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Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

Latest News for April 16, 2003

Edited by Jeff Jones

McEwen ready for Scheldeprijs

Robbie McEwen (Lotto-Domo) says that he's ready for a repeat victory in today's Scheldeprijs Vlaanderen, that will be held around Antwerp. McEwen, winner in 2002, is the top favourite for today's 200 km sprinter's classic. However only a handful of riders have recorded back to back victories since the war: Rik Van Looy (1956-57), Piet Oelibrandt (1962-63) and Endrio Leoni (2000-2001).

"Of course the team is very motivated, after the successes of Peter van Petegem," McEwen told Het Laatste Nieuws today. "This race is ideal for me: fast, 45 km/h, cobbles now and then, very technical too, especially in the finishing circuits."

"Mostly it's a sprint finish, but not always a large peloton, sometimes only 30-40 riders. So you need to be there in every break instead of waiting for the last kilometres. I'm sure my teammates - even after Paris-Roubaix - can bring me up to 200-250 m from the finish. And then it's up to me, with legs good enough to be stronger than the rest."

Tom Steels hopes for a good result

Tom Steels (Landbouwkrediet) reckons that he's "only at 80 percent now. That little extra is still lacking, but I keep believing in my comeback." He finished second to McEwen last year in the Scheldeprijs, and hopes to go one better today.

Steels made it into the lead group in Gent-Wevelgem last week, but couldn't make it over the Kemmelberg. He also was in the main part of the peloton in Paris-Roubaix until the last third of the race. He is still struggling with his reserves for these races, but wants a chance to use his sprint power again. "I'm only worried about my sprint speed: bring me 'fresh' and in a good position to the last 200m and everything is possible," he said. "I don't care about all the critics, because I know exactly how I'm improving. I hope to have my old legs back at the end of this season."

Steels wears the colours of the Belgian champion, and he admits the jersey is heavy at times. "The tricolor is not easy to wear now, but I wouldn't like to exchange it. Without the jersey, there would only be 10 percent of the interest I'm having now."

Steels says that he does not live for racing. "I've got my priorities now: if Lobke, my handicapped daughter needs me, I'll be ready for her. And I'm glad the team understands me about that: if I ask for two weeks physical and mental rest, I get it. This is only possible in a team like Landbouwkrediet, and I couldn't afford it with Quick.Step or Lotto. I know the combination - concentrating on my job and on my private life at the same time - is sometimes difficult, not ideal circumstances at all. I know I'm a bit stressed sometimes, but I'm enjoying small things now, like five minutes rest in the house, or having a laugh with my teammates, that's my ideal outlet."

Other favourites for the Scheldeprijs include Frank Vandenbroucke, winner in 1996: "I haven't got this explosive attack anymore, but I can still ride very fast." Also 1997 winner Erik Zabel, who complained about the dangerous parcours after his win. "I was very angry, yes, but one year later the organisers took measures and the race looked much nicer. Now I really look forward to this race."

Team Coast close enough for the UCI

The issue of Jan Ullrich's half a million euro bank guarantee has more or less been resolved, with Ullrich being allowed to start in today's Vuelta a Aragon. "He can race, but we are still waiting for the original of the bank guarantee," said UCI spokesman Enrico Carpani. "It's on the way. When we get it, Ullrich will be authorised to start for the whole season."

Van Heeswijk to ride in Amstel Gold Race

Dutchman Max van Heeswijk (USPS-Berry Floor) has sufficiently recovered from his crash in Paris-Roubaix to start in this Sunday's Amstel Gold Race, the fourth round of the World Cup. Van Heeswijk injured his shoulder and arm in the crash during Hell of the North, but x-rays confirmed that nothing was broken. "The pain that I feel is a result of the hard impact and the fluid build up in the muscles," he said. "Now that's gone away, my arm feels a bit better. The pain hasn't completely gone, but if the recovery continues as quickly as it did today, there will be no problem to be fit in time for the Amstel Gold Race."

Max Van Heeswijk and Viatcheslav Ekimov will be joined by team leader Lance Armstrong in Sunday's classic, a race that Armstrong has come close to winning several times.

Van Petegem to ride Made criterium

Peter Van Petegem will start on Easter Monday in the Profronde van Made, the only early season criterium in the Netherlands. The winner of Paris-Roubaix and the Ronde van Vlaanderen will be the top attraction in the race, which will also feature Gent-Wevelgem winner Andreas Klier. The organisers will also invite another big name rider, likely to be either Johan Museeuw or Michael Boogerd. "We'd gladly give them both contracts," said organiser Leo van der Pluijm. "But I don't think we have the money."

Peeters recovering

Quick.Step-Davitamon's team director Wilfried Peeters had a successful operation on his elbow on Monday evening, after he broke it in a crash. Doctors in the Maria Middelares hospital in Antwerp took two and a half hours to operate on the break, which was described as "complicated". Peeters will have the elbow in plaster for the rest of the week, and it will take at least two weeks to fully recover. In the meantime, Patrick Lefevere will take the wheel of the team car in the upcoming races.

Helmet discussion continues in France

Although the UCI have in principle decided to make it compulsory for riders to wear helmets during competition, the rule has not yet come into force, and there is still a lot of discussion about it, particularly in France. The French minister for sports, Jean-Francois Lamour, met with the French cycling teams association recently to talk about helmet use in the upcoming Tour de France. The conclusion of the two parties was that they were in favour of the idea of making helmets compulsory.

"As employers, we should be in charge of safety, that is our main concern although the cyclists are not of the same opinion," said Philippe Raimbaud, president of the French teams association. "We are asking that it become compulsory to wear an approved helmet in all conditions, including the time trial."

Team Minute Maid/Dasani-La Grange

Minute Maid/Dasani-La Grange
Photo: © Minute Maid/Dasani-La Grange
Click for larger image

Velo Club La Grange Westwood has presented its elite men's racing team for 2003. Sponsored by Minute Maid and Dasani Water, the team's racing schedule includes the California racing circuit as well as many national calendar races. Based out of Los Angeles, California, the club has a legacy that includes Olympic medalists, Tour de France stage winners, World Champions, National Champions, and State Champions.

Full roster

Unity ride for earthquake victims

Italian/American cyclist Giorgio DiPaolo will set off on Friday, April 18 on a return trip from Chicago, IL to Los Angeles, CA and back, on the 2003 version of the Unity Ride. In doing the ride, DiPaolo hopes to raise funds for several different causes, including for earthquake victims in Italy and needy families in Chicago.

DiPaolo's parents are from the same region in Italy where the earthquakes hit last year. "The town, San Giuliano di Puglia, is similar in size to my parents' town and to imagine half of the children no longer living in the town is unbearable," says DiPaolo. "Also, the families in the community surrounding my church in the south side of Chicago will benefit greatly from these donations toward food, scholarships, and youth programs."

Unity Ride 2003 will depart from the shores of Lake Michigan in Chicago, IL on April 18, 2003. DiPaolo will average approximately 125 miles (200 km) per day, taking about 20 days to get to the shores of the Pacific Ocean in California. He will then turn around and arrive back in Chicago somewhere around May 27, 2003.

To find out more about the ride, visit and click on the Unity Ride 2003 link.

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