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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

First Edition Cycling News for May 20, 2004

Edited by John Stevenson

More problems for Kelme

As if being the team at the centre of Jesus Manzano's doping allegations wasn't bad enough, the Spanish Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme is now beset with rumours that it has failed to pay its riders for April, that it is considering selling its top rider Alejandro Valverde to raise money to continue operating, and that Vicente Belda may be replaced as directeur sportif.

According to Spanish sports newspaper Marca, team manager José Luis Aznar has denied the rumours, saying that the delay in payments to riders was a "bureaucratic" problem, which would be solved in the next few days. Aznar added that the team had confidence in Belda and said he expected the team would be part of the Pro Tour in 2006, implying that a return to the top level in 2005 was not going to happen.

However, Valverde has told Marca that he has been told by the team that his contract might be sold to the highest bidder and that Manolo Saiz' Liberty Seguros team is interested.

Vicente Belda told Marca that the team actually had three urgent problems that needed to be addressed: the payment of the outstanding salaries; getting the UCI's authorization for the team's new uniform as it no longer has any of last year's team kit; and to finalise the processing of the team's licenses, which are currently stalled and preventing it from covering the planned racing calendar.

Belda said that the major obstacle to solving these problems was that the Comunidad Valenciana had still not released the funds to cover the team's entire budget.

Vail Pro Tour cancelled

The Vail leg of the US Pro Cycling Tour has been cancelled for lack of support from sponsors, according to a report in the Vail Daily. Promoters of the Pro Cycling Tour Rocky Mountain Classic at Vail announced on Tuesday that the event would not go ahead, despite the planned appearance of Lance Armstrong.

"It's really a shame. We just couldn't land that big sponsor," said Rick Chastain of Vail company Legacy Sports Marketing, which was working on the event with Threshold Sports. Chastain said that the search for a title sponsor had started too late because of delays in arranging a TV deal, but that he was optimistic a sponsor could be found for 2005.

Sciandri retires

Max Sciandri has decided to call it a day, according to an announcement from his CSC team. The 37 year old Brit with the Italian name will leave the team immediately to pursue a new career.

"I've accepted another job offer," said Sciandri in a team statement. "It's always hard to find the right time to end one's career. Now I can look back on 16 years, where I've experienced several wonderful moments, which I'll never forget."

Despite the suddenness of his decision, Sciandri was full of praise for his current team. "I wish I'd found a team like this at an earlier stage in my career," he said. "If the opportunity arises, I'd very much like to come back and work with the team some time in the future. I would have liked to end my active career with a victory, and it did in a way, as we won the teams competition in my last race Tour de Georgia. I was at the podium and got the chance to open the champagne. The whole team was together and there was a huge audience. As I stood there, I thought, this was in fact the right way to say goodbye."

CSC team manager Bjarne Riis wished Sciandri well. "I respect Max's decision," he said. "We've talked this through, and he has explained to me that he has a very interesting new career opportunity, which I certainly do not wish to get in the way of. He's had a brilliant cycling career, of which he can be proud and I think, he will come out of this with a mental ballast, which he can use in his life after this. I'm very glad, that Max has been open about his decision, and I wish him all the best in the future."

Sciandri's palmares includes three stage wins in the Giro d'Italia, a stage win in the Tour de France, victories at the Giro del Lazio, Giro del Veneto, Leeds Classic, Coppa Placci and GP Fourmies and bronze at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

Cunego on Pantani

Today's eleventh stage of the Giro d'Italia finishes in Cesana, covering on the way the roads where the late Marco Pantani trained. After retaining his race lead in yesterday's tenth stage, young Saeco phenomenon Damiano Cunego, who is being tipped as Italy's next big thing in the mountains, reflected to Reuters on his predecessor's tragic death.

"Pantani was left to die on his own," said Cunego. "When you win you suddenly have lots of friends but when you lose everybody abandons you. Pantani suffered a lot during his life and didn't die as a champion should.

"Unfortunately, I don't think anybody could have done anything to help him. It was his destiny to die as he did."

