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Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

First Edition News for February 10, 2003

Edited by Jeff Jones

Domina Vacanze-Elitron presented in Egypt

By Jeff Jones

World Champion Mario Cipollini's Domina Vacanze-Elitron team was presented on Sunday at one of the team's sponsors' more exotic locations, 'Domina Coral Bay' in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. Re Leone and his teammates travelled there last Friday to prepare for today's proceedings.

The Domina Vacanze-Elitron lineup is almost identical to last year's Acqua e Sapone team, which had to undergo a name change after the main sponsor withdrew at the end of the season. The team managed by Vincenzo Santoni is built to launch Mario Cipollini to the finish line in the best possible position, and contains reliable lead out men such as Giovanni Lombardi, Gabriele Colombo, Martin Derganc, Mario Scirea and Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero. Perhaps the only rider missing from the Cipo train is Italo-American Guido Trenti, who has transferred to Fassa Bortolo this year.

Although the team's emphasis is on bunch sprints, Domina Vacanze is also (lightly) equipped for the shorter stage races/time trials with Santos Gonzalez, the 29 year old Spaniard who is quite handy against the clock. That is unless Vincenzo Santoni manages to convince Aitor Gonzalez that he really belongs here, rather than at Fassa Bortolo.

In terms of young riders, the team only boasts one neo-pro: Sergio Marinangeli (22), although Daniele Bennati (22), Lorenzo Cardellini (24), Claudio Astolfi (24), Alexandr Kolobnev (21), Ruben Lobato (24) and Michele Scarponi (23) form a sizeable part of the team. The only rider older than 35 year old Mario Cipollini is his faithful lieutenant, Mario Scirea, who turns 39 this year.

Milan-San Remo, Giro, Tour

Cipollini's main objectives this year are no trade secret, and he reiterated them at the presentation on Sunday. He will make his season debut in the Tour Mediterranean next Wednesday, February 12, and will also ride in the Trofeo Luis Puig on February 23. On March 22 he will contest Milan-San Remo which he won for the first time last year. This year he wants to win again on the Via Roma while wearing the World Champion's jersey, and if he hits his targets like he did last year, only misfortune could stand in his way.

The next big objective is the Giro d'Italia from May 10-June 1. This is one of Cipo's favourite races, having won 40 stages in it so far - just one shy of the all time record of 41 held by Alfredo Binda. Cipollini is expected to break that record this year. After all he won six stages last year, surely two more is not a big ask?

What will more than likely be the final big objective of the season for the 2002 World Champion is the Tour de France (July 5-27), a race that he has not participated in since 1999. He won four stages in a row that year, and is capable of repeating that feat if given a chance. His team has not been pre-selected for the Tour, and he will have to wait until May 19 when the final wild cards are chosen by Jean-Marie Leblanc.

Cipollini is fairly confident however, saying at the presentation that "I've had contacts with Leblanc, we discussed it, and I shouldn't have any problems participating."

The World Championships in Hamilton in October will not suit Cipollini like the Zolder course did last year, and more than likely he will not start. But looking further ahead to Madrid in 2005, there is another course that is favourable to sprinters.

When asked about this, Cipollini replied "Yes, Madrid. But that means I'll have to race for another two years in addition to this one. I'll be 38, I don't know, but I don't want to put it outside my limits today. Who could say 10 years ago that I would win everything I did by the time I was 35?"

Doping crisis not cyclists fault

Sporting objectives aside, Mario did have a comment about the current doping crisis in cycling, and the blame always being pinned on the cyclists. "It is a sport that has suffered greatly from some kind of sickness, but the hope is that it returns to giving emotions," he said. "We cyclists have to be more united, become a coalition that is not the final link in the chain, and have more power to confront the companies and the organisers."

"I have a conscience. I don't believe that it is the fault of the cyclists that cycling is in crisis. Certainly, we've committed some errors, but behind that there is something that is manipulating it. A crisis is talked about, but then I see that the roads are full of people and I see that a lot of people buy bicycles. It's easy to lay the blame on the cyclists, but there is no correspondence between the laws of cycling and what happens on the road."

As one of the most respected riders in the peloton, Cipollini is well placed to act as a rider representative if he wants to take this further, but his point will no doubt be well taken.

Finally the good news for fans of the old Acqua e Sapone outfit is that the new Domina Vacanze-Elitron team strip is still very much zebra-themed and very distinctive.

Team Roster.

European season objectives: Part I

By João Cravo

The five races that comprised the Challenge Illes Balears (formerly known as Vuelta a Mallorca) served as the kick-off to the European season. From now on things will be serious, with UCI points and rankings so important in determining which riders and teams will continue in cycling next year.

