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Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

First Edition News for April 8, 2003

Edited by Jeff Jones

Ullrich likely to race Sarthe

Jan Ullrich (Team Coast) has not yet been given the go ahead to race again by the UCI, despite his presence in Nantes, France for the 51st Circuit de la Sarthe. Ullrich has not received his licence, although both he and the team hope that things will be in order by the time the first stage starts tomorrow (Tuesday, March 8) morning.

"We will race tomorrow," said Coast director Rudy Pevenage to DPA, however a spokesman for the UCI stated that, "It looks official after a positive reply from Coast, but it is not yet." The UCI will announce its decision tomorrow morning.

Ullrich has not raced since the Tour of Qatar in January 2002, suffering from a knee problem that required him to undergo two operations last year before he was able to train properly again. Added to that was a six month suspension for testing positive to amphetamines in June last year, when Ullrich was given an out of competition test following a night out at a nightclub.

The suspension finished on March 23, but the UCI did not grant Ullrich his licence, as cycling's governing body was concerned by Team Coast's financial affairs, not only in regard to Ullrich. The UCI was concerned that Team Coast hadn't paid a full third of the bank guarantee that is necessary under the rules to cover Ullrich's salary, in case of financial problems during the season.

Despite all this, Ullrich says that he's happy and motivated, and is looking forward to racing again. Importantly, his knee is not giving him any problems and he has been able to train at full capacity.

51st Circuit de la Sarthe preview

With or without Jan Ullrich, the 51st edition of the Circuit de la Sarthe will take place over the next four days, starting in Nantes with a 188.4 km stage to Fontenay-le-Comte, and finishing with a 191 km stage from Angers to Le Mans.

The race will once again see Lance Armstrong (US Postal) in action, as he continues along the road to try and win his fifth Tour de France. Other riders, in better form at the moment, include Laurent Brochard (Ag2r), winner of the Criterium International and the big favourite for this race. Last year's runner up Brad McGee (FDJeux.com) is gradually coming into form, and this race will be an important test. Jens Voigt (Credit Agricole), winner of the time trial in Criterium International, will be a rider to watch, as will Sylvain Chavanel (Brioches la Boulangère). One team that definitely won't be on the start line is Cofidis, which has 2001 winner David Millar injured and out of action after his fall in Criterium International, and decided to withdraw itself from the competition.

Teams

La Boulangère, Fdjeux.com, Jean Delatour, AG2R-Prevoyance, Crédit Agricole, BigMat, MBK-Oktos, Team Coast, Gerolsteiner, Quick.Step-Davitamon, ONCE-Eroski, Euskaltel-Euskadi, CCC Polsat, Phonak Hearing Systems, US Postal-Berry Floor, Alessio, Domina Vacanze-Elitron.

Stages

Stage 1 - April 8: Nantes - Fontenay-le-Comte, 188.4 km
Stage 2 - April 9: Fontenay-le-Comte - Pont-Château, 195.1 km
Stage 3a - April 10: Saint - Géréon/Angers, 93.3 km
Stage 3b - April 10: Angers - Angers ITT, 8.8 km
Stage 4 - April 11: Angers - Le Mans, 191.3 km

65th Gent-Wevelgem

By Tim Maloney, European editor

With a new start in Deinze's Grote Markt for 2003, Gent-Wevelgem is a mid-week 204 km sprinter's classic, and always a great place for the speed merchants in the pro peloton to strut their stuff between the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. And who better to strut to a possible 4th win but World Champ Mario Cipollini (Domina Cacanze-Elitron), who won last year in fine style from two Americans, Fred Rodriguez and 2001 winner George Hincapie.

But both Rodriguez and Hincapie will be absent this year (Rodriguez's Vini Caldirola-Sidermec team was not invited, and Hincapie is out of the 2003 classics with a respiratory virus), but that doesn't mean that Cipo will have a cakewalk to victory. 10 years ago, Cipo was looking for back to back wins in Gent-Wevelgem. Now with a decade on top as the world's number one sprinter, a powerful team behind him and the rainbow jersey on his back, it's hard not to see Cipo on top again in Gent-Wevelgem on Wednesday.

Runner up at Gent-Wevelgem in 2000 and third in 2001, Tour of Flanders winner Peter Van Petegem (Lotto-Domo) will not be racing Gent-Wevelgem this year, preferring to concentrate on next Sunday's Paris-Roubaix. That will put Lotto-Domo's focus on Australian Robbie McEwen, as he's proven he's one of the few riders who can beat Mega Mario in a sprint. Two-time G-W winner Tom Steels (Landbouwkredeit-Colnago) used to be able to make the same claim. Steels skipped Flanders to be ready for the midweek classic and he's is looking for a breakthrough win this season. Fassa Bortolo's Alessandro Petacchi could also be a threat to Cipo. The other classy Tuscan sprinter wants to kick-start his season with a Belgian victory.

Other possible candidates for the winner's bouquet could be the always dangerous Oscar Freire (Rabobank), USPS-Berry Floor's Max van Heeswijk, Team CSC's Kickin' Kiwi Julian Dean, awesome Aussie Baden Cooke and Telekom's Erik Zabel.

With cool, sunny weather predicted and an easterly wind, the first half of Wednesday's Gent-Wevelgem will speed west through Johan Museeuw's home town of Gistel, out to the coast at Oostende, then south along the North Sea until De Panne after 90km, when the parcours will turn east. The strong wind will hit the riders on the left shoulder and doubtless provoke numerous echelons as the parcours twists and turns towards the finish in Wevelgem. Once in the heart of West Flanders, the peloton will have to climb the tough cobbles of the Kemmelberg twice, then head back to the finish in Wevelgem.

