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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

News for October 23, 2002

Edited by Jeff Jones & Chris Henry

UCI Men's and Women's rankings

The season is almost over which means the UCI rankings can almost be carved on stone tablets for another year. The final men's rankings will be issued on November 15, but the women's, U23, and Junior rankings were finalised after the World's.

In the men's rankings, it is certain that Erik Zabel will keep his number one ranking in 2002, after another long season filled with a number of successes and consistent high placings. Zabel's 2002 season was not as good as the previous two, which for a sprinter like him were always going to be hard to top. However with 16 wins including the Rund um den Henninger Turm, stages in the Tour de France, Tour de Suisse, Tirreno-Adriatico, Setmana Catalana, Ronde van Nederland, and Deutschland Tour, Zabel still showed that he had what it takes even if the big prizes eluded him. He also won seven points classifications in the various tours that he raced in, a model of consistency.

Erik Zabel himself is the first rider to criticise his performance, admitting to Belgian newspaper La Derniere Heure that he regretted having raced too much this year without focussing on any one in particular. As a result, he has promised to himself that he would not repeat the same program in the future. He offered a prediction in 2003: that there will be a whole new Zabel, focussing almost entirely on the spring classics.

In second place on the rankings is Lance Armstrong, who won the Tour de France for a fourth consecutive time this year, as well as taking the Midi Libre and Dauphine Libere stage races, and gained some good placings in the classics. Armstrong's season was more or less over by mid-August, although he did gain a few more points in the San Francisco GP in mid-September before calling it quits.

Paolo Bettini clinched the World Cup series this year, which gave him enough points to finish the year in third place. He won 10 races this year including Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Giro del Lazio, Coppa Sabatini, Tour De La Region Wallonne, Giro Riviera Ligure Ponente and several stage wins. He is now considered one of the top one day riders in the world.

Bettini still dreams of winning the two biggest races which thus far have eluded him: Milan-San Remo and the World Championships. "The first is becoming more and more difficult due to the strength of the sprinters," said Bettini to La Derniere Heure. "As for the second, I wonder if I didn't miss my chance in Lisbon last year."

In finishing second in the World Cup standings, 37 year old Johan Museeuw (Domo-Farm Frites) pushed himself into the top 20 on the UCI scale. The Lion of Flanders will be riding with Paolo Bettini for at least the first part of next year in Quick Step-Davitamon, and the two should complement each other well.

"I would prefer not to have beaten Museeuw to win the World Cup," added Bettini . "He deserved this trophy more than I. But I'm delighted to be with him again in the same team. Johan is a rider who understands a race like nobody else. With him, one is almost always assured of making the right move. His experience and his tactical knowledge are essential to a team. One learns a lot just being around him."

Finally one of the big movers in the men's rankings was Giro di Lombardia winner Michele Bartoli (Fassa Bortolo), who jumped an impressive 12 places from 22nd to 10th. If he continues his good form next season (and doesn't have any accidents), Bartoli should have a very successful 2003.

In the women's rankings, the number one rider of the year (with a late run to the line) is Sweden's Susanne Ljungskog, who gained enough points from her win in the World's to move herself up from third to first overall. Her consistency throughout the year has paid dividends and she finishes 13 points ahead of Dutch Mirjam Melchers. Nicole Brändli (Acca Due O) took the third spot after some very good performances at the World's.

In the team's rankings, Saturn kept its number one spot that it has had all season, however next year is going to be tougher to stay there with the departure of top Germans Petra Rossner and Judith Arndt to Nürnberger. Vlaanderen-T Interim finished the season in second place after Ljungskog's fine season, while Farm Frites-Hartol finished in third.

