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Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

Latest News for March 10, 2003

Edited by Jeff Jones

Armstrong pleased with first test

Lance Armstrong
Photo: © AFP
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In the Vuelta a Murcia, four time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong gave an indication of his form in his first race of the season. Placing second in the final time trial behind overall winner Javier Pascual Llorente (Kelme), Armstrong said that he was satisfied with his performance.

"It was good to get back to Murcia after missing last year," he said. "It's a great race to start the season with although I admit that this year was much harder than my previous experience. The riders were more aggressive and the courses were hillier and windier. Overall, I'm happy with the way it went.

During the five day race, Armstrong was (as always) the subject of a great deal of media attention, and gave a lengthy interview to Spanish sports daily Marca. Armstrong addressed a number of questions in the interview, including the Tour, the hour record, the war and WADA.

Armstrong believes that he can be at his best condition at this year's Tour, but that will not guarantee success. "Personally I believe that I can be at the same level, or one very close, as in the past years, and that would be enough. But there are many factors that you can't control, like falls, a bad day, sickness. I hope that by doing everything in the best possible way that I can control this, but there are things that are out of my hands and that is the main problem."

Asked about Spanish great Miguel Indurain, the last rider to win five Tours de France, Armstrong said that, "For me, Indurain's best year was 95, the Tour of '95. He was pretty extraordinary and only he knows what it would cost to come to the Tour in that form. That year I thought he was going to go on and win six Tours."

Why does he concentrate on the Tour above all else? "Firstly, because it's the biggest race in the world; second because it's the only one that's important to my sponsor; and finally, because it's in the middle, between the Giro and the Vuelta. To do the Giro before the Tour would be a risk and to do the Vuelta after the Tour would probably extend the season too much. They criticise me because I only do the Tour, but that's not true. I wouldn't be second in the UCI rankings if I only did the Tour."

US Postal's team director Johan Bruyneel said that Armstrong has results from March through August, to which Armstrong added, "Then there are persons who, such as Manolo Saiz, say that I only do the Tour. They are crazy."

On the current situation involving Jan Ullrich, his suspension and Team Coast, Armstrong said that "I'd prefer him to be racing. Perhaps it's true that without him it would be easier, but I prefer it because all the fans want it, the journalists, everyone all over the world."

Should he win his fifth Tour de France, Armstrong still doesn't think he'll ride the Giro or the Vuelta next year. "Everything is possible but I doubt it," he said. But as for the Hour Record, "Yes that's possible, a great deal more feasible than the other races. I would like to try for the record before I retire, although unfortunately it doesn't mean what it used to. There is too much confusion: what's the record, Boardman's 56 km/h, or the other one? I believe that the 56 should be the record, because although I don't know how he reached that speed, that's the record."

On the impended war between the USA and Iraq, "My hope that sport is separated from politics, but...cycling is run on the open roads. For me the war is not a good option. It would make me happy if it wasn't a unilateral international decision, that always creates problems. But aside from all that it seems that Iraq is breaking the rules. If the UN had the balls, it would say: it's finished, there is no more time. It is very confusing and as a sportsman I don't want to say more than this."

Armstrong was also asked about the new Anti-Doping Code introduced by the World Anti-Doping Agency at its recent conference in Copenhagen. "It's a great step forward, but cycling has done a lot more than any another sport and it probably isn't going to influence the majority of cyclists, who already have all kinds of controls. But a code has to be consistent and accepted by everyone: countries, federations and sportsmen, and that hasn't happened."

Finally, he was asked about the possible effect of his recent marital separation on his sporting performances. "The honest answer is: I don't know. I've never been through this situation. You can ask me in July," was the reply.

Mattan goes by the numbers

Nico Mattan
Photo: © AFP
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Paris-Nice prologue winner Nico Mattan is known for his slightly unconventional approach to racing, and life in general. He is a strong believer in the effect of numbers on one's fate, and this was brought home with his success on Sunday. Born in Izegem on the 17th of July, 1971, Nico says that his lucky number is 17.

"For months I've been occupied with 9/3/2003: If you sum the numbers of the date that the prologue was going to be ridden on, it comes to 17, my lucky number," he said after his win, his second in three years in this stage of Paris-Nice. "Just like in Nevers in 2001 I stepped inside the camper van before the start and shouted: No one will beat me today!"

Mattan is not a rider who wins often, but when he does he savours it. He also is hoping that his close friend Frank Vandenbroucke will do well in Paris-Nice. "I am no Museeuw, Armstrong or VDB. I am just Nico Mattan, and that is no big winner. My relationship with Frank is just as it has always been. Frank motivates me, I motivate him. It works, because if you look, he is also 17th."

On the material side, Mattan used a sloping frame time trial bike, the same as he used in the Giro della Liguria, which might not have been ideal for a 15 km time trial with 7 km of climbing.

"Everybody thought I was crazy, but I knew what I was doing," Mattan said. "I suffered for 15 minutes, particularly on the hill because it wasn't a climbing bike, but I was already getting ready for the Paris-Nice prologue."

