Latest News for February 26, 2003
Edited by Chris Henry & Tim Maloney
French teams concerned about selections
When Vuelta a España organiser Unipublic announced that it had signed an agreement to include all [Division I/II] Spanish professional teams in the next three years, flags went up among the other European teams, particularly the French. Was the decision on the part of the Spanish organisers a response to the wild card selection process for the Tour de France, which in recent years has seemed to favour French teams at the expense of higher-ranked formations from outside France?
The notable difference between the Vuelta and the Tour selection process, going into the next three years, is that Unipublic has explicitly promised entry to Spanish teams, an agreement signed with the association of Spanish professional teams. At the Tour de France, the Société du Tour de France reserves the right to arbitrarily decide on the eight wild card selections (out of 22 teams), although this is done at two points in the spring and is designed to be based on teams' results in the early season. The final four wild cards for the 2003 Tour will be announced May 19.
It would be difficult to say that the Société du Tour's process is entirely objective, and the Tour organisers do place great importance on teams' participation in its other major races such as Paris-Nice and Paris-Roubaix (recall the reaction to Mario Cipollini's decision not to race Paris-Roubaix in 2002). Certainly in recent years the organisation has been accused of favouritism to the French teams at the expense of better qualified foreign teams. Comparing the responsibilities of selection for the Tour compared to the Vuelta, Tour de France director Jean-Marie Leblanc sees the situation in fairly simple terms.
"The fundamental difference is that practically all teams want to participate in the Tour de France, while not every team is a candidate for the Giro or the Vuelta," Leblanc explained to l'Equipe. "Therefore, in Italy or in Spain, the organisers have fewer obligations than I do vis-à-vis international cycling."
Indeed, the Giro d'Italia selection tends to favour Italian teams, though as with the Vuelta, interest from foreign teams to compete is not as pronounced as with the Tour de France. Nonetheless, the equality of the three events in terms of UCI points (500 points for grand tour winner, 70 points for stage win), prompts the question of whether or not all three tours should share the same guidelines for team selection.
At the same time, a number of French team directors underlined their concerns about the selection process. A number of directors, including Roger Legeay (Crédit Agricole), Vincent Lavenu (Ag2R-Prevoyance), and Marc Madiot (FDJeux.com), compare the nature of competition in French races (other than the Tour) and in countries such as Italy and Spain.
"In Italy and Spain there is an air of protection concerning the national teams, and we have trouble racing there," Legeay told l'Equipe. "I'm sure there are as many UCI points in French races as there are in Spain or Italy. Here in France we're always in a more international context, whether it be at the Tour Med, the Tour du Haut Var, or in Plouay, while in other countries the there is less of an international presence."
This sentiment was echoed by FDJeux.com's Madiot, who noted that "in French races the competition is always stronger. You need only look at the start lists."
The UCI's Professional Cycling Council (PCC) ultimately prefers to see Division I teams given their proper place in the major races, thus the final selections for the grand tours, will be eagerly anticipated by all.
Italian teams ask RAI TV for more coverage
Claudio Corti, president of the professional cycling team league in Italy, met in Rome with an official of the Rai television network and a government official responsible for communications. Corti and his group requested the meeting to protest the fact that cycling is being shifted more frequently to Rai's satellite TV channel RaiSat, instead of being broadcast on Rai 3.
Corti was satisfied with his colloquial discussion with Paolo Franchi, director of RAI Sport. "Some of the decisions have already been made," Corti explained, "but (Franchi) is interested in having a dialogue with the professional teams and the organisers to improve the quality of their transmission." However,it's still not clear whether the upcoming Tirrenno- Adriatico will be broadcast live on the main network, as in recent years, or on RaiSat.
Meanwhile, Claudio Santi, director of the Italian Cycling Federation, has sent out a communique asking if the TG2 news shouldn't apologise to the riders that they showed in their controversial TV news scoop of last Friday. No response yet from Rai.
