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Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for March 9, 2004

Edited by Chris Henry

Vandenbroucke approaching top form

"It's been three years that I've been working to come back to this level," a satisfied Frank Vandenbroucke (Fassa Bortolo) told La Dernière Heure after stage 2 in Paris-Nice. Vandenbroucke finished 12th on Monday, in the company of race leader Jörg Jaksche and the Team CSC express train, and sits in 4th place overall thanks to a strong debut in Sunday's time trial.

"I had a feeling the race would be made [when the splits opened] because T-Mobile wasn't able to close the gap," Vandenbroucke said, explaining his effort to bridge the gap to the lead group pulled clear by CSC. "At the top of the hill I was surprised to be able to reach the break and not have anyone on my wheel. These are the first signs that I'm getting there, patiently, but I know there's still work to be done.

"Still there's no reason to jump for joy," he added. "I'm stronger than last year, but not as strong as I'll be a year from now."

Le Mevel the marvel

Christophe Le Mevel (Crédit Agricole), one of the select few to follow Team CSC as Jörg Jaksche and company launched their offensive in stage 2 of Paris-Nice, not only impressed himself with his ride, but also prompted the french peloton to take note.

Le Mevel, 23, has returned to competition after an accident in the 2002 Quatre Jours de Dunkerque left him with lasting partial paralysis and required a lengthy and challenging period of rehabilitation. His sciatic nerve was severed in the crash, requiring several months of work before he could move his ankle.

"I had several operations, I spent a lot of time in a rehabilitation center in Lannion, but I came back," Le Mevel said in a Reuters interview. "I couldn't walk, but I could ride thanks to special shoes. I returned to competition at the 2003 Tour of Qatar. I suffered tremendously but I was a racer again."

Le mevel still can't run, but on the bike he has figured out how to make his body work and has kept rebuilt his talents as a climber. Sudden attacks aren't possible, but he knows if he can build up some speed in the peloton he can still power his way clear from a group. He claimed the king of the mountains jersey in the 2003 Tour de l'Avenir, a testament to his desire to return to his top form.

"I knew I had to be in front, and I followed CSC, but when I turned around I was very surprised- and very happy- to see that there were only four of us with them," Le Mevel said after stage 2. "In the 70 kilometres left to race I never suffered trying to follow Jaksche and his teammates. I only regret not being able to set up the sprint for Thor Hushovd."

Vincent Lavenu, director of the French Ag2r-Prévoyance team, used Le Mevel as an example when he noted his displeasure after his entire team was caught out of the lead group in stage 2 of Paris-Nice, a collective off day as he put it. "I'm just going to tell [my team] that Christophe Le Mevel was in a hospital bed not too long ago, and he was in front."

Chavanel was ready

Sylvain Chavanel, team leader for Brioches La Boulangère at Paris-Nice, will no doubt lament his time losses in the opening time trial Sunday, particularly after having read the moves correctly and finished in the select lead group in the explosive second stage.

"I know I didn't have a good ride [Sunday]... I don't have an explanation," Chavanel explained. Chavanel managed only 89th place Sunday, 1'03 behind race winner Jörg Jaksche. Thanks to his finish in the first group in stage 2, Chavanel moved to 27th overall but still lost two seconds as Jaksche snuck into a bonus sprint.

"We didn't expect a calm stage," Chavanel told l'Equipe after stage 2. "If we were sheltered in the woods, everything would open after after that and [we knew] there would be splits. I'm glad to have made the front group... When I saw Jaksche taking pulls at the front, I said to myself, oh la la, that's not good..."

Nevertheless, Chavanel is ready to keep fighting for a high overall place in Nice, even if victory now seems out of reach. "Jaksche should go all the way, he has a very strong team. Rebellin isn't far... We'll see. I'm a little way back but I'll keep doing what I can, like last year."

End of the Kelme name?

Kelme, the longest running team sponsor currently in the professional peloton, could lose its position as title sponsor of what this year has been dubbed the Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme team. The Valencian government stepped in to support the team in 2003 after Kelme's financial difficulties were revealed. However if Kelme's support does not return to anticipated levels, could be dropped from the team name next year.

"If Kelme, as a company, does not sponsor the team then it will be removed from the name," Gonzalez Pons told Marca. "What we cannot do is use the public budget of the Generalitat Valenciana to publicise a private company. Everybody knows that."

Meanwhile, a gesture of good faith was offered by the team when Alejandro Valverde's winner's jerseys from the Vuelta a Valenciana and the Vuelta a Murcia were presented to Francisco Campos, president of the Valencian government.

Hungarian named in Trieste drug bust

Hungarian news agency MTI reports that the president of the Hungarian Cycling Association, Lajos Verebélyi, has confirmed the name of the rider implicated in a drug bust in Trieste, Italy this week. According to an ANP report, some 30 bottles of EPO and growth hormone were found in the search, said to be destined for riders in an upcoming amateur race in the area.

MTI reports that Hungarian Zoltán Bebtó was the cyclist in question, though he has insisted that the substances were stimulants for his own personal use, not intended for distribution to others. The Hungarian federation has not yet been contacted by the Italian authorities, and thus cannot confirm the presence of EPO and growth hormones in Bebtó's hotel room.

Vaughters keynote for USBHOF induction

The United States Bicycling Hall of Fame has announced that retired professional Jonathan Vaughters will act as keynote speaker for the 18th Annual Inductions Ceremonies on May 30 in Somerville, New Jersey. Vaughters currently heads the Denver-based Team TIAA CREF-5280 Cycling Team.

Inductees for 2004 include: Reggie McNamara, John Vande Velde, Alexi Grewal, Ron Kiefel, John Tomac, Perry Kramer and Bill Woodul.

"I know (knew) all of the inductees quite well," Vaughters said. "Alexi was my hero, Ron is our sponsor, and Bill Woodul took me on my first international trip."

The induction ceremony will also feature a silent auction with donated items such as autographed items from the inductees, and cycling memorabilia. To purchase tickets for the dinner, or request additional information, please visit www.usbhof.com.

Houston event honours Reinhart

The Houston Parks and Recreation Department (HPARD) has named the 5th Annual Junior Cycling Classic in honour of Nicole Reinhart, a U.S. national champion who was killed in a crash at the 2000 Tour of Arlington in Massachusetts. The Nicole Reinhart Memorial Fund has made a contribution to HPARD, which will provide event support and cash prizes to the winners of the Nicole Reinhart Junior Cycling Classic.

The race will be held at HPARD's Alkek Velodrome in Cullen Park on April 9-10, 2004. Two age categories, 10-14 and 15-18, will attract top junior cyclists from around the country.

"The mission of the Nicole Fund is to improve racing and help athletes, and supporting this was clearly a way to accomplish those goals," said Nicole's father, Mike Reinhart, president of the Nicole Reinhart Memorial Fund.

For additional information about the Nicole Reinhart Cycling Classic, call the Alkek Velodrome at (281) 578-0693 or see www.ci.houston.tx.us/alkekvelodrome.

New director for Eugene Celebration Cycling Classic

Richard Sweet has been named Race Director for the 2004 2004 Eugene (Oregon) Celebration Cycling Classic. Sweet takes over from Jim Anderson, who ran the event for the first five years. Race organisers are seeking event volunteers, committee members, and sponsors for the increasingly popular community event. See www.eugenecelebration.com for more information.

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