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Photo ©: Sirotti

News for May 8, 2002

Edited by Jeff Jones

Ullrich concedes in Battle of Jan's Knee

By Jeff Jones

Jan Ullrich caused waves of disappointment in the cycling world today when he announced that he would not be taking part in the upcoming Tour de France, which starts in Luxembourg on July 6. Ullrich cited his recurring knee problem, which has kept him out of competition since January and described himself as "bitterly disappointed" by it.

"I got through this winter well, as I have not done so for a long time," he said in reference to his weight problems of seasons past. After becoming the first German to win the Tour in 1997, he let himself go a little and started the 1998 season 10 kilos overweight. He eventually finished second behind Marco Pantani in the Tour, after having one bad day in the cold and rain in the Alps.

In 1999, he was in slightly better form but a crash in the Tour of Germany in June destroyed his chances, and he renounced the Tour. In 2000, he was plagued by bronchitis at the beginning of the season, but again came back to finish second behind Lance Armstrong. Ullrich then went on to win the 2000 Olympic Road Race in fine style.

In 2001, his weight problems were again an issue, although not as much as in previous seasons. He had a fantastic battle with Lance Armstrong in the mountains, but lost out every time and finished second for the fourth time in his career. However, he was by far the best of the rest.

This year in the Tour of Qatar in January, Jan showed up looking very lean, and many thought that he would finally have a proper build up to the Tour. He had changed to his former coach Peter Becker, and had a personal chef and doctor. But shortly after the Qatar expedition, he began experiencing problems with his knee while training in South Africa.

He returned home for treatment, but things were not as magenta coloured as Telekom PR tried to make out - he was having serious problems whenever he pushed too hard, and was forced to lay off the bike for several weeks. It should be pointed out that Ullrich's tendency to push a bigger gear than most riders, with his big quads compared to his skinny calves, can hardly have helped, but that's the way he's always ridden.

"As soon as I increase the intensity, the pain returns. Since then it has not improved. I can only ride up to 80 to 90 percent of my potential. Therefore, a proper preparation is impossible," he said today, a week after his unfortunate accident involving a Porsche, a bike rack, his friend Eyk Pokorny, two girls and several glasses of wine. Not necessarily in that order.

The accident was more than likely a culmination of the frustration of the past few months, and it appears that by then, Jan knew that he would not be competing in the Tour.

That is a shame, for all concerned, as he is one of the few people who can stay close to Lance Armstrong in the mountains and in the time trials. Gilberto Simoni (Saeco) is being touted as the next logical challenger, but the Tour's team time trial and the 55 km individual time trial will severely hurt his chances. Others include Dario Frigo (who can TT), depending on how he finishes the Giro, or Alex Zülle, who can do all the things necessary provided he is in form, but has not been invited by the organisers.

One of those disappointed is defending champion Lance Armstrong, who has always considered Ullrich his biggest threat in the Tour. "It's too bad," he told Cyclingnews today. "For me, he's our most feared rival and I have always looked forward to racing against him. The race needs as many animators as possible and he is one of the best. Again, I'm truly disappointed."

Now Jan Ullrich will refocus for the Vuelta and the World Championships, provided his knee can recover sufficiently. He will not ride the Tour of Germany. "Now it is important that the injury heals completely. After that I will begin again with base training."

All may not be lost for Telekom, who will go to the Tour with the aim of winning a seventh Green Jersey for Erik Zabel, with Alex Vinokourov as the GC rider. This may give Vinokourov a chance to step into a bigger role, as the talented Kazakh has improved every year.

Figueras, Leoni, Elli and four others suspended

The disciplinary commission of the Italian Cycling Federation has voted to suspend seven Italian cyclists for a minimum period of six months for doping after meeting in Rome today. The list includes Panaria's top Giro d'Italia rider, Giuliano Figueras, who received a six month suspension, with three months to be served immediately, and will not be competing in the Giro. There was a similar suspension for Alessio's sprinter Endrio Leoni, which will be a big blow for them as well as he is a tried and true competitor in the Giro.

