Latest News for June 4, 2003
Edited by Chris Henry
Shock chez La Boulangère
The sudden and as-yet unexplained death of 23 year old Fabrice Salanson has left the Brioches La Boulangère team in shock. Hardest his was Salanson's best friend, Sylvain Chavanel, who according to team manager Jean-René Bernaudeau, "couldn't accept the truth, couldn't accept the death of his friend."
Chavanel, in France because he was not scheduled to race the Tour of Germany, was offered the opportunity to accompany Salanson's family on a private plane to Germany. Too distraught by the loss of his friend, Chavanel was unable to muster the energy to make the trip. It was Sylvain's brother Sébastien, Salanson's roommate, who discovered his teammate's body.
Bernaudeau, for his part, also couldn't accept the media attention surrounding the tragic death of Salanson. "People have a hard time accepting it," he said. "Before talking about doping, we have to know the cause of death, we have to wait. Earlier there were television cameras in the hallway. They never come to see us. How many races do we have to win before they come to see us when the death of one rider is enough to bring out the cameras?"
Initial autopsy results from a hospital in Dresden did not provide a clear cause of death, and the German police have opened an investigation, calling for a toxicology exam. "As long as we don't know the cause of death, the investigation is extended," explained the chief investigator. Further autopsy results and toxicology tests are expected Wednesday afternoon.
Following an announcement by the Amaury Sport Organisation, organisers of the Tour de France, that Mario Cipollini's Domina Vacanze team would be definitely excluded from this year's Tour, Jean Marie Leblanc explained the reasons behind the decision. The issue at hand was not so much selection of Domina Vacanze, as the final four wild card selections were announced on May 19. Given the enormous backlash from the cycling community regarding Cipo's non-selection, Leblanc offered to further consider the possibility of adding a 23rd team to the Tour as a special dispensation.
As Leblanc explained to l'Equipe, three factors prompted the decision to consider a 23rd team for the Tour after the May 19 selection announcement. First, Cipollini was forced to abandon the Giro d'Italia following his stage 11 crash. Following the news of the Domina Vacanze team's exclusion from the Tour, Cipollini wrote Leblanc a heart-felt letter which Leblanc explained, "could not be thrown in the trash without consideration." Finally, the possible vacancy left by the crumbling Team Coast was filled once more by Team Bianchi following the UCI's full approval of the new team into the Division I ranks.
"So we decided to reflect a bit more, to examine whether or not a possible solution existed," Leblanc explained. "Our hearts told us to add the 23rd team. Reason told us not to do it. Reason won out."
Leblanc takes the safety and security of the race seriously, and continues to insist that adding a 23rd team poses a real risk. "A twenty-third team represents more riders, more vehicles, and logistical challenges on top of that," he said. "These are risks we did not want to take. I can't help but think that if there should be an accident, there would be no end to the criticism that it was because the Tour was simply too big."
The Tour director, himself a former professional cyclist and journalist, took issue with implications that he did not respect the importance of the world champion's jersey. At the same time, he evoked a recurring sentiment that Cipollini's failure to finish the Tour de France was a strike against him. "As if I, with thirty years of cycling behind me, didn't know the importance of the rainbow jersey! The fact is, we're organisers of a stage race, and our race lasts 23 days."
In the face of repeated criticism of the Tour's selections, notably the preference given to French teams, Leblanc admits that the choice is not always obvious. "Once you make a selection, you're not always sure to have made a perfect choice," he confided. "It was very close. Now, I'm more at ease. Since May 19, the Jean Delatour team was won more races."
While Cipollini has remained quiet on the subject of Domina Vacanze's exclusion from the Tour, the firm's president Ernesto Preatoni issued a statement of his own following ASO's announcement June 2. "We are deeply disappointed by the exclusion of the world champion from the Grande Boucle," Preatoni said. "We believe that Mario Cipollini's presence would have added great value and interest to the race."
"We all worked very hard [for the team's selection] once the decision to exclude the world champion came under review, but unfortunately it was not possible," Preatoni continued."We must, however, recognise all those who helped us and who showed their support for us, beginning with the tifosi. We also thank the organisations such as the Italian cycling federation and CONI (Italian Olympic Committee) for supporting us."
Now that the issue is closed, Domina Vacanze and Cipollini will have to redefine their goals for the remainder of the season.
Pantani still searching for Tour options
With the possibility of riding the Tour de France on loan to Jan Ullrich's Team Bianchi gone, Marco Pantani has continued to seek any possible option for a trip to France in July. With the full support of his Mercatone Uno team management, Pantani is now hoping for a transfer to former teammate Stefano Garzelli's Vini Caldirola-Sidermec squad. The transfer could see Pantani finish the season with Vini Caldirola, not simply ride the Tour. "I'll do everything in my power to see that Pantani rides the centenary Tour," said Mercatone Uno president Romano Cenni.
After his solid 14th place in the Giro d'Italia, which saw the Pirate back to his attacking ways in the mountains, Pantani is eager to test his comeback form against reigning Tour champion Lance Armstrong. "I worked very hard this winter in order to come back to the top. I want to reap the benefits, and that's why I'm inviting myself. It wouldn't be for nothing, I assure you!"
From the UCI's perspective, a transfer is feasible, even if the Vini Caldirola team has had considerably less to say on the subject than Pantani. "As long as the two teams can reach an agreement, Pantani's transfer to Vini Caldirola is perfectly acceptable and in conformance with our regulations," the UCI's Alain Rumpf explained to l'Equipe.
New Division II team from Germany
A new German professional team is in the making, seeking to establish itself as a Division II outfit. The Team Brandenburg-Thüringen" could include up to 15 riders, managed by Peter Minow. The team's aim is to develop younger riders from the Brandenburg and Thüringen regions of Germany.
Minow, who worked with Team Telekom's development squad, hopes to have all sponsorship agreements in place by November, at which point the team will apply for registration with the UCI. The team's budget is expected to be around 1.1 million euro.
Perez on the sidelines
Team Phonak's Santiago Perez remains on the sidelines with continued knee problems. Perez was forced to abandon last month's Tour de Romandie, and has yet to find a solution for his pain, meaning his expected participation in the upcoming Tour de Suisse is uncertain. According to the team, Perez will pay a visit to team doctor Daniele Tarsi in Italy, as well as a specialist.
Christensen ready for CSC
Danish pro former Bekim Christensen, formerly of Team Coast, is now formally ready to join the Danish Team CSC... almost. With all formalities settled with the team, and his contract sent to him in his native city of Horsens, Christensen has had to start his new job by telling his employers he was unable to sign the contract... His printer was out of ink.
Courtesy of Ole Ryborg
Nicolas Barone dies
Former Tour de France yellow jersey wearer Nicolas Barone died at the age of 72 while on a ride. Barone, professional from 1955-1961 and a native of Paris, wore the yellow jersey for a stage in 1957, wearing the colours of the French national team. His moment of glory in 1957 came on a Tour stage to Colmar, where he took the yellow jersey from the shoulders of Jacques Anquetil. Barone was also twice winner of the Paris-Camembert classic.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2003)