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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest News for March 13, 2003

Edited by Chris Henry

Helmet debate heats up

In the wake of Andrei Kivilev's death from head injuries suffered in Paris-Nice, the fierce debate on whether or not helmets should be mandatory in the professional peloton has been rekindled. While many argue that helmets have come a long way in terms of weight and comfort, the issue of personal liberty remains as important now as it was in 1991 when the peloton last fought the UCI on mandatory helmet use. A number of riders, current and retired, have made their cases for or against such a rule.

Axel Merckx (Lotto-Domo):

"Even in training I wear the helmet when I have to descend a col. On the top of the climb I stop and put it on. Even if some of my own colleagues laugh about it. I don't let it get to me. I'm ok with the helmet being mandatory in racing; even if it's not certain that a helmet would have saved Kivilev's life. I know that my friend Piotr Wadecki thanked his life to his helmet in Tirreno-Adriatico last year. Casartelli was only wearing the soft strap helmet.

"My wife Jodi and daughter Axana motivate me to keep this habit going. I have a family, then you think twice. But cycling itself has become more dangerous these days. When I train on roads where I didn't meet anyone in previous years, I see a string of cars lined up."

Massimiliano Lelli (Cofidis):

"If he had his helmet on, I'm sure that nothing would have happened," Lelli told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "It's too bad he rarely used his helmet. I think it's incredible that helmets aren't obligatory."

Emmanuel Magnien (Brioches La Boulangère):

"I know I risk smashing my head but I just don't feel myself when I wear it. If I put it on it's because I'm already thinking about a possible fall, and that makes me feel unsafe in itself."

Laurent Fignon:

"In 1991 I was on the first line in the protest when the UCI wanted to make the helmet mandatory in pro racing. They have to leave the freedom of choice. A helmet might have helped Kivilev, but what happens when you fall sideways onto your face? Andrei is not the first victim and will unfortunately not be the last, with or without helmet.

"Unless you make it a full face helmet, like in F1, or wrap up a rider completely in a similar way. It is a dangerous profession. But what can you say about the guys in Paris-Dakar, or boxing, in which men of fifty are completely ga-ga because of the punches they took. Kivilev was very unlucky not being able to react, it is fate, he was very unlucky. But please stop the discussion about the helmet."

Good news for Pantani

The Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland, has released its verdict in the case of Marco Pantani, who was threatened with an eight month suspension for possession of insulin. The news is relatively good for Pantani, as the CAS decided to implement a six month ban instead of an eight month one, and a fine of 2000 euros. Pantani will therefore be able to race again on March 17, which means that he could contest Milan-San Remo on March 22, but more importantly he will be able to ride the Giro d'Italia in May.

Pantani was initially given an eight month suspension on June 17, 2002, by the Italian Cycling Federation's Disciplinary Commission, after it was ruled that an insulin syringe found in his hotel room at Montecatini Terme during the Giro d'Italia 2001 belonged to him. Pantani appealed the decision to the Commissione d'Appello Federale (CAF), and it was overturned in July.

However the UCI was not happy with the decision, and took the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in August. The UCI wanted the eight month ban reinstated, which would have delayed Pantani's return to May 17, ruling him out of the Giro. But the CAS ruled that according to UCI rules, a six month penalty was justified, thus Pantani will be able to return in four days time.

Zülle on his way to CSC?

Swiss rider Alex Zülle might leave Team Coast in favour of the Danish Team CSC. According to today's Danish media Bjarne Riis and Zülle manager Tony Rominger have agreed a meeting in Nice on saturday to discuss a possible team-change.

"I have an appointment with Riis on saturday and then lets see, what happens." Rominger told Danish sports web-site, that he has already been in contact with several other teams, including Phonak, "But both my priority and Zülle's is CSC," he said.

Bjarne Riis confirmed in the Danish daily Ekstra Bladet that he is interested in Zülle. "Zülle is a very interesting rider," said Riis. "Even though I told Tony that I don't have the money, I expect him to pass by, and if he is serious we will have to try to see if we can find the money."