Ermanno Brignoli (Mercatone Uno) and Alberto Elli (Index-Alexia) also received six months suspension, effective immediately, with a 1377 euro fine for Brignoli as well. Daniele De Paoli (Alessio) was given a six month suspension, backdated to February 11, 2001, while Marcello Siboni (Mercatone Uno) was given eight months, backdated to July 1, 2001.

Finally, Giampaolo Mondini (ex-US Postal & Mercatone Uno) was given 6 months, but has already served some of it and will be able to return in 4 months.

The suspensions came about as a result of the investigation into the 2001 Giro d'Italia, where a large number of products, some illegal, some not, were found in possession of riders during a massive police raid on rider hotels in San Remo on the night of June 6.

Thanks to La Gazzetta's Pier Bergonzi for his assistance with this article .

Pantani decision must wait

The FCI's disciplinary commission decided to postpone their decision regarding the Marco Pantani case until after the Giro. The 32 year old is accused of using doping products during last year's Giro, when a syringe containing traces of insulin was found in a hotel room he had evidently used He was not present at today's disciplinary hearing, and the commission requested a supplementary investigation before reaching a verdict, as the notice to investigate Pantani was not served properly.

In a meeting on May 2, CONI's anti-doping committee headed by Giacomo Aiello, recommended a four year sanction for Pantani on the basis of the Giro investigations.

Saeco-Longoni Sport for the Giro

The team of the defending champion, Gilberto Simoni, has announced its lineup for the 85th Giro d'Italia. Saeco-Longoni Sport will have Simoni as its undisputed leader, in his quest for a second pink jersey. Simoni will be accompanied by Spanish rider Igor Astarloa, riding in his first Giro, Biagio Conte, Fabio Sacchi, Alessio Galletti, Oscar Mason, Alessandro Spezialetti, Moldavian Igor Pugaci and Lithuanian Marius Sabaliauskas. Claudio Corti will manage the team, supported by directeurs sportifs Giuseppe Martinelli and Flavio Miozzo.

Lampre-Daikin for the Giro

The Lampre-Daikin team for the Giro d'Italia has been finalised. Led by previous winner Pavel Tonkov, the team will be working towards putting him in pink. The rest of the team is Massimo Codol, Mariano Piccoli, Sergio Barbero, Simone Bertoletti, Juan Manuel Garate, Milan Kadlec, Maximilian Sciandri, and Gabriele Missaglia. Team managers: Pietro Algeri and Maurizio Piovani.

In other Lampre news, Ludo Dierckxsens and Johan Verstrepen are the riders who will lead the team in the Quatre Jours de Dunkerque, which starts on May 8. In addition to the two Belgians, Raivis Belohvosciks, Alberto Loddo, Luciano Pagliarini, Manuel Quinziato, Zbigniew Spruch, and Jan Svorada will also ride. The team will be managed by Brent Copeland.

More Giro teams
More Giro news

UCI eases corticosteroid restrictions

The UCI has relaxed its restrictions concerning the use of Glucocorticosteroids, which are the active ingredient in a wide variety of medicines, from asthma inhalers to saddle sore creams. Cycling's governing body announced on Tuesday that from now on, corticoids are permissible in all their forms, under the blanket of therapeutic justification.

The press release states that "On presentation of a medical certificate, we will no longer be making any distinction between local application and systemic application, except that this latter must be approved in advance by the UCI ADC. So the system used for systemic application will be more restrictive than that for local application."

"The rider must present a full medical file justifying this treatment. The ADC will rule on a case-by-case basis. Once its approval has been given, the rider may undergo this treatment without being penalised by the UCI. If at the end of a course of treatment the rider needs to undergo further similar treatment, he must make another application."

