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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for May 1, 2004

Edited by Chris Henry

Cofidis returns to competition

Cofidis out of the dark?
Photo ©: Cyclingnews

The self-imposed suspension from competition will come to an end for the Cofidis team on May 5 as the top French team plans to field a line up for the Four Days of Dunkerque stage race. Cofidis has been out of action since April 9, just two days before Paris-Roubaix, in an effort to reflect on the doping scandals surrounding the team and how best to proceed and renew its efforts.

The team will race once again, but a heavy toll has already been taken since the first wave of accusations began in January. Two riders, Cédric Vasseur and Médéric Clain, remain under investigation by French police for possible involvement in the doping affair, and thus have been suspended by the team. World champion Igor Astarloa, who joined Cofidis this season, was released from his contract after being denied the opportunity to race the Ardennes classics, his primary objectives of the first half of the season. Astarloa has since signed a contract to ride for the Italian Lampre team beginning this weekend.

Astarloa begins anew

Igor Astarloa
Photo: © Olympia Photo
Click for larger image

As Cofidis returns to competition, so too does world champion Igor Astarloa, though the world champion will mark his return in his new Lampre colours a few days prior. Saturday, May 1 will see Astarloa joining Lampre for the Gran Premio Industria Commercio in Larciano, Italy. The following day Astarloa will head north to the Netherlands to race in an invitational criterium in Made. In one week's time he will present his new rainbow jersey as Lampre's main man for the Giro d'Italia.

The same line up at the Gran Premio Industria Commercio will contest Sunday's Giro di Toscana, minus Astarloa. The Lampre roster for the weekend includes Astarloa, Alessandro Ballan, Sergio Barbero, GianLuca Bortolami, Matteo Carrara, Alessandro Cortinovis, Samuele Marzoli, Daniele Righi, and Michele Scotto d'Abusco.

Paris pharmacy searched

French police searched a pharmacy in the 16th arrondissement as part of the ongoing investigation into doping cases surrounding past and current members of the Cofidis team. The police seized a number of substances which have been submitted for analysis. The pharmacy was mentioned by ex-Cofidis professional Robert Sassone as a source of products "normally given by prescription", including corticoids and growth hormones.

On Wednesday, April 29, Judge Richard Pallain convened Philippe Gaumont, Robert Sassone, and Médéric Clain, as well as ex-Oktos-Saint Quentin director Oleg Kozlitine, who has admitted to providing EPO and other doping products to Gaumont and Clain. Gaumont has admitted his use of EPO and other substances in competition. Clain, who did acknowledge that he received certain doping products, but never used them. Clain maintains that he only accepted the substances to gain acceptance in the sport.

Same format for Tour of Belgium

This year's Tour of Belgium (May 19-23) will follow recent editions, beginning in Oostende on the English Channel and working its way to the Ardennes hills in the east. As this year's event approaches, race director Rob Discart is already thinking ahead to 2005 and the introduction of the UCI Pro Tour, a new racing structure which will assemble the biggest competitions on the calendar under one new championship series. The Tour of Belgium is not included on the UCI's list, but that doesn't discourage Discart.

"No matter what happens, there is still a future for the Tour of Belgium," he told La Dernière Heure. "This race has earned its place on the calendar and this year we'll show a great race and a great parcours."

Discart evoked the possibility of combining forces with organisers of the Tour of Luxembourg and the Tour of Holland to create, as UCI Hein Verbruggen also suggested, a larger Tour du Benelux. This would likely represent a new effort, however, and not replace outright the Tour of Belgium.

Unlucky in soccer, Panazzolo makes Olympic team with cycling

By Karen Forman in Sydney

Sixteen weeks ago, Adelaide's Andrew Panazzolo was feeling pretty upset that he wouldn't get to realise his dream to play soccer for Australia at the Athens Paralympics. The team had just failed to qualify for the Olympics in Argentina.

