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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition News for March 1, 2003

Edited by Jeff Jones

Sercu and Lefevere: rivalry or not?

Christophe Sercu and Patrick Lefevere, the directors of Belgium's two biggest teams (Lotto-Domo and Quick Step-Davitamon) were interviewed by Het Nieuwsblad in the lead up to Het Volk. Although there is a bit of rivalry in the press between the two teams, the two managers do not admit to any kind of feud, although the relationship between the two is not exactly warm.

Christophe Sercu (Lotto-Domo) was asked how he would feel if Lefevere's team won Het Volk this weekend. "You know, I just don't care," Sercu said. "We will do everything to win ourselves. If we don't succeed, then the name of the winner or his team doesn't interest me one bit. Let it be a Belgian rider. From Quick Step, Palmans, it doesn't matter to me. If someone from our team crosses the line in fourth position, I am not going to look who finished just in front of him, hoping it won't be someone from Quick Step. Come on!"

As far as Sercu is concerned, he doesn't care which team ends up with the most wins this year. "It doesn't interest me to be the best team in Belgium," he states. "You don't believe me? And still it is so. And I'm not speaking for myself but for the whole team."

When told that Lefevere isn't really interested in reconciling with Christophe Sercu, the Lotto manager answers quickly: "Well, that's just fine. Then we don't have to drink too many beers together. A lot has happened, last year, when Lotto and Domo were linked. Patrick remembers a thing or two from that, but so do I. I don't want to look back though, I've got better things to do. If Lefevere sits down at a table where I'm sitting, I'll offer him a drink too. Recently we were invited to the same diner, I didn't notice any hostility."

"Lefevere has got a strong team, with a lot of good riders. But I can say the same about other teams. Don't ask me names of riders that I would like to have had in my team. I am happy with the ones I've got. Quick Step-Davitamon will probably not win it from us in the sprint. But they have a Virenque, someone who can still do better in the mountains than for example Merckx and Verbrugghe...You see, this so-called rivalry doesn't upset me."

Patrick Lefevere was asked the same question, whether he would prefer to see another team than Lotto-Domo take the victory. His reply: "No, I just want to win myself. I won't let my boys ride against any other team. Lotto-Domo is a team just like the 24 other teams. It might come to the point that we have to ride against the Lotto-Domo team at one stage in a race, but I'm not giving anybody any gifts, over my dead body."

Lefevere gets along with at least one staff member of Lotto-Domo. "I have got a good friendship with Marc Sergeant (Lotto-Domo) and Walter Godefroot (Team Telekom) is a friend for life. But Christophe Sercu is not the type of man I'll have a good relationship with. He is a much more closed personality. What happened during the negotiations with Lotto-Domo I simply cannot forget. Never. But at a meeting he is a colleague like any other. I just won't go and have a drink with him spontaneously."

Which other riders did he offer a contract to? "I would have liked to sign up Peter Van Petegem. Also Rik Verbrugghe and Serge Baguet were on the list of riders I wanted for Quick-Step Davitamon, that's right," says Lefevere.

Who would he prefer to have on his team between Tom Boonen and Robbie McEwen? "Tom Boonen...Is McEwen riding on Saturday then? At Domo, he always put everything on Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, like Clerc now, and Paolini. I always get bad comments from McEwen, but if he was an honest man, he'd admit that during the winter of 2001 he prepared the season very differently then he did when he was with us! When there was contact via his management bureau to discuss a spot in our new team, McEwen was very interested. But when he got the same salary agreed on in Lotto-Domo, he suddenly talked differently again."

"The weak spots in Lotto-Domo still have to be discovered on Saturday; we are well aware of our weak point at the moment: the high number of injured riders," concluded Lefevere.

Knaven and Rodriguez out

Speaking of Quick Step riders out of action, Dutchman Servais Knaven will not start in Het Volk on Saturday, after suffering from fever on Thursday night. Replacing Knaven be neo-professional Nick Nuyens. Knaven may return Sunday for Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, in place of Nuyens.

Another rider out sick is American Fred Rodriguez (Sidermec), who had good form during the recent Tour of Rhodes.

Høj believes in success for fakta

In last year's Het Volk, Frank Høj came across the finish line in 2nd position behind Belgian spring classics specialist Peter Van Petegem, and that result means a lot for the Team fakta rider's mental preparation for tomorrow.

