News for December 21, 2002
Edited by John Stevenson
2004 Tour to start in Belgium
The 2004 Tour de France will spend most of its first four days in Belgium, Tour director Jean-Marie Leblanc announced yesterday in Namur, Belgium, the capital of the country's French-speaking province, Wallonia.
The 2004 edition of the world's number one stage race will roll out on Saturday July 3 with a prologue time trial in the city of Liège. The first stage (July 4) will see the riders travel from Liège to Charleroi via the hills of the Ardennes, a route that is expected to attract 500,000 to a million spectators from Belgium, France and nearby Luxembourg. The following day (July 5) they will briefly visit northern France before returning to Belgium for the finish of stage 2 in Namur. The final day in Belgium (July 6) will depart from Waterloo, south of Brussels and famous for the 1815 defeat of Napoleon I, before crossing the border into France.
Leblanc didn't say where this stage would finish, however, explaining simply that "the route for 2004 except for Belgium will be announced next May." Nor did he reveal details of the stages, except to say that they would not follow the routes of any of the great Belgian classics such as Flèche Wallonne or Liège-Bastogne-Liège because the roads used by those races are too narrow for the Tour motorcade.
Route director Jean-François Pescheux confirmed this, adding, "For the stage from Liège to Charleroi we will not borrow the route usually used by the Liège-Bastogne-Liège classic. There will certainly be some côtes [the area's notorious steep climbs] but not as many or as difficult as those of the Doyenne."
Nevertheless, the inclusion of a couple of hilly days in southern Belgium could shake up the usual pattern of the first week of the Tour, which often amounts to a series of fast, flat dashes across northern France ending in bunch sprints. The hills might make for an early GC upset.
Leblanc explained that historical considerations had been less important in the decision to start the 2004 Tour in Belgium than the passion of the Belgians for cycling.
"We know that you love the bicycle here," he told Belgian French-language TV station RTBF. "Our last visits in 1989 (Spa-Francorchamps), 1995 and 2001 (Seraing/Liège) left us with great memories, especially with regard to the popular enthusiasm [for cycling]."
The Tour has only twice started in Belgium, in 1958 and 1975. Leblanc hinted that the Tour might return to Belgium in 2005 as well, to celebrate the 60th birthday of five-time Tour winner Eddy Merckx.
The Walloon authorities were delighted by the agreement to start the Tour in their area signed yesterday by the ASO company, the organizers of the Tour. The president of the Walloon region, Jean Claude Van Cauwenberghe said, "Since its creation in 1903 27 editions of the Tour have been greeted in Wallonia. 35 stage departures and 30 finishes have happened here, but this is only the second time the Grande Boucle will start in the Walloon region, after the send-off in Charleroi in 1975."
Schroeder Iron announces 2003 line-up
After the announcement last month that US champion Chann McRae would ride for the team in 2003, the up-and-coming US Division 3 Schroeder Iron squad has announced its full roster for next year. The team will be strengthened by the addition of Mexican sprinter Miguel Meza, who joins after three years in Europe with Colpack-Astro, plus Aaron Olsen, formerly of iTeamnova.com, and 2000 USPRO Road Race KOM champion Adam Livingston.
Two neo-pros also come aboard for 2003: US National team member Dane Jankowiak; and Rigoberto Meza who at 18 years old shows the potential to double the Meza name in the spotlight.
Returning to the team from last year's roster are Peter Knudsen, whose 2002 season highlights included a third place at the Univest Grand Prix; ex-pro surfer and mountain-biker Jason "JB" Bausch; track star Mike Tillman, the current and three years running US national 4000m pursuit champion; and Canadian Jacob Erker, who brings international experience and climbing power to the team.
Team boss Frank Schroeder was delighted with way the team is shaping up: "If you had told me three months ago that we'd put together a program this powerful, I'd have laughed in your face," said Schroeder. "I am beyond excited about the coming season. We have great climbers, solid GC contenders, excellent domestiques and the fastest of sprinters. I expect to see a lot of success this season."
New team leader Chann McRae agreed. "Frank Schroeder has put together a high quality group of riders, and I think we'll be able to be aggressive and deliver a lot of horsepower to future victories. It's going to be fun out there!"
