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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for March 18, 2004

Edited by Chris Henry

Petacchi won't count Cipo out

Scene at San Remo?
Photo ©: Sirotti

Mario Cipollini (Domina Vacanze) didn't exactly show his best form at Tirreno-Adriatico, dropped on the climbs and forced to abandon before the final stage. Nonetheless, triple stage winner Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) refuses to count out the former world champion for Saturday's opening round of the World Cup, Milan-San Remo. Petacchi, who claims to have made progress on the hills and remains hopeful for an arrival with the leaders in San Remo, expects Cipollini to be present as well.

"I know that Cipollini has every intention of coming in with the first group on the Via Roma," Petacchi told La Dernière Heure. "He'll do everything to take revenge on the sprints that he hasn't been able to win thus far. Just like Zabel, he's not a man you can ignore in a bunch sprint."

Petacchi, who can count on teammates Filippo Pozzato and Frank Vandenbroucke to play their cards as well, won't ignore Cipollini- but nor will he base his whole race around his arch-rival.

"If I were you, I wouldn't make any bets on the subject," he said of Cipollini's chances. "I think that Cipollini is playing a little game to lull his rivals into thinking he's not going well. That's a bit childish. We're beyond grade school, no?

"I'm not going to watch him in the sprint," Petacchi added. "I will have done enough work on my own to get to the front on the Cipressa and the Poggio. At this level, I'm confident."

Chavanel not inspired

Sylvain Chavanel will ostensibly ride as the leader for Brioches La Boulangère at Milan-San Remo, but the Frenchman doesn't offer much bravado concerning his own chances. "I haven't been doing longer training rides," Chavanel said. "It's not a classic that really inspires me."

Chavanel was the best French rider in a lackluster French performance at Paris-Nice, finishing 14th overall, 4'35 behind final yellow jersey Jörg Jaksche.

"Since Paris-Nice, I've mainly been trying to recover," he added. According to directeur sportif Theirry Bricaud, the goal for Milan-San Remo is to have three or four riders still present at the start of the final climb of the Poggio.

Elmiger ready for MSR

Up and coming Swiss professional Martin Elmiger (Phonak) is ready for Milan-San Remo, where he will carry the primary role of support rider for team leader Oscar Camenzind in the frantic finale. Elmiger has steadily emerged as a solid classics rider himself, and knows that his own chances could come up on the road to San Remo.

"My primary task is to support Oscar Camenzind in the World Cup races," Elmiger said on his team's website. "Especially in Milan-San Remo it often gets rather turbulent in the finale and a helper can suddenly look for his own chances. That's why we have two irons in the fire.

"If my physical condition continues to improve, nothing is impossible," Elmiger added. "As an all-rounder with good sprinting ability, classics like this appeal to me, especially because of the distance."

Moreau set for first race

After another early season complicated by injury, Christophe Moreau (Crédit Agricole) is finally ready to return to competition and his first race of the year, the Classic Loire-Atlantique on Friday. Moreau injured his knee at one of his team's pre-season training camps and has suffered through a long and slow recovery to reach the point where he is ready to race. Moreau has been through this before, but this recovery has been particularly difficult.

"Previous experience has taught me to be philosophical, but this injury has been more difficult that the others," Moreau said in a l'Equipe interview. "When I broke my collarbone, I was back on the home trainer within five days. This time it's been tougher to regain morale. The recovery has been slow."

Moreau's principal objective remains the Tour de France, though he will also aim for the final podium in the Four Days of Dunkerque. After some warm up races, Moreau hopes to slip into his original racing schedule including the Circuit de la Sarthe (April 6-9), Flèche Wallonne (April 21), and Liège-Bastogne-Liège (April 25).

"I'll still be a bit short for the Ardennes classics, but on the other hand I'll be there quite fresh," he explained. "If all goes well, I think I can reasonably expect to ride for victory by the beginning of May."

Robin hopes for productive meeting

Jean-Cyril Robin (, one of several French cyclists invited to a dialogue with sports minister Jean-François Lamour Thursday, hopes the meeting proves useful in the fight against doping. "I hope the minister is ready to listen to us, because we need to be able to express ourselves," Robin told l'Equipe.

"He always speaks to the authorities, but never with the riders, even this concerns us most directly."

For Robin, the fact that Lamour has become a vocal and active participant in matters of curbing doping in the peloton bring promise. He considers the decision to require licensed physical therapists within French teams rather than soigneurs for the riders' daily massage a hasty judgment, but generally supports the minister's efforts.

"Mr. Lamour must continue to tighten the vice, just like the UCI," Robin added.

Indurain: Armstrong can win six

Spain's Miguel Indurain, a member of the elite club of five-time Tour de France winners, believes Lance Armstrong is capable of breaking new ground with a sixth victory this July. Indurain failed in his bid to claim a record sixth Tour in 1996 when Bjarne Riis put an end to the reign of Big Mig. After seeing Armstrong at the Vuelta a Murcia earlier this month, Indurain reaffirmed his belief that the US Postal Service leader was up to the task of a sixth Tour.

"I can see, as can his rivals, that he is capable of winning his sixth," Indurain told Spanish paper Marca. "You can see he has the desire, he's still motivated, and his results so far this year show that he's worked hard over the winter.

"The key is getting to the end of the Tour, because it's really tough considering you could crash, have an injury, get sick... You can have a rough ride," Indurain said. "But experience also counts, and nobody has more experience [than Armstrong]."

In response to the inevitable and ongoing efforts to compare Armstrong's career with the likes of other five-time Tour winners, Indurain maintains that one man remains above the rest.

"He could be the most consistent, and if he wins another Tour the record will be his," Indurain said. "But you can't compare different eras. Eddy Merckx's palmarès remain superior to the rest, even including Bernard Hinault."

Irish competition heats up

By Tommy Campbell, Irish Independent, Evening Herald, Sunday Independent

The last seven days has seen a feast of competitive cycling and it continues this weekend with events north and south on both Saturday and Sunday. A tremendous supporter of cycling down the years, "Duffs" of Bray, is lending its support yet again to the Christy McManus Trophy in Roundwood, Co. Wicklow. Sean Bracken, who won the opening event of the season in Navan last month, is going for an unprecedented three wins in a row.

On Sunday, the first Classic League race, is down for decision. The Des Hanlon Memorial is the first of six events. The 180 kilometre race starts and finishes in Carlow town. The course is sporting but the distance at this time of the year may catch many out, as most early season races have been in the region of 100 kilometres.

Paul Griffin from the Earl of Desmond Tralee Bicycle Club is a likely favourite. He has had the advantage of competing in two major stage races in the last month (in Malaysia and South Africa). He also won the Matt Lacey Trophy in Tralee in his own backyard.

Griffin had the best placing on a stage in South Africa last week with the Irish team that traveled at its own expense after a successful showing in the Tour de Langkawi. In the ten day Malaysian event the Irish matched the best in the world and were on par with the South African competitors who won out in the Giro del Capo.

Of the five who went to South Africa, Griffin, David O'Loughlin and Ciaran McMahon returned while Eugene Moriarty and David McCann remained on to get the benefit of more training miles which should be beneficial for the upcoming Credit Union Ras Mumhan.

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