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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

First Edition News for March 10, 2003

Edited by Jeff Jones

Wüst: UCI not playing fair

Pevenage threatens to take Ullrich and leave

By Jeff Jones

As a result of the UCI's decision to suspend the team over irregularities with rider payments, Team Coast will be forced to miss Paris-Nice (March 9-17), the biggest stage race of the season so far. That means the riders will miss out on valuable racing kilometres, and the team will miss out on eight days of global media exposure, although it could be argued that Team Coast is getting plenty of that already.

The UCI's decision to suspend the team came on March 6, after it claimed it received the wrong documents from the team relating to rider salary payments. However, Team Coast's directeur sportif Marcel Wüst says that the UCI isn't playing fair, and that his team is perhaps being singled out for discrimination. Cyclingnews spoke with Wüst, who was taking part in a photo shoot in Belgium, to get his opinion on the situation. He spoke positively about the whole affair, despite the immediate consequences for the team.

Wüst described the team's morale as "Not spectacular at the moment, but looking closer at the UCI's decision and the way they made the decision, the morale is not too bad. The situation was that on the 5th of March, Coast had done everything the UCI had asked for. We sent them the proof of the payments, but they said that they wanted the proof of the execution of the payments. Telling us that and giving us half a day to do it was not fair play."

Wüst did not feel that the UCI's decision was justified, and hoped that it wasn't a political manoeuvre on the part of German team Telekom, which Coast pushed out of the important 'Top 10 Club' when it was finally registered this year. Telekom's Olaf Ludwig is part of the UCI's Professional Cycling Council.

"I don't want to believe in really bad things," said Wüst. "But our direct opponents could be very...neutral. Legally other teams shouldn't be allowed to decide the fate of a team without giving them a chance. You hear what they have to say and then make a decision. For example, if all the soccer teams in the world decided that one team couldn't play with the rest of them, that would not be not fair play."

Wüst believes that the problems with salary payments will be sorted out very soon, and Team Coast will be able to resume its place in the peloton. "It should have been sorted out by the fifth [of March]," he explains. "By next Tuesday I think we can improve the execution of the payments, because by that date, all the money should be debited and they can see it."

Hopefully this will appease the Jan Ullrich camp, which has threatened to withdraw from the team if Ullrich's wages aren't paid within two weeks. Team Coast director and Ullrich confidant Rudy Pevenage was quoted in Reuters recently as saying, "If things are sorted out and we get paid then we will continue with Team Coast but if there are still problems in two weeks' time we'll start looking for another team."

Pevenage confirmed that he had been paid part of his salary, but Ullrich and training partner Tobias Steinhauser had not yet received anything.

Paris-Nice off to a sunny start

158 riders enjoyed relatively warm and sunny conditions during the prologue of the 61st Paris-Nice in Issy-les-Moulineaux. Run over a moderately technical 4.8 kilometre course containing a 1.2 km climb, the stage was taken out by colourful Belgian cyclist Nico Mattan (Cofidis), who repeated his win of two years ago. Mattan was three seconds faster than a very fit Tyler Hamilton (CSC), with Philippe Gaumont (Cofidis) taking third.

Stay tuned for a full race report and a whole gallery of photos, with Cyclingnews' Chris Henry on the spot in Issy-les-Moulineaux. In addition, you will be able to follow the race live each day next week from 15:00 CET (9:00 EST/6:00 PST/1:00am AEDT) via Cyclingnews.

Prologue full results & report
Live report
Main & Preview
Stages & profiles
Start List

Wellens stays with SpaarSelect

According to Belgian Teletekst, World Cyclo-cross champion Bart Wellens has decided to remain with his current team, Spaar Select, after team management agreed to sign two more riders. Wellens and Erwin Vervecken will be joined by Bart's brother Geert, as well as Wim Jacobs in the team, with contracts signed until the end of 2004. If things go well with the team, there is an option to extend for another year.

Pantani decision delayed

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne will announce its decision next Friday, March 14, on the case involving the possible suspension of Marco Pantani for possession of illegal drugs. The matter extends back to the 2001 Giro, where it's alleged that an insulin syringe was found in Pantani's hotel room. Pantani was initially given an eight month suspension, but successfully appealed against this to the Italian Cycling Federation in August last year.

