Latest News for April 8, 2003
Edited by Chris Henry & Tim Maloney
Van Petegem waiting for Roubaix
Tour of Flanders winner Peter Van Petegem (Lotto-Domo) announced at a press conference Monday that he will skip the mid-week Gent-Wevelgem classic in order to recover fully before Paris-Roubaix. "Sunday I will ride for victory at Paris-Roubaix, a race that I know I can win. I will be just as ambitious at Amstel Gold Race and Liège-Bastogne-Liège."
Speaking to journalists in Oudenaarde, Van Petegem also defended his track record, having been accused of being lazy by some. "Look, last year I won Omloop Het Volk, finished third in the RVV, eighth in the Amstel Gold Race and seventh in Liège-Bastogne-Liège," he explained, "but still some people said I didn't have any go after that win in Het Volk. That is nonsense. I do prepare all winter for the spring season. I am not lazy!"
Inspired by his second win at Flanders, Van Petegem is ready for more. "I really have got the taste for victory now and I'm going to try to keep things going," he said. "To start with Paris-Roubaix. I want to prove that I can play a significant role in that race. Liège-Bastogne-Liège is out of my reach really, but what comes after is important. Last year it went completely wrong, otherwise I would have won the Belgian national championships. I really intend to win that jersey one year."
A bit of bad press isn't the worst thing for Van Petegem, though his team director Marc Sergeant was quite satisfied with Sunday's win. "It feels really good not to have to explain another defeat for once," Sergeant said. "The team has copped a lot of criticism the last few weeks. Sometimes that was justified, but sometimes it wasn't."
As for Van Petegem, some tough words can provide the right push. "I'm not asking for it, but criticism or bad luck only strengthen me, in character and motivation," he explained. "With Trident I almost got ruined for the pro peloton, but I fought back. I did the same after the troubles with Farm Frites and Mercury. And now again."
It's a go for Ullrich
After waiting until the 11th hour for approval from the UCI, Jan Ullrich has indeed been cleared to race with Team Coast, and received his Swiss racing licence in time to line up at the Circuit de la Sarthe, which begins today in western France. The race is Ullrich's first taste of competition since the Tour of Qatar in January, 2002.
"I'm very happy to be able to race," Ullrich told AFP. "I've been anxious to start again."
In fact, given the recent financial uncertainties surrounding Team Coast, it was bicycle manufacturer Bianchi that stepped up to provide the bank guarantee to the UCI, as well as assure that Ullrich races on a Bianchi, according to a report in Tuesday's La Gazzetta dello Sport. The company also helped provide the necessary funds to hire Ullrich's entourage, notably directeur sportif Rudy Pevenage and long-time training partner Tobias Steinhauser.
"I've trained a lot for this race," Ullrich commented before the start of Circuit de la Sarthe. "My knee is not giving me any problems. Despite my three training camps in Tuscany, there's no doubt I lack kilometres in racing. To go up against Lance Armstrong is not the most important thing. In fact, the essential thing for me is just to be there."
Team manager Marcel Wüst echoed this sentiment. "The most important thing for Jan is to take part in a race," he said. "Nobody should be expecting miracles from him. The Circuit de la Sarthe is a small race, perfect for Jan's comeback."
Stomach problems for Armstrong
US Postal leader Lance Armstrong, who has shown steady form in his limited racing so far this year, may not be at his best at the Circuit de la Sarthe. Monday morning Armstrong reported some stomach problems, which could slow him down on the roads of western France. Armstrong has used the Circuit de la Sarthe as preparation for his annual bid for victory at the Tour de France.
"I'll give it everything in the time trial on Thursday," Armstrong commented in Tuesday's l'Equipe, "but I doubt I'll be at a level for the general classification. I've heard also that the final stage is pretty hard, so that'll be another good test."
"It's completely flat, a race for the strong guys and one that could be very fast and very hard," noted Armstrong's directeur sportif, Johan Bruyneel. "Especially if there's a headwind like today."
Armstrong thinking again about World's
It's been a bit of an on again-off again saga concerning Lance Armstrong's participation in this year's world championships in Canada. After some additional reflection, it seems things are back on. "I've left the possibility open since I've heard good things about the parcours and its difficulty," Armstrong told l'Equipe on the eve of Circuit de la Sarthe. "That gives me new interest in going since I might have a role to play."
Armstrong has not ridden the world championships since 1998, the year before his Tour de France reign began. Nonetheless, to compete closer to home is always an attraction. "I'm still intrigued by the ambiance of a World's in North America. The door's open, but either way I'll know more after the Tour."
