First Edition News for February 17, 2003
Edited by Jeff Jones
European season objectives: Part II
By João Cravo
At the time of publication of Part I of the European objectives for 2003, the relatively flat roads of Mallorca had been the only difficulties the riders had faced. A week later as we write Part II, Mont Faron has already been climbed by the riders during the Tour Méditerranéen.
Mont Faron isn't the hardest of climbs, but it's always a test for any true climber. And the victory of David Moncoutié there symbolized the beginning of a new and harder phase of the season that started at the Tour Méditerranéen (February 12-16) and will finish at the Setmana Catalana (March 24-28), before the arrival of the Classics of the North in April.
In Part I, we revealed the objectives of US Postal, ONCE, Telekom, Quick Step, Fassa Bortolo, Cofidis, Rabobank and Team Coast. It's now time to introduce the 2003 plans of another eight teams.
Banned from the 2002 Giro after a failed drug test in the Giro del Trentino a few weeks earlier, Gilberto Simoni and his team Saeco saw their participation in the 2002 Tour being refused by Jean-Marie Leblanc. Nearly a year after, Saeco is already in possession of a ticket to ride the Centenary Tour. That's all very well, but it's not the team's main objective for 2003.
"We want Gilberto Simoni to win the Giro like he did in 2001," says a conclusive Claudi Corti, "And we want Danilo di Luca to win some World Cup races. Maybe even the final classification."
A man of convictions, the manager of Saeco puts his faith in the team's youngsters, Damiano Cunego and Antonio Bucciero (both 21 years old). "I'm hopeful that Damiano will blossom out this year," enthuses Corti, "And Antonio can be simply the revelation of 2003."
Although Claudio Corti didn't mention a single word about the Tour, that doesn't necessarily reflect a disrespect of the race, it may be just a tactical blackout.
Turning to another Italian team, Domina Vacanze-Elitron, if Mario Cipollini is right, his World title in Zolder is equivalent to an invitation to the Tour. "We hope to be invited there of course," confirmed Domina Vacanze's assistant team manager Giuseppe Petito. "We'll take a competitive squad there and...the World's best sprinter!"
But the season doesn't start and end in July. "Our main objective is Milan-San Remo and the World Cup," confessed Petito, "And we haven't forgotten that Mario needs to win two stages in the Giro to beat Alfredo Binda's record of 41 wins."
Like the Italian squad in Zolder, Domina Vacanze-Elitron will be a team fully dedicated to Mario Cipollini.
The two best Belgian teams of 2002 merged to form what is possibly the second best Belgian team of 2003. Lotto-Domo is a one day race driven team, and it's not surprising that the World Cup is their primary target. "Robbie McEwen has the condition to win Milan-San Remo," reveals team manager Marc Sergeant. "Peter Van Petegem is our man for the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, while Rik Verbrugghe, winner of the Flèche Wallonne in 2001, can possibly win again this year."
Sergeant is conscious that the major tours are a little out of reach for a squad like Lotto-Domo. "I'd be happy to see one of our riders finish the Tour on the Top 10," he says. "That would be just great."
Considered as a climber of great potential, the French rider Miguel Martinez was signed by Phonak to help them get a place in the 2003 Tour. The French media is already anticipating the struggle between Martinez and Richard Virenque in the race for the polka dotted jersey.
"The Tour is a major objective for us," conceded team manager Urs Freuler. "The arrival of Martinez and Santi Perez makes us a much stronger team than before."
That strength can be measured. "We can make the Top 10 of the UCI team rankings," adds Freuler. "We have the riders to achieve that goal."
The Vuelta and World Cup are also on the agenda of the team that has in Oscar Camenzind a solid and skilled leader.
Certain of its presence in the professional peloton until at least December 2005, Crédit Agricole begins the 2003 season with some serenity. It's the sixth season for them since 1998, when GAN become Crédit Agricole. "The Tour still our main objective, what did you expect?" states manager Roger Legeay, "We'll open up on three fronts there. Christophe Moreau for the overall classification, Stuart O'Grady for the green jersey, and the same O'Grady plus Thor Hushovd and Jens Voigt for the stage wins."
A good and solid program in itself, but not exhaustive. "The Dauphiné Libéré, Paris-Roubaix, Tour of Flanders and the French championships are typed in bold on our 2003 agenda," says Legeay. "And we couldn't dismiss a race named 'Coupe de France-Crédit Agricole', could we?"
It's quite possible that December 31, 2003, will be the last of the 5,475 days of the Reynolds-Banesto/Banesto/iBanesto.com team's history. We could talk about its glorious past, but we are here to talk about the future.
"The Tour and Vuelta will once again be at the top of our priorities," explains manager Eusebio Unzué. "Followed by several other stage races in Spain and France."
