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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

First Edition Cycling News for May 22, 2004

Edited by Chris Henry

Crash mars Tour of Belgium

Victor Hugo Peña (USPS-Berry Floor)
Photo ©: AFP

A major crash in the finale of the third stage of the Tour of Belgium put a damper on the stage and stopped virtually the entire peloton in its tracks with just under one kilometre to go. Dutchman Max van Heeswijk (US Postal-Berry Floor) sprinted to victory ahead of Estonian champion Janek Tombak (Cofidis) and Bert Hiemstra (Chocolade Jacques). Van Heeswijk was one of seven riders who avoided the crash, which brought down many riders including race leader Geert Omloop, Gianluca Bortolami and Tom Boonen. The peloton was on the verge of catching late breakaways Roger Hammond and Thomas Voeckler, but when the crash happened only five riders were able to close the gap to the two leaders.

"This victory tastes a bit sour," Max van Heeswijk explained on a team website ( "On the one hand I'm happy for my seventh victory of the season, but on the other this is a victory in which my main competitors were ruled out because of that spill, a spill which involved some of my teammates."

Although Bortolami was one of the victims, he was able to eventually cross the line and claim the new leader's jersey, courtesy of 2 bonus seconds from an intermediate sprint. All riders who crashed were given the same time as the winner, hence there was no penalty for Bortolami.

All riders managed to finish the stage, however Mikhail Timochine (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago), one of five members of his team to be caught in the crash, is thought to have suffered a fractured clavicle. Stage winner Van Heeswijk's teammate Victor Hugo Peña was taken away in the ambulance with a suspected broken arm, however x-rays at a local hospital ruled out any fractures and Peña may continue on Saturday. Another US Postal rider, Stijn Devolder, complained of dizziness but had improved by Friday evening.

In the Quick.Step camp, Tom Boonen is suffering back pain, headaches and abrasions all over his body, while teammates Servais Knaven and Pedro Horrillo (who were involved in a different crash earlier) also were taken to hospital for examination and treatment.

In Chocolade Jacques, Andy Cappelle and Jans Koerts were the worst off, with Cappelle hitting his elbow which is now swollen, and Koerts falling on his head. Both riders hope to start tomorrow's time trial. Dutch rider Niels Scheuneman (Bodysol-Brustor) went to hospital for x-rays on his wrist and he also has a knee injury.

Petacchi close to record

That's six
Photo ©: Sirotti

With his sixth stage win today in this year's Giro d'Italia, Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) is just one win shy of tying the post-war race record of seven stages held by De Vlaeminck, Maertens and Saronni. Having won exactly half of the stages thus far this year, Petacchi has not offered the slightest doubt that he can equal or break the record.

"Today I've demonstrated that at the moment I'm the number one sprinter," Petacchi said after Friday's stage. "I've also shown that last year was not a fluke. I would love to get to Milan with the ciclamino jersey and even try to win on the new parcours that we'll be riding."

With more vigilant riding by Petacchi's Fassa Bortolo team, the sprinter from La Spezia could be in contention to tie the record as early as Sunday, a stage which features climbing in the first half of the parcours but could allow a regrouping in the second half if the sprinters lose contact.

Valjavec confident

As the Giro d'Italia works its way north, heading for a passage Sunday through neighbouring Slovenia en route to a finish in Croatia, Slovenian national champion Tadej Valjavec (Phonak) continues to enjoy a good first half of the race. Valjavec emerged in excellent form after the Tour de Romandie, where he performed well alongside teammate and overall winner Tyler Hamilton, and has kept himself in position in Italy before the major mountains where he hopes to shine.

"A very steep program awaits us in the last week," Valjavec commented on the team's website. "This opportunity will also demonstrate who has prepared meticulously... I have prepared very conscientiously for the big tests. That should really pay off now."

As he admits himself, Valjavec will have to keep in contact with the leaders after Saturday's 52 kilometre time trial. Realistic about his expectations for the overall, the Slovenian champion has kept his condition- and his confidence- since the Tour de Romandie, where he finished fourth in the general classification.

"At the moment I'm sticking to my predictions that a stage win as well as a top ten overall finish are possible," he added. "Being behind by [2'33] still falls within the range of possibility. I don't necessarily see myself on the winner's podium at the end of the race, but somewhere between fifth and tenth place. Provided, as always, that I survive the time trials well."

