News for January 29, 2003
Edited by Chris Henry
BigMat-Auber: Division II for 2003
Faced with a diminished budget, the French BigMat-Auber team will nevertheless continue in 2003, with a move to the Division II ranks. The team's title sponsor had initially decided to end its support after the team's non-selection for last year's Tour de France, however its sponsorship will carry on for one more year. This year although the team will continue, selection for races remains a thorny issue, particularly in France.
"Our major concern lies in France," team manager Stéphane Javalet told l'Equipe. "For example, we were not selected for Paris-Nice. As a result, our participation in the Tour de France would seem impossible. As far as selections go, I would note that our Spanish and Italian friends pose fewer questions."
Javalet has seen his team budget cut from 3.05 million euros to 2.2 million, while the team roster has dropped from 20 to 13 riders, including the retirement of team leader Stéphane Heulot. With Heulot gone, leadership will fall on the shoulders of Spaniard Felix Garcia Casas, 7th in last year's Vuelta a España.
BigMat-Auber roster for 2003:
Saeco ends contract with Longoni Sport
The Saeco cycling team has agreed to end its contract for 2002 and 2003 with second sponsor Longoni Sport. Giacomelli Sport, new owners of Longoni Sport, initiated the break in sponsorship, to which Saeco agreed after recent meetings. Team manager Claudio Corti accepted the agreement, meaning that Longoni-Sport will no longer appear on the team jerseys. Corti is searching for replacement sponsors, however if no sponsor is found within the very near future, the team will begin the season as "Team Saeco". The team's 2003 season opener is rapidly approaching, with competition beginning at the Tour of Qatar.
Tour of Tasmania off
By Jeff Jones
The UCI 2.6 classified Tour of Tasmania, scheduled to run between January 31 and February 2, will definitely not go ahead this year. Race promoter John Trevorrow confirmed this to Cyclingnews today, but did say that it would be back on next year in a slightly different format.
"At the moment there are talks with the Tasmanian government and the Tasmanian Cycling Federation," said Trevorrow. "We've got a potential sponsor for next year. If we'd found that a fraction earlier, we could have held it this year."
"We have to change the format," added Trevorrow, who will not be promoting the race next year, but will still be involved in the organisational and sponsorship side. "It will be a combination of elite and developmental Australian teams, so in theory it will be open to all riders of A and B grade quality."
It will therefore not be given UCI status, but will revert to being a National Event. At the moment, the stage details have yet to be worked out, although the race will still be held in February.
Considered Australia's oldest stage race, the Tour of Tasmania was first run in 1930, won by legendary Australian cyclist Sir Hubert Opperman. However it wasn't until 1954 that it was staged again, being run almost continuously up until 2002. Last year, the race was won by South Australian Luke Roberts.
Siemens mobile/Cannondale race team confirmed
As reported back on January 14, Siemens and Cannondale have joined forces to sponsor the Siemens mobile/Cannondale race team. The team will compete in the 2003 and 2004 World Cup seasons and all major international and European mountain bike races. Rainer-Wurz.com, the company owned by former mountain bike racer Markus Rainer and Formula 1 driver Alex Wurz, helped to bring the companies together and will run the team. Cannondale will provide state-of-the-art racing bikes, technical expertise and support while Siemens mobile will provide financial support and phones.
The new team includes Christoph Sauser (Switzerland), Roel Paulissen (Belgium), Tinker Juarez (U.S.), Hannes Pallhuber (Italy) and Franz Hofer (Italy) for cross-country, and Cedric Gracia (France) and Petra Bernhard (Austria) for downhill and four-cross. The riders come from the Rainer-Wurz.com team and the former Volvo/Cannondale squad, the winningest team in mountain bike history.
The team's contract runs for two years and the squad will compete on three different Cannondale race bikes, the Gemini for downhill, Jekyll for four-cross and the Scalpel for cross-country. Cedric Gracia's participation at the Red Bull Ride last week in Australia marked the official debut of the new Siemens mobile/Cannondale team.
Matthias Buxhofer, 29, has been suspended for 18 months by the Austrian cycling federation, prohibited from racing until August 14, 2004. Buxhofer, who plans to appeal the decision, tested positive for norandrosterone (nandralone) during the 2002 Tour of Denmark. Following the initial non-negative test result, he was suspended by Phonak in accordance with the team's anti-doping rules. Phonak did not renew Buxhofer's contract for 2003.
The Danish Sports Federation (DIF) has overturned Bo Hamburger's lifetime ban from Danish cycling, resulting from a positive EPO test in 2001, according to an AP report. An appeals commission from the federation declared the suspension invalid, indicating that the test results were unreliable. The following statement was offered by the Danish Sports Federation: "After the acquittal of Bo Hamburger on August 9, 2001 by the DIF's anti-doping committee, the appeals commission of the DIF has determined that the DCU (Danish Cycling Federation) can no longer exclude Bo Hamburger from the national team."
Hamburger's original positive test for EPO gave the cyclist the regrettable distinction of having been the first rider to fail the UCI's test for EPO, introduced in April 2001.
