First Edition Cycling News for June 27, 2004
Edited by Chris Henry & Jeff Jones
Tour decision provokes reactions
Following an announcement from the Société du Tour de France that riders implicated in a legal procedure or police investigation would not be welcome at this year's race, reactions have come from some of those directly affected. Notably Danilo Di Luca (Saeco), who has himself been placed under investigation along with a number of other cyclists in Italy. Di Luca, with the support of his team manager Claudio Corti, has spoken out against Jean-Marie Leblanc's decision to prevent riders in his position from riding the Tour.
"What matters is that I have the support of my team, but something incredible is happening: I may not be able to ride the Tour because Leblanc doesn't want people under investigation," Di Luca commented in La Gazzetta dello Sport.
"My house has been searched and nothing was found," he added. "I've never tested positive, and the phone taps that involve me have not revealed anything... I'm under investigation because they have nothing else to do. But at the same time I wonder if those who were targeted in the Sanremo 'blitz' three years ago at the Giro will be kept out of the Tour. That's an investigation we've heard nothing more about.
"I also wonder if Armstrong will take the start after the revelations in the book in France, in which it's said that he has used banned substances and which the French courts allowed to be published."
On the side of Cofidis, whose riders David Millar and Cédric Vasseur have both been prohibited from taking the start due to their implication in judge Richard Pallain's ongoing investigation, Vasseur has (through his lawyer) expressed his own disappointment at the Tour mentality.
"The decision made by [Amaury Sport Organisation] is completely illegal," Vasseur's lawyer, Bertrand Wambecke, commented in Saturday's edition of l'Equipe. "The presumption of innocence, based on the most sacred texts of democracy, is put in place to prevent this sort of public stoning. If they do this, it would mean we're in complete anarchy, and I intend to study the possible recourse."
Vasseur remains under official investigation in Pallain's case although he has had his team's suspension lifted. His trouble continued Saturday with an announcement from the French cycling federation (FFC) that he would be prohibited from starting in the national championship road race on Sunday. According to l'Equipe, Cofidis has agreed with the FFC's decision, which came as a result of the Tour's adopted stance issued Friday.
Nicole Cooke is back
Great Britain's Nicole Cooke is back from eight months out of competition, having won her fifth national title in the women's road race in Gwent on Saturday. Cooke had not raced all season, recovering from a knee injury and undergoing surgery just one month before the national championships.
"This means more to me than my other British titles because of the circumstances," Cooke commented on her website (nicolecooke.com). "I knew I was going well in training, but that's different to showing it a race, so I was pleased it went so well."
Cooke beat Rachael Heal and Vicki Pincombe to take the title in cold, rainy conditions.
"I've now got seven weeks to take it on to another level or two for the Olympics," she added.
Longo to Athens
The unstoppable Jeannie Longo claimed her 48th French national title this weekend with victory in national championship road race in Pont-du-Fossé. By winning the road title Saturday, Longo, 45, also secured a place on the French team for the Olympic Games in Athens. Longo came close to another title but had to be content with second place behind Edwige Pitel.
"I was a bit down after the time trial Thursday," Longo told AFP. "But it was time to move on to the road, a race to approach more tactically. The parcours was interesting and allowed the non-climbers to try something as well. The Athens course? I haven't seen it... But the Olympic courses are never good. To prepare I'm going to stay at altitude but I don't think I'll go back to the United States."
Cunego one to watch in Italian championships
Giro d'Italia winner Damiano Cunego (Saeco) will take part in Sunday's elite men's road race at the Italian championships with a realistic chance to win. Despite spending the last month riding criteriums and doing promotional engagements, the young talent says that he is still in good shape.
"Fortunately I've kept training and have maintained the condition, also the weight, to which I pay special attention to is perfect; basically the form is the same as I had in the Giro," Cunego told Datasport.
Although the circuit in Santa Croce sull'Arno does not look particularly selective, Cunego does not rule out his chances. "The circuit is special, on paper it would seem to be more for the pure sprinters, but there is also the possibility that a smaller group of riders could be selected, in which I could play my cards together with my teammates Celestino, Di Luca and Commesso."
