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News for March 21, 2002

Edited by Jeff Jones

Ferrari testifies in court

Italian sports doctor Michele Ferrari defended himself in court in Bologna for nine hours on Tuesday, in answer to accusations that he had systematically doped a number of high level athletes, violating the Italian anti-doping law.

Italian newsagency ANSA quoted Ferrari as saying "To be a professional is a tough occupation that can damage your health. Most of the athletes develop chronic pathologies. There exist medicines, not necessarily doping products, that can limit this damage."

Prosecutor Giovanni Spinosa, along with forensic toxicologist Davide Ferrara, haematologist Mario Cazzola, and the director of medicine in Padova hospital Marco Plebani, all have their doubts about the hematological data of some of the athletes that Dr Ferrari was working with in the 1990's.

"I cannot say for certain which drug explains the data," said Cazzola. "But the only explanation that I can come up with is the use of a drug."

The difference in Gianluca Bortolami's hematocrit from 50 in August 1997 to 40 in December shocked the experts, who also noted that his haemoglobin went from 13 to 17 during that period when he won three races. "The values increase in summer, and return to the baseline levels in December," they commented.

What really worried the experts was riders' ferritin levels, which are used as a measure of stored iron in the body. The normal range is between 30 and 250, but Bortolami was measured at 1082, Ivan Gotti over 1000, and 16 other riders (of 19) had abnormally high levels. Too much iron in the body is just as bad as too little, and can pose a serious health risk.

Experts appointed by the defence - Francesco Lanza (haematologist) and Professor Giuseppe D' Onofrio (Sacro Cuore di Roma) - argued that the data may be unreliable. "You cannot draw important conclusions because it was not documented how the blood was taken, the method, the reliability of the lab. 35 different laboratories were used. There was no baseline value."

Ferrari said that it was the cyclists who injected themselves with too much iron. He added that the tests were done according to different schedules and under different conditions, and this can influence the "treacherous and variable parameter" of hematocrit.

The trial will resume on April 9.

Freire favourite for Milan-San Remo

After finishing a more than satisfactory third overall in Tirreno-Adriatico, Spanish World Champion Oscar Freire says that his number one goal this year is to do well in the one day classics, starting with this Saturday's Milan-San Remo. Freire managed to sprint, climb and time trial with the best this week, and finished with the same overall time as Saeco's Danilo Di Luca, just 18 seconds behind winner Erik Dekker.

Oscar Freire did not manage to win a stage in T-A, with the combination of mountains, time trials, working for Paolo Bettini, feeling under the weather due to a cold, and a little bit of bad luck all working against him. He only finished 13th in the final stage, won by another MSR favourite Mario Cipollini, but said that he was feeling better.

"I think that I'm going to reach San Remo in good form, although you must bear in mind that only one rider can win and luck counts for a lot," he said.

The man to beat is of course four time winner Erik Zabel (Telekom), who will have a good, but not overwhelming chance at a fifth. Freire does not underestimate him, or his other rivals (Cipollini, Di Luca, Petacchi, Jalabert, Dekker, McEwen...): "They are all going well. Zabel, for example is not the same as we saw in Mallorca, this is already another Zabel, the one that we all know. But he will miss Fagnini, his leadout man."

The key may be within Freire's own Mapei-Quick Step team, with Paolo Bettini another big possibility for the win in Milan-San Remo. If they are both together on the Poggio, then one will have to sacrifice his chances for the other to ensure success - perhaps a daredevil breakaway over the final 4 km as they did in stage two of Tirreno-Adriatico? Or Bettini rides hard on the Poggio to keep Freire in contention for a bunch sprint, the most likely outcome in this race?

Saturday promises to be an exciting day of World Cup racing with both the men's and women's races finishing in San Remo. As usual, we'll have regular live updates on Cyclingnews, as will be the case for all the World Cups.

Julich to substitute for Fagnini in Milan-San Remo

Team Telekom have decided to substitute American Bobby Julich for the injured Gian Matteo Fagnini in this Saturday's Milan-San Remo, the first round of the World Cup. Fagnini broke his collarbone in the crash filled first stage of Tirreno-Adriatico, much to the dismay of his teammate and stage winner Erik Zabel, who appreciates the value of the Italian's lead outs.

Zabel is bidding to win his fifth Milan-San Remo, and he will need all the help he can get with other sprinters such as Cipollini, Bettini, Freire, Petacchi and McEwen all in good form. Julich is in good condition, as evidenced by his work in Paris-Nice, as is the overall winner of that race Alexandre Vinokourov, who will put his considerable strength at the service of Zabel.

The other members of the Telekom team for MSR are: Rolf Aldag, Kai Hundertmarck, Andreas Klier, Jan Schaffrath and Steffen Wesemann.

No Tonkov in San Remo

Lampre-Daikin's Pavel Tonkov will not participate in Milano-San Remo, preferring instead to reconnoitre the parcours of the Giro d'Italia individual time trial in Numana. From March 26-30, Tonkov will ride in the second Settimana Internazionale Coppi-Bartali.

