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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

First Edition News for April 19, 2003

Edited by Chris Henry & Jeff Jones

Belgians want out of Cofidis

The four man Belgian contingent of French sponsored phone credit team Cofidis appear to want out at the end of the season, according to an interview in Gazet van Antwerpen. Chris Peers, Jo Planckaert, Peter Farazijn and Nico Mattan are not completely happy with team management and its approach to the UCI points based bonus system, which rewards consistency rather than occasional brilliant performances.

Chris Peers was the most outspoken, saying that "Our credit is finished. And I've got the impression that they want to open a new line."

Peers and Jo Planckaert received a fairly public dressing down from team manager Alain Bondue after last week's performance in Paris-Roubaix (30th and DNF, respectively), something that Peers did not appreciate. "Neither Planckaert nor I have chosen to ride below our best," said Peers. "Jo has been sick for several weeks in a row, I've come too late in form because I had to stay off the bike for two weeks after the crash in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. In the Roubaix velodrome showers last Sunday I was also put to ground by manager Bondue. I came out of it well, when I noticed what Planckaert got after that. And then when you notice a rider like Gaumont, someone who finished behind me [36th] in the Hell, received compliments, then that's enough."

Peers continued, "Really, it's hard to take that our professionalism is constantly in doubt. I've been a pro for 12 years, and all this time I've been a diesel. When the team leaders ask you to get in the first break before the start of Paris-Roubaix and immediately say in the same breath that you have no chance of a good result, what's the value in that for me? And if I finish in the top 10 on Sunday in the Gold Race, then I am God again, right? Pfff, ridiculous."

Chris Peers does not expect his contract to be renewed, and is now looking for work for next year. "The Belgians will shortly finish their contracts," he said. "If they want to give me an offer than I'll look it over, but they may already know that they've deeply hurt me. At the moment I am looking for another employer."

Nico Mattan is in a better position in the team, but he also thinks that there needs to be change. "With me it's going OK," he said. "But that doesn't alter the fact that Peers and Planckaert are not being treated courteously. Do they really think they will help the guys move forward by putting a rocket up them? They are getting nervous, with all their concerns about UCI points and the Top 10 Club."

"I am prepared to talk, but they don't want to know" Mattan continued. "I am free, thus I can look for other work. And perhaps a change of air will do me good."

Casagrande in Amstel

Francesco Casagrande will be at the start of the Amstel Gold Race this Sunday together with his Lampre teammates, Gabriele Missaglia and Raimondas Rumsas. It will be Casagrande's first World Cup race of the year, with the Italian having his sights glued firmly on the Giro d'Italia which starts in May. He will also be doing La Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Casagrande has won two World Cup races in his career, the Clasica San Sebastian in 1998 and 1999.

Lampre for Amstel Gold Race: Francesco Casagrande, Alessandro Cortinovis, Gabriele Missaglia, Marco Pinotti, Daniele Righi, Raimondas Rumsas, Maximilian Sciandri and Zbigniew Spruch

Merckx ready for Ardennes test

Axel Merckx has not had the smoothest start to the season, sidelined a bit by illness and struggling with his form. Nonetheless, the Lotto-Domo rider is looking forward to the first important test at this Sunday's Amstel Gold Race. Although Merckx is a rider for the Ardennes classics, his role will be primarily one of support for team leader Peter Van Petegem, who is in peak condition following his World Cup double at the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.

"The fact that most people will be looking at Van Petegem could be an advantage for Rik [Verbrugghe] and me," Merckx explained in an interview with La Dernière Heure. "In principle, we'll be there to defend Van Petegem's lead in the World Cup and we won't be required to make the race."

Merckx has been building up to the Ardennes races by racing in Spain, although getting sick at the GP Miguel Indurain wasn't part of the plan. "It took some time for my body to work out the antibiotics, but I finished the Vuelta al Pais Vasco pretty well," Merckx added. "Now I hope to fully reassure myself this Sunday at the Amstel Gold Race."

Dierckxsens bouncing back

Belgian veteran Ludo "Popeye" Dierckxsens has already started training on the road after his fall in Gent-Wevelgem. Dierckxsens went down along with Paolo Bettini in the early kilometres of the race, and injured his left shoulder. "It's clear that the pain isn't entirely gone," he told La Dernière Heure, "but it's going well enough." The Landbouwkrediet-Colnago rider emerged Thursday for a two hour training ride.

"I'm going for a follow up visit next Wednesday with Dr. Claes, the same doctor who operated on my hand in 1988 after my crash in Veenendaal-Veenendaal," Dierckxsens explained. "Then, along with [team manager] Gerard Bulens, we'll redesign my schedule."

Dierckxsens is hoping to race the Giro d'Italia, which begins May 10, but if his condition is not sufficient for the grand tour, the Tour of Belgium will become the alternative objective, along with the Belgian national championships at the end of June. "In any case, you can count on me this year and next year," he insisted.

Hincapie, Millar back in May

George Hincapie, who has been suffering from a sinus problem all season, will make his return to racing in the Four Days of Dunkirk (May 7-11), according to Belgian Teletekst. Also David Millar, who crashed in the Criterium International at the end of last month, will make his return to the road in Dunkirk.

Muñoz out of Aragon

David Muñoz (Kelme-Costa Blanca) has abandoned the Vuelta a Aragon after crashing and fracturing his collarbone. Muñoz went down in stage one, but didn't receive the diagnosis of the fracture until Thursday.

Rafael Diaz Justo (ONCE-Eroski) also pulled out of the race with injuries.

Tafi suffering

Andrea Tafi (CSC) is suffering from an inflammation around his rib cage, causing pain on his right side. Tafi paid a visit to his doctor in Lucca, Italy, who detected the inflammation. The Italian's participation in Amstel Gold is not entirely assured, and if the aggravation continues he may be forced to take a break from competition.

GP de Beauce organisers want Saturn

The organisers of the Grand Prix cycliste de Beauce (Canada) have expressed their disappointment given that the American Saturn team has not committed to racing the event. The GP de Beauce, scheduled for June 17-22, comes on the heels of the USPRO championships in Philadelphia, the number one goal of many American teams. Of particular concern to the organisers is the fact that Canadian star Charles Dionne, who joined Saturn for 2003, will not make an appearance on home soil to contest the stage race.

"With the excellent performances of the Saturn team in recent years, it will be a shame not to see, for the first time in more than seven years, the new team of Charles Dionne on the starting line," said the organisers in a written statement.

Saturn team manager Tom Schuler had indicated that the team would be in need of some recovery time following the USPRO championships. This year the GP de Beauce comes a week after USPRO, though that seems not to have provided the incentive necessary.

Grand Prix S.A.T.S.

Fitness company S.A.T.S. has taken over sponsorship of Denmark's biggest one day race, the former Grand Prix Midtbank. The race will henceforth be known as the Grand Prix S.A.T.S., and will take place in Herning on May 3. Claus Lindholm, CEO of S.A.T.S. and member of the board of Riis Cycling, announced the new sponsorship agreement. Lindholm also sponsors the S.A.T.S. women's pro team. The Grand Prix S.A.T.S. will continue to test riders with a demanding parcours which includes gravel roads in western Jutland.


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