"That second place last year means that I know I can win the race, and it is very important," says Høj. "There is no-one who can win Het Volk without really believing that one can. Of course you need to be in good shape and be able to fight against the pain. But it's just as important to know the race and be mentally balanced." Frank Høj.

Frank Høj tips Johan Museeuw and Peter Van Petegem as the biggest favourites. "On the cobbled roads we can see that a shift of success to the younger generation has not happened. Luckily we have riders like Scott Sunderland, Magnus Bäckstedt, and myself, who know the race well and have the right shape to race it, so I believe we can make a good result," he adds.

"There might be nice sunshine and 12 degrees, like last year, or there can be snow and rain and a temperature near freezing point. If it's raining tomorrow, I know it will be an advantage for me, but on the other side I hope it will stay dry so we don't get too many crashes," concludes Frank Høj.

[Editor's note: It's raining at the start at the moment, with less than 12 hours to go until the start.]

Cyclingnews Het Volk coverage

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Course description & timetable
Riding the parcours with Team fakta
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Dont miss our live coverage of the 58th Omloop Het Volk, starting approximately 11:45 local time (5:45 EST/2:45 PST/23:45 AEDT).

American Cycling Classic to kick off in 2004

Why have two stage races when you can have one big one? That's the conclusion of the organisers of the Redlands Bicycle Classic and Sea Otter Classic, who today announced that they would be combining their races in 2004 to form the "American Cycling Classic", a two week stage race.

The new stage race will start in Southern California on March 23, 2004, and will travel through southern, central, and northern California, running in tandem with the Redlands Bicycle Classic en route to its finish at the Sea Otter Classic on April 3, 2004 at the Laguna Seca Recreation Area in Monterey.

The UCI event will include a minimum of 10 stages and one transfer day. Sea Otter Classic and Redlands Bicycle Classic will continue managing and running their additional activities and events individually. Sea Otter Classic will remain at the helm of its various MTB, women's road, amateur road, and festival activities, while Redlands Bicycle Classic will continue independently to own and run an elite women's stage race, amateur and public races, as well as fun rides.

Sea Otter Classic President and CEO Frank Yohannan said in a press release that the primary reason for the merger is to "promote a stage race in the US of international quality with an unrivalled sense of participatory inclusiveness. "

Redlands Bicycle Classic marketing director Craig Kundig added, "Combining the talents of these two organizations will produce an event with a level of racing that is unprecedented in America due to its variety, history, and impact on cyclists of all ages, abilities, and interests. Seeing the same team jerseys as in the Tour de France battle on the streets of California is what so many of us have worked toward over the last 19 years."

The specifics will be announced in October at Interbike 2003 in Las Vegas.

La Jolla GP set for possible return to San Diego

By Gerard Knapp

With the World Cup Qualifier being held this weekend at the San Diego Velodrome, the local racing scene in the Californian city could be in for another boost with plans afoot to revive the La Jolla Grand Prix, a criterium that was once one of the USA's leading street events.

Last held in 1991, the race was the USA's "biggest criterium for several years and packed in the people", said former organiser Richard Bryne, who is now one of the principals of equipment manufacturer Speedplay.

"It was sort of killed off by Desert Storm," he said of the de-stabilising impact of the last major conflict in the Middle East involving US forces. "Then we started the company and did the Speedplay thing," he added.

Over the years his work at Speedplay put the race on the backbuner, but "I've got a lot of people bugging me to do it again, so we're working towards that".

Bryne said that potential sponsors have expressed interest and he is working on finding a slot in the USAC schedule in the spring of 2004. "Speedplay would be involved in it, but we're looking for another company to be the title sponsor," he said.

The race is certainly one for the crit specialists and would use the tight and twisting six-turn, one-kilometre course previously used for the GP.

Among Bryne's plans is to include a road race and time trial and make it a three-day event. However, elevating the event up to UCI status is not among the plans. "We're just trying to make a decent race that'll be good racing and easy for people to see," he said.

Bartoli to return in Milan-Sanremo

Fassa Bortolo's Michele Bartoli, who crashed during a training session on January 6 and fractured his pelvis, will return to racing on March 22 in Milan-Sanremo, the first World Cup race of the 2003 season.

Tessier signs for Marlux

Jean-Michel Tessier, the 25 year old rider dropped by Cofidis at the end of last season, has officially signed for the Belgian Division II team Marlux-Wincor-Nixdorf.

