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News for March 10, 2002

Edited by Jeff Jones

UCI wants damages from Voet

Vandenbroucke suspended

The UCI, buoyed by its victory in the Douai Court of Appeal last week in relation to the Festina affair, will seek damages against some of the protagonists in the case, specifically Willy Voet and possibly the French State.

UCI president Hein Verbruggen told La Figaro on Saturday that "An action has already been instigated. It concerns Willy Voet, Festina soigneur. He largely blamed our organisation."

Verbruggen claimed that Voet had made "libelous assertions" about the 1997 World Championships, after he accused the UCI of a cover up in relation to restricted drug use by Laurent Brochard, the winner of the 1997 World's. Voet's case will likely be heard in a Belgian or Dutch court.

Verbruggen also said that the UCI was considering action against the French State, because all decisions in sports are made by the Ministry of Youth and Sport. "The manner in which the decisions have been made to support doping in certain sporting instances could encourage us to seek damages," he said.

When asked about the Frank Vandenbroucke affair, Hein Verbruggen said that a procedure had been initiated against the former Domo rider, who was found to be in possession of banned drugs when police searched his house over a week ago. That means that according to UCI rules, VDB is suspended from racing pending the outcome of the case.

It doesn't matter whether the products were for him or his dog, and it doesn't matter whether his blood and urine tests are negative for illegal substances. His mistake, much like Dario Frigo's, was to have illegal drugs in his possession in the first place.

"This alone constitutes an infringement," UCI lawyer Philippe Verbiest told La Derniere Heure. "The maximum sanction is obviously life suspension, but that is an extreme case. On the other hand, there is what is called the nominal minimum, i.e. a two year suspension. Finally, there is the absolute minimum, which is granted to those who can assert extenuating circumstances and which lasts over six months."

While most suspended riders seem to fall into the latter category, Vandenbroucke will surely be looking for a way out, or it will be another nail in the coffin of his cycling career. The Flemish authorities can also prevent him from racing in Belgium for similar reasons, if they choose.

"In considering the current case around Frank Vandenbroucke, it is difficult to disregard what was found in the residence of the rider," said Philippe Verbiest.

There has been plenty of interest in him from other Belgian teams, and if Patrick Lefevere has calmed things down at Domo, there is a chance that he will return there. But it seems as though VDB's return to racing may take quite some time, as he has to abide by UCI rules.

VDB eyes classics cobbles for redemption, if he's allowed

By Tim Maloney, European editor

Head man at the Belgian Cycling Federation Laurent De Backer has declared that "Vandenbroucke is a free man!" De Backer doesn't see any reason not to give a license to VDB, but it looks like the embattled Belgian rider will not be in competition immediately (see story above).

The Belgian Federation offices awaited VDB's request until late Friday afternoon, but since nothing came, one can assume that he is looking at his options. Since the judge hearing his case Mme. Muylaert has declared that the results of VDB's police blood and urine drug test are under review and will not be revealed at this time, and any charges against him are under review, it looks like he can return to the peloton in the near future.

The consideration of any eventual suspension could take "weeks, indeed several months," according to De Backer. "In the meanwhile, we can't keep Frank from doing his job."

So despite the blab and bluster, Frank Vandenbroucke's career as a professional cyclist is not finished, but it will depend on the outcome in Termonde and also the UCI's actions.

There appears to be some confusion as to his current status. Hein Verbruggen said VDB was suspended as their has been action started against him. However, Noël Demeulenaere, who some call the pope of Belgian cycling, called the UCI to determine the status of VDB and was evidently informed that until he might be convicted of any offense, VDB can not be denied a pro license by the international cycling governing body.

Frank's mother Chantal Vandenbroucke subsequently called Demeulenaere to inform him that "Frank wants a little time to think about what he wants to do, but by Monday, he'll make his decision..."

For his part, VDB has said little, but he told Belgian media that he feels "calm and serene. I can't wait to get back to racing."

Dario Frigo back in action

By Tim Maloney, European editor

"The Paris-Nice route is harder than the last few years, says Dario Frigo from Paris. Last year's winner of Paris-Nice continued: "And I like the tough course. The most dangerous opponents are Jalabert, Zülle, Basso and Virenque. I'm handicapped due to not having competed up to now, so I'm curious to see how I stack up against the others. I've trained with a lot of intensity and recently, I've worked on my TT position, raising the saddle, so I can use a smaller gear."

"How do I see my return in the peloton? I don't think there will any big problems; in the last nine months since I've been out of racing, everyone's like has gone ahead and no one is looking back at what happened. I am not emotional, but I have a lot of desire to prove myself. At Paris-Nice I don't expect any particular result, but by the time I get to the Tour of Romandie in May, I want to have made enough of a comeback to compete at a high level for the rest of the season."

