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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition News for March 17, 2003

Edited by Jeff Jones & Chris Henry

Fourth stage of Tirreno-Adriatico cancelled

The organisers of Tirreno-Adriatico, RCS Sport, have been forced to cancel the fourth stage of the race, scheduled for today between Foligno and Ortezzano. The reasons for doing so were the extremely bad weather conditions in the region, which also affected the stage yesterday. Initially it was decided to start the stage in Muccia (km 42) due to the snow and ice on the first climb of Col Fiorito, but then it was decided to cancel the stage completely.

Tomorrow's fifth stage will go ahead as planned, between Monte San Giusto and Rapagnano, over 181 kilometres.

The UCI also carried out blood controls on 51 riders this morning, with all being declared fit to race.

Dekker wins comeback race

Erik Dekker (Rabobank) has wasted no time in reaching winning form, following his comeback to racing in the GP Erik Breukink this weekend. The canny Dutchman made the crucial breakaway on the first stage, and although he finished last in the break, he was only 12 seconds off the lead. In stage two he also performed well to finish 31st at 7 seconds. That left him in 12th place on GC, 23 seconds behind leader Gerben Löwik.

The final stage was Dekker's specialty, an 18.1 kilometre time trial, in which he finished third behind Bert Roesems and Bart Voskamp. However he rode well enough to erase the 23 second deficit to Löwik and the others in front of him on GC, thus took the overall win.

Dekker's early season was plagued by a knee injury, arising from an accident on New Year's Day when he bumped it against the door. He had only ridden one race: the first leg of the Challenge Illes Balears in February this year prior to the GP Erik Breukink.

For Cyclingnews' coverage of the race, see:

Stage 1
Stage 2
Stage 3

Kivilev to be buried on Monday

Deceased Kazakh rider Andrei Kivilev will be buried on Monday, March 17 in Sorbiers, France, close to where he and his wife Natalia lived. The ceremony will take place at 1:30pm, attended by his family who have traveled to France from Kazakhstan, as well as his teammates, colleagues, and members of the Paris-Nice race organisation.

US Postal confirms Hincapie out of classics

The viral infection which has plagued George Hincapie this spring will force the American to sit out the entire month of April, and thus his beloved classics season. In a statement released over the weekend, US Postal's Dan Osipow confirmed Hincapie's forfeit for the April classics, noting that the rider would rest in an effort to recover and rebuild for the Tour de France in July.

"The fact that he has been training and racing with this has caused him great fatigue where the only solution is to rest until his body recovers," explained directeur sportif Johan Bruyneel. "If he was to go on, it would be like a vicious cycle. So for him, this means no classics and probably no races until the end of April or the beginning of May."

Hincapie has lacked the necessary endurance for racing this year, and has frequently woken up feeling feverish. "It's hard to ride your bike feeling like that," he said. Hincapie is understandably despondent about missing the classics. "It's going to be tough, to be honest," he admitted. "As soon as I get better, I will have amazing motivation to train and get back as quick as possible. But, to sit around and watch the classics... It will be pretty tough for me."

Bruyneel explains that the decision to take Hincapie out of action now was taken with knowledge that continuing to race while still suffering could derail Hincapie's entire season. "By doing this, I'm confident we took the right decision to have George at 100% for the second part of the season, for the Tour de France and all the races after the Tour," Bruyneel said. "This will be very different for George, as no classics will give him his first peak at the Tour de France, then the after-Tour classics and the World Championships. This is something new for him, this is a big change."

De Baeremaeker wants to take Index riders

The as yet unregistered Remax(?)-Massi team, run by colourful Belgian racing identity Paul De Baeremaeker, has expressed interest in signing the members of the recently defunct Index squad. The Index team announced its withdrawal from cycling last week after experiencing problems registering the team, as the UCI was concerned about non-payment of its riders from last year.

We want to expand the core of our team and with the folding of Index there will be a few riders freed up," said financial manager Ad Manders according to Belgian teletekst. "In the meantime we hope for a licence and want the whole affair to be finished as quickly as possible."

