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Photo ©: Swift

First Edition Cycling News for March 8, 2004

Edited by Jeff Jones & Chris Henry

Ullrich satisfied

Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile)
Photo ©: AFP

Jan Ullrich (T-Mobie) has completed his first stage race of the season at the Vuelta a Murcia in Spain, finishing in 71st overall, 24 minutes behind race winner Alejandro Valverde. Naturally, Ullrich wasn't concerned with the general classification as he begins his steady build up to the Tour de France in July. Overall, the German declared himself satisfied with the test, saying that almost everything went according to plan.

"I'm not worried about the time difference with Lance [Armstrong]," Ullrich said on his website, referring to the first (and likely only) meeting of the year with Tour rival Lance Armstrong until July. "I'm starting to race hard now for the first time in half a year. I've created the base, riding a lot of kilometres, but my lungs and my muscles aren't used to going into oxygen debt."

Ullrich lost ground on the difficult fourth stage, admitting that he "suffered a lot".

"On the final climb, Jan lost ground like many others," team director Mario Kummer added. "He shouldn't push himself too hard. The main concern was to finish in good health and get in some racing kilometres."

Riders cautious in Paris-Nice TT

David Millar (Cofidis)
Photo ©: AFP

With intermittent rain creating slick conditions on the technical Paris-Nice time trial course Sunday, caution was the word of the day for a number of riders, accepting losses in time to avoid a crash which could derail the critical spring season. Time trial world champion David Millar was among those who didn't push himself beyond reason, and although he claimed his form was not super, he still managed a top five finish.

"I'm very happy with my place," Millar commented after his ride. "I was more relaxed in the second half of the course because the roads were dry. I didn't want to take any risks; I wasn't here to win."

Levi Leipheimer of Rabobank echoed these sentiments, admitting that his time losses were significant, but even with ambitions for the overall title in Paris-Nice, he was not eager to risk a crash. Surely last year's stage 1 exit from the Tour de France due to injury has stuck in Leipheimer's mind, and he too took a cautious approach despite what he described as great condition.

For riders not targeting the overall, there was even less reason to take unnecessary risks, as was the case for Laurent Brochard (Ag2r-Prévoyance). "I was careful in the first corners," he said. "My condition is good but I'm not here for the overall classification."

Floyd Landis: dark horse for Paris-Nice?

Floyd Landis (US Postal Service)
Photo ©: CN

After winning the Volta ao Algarve last month and placing 19th at 29 seconds in the opening time trial of Paris-Nice, US Postal-Berry Floor rider Floyd Landis is shaping up to be one of the favourites for the "Race to the Sun". When Cyclingnews spoke with him last week at his home in Gerona, Spain, the affable Floyd said, "Well I couldn't be happier with the way things are going, but Paris-Nice is a much bigger race than Algarve, so I'm taking it one step at a time."

Landis gained a lot of confidence from his win in Portugal, saying that "It was good for my head! I needed to start 2004 that way after the way last year went. In the end, last year turned out as a successful year. I started out very bad and ended up OK. But it wasn't what I had in mind so this year, I had to get everything right from the beginning. It was good to get back on track to where I thought I should have been last year."

After Paris-Nice, Landis' program will include Criterium International, Tour of the Basque Country, Paris-Roubaix, Amstel Gold, Flèche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege, before he heads back to the US for a break. Floyd has mixed memories of Paris-Roubaix: when he last rode it two years ago he didn't finish after being hit by the ambulance. "He came by me with the bike trailer swinging back and forth behind and the corner clipped my leg and spun me upside down. I had to get stitches and got a big scar. Then I got in the ambulance! It was like they said 'here's one guy we don't have to wait for' so they just knocked me down!"

To read the rest of the Floyd Landis interview, click here.

Vasseur denies cocaine charge

As the first stage of Paris-Nice got under way in Chaville, the story of another positive drug result stemming from the investigation surrounding the Cofidis team emerged. Cédric Vasseur, questioned along with Cofidis teammate Philippe Gaumont and ex-Cofidis riders Marek Rutkiewicz and Robert Sassone earlier this year, has not been charged by French investigators with any offense. In Sunday's edition of l'Equipe, Vasseur is said to have returned a positive test for trace amounts of cocaine, something the rider emphatically denies.

"There is no way that they could have found anything like cocaine in my system," Vasseur said Sunday. "I don't see how they could have arrived at that conclusion."

