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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for March 19, 2004

Edited by Jeff Jones

A touch of bronchitis for Armstrong

Although US Postal-Berry Floor team director Dirk Demol told AFP on Thursday night that Lance Armstrong will not be riding Milan-San Remo, Armstrong has left the door open a fraction, and the final decision will not be made until Friday afternoon.

According to race organisers RCS Sport/La Gazzetta dello Sport, Armstrong has been in Italy for a few days training (and getting new orthotics for his shoes) in Tuscany with his friend Max Sciandri. On Wednesday and Thursday, Armstrong visited the Casartelli family in Lake Como.

In an interview with La Gazzetta published on Friday, Armstrong told Pier Bergonzi, "I've come to Italy to race Milan-San Remo. It's a race I've always loved, with 300 km and seven hours of racing. I'm in good shape, but I'll race to help George Hincapie and Max van Heeswijk. But my problem is that I'm not feeling that good. I've got a touch of bronchitis and the weather forecast is for possible rain. I don't want to risk anything. So I'll talk to Johan Bruyneel and my teammates and we'll figure out together what I'm going to do. But I have to be honest, right now it's more 'no' that 'yes' that I'll ride."

Sunderland looking forward to Milan-San Remo

Scott Sunderland
Photo ©: Alessio-Bianchi

Cyclingnews diarist Scott Sunderland isn't inexperienced when it comes to riding World Cup races. "I lost count of how many, I can't give you an exact number straight off really," Scott told Cyclingnews from Brussels airport, where he was waiting to board the plane to Milan in the company of a lot of other Belgian based cyclists and two Belgian television crews. "I have ridden so many over the last fifteen seasons, but I still enjoy it as much as I did the first time; it still gets the adrenalin pumping. Milan-San Remo is a nice race. It's not that hard to ride but it's a tough one to win, it's quite dangerous too. If it's nice weather, I definitely like riding it. A fifth and thirteenth place were my best placings in it so far, and I don't think I'll better that this year."

In the first part of the European season, Sunderland suffered from the viral infection which later affected quite a few of the other Australians in the peloton, Baden Cooke and Robbie McEwen included. "It really knocks you out, and I feel that I still haven't recovered from it fully," he said. "This morning I had a blocked nose and an annoying tickle in the throat. I'm afraid the infection will flare up again. It's ok as long as I'm riding on the flat, but on the climbs it hinders my breathing." What is his form like otherwise? "The legs are feeling good and I feel comfortable on the bike, something which isn't that obvious and natural for me any more since Amstel '98. Riding Paris-Nice was good because it was so hard. The last stages were like riding Tour stages, fast and furious."

"I'm still a good 15 percent away from top form, but it's coming along nicely. I think I'll be able to give sufficient support to both Pellizotti and Baldato during tomorrow's race. Next week, I should start feeling the benefits of the hard labour during training and during the previous races. I'm certainly looking forward to the coming spring campaign."

Cyclingnews Milan-San Remo coverage

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Cyclingnews will have full live coverage of Milan-San Remo, beginning at 9:30 CET on Saturday morning (19:30 AEDT/03:30 EST/00:30 PST).

Wood to defend World Cup series lead in Primavera Rosa

Oenone Wood celebrates her World Cup leader's jersey
Photo: © Joel Roberts

Australian road champion, Oenone Wood will line up in the leader's jersey for the Primavera Rosa in Italy, the second of nine rounds of the UCI Women's Road Cycling World Cup. Wood placed sixth in the race on debut last year but this time goes into the 118km race from Varazze to San Remo with a 2004 tally of 13 victories so far, including her win in the opening World Cup round last month in Geelong.

"I'm feeling really good at the moment and have settled into Italy," said Wood after a pre-event training ride. "There is added pressure going in to the race as the series leader but I would probably have put pressure on myself regardless because I want to keep performing to ensure Olympic selection.

"I think I'll feel a lot more comfortable this year. Last year I was so nervous because of size of the field and the fact we were weaving through tight roads through towns in the hectic start of the race."

The Primavera Rosa covers the final section of the route for the Milan-San Remo and travels along the Lugurian coastline. The defending champion is Russian Zoulfia Zabirova, who launched a successful solo attack on the Cipressa, the second last climb at 96km, and held on to claim the win.