Schroeder Iron team roster
Jason Bausch (USA) (2002: Schroeder Iron)
Bikes: Litespeed Sirius
Ullrich "considered retiring" after positive test
Jan Ullrich contemplated retiring after his positive drug test in June, he has told Italian sports newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport. "For three or four days I considered bringing it all to a halt," the 1997 Tour winner confessed. Ullrich was suspended until March 23, 2003 after testing positive for amphetamine in an out of competition test.
"I took the advice of my friends and decided to leave it as far behind as possible to try and forget. I travelled to Canada and decided I wanted to continue in the world of cycling.
Ullrich, who is currently being courted by CSC, Coast, Phonak, and Mercatone Uno, admitted he had taken a pill one night at a club while off the bike because of the knee injury that wiped out his 2002 season.
"I made a mistake, because I was not able to recover from my knee injury and I did a stupid thing, but nevertheless I think my suspension is unjust because I was not trying to gain a sporting advantage."
Nevertheless, Ullrich is looking forward to returning to racing. "Now I want to prove to myself that I can do important things in the Tour and the Giro," he said. He is also hoping that the authorities will show leniency and reduce the suspension so he can get back in the saddle slightly earlier.
"I have a little secret," said Ullrich. "I hope that my suspension will be shortened by two or three days so I can start in Milan San Remo. That would be my dream."
Which of the four teams chasing his services he will ride for if that dream becomes real is still a mystery though. Ullrich and manager Wolfgang Strohband are yet to make a decision. "We have time. It not certain who I will ride for in 2003," said Ullrich.
Colavita-Bolla joins pro ranks
The US domestic scene is looking pretty healthy for 2003, with the beefing up of Schroeder Iron (see above) and the emergence of another Division 3 team, Colavita-Bolla, which has announced its 2003 roster.
A development of the Colavita amateur team, Colavita-Bolla will be led by Shawn Willard of the USA, who finished at the top of the 2002 US Elite Criterium standings, and Sebastian Alexandre, winner of nine national titles in Argentina.
Other notable riders include neo-pro Steve Ward, an alumnus of the Colavita amateur team; Leon Vogels, brother of Henk; two more Argentineans, Gustavo Artacho and Juan Jose Haedo; and Italian Luca Filippi.
The team is sponsored by Colavita pasta and olive oil and Bolla wines. Colavita's Vice President of Marketing John A. Profaci said, "We're thrilled that the Colavita-Bolla Professional Cycling Team will make its pro racing debut with such a talented group of riders. We're particularly proud that Steve Ward, a resident of Chatham, NJ and an original member of Colavita USA's amateur club, will make his first professional appearance with the Colavita-Bolla team."
Colavita will continue to sponsor its amateur team, too. Said Profaci, "it's exciting to see cyclists of all ages in the Colavita uniform riding up and down the East Coast. We hope the Colavita cycling teams, both professional and amateur, will help grow the sport in the U.S. and remind Americans that exercise and a balanced diet are the best ingredients for a healthy lifestyle."
Colavita-Bolla team roster
Gustavo Artacho (Arg)
Dining: Olive Garden Italian Restaurants
Intersport to support Team Mälarenergi
By Gabriella Ekstrom
Sweden's biggest line of sport shops, Intersport, has developed a new brand of bicycles called Nakamura. During 2003 the company will carry out several activities to market these bikes, including sponsorship of Swedish Division 3 Team Mälarenergi, which will help Intersport develop the bikes even further.
Team Mälarenergi's bicycle will be presented shortly after new year, and it will be available for the team in February. A full technical report will be presented on Cyclingnews then.
Patrick Serra, the director sportif of Team Mälarenergi, says about their new sponsor; "We are truly excited to be able to co-operate with Intersport, a company with lots of experience and reputation. They will offer us support and great material, and hopefully, in the long term, this will mean that more and more Swedes look to cycling when they need exercise, and the sport of professional cycling would benefit from that."
Kirsipuu returns to JCTDU
Jaan Kirsipuu, the reigning Estonian champion in both the road race and time trial, will head back to Australia for the 2003 Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under in January.
Kirsipuu this year claimed victory on the fifth stage of the Tour de France to go with his stage wins in 2001 and 1999. In 1999 he also wore the leader's yellow jersey for six days and the green sprinter's jersey for eight days. He is a four-time winner of the Estonian time trial crown.