Cunego, who was never scheduled to ride the Tour de France, said that after the Italian Championships he will take a week's rest before building up to return in the Brixia Tour at the end of July, with his ultimate goal remaining the World Championships in October.
The two Toms eye Belgian championships
Two of the top Belgian sprinters, Tom Boonen (Quick.Step-Davitamon) and Tom Steels (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago) have their eyes on this Sunday's Belgian championships in Tessenderlo. The race is 18 laps of a fairly flat 13.35 km circuit for a total of 240 km, and should suit the likes of Boonen and Steels, who will be the favourites if it finishes in a bunch sprint. Even if it doesn't, both riders have the race savvy to get themselves into the right move.
Boonen has yet to win an elite Belgian championship, although he has an U23 title to his name. But with 13 victories to his credit so far this season, he is the top favourite for Sunday. "I can only lose," Boonen told Sporza Radio. "Second or third is actually losing. My condition has remained at a very high level for the whole season. Wherever I started, I won."
Asked to comment on Tom Steels, Boonen replied, "You should always count on Tom Steels, he is certainly not to be underestimated. In the previous confrontations I definitely won, but then Steels hadn't reached his level. That is not a reference point."
32 year old Tom Steels already has three elite Belgian titles to his credit, his last being in Maldegem in 2002. This year he has won four races, his most recent being two stages in the Tour of Austria. "A bit of a surprise perhaps, but my condition is good," said Steels. "Who says that it will come down to a sprint? Lotto has a lot of championship riders. We'll have to be on our toes to be in the finale with them."
On Boonen, Steels said that "Boonen is Boonen and I am me. Whereas I'm more of a pure sprinter, Tom Boonen is much more. He can time trial, sprint, ride uphill. He is very complete as a rider. Boonen reminds me always of Wilfried Nelissen. He emanates the same power."
Moreau wants the jersey
Christophe Moreau has had his share of success in the professional peloton, but the 33 year old Crédit Agricole leader has yet to win a national title and is anxious to earn his first tricolore jersey Sunday in the Hautes-Alpes region of France. Moreau will take on his compatriots over ten laps of a tough 22.4 kilometre parcours around Pont-du-Fossé.
Eddy Seigneur already deprived Moreau of his closest bid for a national jersey this week, winning the national time trial championships by barely one second. For Seigneur the win was his fifth national title. For Moreau the defeat was tough to swallow.
"It's a demon I can't seem to get rid of," Moreau said this week of his search for the national title. "I've been dreaming of this jersey and I've failed every time. One second... That's hard to take."
Reigning French champion Didier Rous will, along with his Brioches La Boulangère teammates, retain a favourite's role. La Boulangère can count on several riders capable of claiming victory, including Sylvain Chavanel, Jérôme Pineau, and recent Route du Sud stage winner Thomas Voeckler.
Phonak's Cyril Dessel has been quietly collecting a series of top performances, and showed good form in the Dauphiné Libéré, including a second place in stage 2 behind his teammate José Enrique Gutierrez. Dessel has revenge as additional motivation, hoping to earn the French title to show his team that he should have been selected for the Tour de France as he expected he would be.
Other contenders for the French title include the usual suspects, notably Laurent Brochard (Ag2r-Prévoyance), Patrice Halgand (Crédit Agricole), Sandy Casar (FDJeux.com), and David Moncoutié (Cofidis), to name a few.
Irish championships crucial for Olympic selection
By Shane Stokes, Irishcycling.com
Ciarán Power, David O'Loughlin, David McCann or Philip Deignan? At 7:00pm on Sunday, one of these four will be named to the Irish team for the Olympic road race, joining a yet-to-be announced Mark Scanlon on the two man line up.