After a relatively poor 2002, where his best results were a third place in the Six Days of Grenoble and a 5th in the Tour du Limousin, Tessier gets a new opportunity to continue his professional career that started in 1999 with La Francaise des Jeux.

Søren Petersen to Glud&Marstrand

Glud & Marstrand Horsens has signed the 35 year old Søren Petersen for 2003. The Danish rider has transferred from Saturn.

George signs for Barloworld

South African David George has signed to ride for Team Barloworld, which recently dominated the Tour d'Egypte. George was the winner of the 2002 Cape Argus Pick'n'Pay Giro del Capo.

Sue Palmer-Komar honoured

Canadian cyclist Sue Palmer-Komar has been honoured as the 2002 Golden Horseshoe Athlete of the Year. The award, sponsored by The Hamilton Spectator, was presented at the 17th Annual CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) Sports Celebrity Dinner. The other candidates for the award were fencer Josh McGuire, ranked as the No. 1 junior in the world, and rower Joe Stankevicius, a member of Canada's world champion heavy eights crew.

Palmer-Komar won a silver medal in the road race at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester, England. She finished in 10th place in the road race at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Palmer-Komar is a member of the Genesis Scuba/FFCC Cycling team and is preparing to compete against the world on her home turf.

A Hamilton native, she is looking forward to the World Championships later this year. She was quoted in the Hamilton Spectator as saying, "I think it will be a real treat for fans to see that level of competition live - to get to share in the excitement. Hopefully, there will be something to home field advantage."

Teams for Giro della Provincia di Reggio Calabria

The Giro della Provincia di Reggio Calabria (1.3) will be held on March 8 this year, after a five year hiatus. The 58th edition of the race will take place between Stilo in the north-east of Calabria (part of the sole of the Italian boot) to Reggio di Calabria in the south-west, after a 194 km race along the sea front. Along the way, the riders will have to climb Zomaro, Sant' Elia and Melia di Scilla. In spite of those difficulties the race will more than likely be decided in a mass sprint.

Now organized by La Gazzetta dello Sport, the race will see the following 13 squads take part:

Alessio (Baldato, Ferrigato)
Ceramiche Panaria-Fiordo (Figueras, Buongiorno)
Colombia-Selle Italia (Freddy Gonzalez, Muñoz)
De Nardi-Colpack (Giordani, Palumbo)
Domina Vacanze-Elitron (Bennati, Scarponi)
Fassa Bortolo (Basso, Pozzato)
Formaggi Pinzolo Fiave-Ciarrocchi (Aggiano, Conte)
Lampre (Sciandri, Missaglia)
Landbouwkrediet-Colnago (Popovych, Duma)
Mercatone Uno-Scanavino (Fontanelli, Borghi)
Saeco (Bucciero, Cunego)
Sidermec (Balducci, Mason)
Tenax (Hvastija, Frattini)

Courtesy of João Cravo

Eddie Soens Memorial

Saturday, March 1 sees the 42nd edition of the Eddie Soens Memorial Cycle Race, now the traditional opening event of the Merseyside road cycling calendar. Up to 150 riders will face a gruelling 50 mile race around Aintree's famous Club Circuit, once the home of the British motor racing Grand Prix. The race is promoted by Kirkby Cycling Club with main sponsorship again coming from Liverpool solicitors Silverbeck Rymer, supported by Sefton Borough Council.

The race is named in memory of Eddie Soens, the legendary cycling coach who lived in St Helens and was a major force in the early career of Chris Boardman, who went on to ride the Tour de France and win World and Olympic medals.

The field is not lacking in quality, featuring two Olympic and World Championship medalists in Chris Newton and Paul Manning. Julian Ramsbottom from Scunthorpe - who won the Soens in 2000 - will be hoping for a repeat success, but he won't have it easy as 32 Elite and 1st Category riders are among the 121 entries received so far.

Because the race is run on a handicap format, it gives a chance to riders from all racing categories to win. Indeed the race was won by a woman - Julie Hill - back in 1991. This year there are three female competitors on the start line and they will each be hoping to emulate Julie's feat.

The Mayor of Sefton (himself a keen cyclist) will drop the flag at 9.30am to start the race, assisted by Brian Cookson, the President of British Cycling.

(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2003)