It looks to be the usual schedule in a year that will be different enough for the team, but Unzué's remains positive. "We trust that Francisco Mancebo, Juan Miguel Mercado and Denis Menchov will this year confirm their full leadership potential at the Tour and Vuelta," he added. "On the other hand, the Osa brothers, Leonardo Piepoli and Pablo Lastras can assume the same role at races like Paris-Nice or Vuelta al Pais Vasco."
For a stage race driven team, one day races are like a raincoat on a sunny day - they just don't fit. "We'll ride several World Cup races because we have to," says a resigned Eusébio Unzué. "But we are aware of our limits in that kind of competition."
Without the retired Laurent Jalabert and the almost-but-not-quite-engaged Jan Ullrich, CSC seems less strong than the team that finished 2002 in the Top 10. CSC's manager Bjarne Riis disagrees. "We have a solid, strong team," replies Riis. "I think we can rank two men in the Top 10 of the 2003 Tour."
In tacit agreement we put forward the names of Carlos Sastre and Tyler Hamilton. "We have good riders for the classics like Andrea Tafi, Lars Michaelsen and Tristan Hoffman," continued Riis. "And others like Sastre and Hamilton that are good stage race riders."
However the loss of co-sponsor Tiscali doesn't make things easier for CSC.
After four seasons in professional cycling, Gerolsteiner obtained the 7th position in the UCI rankings, and in that way won a ticket valid for all the major tours as well as the World Cup events. "For a long time we dreamed of a participation in the Tour," says a proud manager Hans-Michael Holczer. "And now we are there!"
Not only because the UCI rules say so. "We know that we can't play for the overall classification," recognises Gerolsteiner's team manager. "But we might well get one or two stage wins."
Even if Gerolsteiner are automatically invited to the Giro, Tour and Vuelta, the squad's roster better fits the World Cup races. "I'm very hopeful about the World Cup," states Holczer, "Davide Rebellin and Markus Zberg were 4th and 26th last year and I believe they can do better this time."
(to be continued)
49th Vuelta Andalucía "Ruta Ciclista del Sol"
By Jeff Jones
The second Spanish race of the season after Mallorca is the Vuelta Andalucía, more commonly known as the Ruta del Sol. The five stage race that runs from Sunday, February 16 to Thursday, February 20, is expected to present a bigger challenge this year, with the inclusion of more mountains.
There are a total of 19 categorised climbs in the race, including the Cat. 1 Puerto De Trassierra in stage 1, and the Cat. 1 Alto Santuario Nuestra Señora De Araceli in stage 3. This climb will finish the stage, with a nasty 18% section near the top. The remaining stages are also dotted with Cat. 2 and Cat. 3 climbs.
That won't stop the likes of sprinters Erik Zabel (Telekom), Jaan Kirsipuu (Ag2r), Oscar Freire (Rabobank), Alexandre Usov (Phonak), Olaf Pollack (Gerolsteiner) and Allan Davis (ONCE) taking part, as there are enough stages for the fast men to shine, provided their teams work hard.
For the overall GC it's more open, as we haven't yet seen which of the Spanish riders have had good winter preparation. Francisco Cabello (Kelme) has to be a favourite, having finished twice second in the event, in a total of twelve participations. Last year's winner Toni Colom (Fuenlabrada) will not be back to defend his title, having suffered from pneumonia recently.
iBanesto.com's Aitor Osa, Javier Pascual Rodriguez, Juan Antonio Flecha and Leonardo Piepoli represent a solid core of climbing strength, and they should hope to do well in this early season Spanish race. And after his victory in the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under, Ag2r's Mikel Astarloza can probably be pencilled in on the favourites list.
The experienced and canny Mikel Zarrabeitia leads the ONCE team, which is mainly a line up of younger riders such as Giampaolo Caruso, Allan Davis, Jonathan Gonzalez, Joaquin Rodriguez and David Arroyo.
For the foreign teams, Phonak's Juan Carlos Dominguez and Oscar Pereiro, Quick Step's Johan Museeuw and Tom Boonen, Lotto-Domo's Axel Merckx, Peter Van Petegem and Rik Verbrugghe, and Gerolsteiner's Davide Rebellin will all be part of the action.
Stage 1 - February 16: Córdoba - Córdoba, 179.6 km
Kiwi McCauley to stay home for Winter
By Alan Messenger
New Zealand Road Champion Gordon McCauley will not race in Europe this season, instead he has elected to stay home and concentrate on his new career as a Sales Rep for a Cycling accessories Importer.
McCauley lined up last week in the popular Te Awamutu Summer Road series race in a field stacked with overseas bound professionals and up and coming champions. As usual the former Otago representative was not stuck for words.
"I've been told that if you can win a race here you're good enough to win in Europe," McCauley said. He went on to win, beating Karl Moore who heads off to Italy this week and Ryan Russell who will again spend the season in the USA.
McCauley is not retiring from the sport, he intends to be at Athens for the Olympics there. "As the New Zealand Road Champion I'm qualified to ride the Oceania Games and If I win there I'll qualify for the Olympics," he said.