UCI rankings as of October 20, 2002

Men - Individual
1 Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Telekom                            2,269.00 pts
2 Lance Armstrong (USA) US Postal Service                  2,110.00
3 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Mapei-Quick Step                     2,012.00
4 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Lotto-Adecco                         1,947.00
5 Dario Frigo (Ita) Tacconi Sport-Emmegi                   1,772.00
6 Mario Cipollini (Ita) Acqua & Sapone-Cantina Tollo       1,749.20
7 Aitor Gonzalez Jimenez (Spa) Kelme-Costa Blanca          1,551.00
8 Roberto Heras Hernandez (Spa) US Postal Service          1,455.75
9 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner                       1,452.00
10 Michele Bartoli (Ita) Fassa Bortolo                     1,417.75
11 Francesco Casagrande (Ita) Fassa Bortolo                1,413.00
12 Joseba Beloki Dorronsoro (Spa) ONCE-Eroski              1,298.00
13 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Saeco-Longoni Sport                1,176.00
14 Laurent Jalabert (Fra) Team CSC Tiscali                 1,153.00
15 Santiago Botero Echeverry (Col) Kelme-Costa Blanca      1,131.40
16 Johan Museeuw (Bel) Domo-Farm Frites                    1,109.50
17 Michael Boogerd (Ned) Rabobank                          1,076.60
18 Alex Zuelle (Swi) Team Coast                            1,043.00
19 Peter Van Petegem (Bel) Lotto-Adecco                    1,041.00
20 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Fassa Bortolo                 1,016.75
Women - Individual
1 Susanne Ljungskog (Swe) Vlaanderen-T-Interim Ladies Team   703.00 pts
2 Mirjam Melchers (Ned) Team Farm Frites-Hartol              690.00
3 Nicole Brändli (Swi) Acca Due O Pasta Zara Lorena Camicie  529.00
4 Petra Rossner (Ger) Saturn Cycling Team                    516.65
5 Judith Arndt (Ger) Saturn Cycling Team                     466.65
6 Priska Doppmann (Swi)                                      373.00
7 Zinaida Stahurskaya (Blr) Usci Chirio                      335.00
8 Regina Schleicher (Ger) S.C. Michela Fanini Record Rox     305.00
9 Joane Somarriba Arrola (Spa) Deia-Pragma-Colnago           291.00
10 Zoulfia Zabirova (Rus) Usci Chirio                        275.00
11 Fabiana Luperini (Ita) Edilsavino                         271.00
12 Edita Pucinskaite (Ltu) Figurella Dream Team              226.35
13 Debby Mansveld (Ned) Vlaanderen-T-Interim Ladies Team     211.00
14 Hanka Kupfernagel (Ger) Equipe Nürnberger Versicherung    207.00
15 Valentina Polkhanova (Rus) Itera Team                     202.35
16 Olga Slyusareva (Rus) Itera Team                          191.00
17 Simona Parente (Ita) Edilsavino                           188.00
18 Sara Carrigan (Aus)                                       173.00
19 Rochelle Gilmore (Aus)                                    164.00
20 Lyne Bessette (Can)                                       153.00
Men's Teams
Division I
1 Mapei-Quick Step                                         9,348.75 pts
2 Fassa Bortolo                                            8,040.00
3 US Postal Service                                        6,819.50
4 Lotto-Adecco                                             6,657.00
5 Cofidis                                                  6,307.00
6 Team Coast                                               6,217.90
7 ONCE-Eroski                                              6,115.75
8                                             6,014.27
9 Rabobank                                                 5,824.20
10 Team CSC Tiscali                                        5,771.00
Division II
1 EDS-fakta                                                3,307.00 pts
2 Bankgiroloterij                                          2,217.00
3 Palmans-Collstrop                                        1,831.00
4 Landbouwkrediet-Colnago                                  1,656.00
5 CCC-Polsat                                               1,452.00
Women's Teams
1 Saturn Cycling Team                                      1,260.95 pts
2 Vlaanderen-T-Interim Ladies Team                           998.00
3 Team Farm Frites-Hartol                                    967.00
4 Acca Due O Pasta Zara Lorena Camicie                       845.00
5 Edilsavino                                                 647.00
6 Usci Chirio                                                618.00
7 Deia-Pragma-Colnago                                        583.00
8 Equipe Nürnberger Versicherung                             486.00
9 Itera Team                                                 449.05
10 S.C. Michela Fanini Record Rox                            331.00
Full rankings

2003 Tour de France route announced Thursday

Twenty-one former Tour de France winners will be present on Thursday, October 24 in Paris when the complete route is unveiled for the 90th Tour de France. The 2003 edition marks the Tour's 100th anniversary, though it has missed a few years since 1903 because of a couple of world wars. All Tour winners still living have been invited, and only Roger Pingeon can't be present due to some family affairs. The oldest winner (1950) is Ferdi Kübler.