Pantani, Gonzalez wait for decisions
Marco Pantani's lawyer, Roberto Manzo, placed a phone call yesterday to the CAS (Court of Arbitration for Sport) in Lausanne, Switzerland to ask the status of the appeal decision for Pantani. Manzo was quoted in Gazzetta dello Sport, expressing his frustration at the delay. "The verdict was supposed to have been communicated by the 25th of February. This was guaranteed," said Manzo. "They explained to me that the dossier was not yet complete because it took more time than they thought, however I don't think it's right that Pantani has to wait so long.
"I asked them to give me an indication of the sentence, as has been done in other cases," he continued. "I hope that we'll hear something in the next few days." Evidently one member of the CAS panel has not signed off on the decision.
At the same time, the status of Aitor Gonzalez remains unknown, as the UCI has yet to deliver a decision on the dispute between Fassa Bortolo and Domane Vacanze-Elitron. Gonzalez and his manager Angel Buenache are confident that the rider will officially join Fassa Bortolo, with whom he has clearly aligned himself. The question remains when Gonzalez will be able to begin racing in 2003.
Many observers don't see a chance of Gonzalez going to Domane Vacanze, but expect an arrangement to be made between the two teams in the form of a buyout.
Women's cycling taking off in Australia
By Karen Forman
Australia could become home to a dazzling new five-week elite women's cycling bonanza as early as next year, hammering home its intention to become one of the leading women's cycling nations in the world.
Cycling Australia president Mike Victor told Cyclingnews in Geelong this week that plans were afoot to link the existing national road championships, the Geelong-Bellarine Tour and the Australian round of the World Cup with two new events - a four or five day tour in the NSW Snowy Mountains and a women's race at the Tour Down Under in Adelaide.
Mr. Victor said a manager's meeting in Geelong preceding this week's inaugural Geelong-Bellarine Tour, had embraced the plan enthusiastically. "There had already been talk of bringing back a race in Cooma, which hosted the Tour de Snowy, the Geelong Tour's predecessor, until last year," he said.
"The plan is to hold a longer tour in Cooma as well as the Geelong Tour and them put them into the calendar to be close enough to the nationals and the World Cup to make it attractive to the international riders to come out for all of them. There has also been talk about putting a women's race into the Tour Down Under and that could happen as early as next year... so that would give us five elite events in a five-week period."
Mr. Victor said a training base could be established in Geelong, home to the Geelong Tour and the World Cup and within easy traveling distance of Cooma and Adelaide. He agreed with comments on Monday by NSW Institute of Sport Coach Gary Sutton and his son James Victor, AIS women's coach, that women's cycling had never been healthier in Australia.
"The fact that we have had such great support from Victorian Major Events, the Victorian Government and the City of Geelong, which rescued the World Cup for Australia this year, is very positive for cycling," he said. "Support from sponsors means it is easier to get more events. We have very happy that Australia has managed to retain its World Cup round - one of nine in the world. Victoria has it for the next three years."
"Plus I think next year being an Olympic year will mean the nations will spend more money on getting their riders fit and competitive... and sending them to Australia for a five-week racing season would be just right."
Geelong, a seaside city an hour's drive west of Melbourne, has proven to be most supportive of cycling in the past. It hosts the annual Bay Classic criterium series each January.
Two new Japanese Div III teams
Though the teams themselves are not new, two Japanese teams have joined the professional ranks, registering wit the UCI in Division III. Both teams are comprised exclusively of Japanese riders.
Team managers: Akira Asada and Tomokazu Fujino
Team managers: Akira Bandou and Kenji Maruyama
Global Racing returns
The Global Racing Mountain Bike Team will return to international racing in 2003 despite not having a corporate sponsor for the program. Team director Martin Whiteley confirms that he has signed four riders, along with the majority of the Official Suppliers from 2002.Whiteley plans to fund the team himself this year, after facing difficulties in securing greater sponsorship support.
The team is designed with an eye on the future, with 21 year old Cesar Rojo ranking as the senior member. Rojo has ridden with Global Racing since the team's inception. The team will focus on UCI World Cup, NORBA, and Spanish Maxxis Cup events.
Cesar Rojo (Spa)
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2003)