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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for September 29, 2004

Edited by Jeff Jones and Hedwig Kröner

Rogers awarded jersey

Australian Michael Rogers was awarded his gold medal and rainbow jersey in Bardolino on Wednesday morning, as the rightful winner of the 2003 World Time Trial Championships. Rogers finished second in that race behind Britain's David Millar, who was later disqualified after he admitted to using EPO.

UCI president Hein Verbruggen presented Rogers with his jersey, "On the one hand it's sad because there was a rider that broke the rules, but it is also a nice moment because things have been set right," Verbruggen told ANP. The UCI president also awarded Germans Uwe Peschel and Michael Rich the silver and bronze medals respectively.

Rogers is now aiming to take a second gold medal just a few hours later today, this time to enjoy the experience of getting the rainbow jersey and hearing his national anthem while on the top step of the podium.

"Winning this time trial is the only thing I have been thinking about since the Olympics," he told Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes. "Last year’s experience is a big motivation for me. I think it is certainly possible to do it. I just hope that everything goes right for me on the day. I will be certainly getting off my bike saying that I couldn't have gone any harder, whether I end up with first or last place."

Rogers has worked hard in the run up to the race and feels he is in good shape. "My form is good - I am quite confident," he added. "I had a really good build-up. I know the course really well...I have been training on it at least once a week for the past month. I think my training and racing have been right up to standard the last few weeks so I am really looking forward to it."

Rogers' biggest opposition will probably come from the Rich and Peschel again, but he said that the hard Bardolino course will be to his advantage. "I like the tough course here. For me I don't have the strength of the Germans in a flatter time trial. But it is a different story when there is a few climbs in the race."

Rebellin in doubt for World's?

By Tim Maloney, European Editor in Verona

With his newly minted Argentinean/Italian dual citizenship, World Cup leader Davide Rebellin will be a favourite for Sunday's World Elite Road Championship, with or without a team. But will Tintin Rebellin even be able to start the race on Sunday for the South American nation?

As of Wednesday morning, the UCI has still not gotten the properly completed paperwork for Argentinean/Italian Rebellin to enter the race. "If the race was run now, Rebellin could not start. David isn't on the preliminary start list because the documentation sent by Argentina isn't in order," explained the UCI's Phillipe Chevallier. Evidently, the head of the Argentinean Cycling Federation Juan Curuchet sent the entry for Rebellin to the UCI, but didn't send the new identity papers for the rider that prove he is now Argentinean. Rebellin has until Friday at 12 noon to overcome the bureaucratic hurdles that will enable him to race on Sunday.

President of the International Pro Riders Association and newly crowned World Journalist Champion (consultant division) Francesco Moser has been critical of the exclusion of Rebellin and his neighbour Gibo Simoni from the Italian National team. Moser half-joked Tuesday to Gazzetta dello Sport's Pier Bergonzi that, "I think that if Rebellin wins Sunday, it will be the last straw...he'll have to throw himself in the Adige. [the river that runs through Verona - ed.]"

Ullrich definitely out of road race

Jan Ullrich will not start Sunday's World Championships road race in Verona. Ullrich has been suffering from a gastrointestinal viral infection since last Saturday evening, which already forced him out of the Grand Prix Beghelli last Sunday and today's Elite Men's time trial at the World's.

"The infection has left him in a weak state. He wouldn't be in a position to give it his best shot at a hard race like next Sunday's," explained T-Mobile's doctor Andreas Schmid on the team's website. On Monday Ullrich returned from Italy to his home in Scherzingen, Switzerland, where he is now recovering. "He is feeling better now, but he still wasn't able to train yesterday. Starting Sunday's road race doesn't make much sense now", said T-Mobile directeur sportif and German national trainer Mario Kummer.

Last year's silver medalist Uwe Peschel has taken Ullrich's place alongside Michael Rich (2003 bronze medalist) in the German team for the time trial, while Markus Fothen will replace Ullrich in the 12-man German lineup for Sunday's road race.

Coast ordered to pay €1.6 million to Ullrich

There was also some good news for Ullrich on Wednesday, as a German civil court has ordered Günther Dahms, the former boss of the now defunct Coast cycling team, to pay Jan Ullrich approximately €1.6 million in lost wages and damages. Dahms, who is bankrupt, is expected to appeal the ruling.

Ullrich move from Telekom to Coast in January 2003 on a contract of approximately €5 million for three years. However the team folded mid-season due to financial troubles and was ultimately taken over by Italian bicycle manufacturer Bianchi.

The French uprising against Pro Tour

In a extensive interview with's Pierre Carrey, ASO's second-in-command behind Jean-Marie Leblanc, Christian Prudhomme, explained the various reasons that have led the organisers of the three Grand Tours to pull out of the UCI's Pro Tour. The list is long, but mainly concerns the ethics of the sport, the race calendar, the license system and the hastiness of the reform plans.

First of all, Prudhomme denounced the Pro Tour's lack of ethics: "The sport of the 21st century will either be ethical or it won't be," he said. "We have no interest in seeing pedaling robots. The sport has ethical principles, that you may use commercially. You can make a spectacle of it, but not a circus."