Reports so far suggest that the Centenary Tour will start with a prologue around La Maison de la Radio in Paris. The first stage will start at the Stade de France, north of the city, aiming south to pass by the café Réveil Matin in Montgeron where the first Tour began in 1903. The race will visit Meaux, east of Paris, before moving north to Charleville-Mézières. The route will visit many of the cities used in the 1903 Tour, including Lyon, Bordeaux, Bayonne, and Nantes. The mountain stages will tackle the classic climbs of the Galibier, Izoard, Alpe d'Huez, Tourmalet, and the Aubisque. Sunday, July 27 will see the traditional finish back in Paris on the Champs-Elysées.

Cyclingnews will be present at the route launch on Thursday in Paris and we will publish the full details as soon as they are available, along with a full report from the occasion.

Ullrich one step closer to CSC

Jan Ullrich's manager Wolfgang Strohband announced today that a signature with the Danish CSC-Tiscali team is imminent, as reported by AP and Reuters. Ullrich has been in talks for some time with his former teammate Bjarne Riis, now director of CSC. However, any deal would be contingent on the team securing sufficient financial backing for the coming season.

If the deal goes through, Ullrich will begin riding for CSC in March, after serving his six month suspension for out of competition amphetamine use. "Everything has been talked about and cleared," Strohband told German sports news agency SID. "I expect the deal to be signed shortly."

Gibo off the hook, Fois out for 36 months

Gilberto Simoni, 2001 Giro d'Italia winner who was shamed into abandoning this year's Giro after a positive test for cocaine has been competely cleared by the Caf (Commissione d'appello federale / Federal Appeals Commission) today in Rome, Italy. After Simoni's positive for cocaine in a suprise, out of competition test by the WADA just prior to the Giro d'Italia late April, plus another for cocaine during the Giro d'Italia, the Italian Olympic Comittee (CONI) Antidoping Prosecutor opened an investigation on Simoni. The Caf found that "the will of the athlete to take this substance (cocaine) was non-existent" and that according to their technical evaluations of the subject and his tests, Simoni's acquittal was passed in the first degree. Cutting through all the Italian sport-speak, Caf has completely absolved Gilberto Simoni for any positive cocaine tests in 2002 and has upheld his appeal action.

In other action today from the Roman sport appeals board, the Italian Olympic Comittee (CONI) Antidoping Prosecutor was looking for a lifetime ban for bearded bad boy Valentino Fois, but Caf came back with a 3 year suspension and an 8,000 Swiss franc fine, plus a 3,000 Swiss franc fine for his hapless Mercatone Uno squad. Fois has had doping "issues" in the past, and with a 3 year ban, it may be impossible for this 29 year old pro from Bergamo to overcome this latest scrape.

Nijs comments on the UCI 'cross regulations

The new and controversial UCI start order regulations (based on country rather than rider rankings) have certainly helped some riders, despite protests from the Belgian camp that they are unfair to countries with several top riders. One rider on the front row in last Sunday's Superprestige race in Ruddervoorde was Belgian Sven Nijs, who eventually won the race ahead of Richard Groenendaal (Netherlands). There was only one other Belgian on the front of the start grid: World Champion Mario De Clercq.

"The Japanese Mifune was up front, next to Groenendaal, but that didn't stop him from finishing last," Nijs said jokingly to La Derniere Heure. "But seriously, without doubt certain races where the favourites start from the back will present difficulties for moving to the front of the race. In Asper, for example, it is necessary to reach the grassy sections in the first five positions in order to avoid having to chase during most of the race. It's a shame that the UCI changed the rules without consulting the riders."