That means that cases such as Jonathan Vaughters bee sting, which forced him out of last year's Tour as he couldn't use a corticosteroid treatment to reduce the inflammation, should not occur.

The UCI emphasised that the riders still have to follow the drug laws of the country that they are competing, which of course includes France and the Tour de France.

Dottore Cipollini

Mario Cipollini has been awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Economics by the Istituto Superiore di Finanza e Organizzazione Aziendale (ISFOA). The honour was bestowed on him by professor Stefano Masullo of the ISFOA, with the endorsement of the Executive Council, Executive Committee and the Academic Senate. These bodies were unanimous in their decision to award Mario Cipollini the honorary diploma in Business Sciences with specialization in Economy and Communications Technology [Mario Cipollini earpiece radios anyone?]. The presentation of the diploma will be made in Milan in early June, immediately after the conclusion of the Giro.

Peers must rest for three weeks

Belgian Chris Peers (Cofidis) will have to take three weeks rest, according to his team, in order to recover fully from his accident in the Driedaagse Van de Panne last month. Peers was examined again last week in Amiens, and he is still suffering from an inflamed hip.

48th Quatre Jours de Dunkerque

This year's edition of the Quatre Jours de Dunkerque takes place over five days between May 8-12. True to its name however are the start and finish locations in Dunkerque, the famous coastal town in the north west of France. The race is divided into six stages, with the split road - time trial stage being held on May 10. It is classified as 2.1, meaning that it is at the upper end of the UCI points scale.

Last year's winner Didier Rous will be present with his Bonjour squad, that has dominated several French one day races this season. But he will face some strong competition with the likes of Laurent Jalabert (CSC) looking for another good result after winning in Denmark on Sunday, World Champion Oscar Freire (Mapei), Christophe Moreau and Jens Voigt (Credit Agricole), and sprinters Jan Svorada (Lampre), Jimmy Casper and Baden Cooke (FdJ), Roman Vainsteins (Domo).

The stages

  • Stage 1 - May 8: Dunkerque - Wasquehal, 183.6 km
  • Stage 2 - May 9: Hellemmes - Steenvoorde, 190.0 km
  • Stage 3 - May 10: Gravelines - Douvrin, 98.6 km
  • Stage 4 - May 10: Haines-lez-la-Bassée - Billy-Berclau ITT, 23.3 km
  • Stage 5 - May 11: Outreau - Boulogne-sur-Mer, 184.7 km
  • Stage 6 - May 12: Leffrinckoucke - Dunkerque, 185.8 km

The teams

Big Mat
US Postal Service
Crédit Agricole
La Française des Jeux
Jean Delatour
St Quentin Oktos
Marlux-Ville de Charleroi
Domo-Farm Frites
Mapei-Quick Step

56th Tour de Picardie

Held over three days starting Friday May 17 is the Tour de Picardie (formerly known as the Tour de l'Oise). The race starts with a 174 km stage from Abbeville to Saint-Quentin on Friday, followed by a 183.5 km stage from Saint-Quentin to Beauvais on Saturday, and finishing with 166 km from Grandvilliers to Fort-Mahon on Sunday.

The race will feature several top riders coming back from injury, including 1999 winner Jaan Kirsipuu, Credit Agricole's Stuart O'Grady and Lotto's Andrei Tchmil. 18 teams will ride, including all eight French teams.

The stages

  • Stage 1 - May 17: Abbeville - Saint-Quentin, 174 km
  • Stage 2 - May 18: Saint-Quentin - Beauvais, 183.5 km
  • Stage 3 - May 19: Grandvilliers - Fort-Mahon, 166 km

Correction: Zampieri and McNeill

Yesterday we reported the seemingly happy news that Swiss pro Steve Zampieri and Andrea McNeill would be married in the near future. Although the pair do know each other, there are certainly no plans for marriage. The original message that we received was unfortunately misleading. Cyclingnews apologises for any confusion caused, and wish both Steve and Andrea the best for the future.