Latest News for June 25, 2003
Edited by Jeff Jones
Ullrich ready for Tour
After nine of the ten stages in the Tour de Suisse, German Jan Ullrich (Team Bianchi) feels that he is now ready for the centenary Tour de France. After starting the race with a cold, Ullrich lost some time on GC before rallying to finish second in stage 6 and third in the stage 8 time trial. He now lies in 8th overall, 2'25 behind leader Alexandre Vinokourov. By comparison, the last time he raced in the Tour de Suisse was in 2000, where he also finished third in the time trial, and spent a few days in the leader's jersey before losing time in the mountains to slip to fifth overall, 2'07 behind winner Oscar Camenzind.
"In the mountains and in the time trial I was in front," he told DPA. "There was a clear improvement here in comparison with the Tour of Germany."
Ullrich may not ride in this Sunday's German Championships in Nürnberg, as his girlfriend Gaby is expected to give birth to their first child soon, and he wants to spend time with her before heading off to the Tour de France for three weeks. "The decision whether to renounce the start lies with Jan, and it will be made tomorrow," said sports director Rudy Pevenage. "He now has ridden two tough tours and must also completely recover from his cold. The German titles will certainly not be necessary to build his form."
Pevenage added that Jan "In order to minimize the danger of crashing, Jan did not ride the time trial flat out. The riders who were in front of him yesterday will not be there in the mountains of the Tour. This was a hard tour in which he was able to rebuild his self-confidence. We are relaxed for the Tour."
Rogers and McGee on target for Tour
Australian riders Michael Rogers (Quick.Step-Davitamon) and Bradley McGee (FDJeux.com) have both confirmed that their preparation is on track for the Tour de France, with victories in the Route du Sud and the Tour de Suisse yesterday. After winning the time trial and claiming the lead in the Route du Sud on Monday, Rogers rode well on the last and most mountainous stage to finish fourth and hold onto the leader's jersey. It's Rogers' third tour win in a month after the Tours of Belgium and Germany, and the down to earth Australian is now looking forward to his first Tour de France.
"I'm having a fantastic month," said an elated Rogers. "I was a little bit nervous going into the final stage because the final climb to the finish line was one the race had never been over before and I didn't know what to expect. It was a hard 17 km uphill and the last five kilometres were really tough. I stayed with the front guys for the first couple of kilometres but then I couldn't follow their attacks so I decided to not panic and just set my own pace."
"[Nicolas] Vogondy was in same boat as I was and gave me no real trouble but I was a bit concerned about the two up front which included Caucchioli [3rd on GC before the stage]," said Rogers. "I knew I had to keep them within two minutes and in the end I had them under control."
Rogers now has his sights set on the yellow jersey of the centenary Tour de France. "I'm both nervous because it's my Tour debut and excited because I am taking such great form in to the race," said Rogers. "I really want to take the yellow jersey on the first day, that's my major aim, then secondly I want to finish the event."
The first day is a 6.5km prologue time trial in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. "It's a very big experience for me and a very important one especially physically because I want to learn what my limits are," he said. "I still don't know that and I'd really like to have a go on one of the days in the Alps and maybe the Pyrenees as well to understand where I'm at and how far I can push myself."
His team is more than satisfied with him, and together with German Patrick Sinkewitz has already signed a preliminary contract for next season. "They know I have good form and if I can take the jersey it will be fantastic but if not they are already stoked with my three wins in a row and reckon anything else will be a bonus."
If Rogers survives, he also wants to do well in the penultimate stage, a 49km individual time trial from Pornic to Nantes on July 26. "The time trial should be good for me because the longer the better," said Rogers who won the tough 34 km time trial in the Route du Sud. "Belgium was good, Germany even better but the other day was not far from a perfect ride for me."
"My form is just getting better and better and it was the quickest I've ever gone in a time trial in my whole life," he said. "I didn't make any mistakes and even slowed down a little the last ten kilometres because I had so much time up my sleeve and wanted to save energy for today."
(See also: Cyclingnews interview with Michael Rogers )
Sydneysider Brad McGee is also improving his time trialing, winning the eighth stage of the Tour de Suisse yesterday, a 32.5 kilometre ride against the clock in Gossau. McGee beat Uwe Peschel (Gerolsteiner) by 23" and Jan Ullrich (Team Bianchi) by 50". "I am absolutely rapt and a little bit shocked," said McGee as he prepared for the final stage of the ten day tour. "I knew I was strong and felt good but it was a perfect ride and to do that against guys like Ullrich was amazing."
