News for January 19, 2003
Edited by Chris Henry
Gonzalez & Fassa Bortolo still uncertain
By Tim Maloney
At Saturday's 2003 Fassa Bortolo team presentation in Treviso, Italy, new arrival Aitor Gonzalez was present, but the Spanish rider was not presented as an official member of the team. Although Gonzalez had his own page in the team's official media guide, he didn't join the other riders on the stage when the team was presented and itís still uncertain whether he'll even join Fassa Bortolo at their training camp in Marina di Bibbona starting Monday. Although Gonzalez signed a contract with Fassa Bortolo after his Vuelta win for Kelme, he had also signed a contract with Vicenzo Santoni, boss of the Acqua e Sapone team, in 2001. Gonzalez claims that Santoni released him from his contract to go to Fassa Bortolo, but Santoni refutes this claim by Gonzalez.
"We hope this matter is resolved soon," said Fassa Bortolo team manager Giancarlo Feretti. "It wouldn't be right if (Gonzalez) was presented with the team with this matter still open." For his part, the talented winner of last years Vuelta d'Espana was clear on the way forward when Cyclingnews spoke to him after the Fassa Bortolo presentation. "I want to ride for Fassa Bortolo. I hope this matter is settled soon... it is hard to train with all this uncertainty."
However, when Cyclingnews called Vincenzo Santoni at his home Saturday night, his opinion of the Aitor Gonzalez situation was markedly different. "Well, I think it has to be the choice of any rider which team he wants to ride in, but this entire affair with Gonzalez is unfortunate," explained Santoni. "Gonzalez has simply made a false statement regarding his contract release. We signed him in November 2001; I saw him ride at the Vuelta and liked him as a rider and his contract was for 3 years. The whole story that I released him for 50,000 euros in cash three days before the end of the Vuelta is just false. Even if I were going to release Gonzalez, I would have asked for more money at that point for his release since he was going to win the Vuelta! But my signature was falsified on this contract release and there is no real proof of this matter."
Santoni wasn't too concerned about the way the matter was proceeding. "We are concentrating on the new Domina Vacanze-Elitron team and having the best possible situation for Mario Cipollini. I'm sleeping well since I know I have nothing to hide." According to the UCIís Alain Rumpf, no decision on the Gonzalez matter has been made yet, but insiders expect this to be settled by the end of January.
Look for a complete report of the 2003 Fassa Bortolo team presentation tomorrow on Cyclingnews.
Pantani Comeback Team In Doubt?
By Tim Maloney
On the comeback trail training in Majorca, Marco Pantani had some bad news on Friday from UCI headquarters in Aigle, Switzerland. His potential new team, Mercatone Uno-Scanavino-La Verve, didn't figure among the first round of teams approved by the UCI for Division II on Friday.
Pantani's squad now has an extension until January 31 to comply with all of the UCI's rules regarding team registration. Despite the fact that Pantani and his entourage expected that the squad would make the preliminary Division II list of pro teams, the UCI did not confirm the squad as official.
When UCI managers checked the new team's documentation package, it seemed that an original, certified copy of Mercatone Uno-Scanavino-La Verve's bank guarantee was not included. However, Davide Boifava, general manager of the still unconfirmed team, is expected to resolve this matter next week and Marco's new squad should go forward for the 2003 season.
Should Mercatone Uno-Scanavino-La Verve go south due to shaky finances, or a sudden pull-out by Scanavino boss Antonio Fermo, Pantani reportedly also has an offer from new Division I team Sidermec to join his former teammate Stefano Garzelli.
Another alternative for Pantani could be to have a small Division II team sponsored only by Mercatone Uno. His loyal sponsor Romano Cenni, owner of the hypermarket chain, has also proposed this alternative supported by an estimated 2.5 million euros. However with only a matter of days before the UCI closes the registration period on Division II teams at the end of January, time could still expire on the 33 year old Pantani's comeback. His team is expected to include a supporting cast of Dani Clavero, Fabio Fontanelli and Pantani's former right hand man on Mercatone Uno, veteran Roberto Conti.
Will McEwen succeed himself?
By Jeff Jones in Ballarat
Today 151 men will line up in downtown (and uptown) Buninyong to contest the BMC Software Australian Open Men's Road Championship. The 180 km race will see Australia's best professionals and amateurs vying for that prestigious green and gold jersey. The start list reads like a who's who of Australian pro cycling, with only a few riders not choosing to take part.
The defending champion is Robbie McEwen, who's triumph last year showed that sprinters can certainly climb. He took advantage of some excellent riding by fellow Queenslander Nathan O'Neill to come to the finish in a two man break. McEwen then went on to win 19 UCI races, the most of any professional rider last season, many of which were gained with the green and gold stripes on his jersey. He finished the season ranked fourth in the world, also the highest by any Australian.
