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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for December 31, 2003

Edited by Chris Henry

Cyclingnews reader poll: Male and Female Road Riders

Counting down to the top prize of the Cyclingnews reader poll today we hit the tarmac with your choice of Male Road Rider and Female Road Rider of 2003. The women's winner dominated the votes like she dominated so many races, but the voting was considerably closer for the men. Only two votes separated first and second place.

As 2003 comes to a close, so do the reader poll awards. The Cyclingnews Rider of the Year award will be announced on January 1, 2004, just in time for a new year to begin and new favourites to emerge. Votes have been tallied for best riders in cycling's various disciplines, the best new products, best bikes, favourite moments of the 2003 season, legends of cycling, and more.

Deep Spanish field for Olympic TT

Spain's national selector Pablo Antequera, who already counts on Oscar Freire, Alejandro Valverde, and world champion Igor Astarloa as likely candidates for gold in the Athens Olympics road race, has also begun to contemplate his country's best chances in the individual time trial. Heading the list are Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano, Isidro Nozal, and Aitor Gonzalez, but Antequera has others in mind as well.

"With Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano, like with Aitor Gonzalez and Isidro Nozal, we have many options," Antequera commented in the Spanish daily Marca. "I'll also have to see how Casero goes, and Beloki as well, since he has demonstrated so much professionalism and camaraderie with me, and I am sorry not to have chosen him for the time trial in Lisbon [in 2001].

Antequera plans to offer a pre-selection list soon for Athens, with final selections likely made during the Tour de France in July.

FBD Milk Rás sponsorship assured

By Shane Stokes,

Race organiser Dermot Dignam has confirmed that the National Dairy Council and FBD Insurances will once again sponsor the FBD Milk Rás in 2004. The eight day international will take place May 23-30 next year, with a tough, mountainous route expected to be announced in the near future. Teams from South Africa, Germany, France, Canada, Denmark, Moldavia, Netherlands and Nigeria have already indicated an interest in taking part.

The sponsorship of the race is one of the longest in Irish sport, with the NDC involved for 22 years and FBD Insurances for 21. Their backing enabled the race to become a world-ranking event in 2001, increasing the quality and number of foreign entries.

Aitken out of Hong Kong Cycle Classic

The presence of Olympic Madison Champion Brett Aitken in the Hong Kong Cycle Classic on January 4 is now unlikely as he has a knee injury that forced him out of the Tour of South China Sea. Aitken has had a lot of knee injuries in his career and prefers not to take the chance of worsening the problem.

Other riders including Robert Hayles, Franz Stocher, Bruno Risi, David Millar, and Aitken's partner at the Sydney Olympics, Scott McGrory, have all confirmed their participation in the inaugural race in Asia's dynamic world city.

Jelly Belly-Aramark for 2004

Jelly Belly team director Danny Van Haute has announced that Aramark will act as the new co-title sponsor for 2004. The team will be bolstered by Jonas Carney and Alex Candelario, both of whom join from Prime Alliance, Australian Caleb Manion and a host of young riders. Team stalwarts Mariano Freidick and Kirk Albers will return, along with Ernie Lechuga, who rode with Jelly Belly in 2002.

"Jonas and Alex give the team the finishing threat that we have lacked in the past and combined with the GC threat of Ben Brooks, Adam Bergman and Caleb Manion, we look to move the team up the rankings quite a bit," team captain Albers explained.

Contributing partner Orbea continues its sponsorship, along with Lexus, Velomax, Campagnolo,ITM, Wipperman, Rudy Project, Defeet, Gatorade, RV-INNO, USANA, Cateye, and Wipperman. New Contributing partners for 2004 include Santini SMS, Michelin, and Selle Italia.

2004 Team roster:

Kirk Albers
Adam Bergman
Ben Brooks
Alex Candelario
Jonas Carney
Paul Ellis
Mariano Friedick
Ernie Lechuga
Caleb Manion
Doug Ollerenshaw
Jeremy Powers
Corey Steinbrecher

Saunier Duval begins in Qatar

The new Saunier Duval-Prodir team from Spain will make its racing debut at the Tour of Qatar, January 31-February 4, 2004. The race will provide an introduction to the professional peloton for several riders, including Francisco Ventoso, Juan José Cobo, and Angel Gomez.

Chocolade Jacques to Paris-Nice

New Belgian Division I team Chocolade Jacques will get its season off to a positive start with entry in Paris-Nice (March 7-14), a major early season objective and an important stage race before the spring classics. That Paris-Nice is now owned and run by the Société du Tour de France is no small matter, and the team hopes a good performance could boost its chances for a wildcard selection for the Tour.

"This is all good news," directeur sportif Johan Capiot said. "[Team manager] Jef Braeckevelt and Mr. Demeulenare will now do everything to get a start in the Tour de France."

Blanchy joins Chocolade Jacques

Twenty-two year old Michaël Blanchy has signed a two year contract to join Chocolade Jacques for 2004-2005. Blanchy hails from the Wallonnie region of Belgium.

Positive EPO test from USCF Track Nationals

The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) received notification from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) that USADA's Anti-Doping Review Board determined that sufficient evidence of doping exists to proceed further in seven cases, six of which involve track and field athletes, the seventh being a cyclist, Adham Sbeih of California.

Sbeih, 30, tested positive for erythropoietin (EPO) at the USCF Elite Track National Championships in Trexlertown, Pennsylvania on August 26, 2003. Currently, all seven athletes are disputing their cases in the USADA adjudication process.

"I have no idea at this time how or why I tested positive, and am investigating all possible causes," Sbeih said in a written statement. "All I know is that I have never taken EPO, or any other substance that is banned by the International Olympic Committee. All of my results have been the result of a lot of hard work and dedication."

Museeuw talks back

Not one to speak more than necessary, Johan Museeuw has answered a few persistent questions in usual style, insisting that the Landuyt affair in which he has been implicated for the use and distribution of banned substances will not bring him down after a long and successful career as arguably the top classics rider of his generation.

"Tall trees catch a lot of wind," Museeuw said of the allegations of a trafficking ring of banned substances concerning veterinarian José Landuyt and a number of professional cyclists, himself included. "I just wish that I wasn't such a tall tree. But I'm firmly planted and they won't blow me over."

"I stand straight in my shoes. I have no doubt that I will be cleared," he added.

Museeuw also reacted angrily to statements made by former Belgian professional Eddy Planckaert, who said Museeuw has remained in the pro peloton because he could do nothing besides ride a bike.

"Wouldn't it be better for Planckaert to keep quiet?" Museeuw said in Belang van Limburg. "He has to act like an idiot on television to survive. I don't need to do anything for the rest of my life. I've invested my money in a sensible manner for fifteen years; Planckaert spent everything."

Andrea Bianco recovering

Cycling coach Andrea Bianco is recovering after a harrowing encounter with armed thieves in the mountains near Bogota, Colombia. Bianco was training with a female rider he coaches on November 26 when the two were assaulted by two young men interested in their cycling equipment. After attempting to ward off the thieves with a gas spray (normally used to fend off dogs), Bianco was shot in the back.

After surgery for injuries in the colon and bladder, Bianco told Cyclingnews his recovery has been going well and he will undergo one more operation in late January. If all goes according to plan he will be back in coaching action with U23 rider Leonardo Paez, based in San Doná di Piave, Italy. Well-wishers may contact Andrea at andreabianco1@

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