First Edition Cycling News for March 6, 2004
Edited by Chris Henry
World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) president Richard Pound has issued a reaction to Lance Armstrong's strongly worded letter criticising Pound for his statements concerning doping in cycling. Armstrong's terse tone caught Pound's attention, and the WADA president said he was surprised by Armstrong's approach.
"[Mr. Pound] considers it surprising that Mr. Armstrong has attacked in such virulent fashion someone who he has never met, and who never mentioned his name, nor expressed any doubt concerning his exploits," said WADA spokesman Frédéric Donzé.
"Mr. Pound insists that nobody would be happier than he if cycling became a sport free from doping," the statement continued. "But recent events lead one to believe that there is a certain amount of work to be done."
Pound, for his part, added that "WADA relies on the collaboration of champions like Mr. Armstrong and sporting organisations such as the UCI in the fight against doping in sport."
The president of the UCI, Hein Verbruggen, shared Armstrong's concern over the comments made by Pound, which appeared originally in an interview with French newspaper Le Monde on January 28.
"WADA should play the same role as the United Nations," Verbruggen said. "And I have never heard UN boss Kofi Annan talk like Dick Pound. Pound shoots at everything that moves. At the athletes, at the governments, at the European Community. But WADA doesn't only stand for repression. With his comments he's giving his organisation a bad image."
Hamilton in doubt for Paris-Nice
American Tyler Hamilton is unsure of his planned racing debut with Phonak Hearing Systems at Paris-Nice, which begins Sunday in Chaville, outside of Paris. Hamilton has been hit with a flu and spent Friday in bed, according to Phonak.
Hamilton started his season in 2003 at Paris-Nice as well, taking second place in the prologue time trial and finishing the race with the king of the mountains jersey. If he travels to Paris Saturday, a final verdict on racing will still be made Sunday morning. First year professional Johann Tschopp has been named as Hamilton's replacement should he be unable to race.
Museeuw out of Paris-Nice
After a late decision to take part in Paris-Nice, it seems Johan Museeuw (Quick.Step-Davitamon) will now be forced to miss the season's first hors catégorie stage race due to a minor back injury. Museeuw will take two days off the bike and will likely travel to Italy to ride Tirreno-Adriatico instead.
Nico Mattan, recruited by Patrick Lefevere to lead the new Relax-Bodysol team, is frustrated by the team's thin racing schedule as the big April classics loom on the horizon. Relax-Bodysol was granted Division I status by the UCI, but has found itself left on the sidelines for a number of major races this spring, irking Mattan.
"What really put things over the edge was our non-selection for Paris-Nice," said Mattan, winner of last year's prologue in the race to the sun, in a La Dernière Heure report. "We needed that to be in form for the classics. We're a Division I team, or so it seems, but we can't do Paris Nice, nor Tirreno-Adriatico, not to mention Milan-San Remo, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, or even Flèche Wallonne. I just heard that a Division III Italian team was selected for la Primavera... They can't be serious!"
Mattan still put his own early season training to good use, taking fifth place in Friday's prologue time trial at the Record Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen, a three day event in Belgium chosen by many classics specialists.
Mayo prepares quietly
As the world focuses on the first encounter between Lance Armstrong and Jan Ullrich at the Vuelta a Murcia, Spain's Iban Mayo (Euskaltel-Euskadi) is quietly beginning his own preparations for the Tour de France, where he hopes to improve upon his sixth place overall (including a stage win) in 2003. Mayo, like many Tour riders, is using Murcia as a warm up race in pleasant weather before ramping up his serious racing in the months to come.
"This race comes a little early in my preparation," Mayo said in an interview with the race organisation, downplaying his own objectives for Murcia like all good Tour contenders do. "It's a great race and I like to do it each year. It's in a good climate and the organisation is very good."
After stage 3, Mayo sat in 8th place overall, 48" behind leader José Ivan Gutierrez of Illes Balears-Banesto.