The win has given McGee extra confidence for the Tour de France where last year he claimed a stage win and 48 hours after finishing in Paris claimed gold on the track in the individual pursuit at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester. Six weeks later was crowned individual pursuit World Champion in Denmark.
"I actually feel I'm in better form this year than at the same time last year and I'll be looking at the prologue and the individual time trial but I'm up for whatever challenges come along," said McGee, who did the Tour de Suisse straight after the Dauphiné Libéré. "I suppose the big question is whether I'm going to fatigue because I've pretty much done 18 straight days of racing."
"I can't see that happening though as I'm feeling great," said McGee who will head back to his French home in Nice to spend some time with his family before heading to Paris next Wednesday. "That doesn't mean a rest though because I have to keep the engine idling."
"I'll be working on a few little things like sprint training with 'Cookie'," added McGee who will play a major role as a lead out man for Baden Cooke in the bunch sprints. "We actually practice lead outs and my brother Rod is over here so he'll hop on the motorbike and set the pace to mimic speed of the main bunch in the final kilometres of a Tour stage. It's the only way you can get the feeling of the speed you need."
Apart from his stated ambitions McGee says he'll have an open commission during the Tour. "I'll be the 'ruck rover' in AFL terms or the 'five-eighth' if you talk rugby league with lead outs for Cookie, chasing stage wins for myself and I also want to have a crack at a couple of mountain stages to see how I go," said McGee. "I've got some climbing legs at the moment but it's more a build for the future and not an effort to this year try for an high overall placing."
"You need to decide whether you're going for stages or GC (overall) because if you mix the two it ends up as a half hearted attempt at each and you might end up with nothing."
By Gerard Knapp
The Australian State that once hosted important cycling events such as the Commonwealth Bank Cycle Classic, not to mention the Olympic Games road race, has effectively shut down road racing by banning all club cycling events to be held on public roads.
Only a handful of open events are likely to be run this year, while all club racing on public roads has been forced to stop due to a ruling by the Crown Solicitor's office of the recently re-elected Labor government of Premier Bob Carr.
The once-busy road racing calendar in NSW, a state that has produced riders such as FDjeux.com's Bradley McGee, US Postal Service's Matt White and many other professional riders, is now reduced to five events. The only events which can be held on public roads must have "sterile" conditions, which means the roads are completely closed off to all other road users.
Many road events organised by clubs in NSW are held on quiet back roads, where the clubs deliberately choose quiet roads to avoid traffic. Larger events, such as the Grafton-to-Inverall, use interstate highways, but disruption to traffic and any political fallout from annoyed motorists has not been a significant factor in this latest ruling.
Nor has public safety and injury to cyclists or motorists a factor. Rather, it appears to be the broad interpretation of consolidated road laws which has effectively cut off road cycling at the grass-roots level.
"We are going to be the laughing stock of the rest of the (cycling) world," said Tom Skulander from the NSW Cycling Federation, which is devastated by the latest ruling by the State's legal bureaucrats. "Here we are producing some the world's best road cyclists, and they're turning their backs on them."
The latest ruling by the Crown Solicitor will also stop club-level triathlon in a State which has produced several world champions and ironman legends, ranging from Chris McCormack through to Greg Welch. The Crown Solicitor's ruling will leave cycling clubs in sparsely-populated areas of the state without the opportunity to conduct any kind of racing. Very few clubs in the State own criterium circuits, and velodromes are even less frequent.
Road racing in NSW has a long history with the first professional events held in the early 20th century. However, the number of road races held each year continued to decline due to the Police support charges imposed by the NSW Government.
While the 'user-pays' principal took out several long-standing events - including a race which had been held over 85 years - the latest ruling from the Crown Solicitor will have far-reaching impact.
"The verbal communication from (NSW) Police is very devastating, a complete change from negotiations that CNSW (Cycling NSW) had been involved in prior to this advice," said president Ron Bates in a message to members sent out today.
Just in time for the TdF
Ironically, the timing of the solicitor's ruling could work in the sports' favour, given that the Australian mass media will provide its once-a-year coverage of cycling with the upcoming Tour de France and the likelihood that the contingent of Australian riders are expected to figure in the results. Indeed, the winner of the time trial of yesterday's Tour de Suisse, Bradley McGee, is from Sydney and often competes in local events when at home.