World Cup 2002

Elite Men

Round 1 - March 23: Milan-San Remo, Italy
Round 2 - April 7: Ronde van Vlaanderen, Belgium
Round 3 - April 14: Paris-Roubaix, France
Round 4 - April 21: Liège - Bastogne - Liège, Belgium
Round 5 - April 28: Amstel Gold Race, The Netherlands
Round 6 - August 4: HEW-Cyclassics, Germany
Round 7 - August 10: Clasica San Sebastian, Spain
Round 8 - August 18: Meisterschaft von Zürich, Switzerland
Round 9 - October 6: Paris - Tours, France
Round 10 - October 19: Giro di Lombardia, Italy

Men's points schedule

The winner of each race will get 100 points and then the next 24 place getters are awarded 70, 50, 40, 36, 32, 28, 24, 20, 16, 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1 point, respectively.

The winner of the teams classification is awarded 12 points, and the next 9 place getters are awarded 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1 point respectively

A rider must complete at least 6 of the 10 races to be eligible for the final standings.

The rider with the highest aggregate is the World Cup winner for 2002.

Elite Women

Round 1 - March 3: Cooma - Thredbo, Australia
Round 2 - March 10: Hamilton City, New Zealand
Round 3 - March 23: Primavera Rosa, Italy
Round 4 - April 17: La Flèche Wallonne, Belgium
Round 5 - April 21: Castilla y Leon, Spain
Round 6 - June 2: Montréal, Canada
Round 7 - August 24: GP de Plouay, France
Round 8 - September 8: Grand Prix Suisse féminin, Switzerland
Round 9 - September 15: Rotterdam Tour, Netherlands

Women's points schedule

The winner of each race will get 75 points and then the next 19 place getters are awarded 50, 35, 30, 27, 24, 21, 18, 15, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1 point, respectively.

The rider with the highest aggregate is the World Cup winner for 2002.

Standings after race 2, Hamilton City, New Zealand

                                   Rd. 1   Rd. 2  Total
1 Petra Rossner (Ger)               75      75     150 pts
2 Rochelle Gilmore (Aus)            50      50     100
3 Hanka Kupfernagel (Ger)           27      35      62
4 Mirjam Melchers (Ned)             35      18      53
5 Priska Doppmann (Swi)             24      11      35

Virenque turns to Longo's coach to improve time trialling

Richard Virenque will use the services of Jeannie Longo's husband/coach Patrice Ciprelli to work on his time trialling skills. The Domo-Farm Frites rider will try to improve his position on the bike as well as getting advice on the correct choice of equipment. 43 year old Longo is the reigning women's world time trial champion.

Spanish trackies get together

The Spanish national track team directed by Salvador Cabeza de Vaca will hold a training camp in Valencia, finishing on March 27. Riders include Rubén Donet (silver medalist in the European 1 km championships in 2001); José Antonio Villanueva, who is preparing for the International Keirin Series in Japan; and José Antonio Escuredo, Cristopher Aguilar, Savior Meliá, Rafael Fernández and David Cabrero.

There will also be a camp for the younger Spanish riders, commencing on March 23. Pedro José Vera, Javier Rodríguez, Alvaro Alonso and Joaquín Solaz are those selected.

Shelby and Nalley Historic Roswell Criteriums

Southeastern USA's ninth annual Shelby Criterium will be held this year on April 20, with the first Nalley Historic Roswell Criterium held the following day on April 21. The first race (Shelby) is on the US National Racing Calendar and both offer a combined total of $25,000 in prizemoney, split between the men's and women's races.

The two races are approximately 3.5 hours apart in driving distance (Shelby, North Caroline to Roswell, Georgia). The attention remains on Georgia the following weekend with the Athens Twilight Criterium on April 28.

As in previous years, the organisers are working hard to find host housing for the riders.

Team Letchworth 2002

After top riders Joanne Cavill and Sara Waller (Dean) were snapped up by the WCPP for the British national team, plus Katy Middlehurst with the Helly Hanson MTB team, Team Letchworth-Extran have taken a different approach to the 2002 season as they replace those riders.

"Whilst we are pleased that Joanne and Sara have proved the ability we knew they had and Katy follows her first love of mountain bikes, and have been able to progress whilst with the team, it can be disruptive for the team when, after a season together we lose riders and have to start again" said manager Iain Scott.

New team members include Ann Bowditch from Guernsey with 3 Gold Medals and 3 Silver Medals in the Island Games, and representing The Channel Isles in the Commonwealth Games, Mary Boyd and Suzanne Hamilton from Northern Ireland who are on the short list for the Games.

They join World Championship rider Susan O'Mara as they prepare for the coming season. Juvenile Jenny Middlehurst stays with the team as does Tina Codling; whilst Suzanne Lawrence and Corri Farquharson move over from sister club Letchworth Velo. There are still at least two places in the team for riders who want to improve and show 'the right stuff'.

When racing in Europe, the team will combine with Dutch team BikeShop Twente run by Han Leunk. "He is an old friend of the team and when he approached us with plans to join with BikeShop Twente, it made a lot of sense with his knowledge of the European race scene", said team director Jon Miles, who added that the women will ride in "several stage races in Holland such as GP Wevershoof, Ster van Walcheren, GP van Boekel, plus a stage race in France, and, it is expected the Tour of Holland in September."

"The same Dutch riders will then join the team for races in this country such as the International Bedford 2 day at the end of May and some Bruton Series races and the Dublin 2 day."

The first stage race in Holland will be at Wevershoof during the first week of May although the British calendar will also figure highly. Team Letchworth will target the Bruton National Series as winners in 2001 and the Women's Team Race Series.


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Photo ©: Bettini