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Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

First Edition News for August 22, 2003

Edited by Chris Henry & Jeff Jones

La Grande Débâcle: What's wrong with the women's Tour de France?

By Kristy Scrymgeour

Sunday, August 17 saw the 2003 women's version of the Tour de France, officially called La Grande Boucle Féminine, end in Paris with only 50 finishers from a mere 66 starters. For a race that is considered by most cyclists to be the most prestigious race on the calendar, this lack of participation points to a serious problem for the future of the race and for the future of women's cycling.

There are many different opinions as to why the tour had such a poor showing this year and also many suggestions as to how the race could be improved for next year and it really does need improving or it will die, possibly affecting the sport for women forever.

For some teams it was simply a matter that the announcement that the 2003 Grande Boucle would even take place came too late in the season. For T-Mobile director Jim Miller, who regrets not being able to send a team to France, tough scheduling decisions had already been made. "It clashed with the Pan American Games and by the time it was announced it didn't really fit into our schedule," Miller told Cyclingnews. "It's an important race and I really enjoy it so it was tough to exclude this year."

For many years, the director of Vélo Féminin, Pierre Boué, has received complaints from riders and team directors for poor accommodations, excessively long transfers, unnecessarily long neutral starts, long stages, and unpaid prize money. Each year he insisted that conditions would be different and slowly, according to some riders, things have been getting a better. Nonetheless, last year's prize money was not paid.

Boué had a lot to say during this year's tour and feels hardly done by many people in France. "Without sounding paranoid, I believe that some people would like to destroy my race," He said an interview with l'Equipe. "If you add the problems with the media, the FFC, the UCI, and my legal problems with RCO, realistically we shouldn't have been able to start this year."

With all these problems, it has become clear that the race faces an uphill battle and many are afraid that this may be the last year of the tour. Boué has lost his primary sponsor, French supermarket chain Monoprix, which ends its eight year run of support for the tour.

Boué does not plan to give up on the Grande Boucle and is already thinking of how he can improve it for next year. Boué is looking for other European sponsors as opposed to purely French sponsors. The tour next year could be not simply a tour through France, but a Tour via France, beginning in Andorra and finishing in Wiesbaden, Germany.

Click here for the full feature.

Mayo's Euskaltel expectations

Iban Mayo
Photo: © Sirotti

Iban Mayo, in the midst of weighing his contract options for 2004, has declared that he would prefer to stay with the Basque Euskaltel-Euskadi team. Mayo is looking for a three year contract, and aside from his current team he has received interest from several teams, most notably the Dutch Rabobank team. Euskaltel is just as eager to keep Mayo in its ranks after a return to top form this year, where he placed sixth in the Tour de France and second in the Dauphiné Libéré.

Nonetheless, with offers coming from foreign soil, Mayo has made it clear that he expects Euskaltel to up the ante. "I want to stay with Euskaltel, but the team needs to improve its budget to match the foreign teams," Mayo said in an AS interview. Mayo insisted that Euskaltel need not match Rabobank's offer, but the figure must come close.

Time is on Mayo's side for the moment, but he is eager to come to a conclusion about his future for the next few seasons. "There is no deadline for me to decide whether I leave [Euskaltel] or stay, but I would like to resolve the situation..."

Mayo will not ride the Vuelta a España, noting that his season has been difficult, with "many kilometres and a lot of responsibility and pressure."

Gerrans to ride the Tour de l'Avenir for Carvalhelos-Boavista

By Jean-François Quénet

Simon Gerrans
Photo ©: J-F Quénet

23 year old Simon Gerrans from Australia will take part in the Tour de l'Avenir (September 4-13) under the colours of Portuguese TT2 Carvalhelos-Boavista. It's a step forward in his career and a huge opportunity to jump into the world of professional cycling after signing his first contract with Norwegian TT3 Team Ringerike.

"I'm looking forward to do this race," Gerrans said. "I've heard so much about the Tour de l'Avenir and I know how it has boosted Matt Wilson's career for example. Also, September is usually my best month so I hope the timing for this move is perfect. I'm really thankful to Team Ringerike for the support they have given me so far."

Ringerike's Directeur sportif Øyvind Lillehagen was happy to release Gerrans, as the Australian is the most successful of his riders this year. He won four races: one of the Bay crits (ahead of Robbie McEwen and Stuart O'Grady), the St-Kilda criterium, the Norway Cup in Kristiansand and a Belgian kermesse in Schulen-Herk de Stad. He also came second in stage 2 of the Tour of Normandy, third in race 2 of the Mi-Aout bretonne and fourth in stage 3 of the Giro del Capo. Apart from Gerrans's consistency, Team Ringerike had high quality wins with Gabriel Rasch being the Norwegian champion and Jonathan Dayus claiming the queen stage of Ringerike Grand Prix to Ringkollen.