However, the head cycling coach at the NSW Institute of Sport, Gary Sutton, said "the guys (in Europe) learn their craft racing at home on the local road races". Sutton said the fear is that ruling may be interpreted in other states, effectively shutting down road racing across the country. Currently, cycling is enjoying increased popularity and mass media attention, particularly through the efforts of the SBS-TV network, which broadcasts cycling events such as the TdF, Paris-Roubaix and national track and road events. The broadcaster has positioned itself as the country's cycling network and is increasing the amount of cycling content it broadcasts each year.
A meeting between Cycling NSW officials and the Government's respective Ministers for Police and Transport is scheduled and it is hoped that the road laws can be changed to accommodate cycling events. The current law makes no distinction between bicycles and powered vehicles, such as cars, buses and semi-trailers.
About the changes
This latest impact on road cycling is linked to a move by road transport bureaucrats to consolidate road laws across the country. Under these new laws, a bicycle is defined as a "vehicle" and under these new laws, "vehicles cannot race on open roads", said Tom Skulander from NSW Cycling.
To hold a race in NSW, a local cycling club applies to its respective local council and its traffic committee, which usually includes members of the NSW Police as well as the Roads & Traffic Authority (RTA). In turn, this committee refers the event to the NSW Police Traffic Services, which reviews the application and in many cases, it would approve the event.
However, due to the latest changes to the road traffic laws, the Police referred the applications to the Crown Solicitor's office for a ruling. It has since advised the Police that all road racing is effectively banned under the new laws unless the roads are completely clear from any other road users.
According to the latest information from Cycling NSW, "Due to the ever increasing pressures of insurance risk (right down to individual officers) Police can no longer sanction road race events unless certain conditions are complied with. The Commissioner of Police under the Act is the only person who has the authority to approve 'Races, Speed Records and other Speed Trials' for Vehicles'.
"Within the Terminology of the Act a Bicycle is defined as a Vehicle. Within the relevant clauses it also says that 'the Commissioner may grant or refuse approval or impose any conditions considered necessary in the interests of public safety and convenience'. The last word in the previous sentence "convenience" is the matter that we need to manage carefully as related to public opinion."
(Action: Cycling NSW suggests that concerned cyclists should write to their local member of State Parliament, local council and finally their local Federal Member. Further information and an FAQ on the ruling are available at the Cycling NSW web site).
Kelme have nine
Jose Enrique Gutierrez has been named as the ninth rider for the Kelme-Costa Blanca Tour team, which in the absence of Oscar Sevilla will probably be focused on stage wins rather than the overall classification. The remaining eight riders are: Javier Pascual Llorente, Antonio Tauler, Ignacio Gutierrez, Jesus Manzano, Isaac Galvez, David Muñoz, David Latasa and Ivan Parra.
Cofidis choose Gaumont
The Cofidis team has chosen French rouleur Philippe Gaumont as its ninth Tour rider, to complement GC rider David Millar, climbers David Moncoutié, Luis Perez and Iñigo Cuesta, and all rounders Cedric Vasseur, Médéric Clain, Guido Trentin and Massimiliano Lelli.
Van Petegem to decide today
Peter Van Petegem (Lotto-Domo) is still uncertain whether he will ride the Belgian Championships this Sunday in Vilvoorde. The winner of the Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix this year will decide after training today. However due to his ongoing problems with his digestive tract, he may need an echography (under light anaesthetic) to determine what is wrong. If that is the case, then he will miss the championships.
Miguel Martinez in Dolomiti Superbike
Phonak/Full Dynamix rider Miguel Martinez has been confirmed as taking part in the Dolomiti Superbike on July 6, a mass participation mountain bike event that will see the top competitors race over a challenging 111 kilometre parcours. Martinez' team manager Mauro Bettin, who is a three time winner of the Dolomiti Superbike, explained, "The Olympic champion takes part in road races with the Swiss team Phonak, however he does have a contract with us. And the Dolomiti Superbike is on Martinez' programme for this year."
After his good start at the "Marlene Sunshine Cup" at Nals at the beginning of May, the Frenchman has already won a marathon this year, the "Granfondo degli Etruschi" in Tuscany.
In addition to Martinez, other top riders will be present in South Tyrol including the winner of the Nals race and Martinez' strongest competitor, Marco Bui, and last year's winner (middle distance) Massimo De Bertolis. Approximately 3000 participants are expected this year.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2003)