The 33 year old has become a regular of the South Australian event and this year claimed eight victories in the professional ranks after starting his season in Adelaide. He will be joined by a strong team which includes Russian Alexandre Botcharov, who this year finished second overall in the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under after claiming four top ten stage placings. Botcharov also finished second in the 14th Stage of the Tour de France.
Irish rider Mark Scanlon will debut with AG2R in Adelaide. The 22 year old claimed the junior world road race gold medal in 1998.
AG2R for 2003 Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under
Jaan Kirsipuu (Est)
Glud & Marstrand Horsens adds Adecco, firms up roster
The Glud & Marstrand Horsens team has signed Adecco as a new sponsor, allowing the team to renew the contracts of two Danish riders Morten Christiansen and Jacob Nielsen for another year.
The team now has 10 riders for next year, plus Hans Henrik Jørgensen who will have a contract when he is ready to race after a knee injury.
Glud & Marstrand Horsens team roster
Mario Cipollini has been named as winner of the 2003 "Fair Play Mecenate" award, given to a person or sporting institution whose behaviour in fields that link sport with society at large demonstrates high moral values and, of course, fair play.
The presentation of the award, a 70 gram gold trophy, is scheduled for July 11, 2003, though if everything goes to plan for Cipollini next year he might be slightly busy in France at that time.
USA Cycling looks to BMXers for future track stars
BMX has long been a fruitful recruiting ground for track cycling, and now USA Cycling has instituted a program of testing BMX racers for potential on the velodrome.
Selected top BMX riders will attend a week-long camp in Colorado Springs January 8-15 for physiological testing and training. The invited riders include 2002 National Bicycle League champion Kyle Bennett, 2002 American Bicycle Association BMX champion Danny Nelson and 2002 world four-cross MTB champion and former BMX pro Brian Lopes. The objective will be to test riders for power and anaerobic strength with a view to identifying potential talent in sprint events, particularly the team sprint.
"This type of program has been done by four or five other countries, where they introduce BMX riders to their track program," said National Sprint Coach Des Dickie. "BMX riders are capable of very fast acceleration and maintenance of power throughout their ride. And the team sprint is most suited to those riders. Jamie Staff from England proved that at this year's World Championships [Staff won gold for the U.K. in the team sprint]. We have some of the world's best BMX riders in this country - a lot of the World Champions come out of the U.S."
Ribiero to LA Pecol
Nuno Ribiero, who rode for Portuguese Division II team Barbot-Torrie in 2002, will pull on the colours of LA Pecol for 2003 according to Potuguese newspaper sources.
Yates to Team Down Under
New Zealander Matt Yates has signed for Belgian-based Division 3 Team Down Under for 2003. "The team has six Australians, three Belgians, one English rider and myself," Yates told Cyclingnews via email. "I will be living with the team in an apartment in Aarschot, about 30km NW of Brussels. I leave for Belgium February 15, and will compete through till early October."
Yates, who rode in the USA for NetZero in 2001, was optimistic about his 2003 prospects. "Training is on target for a good season," he said. "Already I have over 3000km for the first month back training, and I am at race weight already. I aim on winning HB Open and Tour of Wellington this summer before starting my European campaign in the professional ranks."
Rotterdam Tour finds a sponsor
The Rotterdam Tour round of the women's World Cup has found a sponsor for 2003. The race will be supported by the Lowland Group and will take place on September 7 2003, making it once again the final round of the series.
Sakonnet Technology 2003
New York City based Sakonnet Technology has announced the sponsorship of a north-east regional cycling team for the 2003 season. Sakonnet Technology, a provider of energy trading and risk management systems to companies in the global energy markets, is making its debut in sports sponsorship.
"We are very happy to have attracted a top notch forward thinking company like Sakonnet Technology to become our patron for the following season" said Team Manager Basil Moutsopoulos. "Captained by former Saturn rider John Loehner and fast men Eric (Kyoo) Min and Kevin Molloy we are looking to make a strong impact in the region."
As part of the Century Road Club Association of New York City the eleven rider squad will focus on the CRCA Team Cup Series, the Lou Maltese Classic, the GS Mengoni Grand Prix, the State Championship series and elite regional races such as the Housatonic Valley Classic and the Univest Grand Prix.
Sakonnet Technology Team roster
John Loehner, Brooklyn, NY (Category 1)
Team President: Thurstan Bannister
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2002)