His main rivals today include Stuart O'Grady, the freckle faced South Australian Credit Agricole rider who would dearly love to spend a year in the national champion's jersey. O'Grady would find it tough to beat McEwen in a sprint, but is a great rider in a breakaway. Fellow South Australians Corey (Credit Agricole) and Jay Sweet (Oktos) could also play a role today for O'Grady.
With the state and trade team loyalties being somewhat muddled during the national's, it will be interesting to see what the Flanders-iteamNova.com boys will do. There are five of them: David McKenzie (Vic), Alan Iacuone (Vic), Jamie Drew (Vic), Trent Wilson (NSW), and Jurgen Landrie (Bel), and they are all hungry to win the jersey. Teamwork will play a role in this race, but it's not a good course for mounting a high speed chase. Strength is what counts, and iteamNova hope that they will have it today.
Baden Cooke (Vic/FDJeux.com) has his name painted on the road near the top of Mt Buninyong. The sprinter from Benalla proved that he could climb when he won the Herald Sun Tour late last year, surviving the fearsome ascent of Mt Baw Baw. Cooke rarely gets the better of McEwen in a sprint, but the 24 year old is hoping for a lucky day. Fellow FDJeux.com riders Matt Wilson and Mark Renshaw will be on hand to assist him in his efforts, or may go for it themselves.
Another Victorian to watch is Cadel Evans, who is about to start a year with the Deutsche Telekom team. Evans is perfectly suited for this course, it's just a question of how fit he is at this early stage of the season. If he can get away on the climb, his time trialling is certainly good enough to carry him to the finish.
Sydneysider Matthew White (US Postal) is a rider who can also win on this type of course. Looking leaner than ever, White's formidable strength should see him in front in a break at some stage of the race. Whether it's the right one remains to be seen, but he's hungry enough to win today.
The ACT's Michael Rogers (Quick Step-Davitamon) is still smarting from his loss in the time trial on Friday. He too has the legs to pull off a solo win, but is not sure how he'll fare after 180 km of tough racing.
Others to look out for today include Henk Vogels (WA/Navigators), Luke Roberts (SA/Comnet Senges), Graeme Brown (NSW/Panaria), Patrick Jonker (SA), Mathew Hayman (ACT/Rabobank), Robert Tighello (Vic), Simon Gerrans (Vic/Team Krone), Adrian Laidler (SA), Sean Sullivan (Tas), Steve Williams (NSW), Brent Dawson (NSW/Jelly Belly), Chris Sutton (NSW/NSWIS) and Peter Milostic (NSW).
The circuit used for the Australian road championships is considered one of the toughest ever used in the event, and is designed to select a strong and worthy rider to wear the Australian champion's jersey overseas.
The course measures just over 10 km, starting in the main street of Buninyong, a small country town 10 km south of Ballarat in Victoria. After 300m the riders make a left hand turn onto the Midland Highway, where they immediately start to climb for 1.5 km. Near the top, they make a left hand turn onto Mt Buninyong Rd, and there is a short, slightly downhill section before the road goes up again for another 1.2 km. This second part of the climb is steeper than the first, and is often where the attacks happen.
At the top, there is no time to look at the impressive view, as they turn left onto Yendon & Redline Raceway, then left again onto Yankee Flat Rd. Then it's another left onto Gear Rd and left again into Fisken Rd, when the descent proper begins. This is quite picturesque, and is twisty but not overly technical. After 2.5 km there's a sharp left hander onto Geelong Rd/Warrenheip St, before the final 2 km of downhill to the finish.
Once the road levels out, the finishing straight is about 600m long and is gradually downhill. However, there will almost certainly be no big bunches coming into town to contest the win.
Despite its listing among the unconfirmed for the UCI's Division II ranks for 2003, the French MBK-Oktos team presented its lineup for the coming season on Friday evening at the headquarters of MBK Industries in Saint-Quentin. Team president Pascal Cordier expressed confidence that all documents would be in order for Division II registration before the UCI's January 31 deadline.
The team looks to build upon its successes of 2002, a year in which it counted 11 victories, including stage wins at the Midi Libre, Tour de Suisse, Tour du Limousin, and Tour de l'Avenir. MBK-Oktos will be working hard to establish itself in 2003 at the early season races in France, notably the GP d'Ouverture La Marseillaise, l'Etoile des Bessèges, the Tour Méditerranéen, the throughout the Coupe de France series.
Sprinter Jeremy Hunt, a new recruit for 2003, has suffered an early-season setback, breaking his collarbone while in Australia. A reasonably quick recovery is expected for the former GP Plouay winner.
