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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest Cycling News for March 16, 2004

Edited by Chris Henry

Sergeant counts on Van Petegem

Lotto-Domo directeur sportif Marc Sergeant received the reassurance he was hoping for after classics leader Peter Van Petegem finished among the leaders on perhaps the toughest day of Tirreno-Adriatico, Saturday's stage 4. Van Petegem finished 12th, safely in the lead group which was led to the line by Milan-San Remo favourite Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step-Davitamon). For Sergeant, Van Petegem's racing said more about his form than his position across the line.

"Peter isn't someone who needs to have a big result to show that he is at the same level as the best riders," Sergeant told La Dernière Heure. "You'll never see that from him. That's how he is and he won't change. But, that doesn't mean he won't make the race, and play a part in the finale, because like all champions he needs to know that the right sensations are there."

Van Petegem, winner last year of a rare Tour of Flanders/Paris-Roubaix double, will once more be a man to watch in the spring classics. Although more a man for the northern classics, Milan-San Remo could smile on the wily Belgian if his form is as good as Sergeant believes.

"I won't lie to you, Van Petegem is in shape," Sergeant said. "You don't finish 12th on a stage that hard without feeling really good. Besides, he's capable of beating anyone in a group sprint, and his rivals know that. Particularly Bettini."

Ferrari tips Vinokourov

Dr Michele Ferrari, coach to cycling greats including Moser, Bugno, Argentin and Rominger, in addition to five-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, has tipped Alexandre Vinokourov (T-Mobile) as one of his top picks for the upcoming World Cup opener Milan-San Remo. Vinokourov, who won three stages at last week's Paris-Nice, enters Milan-San Remo with the dual role as teammate for Erik Zabel in the event of bunch finish, or team leader should the race split earlier on the climbs of the Poggio or Cipressa.

"Alexandre Vinokourov is the rider who impressed me the most in the approach to this year's Milan-San Remo," Ferrari commented. "Not only because of his three stage wins at Paris-Nice. With his solid and compact body, short and powerful legs, and his body leaning forward with a very efficient pedal stroke, he showed explosive acceleration. He was able to continue his efforts with an intensity his adversaries lacked.

"At La San Remo he could attack as early as the Cipressa, possibly holding the lead until the finish," Ferrari added. "Or he could wait until the Poggio and spring out like a bullet. Vino is reaching his full athletic maturity and this year he seems even stronger than last year. He could be very dangerous at the Tour de France."

Read more of Ferrari's thoughts in Waiting for San Remo: the story of the 1992 Milan-San Remo.

VDB thinks San Remo

Although Milan-San Remo has not been a race high on Frank Vandenbroucke's priority list, his recent return to form in Paris-Nice has prompted the Belgian to think more optimistically for la primavera. Vandenbroucke will tackle the World Cup opener with his new Italian team, Fassa Bortolo, and will join the team in Italy on Tuesday night to begin final preparations.

"I've never had good legs for this race," Vandenbroucke told La Dernière Heure. "Why, I'm not sure. I've never had a good day [at San Remo], but this time the condition is there. It would be great if luck could finally smile on me."

Vandenbroucke finished sixth overall in Paris-Nice, and showed his first real explosive form in the mountains in several years, something which has renewed his confidence for the upcoming season.

"If there had been a mountaintop finish, I would have won," he boasted. "I think I was the strongest on the climbs. I was the only one who really threatened CSC and attacked Jaksche. Everyone else followed..."

"At my age, the body needs an intensive week-long effort to move to the next level," Vandenbroucke added, referring to his progression after Paris-Nice. "I improved each day, and I hope that I'm not yet at 100%, but that I'll gain the little bit that I'm still missing."

Euskaltel-Euskadi for Milan-San Remo

The Euskaltel-Euskadi team has announced its selection for the opening round of the World Cup, Milan-San Remo, which takes place Saturday. Samuel Sanchez, an aggressive rider frequently seen on the attack in Paris-Nice, will lead the orange charge along with Dioni Galparsoro, Gorka González, Iñaki Isasi, Iñigo Landaluze, Josu Sillóniz, Gorka Verdugo and Joseba Zubeldia.

