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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest News for April 15, 2003

Edited by Jeff Jones

Van Petegem looks to the Amstel

With the finish atop the steep Cauberg climb this year, the Amstel Gold Race is definitely suited to a smart power climber who can read the race well and make sure that he's in the right selection. World Cup leader Peter Van Petegem has exactly those qualities, and after his stellar performances in the last two weeks it's hard to rule him out as a favourite. In the last three years, Van Petegem has finished no lower than seventh in this Dutch classic, although he has yet to stand on the podium. Perhaps 2003 is his year?

While the odds against winning the Ronde van Vlaanderen, Paris-Roubaix and the Amstel Gold Race in the same year are huge, Van Petegem certainly has the ability to perform in the non-cobbled hilly classics as well. "I definitely still have the hunger, and it's a race that certainly lies within my capacities," said Van Petegem in Het Nieuwsblad of his chances. "Maybe now more than previously, because the Amstel is a lot tougher. The Keutenberg is deeper in the finale and the finish is no longer the flat finish in Maastricht, but it's at the top of the Cauberg...a hill that I know well. It helped me to a silver medal in the World's in Valkenburg in '98."

Van Petegem will take a similar approach to his preparation this week, recovering on Monday and Tuesday with easy rides, then forgoing the Scheldeprijs on Wednesday and doing a tough six hour ride instead. For the rest of the week, he will also take it easy in preparation for Sunday.

Meirhaeghe's hell was over quickly

Domina Vacanze's Filip Meirhaeghe did not have one of his better races in Paris-Roubaix. The two time winner of the mountain bike version of the race punctured on the first cobbled sector in Troisvilles and had to wait a long time to get a wheel, eventually receiving one from teammate Kyrylo Pospyeyev.

"When I was chasing in the caravan in sector two, my stem broke and I hit the ground hard," he told Het Laatste Nieuws. "Luckily without serious consequences: a few grazes and a swollen knee. Thus in my favourite classic I didn't see more than two cobbled sections. A pity."

Meirhaeghe will continue his classics program in the Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne, and Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

Armstrongs try and work out marriage

Lance and Kristin Armstrong are trying to work out the differences in their marriage and are planning to be together in July this year when Lance goes for his fifth Tour de France win, according to a yet to be published interview with Outside magazine. The pair separated in February this year, announcing that they were experiencing "difficulty" with their marriage and that they may spend some time apart. Since late March, Kristin has spent some time with her husband in Europe after travelling over to France and Spain.

In the interview, Kristin explained some of the reasons for the separation. "We've had six homes, three languages, two countries, one cancer comeback, three children, four Tour de France wins and one rise to celebrity," she said. "You're not supposed to cram such a huge amount of events into such a small period of time."

Kristin and the couple's three children will spend more time at the Armstrongs' home in Girona, Spain, and will remain in Europe during the Tour.

Ullrich doubtful for Aragon

Jan Ullrich will not be allowed to start in the Vuelta a Aragon on Wednesday unless Team Coast pays the required three month bank guarantee to the UCI to cover his salary. So far, the UCI has received nothing in the way of payment from Coast, and only granted him a provisional licence to start in the Circuit de la Sarthe last week after Team Coast showed a letter of intent from bike manufacturer Bianchi to co-sponsor the team in future.

The official word from the UCI was, "No bank guarantee, no Ullrich," and it looks unlikely that the estimated €500,000 plus sum will make it in time for Wednesday. Team Coast's boss Günther Dahms, Ullrich's manager Wolfgang Strohband, and UCI president Hein Verbruggen will meet tomorrow to discuss the matter.

40th Vuelta a Aragon

The 40th Vuelta a Aragon takes place between Wednesday, April 16 and Sunday, April 20 over five stages. The UCI 2.2 classed race is suited for the mountain specialists, as it is hilly and contains no time trials. The first stage is from Huesca to Cerler, finishing at the top of a short but steep Cat. 1 climb. Stage 2 is 185 kilometres between Benasque and Sabiñanigo, featuring the Cat. 1 Puerto del Serrablo at 50 km to go. The third stage from Illueca to Illueca (157 km) is similar, containing the Cat. 1 Alto de Aguarón (8 km at 5%) after 104 km. The last two stages from La Muela to Borja and Colchón Relax (La Muela) to Zaragoza are relatively flat.

The main Spanish teams will be taking part in the race (ONCE, Euskaltel, iBanesto, Kelme), as well as several foreign teams. Team Coast will start, however it's unlikely that Jan Ullrich will ride at the moment.

The teams

Ag2R Prevoyance
Alessio
Cofidis, Le Credit Par Telephone
Colchon Relax Fuenlabrada
Domina Vacanze-Elitron
Euskaltel-Euskadi
Fassa Bortolo
Ibanesto.Com
Kelme-Costa Blanca
Labarca 2-Café Baqué
Lampre
Milaneza-MSS
O.N.C.E-Eroski
Paternina-Costa De Almeria
Phonak Hearing Systems
Saeco
Team Coast

The stages

Stage 1 - April 16: Huesca - Cerler, 152.2 km
Stage 2 - April 17: Benasque - Sabiñanigo, 185.2 km
Stage 3 - April 18: Illueca - Illueca, 157 km
Stage 4 - April 19: La Muela - Borja, 168.5 km
Stage 5 - April 20: Colchón Relax (La Muela) - Zaragoza, 149 km

Ronde van Vlaanderen for women in 2003?

There is a very good chance that a women's edition of the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) will be organised in 2004, taking place on the same day as the men's race and finishing a couple of hours earlier. In addition, according to organisers Het Nieuwsblad, there is a reasonable chance that it will form part of the women's World Cup, similar to the other World Cup double headers, La Primavera Rosa and the Amstel Gold Race.

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