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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

News for June 11, 2002

Edited by Jeff Jones

Tour of Austria news

Pantani doesn't start, Pauritsch breaks collarbone

The much hyped start of Marco Pantani in the Bank Tour of Austria did not eventuate as the Mercatone Uno rider pulled out before the first stage time trial, won by Mapei's Fabian Cancellara. Pantani was there in spirit, with his race wheels there and hotel room booked, but that was all the organisers saw of him.

The all too brief reason given was "Pantani not present, due to a fever." This did not make tour organiser Rolf Slavik very happy: "This is a scandal. A complete scandal. He should have been able to notify us at least. But nothing, nothing at all - he has made us look stupid."

"Unfortunately, we can do nothing. If someone like Pantani says he's sick, then he is sick. Regardless of whether we agree or not," added Slavik.

Pantani's team director Marino Amadori indicated that there could be other reasons. "Marco retired from the Giro due to heavy bronchitis," he said. "At this time, due to other affairs, he does not have the necessary focus to race."

There was also some bad luck for Austrian Road Champion Jürgen Pauritsch (Team Nürnberger) in the opening time trial. At the finish of the 11 km event, he crashed and broke his collarbone.

Vermaut's choice

By Jeff Jones

Yesterday it was reported that Belgian cyclist Stive Vermaut would not be able to return to cycling with the Lotto-Adecco team due to his heart problem. Lotto's team doctor Daniel De Neve was quoted in the Belgian press as saying "I'd be throwing away my reputation and credibility" if he supported Vermaut's comeback to the team on the basis of his latest medical tests.

Vermaut was recently tested in the USA by a team of cardiologists and physiologists from the Carolina Regional Heart Center, who also worked with Bobby Julich and Nico Mattan. "Stive's diagnosis in Belgium was ventricular arrhythmia, probably due to Right Ventricular Cardiac Dysplasia," physiologist Mike Lepp told Cyclingnews. "This is a serious condition that can cause life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias. Stive spent eight days here in the US being evaluated by one of our cardiologists. Our findings still showed the arrhythmia, but gated cardiac MRI did not show the dysplasia."

"This test was not conducted in Belgium. Our conclusion was probable catecholamine induced ventricular tachycardia which responded to medication we gave him. Because of this and support by the medical literature, we felt Stive was not at grave risk to continue cycling, provided the arrhythmia was controlled, which at this point seems to be."

There is clearly a difference of medical opinion here, and Lepp specified that "this by no means is a reflection on the medical abilities of the Belgian hospitals or physician." Now it's up to Stive to decide whether to continue, and if he does to find a team that will take him on.

Final Giro d'Italia controls negative

The UCI's anti-doping commission has issued a statement saying that the final batch of 36 urine samples taken during the Giro d'Italia did not show any signs of banned substances, including EPO and NESP. In total, 146 samples were tested during the Giro, with the only positive tests being Faat Zakirov (for NESP), Stefano Garzelli (for Probenecid) and Gilberto Simoni (for cocaine, with the B sample results still awaited).

The UCI's anti-doping commission will in the coming weeks examine all of the medical justifications presented for products subject to restriction.

Four year ban for Stefan Rütimann

23 year old Swiss cyclist Stefan Rütimann has earned a four year ban from the disciplinary board of the Swiss Olympic Committee (COS) after testing positive for testosterone on May 5 during the Tour de Romandie. Rütimann declined to have his B test analysed, and was given a heavy suspension as he had also tested positive for banned substances last May, when he was suspended for seven months.

Race Across America news

The 20th anniversary edition of RAAM that starts on June 16 will see 53 competitors racing against each other from Portland, Ore. to Pensacola Beach, Fla. The route traverses 2,992 miles (4823 km) of some of America's most scenic backroads through Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. It's considered the toughest ultra endurance event in the world, and typically takes from eight to ten days to complete, with individual riders covering up to 600 kilometres per day, and teams riding over 800 kilometres.

To celebrate its 20th anniversary, RAAM will reunite three of the four original RAAM racers: Lon Haldeman, the current race director; Michael Shermer, now Director of the Skeptics Society; and John Howard, who will race to the first time station. The first racer to the time station who beats Howard to the station will win $1,000.

Double Valen in the Hewlett Packard Women's Challenge

Norwegian Anita Valen made her international comeback (after 13 years) in the Polish Eko Tour and showed on the final stage that her comeback was serious. She managed to get a gap to the peloton, the only rider to hang on was Natalija Kaczalka, a teammate of the race leader Valentyna Karpenko, who was able to win the sprint. Valen's final stage almost brought her the overall win, as she was only five seconds behind Karpenko in the overall classification.

Anita Valen (Monica Valen's elder sister) had a severe crash during the Tour de l'Aude in 1988 while preparing for her first Olympics in Seoul. Anita broke an arm and was not able to compete again at the top level. She has trained some though and last year, after good results in some tour rides and MTB races she decided it was time for a come back. She has been training with Team Sponsorservice and now she will join the team for The Hewlett Packard Women's Challenge in Idaho, USA.

Jack Swart aiming for Southland Tour

47 year old New Zealander Jack Swart was one of the country's top road cyclists 20 years ago, dominating events such as the Dulux Tour, which he won three times. Now he's looking at a comeback, with his sights set on the World Masters Championships and the Southland Tour later this year.

According to the New Zealand Herald, Swart is training around 350 kilometres per week, which he says he will need to nearly double if he's to get into peak condition. He started riding again just before last year's Round Taupo, where he suffered but realised that he wanted to compete again.

In the 1976 edition of the Southland Tour, Swart related told the Herald that "I had the yellow jersey at one stage before Vern Hanaray and the rest dealt to me. I suppose most of the riders who will be in this year's tour would not have been born then."

He is currently working as a builder, and is fitting his training around it. The organisers of the Southland tour have reportedly already promised Swart a start in the race that he has won twice.

"I will not be looking for line honours, but I want to be respectable," he said.