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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

First Edition News for April 26, 2003

Edited by Chris Henry

Bondue among the unhappy directors

Cofidis team manager Alain Bondue ranks among the many team bosses unhappy with their riders' performances in recent months. Bondue remains critical of the team's Belgian component, who derided the team management after they themselves were slammed for their poor performances at Paris-Roubaix. Bondue and Cofidis have come under fire from others, notably David Millar earlier in the year, for the team's emphasis on UCI points rather than the support of specific leaders in races. To this Bondue has always defended the team's system, noting simply that the riders have not performed up to their capabilities.

"First of all, certain riders aren't at the same level as last year," Bondue said in an interview with l'Equipe. "Planckaert has four abandons in the classics, which normally are his favourite races. He's not going well, so there you go. Personally, I like someone who's honest and who knows when to tell me he's not going well. I don't like a guy who says, 'I'm good', and who I put in a key position in the team strategy. Then he blows up mid-race."

Bondue understands that his team suffered a tremendous blow following the death of Andrei Kivilev at Paris-Nice. Nonetheless, the time has come to get back in the race. He's quick to defend the team's focus on UCI points, and is not pleased with the drop from 6th in the team rankings this time last year to Cofidis' current ranking in 12th place.

"First of all, with the riders we don't talk about points, we talk about victory, about being in front," he explained. "Besides, whether it's my system or another, an off year can happen. One year, that's natural, but not the following year too. Basically because the guys didn't work over the winter. That's all... It's not my system that causes that, it's life."

"Right now, the situation is a concern, but it's not catastrophic," he promised. "We're entering a new period of racing, the stage races. Alongside Moncoutié, Millar, Vasseur, Bessy, and the others, including Cuesta, Fernandez, and Perez can show themselves."

Association presidents meet

Cycling's heads of state met in Brussels, Belgium on Friday, moving closer to an agreement on mandatory helmet use in the professional peloton. Vittorio Adorni, president of the Professional Cycling Council (PCC), met with the presidents of the Professional Cyclists Association (PCA, Francesco Moser), International Association of Cycle Racing (AIOCC, Jean-Marie Leblanc), and Association of Professional Cycling Teams (AIGCP, Manolo Saiz) to discuss, among other things, the implementation of a mandatory helmet rule in advance of the Giro d'Italia. UCI president Hein Verbruggen was also in attendance.

"The Presidents of the Associations confirmed their adhesion to the UCI’s initiative, which is to render mandatory helmets for professional riders," the UCI said in a written statement. "The consensus as expressed today by the members of the PCC present in the meeting should enable the reach the goal which is to establish this rule before the start of the next Giro d'Italia."

Also on the agenda was a discussion of initiatives to ensure professional cycling's viability in the future, and the creation of a series of competitions reserved for the highest ranked teams. These ideas are in their early stages, and more discussion is planned at the PCC's next meeting in Aigle, Switzerland on June 6.

Brouzes suspended

Niels Brouzes has been suspended from competition in France by the Conseil de Prévention et de Luttle Contre le Dopage (French Council for the Prevention of Doping, CPLD), following a positive test for testosterone during the Tour de Normandie in March 2002. Brouzes, who joined BigMat Auber in 2002, won the French national espoirs title in 2001. BigMat directeur sportif Stéphane Javalet told l'Equipe he was disappointed to learn of the test result so late.

"I know there is such thing as medical privacy, but this has been more than a year," he said. Brouzes has not been suspended by the team, as given the circumstances and the delay in a decision, the BigMat management plans to request more information on Brouzes' dossier and speak to the rider before making any decisions. The suspension handed down from the CPLD bans Brouzes from competition within France for one year, and a similar sanction from the French federation likewise prevents him from competing internationally.

Quick turnaround for Rebellin

Thanks to a visit to a chiropractor, Davide Rebellin is once again expected on the start line at Liège-Bastogne-Liège this Sunday. Rebellin crashed in the Flèche Wallonne, injuring his shoulder. His doctors have created a rigid bandage for the Italian, which allowed him to return to training Friday, including a tough motor pacing session behind the team car.

Flecha also on the mend

Juan Antonio Flecha, who crashed in the Amstel Gold Race and suffered extensive abrasions on his right side, will be at the start of Liège-Bastogne-Liège. The rider missed Flèche Wallonne and took two days off the bike, but Thursday started training again with a two hour session.

Paolini OK

One of Quick.Step-Davitamon's key lieutenants, Luca Paolini, should be able to start Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday. Paolini crashed in Flèche Wallonne, and feared the worst, with sharp pains in his lower back and his shoulder. Initial exams did not reveal any fractures, however, and despite some continued pain, the Italian managed to train for several hours on Thursday. Barring any deterioration, Paolini, 3rd in Milan-San Remo behind teammate Paolo Bettini, will line up for the Doyenne.

Blijlevens still off

Dutchman Jeroen Blijlevens has been searching for form for some time, missing the level of fitness that has taken him to stage victories in the Tour de France in past years. Blijlevens started, but did not finish, the Rund um Köln last Monday, and was left out of the BankGiroLoterij selection for Thursday's Veenendaal-Veenendaal.

"I'm using my best riders, and we're waiting for the moment when [Jeroen] will be in good enough shape to select," team director Johan Capiot told VRT. Blijlevens is hoping for selection for the team's roster for the upcoming Four Days of Dunkerque (May 7-11).



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