News for May 17, 2002
Edited by John Stevenson
Euro-Giro becomes Giro-Giro; Giro d'Italia returns home
By Tim Maloney, European editor
Avowed cycling fan and European Union President Romano Prodi is bullish on the 2002 Giro d'Italia, the "Euro-Giro", so named to commemorate the launch of Europe's single currency this year. "It was a marvellous spectacle," Prodi proclaimed in Belgium as the Giro passed through on the way back to Italia. "It seemed like a crazy idea, but instead this Giro is a grand idea," said the former university professor and avid cyclist.
Prodi may be correct; although the 2002 Giro d'Italia looked gimmicky on paper, with a start far from Italy in Groningen, Netherlands and then stages in Germany, south through Belgium, across the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and finally into France before transferring back to Italy on Thursday. But after all, it seems that so far, with some exciting racing and larger than expected crowds despite the sometimes sketchy weather, the Euro Giro d'Italia has lived up to its tradition as a Grand Tour despite the gimmickry.
Spaniard Juan-Carlos Dominguez of Phonak was a surprise winner of the prologue TT in front of a quarter of a million fans in Groningen, but the Spanish all-rounder lost his Maglia Rosa to Mega-Mario Cipollini (Acqua & Sapone) the next day in Munster, Germany. Stage 2 saw a thrilling finish on the tough, hilly final 10km of the Liege-Bastogne-Liege course, where Giro favorite Stefano Garzelli (Mapei-Quick Step) imposed a sprint win on the front group and took over over the race lead from Cipo.
Mega-Mario was back to his winning ways on Stage 3 in Luxembourg, where he took his 36th Giro stage win, only 5 behind Italian great Alfredo Binda for #1 on the Giro d'Italia all time stage win tally.
Yesterday's Stage 4 concluded the festa di bici on the northern side of the Alps for the Euro-Giro as antipodean Robbie McEwen (Lotto-Addeco) had a breakthrough stage win in Strasbourg, France ahead of who else but Mega-Mario.
After an air transfer back to Italy, the Euro-Giro portion of the program has concluded and now let the games begin! Maglia Rosa Garzelli will commence the battle for Giro supremacy Friday on the first mountain stage with 2001 Giro Champion Gilberto Simoni (Saeco-Longoni Sport), Maglia Verde climbing leader Francesco Casagrande (Fassa Bortolo), redemption-seeking Dario Frigo (Tacconi Sport), question mark Marco Pantani (Mercatone Uno), old warhorse Pavel Tonkov (Lampre-Daikin) and American dark horse Tyler Hamilton (CSC-Tiscali) among others… Venite pure il Giro-Giro 2002!
Hondo out of Giro
Telekom rider Danilo Hondo has pulled out of the Giro d'Italia after receiving the sad news of the death of his mother on Wednesday.
Hondo got the news by SMS after stepping out of the shower after Wednesday's fourth stage and immediately returned to Berlin to join his girlfriend.
Telekom was hoping that sprinter Hondo would collect a stage win or two in the Giro, but his departure is another blow for the team after Jan Ullrich's withdrawal from the Tour de France. Telekom's hopes now rest with 23-year-old Matthias Kessler, currently fifth on GC. However, Telekom directeur sportif Rudy Pevanage commented that the Giro "presents its first serious test today, with the mountaintop finish in Piemont and a terribly difficult final ascent of up to 20 percent grade."
McEwen becomes a dad
It's been a hectic week for Australian Lotto rider Robbie McEwen. As well as carrying the national champion jersey across the line ahead of Mario Cipolloni in Wednesday's Giro stage, McEwen became a father this week.
Cyclingnews understands that Ewan McEwen arrived a couple of weeks earlier than expected, on May 10. The 5lb 5oz (2.45kg) new arrival entered the world in Zotegem, Belgium, and Robbie was whisked to the Giro start in Groningen by private jet shortly after.
McEwen certainly didn't show any signs of distraction in stage 4 of the Giro, his line finish with Cipollini being sweet revenge for the hazards of earlier stages. Click on the photo to the left or visit our Giro Photography section to see pictures of just how tight his win was.
