First Edition News for June 21, 2004
Edited by Jeff Jones
Morale boost for Ullrich
In winning the final stage and the overall classification of the Tour de Suisse, Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) is firmly on track for the Tour de France, which starts in less than 14 days time. The German inflicted an agonising defeat on home favourite Fabian Jeker (Saunier Duval), beating him by 42 seconds in the TT which gave Ullrich the overall victory by just 1 second.
"I had hopes for the time trial and was aiming for the victory, but I did not expect that I would pull back the 41 seconds on the general classification," said Ullrich, who wore the gold jersey for the first six stages before Jeker took it from him in Stage 7. "When I was under way I didn't believe I would succeed. At the beginning, the wind blew from behind and the parcours was not as hard as I thought. Now I'm pleased with my win, because I have fought also a little for Vinokourov in this race - we all miss him. To win the Tour de Suisse is a great highlight."
With two weeks to go before the start of the Tour, Ullrich was very happy with this morale boost. "That was the perfect preparation and another push for the motivation in the direction of the Tour," he said. "I have always said that the Tour de France is the most important for me. Thus I have put everything else at a lower level."
Last year, Ullrich finished 7th in the Tour de Suisse, losing 2'27 to winner Alexandre Vinokourov. His performance in this year's race is a marked improvement from 2003, especially in the mountain stages. "In the hard stages I definitely noticed how I was improving more and more. I was always sure that my form was on the right track, but I did not expect these successes at this point in time."
By Jeff Jones and Tim Maloney
In David Walsh and Pierre Ballester's latest book, LA Confidential, Lance Armstrong's former team of Motorola comes under fire with allegations that there was doping going on within the team. New Zealander Steven Swart's testimony that he felt pressured to take illegal drugs such as EPO is one of many that is used to try to paint five-time Tour winner Lance Armstrong in a bad light.
Swart was a member of Armstrong's Motorola team in 1994 and 1995, but was let go from the team at the end of 1995. His entire testimony in LA Confidential is tinged with bitterness. "At the end when they decided they didn't want me on the team, I said goodbye to the guys...Lance was in the bathroom and he just stuck his hand out the door," recalled Swart.
One of Swart's former teammates at SEFB told Cyclingnews that Swart was aware of doping practices well before he came to Motorola. In the book, Swart says that while riding for SEFB in 1988 he did the Tour de Suisse, where he finished 13th on GC. "We went into a hotel room and all the products were there," he said. "It wasn't really the first time we did this, it was the culture. I didn't know what I was taking at the time."
When he joined Motorola under the direction of Jim Ochowicz, Swart said that he began to feel pressured to get results, even though the team management was against and organised doping program. "We wanted to continue to race for the team," said Swart. "We liked the environment. In one way it was good that we weren't obliged to dope. No-one forced us to do it. We knew it was against things, but in the end we had to be in or out. We had to do what other teams were doing or we had to quit the sport."
According to Swart, some riders in Motorola took the decision in 1995 to start a program of doping to take advantage of EPO. "The way I remember, we didn't talk about it a lot in 1994. Sure, 1994 wasn't a good year and we really asked ourselves to do our best for our sponsors. Phil Anderson and Andy Hampsten left the team in 1994, while new riders came in: Fabio Casartelli, Andrea Peron and Kevin Livingston. We figured we had to regroup to fix the situation."
Team manager Jim Ochowicz preferred to think that the solution (to a lack of results) depended on him. "If only the riders would train better, race smarter and have more determination," said Ochowicz, who refused to ask the team to turn to illegal drugs.
Motorola team doctor Massimo Testa was also against a doping program. "I was not in agreement with all the things that people were saying we should take. I wanted to discourage the utilisation of these things [like EPO]," said Testa in LA Confidential.
One of Swart's former Motorola teammates (in 1994) Brian Smith was surprised at Swart's comments, but denied that there was pressure from the team management to take drugs. "If that's true it would have been an unbelievable change in the culture of the team," Smith told Scotland on Sunday. "When I signed for the team we all had physiological tests and blood tests and those were sent away. We had a training camp in Tuscany, then we travelled to Cannes, where we prepared for the Trofeo Laigueglia, which Lance had won the previous year. That was to be my first race for Motorola.
"But the day before the race I was called into a room with Jim Ochowicz and Hennie Kuiper, the team directors, and Massimo Testa, the team doctor, and told that I couldn't race. They said that my blood tests had shown a testosterone level of zero, which meant either that my body had stopped producing it, or that I'd been getting it artificially. I had stubble, so I was obviously getting it from somewhere.
"It was made very clear to me that Motorola was a massive sponsor, and that they condemned any association with drugs. I had no idea what had happened, but a second test cleared me and I was able to start racing. But it showed me the team was clean. I saw nothing untoward in the year I was there, and that included riding the Giro d'Italia.