McCauley has also been quoted recently as having intentions of riding the track and trying to qualify for the team pursuit squad. He told Cyclingnews that he has posted some good times on the Auckland Velodrome, but he didn't ride the Auckland Championships. "I'm not registered with the Auckland centre so I couldn't really ride there," he said.
Mondini to Domina Vacanze
Gianpaolo Mondini, currently serving a suspension for drug use, will ride for Domina Vacanze-Elitron this season. Last year he was with US Postal for a short time, before being suspended by the Italian Cycling Federation for nine months.
UK warns athletes against supplement use
UK Sport have issued a strong warning to athletes about the risks of using supplements. Athletes who take dietary supplements run the risk of failing a drugs test, according to the latest 'Nandrolone Progress Report' presented to UK Sport. The report examines research conducted over the last two years which has confirmed earlier findings of banned substances not listed on the labels of some supplements.
A study in Cologne last year found that 94 out of 634 non-hormonal dietary supplements were found to contain prohibited anabolic/androgenic steroids not listed on the label. In addition, the Austrian Federal Ministry for Social Security and Public Welfare carried out similar tests on 54 supplements, finding that 22% contained banned substances. In all cases, athletes taking the contaminated supplements would give a positive sample if tested for drugs under International Olympic Committee (IOC) rules.
UK Sport's report states that: "Competitors are again strongly advised that using dietary supplements carries the potential risk of unknowingly ingesting a banned substance. We therefore recommend UK Sport to encourage more manufacturers and suppliers of sports supplements to strive to eliminate problem substances, and to label their products clearly to enable sport participants to avoid substances banned by the IOC."
In the UK (and the USA and several other countries), athletes are considered "at their own risk" when taking supplements. That means sanctions will be imposed even though the athlete could have ingested the banned substance inadvertently. The recent case of US cyclist Scott Moninger is one example of this.
UK Sport CEO Richard Callicott commented that "With the potential risks of contamination or poor labelling associated with supplements highlighted in this report, UK Sport feels it is right to advise athletes to be extremely cautious about the use of any supplements. Athletes taking supplements are doing so at their own risk and personal responsibility."
On a more positive not, Callicott said that "I am delighted to see that this message seems to be getting through, as the number of nandrolone findings in relation to total drug tests has fallen significantly since the peak in 1999."
"To improve the situation even further, we are keen to work with the supplement manufacturers to ensure that appropriate standards of labelling are met and the problems of cross-contamination overcome."
The report examined other issues that have arisen regarding nandrolone. These include the recent changes to the IOC/WADA banned substance list which specified for the first time the level of nandrolone in a sample that would lead to a penalty for a doping violation.
For more information, see the UK Sport website, www.uksport.gov.uk. For an overview of the problem of tainted supplements, including the case of Scott Moninger, see the Cyclingnews report, Tainted Supplements: Positive or not?
Canadian EPO doctor faces 14 charges
The Québécois doctor, Dr. Maurice Duquette, who is accused of illegally offering EPO to 11 people including a female cyclist, now faces 14 charges, according to a report on CBC radio and Canadian Cyclist. Police found quantities of EPO at Dr. Duquette's practice, and charged him with prescribing EPO, among other offences.
CBC radio interviewed Louis Barbeau, director of the Fédération québécoise des sports cyclistes (FQSC), who said that it was a female cyclist who first made the complaint against the doctor at the end of 2001. The FQSC took their concerns to the provincial medical association, which started the investigation. The findings are expected to be released later this month.
March reopening date hoped for Frisco Superdrome
The Frisco Superdrome in Texas, closed since May 2002, is hoping for a March 2003 reopening, according to Frisco club president Ryan Crissey in the Dallas Morning News. The wooden track needs refurbishing, with an estimated repair bill of US$30,000 - dramatically lower than the $200,000 figure that Crissey was quoted last year. The lower figure is due to the difference in finish used on the boards. A stained waterproof finish will be used instead of a more aesthetically pleasing laminated finish.
Crissey estimates that the repairs will take a month, and work is expected to start in February. Then he and the Frisco club will have the task of attracting at least $50,000 in sponsorship each year to make sure the velodrome stays afloat, so to speak. The Frisco club is now responsible for most of the operating costs, while Frisco city council will contribute to the electricity bill.
If everything goes to plan, the Frisco Superdrome hopes to introduce a Friday Night Track Racing Series on April 18, aimed at all ages and abilities.
Morris Financial Group/Eastside Cycles
The Eastside Cycles team has added the Morris Financial Group as a presenting sponsor for 2003. This year's new riders will add to the team's existing squad, which includes past winners of the Match Sprint, Kilo and Team Pursuit, the Burlingame Criterium, stages of the Tour of Ohio and a former Jr. World's team member. The team's triathletes have won the Canadian Women's Ironman and the California State Police games.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2003)