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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

News for April 28, 2002

Edited by John Stevenson and Karen Forman

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Amstel 2001
Photo: © Sirotti

Amstel Gold news

Poorly Armstrong will still start

Lance Armstrong (US Postal) is looking less like a favourite for today's Amstel Gold race after the triple Tour de France winner contracted a stomach bug on Friday.

According to his directeur sportif Johan Bruyneel, Armstrong fell ill on Friday night, but will still start the Amstel "unless he has a bad night."

Definitely missing from Amstel is Jean Delatour's Patrice Halgand who will be riding the French Cup series Tour de Vendée. He is replaced by Eddy Seigneur.

195 riders will start in Maastricht at 10.15 local time.

Live coverage

Don't miss Cyclingnews' Live coverage of the 37th Amstel Gold Race on Sunday, April 28. It starts at 10:00am local time (4:00am Eastern, 1:00am Pacific, 6:00pm Australian east).

Full preview
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Dutch seek lost pride

Today's Amstel Gold is the last chance for Dutch cycling to regain a little of its bruised pride before the season moves into the next phase, the Grands Tours of the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France.

No Dutch rider has made the podium in a Classic this year, with the loss of Erik Dekker from the peloton after a fall earlier this season and Michael Boogerd's disappointing performances so far this season being the major factors in the Dutch victory drought.

To make matters worse, Dekker and Boogerd's Rabobank team has been involved in some untidy public squabbling in the Dutch press this week. Boogerd's remarks accusing team-mates of hindering him in Fleche Wallonne were not well received.

1999 Amstel Gold winner Boogerd admitted, "the form is there, but I did not succeed." As for this year's Amstel, "It is our last chance."

It's a slim chance though - Rabobank will be without three of their strongest riders, Dekker, Den Bakker and De Jongh as well as Beat Zberg who broke his collarbone at the beginning of the week. Of Rabobank, only the other Zberg, Markus, currently figures in the World Cup rankings, and along with Boogerd is the team's best hope for the Amstel.

Rabobank's one advantage at Amstel is the home team factor - the Dutch riders have familiarity with the course and the race on their side. The parcours for Amstel Gold changes every year and this edition is a maze through the Limburg countryside.

After the victories of Cipollini and Bettini, the Italian camp is far less morose, and Johan Museeuw and Mario Aerts have boosted Belgian pride in the Classics too.

France, on the other hand, has as little to celebrate as the Netherlands, and with Laurent Jalabert out of contention with a virus contracted after Paris-Nice, French fortunes don't look likely to improve soon.

Italians focus on Amstel Gold

The Italians are looking to close the month of northern classics with a win in today's 254.4km Amstel Gold Race.

The 37th edition of the race, which is the fifth round of the World Cup, is the last of the classics before the big ones - the Giro D'Italia, the Tour de France and the Vuelta Espana - begin. The Italians see it as a final preparation in the run to the Big Three.

If recent results are anything to go on, they have reason to be aiming high. Italian riders have won all but one of the recent classics.

Tafi conquered the Ronde, Cipollini Gent-Wevelgem and Bettini the Liege-Bastogne-Liege in a contest dominated by the Italians.

The only one they didn't get was the Paris-Roubaix, won by Museeuw.

To gain an understanding of the Italians' passion for first place, read the country's leading sports daily, La Gazzetta dello Sport: "To win is a drug: it becomes a habit," quotes one giornalista in a story this week. "When you have begun to make a habit of winning, abstinence (not winning) can be terrible. Worse still ,if you have succeeded again and again, and others who are more important talk about you, speak about you like you are a predestined one, one intended to jump between the champions . . . then the higher you go, the more it is difficult to come down, to become accustomed to normality, anonymity."

The paper tips the Mapei squad as one of the favourites, along with Michael Boogerd, the "beacon of Rabobank", Telekom's Erik Zabel, Lotto's Peter Van Petegem and Mario Aerts, Gerolsteiner's Davide Rebellin and Saeco's Danilo Di Luca.

"But above all there is Armstrong."

"Bettini can win Amstel" - Parsani

Mapei directeur sportif Sergio Parsani believes Paolo Bettini can repeat his Liège-Bastogne-Liège victory at the Amstel Gold today.

