Latest News for April 3, 2003
Edited by Chris Henry
Peloton says no to Kemmel
After three leaders crossed the Kemmelberg climb with a five minute advantage in yesterday's stage 2 of the Driedaagse van De Panne, the peloton decided to avoid the climb in protest. Citing the cold rain and dangerous conditions of the climb, which in good weather claimed several victims last year, the peloton opted to take a detour rather than face the cobbled climb and descent.
Race director Bernard Vandekerckhove was not pleased, though his reference to Cofidis' Chris Peers (injured last year after a crash on the Kemmel) as a "cry baby" earlier in the day didn't help his case. "I am not happy at all with this," he said. "I think it is a real pity that suddenly they refuse to go over the Kemmel. They have been going over it for 50 years. Normally, according to the rules, the peloton has to be taken out of the race. I have held back the peloton four and a half minutes. It's not fair towards the three leaders because they have the Kemmel in their legs."
For a full report of the incident, see the stage 2 report.
As a number of riders continue to suffer from early season ailments, notably several leaders of classics powerhouse Quick.Step-Davitamon, Cofidis directeur sportif Alain Deloeuil sees a bluff in the making. In an interview with velo-club.net, Deloeuil doubted Quick.Step would be any less of a force in this weekend's Tour of Flanders, illness or no.
"Oh yes, the whole team, that's definitely a bluff," Deloeuil commented. "Boonen is going very well in any case, and Vandenbroucke as well. Bettini stopped Sunday, it's true, and he went home. Maybe he is truly sick. But with Museeuw, I don't think he's sick. I think he's trying to remove himself from the spotlight, but he'll certainly be there on Sunday."
Peeters not so sure
Wilfried Peeters, Quick.Step-Davitamon directeur sportif and longtime right-hand man for Johan Museeuw, doesn't know who to pick for Sunday's Tour of Flanders. "If you had asked me who will win Flanders, at least before last Saturday, I would without doubt put Museeuw at the top of the list, despite his knee problem," Peeters told La Dernière Heure. "Then Bettini, but now, I'm not so sure."
The Quick.Step team has proven its capabilities in Het Volk and Milan-San Remo, but looks to be in doubt for the Belgians' biggest race. "Given the circumstances, Peter Van Petegem (Lotto-Domo) looks more and more like the favourite, certainly concerning the chances for a Belgian victory at the Tour of Flanders," Peeters continued. "If Museeuw recovers quickly from his bronchitis, he can always be counted on next Sunday. But we can already say he won't be there with one hundred percent of his capabilities."
The possibility of fielding its second tier team for Flanders concerns Peeters, even if Tom Boonen and Frank Vandenbroucke may be perfectly capable of assuming the roles of leaders. "Boonen and Vandenbroucke were supposed to have more freedom at Flanders," Peeters noted. "We didn't want to expose them to the pressure that comes with this race."
Helmets mandatory chez Cofidis
As the discussion of mandatory helmet use continues, more team directors are taking their own positions. As it stands, a philosophy of "let the rider decide" still rules, but within the Cofidis team it appears choice is no longer an option. Following the death of Cofidis' own Andrei Kivilev, the team's directors have made the decision to insist on helmet use. "At the briefing, the directeur sportif says simply, everyone wears a helmet," Francis Van Londersele told L'Equipe.
Opinions on the matter vary among other directors, several of whom spoke on the issue on Thursday's edition of l'Equipe. "There isn't much debate since 95% of our guys wear helmets during the dangerous parts of a race," said FDJeux.com director Marc Madiot.
Other directors, such as Brioches La Boulangère's Jean-René Bernadeau, seem to take a slightly more hands-off approach. Bernadeau sent a letter to his riders encouraging helmet use, but says "I will not spend my time repeating the message. I'm not their father; only a change in the rules will solve the problem."
Euskaltel chances good for Tour
According to a report in Spanish daily Marca, the chances of a Tour de France wild card selection for the Euskaltel-Euskadi team are good. "We will invite four teams from a list of six candidates, including among them Euskaltel," Tour director Jean-Marie Leblanc explained. "I think they are riding well, but not as well as last year." As always, Leblanc insists the selection will be based on the team's racing performance in the upcoming events.
Leblanc also noted that he would like to see a repeat of the "festival of orange" that has taken place in the Pyrénées in recent years, but nonetheless the selection would have to be based purely on sporting merit. Furthermore, he insisted that there will be no rivalry concerning international selections, considering the decision by Vuelta a España organisers to guarantee selection to Spanish teams for the next three years.
Rousseau out of SA World Cup
French track rider Florian Rousseau has decided to forfeit the upcoming World Cup Classic in Cape Town, South Africa (April 11-13). Rousseau injured his thigh in a weight training session, and though he began training again on Monday, World Cup competition does not appear to be a viable option. "For now I'm content to train behind the motorcycle at a steady rhythm," Rousseau told l'Equipe.
With Rousseau out, the French sprinters heading for South Africa include Hervé Gané, Mickaël Bourgain, and Sébastien Nothin.
Kirsipuu out of Adélie
As with a number of riders, Jaan Kirsipuu is suffering from a cold, and as a result has decided to skip Friday's Route Adélie, the fourth round of the Coupe de France. The Ag2R-Prévoyance leader, winner of the Classic Haribo in February, will not be on hand to defend his lead in the Coupe de France series, though he hopes to be back in form in time for Sunday's GP de la Ville de Rennes.
Oscar Sevilla to return at Vuelta a Aragon
After nearly a month off the bike, Oscar Sevilla started training again Tuesday. Sevilla was forced off the bike in February, when he had an operation to remove a painful boil in a "delicate area". Some pain persists, but the Kelme leader is pleased to be back in training. Although he gained two kilos thanks to the time off the bike, Sevilla notes that there is time before the Tour de France to reach his top condition.
If his recovery continues without problems, Sevilla will return to racing at the Vuelta a Aragon, April 16-20. "I was supposed to race in Amorebieta, but now it'll be a little later," Sevilla told Marca. "It's not a problem. I still have three months before the Tour to find my form."
Reto Bergmann has been suspended by the Swiss Olympic committee for two years and fined 1,500 euros for smuggling doping products to a training camp in Spain. Bergmann, 27, was fired by the Phonak team in February for possession of Andriol, an anabolic agent and derivative of testosterone.
Circuit des Ardennes
Following a visit from the Critérium International, racing will return to Charleville-Mézières, France and the Ardennes region. The 29th edition of the Circuit des Ardennes (UCI 2.6) will take place April 10-13, featuring five stages in the hilly region to test a 132 rider field. Priority in selection for the race is typically given to U23 riders, and the event has in the past highlighted developing talent, including Stephen Roche and Greg LeMond.
Charleville-Mézières will also host the start of stage 3 in this year's Tour de France.
Stage 1 - April 10: Nouvion-Nouvion, 164 km
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2003)