The selection will be the endpoint of a six month campaign, each rider doing their utmost to get the results needed to guarantee their place. The certainty regarding Scanlon stems from his dominance in terms of world ranking points. So far this season he has gathered 198 UCI points, double that of Ciarán Power who has 99. McCann is next on 89, with O'Loughlin on 55 and Deignan on 14. O'Loughlin's fine team riding in the FBD Milk Rás potentially cost him some points and this will be taken into consideration under the allocation for team riding.
Deignan's points total is also misleading, as the bulk of his racing has been in the Under 23 category. The 20 year old has excelled there this year, finishing eighth in the Under 23 Liège-Bastogne-Liège, winning the Ronde de l'Islard d'Ariege world cup stage race and taking third on two stages of the Baby Giro.
Of course, world ranking points aren't the only consideration for the selectors. Various other factors will be considered and have their own rating, including an assessment of each rider's mental strength, their ability to handle heat and humidity in a place such as Athens, what are termed exceptional performances during the year, and teamwork. It is likely that Sunday's road race championship will have a big bearing on the selection process; things aren't done and dusted just yet between the four.
Olympic manager Martin O'Loughlin says the final decision will be taken in Sligo on Sunday evening. "The selectors had a very long meeting on Tuesday. We looked at all of the information that had been submitted by the riders and allocated points for the respective results that have come in this year so far. We will have a further meeting on Sunday evening, after the championship, and the riders will be informed of the decision at 7 pm."
"Besides the Olympic qualification issue, it is also worth noting that the first three espoirs on the day will be automatically selected for European championships," he said. "The race is going to be of additional importance for that reason.'
Of course, there will be others aiming to be first across the line. VC La Pomme Marseille riders Nicolas Roche, Paídi O'Brien, Tim Cassidy and last year's runner up Denis Lynch will each be a big threat, while Flanders pro Stephen Gallagher is also aiming to perform well. Spanish based pro Dermot Nally is a possible starter, although this is yet to be confirmed.
On the domestic front, riders such as Tommy Evans and Conor Murphy have been riding strongly of late. So too Paul Griffin, although the tragic death of his friend and teammate Kieran McMahon in a car crash last Monday means his participation is uncertain.
A big battle is also in store in the five lap women's championship, regardless of the fact that no Olympic places are up for grabs. Geraldine Gill's six consecutive gold medals would make her an automatic favourite but illness means she will miss the race. In her absence last year's runner up Colette Swift is the favourite, while Siobhan Dervan, Trudy Brown, Mary Boyd, Roisin Kennedy and Orla Hendron have also shown good form in international races this season.
Louise Moriarty and Siobhan Jacob should also ride well, judging by their good performances at home this year.
The championship races will take place in Sligo, on the same tough, wind exposed circuit as last year. Each lap is just under nine miles long and takes in two climbs, the long drag on the Manorhamilton road and the shorter, far steeper ascent of Tully Hill. In both the men's 104 mile race and the women's 43 mile contest, there should be little room for doubt as to who is the strongest.
Helmet wearing to become compulsory in South Africa
Legislation due to come into effect in October this year details that cyclists must wear helmets when riding on a public road in South Africa. The amendment was published on October 5, 2001 and comes into force on October 5, 2004. It is contained in regulation 207 of the National Road Traffic Regulations. The relevant details of the legislation are as follows:
Compulsory Wearing of Protective Helmet
(1) No person shall drive or be a passenger on a motor cycle, motor tricycle
or a motor quadrucycle, or be a passenger in the side-car attached to
a motor cycle, on a public road, unless he or she is wearing a protective
(2) After expiry of three years from the date of commencement of this regulation [n.b. October 5, 2001], no person shall drive or be a passenger on a pedal cycle on a public road unless he or she is wearing a protective helmet which fits him or her properly and of which the chin straps is properly fastened under the chin. (date 5 October 2004)
(3) The driver of a motor cycle, motor tricycle, motor quadrucycle or pedal cycle shall ensure that any passenger in or on such cycle who is younger than 14 years, complies with the provisions of subregulation (1) or (2), as the case may be.
Courtesy of David Cowie/sa-cycling.com
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2004)