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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

News for September 22, 2002

Edited by Jeff Jones

UCI changes selection rules for grand tours

In a move that is sure to cause controversy come Tour de France selection time next year, the UCI has decided to reduce the number of teams which are automatically selected to ride the three grand tours (Giro d'Italia, Tour de France, Vuelta Espaņa). President Hein Verbruggen announced the changes today before the start of the Vuelta's 14th stage in Santander.

The number of teams that will be automatically selected has been reduced to 14 from 16, which was the rule this year. The 14 will include the 10 best teams on the UCI classification at the end of this season, the teams of the three grand tour winners this year, and the team that wins the World Cup. Given that there will likely be some overlap between these criteria, the next best teams on the UCI ranking at the end of 2001 will be chosen to make up the 14. The remaining spots will be selected by the race organisers, as is usual.

What has been removed from the selection criteria is the rule that the winners of the teams classification in the three grand tours are automatically qualified for that particular tour.

The new rules will give the organisers of the races more control over their selections, and this will no doubt annoy the teams on the edge of selection who will miss out in favour of a more local team.

Leblanc doesn't agree with Midi Libre's reason to stop

The director of the Tour de France, Jean-Marie Leblanc, says that he doesn't understand the moral and ethical reasons given by the organisers of the Midi Libre to justify the cancellation of the race next year.

Speaking in Le Havre at the GP des Nations time trial, Leblanc said, "They evoke economic reasons that are understandable, because it's not easy to organize a cycling competition nowadays and it doesn't stop being a risk."

However he disagreed with the organisers statements to the effect that the drug problem in cycling is getting worse, causing sponsors to pull out. Although he admitted cycling is still not in complete control of the drug problem, it continues to be a popular sport and cheered on by many spectators.

Moreau sole French TT World's candidate?

It's quite possible that Christophe Moreau (Credit Agricole) will be the only rider to contest the World Time Trial Championships in Zolder for France next month. Moreau finished a good seventh today in the Grand Prix des Nations time trial in Le Havre, much to the satisfaction of national coach Charly Bérard.

"There is a true problem", Bérard was quoted by Reuters as saying. "I note that at the start of the GP des Nations there were four Frenchmen, three old and one young rider. I am therefore happy to leave Havre with the assurance of being able to count on Christophe Moreau who can aim for a good place in Zolder, as he is improving in form."

"I am far from my best but I don't doubt that I will be stronger in October," said Moreau. "If all goes well I can envisage a fifth place in Zolder."

Tenth placed Laurent Jalabert rode his last time trial today, as he has said several times that he is not interested in the World's TT. As for the others, French champion Eddy Seigneur is out injured, while Didier Rous is in uncertain form. Rous will ride Paris Corrèze next week and Bérard will make his final decision after that.

Tchmil and family guests at World's

Andrei Tchmil and his family will be the invited guests of the Belgian delegation at the World Championships in Zolder. "A nice guest of the BWB," said Jef Braeckevelt in the Belgian press. "He has only to say when he wants to come and the BWB will look after the rest."

Tchmil and Braeckevelt are still working on the Itera team for next season, with Tchmil receiving a guarantee from the Russian company for one year. However he wants to firm things up for three years, and if that doesn't happen then the project might fall through.

Freire to Cofidis or CSC?

Quick Step manager Patrick Lefevere has conceded defeat in the fight for World Champion Oscar Freire's signature. The talented but physically fragile Mapei rider has a preliminary agreement with Bjarne Riis' CSC-Tiscali team for one year, but according to other sources there is still a chance that he will end up at Cofidis.

"His asking price remains too high," said Lefevere on Belgian TV today. "Furthermore we have Bettini, who is as strong as Freire in the same races."

Hunt to Cofidis

Jeremy Hunt (BigMat Auber 93), winner of this year's GP Ouest France-Plouay, is set to join the Cofidis team next year. Hunt will not be the team's number one sprinter, but he has the chance to ride in the Tour de France.

Vansevenant to Lotto-Domo

Wim Vansevenant has signed a two year contract for the Lotto-Domo team, meaning that he will be reunited with his former TVM and Mercury teammate Peter Van Petegem. Vansevenant currently rides for Palmans-Collstrop.

The Lotto-Domo team is approaching its full capacity of 22 riders, with 20 having signed contracts so far.

Schweda extends

German Raphael Schweda (Team Coast) has extended his contract with the team for another two years.

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