"That sort of move will be the one to look for," said Wood. "It would be great to hang onto the jersey and we definitely want to keep it for as long as possible. Till the end of the year would be absolutely fantastic," she said.

See also: Cyclingnews' interview with Oenone wood

Setback for Ljungskog

World Champion Susanne Ljungskog (SATS) suffered a slight setback in the lead up to La Primavera Rosa. Ljungskog expected some new bikes to arrive in time for the race, but apparently they have been stolen, either from the manufacturer, or on their way to her.

"That is correct," said Susanne. "It's not the perfect way to start my first World Cup race, but I'm not too stressed over it anyway. I still have bikes to ride, but I would have preferred to get the new ones in time for this race."

Bruckner remains coy

Cyclingnews diarist Kimberley Bruckner (T-Mobile) was somewhat guarded about her team's plans for La Primavera Rosa, the second round of the women's World Cup. "I don't want to give away our team plan," she said with a smile, "but we will see on the first climb who the protected riders are. We just need to go hard and stay with the front group on those climbs."

Bruckner and the team flew in to Italy on Wednesday, and added, "It's hard to tell how the team is feeling as we just got here, so we are all a bit jet lagged, but I am feeling much better on the bike than I was earlier in the year."

Marsal counting on sprint finish

Cathy Marsal (Nobili Rubinetterie - Guerciotti) is hoping for a bunch finish in La Primavera Rosa, in order to make the best use of her team's sprinters. "I think we have two options. We have Olga [Slioussareva] and Alison [Wright] for a sprint finish," Marsal told Cyclingnews. "On a course like this is very hard to break away. I'm not sure there is anyone in the bunch right now who can do the solo break, especially as the weather has been so bad in Europe. When Ljungskog and Zabirova did it they were in spectacular form. If there is anyone who can do it, it's Judith [Arndt].

"I think the AIS will also want to keep it together for Oenone [Wood], as she's sprinting so well," concluded Marsal.

Cyclingnews Primavera Rosa coverage

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Vaughters on Gaumont and cortisone

Credit Agricole in 2001
Photo ©: AFP

Retired American pro cyclist Jonathan Vaughters was part of the French system during his career, riding for Credit Agricole between 2000 and 2002. Vaughters rode the Tour de France three times, but was never able to finish it, with crashes and bad luck playing a big role.

His most unfortunate incident was in the 2001 Tour, when he was stung by a wasp on the second rest day, and had to pull out on Stage 15 due to his eye being swollen shut. Although cortisone treatment would have enabled him to ride, the UCI rules at the time did not permit it, as Vaughters had not declared cortisone in his medical booklet at the start of the race.

The recent comments of Philippe Gaumont regarding the use of cortisone in cycling prompted Vaughters to reflect on the circumstances that forced him to abandon the 2001 Tour, and how he could have continued if he had bent the rules a little. In an email to Cyclingnews, Vaughters wrote:

It's interesting to me what Philippe Gaumont has said about the methods used to cheat the system set up to detect unauthorized cortisone use. I wish I'd known this is 2001, when I was stung by a wasp and forced to withdraw [from the Tour] due to my eyes being swollen shut, and the inability to use cortisone to cure it. After I officially dropped out, I was given an injection of cortisone and the swelling was gone in less than 20 minutes.

Anyhow, I see now that it wasn't necessary that I drop out. I could have finished, and apparently had a shot at winning the next stage too! However, at the time, this was not one of the options I was given. the team doctor at Credit Agricole, Hervé Stoicheff, and team director Roger Legeay both knew that the testing wouldn't be able to tell the difference between authorized use of cortisone (I could have faked a knee injury), and unauthorized. However, they felt it was best to follow the rules to the letter and to the spirit, and chose against this course of action.

At the time this was very upsetting to me, as I was so close to finishing a race I never would. I would have rather broken the rules than quit, no question. But looking back on it now, I see that in the greater picture, perhaps it was best that I wasn't allowed to break the rules.

