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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

News for June 21, 2002

Edited by Jeff Jones

Sercu not happy with Lotto-Domo "super team"

After the cat was let out of the bag about a possible Lotto-Domo merger yesterday, Lotto manager Christophe Sercu has given his opinion of the plan, which would more than likely not benefit him. Patrick Lefevere (Domo-Farm Frites manager) and Eddy Merckx are the two men behind the plan which could see Belgium's two biggest cycling teams come together to form a division I "super team" in addition to a division III young team, an amateur and a junior team.

Lefevere and Merckx are two very popular figures in Belgian cycling, whereas Sercu is perceived as more of a hard line manager and businessman, who many people point the finger at for the abrupt end of Tchmil's career. However, Sercu is also the manager of the number two ranked team in the world, whereas Domo is much further down the scale at 14th. That's a point in Sercu's favour at the moment, and he is not desperate to lose that status.

In an interview in Het Nieuwsblad, Sercu was very specific: "I have had the formal agreement from the Board of Direction that this team will be sponsored for another two years by the National Lottery; with them as head sponsor; with the same structures. That means with the same management, the same personnel and cars."

"If Domo wants to become so-sponsor and if Eddy Merckx insists on delivering the bikes, than we'll have to talk about that. But that concept is something completely different to considering a merger. You have to understand that 'we' aren't asking for it. We have a good team and ABX agreed to remain co-sponsor for a cycling team managed by myself for next year."

"On top of that, I wonder if it is a good thing that our two teams merge. There will be riders who won't get a contract with the new team, personnel without a job. How can that be a step forward?" argued Sercu, who left the Palmans-Collstrop team rather suddenly to take a job as manager of a first division team.

The spokesman for the National Lottery, Paul De Belder, refused to be specific, but he did not support all of Sercu's statements. "The Board of Direction has decided to sponsor cycling, as head sponsor, for another two years, that part is correct. But all the rest hasn't been spoken about, there's nothing in the minutes about that."

"Patrick Lefevre is right when he says we can't let this matter drag on too long," continued De Belder. "A chat with Minister [of Government Affairs] Rik Daems is not sufficient though. I hope Patrick works out a solid proposition for the Board of Direction. One with a bit of substance. Than the Board can make the final decision, and only they can..."

Lefevere has a comparatively straightforward task, as all he has to do is renegotiate the contracts of four of his riders who have contracts through 2003 (Van Bon, Van Goolen, Vanthourenhout and Virenque). His sponsor Domo would be willing to join with Lotto to form a big national team, as they would then stay at the top level in cycling, not forgetting the younger teams that are planned as part of this deal.

If Lefevere and Merckx can convince the National Lottery of the validity of their scheme, then Sercu's role in management will certainly be re-examined.

Belda expresses concerns about radical Vuelta plan

A radical plan unveiled yesterday by Unipublic, the organisers of the Vuelta Espańa, has already met with resistance from some teams. The plan involves starting the race with two separate pelotons of between 16 and 18 teams each. They will race in separate races but over the same parcours approximately an hour apart for the first week of the Vuelta. The best nine teams from each peloton will then be selected from the following criteria:

  • The best placed riders in on general classification, mountains, points and intermediate sprints would automatically qualify their teams.
  • The top team in the teams classification would automatically qualify
  • The remainder of the teams would be chosen by taking the best positions held by their riders in each of the two pelotons, until nine teams from each peloton are selected.

In addition to the greater logistical problems of running two races, the higher cost and increased TV coverage, there are also other problems with this novel approach to a three week tour.

Vicente Belda, the director of Kelme-Costa Blanca, commented to Spanish newspaper Marca that "The public want to see the best riders compete against each other from day 1, mano a mano. For example, Sevilla could be in one peloton and another favourite in the other and this would distract attention."

Belda was concerned that the plan would lower the overall quality of competition, as a number of lower ranked teams would be given access. He said that Unipublic "would bring teams of no interest, which would not lead to greater sponsorship. I don't see this as being good in a sporting context."