Coupe de France presented
The 2003 Coupe de France series was presented Tuesday in Paris, at the headquarters of cable television network Canal Plus. The Sport + network (formerly Pathé Sport) will continue to broadcast each round of racing. The series, sponsored by Crédit Agricole, features 15 events throughout the season, and is open to French riders and riders on French teams. The 2003 Coupe de France kicks off with the Tour de Haut Var on February 22 and wraps up October 2 with Paris-Bourges. Bonjour's Franck Bouyer claimed the overall honours in the 2002 Coupe de France.
Coupe de France for 2003:
February 22: Tour du Haut Var
Challenge Illes Baleares
This sunday will mark a traditional beginning of the road season in Europe, the Challenge Mallorca, which this year undergoes a name change, becoming the Challenge Illes Baleares. Twenty teams are set to ride the event, with such luminaries present as Oscar Freire (Rabobank), Paolo Bettini (Quick-Step), Joseba Beloki (ONCE), and Erik Zabel (Telekom). The five stages carry a total distance of 732km, including 12 categorised climbs.
February 2: Trofeo Palma de Mallorca, 82.5km
Axel Merckx already thinking of World's
His season has yet to begin, but Belgian Axel Merckx (Lotto-Domo) is already thinking of the World Championships in October. Merckx has yet to set in stone many of his season's objectives, but he makes it clear that to succeed in Hamilton, Canada, hometown of his wife Jodi, is his number one ambition.
The former Belgian national champion has not yet decided whether he will race the Giro or the Tour, though he will only contest one grand tour this season. "To do the Giro, take a break, then build back up for the end of the season and the World's in Canada would be ideal," Merckx told La Dernière Heure, "since I absolutely want to shine in Hamilton."
After early season races such as the Tour du Haut Var and Paris-Nice, Merckx will set as his first major goals the second half of the spring classics season, including Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. With these races in mind, Merckx will leave the Flemish classics to his Lotto-Domo teammates Peter Van Petegem, Robbie McEwen, and Serge Baguet. "There are enough good riders and leaders in the team to allow me to sit out the northern classics," he said. "Each of us will try this year to succeed in his preferred domain."
No pain for Ullrich
Jan Ullrich indicated Tuesday that the knee pain which derailed his 2002 season has not posed any problem since during his preparation for 2003. Ullrich, who spent the last week in training with his new team, Team Coast, completed his first major outing without incident. "I've already noticed that during my training my knee has not pose any more problems," he commented. "Despite everything, I don't want to get ahead of myself, and I will slowly work on my physical condition."
Next stop for the 29 year old Ullrich will be three weeks of preparation in Tuscany with training partner (and now Coast teammate) Tobias Steinhauser. Although his planned debut for 2003 is the Setmana Catalana in March, Ullrich's director Rudy Pevenage insists that the schedule remains flexible, depending on the German's progress.
Dylan Casey moves on
Dylan Casey has decided to look for new challenges, announcing his retirement from the professional peloton Tuesday. Casey received offers to continue with both American and European teams, following his time with U.S. Postal, but decided to pursue other goals.
"Cycling is now a hobby," he said. "I'm honoured to have been a part of the U.S. Postal Cinderella story. I'll miss being part of such a class organization and most of all, I'll miss my teammates." Casey will look for new opportunities in corporate America, though he has not yet revealed specific plans.
Casey was a gold medallist at the Pan Am Games, a member of the 2000 U.S. Olympic team, and the third U.S. cyclist in history to win national championships on both the road and track in the same year.
Tough luck for travelers
On its way to Malaysia for the Tour de Langkawi, Team fakta's season did not start on a note of confidence, as an airplane fire delayed the riders' departure from Frankfurt airport. Team manager Kim Andersen explained what happened: "The plane was taxiing on the runway when suddenly it came to an abrupt stop at the end of the strip. Shortly after that the passengers could smell smoke and the oxygen masks dropped; the engine appeared to be on fire as there was heaps of smoke. The people had to get off the plane, wait for three hours, and then got put up in the Sheraton in Frankfurt so they could get on a flight out the next day."
After the unpleasant delay, the team continued on its way without further incident. "Of course it would have been good to get to Langkawi on time," Andersen added, "so the team could acclimatise that one more day. But I'm already happy they got there safely."
Another rider subjected to unexpected stress was Saeco's neo-pro Antonio Bucciero. On his way to Qatar for the team's first race of the season, Bucciero lost his passport after his house was broken into on Monday. Quick work by Saeco team staff allowed Bucciero to get a copy of his passport, assuring his departure for Qatar with the rest of the team on Wednesday.
Australian Mountain Bike Nationals in doubt
The Australian Mountain Bike Nationals are in doubt after firefighters back-burnt the Mt. Beauty hillside yesterday in an attempt to protect the Mt. Beauty township from the approaching fires that have burnt in the area for the last few weeks.
Event managers said "The site is a soot and dust bowl. Bulldozers have been over the major tracks to make a solid break and as everything is so dry, there is no firm base to anything. We will not have access to water for some time. As we stood debating our options, we could hear the cracking and falling of trees. Over the next few weeks, it will be impossible for our teams to work on the courses as the ground and trees will still be so unstable. Even if we managed to get the courses in rideable condition, it will be extremely unpleasant for volunteers to be stationed on the course in such filthy surroundings and certainly will not be conducive to spectator comfort."
Key people within Cycling Australia and MTBA have been informed and are currently deciding on a direction to take. A final decision will be made no later than Friday January 31.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2002)