Reflecting on Mapei's excellent season so far, Parsani said "Could you have imagined Tafi's victory in the Tour of Flanders? Nobody really expected it. We knew he was in good condition, but not to beat the great Museeuw and the great van Petegem."

In Liège-Bastogne-Liège, "Garzelli rode a great race for his friend. Bettini started as leader. He is a true Classics rider, while everyone knows Garzelli is more of a stage racer. They spoke some meters before the line. I don't know if they decided to contest the sprint or not, but there was no problem between them after the race."

Looking forward to Amstel, Parsani said, "We have our best chance with Bettini who is in great form. He is a player in the World Cup and he is still very motivated."

"Freire and Zanini are in good form. Tafi is back after the bronchitis he had before Paris-Roubaix."

"Many teams have the chance to do a good result in a great Classic. I can't say we don't want to win, but we are content; we have already shone."

Bettini will be Mapei's leader for the Amstel, but he's not the team's only rider with a chance. "The course of the Amstel Gold suits Bettini well, but Freire was third here in 2000. They are our two main assets."

The biggest threat to Bettini and Friere will be Michael Boogerd of Rabobank, who Parsani calls his "hot favourite"

"But you can't forget Armstrong. He finished second last year and if he is motivated it will be very hard to deprive him of the win. But I believe Rabobank will be the team to beat."

Ullrich to return for the Bayern-Rundfahrt?

Jan Ullrich had a medical examination on Thursday at the University of Freiburg, three weeks after resuming training.

"We are content with the results," said Telekom team boss Rudy Pevenage. "We were not expecting miracles." Ullrich was off the bike for several weeks before April with a knee problem caused by over-training in the off-season.

After further tests next week Pevenage and team doctor Lothar Heinrich will decide on Ullrich's game plan for the run up to the Tour de France.

The original plan was for the 1997 Tour winner to ride the Giro d'Italia (May 11 to June 2) but it now looks more likely that Ullrich will start the Bayern-Rundfahrt (Tour of Bavaria) on May 22 instead.

Ullrich's 2002 campaign started well at the Tour of Qatar, but was almost completely derailed by the knee pain that started soon afterwards.

After the Bayern-Rundfahrt it is likely Ullrich will ride the Tour of Germany (June 3 to 9) and the Tour of Switzerland (June 17 to 27)

"Jan is once again into his training program and without pain," said Pevenage. "But we must be careful. If something goes wrong now it will look very bad for the Tour. Our goal is to have Jan fit at the start on July 6."

Bonjour set to dominate Vendee

The Bonjour team of directeur-sportif Jean-René Bernaudeau looks set to dominate today's Tour de Vendee, the eighth round in the French Cup series. Bernaudeau won the race in 1980, and today his team leader Didier Rous, reigning French champion, is determimed to repeat his 2001 win.

Number two on the Bonjour roster is Walter Benetau who has dreamed since childhood of winning in Vendée.

Their principal adversaries will be the David Millar (Cofidis), the Jens Voigt (Credi Agricole), Kirk O' Bee (Navigators) and Janec Tombac (Cofidis). The latter is also a Bernaudeau protégé, having started his pro career under the former rider.

Coast gets co-sponsor

The German Coast team has picked up a co-sponsor in French car maker Renault. The new sponsorship deal will be formally announced in a presentation on May 8. Renault is planning to offer a special "Coast" edition of its Twingo model.

To date Coast has used Mercedes vehicles, but the team is believed to have largely covered the cost of these from its own funds.

Tour of the Netherlands 2002

The organisers have announced the route of this year's Tour of the Netherlands, which starts August 20. The race kicks off in Utrecht with a 220km stage to Leeuwarden and finishes in Landgraaf on August 24. Day three sees two stages with an individual time trial in the afternoon

Stages

Stage 1 - August 20: Utrecht - Leeuwarden, 220 km
Stage 2 - August 21: 2 Dokkum - Apeldoorn, 176 km
Stage 3 - August 22: Apeldoorn - Almelo, 75 km
Stage 4 - August 22: Almelo - Almelo ITT, 18.5 km
Stage 5 - August 23: Arnhem - Sittard-Geleen, 198 km
Stage 6 - August 24: Sittard-Geleen - Landgraaf, 206 km