (Lampre) and Oscar Camenzind (Phonak).

Beloki at square one

Joseba Beloki has ended negotiations with the Spanish Saunier Duval-Prodir team, according to a Marca report. Beloki, who split with Brioches La Boulangère last month after barely half a season (and few days of racing), was said to be close to Saunier Duval, a strong team which lacks a leader for the general classification in the Vuelta a España. Beloki's mid-season search for an employer is growing increasingly complicated and he may be forced to look outside of Spain, even after he insisted he was eager to return to a home team after the failed experiment with the French La Boulangère team.

Wesemann injured

Tour of Flanders winner Steffen Wesemann (T-Mobile) has broken a bone in his left hand after a fall in training in Wassen, Switzerland. Wesemann was hit by a car Saturday while training with Rabobank's Robert Bartko.

"Wesemann will be out of action for several weeks," team doctor Lothar Heinrich commented on the team's website. "Whether or not he can get back on his bike this summer is an open issue."

Wesemann's Olympic preparations have been put in question, and the injury will also compromise his effort to challenge for the World Cup in the second half of the season.

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