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Second Edition News for March 8, 2002

Edited by Jeff Jones

AIS women enjoy a 'beautiful' ride

By Gerard Knapp
Click for larger image
The AIS team on their new bikes
Photo: © Tom Balks
 

Most of the peloton in this year's Tour de Snowy would have realised something which was made official yesterday in Sydney: the AIS team had a different look and a spring in their pedalling courtesy of nice new lightweight carbon-fibre bicycles.

The Australian Institute of Sport women's team are now on the same bikes as Lance Armstrong and the US Postal Service team, following a new sponsorship deal with Clarence Street Cyclery and Trek Bikes Australia worth AU$450,000 over three years.

In their first events on the new Trek OCLV 5500s, AIS riders Rochelle Gilmore and Hayley Rutherford took second and fourth, respectively, in the first round of the Women's World Cup, while in the Tour de Snowy which followed, the AIS riders won four out of five stages (Alison Wright stage 2, Emma James stage 3, Liz Tadich stage 4, Rochelle Gilmore stage 5). At the launch, Gilmore believed their success in the week of racing "was due in part to the new bikes. We were really revved up with our new bikes, they feel beautiful and they're really light."
 
Click for larger image
James Victor
Photo: © Tom Balks

AIS women's coach James Victor was delighted with the team's start to the year and told Cyclingnews their primary goals in 2002 were the Commonwealth Games events and the World Championships, which he describes as "our best chance ever" to secure a gold in the road race.

At the World's, the Australian team will include Saturn's Anna Millward, the former world number one and last year's World Cup champion. The relatively flat parcourse of the Zolder, Belgium, circuit, should suit Millward's strengths, while there will also be strength in numbers as it's possible the Australian team could field seven riders in the road race.

The team already has the points to enter six riders, and if members of the AIS team (such as Gilmore) perform to expectations in the Oceania Games in Noumea next month, they will earn the right to enter a seventh rider. Australia could also enter three riders in the time trial, depending on how they perform in Noumea.

Victor said his mainly young squad was still developing the endurance to challenge for one of the jerseys in either the women's Giro or Tour de France, "and the mountain stages are getting harder each year".
Click for larger image
Speedy Gilmore
Photo: © James Victor
 

While Gilmore was able to show a pair clean of wheels in last year's Giro d'Italia to Russian speedster Olga Slioussareva in a sprint finish the 20 year-old Australian was still struggling in the mountains. "I've told them the endurance will develop and come with age. They're all still quite young and that ability to recover for the stage races will come," he said.

Increased sponsorship

Under the sponsorship deal with the AIS, each year Clarence Street Cyclery/Trek Bikes Australia will provide the team with 14 bicycles (wheels and pedals are provided separately), each worth AUS$8799 retail, said marketing manager Graeme Moffett. The bikes are Dura-Ace equipped and painted in plain blue/grey, not the USPS colours.
 
Click for larger image
Tony Cook demonstrates
Photo: © Tom Balks

The AIS road team is the latest - and largest - sponsorship initiative by the famous Sydney cycling retail establishment, which has been in constant operation for 27 years. Company founder Tony Cook gave credit to his wife Christine Cook for the idea to create the shop and running the business in its early days. The Cook family owns both Clarence St Cyclery and Trek Bikes Australia, a subsidiary which is the official distributor in Australia for the Wisconsin firm.

Clarence St is also the sponsor of one of Sydney's major track cycling events, held last week (see report).

The company also sponsors a men's road team in the national series, comprising Danny Rutherford, Brian Appleyard, Mat Smithson, Graeme Moffett, Kevin Poulton and Jono McCormack, as well as a women's A grade team including Natalie Bates, Erin Philp and Raeleigh Tennant.

Its involvement also spreads to a team of MTB athletes, including Peter Hatton, Matthew Fleming, Maria Papadopolous and Justin Case, who all get to ride the same bikes as reigning world MTB champion Roland Green.

Photography

Photo's by Tom Balks

Vasseur lets fly at Armstrong; USPS teammates respond

French cyclist CÚdric Vasseur has criticised his former US Postal teammate Lance Armstrong, who he rode for in the 2000 Tour de France but wasn't selected in 2001. In "La France cycliste", the official journal of the French Cycling Federation, Vasseur said that "Lance is a good example of a sportsman because he can be hurt."

"But at the human level, he is very disappointing. I still do not know why I was excluded in the 2001 Tour. The correct thing would have been for Lance to have called me to explain his choice. I have the feeling I was used like a pawn and I do not like that".

Vasseur believed he was short changed after the prize money was handed out from the 2000 Tour. "For him it was probably the equivalent of half a day's pay," he said, also criticising Armstrong for flying to races by private plane and being escorted by a bodyguard.

Armstrong has not yet reacted to the statements, but several of his teammates have. In Thursday's edition of Marca, Roberto Heras, Chechu Rubiera and George Hincapie all gave their comments.

Heras said that "To me, it doesn't seem to be correct what Vasseur has done. It is not ethical. For me, Armstrong is the opposite, a great companion."

Jose Luis Rubiera also had good words to say about Armstrong. "Everything I can say about him is good," he said. "He has always been super generous to me and even gave me a prime for my behaviour at the Tour. I told him once that I had a friend who had cancer and I wanted to find out where to take her, he went to work immediately. I really only have good words for him and I feel like a lucky man riding by his side, because he even shares his private plane with us when necessary. In fact, if he hadn't have been sick I would have travelled to Murcia in his plane."

George Hincapie commented: "I just can't believe that he even thought of saying that. I don't see him that way, Lance is totally different and I can say that he voluntarily changed his program to help me in some of the Classics. They criticise him that he has an aeroplane, but should he give it up if it makes life easier for him? In the USA, cycling is better known because of Lance and he helps cancer patients."

Sydney cyclist in critical condition after hit-and-run

A 38 year old Sydney cyclist has been seriously injured after a truck hit him on the M2 motorway near North Epping late on Wednesday night. Michael Howarth, a member of the Lidcombe-Auburn cycling club, was riding home to Seven Hills after work at 11:30pm when the crash occurred. He was wearing reflective clothing and his bike was equipped with flashing lights, and he was riding in the left hand breakdown lane, with plenty of room between him and the traffic.

A traffic camera filmed what happened next: A white Toyota Dyna van suddenly veered to the left (off the main road) and struck Howarth, sending him flying into the air. The van then swung to the right and resumed its course.

Howarth was found on the ground by passing motorists who called the police and ambulance. He was taken to hospital with serious head injuries and has already had two operations. Doctors say he is in a critical condition.

Police are trying to determine whether the accident was deliberate, in which case the driver could be facing a charge of attempted murder.

Anyone with information should contact the Parramatta Crash Investigation Unit on 9689 7370 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

The news came as a shock to several Cyclingnews staff members who know Mike Howarth (who is a former member of Randwick-Botany cycling club) personally. We extend our best wishes to him and his family.

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