*Note: Dario Frigo has just finished serving a six month suspension for admitting to drug possession at the time of the raids in last year's Giro d'Italia.

42nd Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco

The forty second edition of the Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco (Tour of the Basque Country) will be contested from the 8th to the 12th of April and will consist of five stages, with the last divided into 2 sectors, consisting of a total of 741.2 kms over the roads of Vizcaya, Alava, Navarra and Guipúzcoa.

Contrary to custom up until now, the Vuelta will not start in Guipúzcoa, but in the locality of Zalla in Vizcaya, which will see the start and finish of the first stage of 139 kms. The second stage passes between Zalla and Vitoria, about 183 kms, and the third takes the peloton up to Alsasua, in Navarra, and covers 170 kms.

It will be in the fourth stage when the protagonists of the next edition of the "ronda Vasca" comes to Guipúzcoa, to Villabona, after 154 kms, meanwhile the fifth and last stage conserves the customary structure, with a midday sector and an evening time trial.

The first sector passes 89 kilometres, between Villabona and Elgoibar, and the point of departure for the final time trial is Elgoibar and finishes in the Alto de Azkárate, after recording 6.2kms and will serve to decide the absolute winner of this 42nd edition.

The tour is categorised HC (High Category), and their are invited to participate ten of the top teams of the world, such as the winning teams of the Tour, Giro, Vuelta a Espaņa, World Cup and the team of the winner of the 2001 Vuelta al Pais Vasco, Raimondas Rumsas (Lampre-Daikin). In agreement with the Spanish Association of Organisers of Cycling Races (AEOCC) and the Professional Cycling Council (CCP) the teams Euskatel-Euskadi, Colchón Relax-Fuenlabrada and Jazztel-Costa Almeria have been invited.

Courtesy of Martin Hardie

Lampre-Daikin for Tirreno-Adriatico

The Lampre-Daikin team for Tirreno-Adriatico (March 14-20) has been selected, and includes top hitters Raimondas Rumsas and Ludo Dierckxsens. They will be joined by Jan Svorada, Maximilian Sciandri, Zbigniew Spruch, Marco Serpellini, Gabriele Missaglia and Alessandro Cortinovis.

Ludo Dierckxsens is not suffering any more after the crash in Het Volk: "The pain in my knee has disappeared and I feel better and better," he said. "I'm working hard to get to the Classics in my best form. On Thursday I trained for 5 hours, Friday 5 hours again, today 6 and 4 on Sunday, then, I will allow myself a day of recovery."

"At the Tirreno-Adriatico I’m going to be at the disposal of the team without neglecting the chances of a stage-win. My first aim is to improve my form with a view of Northern Classics. You know, I will have my moment within a month."

iteamNova.com launches 2002 European season

The Australian registered iteamNova.com cycling team will begin its 2002 European season on March 10th when the team lines up for the Prix de Lillers in France. The team calendar for March and April was announced at the offices of Tailormade Logistics in the Belgian city of Gent. The team will be based near Gent during 2002.

The team has also confirmed it will contest the US Pro championships in June, a major focus in its first season of competition.

The team was launched late last year, and is primarily funded by membership fees, which range from AU$55 for an e-member, to AU$220 for a full member, to AU$5000 for a corporate member. iTeamnova.com is primarily made up of Australians (five riders) but also includes cyclists from the USA, Canada, New Zealand and Great Britain.

The team is directed by Sean Yates, former director of the defunct Linda McCartney squad. "It's going to be a building process and we're taking things slowly to begin with," said Yates. "But I'm confident we can succeed because we have a talented and dedicated group of riders who are keen to make this work."

The iteamNova.com team for the Prix de Lillers is: David McKenzie, Allan Iacuone, Trent Wilson, Brett Lancaster, Dominique Perras, Russell Downing, Scott Guyton, and Aaron Olson.

Race Schedule March - April

Subject to changes

March

10 Prix de Lillers, France
16 Paris ­ Troyes, France
17 Omloop Van Het Waasland - Kemzeke, Belgium
20 Nokere ­ Koerse, Belgium
24 GP Rudy Dhaenens, Belgium
31 Annemasse ­ Bellegarde et retour, France

April

7 Archer Grand Prix, England
10-14 Paths of King Nikola, Yugoslavia
20 ZLM Tour, Netherlands
26-1 May Circuit des Mines, France

Benelux Ladies Cycling Team

A twelve member women's cycling team has been formed in Temse, Belgium, to be known as the Neckerman Benelux Ladies Cycling Team. It features six Belgian and six Dutch riders, nearly all of them neo-professionals. The team will be sponsored for at least a year by the Neckerman group, and online and mail order company.

Full team roster

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