Pantani takes a pop
After the arrest and suspension of Antonio Varriale, Marco Pantani has entered the fray in the ongoing debate over doping in cycling.
The Reuters news service reports Pantani as saying "Thinking about what happened to me, there's always a fierce attack on whoever is involved."
Obviously believing attack is the best form of defence, Pantani has a go at former team-mate and current Giro leader Stefano Garzelli, saying, "A few years ago they (Mapei) said the first five in the overall standings in major stage races were on dope. Now they have a rider who is in the lead."
Pantani is himself facing a four year ban for allegedly possessing insulin in last year's Giro, and is only competing in this year's race because the Italian Cycling Federation says it is unable to impose the ban because of a breach of procedure.
Mapei PR Alessandro Tegner said: "Pantani's assertions do not deserve to be commented on."
Garzelli was also unimpressed with Pantani's outburst. "It went in one ear and out the other, he said. "I'm concentrating on Giro d'Italia."
Did he consider Pantani -- who has not won a race since 2000 --- a rival for the Giro? "It's up to him to show what he's worth," Garzelli replied.
So far, Pantani has failed to show much, but in typical style has announced that today's stage will be decisive for him.
Garzelli scopes out the Moro, rivals
Stefano Garzelli didn't spend the Giro's day off lounging around in his hotel. Instead the race leader spent the day reconnoitring one of today's most serious obstacles, the climb of the Colletto del Moro.
"I took the opportunity to get familiar with the Colletto del Moro and I don't regret it," he told reporters on his return to his hotel on Thursday afternoon. "It is a very hard climb, harder than the Mortirolo but much shorter."
Today's 150km fifth stage from Fossano - Limone Piemonte takes in the 3.9km Moro, 22.5km from the finish. At its steepest the climb has a stretch of 21 percent grade. Garzelli seems to be looking forward to it: "The Giro starts for real with this stage and something important could happen on the climb to the finish," he said. "It will help me understand who my rivals are."
Garzelli sees a number of riders as threats to his continued possession of the maglia rosa. Gilberto Simoni is 52 seconds behind Garzelli, but hasn't shown the form so far this year that propelled him to the top spot in last year's Giro. Is he a threat? "It is necessary to wait and see," said Garzelli. "Simoni remains a dangerous adversary."
Francesco Casagrande is another possible danger, despite the weakening of his Fassa Bortolo team by the departures of Stangelj and Bartoli. "Casagrande is in form, that is certain," said Garzelli. "I am also wary of Hamilton, who seems to be in great condition."
"As for Frigo, I get the impression that he does well one day, less well the next."
Tour de Picardie - Virenque vs the sprinters
Richard Virenque takes the next step in his comeback campaign today when he starts the three-day Tour de picardie. However, the French climbing specialist is unlikely to find the race much of an opportunity to demonstrate his uphill talents: the parcours never gets above 200m elevation.
This, then, is a Picardy for sprinters and riders expected to figure in the standings include Peter Van Petegem (Lotto), Christophe Capelle (BigMat), Damien Nazon (Bonjour) and Jimmy Casper (Française des Jeux).
Picardy will also see the return to racing of Stuart O'Grady (Credit Agricole) in his first event since undergoing surgery to correct a problem with his iliac artery.
Stage 1 - May 17: Abbeville - Saint-Quentin, 174 km
Strong field for Tour de l'Aude
Today's start of the tour de l'Aude (May 17-26) sees the strongest women's field of the year so far line up for a race that nevertheless looks wide open.
Lyne Bessette (Saturn), winner in 1999 and 2001 will be up against several other previous winners including Hanka Kupfernagel (2000), Valentina Polkhanova (1995) and Catherine Marsal (1990 and 1994).
The roster also includes world champion Rasa Polikeviciute and her twin sister Iolanda, plus Bessette's Saturn team-mates world number one Judith Arndt and world cup leader Petra Rossner.
Stage 1 - May 17: Lézignan-Corbières - Lézignan-Corbières, 109 km
The Fassa Bortolo team has announced that Volodimir Gustov will be allowed to ride again after tests showed the high haematocrit level he exhibited at the Tour of Romandie was a natural phenomenon.