Vasseur noted that he has received no formal notification of the results, adding that he would make himself available for additional testing if necessary.

"At this point it's a rumour," he said. "You'd have to ask the newspaper l'Equipe who started the rumour... I contacted my lawyer immediately, and I'm waiting for more information before I react.

"When I heard the news Saturday night, I immediately called the inspector at the brigade des stupéfiants (drug brigade) who I met when I was questioned in January. He assured me he had nothing."

Tour de France director Jean-Marie Leblanc lent his support to Vasseur, calling him an honourable person and expressing his own surprise at the charge.

Steels out of Tirreno-Adriatico

Tom Steels will not be part of the Landbouwkrediet-Colnago selection for Tirreno-Adriatico. The Belgian sprinter is sick at the moment, and didn't ride the last two days of the Driedaagse van West Vlaanderen. Landbouwkrediet's selection is: Yaroslav Popovych, Jacky Durand, Ludo Dierckxsens, Geert Van Bondt, Lorenzo Bernucci, Volodomir Duma, Cristian Gasperoni, Volodomir Bileka

Vini Caldirola invited to L-B-L

Stefano Garzelli and his Vini Caldirola team have received an invitation for Liege-Bastogne-Liege, which takes place on April 25. Garzelli, who finished second in the race in 2002 behind his teammate Paolo Bettini, will also ride La Flèche Wallonne during the previous week.

Giro della Provincia di Catania-Trofeo Etna

Monday's Giro della Provincia di Catania-Trofeo Etna will serve as a final tune-up for many riders preparing for Tirreno-Adriatico which starts this Wednesday. The Trofeo Etna was to be the third of three races held in Southern Italy this weekend, but the recent cancellation of the Trofeo Pantalica left a gap in the middle.

The Trofeo Etna only carries a 1.3 ranking, but it will feature a quality field. Giro d'Italia contenders Stefano Garzelli (Vini Caldirola) and Gilberto Simoni (Saeco) will be there along with Aitor Gonzalez (Fassa Bortolo), Fabio Baldato (Alessio-Bianchi), Giuliano Figueras (Panaria), Ivan Quaranta (Formaggi), Mirko Celestino and Salvatore Commesso (Saeco), Gianluca Bortolami (Lampre) and Reggio Calabria winner Andris Nauduzs (Domina Vacanze).

The race starts in Acicatena at 11:00 and finishes in the Piazza Duomo in Catania at approximately 15:50. The toughest climb is the Passo di Maletto at 980m, and there are also GPMs at Nicolosi and Ragalna.

Teams and principal riders: Fassa Bortolo (Gonzalez), Saeco (Simoni, Celestino, Commesso), Vini Caldirola (Garzelli), Lampre (Bortolami), De Nardi, LBK (Gasperoni), Alessio (Baldato, Moreni), RAGT, Panaria (Figueras), Formaggi Pinzolo (Quaranta), Acqua&Sapone (Nocentini), LPR (Aggiano, Konychev), Domina Vacanze (Giunti, Scarponi), Tenax (Tonetti), Selle Italia, Barloworld (Degano), Miche and Amore&Vita.

Young Spanish MTB'er sanctioned for doping

A young Spanish mountain biker, Germán Noguera, has been sanctioned after testing positive for norandrosterone at the 2002 Spanish championships, according to Todociclismo. The two year sanction commenced on February 14 of this year and will finish on February 13, 2006. Noguera finished fifth in the cadets category at the championships.

Canadians up anti-doping efforts

The Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES) has stepped up its efforts in the field of anti-doping, and will introduce blood testing as part of doping controls in all Canadian sports in June 1, 2004. In a press statement, the CCES said that, "Blood analysis will allow the CCES to detect the presence of substances undetectable through urine analysis alone, and will also provide indications of previously undetectable doping methods."

Cycling, along with swimming, athletics and cross-country skiing, has been subject to blood testing on a pilot basis in Canada since 2002. Up until now, the CCES reports that 70 blood samples have been collected, but it intends to increase the number in future years.

The CCES' annual testing plan will now incorporate blood sample collections both in and out of competition. Unlike the initial pilot project, whereby consent was required prior to athletes providing a blood sample, under the new rules of the Canadian Anti-Doping Program, athletes can be required to provide a urine and/or blood sample at any point, at any time.

The CCES says it will develop educational materials and offer information sessions to athletes and support personnel.

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