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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition News for April 6, 2003

Edited by Chris Henry

Ready for the weekend: A Brief talk with Lance Armstrong

By Tim Maloney / European Editor

Cyclingnews caught up with Lance Armstrong, relaxing at his European home in Gerona, Spain on Friday night, April 4th. The four-time Tour de France champion took a break after a tough week of training to talk to Cyclingnews in a short interview. Armstrong raced in the Setmana Catalana last week and will ride his third race of the 2003 season next week at the Circuit de la Sarthe in Western France.

Cyclingnews: Lance, you've been back in Europe for about a month now; how are you settling in?
Lance Armstrong: I'm settling in well, thanks. it's been a pretty smooth (transition) with a good mix of races and training.

CN: How did things go for you in Setmana Catalana?
LA: It was good. I thought the Tour of Murcia was harder, but maybe that was because it was my first race back (this season).

CN: Lance, how did you like racing in your "backyard" at Setmana Catalana?
LA: It is a "home race" of sorts and that's nice. I knew all the roads so it was a funky experience.

CN: You were up front most of the way on the climb of the Coll de Pal; how were you feeling that day?
LA: I felt good on (the climb to) Pal. It's a long climb that's typical Pyrénées, meaning inconsistent grades and not terribly difficult. Having said that, I must say I suffered plenty!! I lack the final gear to win a stage like that, but I didn't need it in March. I also weigh more now that I will in the summer and we all know what a few pounds does to you on a 20k climb..

CN: How did (Setmana Catalana winner) Dario Frigo look to you?
LA: He looked good to me. I think he's a favorite for the Giro d'Italia if he can avoid that one bad day he seems to always have. Frigo's strong and will have a strong team.

CN: Lance, during Setmana Catalana, you evidently told (Spanish newspaper) El Periodico that you had some concerns for your safety racing on the roads unprotected, in contrast to say, footballers or Formula One drivers...can you elaborate and have you seen / felt any instances of anti-Americanism since the start of the Iraq war?
LA: I never said I had concerns for MY safety. This always gets misinterpreted. I have concerns, and rightfully so, for all of us. Cycling is unlike any other sport in that it's in the open. That will never change so I don't know why I even bring it up.

CN: Recently on ESPN's The Sports Reporters, one of the so-called pundits said perhaps you shouldn't race the Tour de France because of America's political problems with France... Your comments?
LA: uh, please...

CN: Can you tell us how your training program is coming along so far this year? I remember that (USPS team director) Johan Bruyneel said after the USPS traning camp in January that you were even ahead of last year at that point.
LA: So far, so good. I still think I'm ahead but I'm not where I need to be in July, so obviously there's work to do.

CN: Have you had a chance to read any of Marco Pantani's comments about you?
LA: Who?

CN: Have you spoken to George Hincapie lately? How is he doing and how will he be missed by USPS?
LA: I speak to George almost daily. I think he's on the right track. He's a key element to this team and we need him badly. Plus, he's just a cool mofo...

CN: We've heard rumors that you are testing a new bike for possible use in the Tour de France... Care to confirm or deny this?
LA: I am almost always testing, or discussing, new stuff. Having said that, there will be a new rig in the Tour and maybe even in Liège this year. You'll see.

CN: So what are you doing in you spare time? Reading anything? Watching the war on CNN? How about music? What's in your cd player these days?
LA: I'm reading a book on Bruce Springsteen right now. And, yes, I'm watching war TV. I'm trying to balance my CNN with the BBC coverage. It's amazing the contrast in the coverage... How scared must some of these "embedded" journalists be? I'm actually listening to some reggae now. But I need some new "material" though. Suggestions anyone??

Ekimov to lead USPS at Flanders

Following his fifth place overall in the Driedaagse van De Panne, US Postal's Viatcheslav Ekimov will join Max Van Heeswijk as team leader for the April classics, beginning with Sunday's Tour of Flanders. Van Heeswijk dropped out on the first day of De Panne, but directeur sportif Dirk Demol explains that this was a precautionary move to allow him to recover for the upcoming events.

"The good thing is the last couple of weeks, Max has been in his best shape ever," said Demol, "and we will try and have him in top shape for what I call 'super week'. He is fine now and ready to go."

While Van Heeswijk will target Wednesday's Gent-Wevelgem and Paris-Roubaix next Sunday, Demol sees Ekimov as the man for Flanders. "Eki is riding very well and will be ready for Sunday," Demol commented. "He very much likes the course and will be our man for Sunday. Flanders, with its 254 kilometers and climbs, is a bit too hard for Max, while races like Wevelgem and Roubaix are perfect for him. With Eki and Max, we can probably do something."

There's no doubt, however, that the team will miss its habitual classics leader, George Hincapie, who is still in the United States recovering from a virus that has sidelined him for much of the season. "It's a completely different team with or without George," said Demol. "It's like not having Lance for the big stage races. Everyone goes to a different level when their leader takes charge."

