First Edition News for June 11, 2004
Edited by John Stevenson and Jeff Jones
Armstrong loses time, not confidence
By Chris Henry in Bédoin
True to form, defending Dauphiné Libéré champion Lance Armstrong (US Postal Service) gave nothing away in a post-time trial press conference Thursday. Armstrong once more found his explosive climbing style blunted by the relentless slopes of the Mont Ventoux, this time in an individual test against the clock where he finished 'only' fifth best behind stage winner Iban Mayo (Euskaltel-Euskadi). Mayo clocked 55'51 for the 21 kilometre ascent, smashing Jonathan Vaughters' previous time trial record of 56'50 and assuming command of the general classification in this year's Dauphiné.
While Mayo made no secret of his early ambitions to win the Dauphiné, Armstrong maintained that he was not going to ride beyond himself to defend his title, having found he dug a bit too deep prior to last year's Tour de France. Regardless of overall ambitions, the Mont Ventoux time trial still represented a critical pre-Tour test for Armstrong and his challengers, notably Mayo and Tyler Hamilton, who finished first and second just as they did in the prologue last Sunday. Mayo's win was not a great surprise, but the ticks of the clock that separated the Basque rider from his American rival raised a few eyebrows.
"I'm a little disappointed," Armstrong's directeur sportif Johan Bruyneel told Cyclingnews after the stage. "Not in Lance, but in the differences between him and Mayo. It shows we are still not ready for the Tour. Lance did what he could today. Mayo beat the record by almost a minute which is an incredible performance."
Armstrong himself echoed the same thoughts, insisting that he has never underestimated Mayo, Hamilton, or the others, but nonetheless expressing a bit of regret that he lost nearly two minutes in just over 21 kilometres. However, when pressed for answers as to what this performance would mean for the upcoming Tour de France, where Armstrong will make his bid for a record-breaking sixth victory, he conceded nothing as far as his own prospects were concerned.
"Two minutes is a lot," Armstrong said simply. "But it's a long time until the Tour de France. The Tour de France was not decided today."
Armstrong is always one to stress his respect for his rivals, in particular Jan Ullrich (who is not racing at the Dauphiné), but increasingly riders like Mayo and Hamilton who have progressed to the point of becoming serious contenders for the Tour de France title.
"The defending champion who comes back and has no fear is the one who loses," Armstrong said of his 'fear' of the most dangerous riders. "I knew Mayo would be tough, and he's clearly super right now, but I'm not pulling any irons out of the fire."
The hardest climb in France
Armstrong has faced tough days on the Mont Ventoux in the past, and today was no exception. Even if he put in an adequate ride to finish fifth, he lacked the kick which normally lets him soar faster than his opponents on the toughest of slopes. Today's ride reminded Armstrong that the Ventoux is a climb to reckon with.
Armstrong's decision to race this year's Dauphiné, an event he had initially planned on skipping, was based almost entirely on the inclusion of the mountain time trial, which he viewed as vital for preparation for the Tour de France and the Alpe d'Huez time trial to come in July. The two climbs are quite different, but the experience of doing time trials on such tough mountains can prove valuable.
"They're both very hard climbs...Very hard, very hot. Alpe d'Huez is a considerably shorter effort. It's 30 to 35 minutes whereas [Mont Ventoux] is an hour," he explained.
"This is the hardest climb in France," Armstrong insisted. "There's nothing harder than the Ventoux, at least not that I've experienced."
Massive raids in Italian anti-doping swoop
Over 700 Italian police of the Nas and Fiamme Gialle yesterday executed 138 search warrants on cyclists, doctors, soigneurs and others associated with cycling in a series of dawn raids across the country.
Under the direction of Paolo Ferraro of the Rome justice department, police searched the premises of 15 professional cyclists - including eight who recently rode the Giro - plus 77 amateur riders, two sports doctors, nine soigneurs, nine directeurs sportifs, five pharmacists and the directeur of an Italian amateur cycling organisation. The raids were part of an ongoing investigation into doping, instigated by the death of an amateur rider or 'dilletante'.