Cyclingnews will be covering the race live from 14:00 CEST/8:00 EDT/5:00 PDT/22:00 AEST.

UCI rankings: Zabel back on top

The rolling nature of the UCI rankings, whereby only points gained in the last 365 days are counted, has caused another change at the top of the table, just when you thought Erik Zabel's reign as number one was over. Milan-San Remo winner Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step-Davitamon) failed to capitalise on his points total in the Ronde van Vlaanderen, when he failed to finish the race, despite being involved in a dangerous breakaway on the Koppenberg. Bettini, a victim of the dreaded hunger knock, thus lost any UCI points he gained in last year's Ronde, and has now slipped down to second behind Erik Zabel (Telekom), who finished 43rd yesterday. The difference is slight however, and the next few World Cups could change things again. It's also worth noting that Bettini has scored the most points (764) since the beginning of the season.

One rider to watch is Fassa Bortolo's Dario Frigo, currently in fourth place on 1956 points. If Frigo had not abandoned Paris-Nice while in the lead, he could well be on top of the UCI rankings now. Frigo is currently racing the Vuelta a Pais Vasco, another Hors Categorie race that carries a lot of UCI points and one that he didn't ride last year.

Other movers in the rankings include Robbie McEwen (8th - 6th), Laurent Brochard (18th - 14th), Johan Museeuw (14th - 21st), Frank Vandenbroucke (367th - 178th), Nico Mattan (142nd - 78th), Fabio Baldato (108th - 63rd), Steven De Jongh (117th - 58th), Mirko Celestino (47th - 30th), and Stuart O'Grady (55th - 39th), courtesy of their good (or bad) performances in the past two weeks.

In the teams rankings, Quick.Step-Davitamon holds a 350 point lead over Rabobank, which has moved into second place ahead of Fassa Bortolo. Saeco sits in fourth place, after having a very consistent season so far, and it's no wonder that team manager Claudio Corti is annoyed at not getting an invitation to Gent-Wevelgem.

UCI rankings as of April 6, 2003

Individuals
                                                                pts 
1 Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Telekom                             2,217.00
2 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick.Step-Davitamon                  2,212.00
3 Lance Armstrong (USA) US Postal presented by Berry Floor  1,978.00
4 Dario Frigo (Ita) Fassa Bortolo                           1,956.00
5 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner                        1,721.00
6 Robbie Mcewen (Aus) Lotto-Domo                            1,625.00
7 Mario Cipollini (Ita) Domina Vacanze-Elitron              1,608.20
8 Aitor Gonzalez Jimenez (Spa) Fassa Bortolo                1,512.00
9 Roberto Heras (Spa) US Postal presented by Berry Floor    1,455.75
10 Francesco Casagrande (Ita) Lampre                        1,432.00
11 Michael Boogerd (Ned) Rabobank                           1,320.60
12 Joseba Beloki Dorronsoro (Spa) O.N.C.E.-Eroski           1,305.00
13 Michele Bartoli (Ita) Fassa Bortolo                      1,293.00
14 Laurent Brochard (Fra) AG2r Prévoyance                   1,160.00
15 Santiago Botero Echeverry (Col) Team Telekom             1,131.40
16 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Team Saeco                          1,066.00
17 Baden Cooke (Aus) FDJeux.com                             1,041.00
18 Mikel Zarrabeitia Uranga (Spa) O.N.C.E.-Eroski           1,015.25
19 Igor Gonzalez De Galdeano Aranzabal (Spa) O.N.C.E.-Eroski  992.00
20 Oscar Sevilla Ribera (Spa) Kelme-Costa Blanca              975.40
 
Top riders of 2003
                                                              pts 
1 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick.Step-Davitamon                    764.00
2 Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Fassa Bortolo                         542.75
3 Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Telekom                               408.00
4 Laurent Brochard (Fra) AG2r Prévoyance                      406.00
5 Mirko Celestino (Ita) Team Saeco                            398.00
6 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Crédit Agricole                        393.00
7 Dario Frigo (Ita) Fassa Bortolo                             376.00
8 Jaan Kirsipuu (Est) AG2r Prévoyance                         375.00
9 Fabio Baldato (Ita) Alessio                                 369.00
10 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner                         363.00
 
Teams
 
Division I
                                                              pts 
1 Quick.Step-Davitamon                                      2,167.00
2 Rabobank                                                  1,785.00
3 Fassa Bortolo                                             1,770.75
4 Team Saeco                                                1,408.00
5 Team Telekom                                              1,359.00
6 Alessio                                                   1,329.00
7 O.N.C.E.-Eroski                                           1,323.00
8 AG2r Prévoyance                                           1,169.00
9 Brioches La Boulangère                                    1,123.00
10 Cofidis, Le Crédit par Téléphone                         1,113.00
 
Division II
                                                              pts
1 Bankgiroloterij Cycling Team                                822.00
2 Marlux-Wincor Nixdorf                                       548.00
3 Ceramiche Panaria-Fiordo                                    520.00
4 De Nardi-Colpack                                            449.00
5 Formaggi Pinzolo Fiave                                      439.00

 
Full rankings

Cofidis signs Luis Perez

Spanish cyclist Luis Perez Rodriguez has been signed by Cofidis, after deciding along with Alex Zülle to leave Team Coast last week. The Cofidis team issued a press release stating that Luis Perez will fill the gap in the Cofidis roster left by Andrei Kivilev, who was killed in a crash on March 12 during Paris-Nice.

"The death of Andrei Kivilev leaves a void we know will never be filled," read the statement. "In these special circumstances, our team still wants to continue its obligations vis a vis the Top 10. Thus, we have recruited Luis Perez Rodriguez, who is free from all obligations from his former team."

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