Spanish women for Primavera Rosa

Spanish national selector Juan Carlos Vázquez has announced the women's team for the upcoming Primavera Rosa, the women's race for Milan-San Remo. The team will include Rosa Bravo, Fátima Blázquez, Maribel Moreno, Dori Ruano, Leticia Gil and Mercedes Cagigas. The Primavera Rosa acts as the season opener for the Spanish team, and selections for the World Cup events will play an important part in the eventual designation of the Olympic road race team.

"Iturriaga Eneritz will rider with her trade team (Team Let's Go Finland), and Joane Somarriba also wanted to ride with her trade team, Bizkaia, but I'm not sure if they've made the selection yet," Vázquez commented. "We have some veterans like Rosa Bravo, who rides well in the one day races, and she wants to keep her options open for Athens. We also have to think about young riders like Leticia, because I want them to gain more experience."

Testing part of comprehensive approach

In light of Philippe Gaumont's latest comments on the ease with which professionals continue to use banned substances and avoid positive dope tests, some of those on the other side of the equation have countered that doping tests should be but one part of a comprehensive approach to discourage (and detect) cheats in the sport. In an interview in Tuesday's l'Equipe, Jacques de Ceaurriz, director of the Laboratoire National de Dépistage du Dopage (LNDD) in Châtenay-Malabry, France, offered some insight of his own.

"There's no magic recipe in the fight against doping," De Ceaurriz explained. "Controls are just one weapon in an arsenal that needs other approaches."

Gaumont noted in his interview with Le Monde that riders have too much leeway concerning the timing of certain out of competition drug tests, meaning that the 'surprise' inspections are hardly a surprise at all. De Ceaurriz agreed with this notion in a certain fashion, insisting that the window of opportunity for effective tests is often too small.

"The closer the urine sample is taken to the actual analysis, the better our chances of detecting banned substances," he said. "It would seem to make sense to multiply the number of random checks, something which [French sports minister] Jean-François Lamour has recently suggested.

"If you're just fishing for results, you don't stand much of a chance," De Ceaurriz added. "Gaumont frequently played with the controls... The discrepancies are flagrant. The system will improve when these discrepancies cease to exist, when the controls are just one part of a more comprehensive strategy. The dismantling of the trafficking networks, better control over medical practices, international harmonisation of prescriptions and the issuing of medications are other things that must be addressed."

Above all, De Ceaurriz defended the value of the laboratory controls, which despite Gaumont's claims, he considers largely successful.

"Testing is exposed in a case like this, because people often consider the tests as a sort of panacea. Of course they're not perfect, but to say they're ineffective is nonsense."

Zabel holds onto #1

Germany's Erik Zabel (T-Mobile) continues to hold the top spot in the UCI's individual rankings, 57 points ahead of Italy's Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step-Davitamon). Alessandro Petacchi, Alejandro Valverde and Gilberto Simoni round out the top five. Thanks to his impressive start to the season, with victories in the Tour Méditerranéen and Paris-Nice, Jörg Jaksche (Team CSC) has for the first time in his career cracked the top 50.

Individual rankings as of March 14, 2004
1 Erik Zabel (Ger) T-Mobile                            2134 Pts
2 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick.Step-Davitamon             2077 
3 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Fassa Bortolo              1899 
4 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme  1807 
5 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Saeco                          1643 
6 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner                   1601 
7 Lance Armstrong (USA) US Postal Service-Berry Floor  1591 
8 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile                  1445 
9 Iban Mayo (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi                    1425 
10 Michael Boogerd (Ned) Rabobank                      1421 
11 Tyler Hamilton (USA) Phonak Hearing Systems         1296 
12 Francesco Casagrande (Ita) Lampre                   1277 
13 Jan Ullrich (Ger) T-Mobile                          1258 
14 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Saeco                          1239 
15 Isidro Nozal (Spa) Liberty Seguros                  1160 
16 Mirko Celestino (Ita) Saeco                         1150 
17 Peter Van Petegem (Bel) Lotto-Domo                  1138 
18 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears-Banesto       1121 
19 Dario Frigo (Ita) Fassa Bortolo                     1082 
20 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Lotto-Domo                      1080 
21 Baden Cooke (Aus)                        1044 
22 David Millar (GBr) Cofidis                          1027 
23 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Vini Caldirola               1019 
24 Jens Voigt (Ger) Team CSC                            992 
25 Igor Astarloa (Spa) Cofidis                          980

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