The full MBK-Oktos lineup is as follows:
Directeurs sportifs: Jean-Philippe Duracka, Pascal Pfinder
Ingevaldsson joins Team Bianchi Scandinavia
Division III Team Bianchi Scandinavia will add another promising rider to its 2003 lineup: Jesper Ingevaldsson. He has mainly competed on MTB but is now, like his club mate Thomas Lövkvist, concentrating on the road. Ingevaldsson finished 20th in the junior Worldís ITT in Zolder and figured in the major break in the road race before being caught with 16 kilometres to go.
Jesper and Thomas will first graduate from the Cycling High School (Jesper on the media programme) before their first pro season becomes serious. They will train with the team on the first camp on Mallorca, beginning February 17, but when the "oldies" start racing in France (seasonís debut at GP Lilliers March 9) and Belgium the two young hopefuls will return to school.
Trek Southwest regional road team
Trek will sponsor a Southwest regional road team for 2003, named Trek/VW/Richardson Bike Mart. The team is comprised of seven Cat I and II's, and will focus on major races in the Southwest including Tour Le Fleur, Tour of the Gila, and the Texas Cup Calendar.
The team is sponsored by Trek Bicycles, Volkswagen of America, Richardson Bike Mart, Boardwalk Auto Group, Power Bar, Nike, Graber, Oakley, Polar, Serfas, and The Sock Guy. The team will ride Trek OCLV bikes with Bontrager wheels and Shimano and Bontrager components.
The roster is as follows:
Chris Powers (Manager/Rider)
Antarte-Rota dos Móveis-BPN thinks big
By João Cravo
The modest but ambitious Portuguese team Antarte-Rota dos Móveis-BPN (formerly Paredes-Rota dos Móveis) has decided to step-up the ladder that might later lead to Division I. The team was Division III last year, but is already thinking big.
Registered as a Division II for the 2003 season, Antarte-Rota dos Móveis-BPN is seriously considering expanding its roster of 12 riders (the minimum allowed by UCI for Division II teams). José Gonçalves de Sousa, manager of Antarte-Rota dos Móveis-BPN, told Cyclingnews, "we are truly looking for a reinforcement that will come from Spain. There are there so many good riders unemployed". Team manager and former Spanish pro Jesus Blanco Villar is helping them make the contacts from a long list of candidates.
"The Basque rider César Solaun is a possibility, yes", confirmed José Gonçalves de Sousa when asked about the former Euskaltel rider, "but also Igor Flores and some others are possibilities as well."
When will the new riders sign for Antarte-Rota dos Móveis-BPN? "That could be tomorrow or later in the season", answered José de Sousa. "We are about to be joined by a new sponsor that will help us to finalise our budget." And to close the deal with the chosen reinforcements.
Jørgensen to Glud & Marstrand Horsens
The Danish Glud & Marstrand Horsens team has signed Hans Henrik JÝrgensen for 2003. Jørgensen, 20, signed a one year contract, and appears to be in good shape following a knee injury. The team now numbers 11 riders, and will begin the racing season on February 9 in Croatia.
Events in doubt due to fires in Australia
The fate of the Red Bull Ride, an invitational freeride event due to be held in Jindabyne, Australia over the coming week, is in doubt as fires across the southeast corner of the country continue to grow. Red Bullís Linda Critchlow spoke to Cyclingnews after being stopped by fire in Canberra. "In the current conditions, it is likely that we will delay the event date to later in the week," she said. "However, anything could happen over the next couple of hours so the full event team will be making a decision at 11am tomorrow morning."
Both Thredbo Village and Jindabyne have been evacuated overnight with only residents permitted to remain. The area is popular with both mountain bikers and road cyclists alike, and national events in both disciplines have been held there in the past.
Another race with problems is Round 4 of the Australian National MTB Cross Country Series, the Tour de Dirt. After having a change of location early in the week, firestorms in Canberra have put to rest all hopes of this race taking place. Due to fire-related communications problems Cyclingnews has not been able to make contact with any competitors or organisers.
Red Bullís Linda Critchlow has just contacted Cyclingnews to inform us that they are still planning to hold the event on Monday and Tuesday of this week.
Dr. Arratibel is back
The Spanish doctor Iñaki Arratibel is back to the world of cycling after an early experience with both iBanesto and BigMat. A PhD in sports medicine from the University of Freibourg, Arratibel is currently teaching physiology at Vitoria, the capital of the Basque Country.
The 44 year old doctor worked for the last three years for the Spanish handball team of Bidasoa, and has now been engaged by Phonak for the 2003 season. There Dr Arratibel will share responsibilities with Tacconi's former doctor, Daniele Tarsi.
Having joined his new team at its training camp in Murcia, Spain, Iñaki Arratibel is sure that his background, which also includes work with the Santander soccer team and the Spanish athletics federation, will be of added value for the Swiss team.
Courtesy of João Cravo
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2002)