Wesemann out six weeks
Steffen Wesemann, one of Team Telekom's classics specialists, will be out of action for up to six weeks following a crash in Sunday's Tour of Flanders. The German suffered one broken rib and a fractured rib after a fall on the Koppenberg. Wesemann was able to finish the race, but will now be forced into a lengthy recovery period. Wesemann, 32, finished second in last year's Paris-Roubaix behind Johan Museeuw.
Cipollini looking for Wevelgem repeat
Mario Cipollini abandoned Sunday's Tour of Flanders, suffering from breathing problems and preferring to save himself for Wednesday's Gent-Wevelgem. The winner of the 2002 edition in Wevelgem, Cipollini will be looking for another opportunity for a sprint victory in the rainbow jersey of world champion.
"I'm hoping that I'll be in good condition for Gent-Wevelgem," he told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "It's a difficult race to figure out. From the Kemmel onward, anything could happen, and an attack could stay away. Not to mention the strong wind."
Asked whether Paolo Bettini would be a rival for Wednesday's classic, Cipo wasn't so sure. "In theory [Bettini is a rival], but I didn't see him in great shape at Flanders." The two Americans who completed the podium behind Cipollini in the 2002 Gent-Wevelgem, Fred Rodriguez and George Hincapie, will both be absent from this year's edition.
Although he had considered a ride on the pavé of Paris-Roubaix this year, Cipollini decided the day after abandoning the Tour of Flanders that the Hell of the North would not be on the program this year. "I would have liked to ride Paris-Roubaix, but in this condition I'd prefer to withdraw," he told l'Equipe. Following Gent-Wevelgem, Cipollini will take a short break before gearing up for the Tour de Romandie and the Giro d'Italia.
Mori decision expected soon
Although the UCI has not yet made an official announcement, La Gazzetta dello Sport reported Tuesday that the urine sample of Massimiliano Mori (Formaggi Pinzolo Fiave) was negative. Mori was thrown out of Tirreno-Adriatico today after allegedly trying to avoid an anti-doping control. A bidon of urine was found in Mori's hotel room, though it was claimed that the urine was a sample from directeur sportif Gabriele Di Francesco, who was scheduled for an operation for an infected urinary tract the following day.
Reportedly, the IOC laboratory in Lausanne, Switzerland has completed its analysis and sent the results to the UCI. Mori and the team are waiting for the official communication. If a negative test is confirmed, Mori will be reinstated in the team and will likely race in upcoming Giro d'Abruzzo. Mori could also be part of Formaggi Pinzolo Fiave's lineup at the upcoming Tour de Georgia in the United States.
Pantani riding well, lacks rhythm
Marco Pantani finished 53rd in yesterday's opening stage of the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, crossing the line in a chase group containing Raimondas Rumsas and Danilo Di Luca, 41 seconds behind stage winner Iban Mayo.
Pantani was at the front of the race for much of the stage, but had some trouble on the final climb of the Cat. 3 Deskarga. "They were really going hard today," Pantani told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "I slowed down my training a little bit last week and I felt like I had heavy legs, even though i had some strength. I started the climb too far behind. I tried to follow the first group but I was caught between the front group and the chasers at the top, so I waited to be caught by the chasers."
Nonetheless, the Pirate's comeback continues, and the mountainous Pais Vasco parcours should give him a good workout as he prepares for his number one goal, the Giro d'Italia. "I really need to race because I am not used to the changes in rhythm in climbing," Pantani added. "But I'm still happy because I've made some progress already."
Ag2R drops Paumier
Just as Laurent Paumier becomes eligible to race, following a suspension for a positive test for corticoids at the 2002 Midi Libre, he has been dropped by the Ag2R-Prévoyance squad. In fact, Paumier never once raced in Ag2R colours. "I made my decision after consulting our financial partners," team director Vincent Lavenu told l'Equipe. Team policy dictates that any rider suspended for a doping offense will be let go.
Paumier, who last week became eligible to race outside France, will likely rejoin his old MBK-Oktos team. He will be permitted to race within France as of May 1.
2003 Tour de l'Ain
The parcours for the 2003 Tour de l'Ain stage race was presented Friday in Bourg-en-Bresse, France. A challenging race situated in mid-August, the Tour de l'Ain will be missing the climb of the Grand-Colombier. Race organisers decided to remove the mountain from the route, deeming it too difficult given an already mountainous parcours, and fearing that its inclusion would dissuade some teams from competing. The race will still include a mountaintop finish, on the third stage to Lélex-Monts Jura, as well as an opening stage offered to the sprinters.
August 12 - Stage 1: Lagnieu - Saint Vulbas, 150 km
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2003)