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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

First Edition Cycling News for March 25, 2004

Edited by John Stevenson

Manzano affair: Kelme denies; Giro appraises; Leblanc doubtful

The Comunidad Valenciana - Kelme team has issued a strongly worded denial of the doping allegations made yesterday by former team rider Jesus Manzano. Manzano, who was sacked by the team last year for having a woman in his hotel room during the Vuelta a España, claims he was the victim of a systematic doping regime within the team that was carried out with scant regard for riders' health.

Speaking to the press at the third stage of the Setmana catalan yesterday, team manager Vicente Belda said, "Manzano is not speaking the truth. Our lawyers are looking into this. It makes me sick to hear what Manzano is spreading. It casts doubt on the entire peloton."

Belda added, "It's clear that doping exists in all sports, but not all sportsmen are dopers or drug addicts as [Manzano] insinuates."

Meanwhile, in a statement late on Wednesday evening, European time, the team's press office flatly denied "that the prohibited practices mentioned in [the article in AS] are carried out, protected or consented to in our team and we explicitly condemn said practices and those who employ them."

The statement added that the team would "make itself available to the Comisión Nacional Antidopaje [Spanish Anti-doping Commission] to provide all the necessary assistance with a view to obtaining an explanation of a situation that clearly damages the world of cycling in general and the team in particular."

The statement goes on to threaten legal action against AS over the Manzano article.

The authorities responsible for the year's first two Grands Tours are keeping a close eye on the Kelme situation. Kelme already has an entry in the Giro d'Italia, but Giro organiser RCS Sport say it is "cautiously appraising Jesus Manzano's claims, and the involvement of the squad in which he rode. RCS Sport reserves the right to make decisions in the light of these facts before confirming the participation of Kelme in the Giro d'Italia."

Kelme has been hoping for a special wildcard invitation to the Tour de France, and Tour Jean-Marie Leblanc is also monitoring the Manzano situation. However, he has expressed skepticism about Manzano's claims, telling the AFP news agency, "I can't help but have some doubts over this wave of revelations. They have to be checked and authenticated. If in the next few days it turns out that what Manzano said is true or false, we'll act accordingly. But my feeling is that mister Manzano is saying whatever he wants."

The Spanish cycling federation (RFEC) has condemned Manzano but said it will launch an investigation into his claims, though it will be limited because Manzano does not currently hold a licence. The RFEC called on the media not to assume "these prohibited practices are generally carried out within cycling."

US Postal "still negotiating"

Dan Osipow, general manager of Tailwind Sports, the company that runs the US Postal cycling team, says the company is still talking to the US Postal Service about the continuation of the current arrangement after it runs out at the end of this year.

"We are continuing to talk to the people that are responsible for the contract inside the postal service," Osipow told dmnews.com. "We are negotiating with them, and we are talking about extensions and futures."

Nevertheless Osipow confirmed that the team is talking to other potential sponsors, as claimed by an article last week in US trade paper Advertising Age. "We are talking to others," said Osipow. "It would be completely irresponsible in any sponsorship situation to put all your eggs in one basket. If and when the day came when the postal service decided not to renew, if that is indeed the case, then we need to think about moving on to another company."

Beloki back

This weekend's Critérium International will see the return to racing of Joseba Beloki (Brioches La Boulangère) after a seven-month absence from racing following his distastrous crash and broken hip at last year's Tour de France.

Caucchioli injured

Alessio-Bianchi rider Pietro Caucchioli has suffered a broken collarbone and left scapula in a fall in the first stage of the Settimana Coppi-Bartali. He is expected to undergo surgery in the next few days to repair the breaks.

Illes Balears-Banesto for Critérium International

Team Illes Balears-Banesto has announced its line-up for the Critérium International (March 27-28). Under the direction of Eusebio Unzúe the team will field: Pablo Lastras, Daniel Becke, Iván Gutiérrez, Joan Horrach, Mikel Pradera, Toni Tauler, Steffen Radochia and Toni Colom.

Meinke leaves Quark

By Kristy Scrymgeour

Quark team director, Brett Meinke will no longer be working with the team as of yesterday, when Team Sports director Tom Schuler and Meinke mutually agreed that the situation wasn’t working.

Cyclingnews spoke with Schuler who explained that the decision was indeed mutual and that the job for Meinke, who was not only team director, but also handled the daily responsibilities of a team mechanic, soigneur, media director, was simply overwhelming. "I think it only underscores the respect that myself and hopefully all athletes have for what a big job it is to direct and manage a team and how many sacrifices you have to make," said Schuler. "I think the enormity of the job was just not expected from Meinke," he added.

Schuler added that this hiccup is certainly not going to set the team back and that they are moving forward immediately to find a replacement. "The girls are really pulling together and we will get through this," said Schuler. "We are lucky to have a great sponsor who are really excited about the team."

Schuler is actively looking for someone to do Brett’s job from hereon in "I need someone who knows the sacrifices it takes to be on the road all the time, dealing with strong personalities and working long hours," explained Schuler. "The sacrifices of a team director are the same that an athlete must make to achieve success. A person in this position needs to have a deep understanding of that and of the sport of cycling."

Ideally Schuler is looking for someone from within the sport of cycling and someone who is willing to move to Wisconsin to take on this role.

Tour of the Gila re-opens to individual racers

New Mexico's Tour of the Gila (April 28-May 1) will be open to category 1/Elite riders who are not members of registered teams after all, says race director Jack Brennan.

As part of its bid to attract Lance Armstrong and the US Postal Service - Berry Floor team to this year's event, the Tour of the Gila had changed its team requirements from previous years. "The changes we made severely impacted our ability to host the racers not affiliated with UCI registered teams, which was something we were never happy about," says Brennan. "I think most people would understand that having a shot at being a part of Lance’s preparation for his bid to win six Tours de France was a valid reason to alter our Elite men’s race, but we still had a hard time."

That restriction has now been lifted. "The Tour of the Gila staff appreciates that Category 1 racers represent our core customer and many of you have ridden here for years," Brennan said. "The race would like to extend an invitation to any Cat 1 racer who wants to race, with normal team requirements back in effect (meaning you don’t need a team at all, if you want). We hope to see you for another epic year of racing in New Mexico."

Individual riders will also be able to assemble into composite teams, as in the past, and Brennan is personally fielding all calls from such riders.

For more information see www.tourofthegila.com

Scottish MTB series kicks off this weekend

The 2004 Scottish Cross Country MTB series gets underway this weekend (March 28) at Dalbeattie Forest in Dumfriesshire.

The course involves some of the well known 7-Stanes trails - including an interesting twist on the Slab secion - plus loads of new single track sections including "The Widow Maker".

The series then moves to Fort William in April - the famous Witches Trail. Organisers say this will be a great opportunity to prepare for the World Cup and the British Championships, both of which will be held on the same course later this year.

For up to date details visit www.sxc.org.uk.

The full calendar is as follows:

March 28 - Cross-country #1 Dalbeattie, Dumfriesshire
April 25 - Cross-country #2 The Witches Trail, Fort William
May 23 - Cross-country #3 Pitmedden, Fife
June 27 - Cross-country #4 Aberfoyle
July 25 - Cross-country #5 Contin, Inverness
August 22 - Cross-country #6 [champs] Drumlanrig, Dumfriesshire
September 19 - Cross-country #7 Sidlaws, Dundee

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