Foundation For Pantani

By Tim Maloney, European Editor

Manuela Ronchi, Marco Pantani's longtime manager, was at the Giro d'Italia in Cesena Thursday, where she briefly discussed the charitable organization founded to honour Pantani's memory. "We have created the Marco Pantani Foundation for children to commemorate Marco," Ronchi said. "That's how his family want to remember him. We used to speak about this because Marco wanted to find a way to help children."

Marco's sister Manola Pantani presented a 10,000 euro check to the Nuovo Famiglia charity, after which Angelo Zomegnan of the Gazzetta dello Sport, and part of the Giro organization explained that "Pantani's Foundation asked if they could have a stand in the hospitality village at the Giro and space in the publicity caravan and not only were we happy to provide this, we also have matched the five thousand euro in contributions that the Marco Pantani Foundation has collected for this donation to La Nuovo Famiglia. That's one way we can remember Pantani and if there are other initiatives, we are ready to support these."

After the taped interview with her mother, Marco's sister Manola offered her own message. "I want to tell all the young people that Marco left the example that drugs don't help anything, that drugs don't resolve problems and drugs can kill," she said. "Kids, be careful. Don't fool around with drugs. Marco had some problems that he tried to deal with through drugs, but drugs ended up killing him.

"Marco was accused of something he didn't do, but he knew he was clean," she added. "Then he was constantly hammered by newspapers and TV. He felt betrayed, he felt alone and humiliated. He lost his dignity and that made him close up and associate himself with bad people and that brought him to his end, his death."

UCI Giro drug tests

The UCI's Anti-doping Commission has announced that all urine samples taken until May 15th at the Giro d'Italia have returned negative results for doping products, including EPO and NESP. The UCI has paid particular attention to out of competition tests. With financial assistance from the Italian Cycling Federation, a substantial number of tests out of competition have taken place, all with negatives results.

The Anti-doping Commission of the UCI will examine all medical justifications submitted for the various products under restriction in the coming weeks. Following the blood tests carried out on the 18th and 19th of May, no rider has been declared unfit for competition.

FBD Milk Rás: Like father, like son?

By Shane Stokes,

Family affair
Photo ©: Shane Stokes

One of the more unusual aspects of this year's FBD Milk Rás is the fact that double winner Philip Cassidy and his 19 year old son Mark will both line out in the race. It will be the first time in the event's history that a father-son combination will ride, and both are heading into the eight day event with a clear idea of what they would like to achieve.

"A stage win is the most realistic thing for me to aim for," says Philip Cassidy, who won overall in 1983 and 1999 and who will captain the Meath Lee Strand team. "It is a high goal for me at this stage. I am not using age as an excuse, it is just the way that the year has been with an early virus, I am only now coming into form. If my form is like it was in the last two weeks, I think I will be able to give it a good shot."

Cassidy senior last won a stage in 2002, on which occasion he vowed it was his final FBD Milk Rás. However, while Mark's participation is undoubtedly a factor, he says he would have ridden the race anyway had the 19 year old decided to hold off until next year. "I had actually planned to ride last year as well but I was very busy with work and couldn't put in enough time for training. This year it has worked out a little better."

Mark Cassidy has made waves in this, his first year as a senior rider. He graduated to the Senior 1 ranks shortly after the start of the season and has been strong enough to mix it with the country's top riders since, showing that a big future is in store. He is excited rather than apprehensive about the race, and would like to leave a good impression.

"I'm aiming to get up on a stage, getting as high a placing as is possible," he said. "I'd also like to do well in the best under 23 competition, although if strong riders are coming over with that in mind, a win would be difficult. I'd be happy with a top three in that competition and top fifty overall.

"I'm looking forward to the Seskin Hill stage. It will be exciting, with a very good atmosphere because it is so close to Carrick on Suir. I rode it in the Junior Tour two years ago. I'm not really nervous about the race, perhaps I will be the night before. I am expecting it to be like a load of Shay Elliott Memorial races in a row."

Cassidy senior sees a benefit in his riding the race alongside his son, and teammate Mark. "It will be a lot easier for me to give him advice and share my experience a bit when I am racing too. It will help to address things immediately rather than from the car. That should help Mark and also the rest of the team."

"My advice to him would be just to enjoy it, to do what he can in it and to come out of it in good shape. He'd like to ride the European championships and the under 23 world's. That is a high aim for a first year senior but if he can do things right in the FBD Milk Rás, it will help a lot with those other aims."

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