According to a report from La Gazzetta dello Sport, the eight Giro riders investigated were e Alessio Galletti and Mario Scirea (Domina), Fabio Sacchi (Fassa Bortolo), Eddy Mazzoleni and Alessandro Spezialetti (Saeco), Ruggero Marzoli (Acqua&Sapone), Giuseppe Muraglia (Formaggi Pinzolo) and Simone Masciarelli (Vini Caldirola).
The link between these riders is Carlo Santuccione, a doctor from Cepagatti, near Pescara who was one of seven people placed under house arrest as a result of the raids. As well as the possession and use of doping substances the investigation is looking into conspiracy to illegally import doping materials and their fraudulent procurement from public health services.
A police spokesman said, "At the Giro we found nothing, elsewhere we have uncovered everything. We recovered testosterone, somatatropin, EPO and medicines for horses as well as equipment for blood transfusions." He said that nothing had been recovered from the hotel rooms of the Giro riders. However, one of the pharmacists investigated, Lorenzo Lavagnini of the pharmacy of the hospital at Pietrasanta, Lucca, and an amateur cyclist, is accused of possessing "an astonishing range of substances."
The Italian cycling federation, Federciclismo, has also come under suspicion with the arrest of board member Maurizio Camerini, but in a statement has affirmed its stance against doping, saying it was committed "to the fight against doping and anything that runs contrary to the true spirit of sport." The organisation added that it was, ""collaborating with the Attorney's office ... to supply all documentation, or useful elements for the assessment of the truth.
"In time every initiative will be adopted to shed full light on situations that risk damaging the image of the bicycle racing world that recently showed during the Giro d'Italia (where no positive tests were returned) to have fully confronted the phenomenon of doping with positive results," said the Federciclismo statement.
Sunderland in Olympic shadow team
Team Alessio-Bianchi's experienced Aussie Scott Sunderland has received word from the Australian selectors that he has been included in the shadow squad for the men's road race in Athens. After a solid spring campaign where he finished as the top Australian rider in the Tour of Flanders and later helping his Swedish teammate Magnus Bäckstedt secure victory in Paris-Roubaix, Sunderland is now looking ahead to July and the Tour de France.
Clearly delighted about the Olympic news, Scott Sunderland told Cyclingnews that it would be a great honour for him to represent his country at the 2004 Olympics. "It has been a childhood dream to compete at the Olympic Games and it is finally coming closer to being realised," he said. "I am excited about the news. I think the prospect of making final selection will give me more power and determination to show myself in the Tour de Suisse, which is starting this weekend, and to do a great job for the team in the upcoming Tour de France.
"I'm feeling strong and confident for next week. I've been struggling with an unusual resistant stomach virus for over a week now, but it hasn't really affected my riding much. I rode some kermesses for training earlier this week and I had to stop the second one because the cramps were giving me hell. But touch wood, today I felt OK." Sunderland will be writing regular diary updates from the Tour de Suisse, which runs between June 12-20.
Correction: Mont Ventoux not volcanic
By John Stevenson
This will hardly come as news to our more geologically-savvy readers, but despite widespread cycling folklore (repeated by me in a since-removed comment in our article on Mont Ventoux a couple of days ago) Ventoux is not, in fact, an extinct volcano.
The mountain is actually part of the geological system that forms the Alps, but is simply unusual in being a long way from the rest of the range. Nevertheless, the whole area is on limestone, a sedimentary rock that's not generally associated with volcanoes.
The notion that Ventoux is volcanic seems to have arisen because of confusion with another historic Tour de France lonely mountain, the Puy de Dome, which is an extinct volcano. Thanks to the several readers who wrote in to point out the error, and to those who dug out information about the area's geology for us.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2004)