Seskin hill highlight of tough FBD Milk Rás route

By Shane Stokes,

By including the first mountain top finish in over 20 years, race organiser Dermot Dignam has ensured that the 2004 FBD Milk Rás will be a particularly gripping contest.

The riders may make the race, but it is the route which provides the spectacle. Any successful stage race is a blend of different types of terrain, the flat and undulating roads which favour the power riding of the rouleurs and the hillier slopes which play into the hands of those gifted at racing uphill.

Each year the FBD Milk Rás route features a well-balanced mixture of both types of terrain. Ireland being Ireland, factors such as the wind and the weather also play a big part in making the race what it is, an exciting cut-and-thrust contest which never fails to excite.

Race director Dermot Dignam has this year gone one step further in ensuring a fantastic spectacle. There was a real surprise in store when he unveiled the route in February; for the first time since the Wicklow Gap stage in 1983, he has included a big mountain finish. The legendary Seskin Hill beside Carrick on Suir will animate the sixth stage of the race, a twisting legbreaker of a climb renowned as both Sean Kelly's old training haunt and the battlefield for the several Nissan Classic races.

Seskin should be a blistering finale to the day's action. When the riders race out of Millstreet that morning those final few kilometres will be playing heavily on their minds. A strong ride there could earn them a stage or win them the race; anything less will be quickly exposed on those cruel slopes. Seskin Hill may not be particularly long but the time gaps will certainly open in the final kilometre that day. It's going to be a humdinger of a stage.

'It's been a long time since we had a mountain top finish,' said race director Dermot Dignam. 'Each year we try to do different things with the route, and what better place for a stage end than at the top of Seskin Hill? It is very well known in Irish cycling and with the top just one mile from Carrick on Suir, should generate huge crowds and a really great atmosphere.'

The one thousand-kilometre FBD Milk Rás gets underway on Sunday, May 23rd with a 132 kilometre stage from Dublin to Trim. Several hot-spot sprints and third category King of the Mountains climbs punctuate the route, with the points won at Stamullen, Greenanstown, Slane, Glassallen and Collen counting towards the sprints and mountains classifications. As per usual, a constant stream of attacks can be expected throughout the stage before the final sprint on Emmett street in Trim.

Day two takes the riders on a twisting route from Trim to Oranmore, 167 kilometres passing through towns and villages such as Ballivor, Mullingar, Athlone and Ballinasloe. The stage has no major climbs but winding, undulating roads combined with small time gaps in the general classification will promote aggressive racing from the off.

152 kilometres from Oranmore to Charleville await the following day, with the riders racing through Ballina and Newport and disputing three KOM sprints. Points are up for grabs at the third category climbs of Killanena, Aylevaun and Ogonelle, but Dignam expects that a bunch sprint should be the most likely outcome at the finish in Charleville.

Day four to Cahirciveen is where the big time gaps are most likely to start to appear. This is both the longest and one of the most difficult stages in the race, with a total of nine categorised climbs rearing up along the 181 kilometre route. The tiring riders will encounter third category slopes at Glenduff Hill, Glenquin, Glenshearoon, Seefin, Drum West and Mount Foley, while towards the end of the stage the second cat Raheen and Cill Urlait ascents plus the first category Coonanaspig set the scene for a rip-roaring battle between the emerging favourites.

Just three climbs feature on stage five, but the first category ascents of Coomakista and Inchee Mountain may well shatter the main field and see many riders come in a long way down. The first of these two climbs comes shortly after the start of the 152 kilometre stage; the danger is that many of the weaker riders could lose contact, beginning what would be long, lonely day in the saddle. The two early climbs plus the third category County Bounds ascent should however provide ample opportunity for the contenders to try to take time from the yellow jersey before the stage finish in Millstreet.

Day six is destined to go down in Rás legend as it has been 21 long years since the race last featured a summit finish. The 151 kilometre stage to Carrick-on-Suir has just two climbs, one of which is the third category Pike, but the gruelling uphill slog to the finish line at the top of Seskin Hill is guaranteed to blow the race apart. The former world number one Sean Kelly built his strength on this cruel slope; it will take another strong, determined rider to come away with the honours at the end of this prestigious stage.