Nijs, as with all of the top Belgian riders, has an additional motivation. "I am feeling very confident now, and I have to say that Stamsnijder's record (editor's note: four overall Superprestige victories) does tempt me, just like Liboton's record of 21 Superprestige race wins. I have five to go to equal him."

Nijs has another reason to be happy soon: The birth of his son, which is expected next month. "He should come into the world on November 17, the day of Gavere-Asper," he said. "If that's the case, I'll forfeit the race, because I wouldn't miss this birth for anything in the world."

Lotto to keep ABX?

The Lotto team may keep current co-sponsor ABX next season, when the combined Lotto-Domo team comes into being. Het Laatste Nieuws reports that Lotto is negotiating with a third sponsor, more than likely ABX, asking them to put 1.2 million euros on the table. The current budget is 5 million euros, neatly divided between main sponsors Lotto and Domo.

"But the new season is yet to start and the money is already gone," reports Het Laatste Nieuws. Over 4.2 million euros will be going to the riders, with Peter Van Petegem (620,000), Robbie McEwen (620,000), Rik Verbrugghe (545,000), Axel Merckx (446,000), Leon van Bon (297,000) set to be the top wage earners. For this reason, Minister for Business Affairs Rik Daems is trying to persuade ABX to come on board as a co-sponsor.

Earlier this week Christophe Sercu was confronted with the question why the cyclists had been waiting for their victory bonuses since Peter Van Petegem's win in the Three Days De Panne. Christophe Sercu admitted they hadn't been paid yet but promised to arrange everything within the coming weeks.

iBanesto ending sponsorship after 2003

José Echevarria, manager of the team, has confirmed that Spanish bank and title sponsor Banesto will not continue sponsoring the cycling team beyond next season. The 2003 season will be the final year for a sponsorship which began in 1989 with the Reynolds-Banesto team of '88 Tour winner Pedro Delgado. The team's fortunes soared with the emergence of Miguel Indurain, who went on to win five consecutive Tours, two editions of the Giro d'Italia, and countless other races. Banesto continued sponsorship in the post-Indurain era, marketing most recently its brand, although without the grand tour successes to match Indurain's reign.

Mapei by numbers

The 2002 season marks the end of the great Mapei dynasty, and the team finished its final year in typical fashion, by winning- and winning often. The team totaled 45 victories in 2002, topped the UCI team rankings for the eighth time, and won its fifth World Cup team title.

Committed to development of the sport, Mapei established its "Young Riders Project" in 2000, with its usual success. The GSIII team garnered 49 wins, including the Tour de l'Avenir, Tour of Normandy, GP Erik Breukink, and GP Eddy Merckx (where Fabian Cancellara teamed up with Lazslo Bodrogi).

Following is an overview of the Mapei timeline, which highlights the sponsor's impressive depth and consistency in the biggest road events on the calendar.

1993: Mapei enters the cycling scene at the Giro d'Italia, as a replacement sponsor for Eldor who pulled out completely in mid-May, partly due to a doping affair involving one of its riders. Stefano Della Santa offers Mapei its first victory at the Trofeo Melinda.

1994: Spanish group Clas joins as a team sponsor. The new team, Mapei-Clas, wins 58 races and climbs to first place in the UCI team rankings. Gianluca Bortolami wins the Championship of Zürich and the Leeds International, on his way to winning the World Cup. Tony Rominger wins the Vuelta España and sets the world hour record.

1995: The formation is reinforced with a Belgian sponsor and a new group of riders. Mapei-GB is born and handily wins 81 races. Johan Museeuw wins the Tour of Flanders, the Championship of Zürich, and the World Cup overall, while Franco Ballerini wins Paris-Roubaix. Tony Rominger wins the Giro d'Italia and Abraham Olano becomes world champion. The team wins the World Cup and maintains its place atop the UCI rankings. The Mapei Sport Service Centre is opened in Castellanza (Varese), Italy.