Each team's objectives are now well defined and their strategies have been planned. Several training camps held during the winter acted as the laboratories where tactics were developed that will later be implemented into strategies, and hopefully fulfil the objectives.

Although strategies and tactics are oft kept in secret for as long as possible, objectives generally aren't. The main objectives of the top Division I teams are clear. For U.S. Postal, "The Tour, Vuelta, the spring classics and of course the US National championships are our main targets," said team manager Johan Bruyneel, who has led Lance Armstrong to victory in the last four editions of the Tour de France.

If US Postal has the Tour as its target, ONCE's Manolo Saiz has all his top guns (Beloki, Galdeano, Azevedo, Jaksche) pointed at Lance. Given that the Vuelta is an assumed objective, the moment of glory for Saiz could come sooner in July. "We've fought Armstrong in the Tour last year and will do it again this time," declares Saiz, "We know that Lance is hard to beat but we believe we can achieve that."

Telekom will enter the Tour again without Jan Ullrich, who has now closed that chapter of his career with Walter Godefroot's squad and is hoping for a new start with Team Coast. A page of Telekom's history has been turned and a new one is starting to be written, with new heroes (Botero, Evans, Savoldelli) and the same objectives.

"The major tours and the World Cup are certainly our top priorities for 2003," informs Walter Godefroot. "We have riders skilled enough to chase Armstrong in the Tour, so I'm confident of a good participation there."

Team Coast will ride the Tour with a double motivation. At a collective level, they want to prove that their non-selection last year was unfair for the winner of the 2001 Tour de Suisse Alex Zülle and for the winner of the 2001 Vuelta Angel Casero. At an individual level, Jan Ullrich is willing to erase 2002 from people's minds, proving that he is still the rider that people in 1997 called the Indurain for the new century.

"We are betting all on the major Tours," emphasises Alain Gallopin, "And on the Tour of France above all."

With a roster built around Ullrich in July, the World Cup races and other one day classics are well behind on Team Coast's preoccupations. "We switched one day riders for stage racers," adds Gallopin, "It was an option we took. But we are still hopeful of doing well at the Paris-Roubaix and in the Tour of Flanders at least."

One team that does not have the Tour Yellow Jersey as its objective is the new Belgian team, Quick Step-Davitamon. "The spring classics and the World Cup are our main objectives this year," says Quick Step's team manager Alvaro Crespi. "Johan Museeuw, young boy Tom Boonen, Paul Bettini and even Franck Vandenbroucke are riders we are counting on to get a few wins."

Of course, Quick Step will not forget the Tour completely and expects a good Richard Virenque there.

For Fassa Bortolo, the one day races are at the top of its priorities. "The World Cup is our main objective in 2003," says Alberto Volpi. "We have a bunch of youngsters like Fabian Cancellara, Francesco Chicchi and Filippo Pozzato who can help Michele Bartoli to eventually win the competition."

But a team like Fassa Bortolo has must have other objectives. "We're sure that Ivan Basso in the Tour, Dario Frigo in the Giro and Aitor Gonzalez in both the Giro and Vuelta will represent us very well," asserts Volpi. "Because they are all riders of experience and talent."

Alan Bondue, the team manager of Cofidis, talks business. "Cofidis isn't just a French corporation," he explains. "There are Cofidis Spain, Cofidis Belgium, Cofidis Italy. That makes all races interesting to us."

But beside the commercial aspects of cycling there are sporting ones too and Bondue knows that. "We want to obtain a Top 10 position in the UCI rankings. And do a good Tour too."

The engagement of the two-time World champion Oscar Freire gives a strong idea of Rabobank's plans for 2003. "Excepting Paris-Roubaix, Freire can win any World Cup race," points out director Theo De Rooij. "So that's an objective for us, as well as other 1.1 and HC one day races."

Rabobank knows what they want to do at the Tour: "We'll not be there to win the overall classification," says De Rooij. "But to win as many stages as possible. A good classification without stage wins means nothing for us."

Verbruggen on warpath against WADA

In the lead up to the World Anti Doping Agency's (WADA) conference on drugs in sport next month, UCI boss Hein Verbruggen has criticised the world anti-doping body for being inconsistent with respect to drug penalties across all sports.

In a letter to WADA president Dick Pound, Verbruggen wrote that "It is unacceptable that the World Anti-Doping Agency allows a discrimination between athletes. The federations that are not under WADA control can only be invited to accept the new anti-doping regulations. That means that in Athens 2004 a positive cyclist can be banned for two years, but an American basketballer will get a much lighter sanction."