In that I was lucky to have had people around me that were aware of the ramifications of crossing the line even for a good reason; who were concerned about the sport as a whole, and not the results for the next day. Credit Agricole and its staff made decisions like this quite regularly. Dr. Stoicheff had some problems with the '98 Tour scandal, but I think he realized that the time to change had come, and did. Credit Agricole is one team whose members should never be doubted in the slightest.

As an athlete in a fragile and competitive situation it is often difficult to make good decisions. I know that given my own volition, I would have betrayed the rules of the UCI that day to finish the Tour de France. Without a doubt. However, I had honest, intelligent, and less emotionally involved people surrounding me, and preventing me from making a selfish choice. Although I despised them at the time, I now wish that cycling could be full of such honourable people such as Legeay and Dr. Stoicheff. They served the correct role, deflecting the pressures presented to athletes as opposed to magnifying them.

In closing, I simply wish to point out that although Gaumont brings up some issues that do need to be resolved, the whole of cycling should not be condemned. There are many out there that silently go about fighting to keep the integrity of the sport.

I know, a few of them saved me.

JV

French cyclists meet with Lamour

French cyclists Sylvain Chavanel, Jean-Cyril Robin, Florian Rousseau and Christophe Bassons met with French Sports Minister Jean-François Lamour on Thursday to discuss the problems of doping in cycling. Both parties wished to meet each other, as up until now, the Minister has not had any talks with athletes.

"We are ready to be transparent so that things evolve quickly," said Jean-Cyril Robin to AP. "We're tired of the image of our sport."

Sylvain Chavanel voiced his opinion about Philippe Gaumont's recent comments on doping. "It's necessary to be a little bit crazy to make declarations that are so far from the truth," said Chavanel. "Some choose perhaps to put themselves above the law, but I prefer to stay within the lines."

Minister Lamour called for more surprise controls, and said that his Ministry will continue to pursue this line of action in order to reduce doping. "The surprise controls have the advantage of not leaving time to clean the blood or to wash the body. They are more effective, but on the other hand they are more complicated to organise than the standard controls during training, since it's necessary to know where the athlete lives and trains."

Lamour also emphasised the value of the longitudinal medical checks, which can detect disruptions in an athletes blood values. "Today, there are three examinations annually. They could be more effective if they were random. Nevertheless, it will be the UCI that decides."

Finally, Mr. Lamour stated that the Ministry would not just be concentrating on doping in cycling, but all sports played in France.

Australian Madison Championships in Melbourne

Melbourne's Vodafone Arena will play host to the Australian Madison Championships on Saturday night, March 20. 2000 World Madison Champion and 2003 Australian Madison Champion, Erik Weispfennig (Ger) returns to defend his title and will this year ride with Lars Teutenberg (Ger). 2002 Australian Madison Champion Rodney McGee (NSW) will also line up with team mate Chris Sutton (NSW). Other riders competing include two-time Austral Wheelrace winner Darren Young (Tas), 2004 Sid Patterson Grand Prix Champion Todd Wilksch (Vic), Chris Pascoe (NSW) and Japanese champion Yoshii Kouji. Talented Victorian riders, Sean Finning and Bradley Norton will form an interesting team. The pair have raced for Australia at Junior World Championships and were teammates in the Victorian pursuit line up that claimed gold at the 2003 Australian Championships. Finning also claimed the 2003 U19 Madison title.

Super Summer Series track carnival at Dunc Gray

Round three of the Super Summer Series Track Cycling Carnival is to be held at the Dunc Gray Olympic Velodrome in Bankstown, Sydney, Australia, commencing at 7.00pm this Saturday night. The feature races will see Australia take on the Kiwis in an omnium, with Aussies Ben Kersten and Shaun Hopkins going up against the Kiwis' Anthony "Weapon" Peden and Jono Hamlin in a round robin series that includes match sprints, a 500 metre team sprint and keirin racing. Both Kersten and Peden are keen to impress selectors as they vie for places on their Olympic Teams. The night's program also includes major wheelrace events for both the men and women riders as well as the women contesting the NSW Team Sprint Championship. In addition, at 4:00 pm there will be a one hour criterium on the Dunc Gray Criterium circuit, with riders keen to take a piece of the $1000 cash prizes on offer.

The track racing starts at 7.00pm (gates open 6.00pm). Entry is $10 adults, $5 seniors/concessions and children 17 and under are free.

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