1996: 82 wins for Mapei-GB. Museeuw wins Paris-Roubaix, the World Championships in Lugano, and the World Cup. Andrea Tafi wins the Giro di Lombardia. The team wins the Team World Cup title and claims first place in the UCI rankings.

1997: The pinnacle for Mapei-GB, with 95 victories, including Andrea Tafi's World Cup win at the Rochester Classic. The team is once again number one in the UCI rankings.

1998: 68 wins for Mapei-Bricobi, with Johan Museeuw taking the Tour of Flanders, Franco Ballerini winning Paris-Roubaix, and Oscar Camenzind taking the World Championships and the Giro di Lombardia. The team wins the Team World Cup and tops the UCI rankings.

1999: 51 wins for Mapei-Quick Step, including Paris-Roubaix for Andrea Tafi. The team maintains its first place in the UCI rankings.

2000: Mapei-Quick Step wins 78 races and notches its 500th victory since beginning sponsorship. Once again Mapei made its mark in the World Cup events, with Paris-Roubaix going to Museeuw, Bettini winning his first Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and Tafi soloing to victory in Paris-Tours. Mapei claims the World Cup team competition and is first in the UCI rankings. During this year the Young Riders Group was also formed.

2001: Mapei-Quick Step wins 45 races; Paolo Bettini wins the Zürich Championships and Oscar Freire becomes world champion for the second time in three years.

2002: Per UCI regulations, Mapei-Quick Step divides into two teams: the Top Team made up of 25 road and two track racers, and the GSIII team created to develop young riders. In total, the team wins 94 races, including two World Cup wins: Andrea Tafi's victory at the Tour of Flanders and Paolo Bettini at Liège-Bastogne-Liège. The team is ranked number one by the UCI and wins its fifth World Cup team title.

Related story: Mapei to stop sponsorship at the end of 2002

Escartin contemplates retirement

Although he has yet to make a final decision, Coast's Fernando Escartin has indicated the possibility that he might retire from the professional ranks at the end of this year. Escartin hinted that a decision could come within a week. "On one hand it would bother me leaving cycling now," Escartin commented in Spanish daily Marca, "because I still feel competitive. On the other hand, my family is very important to me. Now that I have been in the house for a month, with my son and a daily routine, it would be very hard to leave again."

Opera for EDS-fakta

After a successful season on the road, EDS-fakta has faced contract and sponsor difficulties in recent months. Enter Opera, and a promising two year deal for all team equipment. Opera is to be marketed as an independent brand owned by Pinarello, who until the new brand launch has used the Opera name for one of its bicycle models. "The equipment is the biggest cost, besides salaries, so we are happy to have almost all of our budget covered for next year," said EDS-fakta team manager Peter Sejer Nielsen.

Reynaud returns

Frenchman Nicolas Reynaud looks set to make a return to the pro peloton, possibly joining friend and former teammate Richard Virenque at Quick Step for 2003. Reynaud rode with Virenque for Festina, prior to the team's withdrawal from the peloton last year.

Gustavo Otero signs for Paredes

Spanish rider Gustavo Otero has signed for Portuguese team Paredes Rota dos Móveis next season. Otero rode this year for Kelme - Costa Blanca and his contract was not renewed. The young climber from Pontevedra, 62nd in the Giro d'Italia 2002 in his first attempt, will join a team where he will have more chances to show his potential.

Courtesy of Antonio Dias

Italian positive

Italian amateur Daniele Marziani of the G.S. Grassi team has tested positive for ephedrine. Marziani turned in a positive test at the Copa Martires on August 31, according to the Anti-doping office of the Comité Nacional Olimpico Italiano (CONI).

Stam to tackle Dutch hour

Danny Stam will attack the Dutch one-hour-record behind dernies. His goal is to beat the current record of 59km, 608 meters and 68 centimeters, set four years ago by Robert Slippens. Stam will go for the record on December 1 on the track in Sloten, Netherlands, near Amsterdam. In the meantime, Stam and Slippens are riding together in the Six Days of Amsterdam.

(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2002)