Gerrans hails from Mansfield, Victoria, and had Phil Anderson as his first coach. Recommended in Europe by Baden Cooke, the 2002 Under 23 Australian champion got in touch with Carvalhelos-Boavista through his French connections, but will not feel alone in the Portuguese team as he'll race alongside reigning Australian time trial champion Ben Day, who is also scheduled for the Tour de l'Avenir.

Sweet Paradise to continue sponsoring

European sweet company Sweet Paradise, which sells over 3,000 tonnes of sweets each year, is remaining in the cycling sponsorship game. For the past few years, Sweet Paradise has sponsored the junior squads of teams such as Domo and Quick.Step, but next year it wants to move up to an U23 team.

Together with co-sponsor Leen Bakker (the Dutch-based furniture and floor coverings retail division of Blokker Holdings), Sweet Paradise aims to sign around fifteen Belgian U23 riders, who will compete in the top Belgian races.

In 2004, the team will concentrate on developing its base, putting more of an emphasis on results in 2005 onwards.

Courtesy of Wielerparcours

Broken finger for Hamilton

It's been confirmed that Tyler Hamilton (Team CSC) broke his middle finger after crashing in Stage 2 of the ENECO Ronde van Nederland. Hamilton received 14 stitches to the damaged finger and did not start the third stage Thursday. not hiring

With the anticipated arrival into the pro ranks of young talents Jeremy Roy and Fabien Sanchez, who officially join in September after having been presented with the team last December, directeur sportif Marc Madiot has announced that his team will not be signing any new riders for 2004. Sprinter Jimmy Casper has left for Cofidis, but Madiot will not replace Casper with another established pro.

London closer to Tour start

The city of London is emerging as a strong candidate to host the Grand Départ of the 2006 Tour de France. Sources from Transport for London and Tour organisers Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) have hinted at the possibility for a prologue and first stage to be held in and around London. A delegation from London, including members of Transport for London and ranking officials from the Metropolitan Police, paid a visit to the prologue time trial in Paris at this year's Tour.


Milk Race to return

Great Britain's premier stage race, the 'Milk Race' is set to return in 2004. Scheduled for September 1-5, 2004, the Tour of Britain has been registered formally with the UCI. Until its demise in 1993, the race was organised by Brian Elliot, however the latest incarnation of the event is to be organised by a new promoter.


Sheeffry Challenge preview

By Tommy Campbell, Irish Independent, Evening Herald, Sunday Independent

Mayo Wheelers are once again fronting one of the biggest extravaganzas of Irish cycling - the Sheeffry Challenge - this weekend in Westport, Co. Mayo. The program set by Brendan Quigley and Joe McGuire will cater for both leisure and competition requirements, and you want to avoid any exertions, family entertainment is being provided at Darby's, Carrowkennedy.

The event gets under way on Saturday morning when Mark Quigley deputises for Sean Kelly by taking a group out on a leisurely spin with a start in Carrowkennedy at midday. Comedian Paul Malone is also in on the act, but by all accounts his leisure spin will be more of a saunter and the start up point is Louisburg at around two o'clock.

In the evening, the serious punters will be in town for the Westport Criterium. This is scheduled for a late evening start at 8.30 and depending on the light, should go on for at least one hour.

On Sunday the biggie of the program takes place when the Sheeffry Challenge Classic League takes to the roads in the general area of Westport and the surrounding area. It is listed as an 85 miler with two climbs to be tackled. According to Joe McGuire, "I presume the competitors in the Challenge will not take in the sights at the top of Sheeffry Mountain! The view is spectacular. On a good day you can see for 45 miles, north, south, east and west. It is sight for sore eyes," said Joe.

The lads who have come to race will not be sightseeing, that's for sure. This is a serious event and all the top names will be in town for this race. Currently, Joe Fenlon from the Carrick Cidona Club is out front in the league and with the support of the Carrick lads should retain his position late Sunday afternoon as the front-runner. He'll have very good support from Brian Kenneally and Timmy Barry who has just returned from England. The duo were part of the Munster outfit that was instrumental in Paul Griffin landing the top prize in the Surrey Five-Day. Griffin returns to Mayo for a tilt at this race. Paul was here in July where he won Ras Connachta and he'll definitely be one of the favourites.

Between David O'Loughlin and Mark Quigley, the trophy may not leave the county. O'Loughlin is the current holder and recent form would suggest that he'll be hard to displace.

The race starts off from the Quays in Westport at midday and should be back between 3:15 and 3:30 pm. Also on Sunday, the John McCormack Memorial takes place in the Phoenix Park with a 10 o'clock start. This is an event worthy of support because of the commitment that John made to cycling during his lifetime. The Underage championships are being held in Enniskillen over the weekend.

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