However, the UCI lodged its own appeal with the CAS to get the ban reinstated, and if successful it will mean that Pantani won't be able to race until May 18. That means he will miss the Giro d'Italia, which would be disastrous for his comeback plans.

First division not a bonus for Team fakta

Disappointed at not being invited to any of the World Cups so far, Danish division I team fakta is hoping for some better luck in the coming weeks in order to put a few good results on the board. Team captain Scott Sunderland, who is struggling with his own form at the moment, described the team's performance so far this season:

"Although the team really animated quite a few races already, and we have had some good placings, the team has not been able to get the big results we needed to be selected for the upcoming World Cup Races...So far that is! I feel a change will be coming soon. I can see the guys getting more and more hungry for a win, that's a good sign."

Several team members have been suffering from stomach 'flu and sore knees, which means that the team hasn't been at full strength yet. Sunderland added that "My goals are not set towards specific races. For now, I'll just try to get some good racing form. I am currently suffering big time at the tail end of the peloton. But, I'm not alone in that position, there are a lot of riders who have problems, especially with stomach viruses. It's been crazy so far this season, everyone in and around the team has been sick! I'm convinced, if all goes to plan from now on, that I will be there by mid-April. A few of the other guys will reach their peak earlier."

"I am a far way from good form myself and need at least another month to get into winning shape...I was scheduled to race Paris-Nice but I preferred riding three days of West-Vlaanderen, as I would have been knackered after four days of high speed chasing in France!"

"I won't be able to ride Flanders [best placing 11th], nor Milan-San Remo [4th], nor Paris-Roubaix, which is not really my parcours but I looked forward to riding it once...It's pretty disappointing but only a logical consequence. Omloop Het Volk was not good for us. I went out after only 30km because of technical problems and Frank Høj and Magnus Bäckstedt just had a bad day. Magnus and Frank both had their sights set on was their main goal for the start of the season.I feel sorry for them."

"I would love to ride another Giro," concludes Sunderland. "It's my favourite big tour! But I think some good luck will need to show its face to our team though. No results means no wild cards. Being in first division hasn't been really a bonus for us so far. We're working hard at it!"

Prime Alliance and Health Net at McLane Pacific

The Prime Alliance and Health Net squads have confirmed their riders for the upcoming McLane Pacific Bicycle Classic, scheduled for March 22-23. Prime Alliance will be sending a team of six riders, including sprinter and two time McLane Pacific Grand Prix champion John Peters. "It often comes down to which rider with good legs makes the best decisions on the last lap Saturday," said Peters. "For Sunday (road race) we'll all be nervously checking the wind."

Alongside Peters will be David Clinger, who said that the race "will be a really good test" to see how he has improved over longer distances in recent years, after riding for Festina and US Postal.

The Health Net line up at McLane Pacific includes top sprinter Gord Fraser and leadout man Mike Sayers. Sayers will be a key man in the Health Net train, that wants to carry Fraser to the sprint with a minimum of effort. Sayers is an experienced rider in McLane, finishing the race eight times in his past nine attempts.

The Prime Alliance and Health Net teams will not only be racing at McLane Pacific, they will also be educating. The day prior to McLane, both teams will be visiting local Merced schools with eight groups of school children. The overwhelming response to last year's visits has prompted the Merlock Athletic Association to double the number of visits for this year. The riders will speak to the kids about bicycle safety, their experiences as professional cyclists, the McLane Pacific and how important it is to stay drug free in cycling and life in general.

Provisional All-Africa Games squad

Malcolm Lange, Owen Hannie and Morne Bester have been announced as being part of the provisional squad to compete at the All-Africa Games in Abuga Township, in Lagos, Nigeria from October 1-4 this year. More riders may be added to the squad, which now comprises Malcolm Lange, Paul Minnaar, Welcome Stokwe, Waylon Woolcock, Daryl Impey, Eckard Berg, Konrad Siebrits, Morne Bester, Owen Hannie.

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