"As far as I'm concerned, he [Testa] was straight down the line. There was certainly EPO around in cycling, but I am very confident that Testa was absolutely clean. I know that Swart has said they started doping in 1995, but, based on my experience and the fact that Testa was there until 1996, I find it very hard to believe."
Di Luca speaks out
By Tim Maloney, European editor
After his Saeco teammate Eddy Mazzoleni refuted the contents of leaked cell-phone transcripts recently published by French newspaper Le Monde, Danilo Di Luca spoke out about the matter. "There is absolutely no truth to any of these allegations", said an indignant Di Luca from his home in Spoltore, Italy, where he's preparing for the Italian championships and upcoming Tour De France. "These are just insinuations. There is no concrete proof of anything."
Di Luca is allegedly recorded speaking to a Dr. Santuccione in mid-January and mid-March 2004 about health related matters which the Rome prosecutors have unearthed in an ongoing investigation called "Oil For Drugs".
Di Luca's managers Johnny and Alex Carrera of A&J Sport As Image sent a further communication to Cyclingnews where they explained that "Di Luca was checked at the Acquaacetosa labs in Rome and all the controls showed normal values."
Referring to the telephone conversations that were allegedly taped on Wednesday, March 17th, 2004, three days before Milano-San Remo, Di Luca's managers pointed out some sloppy journalism by Le Monde's, noting that the Le Monde piece "got the dates wrong; Di Luca wasn't calling Dr. Santuccione six days before the race as stated, but three days before."
Di Luca and Mazzoleni have both strongly denied any involvement with doping and with the Tour De France just 13 days away, both Saeco men are hoping that the leaked reports that Le Monde continue to flog go away fast.
McCartney heads for Athens
By Kristy Scrymgeour
In an action packed final three laps of the US Men's Olympic Trials, Jason McCartney (Health Net p/b Maxxis) took out the win with a very timely late move, riding solo to victory and towards Athens as a member of Olympic team. McCartney joins George Hincapie and Lance Armstrong (US Postal Service p/b Berry Floor), Tyler Hamilton (Phonak Hearing Systems) and Bobby Julich (CSC) in the five member team who will line up in for the USA in Athens in August.
McCartney, who started racing again six years ago after having a few years off the bike, has proved himself this year to be a classy rider with a talent for making the most of timely opportunities. His victory in stage five of Tour de Georgia earlier this year earned him a name as a strong and gutsy rider and today's effort confirmed it. At the end of the race, he couldn't believe the way things panned out for him today. "Maybe a month from now it will sink in that I'm going to the Olympics."
To top it off, McCartney suffered bad luck during the race and wasn't feeling like today was his day at all. "I had a broken spoke during the race and my brakes were rubbing so I thought my race was over," he said. "Towards the end after cramping and having the chase back on after mechanicals, I wasn't feeling too good. I told John [Lieswyn] that I didn't have it today so I was going to try to set it up for him. I went once and he came with me, then when I went again, they hesitated and I just kept going. It wasn't until 2km to go that I thought I could win it."
Car drives into Ster Elektrotoer peloton
The issue of rider safety within the confines of a professional cycling race has been raised again after an accident occurred in Friday's second stage of the Ster Elektrotoer. The stage, which was run in wet conditions around Valkenburg, was won by Relax-Bodysol's Preben Van Hecke who finished with a 3'58 lead over Servais Knaven (Quick.Step-Davitamon) and Jakob Piil (CSC). But just as Knaven and Piil had attacked on the Bemelerberg in pursuit of Van Hecke, a motorist had ignored stop signs on the Bemelerberg and driven into the peloton, injuring several including Steven de Jongh (Rabobank) and Sebastien Rosseler (Relax-Bodysol), both of whom abandoned.
Piil and Knaven continued on, oblivious to the carnage behind them while Rabobank's Michael Boogerd called on the peloton to neutralise the race, which left the breakaways free to finish the stage in front on the Cauberg. In theory, Knaven would have taken over the leader's jersey as he started the day on the same time as Piil, only 1'10 behind his teammate and leader Tom Boonen. But the race jury ruled that all riders that were in the peloton when Knaven and Piil attacked would be given the same time and would only lose 10 seconds to the pair, which was the gap between them when the accident happened. Thus, Boonen kept the leader's jersey until his teammate Nick Nuyens took it over in stage 3.
Death of Charly Grosskost
Former French pro Charly Grosskost has died, aged 60. The winner of a Tour de France prologue, nine time French champion in the individual pursuit and a silver medalist in the World Championships in the same discipline, was hit by a car after crashing while out riding with friends in Strasbourg on Saturday, June 19.
In addition to his palmares, Grosskost was also a member of Jacques Anquetil's winning Tour de France team on several occasions. After he retired, he sold bicycles in Strasbourg.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2004)