The penultimate leg of the race provides further opportunity for those looking to steal yellow, with 149 kilometres and nine climbs separating start and finish. The day's slopes include the category one ascents of The Heights, Corrabutt Gap and Mount Leinster, with plenty of fireworks guaranteed before the fragmented field descends down towards the stage end in Tullow. There remains but the final day, an hour long criterium in Dublin's Phoenix Park, so unless the time gaps are uncharacteristically small, the mountainous run from Carrick to Tullow will provide the final real shakeup in what should be a dramatic, distinctive edition of the FBD Milk Rás.

Watt out of Olympic contention

Australian Kathy Watt, who has been on the comeback trail this year seeking Olympic selection, is out of contention after yesterday's time trial in the Tour de l'Aude. The time trial stage of this year's event was a selection race for a place in the Australian Olympic team, and was won by American T-Mobile rider Dede Demet-Barry, with Sara Carrigan first Australian in seventh place.

Despite recording the day's ninth fastest time, Watt was penalised 10 minutes after failing to get her bike measured by race officials. This takes away any chance she had at making the Olympic team for Australia.

UK track world's team announced

The British team has been announced for next weekend's world track championships in Melbourne (May 26-30). Sprinters Craig Maclean and Chris Hoy will spearhead Britain's medal effort, riding the kilo and comprising part of the team sprint squad that demolished all opposition at the Sydney round of the world cup. Hoy and MacLean may well also ride the sprint event alongside Ross Edgar.

Britain hasn't qualified any places in the keirin, but the team is hoping for a wild card place for Jamie Staff. In the individual pursuit, the two places go to Paul Manning and Rob Hayles. Victoria Pendleton will ride both the sprint and 500m time trial, whilst Emma Davies concentrates on the individual pursuit.

Great Britain team for track world championships

Male sprint: Ross Edgar, Chris Hoy, Craig MacLean, Jason Queally, Jamie Staff

Male endurance: Steve Cummings, Russell Downing, Dean Downing, Tony Gibb, Rob Hayles, Kristian House, Paul Manning, Chris Newton , Bryan Steel

Female sprint: Victoria Pendleton

Female endurance: Emma Davies

NZ qualifies for track world's

New Zealand will field a team for the track world championships in Melbourne (May 26-30), according to the New Zealand Herald. The team wasn't sure if it had done enough to qualify for world's after finishing eighth at the Sydney round of the world cup, but the UCI confirmed yesterday that it had. New Zealand now needs a top 10 finish at the world's to earn two places at the Athens Olympics.

Colombia to implement anti-doping blood tests

The Colombian cycling federation has announced that it begin to conduct blood tests on riders, both in and out of competition, in association with the country's national anti-doping agency.

The maximum permitted haematocrit in these tests will be 52 percent, a level that's slightly higher than the usually imposed level of 50 percent, presumably because Colombia's elevation results in riders generally having increased haematocrit readings.

Controls will be conducted by a specialist medical body, headed by Jorge Alarcón of Coldeportes and Javier Rodriguez, chief doctor of the Vuelta a Colombia.

Surgery for Teutenberg

Sprinter Ina Teutenberg has been forced to sit out the Tour de l'Aude to get treatment for an injury - or rather, given the nature of the surgery she's just undergone, she's been forced to stand on the sidelines. Teutenberg started her season late this year after a bout of disillusionment with cycling, then re-found her enthusiasm and planned to return, only to encounter a saddle-related problem that had a knock-on effect on the tendons in her ankle.

Teutenberg underwent surgery yesterday and is now out of hospital and hoping for a quick recovery.

New addition to Fisher family

Mountain bike legend Gary Fisher gained an additional family member on Friday with the arrival of Miles Fin Fisher at 8:15am. Mother and 9lbs 3.5oz baby boy are both doing well

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