The new anti-doping regulations that Verbruggen refers to are uniform sanctions for all sports that are supposed to be adopted by WADA at its conference in Copenhagen next month. In addition to his complaint about discrimination , Verbruggen is also against WADA's proposed minimum two year ban for any athlete who tests positive to a banned substance.

"If WADA talks about a minimum two year barrier, it obviously does so under political pressure," stated Verbruggen, who pointed out that it came from a scaled down version of the International Amateur Athletic Federation's proposed four year ban. "For such a period, there is no legal basis at all," added Verbruggen, whose own federation currently imposes a six month minimum ban for serious doping substances.

On the other hand, WADA's Dick Pound believes that sanctions have to be tough to discourage doping. "Sports in which the sanctions are minimal are not very successful in the battle against performance enhancing drugs," he said.

Evans' big chance

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

Tommy Evans, who has been riding in the Telekom Malaysia Le Tour de Langkawi for the past 10 days, has suddenly got a window of opportunity to join the professional ranks. He is on the All-Stars Cycling team, which includes Simone Mori, the Italian who is team leader of the Division Three Team Nippon Hodo in Italy.

"I am very impressed with Tommy. He is an opportunist and he has the speed in the sprints. My team lacks an out and out sprinter and he could serve us well," said Mori. "When I go back to my HQ in Italy next week, I will recommend to our director sportif that Tommy would be invaluable to the team and me."

"The team gets a lot of invitations to participate all over the world. We have 16 in the squad. Last season I did exceptionally well, winning over 10 events including wins in China and the inaugural Gamuda Eagle Tour of Malaysia."

That was where Evans first caught Mori's eye. "I remember him from Malaysia, he was an inspiration to the young Irish team that won the team prize, and I know he could instill that type of camaraderie that all outfits in the pro ranks need. You only have to look at him this week mixing it with the big boys in the sprints. On Wednesday I got into difficulty and Tommy was there. Yes! He could be a real asset to Nippon," said Simone.

When approached, Tommy Evans was rather coy about the developments that have happened in the race. "Naturally, I would be delighted to have a go. I have a few years left and the thought of being a pro up to now did not really appeal to me. Sure! I'm all game for it," said Tommy.

Scott Sunderland checks in

In his first diary entry for 2003, Belgian based Aussie pro Scott Sunderland outlines what he's been doing in recent weeks during the off-season, as well as the equipment he's been riding and wearing. With Team fakta all set for Division I, let's hope that this is a big year for Scott Sunderland as well.

Age Concern's Bike the Nile challenge

UK charity Age Concern will be holding a fundraising bike ride along the River Nile in October 2003. Money raised by the participants will help Age Concern continue providing services for older people in the UK.

The event is eight days long and involves cycling 400km along the banks of the River Nile, experiencing the sights of one of the oldest civilisations on Earth. After riding during the day, the evenings will be spent relaxing on a Nile cruise ship. The route runs along the east and west banks of the Nile, taking in the High Dam at Aswan, the Valley of the Kings, and the temples of Luxor.

Bike the Nile is open to all cyclists over the age of 18, and participants are required to raise £2,500 to enter.

Intermountain Orthopaedics/Lost River cycling team

The Intermountain Orthopaedics/Lost River cycling team based in Boise, Idaho, is looking for success in 2003. Among the team's hopes is Cody Peterson, second at the 2002 collegiate national MTB championships behind teammate and Tour de Langkawi winner Tom Danielson. The Pro/1/2 team also includes top masters rider Eric Smedberg, Erin Witter, Justin Maines and Andy Bopp.

The IO/LRC team will primarily be focused on a local and regional race schedule. "But, we will provide whatever national support we can to Cody" said Bopp, who serves as the team director. "Cody has what it takes to make a splash in the road racing world this year."

There is also a Cat. 3 team that includes Thomas Grant, MTB'er Davey Moore and junior rider Topher Hurley. "Although only 15 we foresee great things for Topher," Bopp says "Look for him at this years junior nationals." The IO/LRC team also includes a solid women's group and a Cat 4 men's group.

Sponsors include Intermountain Orthopaedics, Shimano USA, Titus Cycles, Hutchinson Tires, Cat Eye, Thomson, Smith’s Sport Optics, Sock Guy, Chris King, Rolf Prima, Louis Garneau, Screamin’ Toad Cycles, Parrilla Grill, Big City Coffee, St. Luke’s Idaho Elks Rehabilitation Services (SLIERS), Smith and Gray Family Dentistry, Mail Boxes Etc. Boise Weekly, Boise Co-Op and Murphy, Holzer and Vaughan, LLC .

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