The UCI's reforms, according to Prudhomme, are based less on sporting criteria than financial ones. "The Pro Tour is a closed four year system with no possibility of up- or downgrading teams," he said. "If a team has a bad year, it still remains within the Pro Tour, but another team getting great results cannot move up into it. Instead of applying a similar system to soccer for example, Hein Verbruggen chose to imitate the American closed structures of NBA, NHL or NFL. He also followed their franchise system, that he calls 'licenses'. And he obliges race organisers and teams to pay these rather costly licenses.

"For the organiser, it boils down to being tenant of a race, rather than owner of one. With the Pro Tour, we will be expropriated. I understand the atypical situation of cycling, with private organisers more important than the federation and trying to defend their companies. But on the other hand, ASO has no intention of managing international cycling affairs either."

Asked how much these licenses cost, he replied, "ASO was to pay €308,000 for four years. But then Hein Verbruggen changed his mind and wanted us to commit for 12 years! It is not the amount of money that disturbs us, but the principle of it. The Pro Tour is not a small reform, but will completely change the face and the future of cycling for at least 15 years.

"While we agree on the fact that a reform is necessary because the cycling calendar is unclear, we disagree on fundamentals and the method applied. One year ago, Hein Verbruggen announced that the changes were to be progressive. Today, it's become a takeover. The organisers of the three Grand Tours consent with a reform, but in 2006. We start with Paris-Nice, that is concurrent with Tirreno Adriatico. Then, we have the Vuelta a Cataluña opposed to the Giro d'Italia. That's like putting the GP of Monaco in Formula One at the same time as the GP of Belgium."

Another major problem according to Prudhomme, who used to be a cycling commentator at France Télévisions, is the Pro Tour's unsettled TV coverage. "The Tour of Poland, for example. I don't think that France Télévisions or even Eurosport will broadcast it. But the GP de Plouay or the Quatre jours de Dunkerque both have contracts for several years with French public TV. These races aren't in the Pro Tour, but the organisers may now consider themselves as "oil kings"! Which big cycling team will accept to race in Eastern Europe without media coverage? On the first of April, Hein Verbruggen had a meeting with the broadcasters and race organisers and exposed his new plans. And you know what happened? They laughed at him!"

The discord between the three Grand Tour organisers and the UCI thus seems far from settled, as the French ASO is particularly determined to oppose the Pro Tour reform. Even a personal feud can be detected between the lines, when Christian Prudhomme states, "Hein Verbruggen hasn't understood the signals that we've been sending him for months now. He hasn't understood that well educated people oppose him on the grounds of ethics and sport. He tried to divide the Tour de France and the other two Grand Tours, to divide Jean-Marie Leblanc and Patrice Clerc [ASO president - ed.]. His problem is that he mixes up two different agendas: one of international cycling and one of his own, as we already know that he will quit his job a the end of next year to take care of the Beijing Olympic Games."

An interview with José Azevedo

Ace of Le Tour

By Tim Maloney, European Editor

José Azevedo doing a great job for his leader Lance Armstrong on Stage 16 of the Tour de France
Photo: © Roberto Bettini
Click for larger image

Twelve months ago, José Azevedo was wondering what was going to become of his career as a professional cyclist. The 31 year-old from the Portuguese town of Villa do Conde, near Porto, was known in the pro peloton as being a hardworking, loyal team rider. But after three years at O.N.C.E., Azevedo was flicked by Manolo Saiz, who didn't appear to think the stalwart rider would be part of his future plans.

Azevedo went back to his roots, back to the Maia team where he rode for five seasons and racked up 30 pro wins. But a call from Johan Bruyneel in late October and some negotiations with Maia gained the quiet all-round rider his release from the Division II squad and back to the big time with USPS-Berry Floor.

Bruyneel's belief in him held true. Along with Floyd Landis, Azevedo became one of Lance Armstrong's right-hand men in the Texan's successful pursuit of a sixth Tour de France win. Cyclingnews caught up with the likeable lad, who's made remarkable progress with his now almost-fluent English, after the T-Mobile International in San Francisco earlier this month.

Click here for the full interview

Museeuw feels the axe

Johan Museeuw is of the opinion that he will be punished in some way for his involvement in the Landuyt case. It's expected that a decision will be made by the courts on Thursday to penalise Museeuw, Chris Peers and Jo Planckaert, who were all implicated in a doping affair involving veterinarian José Landuyt.

"I feel that I will be punished, I know it for sure," said Museeuw in an interview with Gazet van Antwerpen. "Nonetheless I've never tested positive and there was nothing banned found at my house."

A suspension would prevent Museeuw from becoming a team director with Quick.Step. "I still haven't asked for a licence," he said. "I also don't want to get a job. I prefer to put my energy into positive things, like the Children's Cancer Fund or young riders."

Valverde out of reach of Rabobank

De Telegraaf reports that Spanish top talent Alejandro Valverde has slipped out of the reach of Rabobank, as the Dutch team can't afford to spend €1.5 million to buy him out of his current contract with Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme. Rabobank didn't want to invest any more money to attract another grand tour rider, which means that the team will be relying on Denis Menchov as GC man for the major tours.

It's almost certain that Valverde will stay in Spain, but it's still possible that he will change teams, as Illes Balears and Liberty Seguros have made him offers.

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