O'Grady going for Milan-San Remo

Stuart O'Grady
Photo: © CN
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Australian champion Stuart O'Grady (Credit Agricole) has set his sights on Milan-San Remo, the opening World Cup race on March 22. After finishing fourth in yesterday's Paris-Nice prologue, O'Grady was quoted in L'Equipe as saying, "My objective is Milan-San Remo. I've reached the final sprint in the lead group two times, but each time I lacked a bit of experience and a bit of luck. I'm thinking about it seriously this year, even if winning Milan-San Remo is more a dream than an objective."


Hincapie still suffering

By Chris Henry in Paris

George Hincapie, who changed his schedule to ride the Vuelta a Murcia instead of the more demanding Paris-Nice, continues to suffer from fatigue and sinus problems, that have plagued him since the beginning of the season. Hincapie pulled out of Murcia before the final stage, casting some doubt over his chances in the upcoming spring classics.

Talking to Cyclingnews at Paris-Nice, US Postal's Antonio Cruz said it's been a difficult period for Hincapie, interrupting crucial preparation for the classics. On top of sinus troubles, Hincapie's doctors finally determined that he's been suffering from a virus, though the exact cause of his persistent fatigue remains something of a mystery.

"George is such a strong guy mentally, that normally when you do five hours he says, 'I'm feeling good, let's do another hour,'" Cruz explained, noting that a typical response of many riders to poor recovery is an inclination to train harder. "It's hard to break that mentality."

Hincapie hopes to be back by Milan-San Remo, although his recent difficulties have proven a greater obstacle than initially expected.

Paris-Nice coverage

Cyclingnews readers will be able to follow Paris-Nice live each day next week from 15:00 CET (9:00 EST/6:00 PST/1:00am AEDT).

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

Berden marries

27 year old Belgian cyclo-crosser Ben Berden was married on Saturday in Neeroeteren to Kelly Vansloorop (21). In attendance at the wedding were Mario De Clercq, Arne Daelmans, Sven Vanthourenhout, Bart Wellens, and Bjorn Rondelez. Berden said that the partying went on until six o'clock the next morning, and a good time was had by all. He and Kelly will go to the USA for their honeymoon.

CCC-Polsat in Giro

Photo: © Andrzej Dyszynski
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According to Polish sources, division I team CCC-Polsat have secured a start in the Giro d'Italia. The team has also received an invitation to discussions in regard to the Tour de France. Team manager Andrzej Sypytkowski flew to Paris to meet with the race organisation and to take part in the talks. Should CCC-Polsat be fortunate enough to secure a start in the Tour, it would be a historic event for Polish cycling, which gained its first ever division I team this year.

Courtesy of Marek Jankowski

Ulmer never in doubt

By Alan Messenger

Sarah Ulmer was never seriously challenged in her specialist Individual Pursuit event at the New Zealand Track Nationals at Dunedin last week.

At the beginning of her buildup for Athens, Ulmer won the final when she caught her young opponent Dale Tye (Otago) three and a half laps from the finish. Ulmer said that she is always under pressure to perform in New Zealand Championships. "There's more pressure on me here than in International events" she said.

Two young riders from the Waikato area dominated the Senior Men's Individual Pursuit. Peter Latham held out Te Awamutu Clubmate Tim Gudsell to win in 4.49.787. The pair rode the World Junior Championships at Melbourne last year. Gudsell had his moment of glory the following day when he beat Kuala Lumpur Points Race gold medalist Glen Thomson in the 15000m scratch race. The pair lapped most of the field leaving only seven riders still in the race at the finish where Gudsell outsprinted his Otago rival. Dale Cheatley (West Coast North Island) finished third.

The Men's Sprint gave Aucklander Justin Grace his first Senior Title at age 32. He won the Junior Sprint Title in 1988 but a battle against the debilitating disease Ulcerative Colitis kept him off the bike for many years. Grace has been in outstanding form this season and with his health problems behind him he is looking to make the Athens Olympics.

In the Sprint final at Dunedin Grace beat fellow Aucklander Neil Campbell in straight rides. In the Women's Sprint Final Home town rider Katri Lake beat pre-race favourite Liz Williams (Auckland) 2-1 in a hotly contested final.

Australian cyclist vs. English cricketer

Australian cyclist Kial Stewart is in hospital after a fight with an English cricket player in Adelaide last week, according to AAP. The 20 year old from Canberra had several bones broken after the cricketer attacked him with a bat outside the Ramsgate Hotel in Henley Beach early on Friday morning.

The U22 English cricket team was staying at the Australian Institute of Sport, where the cyclists are based, at the time.

Rory Sutherland online

Australian U23 cyclist Rory Sutherland has announced his new website, The Rabobank rider hopes that the site will "keep my family and friends updated on where I am and what's happening in my career."

Containing Rory's race diary, results, his season plan, photo gallery, and even his bike specs, this site is a must for fans of this young Aussie rider.

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