Special Edition News for April 1, 2003
Edited by Jeff Jones
Tour de France to celebrate EU expansion
By Chris Henry
The organisers of the Tour de France have often used the race as a platform to celebrate historical events in France and in Europe. As the European Union prepares for additional enlargement, the Société du Tour de France is considering an unprecedented expansion of its own event.
To embrace the arrival of future EU members in eastern Europe, organisers are envisioning a parcours visiting all candidate countries. In fact, the entire Tour route could be run outside of France. The special "Euro Tour" could take place before the end of the decade, depending on how many nations are invited to join the EU, and depending on their planned integration timetables.
"The Tour has celebrated the European Union in the past, with visits to many neighbouring nations," said Vincent Faudire, Amaury Sport Organisation's assistant director of strategic planning. "As Europe grows, and our event continues to grow, we are considering an extraordinary celebration. Geography alone cannot restrict the route du Tour."
Sources close to Tour director Jean-Marie Leblanc say that a special waiver could be requested from the UCI to increase the total length of the Tour as well, given the logistical hurdles of covering such a large geographic area. Countries eligible to join the EU in 2004 include the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Cyprus, and Malta. A next wave of integration could include Bulgaria and Romania as early as 2007. A parcours uniting this many countries could require a race length of up to four weeks rather than the traditional three.
The uncertainty of the acceptance of nations beyond 2007 makes the route planning for the Euro Tour a challenge at this early stage, though Leblanc insists talks are in their very early stages. Recent reports have revealed the consideration of a Tour start in the United States, and it is unlikely both a U.S. start and an eastern European Tour could be run within such a short period of time. In addition, the possibility of running the majority, or even entire Tour outside of France is also bound to spark considerable controversy. Nonetheless, the Société du Tour de France insists its organisation must never shy away from big plans.
UCI officially bans white knicks
In a statement released this morning, cycling's governing body has released a new rule stating that white knicks (aka 'cycling shorts') are henceforth banned from the professional peloton.
A spokesperson for the UCI stated that "we anticipate that this new regulation will be less controversial than prior rulings on topics such as wheel structure, frame dimensions and the use of time trial bars in mass start races. There can be little disagreement that this particular ruling will increase the aesthetic appeal of the peloton."
Protest is expected from the Italian camp, particularly from the current world champion and his zebra-striped entourage. But the UCI specifically states that the ruling applies to "knicks where the fabric is continuously white, save for the presence of a few sponsor logos." A liberal interpretation of the rule means that the stylin' stripes of Domina Vacanze - Elitron will continue to stand out in the peloton. But the current trend of World Cup leaders and some national title holders attempting colour coordination with their jerseys will be discontinued.
UCI launches Pantani investigation
The UCI is investigating the means by which Marco Pantani's recent return to form was achieved. The hugely popular Italian climber came under suspicion when he recently finished the Settimana Ciclistica Internazionale Coppi-Bartali in the top 15, the first time he has completed a stage race in almost three years.
According to UCI sources, two things are suspected of being responsible for Pantani's dramatic improvement: surgery and training. Both are banned under UCI rules.
Citing the organisation's equipment rules that specifically forbid modifications with only aerodynamic purpose, UCI spokesman Imma Nophun told Cyclingnews, "The rules were originally framed prevent use of fairings and frame designs that have only aerodynamic and not structural intent, but our lawyers are sure they can be applied to body modifications too. Clearly, Marco Pantani's recent ear surgery has had dramatic aerodynamic benefits."
Sports scientists agree. A leading Australian sports scientist, who requested anonymity before he would discuss this sensitive issue, said, "Coppi-Bartoli isn't an especially hilly race, yet here's Pantani keeping up with the leaders, something he has struggled to do for years. It's clear that his pre-surgery ears were as aerodynamic as a brick and that he therefore only became competitive in the mountains, when aerodynamics is far less important. Now, the new streamlined Pantani is quick on the flats too."
Perhaps more surprisingly, the UCI is also concerned that Pantani has been training. Article 4 of the UCI's Antidoping Examination Regulations defines 'doping' as "the use of an expedient (substance or method) which is ... capable of enhancing their performance." Clearly that describes training, and Pantani has admitted in recent press conferences that he has clocked up a lot of kilometres in the last few months.
When news of the investigation reached Pantani he was typically bullish, saying, "This is an affront once again to my dignity as a man and as an athlete. Why do they single out Marco Pantani when every cyclist uses these same methods? It is an outrage and I will once again prove my innocence of these false and foul charges."
Campagnolo to return to the dirt
By Paul Mirtschin
It looks like 2004 will be a bumper year for the mountain bike community, with news that Campagnolo will be returning to the dirt with a new downhill/freeride group next year.
To be sold under the "Diablo" moniker, the group is aimed squarely at Shimano's new "Saint" group, bringing back the Shimano/Campagnolo market wars of the early 1990's that saw mountain bikers ducking for cover and hoping that their component group was the victor.
So far, we have only seen the rear derailleur (RD-01/02/03OR) and cranks (FC-01CSOR), but sources inside Campagnolo have told Cyclingnews that a full group will be available by the end of the year, including a choice of either trigger shifters or indexed brake/shifters.
When contacted by Cyclingnews, Toni Mansho from Campagnolo refused to confirm nor deny that the group even existed, but a number of European manufacturers have told us that they have already placed orders for the group, and one major Taiwanese company is looking at the group for placement on their upper-end bikes, and for possible use by their professional team.
Sources inside Campagnolo have also said that they are working on a lightweight electronic cross-country group under the name of "Radio".
Team Freewheel in for the long haul
By Jeff Jones
A brand new US division III team has been launched, with the working name of Team Freewheel. The team will be managed, directed and captained by Vietnamese medical practitioner, Dr Ho Jow Inn, who has registered the team in the Cayman Islands for tax reasons. The team has yet to find a sponsor (hence the working title), but Dr Inn wants to lay down the foundations and infrastructure before reaching too far.
"Obviously the UCI registration is the first step," Dr Inn told Cyclingnews from his Cayman Islands residence. "In the future we'll look towards getting a head sponsor, some bikes and equipment, and ultimately the riders, who I believe are an important part of the team's plan."
This may take years, according to Ho Jow Inn, whose ambitions stretch to racing in some of the major tours in Europe. "We hope to be invited to the Tour of San Marino by 2025," he added. "A national tour of this calibre would give great exposure to our sponsors, which are yet to be named."
The team's philosophy is very much 'grass roots', and Dr Inn hopes to involve some of the sport's up and coming riders in his fledgling squad. "We're talking to Andrei Tchmil, who I'm told retired last year. But in my opinion he is a rider that never realised his potential. He would be a great asset to our team, especially in some of the local club criteriums."
With that in mind, Team Freewheel will feature a 25-strong roster of masters riders, most of whom are current (or future) state champions. The elite squad will ultimately be picked from the best performed masters, as well as the team's proposed U12 development squad.
"By 2010 we hope to have the nucleus of our future super team," concluded Dr Ho Jow Inn. "By 2020, some of those riders may have moved on or passed away, but we are hoping by that stage that the younger riders will be fully mature and ready to tackle the best in the world in San Marino 2025."
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2003)