Belda believes that the Vuelta is sufficiently competitive as it is, with its shorter, more intense stages. "It has been shown in the past two years that there are no slow stages," he said.

Finally, he questioned the idea of starting the general classification from zero again after the first week, effectively eliminating any gains made during that time. However, the alternative is worse: keeping the riders' actual times after the first week, which could create a huge discrepancy between the two pelotons, and effectively eliminate half of the favourites before the second part of the competition. Unipublic favours the latter, whereas the teams would prefer the former.

Menchov, Osa and Mancebo in iBanesto's Tour team

Russian Denis Menchov and Spaniards Unai Osa and Francisco Mancebo will be part of's Tour de France team, which will be built around its climbers. Menchov and Osa both rode well in the recent Dauphine Libéré, with the Russian winning the stage to Mont Ventoux. The rest of the teams includes Dariusz Baranowski, Santi Blanco, Jon Odriozola, José Vicente Garcia Acosta, José Iván Gutiérrez Palacios and Javier Pascual Rodriguez.

Surprisingly, Italian climber Leonardo Piepoli will not be part of the team, with the reserves being named as: Marzio Bruseghin, David Latasa Lasa, and Xabier Zandio Echaide.

Hondo gets the nod over Klöden

The Volta a Catalunya decided the fate of Andreas Klöden and Danilo Hondo in Telekom's Tour de France team after just two stages. Before the Volta started, Klöden was named as part of Telekom's Tour team despite not racing a great deal this year due to injury. On the other hand, the more consistent and faster Danilo Hondo was only picked as first reserve, despite the fact that Telekom is aiming to help Erik Zabel in the sprints as much as possible this year.

Hondo won the second stage in a bunch sprint, which contained a category 1 climb fairly close to the end. Klöden did not finish due to knee problems, and he is currently deciding whether to have an operation. That meant that Hondo was promoted to Telekom's main Tour team. "Danilo Hondo was the reserve, and now it is right that he gets a chance," said Telekom's spokesman Olaf Ludwig who specified that Hondo would be helping Zabel, who will be the boss in the Tour.

Telekom now has Zabel, Fagnini and Hondo as well as Rolf Aldag, Steffen Wesemann, Bobby Julich, Kevin Livingston, Guiseppi Guerini, and Alexandre Vinokourov. The reserves are now Udo Bölts and Matthias Kessler.

McGrory, Kelly and Taberlay lose appeals

Three riders who were not selected for Australia's Commonwealth Games team earlier this month have lost their appeals against being left out. Multiple world 1000m time trial champion Shane Kelly, Olympic madison gold medallist Scott McGrory and 2002 Australian cross country mountain bike champion Sid Taberlay were heard by the Selection Appeals Committee on June 13, and Cycling Australia announced earlier this week that the appeals were unsuccessful. The three now have the choice of taking the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport if they wish.

Kelly, who has been Australia's most consistent 1,000 metre time trial rider for the last decade, dislocated his right shoulder at the National Championships in April, and therefore couldn't post a qualifying time.

McGrory, in addition to his Olympic gold, is considered one of the top Six Day riders in the world, and was aiming to ride in either the points race or the scratch race, as his specialty event (the madison) is not part of the Commonwealth Games.

New Zealand's Hayden Roulston signs for Cofidis

21 year old New Zealand rider Hayden Roulston will turn professional with top French team Cofidis in 2003. The versatile national individual pursuit and criterium champion has won several events in France this season, attracting the interest of several European teams. Cofidis signed him for two years, and will allow him to race in track World Cups and World Championships for New Zealand.

"As you can imagine, I am over the moon," said a delighted Roulston. "This was the main reason in coming to France 2 years ago, now I have achieved not only a aim, but also something I have always dreamed about."

He said that although he was talking with three other teams, the Cofidis offer allowed him to continue racing on the track, which is his main aim up to the 2004 Olympics.