As he returned home, despondent, he had no way of knowing that a chance meeting the Australia's Paralympic Cycling Program head coach Kevin McIntosh would result in a chance for him to jet off to Athens after all ­ to represent his country in cycling!

The 25 year old, who lives with cerebral palsy, had actually met McIntosh before, when he presented himself at a national training camp in 2002 and announced he wanted to go to Athens as a bike rider. He had been a soccer player, he said, but he wanted to turn himself into a cyclist.

But then, just as McIntosh was starting to plan a training program for the young man he noted was "incredibly enthusiastic" about joining the sport, Panazzolo succumbed to pressure for the soccer team to return and have a go at qualifying for Athens as a soccer player.

"To qualify, they had to win in Argentina last October, but they failed to get through," McIntosh said.

In January, McIntosh was having a coffee in a café in the Adelaide suburb of Unley before a stage of the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under, when Panazzolo wandered past.

"I asked him how he had gone in Argentina and he told me they hadn't made it," McIntosh said.

"I then asked if he still wanted to go to Athens. He said, `yes'. I told him to be at the track the following Wednesday."

That was 16 weeks ago. This week at the Australian national track championships in Sydney, the newcomer took five seconds off the world 3000 metre individual pursuit record and won the gold medal.

"He's on the team for Athens," McIntosh said. "I think he could be the first in his division (CP3) to go under four minutes. Obviously he is a gold medal prospect as well."

McIntosh says he believes Panazzolo has what it takes to be a champion. "He has a real desire to achieve, is really focused on what has to be done and he has an ability to analyse and learn," he said. "He can dig really deep.

"Obviously with cerebral palsy there are factors to consider, like his ability to continue to work hard and learn the sport of cycling, but he is picking it up very quickly.

"I think we definitely have a champion on our hands."

Bourgain for team sprint

France's third spot for the team sprint event at the upcoming Track World Championships in Melbourne, Australia will be filled by Mickaël Bourgain. Fastest in the 500m tests in Bordeaux Friday, Bourgain beat out three-time Olympic champion Florian Rousseau for the spot. Rousseau will still head to Melbourne to contest the individual sprint and the keirin, where he will look for another chance to earn qualification for France's Olympic team in Athens. Bourgain now joins Arnaud Tournant and Laurent Gané for the team sprint.

Lergård leads Bianchi at Milk Ras

As the countdown to this year's FBD Milk Rás continues, it has been confirmed that Team Bianchi Nordic will return this year to the UCI 2.5 race. Swedes Tobias Lergård, Jonas Holmkvist and Petter Renäng, Finland's Kimmo Kananen and Glenn Bak of Denmark are expected to form one of the strongest squads in the multinational lineup, with 24 year old Lergård determined to improve on his second place overall from a year ago. Holmkvist took two stages in 2003 and he too will head back with the intention of equalling or bettering that performance.

Bianchi Nordic was the top international team in last year's race and is likely to challenge for that award again. The team is managed by former professional Tommy Prim, who was twice second in the Tour of Italy.

CapTech Classic silent auction

The CapTech Classic returns to Downtown Richmond, Virginia on Saturday, May 8th, beginning with the Bank of America Kid's Bike Dash at 11am and wrapping up with the ECPI Men's Invitational professional event. Prior to the racing, the weekend kicks off with the Dominion Health & Fitness Expo on May 7 from 3-7pm, at Dominion Plaza (7th & Cary Streets), and a Silent Auction from 5-7pm to benefit the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond.

The auction will be hosted by one of the race sponsors, the Bull & Bear Club, located on the 21st Floor of One James Center (901 E. Cary St) in the heart of downtown Richmond. The club has opened its doors to the general public for this auction, which will feature a wide range of things from the world of cycling, sports, art, entertainment, dining, travel, etc.

See for directions and parking information and please respect the club's dress code... No shorts, t-shirts, tennis shoes or jeans please!

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