Demol added that the announcement that Hincapie would miss the spring classics was a bit of a blow to the team's morale. "We now need to rally around who we have, and Max and Eki have been great," he said. "However, it makes a big difference not having George here. When you have a true leader to work for, the guys do all they can and go all out."

US Postal's roster for the Tour of Flanders includes Ekimov, Van Heeswijk, Pavel Padrnos, Matthew White, Antonio Cruz, Benoit Joachim, Guennadi Mikhailov, and Christian Vande Velde.

Ag2R denied last minute Flanders entry

Vincent Lavenu, director of the Ag2R-Prévoyance team, came up short in his efforts to gain entry in the Tour of Flanders. Not among the 25 teams invited to race, Lavenu asked the organisers for special dispensation for a 26th entry, a request which would require UCI approval. "With Brochard and Kirsipuu, Ag2R certainly deserves to be at the start of our race," the race organisation told l'Equipe. "We passed over them in the beginning since last year the team declined our invitation. When Vincent Lavenu called us last week, it was too late, we already had 25 teams. Only the UCI could have allowed an exception, but they didn't do it."

Out of Flanders, Ag2R will continue to defend Jaan Kirsipuu's lead in the Coupe de France series at the Grand Prix de la Ville de Rennes on Sunday. Kirsipuu sat out Friday's Route Adélie, but hoped to be back in action at Rennes. Laurent Brochard, winner of last weekend's Critérium International, finished third at the Route Adélie.

Live coverage

Cyclingnews readers can follow the 87th Ronde van Vlaanderen live from start to finish on Sunday, April 6. Tune in at 10:00am CEST (Europe)/4:00am EST (America East Coast)/1:00am PST (America West Coast)/18:00 AEST (Australia East Coast).

Also see:

Preview and history
Course map, time table and description
Start list

Pedersen out of CSC

The board of directors of Riis Cycling A/S has announced the release of administrating director Alex Pedersen. The decision is a result of a desire for a flat organisational structure, and according to a statement on the Team CSC web site, a mutual agreement was reached between the board and Pedersen.

"We, the board of directors, have made the decision that the company's focus in the future must not solely be in the running of a professional team, but also in all related business opportunities," explained Bjarne Riis. "In reaching this decision, we have chosen an organisation structure which will ensure that the board of directors can be in closer contact with daily decision making. Our employees and our company are geared for change, and the new organisation which I have proposed will be able to adapt to the tasks which must be solved," added Riis, who will take over administrative responsibility for the company.

"The company has developed a lot through the last few years, and I am happy for the results I have achieved together with the team," Pedersen commented. "There have been discussions about the company's future strategy for some time, and both parties now agree that it is time for change. Bjarne and I have known each other for many years, and we have discussed the situation through. We agree that we will now part ways."

Explaining that both Riis and Pedersen each acknowledged some disagreements in recent months, CSC spokesman Brian Nygaard told Cyclingnews, "If you make a decision at the right time, you can have a mutual agreement."

The move marks a continued effort by Riis to reorganise the company, following the removal of marketing director Jan Facius in late March. Facius was replaced by former handball pro Lars Gjøls Andersen.

'Flu hits Team fakta

Danish Team fakta joins the growing list of teams decimated by what seems more and more like a 'flu epidemic spreading through the peloton. The team had no fewer than five riders abandon the Friday's Route Adélie.

Team director Kim Andersen is disappointed with the latest turn of events. "Kurt-Asle Arvesen, Fredrik Modin, René Jørgensen, Jørgen Bo Petersen, and Allan Johansen had to quit the race because of sickness," Andersen commented. "Only Sunderland, Skelde and Grönkvist made it to the finish."

Team fakta heads Sunday to the Grand Prix de la Ville de Rennes, but without Kurt Arvesen, who has been riding very well. "I will call in Bjarke Nielsen as reserve," added Andersen. "Luckily the other riders weren't scheduled to ride Sunday. I just hope that the other riders stay free from illness."

Pantani trial begins

The latest court challenge has begun for Marco Pantani. Friday marked the opening of Pantani's trial in Tione, Italy, where he faces charges of sporting fraud stemming from the 1999 Giro d'Italia. The first day was devoted to witness testimony, with riders Marcello Siboni and Marco Fincato called to testiy. Two doctors from the laboratory involved in the blood testing from the '99 Giro were also called Friday. Pantani was not present in court.

The trial will continue May 23, with depositions expected from a number of additional cyclists, including 2002 Giro winner Paolo Savoldelli, Enrico Zaina, Marco Velo, and Riccardo Forconi. Retired rider Massimo Podenzana is also expected to be called.

NCVC/Edge Technologies Elite Racing Team

The National Capital Velo Club (NCVC) is the mid-Atlantic's largest and one of the oldest grassroots bicycle racing clubs, boasting over 200 members from all categories and ability levels. For 2003, Edge Technologies, Cannondale, Rudy Project and several other sponsors have come onboard to help the club establish an elite amateur squad which will focus primarily on mid-Atlantic races in addition to several select national calendar events.

Team roster


(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2003)