Coast owner confident

Team Coast owner Günther Dahms has expressed his confidence once again that the UCI's suspension of the team would soon be lifted. Team Coast was suspended last week due to its inability to provide adequate documentation of payment of riders' salaries and its own financial stability, something team officials have routinely downplayed as a technicality. Dahms said that the necessary documents have now been sent to the UCI.

Despite growing concern on the part of Jan Ullrich and directeur sportif Rudy Pevenage, including threats that the pair would look for a new team if the situation weren't resolved within two weeks, Dahms has continued to reassure his team that the finances are in order. A decision from the UCI on whether or not to lift Team Coast's suspension come on Friday, March 14, and Pevenage has indicated that the choice to stay or look for another team could rest on this announcement.

Ekimov suffers setback on his way to the peak

By Sergey Kurdukov, Russian Eurosport commentator

It has been three days since Viatcheslav Ekimov has been on his bike for more than two hours of training. Ekimov suffered during the two Belgian season openers, particularly the second one, Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, which followed Het Volk.

The Sunday race was held in cold rain and the road was so slippery and the tempo so brisk that there was no end to the braking in the peloton. After 100 km Ekimov found that his brake pads had worn down right to the metal. At that moment the pack was speeding downhill, there was a crash a couple of metres ahead, and brakeless Eki slammed into the pileup. Luckily he landed on top of it and was not injured, but it was a message to wind it up.

Packing his bags was easier said than done. When Ekimov finally got to the warm shower in the hotel, he was blue in his face and numb from the cold. The plane full of sneezing and coughing people made the matters worse. So, when he got home, Slava came down with a 'flu and had a temperature of around 38 degrees. With no training for almost a week, Paris-Nice was erased from Ekimov's calendar. Even more serious was a substantial loss of form.

At the moment the primary source of Ekimov's optimism is the prospect of a 10 day long training camp with Lance Armstrong under the Spanish sun, during which they plan to put a few thousand kilometres into their legs. The next race for the Olympic champion will be Milan-San Remo, followed by the Belgian classics, as usual.

Di Luca in form for Tirreno-Adriatico

Tipped by many as a favourite for the overall victory in Tirreno-Adriatico, Cyclingnews diarist Danilo Di Luca (Saeco) is looking forward to a good performance. "I feel good, at least at the same level as last year," Di Luca said, speaking to La Gazzetta dello Sport's Pier Berganzi. "It's going to be tough because there isn't a real climb where you can put a lot of distance between you and the competition. I'm sure the most decisive moment will be the finish of stage 4 in Ortezzano."

The stage in question finishes with a 700m climb that features gradients of up to 20%. Di Luca points to Paolo Bettini and Giuliano Figueras as his main rivals.

Cipollini won't talk to RAI TV

World champion Mario Cipollini lodged his own protest today against Italian TV network RAI today at the opening stage of Tirreno-Adriatico. Cipollini refused to speak to RAI journalists in an expression of anger on the part of the riders over RAI's TG2 Dossier program and the network's treatment of cycling in general.

JCTDU Awarded

The Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under won the Sports Industry Australia - Sports Tourism Award in Melbourne Wednesday night, ahead of the 2002 Melbourne World Masters Games and the Ironman Australia Triathlon. The Tour Down Under, now in its fifth year, has continued to grow in size and stature, this year attracting some 465,000 spectators and being broadcast around the world on television. South Australia has secured a five year extension for the event, ensuring it continues until 2009.

Bannan Australian coach of the year

Australian cycling head coach Shayne Bannan, who oversaw a glittering year on the road and track, was named coach of the year at the Australian Sport Awards in Melbourne Wednesday night.

Roof for Vigorelli velodrome?

Some major improvements may be in the works for the famed Vigorelli velodrome in Milan, Italy. The velodrome has played host to a number of world hour records and other historic events, as well as finishes for road races and Giro d'Italia stages.