According to the team's announcement, "Volodimir Gustov has undergone several urine and blood screening tests in resent days in the laboratories of Lausanne and the hospital S. Orsola in Bologna accredited by the U.C.I.
"On the basis of the results of the tests and the haematological and chemical analyses, carried out since 1998, the UCI has confirmed that the haematocrit and hemoglobin values of Volodimir Gustov are physiologically, i.e. naturally, high.
"For this reason the athlete has been allowed to ride again."
Secchiari under observation
Italian rider Francesco Secchiari (Mercatone Uno), who was hospitalised Wednesday evening after a crash at the end of the fourth stage of the Giro d'Italia, is still under observation in the hospital in Strasbourg.
The Giro's chief doctor announced yesterday that Secchiari had undergone a scan that showed no internal injuries, but he had wounds on the quadriceps, the elbow and the right kidney.
Fiat LCV Racing launched
By Shane Stokes
A new downhill team Fiat LCV Racing was recently launched in Bray, where the off-road squad were presented with a Fiat Ducato van as part of the sponsorship deal. The three-rider team plans to compete in the Irish national downhill series, the British national series and some world cup events this year.
The riders are the promising junior competitor Jamie Popham, elite cyclist (and national downhill champion) John Lawlor and the veteran Peter Popham, while Jeremy Dawson and Eamon Lawlor are acting as the team managers. Team Fiat LCV Racing hope that they will have two members selected to represent Ireland at the world championships in Austria later this year.
The new squad will promote the Bray Downhill Challenge in July, details of which were announced at the Bray Events launch on the same night. Other cycling races taking place in the Bray festival of cycling that month are the underage road race championships (promoted by Bray Wheelers) and Team Worcâs national cross-country championships.
The popular seaside resort will also be the venue for a Red Bull-backed event. The 'Force of Nature'â extreme triathlon will subject the contestants to a gruelling physical test, with 750 metres of swimming, a 15 kilometre mountain-bike race and a 5 km run facing the participants.
USA Cycling announces provisional 2002 cross calendar
USA Cycling has announced a schedule of 18 races that have been submitted to the UCI for consideration in the 2002 international calendar.
The list sees twice as many US races at this level as last season, and includes eight events west of the Mississippi as well as the traditional races in cyclo-cross's East Coast strongholds.
"The growth of the schedule is testament to the cooperation of promoters across the country. I feel great about the upcoming calendar, and 'cross promoters really deserve the credit. They essentially had the calendar put together and all I had to do was submit it to the UCI," said USA Cycling National Events Director Eric Moore.
The season will culminate with the National Cyclo-cross Championships, December 13-14 in Napa, Calif. All the action will take place at the famed Domain Chandon Winery, host to several mountain bike World Cups.
2002 Tentative UCI Calendar Events
October 6:Downeast Cyclo-cross, Auburn, Maine
Trek auctions USPS bikes
Want to acquire a rideable piece of history? Over the next four weeks Trek Bicycles is auctioning off some of the bikes ridden by the US Postal team in the 2001 season, culminating with one of Lance Armstrong's own machines.
The auction started May 14 and there are currently six bikes on offer. Check out Trek's website for full details. Here are the six bikes and the highest current bid:
Dylan Casey's bike: $1,920.00
12 Hour racing returns to Sydney
One of the highlights of last year's mountain bike calendar was the Western Sydney Mountain Bike Club's inaugural 12 hour race, which saw 580 riders spend a very enjoyable and for some highly competitive day clocking up the kilometres at Yellowmundie Regional Park.
WSMTBC has announced details of the 2002 event. The 2002 Lab-Gear 12 Hour Mountain Bike Challenge will be held September 7 from 9am to 9pm again at Yellowmundee Regional Park, Yarramundi, at the foot of the Blue Mountains. Entries close August 9 and there are categories for solo riders and teams of two, three, four or six competitors.
This year's event will also be the first in the "Strong Butt League" series. This series allows riders to accumulate points by competing in three other similar events, the Mont 24 HourMountain Bike Race, the Polaris Challenge, and the Urban Polaris.
Entry forms are now available from Sydney bike shops, the Western Sydney Mountain Bike Club, and on-line at www.wsmtb.com.