Mayo's top goal remains the Tour de France, though he knows it will not be an easy task. Last year he and teammate Haimar Zubeldia formed a potent duo, with Zubeldia finishing one step higher in the general classification in Paris.
Tour to honour Pantani at Alpe d'Huez
In honour of deceased Tour de France champion Marco Pantani, who won the race in 1998 ahead of Jan Ullrich, the Tour organisers have decided to run the Alpe d'Huez hill climb time trial in Pantani's name. Pantani holds the record for the fastest ascension of the fabled climb [in a road stage] and will be remembered as one of the greatest 'pure climbers' the race has known.
The Tour time trial will tackle Alpe d'Huez on July 21 (stage 16), beginning in Bourg d'Oisans and finishing at the summit of the Alpe 15 kilometres and 21 switchbacks later.
Tests confirm banned substances in Cofidis investigation
French authorities have confirmed the presence of banned substances among the various products seized from the five cyclists linked at one point or another to the Cofidis team and currently under investigation for drug trafficking. Cofidis soigneur Bogdan Madejak, rider Philippe Gaumont, ex-Cofidis professionals Marek Rutkiewicz and Robert Sassone, and semi-professional Daniel Majewski have all been placed under investigation by French judge Richard Pallain in a trafficking case which was launched in 2003.
Among products seized during these investigations, cocaine, corticoids and EPO have been found, a sort of "pot Belge", or drug cocktail, according to an AFP report. French investigators continue to refer to a "vast network" of drug trafficking, focusing on former and current members of the Cofidis team.
Philippe Gaumont has since been released by Cofidis, while Rutkiewicz and Sassone, who had secured contracts with RAGT Semences-MG Rover and Oktos-Saint Quentin, respectively, remain out of the peloton for the time being. Bogdan Madejak is still in police custody in Nanterre, outside of Paris. Majewski, who was questioned by police but not charged, has since returned to Poland to race, having been released by his French team.
Kintana in limbo
Basque professional Aitor Kintana, who tested positive for EPO in last June's Volta a Catalunya, remains unsure of his fate as no sanction has been handed down. Kintana has challenged the results, but appears prepared to receive a suspension of up to a year. Beyond that remains a question.
"I have already challenged the allegations with the Competition Committee and the sanction has been delayed," Kintana told Basque newspaper Diario Vasco. "If we don't agree on something, I will take the case to the Court of Arbitration in Sport. If they sanction me for a year, I'll return in August and race in September. If it's more than a year, that would kill my career."
Velo Bella 2004
The Velo Bella women's team announced its roster and plans for the 2004 season Friday. The road team will concentrate on the National Racing Calendar (NRC) and the newly formed Women's Prestige Cycling Series. The road team features a combination of experienced top racers and up and coming talent, including Commonwealth Games silver medallist Susy Pryde and former Mexican national time trial champion Gabriela Gonzales De Ferrat, both of whom will be making Olympic bids for their respective countries.
Elizabeth Begosh, formerly of the Snow Valley Women's Team, joins Velo Bella for 2004, along with Christine Vardaros, who has recovered from a broken leg suffered during the cyclo-cross season.
The mountain bike team will race the NORBA National series on both the cross country and downhill circuit. The mountain bike team is composed of five first year cross-country pros and two downhillers.
Velo Bella also supports a large number of amateur athletes competing throughout California, Georgia, Colorado, Arizona and Minnesota. Plans are also underway to introduce an elite cyclo-cross team in late summer.
Barbara Howe (XC)
Sponsors for the 2004 season include: P@zzo, Pixel Position, Alan Bicycle Frames, Truvativ, Ooh La La Chocolats, Fox Racing Shox, Team Estrogen, Sally Spicer, Zeal Optics, GU Sports, Schwalbe Tires, fi'zi:k, LOOK, Sidi, Ciclosport, Titus, Giro, deuter, SportVelo, Verge, Light and Motion, and Sheila Moon.
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