The 333m wooden track received recent restoration work, thanks to Mapei's Dr. Squinzi. Now it appears that the Comune Milano is interested in building a roof over the track. With funds remaining from the Italia Novante World Cup soccer tournament proceeds, a proposal will be presented by Milano Sport, which runs all sporting facilities in Milan. This proposal will be put before the Lombardia region for approval. Reportedly the funds are available, and the project only needs the region's approval to proceed.

Indurain at Sevilla Festival of Cinema and Sport

Five time Tour de France winner Miguel Indurain was among the invitees at Wednesday's presentation for the 3rd III Sevilla Festival of Cinema and Sport. The festival will take place from November 2-8, 2003 at the Casino de la Exposicón in Sevilla, at which time Indurain is expected to give a press conference.

At last year's festival the winner of the Giraldillo de Oro for a long fiction work went to the film Cyclomania.

Busy St. Patrick's weekend in Ireland

By Tommy Campbell, Irish Independent/Evening Herald/Sunday Independent

The upcoming Patrick's weekend will see a busy three days for competitive cycling in Ireland. Racing begins Saturday with the Cicli Sport Grand Prix in Moneymore. The first cancellation of the season has been the Bill Hyland in Clonmel on Sunday. Prior to that announcement events were scheduled for three of the four provinces. However, those opting to stay in Ulster have the McCann Cup in Omagh to look forward to.

The Newbridge Grand Prix will certainly benefit from the Clonmel cancellation and it will be an opportunity for Munster competitors to flex their muscles and their fitness in the 63-mile event, which features a start and finish in Milltown, Co. Kildare.

Race organiser John Malone described the course, saying there are three climbs on each of the five laps which should sort the event out. "The circuit was last used a couple of years ago and depending on conditions on the day, I'm expecting a tough race," said Malone, who himself will be out of action due to an injury.

The race headquarters is the Newbridge Greyhound Stadium where according to Seamus McCormack, Chairman of the Newbridge CC, facilities are excellent and there is ample parking available.

Last weekend's winner of the Conor/Coombes in Drogheda, Andrew Donnellan is the obvious favourite, but the expectations are now high that the recent signings on behalf of the Usher Irish Road Club who have a number of events in their legs, should begin to become a force in Irish cycling. On paper they have strength in depth to be major players this season.

On Patrick's day, two races with the title of St. Patrick's Day Road Race will be held, one in Downpatrick and in Batterstown. The Batterstown event was normally the Dublin/Drogheda race, but traffic congestion on the main thoroughfares into the capital have finally forced the organisers to adopt a move to quieter surroundings in the Co. Meath village.

Carrick-on-Suir will be hosting the Carrick Challenge Cup. Eddie O'Donoghue, who defected from the Carrick Cidona Club during the off-season will be back in his new colours of Usher IRC. Eddie had many a triumph on behalf the Cidona Club,but the locals will be looking to squeeze him out of a triumphant return to the town. Timmy Barry, who finished second in the Mick Cahill Trophy, will be the one to keep Tipperary eyes from welling up.

Weekend races:


Ulster-Cicli Sport Grand Prix, Moneymore, 12:00


Munster-Bill Hyland Memorial, Clonmel, 12:00 (Cancelled)
Leinster-Newbridge Grand Prix, Newbridge, 12:30
Ulster-McCann Cup, Omagh, 13:00


Leinster-St. Patrick's Day Road Race, Batterstown, 11:00
Ulster-St. Patrick's Day Road Race, Downpatrick,11:00
Munster-Carraig Challenge Cup, Carrick-on-Suir, 13:00

Planet-X team

Planet-X has announced its 2003 MTB and Trials teams, as well as signing a deal with Santa Cruz Bikes. The MTB team is currently busy preparing for the mountain bike season opener at Sea Otter in April, as well as the Groovy Gravity Games in two weeks time. The deal with Santa Cruz Bikes means that the Planet-X and Space Monkey Racing grass roots team will be using Santa Cruz V10s for downhill racing this year.

Team roster




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