According to Manders, everything is in order for the team, which wants a licence from the UCI. However the UCI hasn't granted it yet. President Hein Verbruggen was quoted in the Belgian press recently as saying, "Remax refuses to pay the bank guarantee. I have the impression that these people are only interested in attention from the press. But I am under the opinion that there is no money."

The team wants to take the matter to the European Court for Human Rights. According to De Baeremaeker, the riders are employed as any other employee, and they are sufficiently protected by the social laws. So not being allowed to start in race a violation of human rights.

"Our lawyers almost went into convulsions of laughter," Hein Verbruggen finished.

Some of the team's riders are training and racing on their Massi frames, although they are still wearing their old team colours. Other riders who signed letters of intent in September last year, have virtually given up waiting for the money and their contracts to appear.

Merckx not satisfied

Axel Merckx (Lotto-Domo) has not been pleased with his performances in Paris-Nice. "He feels that he's done nothing right, neither in the mountains nor against the clock," directeur sportif Claude Criquielion told La Dernière Heure. "It's just a simple case of the blues, it will pass."

Merckx had not set Paris-Nice as an objective, but nonetheless told Cyclingnews on the first day of racing that he hoped for a good stage result if possible. Following Paris-Nice, Merckx will look to the Criterium International (March 29-30) as his next major rendez-vous. Indicating, quite simply, that the former Belgian champion will not contest Milan-San Remo.

Slow start for Meirhaeghe

Mountain bike World Cup winner and World Championship silver medallist Filip Meirhaeghe is having problems getting going this season. The Belgian has not felt good since a training camp in Cyprus three weeks ago.

"I don't know what's wrong," he told Het Laatste Nieuws. "I have turned myself inside-out, but the doctors can't find anything. In consultation with my trainer, Dominique Dejose, I've decided to take it easy for a while. Therefore I won't ride the first MTB race of the season on Sunday in Kortenberg."

Indurain on Armstrong

In an interview with Spanish paper AS, five-time Tour de France winner Miguel Indurain (1991-1995) commented on the current reign of Lance Armstrong, and the American's chances for a fifth Tour. Indurain was asked if in fact Armstrong already has a lock on this year's Tour. "We will see," he replied. "He looks prepared and focused."

Indurain was a rider who rarely seemed to suffer during his dominant years, just as Armstrong has seldom shown any weakness in his past four Tours. "I had some very bad moments, and surely Armstrong has had bad moments in the past," Indurain commented. "I saw him when he had some difficulty two years ago, but he knew how to recover... and win."

Does Big Mig see any rivals for Armstrong in the near future? His advice to the American reveals the answer. "Keep an eye on the Spaniards," he said. "They have experience riding the Tour, and can attack and do damage."

Specifically, Vuelta winner Aitor Gonzalez tops Indurain's list of possible challengers. "I think he may be in Armstrong's shadow, ready to emerge. The Tour de France is a long race, and it's usually the most consistent who wins," Indurain explained. "I think that Aitor Gonzalez could win."

But in the end, just as Indurain found out in 1996, when he lost his grip on the Tour, each person eventually has his weak moment. "He can fail, as anybody can," Indurain said of Armstrong. "But he's a very tough man."

Brown out of Milan-San Remo

Graeme Brown (Ceramiche Panaria-Fiordo), who crashed in the second stage of Tirreno-Adriatico, has been released from hospital in Italy. Graeme's brother Rod told Cyclingnews that when given the option by his doctors, Brown opted to go home sooner rather than later. Internal bleeding which resulted from the crash has been deemed under control. Brown is still sore from the accident, but reports that he is glad to have been wearing a helmet at the time of the crash. Unfortunately, he will be forced to sit out next weekend's World Cup opener, Milan-San Remo.

Borrajo joins Ceramiche Panaria-Fiordo

Argentinean Alejandro Borrajo will join the professional ranks, having signed with the Ceramiche Panaria-Fiordo team. Borrajo rode with the Spanish elite team Laciana, and placed third in the U23 Copa de España and sixth in the Elite Vuelta a León. He won five races in 2002.


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