First Edition News for June 15, 2003
Edited by Chris Henry
Armstrong in control despite crash
Dauphiné Libéré leader Lance Armstrong (US Postal) suffered his first crash in competition in many years during Friday's stage 5, but despite the deep gash to his right elbow, remained firmly in command of the race following the fall. Armstrong received two stitches on his right elbow and sustained some grazing on his right thigh. With a calm head and the full support of his team, the American rejoined the race and defended his race lead without further incident.
"The rest of the day was calm," Armstrong said after the stage. "The first hour after the crash I was very nervous, but as time went by I felt more comfortable on the bike."
Armstrong finished the stage in the company of his two closest competitors for the overall title, Iban Mayo (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and David Millar (Cofidis), less than a minute behind a breakaway group of six. Still favoured to win the race on Sunday, Armstrong had words of praise for his two rivals.
"Mayo keeps attacking. What a fighter," he said. "And Millar has become a good climber too. Unfortunately there is nobody in his team who is keeping an eye on him: he could have been much further ahead. But this doesn't mean they'll be strong in the Tour too. In the Tour, everything is much different."
Millar returned the praise, in light of the American's high speed crash. "He never showed he was suffering," Millar noted. "He wanted to show everybody that he was still there, still the strongest."
Armstrong said he was not worried about today's Queen stage over the Télégraphe and the Galibier. "Because I didn't know the Col de la Ramaz, I felt a bit unsure on Thursday. But on Saturday, the parcours is very familiar to me. The Galibier is my thing. And my teammate Chechu [José Luis Rubiera] loves this mountain too. So we'll be fine."
Halgand provokes Armstrong's ire
One man who may not be comfortable for the remainder of the Dauphiné is Jean Delatour's Patrice Halgand, who enraged Armstrong by attacking at the time of the race leader's crash. Armstrong insisted that when the leader of a race falls, the pace slows. "But for some reason, I have no idea what, this f*ing guy Patrice Halgand attacked two times while I was on the ground," Armstrong exclaimed.
Halgand defended his actions, insisting he stopped his first attack when informed that Armstrong had crashed, and only launched the second when he saw the American back in the peloton. His excuses weren't welcome at the US Postal bus, and Armstrong let his disappointment in Halgand and his team be clearly known.
"I wanted to discuss it with him afterwards, but be refused to hear my version," Halgand told l'Equipe.
Kashechkin moves up
After being part of the winning breakaway in yesterday's fifth stage, Quick.Step's Andrey Kashechkin found himself moving up to 9th overall on GC as well as being the Best Young Rider. The 23 year old attacked on the last climb of the day (Côte du Pas de la Fosse) with Denish Menchov (iBanesto.com), but the pair were caught in the final kilometre.
"I'm very happy about my race even though in the next two stages it will be hard to defend my position, said Kashechkin. "But at present, it's beautiful being among the protagonists of an important race like the Dauphiné. Today I lacked some experience and luck to win the stage, but...I'm young and I will try again as soon as possible."
Volta a Catalunya preview
Rivaling the Tour de Suisse for attention in the final weeks before the Tour de France, the 83rd Volta a Catalunya (June 16-22) offers a mountainous parcours to test top riders before the second grand tour of the season. Usually the preparation race of choice for the Spanish teams, Catalunya enjoys plenty of popularity in its own right, and ranks behind only the Vuelta a España in popularity in Spain.
Last year's event was won by US Postal's Roberto Heras, who provided the team a big win on the heels of Lance Armstrong's 2002 Dauphiné victory in France. Both riders went on to dominant performances in the mountains of France, with Armstrong taking his fourth Tour de France victory. Heras will be back to defend his title for US Postal this year, building up for another Tour assault. Telekom's Erik Zabel will be fine tuning his sprint form as he prepares for another green jersey challenge in July.
The Volta a Catalunya begins in interesting fashion with a team time trial, and tests the riders with an individual race against the clock on the penultimate stage. The climbing starts straight away on stage 2, and the race's first summit finish arrives on stage 3 in the principality of Andorra. Zabel and his fellow sprinters may not have an opportunity to test their fast twitch muscles until stage, which stacks the climbing in the first half of the parcours and steadily descends to Manresa. The final stage concludes in Barcelona on Sunday, June 22.
June 16 - Stage 1: Salou - Vilaseca TTT, 26.7 km
Rumsas claims set up
Suspended by the Lampre team for a non-negative test for EPO from the Giro d'Italia, the embattled Raimondas Rumsas has openly suspected that his team has set him up in order to remove him from its ranks. Rumsas explained that the day of his surprise test on May 16, the team's medications were under lock and key, and pointed a finger at the team's medical staff in the event of a positive B sample from his test.
"If the results of the second analysis are positive, I will be very surprised," Rumsas said, "but then the physicians would be under suspicion too." Rumsas maintains his innocence in this latest affair, which comes little less than a year after his wife Edita was arrested with doping products on the last day of the Tour de France. "I am surprised at how quickly the information reached the media," the Lithuanian said of the initial test results. "I learned from the media, and now I cannot reach the team manager."
"Everyone knows that I am under special observation," Rumsas admitted. "How then could I take EPO after what happened at last year's Tour de France?"
Rumsas did not test positive during any of his controls from the 2002 Tour, but remains under suspicion according to the UCI. He never made himself available to French prosecutors to discuss his the case surrounding his wife's arrest by customs officials. Without due cause to remove him from the team last year, Rumsas was accepted back into the Lampre fold, but by a team management which openly regretted his presence.
Quadranti positive for EPO
Italian espoir rider Antonio Quadranti has been suspended by the Italian cycling federation. Quadranti returned a positive test for EPO on May 10 from a race in Brescia, according to a l'Equipe report.
CSC optimistic about sponsorship
By Ole Ryborg
Bjarne Riis looks to be facing good odds for continuing his team with the support of IT company CSC as its main sponsor. According to CSC's Danish sponsorship director Ole Egeblad, the company appears to be very positive about a continuation of the team. A number of the CSC riders recently visited the the American company's headquarters in Virginia during the participation for the Wachovia Cycling Series. CSC riders Jakob Piil and Julian Dean won the first two races of the series, and New Zealander Dean topped his Trenton victory with a podium place in Philadelphia.
According to Danish media, team boss Bjarne Riis is optimistic about the prospects of prolonging the sponsorship after the visit to the United States and receiving encouraging signs that his optimism is not misguided.
"It is important to underline that there has not been any final decision, but it looks absolutely positive," Ole Egeblad told Danish sports web site Sportenkort.dk. Bjarne Riis is hoping for a positive confirmation form CSC before the Tour de France, which would put him in an ideal position to start contacting riders for 2004.
Sean Nolan Meath GP
By Tommy Campbell, Irish Independent, Evening Herald, Sunday Independent
Twelve months ago, during the height of the love affair between Ireland and the World Cup, Denis Easton of Total Cycling.com registered a very important success in his career when he won the Sean Nolan Meath Grand Prix. However, circumstances this year have dictated that Denis will not be on the start line in Navan Sunday to defend his title. He'll be on international duty at the Claude Criquielion Grand Prix, 161kms of racing east of Brussels, representing Hibernian Ireland in the company of Timmy Barry, Tommy Evans, Paul Griffin, Brian Kenneally and Eugene Moriarty.
With the B World Championships in Switzerland in three weeks time, Easton and the rest of the Irish team will be hell bent on making an impression that would guarantee them a place for the Swiss event, designed for nations outside the world's top 30 and with Olympic places the bonus for successful participating countries. Eugene Moriarty will be eager to make that team, as he was one of those instrumental in Ireland getting into the Sydney Games in 2000. Moriarty in the final analysis was left off the team for Sydney and to this day finds it very hard to acknowledge that he was left at home.
In the absence of the Hibernian team, the Sean Nolan will have a lot of interest Sunday. Many of the FBD Milk Ras competitors will be in action and Paddy Moriarty should be the one to watch. The Usher Irish Road Club will also be a force to be reckoned with. The action starts at one o'clock from the Rugby Club in Navan with the under age race beginning at eleven o'clock.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2003)