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Latest News for March 19, 2003

Edited by Jeff Jones & Chris Henry

Team Coast could start in Milan-San Remo

By Tim Maloney, European editor

The UCI has given currently suspended German Division I Team Coast until Thursday to sort out its problems in regard to salary payments, before it decides whether to allow Team Coast back into competition for this Saturday's Milan San Remo.

The UCI's road coordinator Alain Rumpf told Cyclingnews that "Team Coast is doing everything it can to be allowed to race in Milan-San Remo, and we are not trying to prevent them from racing. However, our lawyers and Coast's lawyers are still reviewing the documentation, as the UCI still has questions relating to technical [financial] issues."

Rumpf further stated that, "The UCI's goal is to be one hundred percent sure that everything is in order before Coast's suspension is lifted."

There's a reasonable chance that everything could be in order and Coast has a reasonable chance to race on Saturday, but the clock is still ticking.

Meanwhile, the manager of Team Coast, Günther Dahms, was quoted in an interview with Süddeutsche Zeitung that he will seek damages from the UCI. He said several Team Coast riders were also considering lodging a collective complaint against the UCI, which suspended the team last week.

TV rights and World Cup status for Milan-San Remo

By Tim Maloney, European editor

This year's 94th Milan-San Remo will definitely be awarded World Cup status, despite some concerns by the UCI's professional cycling council that the race wouldn't be widely broadcast outside Italy. The issue was the cost of TV rights, which are owned by RAI TV and being sold to foreign networks at a much higher price than usual.

The UCI's Alain Rumpf told Cyclingnews that there was a general assembly meeting of the Internationale des Groupes Sportifs Professionnels (AIGCP) in Paris two weeks ago. There the AIGCP decided not to do anything about Milan-San Remo, but will continue to closely monitor the TV coverage of the event.

According to Rumpf, the good news is that there is significantly better international TV coverage for this year's Milan-San Remo, compared to last year. Besides Italy, Rumpf believes that the race will be shown in Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, The Netherlands, and some coverage in Spain. At this point, France is still negotiating with RAI about whether to buy the rights.

Rumpf remained positive and optimistic that this situation would not occur in future. However, the Italian riders are still not happy about the TV coverage in Italy. Mario Cipollini, quoted in L'Equipe, said that, "Our sport is mistreated by television, marginalised, and under appreciated. Personally, I am tired of fighting against people who don't like us, tired of repeating that cycling is not just an issue of doping."

Cyclingnews will be providing live coverage of Milan-San Remo, which starts this Saturday at 9:30am CET.

ONCE likely for Giro

By João Cravo

After having skipped the last edition of the Giro d'Italia, ONCE will probably be back in Italy for this year's race. Team boss Manolo Saiz believes that Mediapro, which owns the TV rights of the Giro in Spain, RAI, which owns those rights inside Italy, and TVE, the Spanish public broadcaster, will find a solution that would - from a financial/marketing point of view - make it interesting for the Spanish squads to ride the Giro.

Mediapro's high financial demands forced TVE not to broadcast the Giro in 2001 and 2002. Although ONCE and iBanesto.com did participate in 2001 when the race was broadcast by Basque local channel ETB, they considered that the return on investment wasn't enough, and opted to stay at home in 2002.

According to some sources, RAI is negotiating with Mediapro to buy back the Spanish TV rights. If that deal comes off, RAI would then sell the rights to TVE.

Manolo Saiz is confident that the three-way talks will be favourable, and has already named eight of the nine riders he wants to start in the 2003 Giro: Mikel Zarrabeitia, Koldo Gil, René Andrle, Jan Hruska, Angel Vicioso, David Arroyo, Joaquín Rodríguez and Xavier Florencio.

First test goes well for Milaneza

By João Cravo
David Bernabeu
Photo: © AFP
Click for larger image

The performance of Milaneza-MSS during the very tough 61st Paris-Nice has left race director Jean-Marie Leblanc with a difficult problem: how not to invite a team that has such an attacking philosophy. Aside from ONCE, Milaneza has the biggest proportion of climbers in the peloton, with Møller, Jeker, Bernabeu, Del Olmo, Horrach, Sousa, Lavarinhas, Cardoso, and Perez, and this was certainly evident in Paris-Nice.

On the eve of the Race to the Sun, team manager Manuel Zeferino told Cyclingnews that Milaneza "feared no team" and that they would be seen "on the front row of the race." Except for the stage to Saint-Etienne, where Møller and Bernabeu lost 48" to the group that contained eventual winner Alexandre Vinokourov, they achieved this goal.

In terms of team rankings, which take into account the team's best performed three riders in each stage, Milaneza won the fifth stage to Mont Faron as well as the seventh and final stage around Nice. In the latter, the team's riders David Bernabeu and Fabian Jeker finished first and second. In the overall standings, Milaneza-MSS placed two riders, Bernabeu and Møller, in the Top 10 and finished second behind ONCE at the teams classification.

As a result, Milaneza is now sixth in the UCI team rankings, while David Bernabeu, in his third year as pro and his first in a Division I squad, reached the Top 30 of the UCI rankings for the first time. As team manager Zeferino had predicted, Paris-Nice confirmed the high level of a team that has been hidden in the Iberian corner.

French sports daily L'Equipe, which has so far not considered the Portuguese squad for a Tour spot, sent a subliminal invitation to the team on Monday. "Milaneza didn't officially present its candidature for the 2003 Tour, but they still have time to do that until May 19," wrote L'Equipe. In its first participation in an HC race, Milaneza was well above the official candidates."

Manuel Zeferino hopes that the invitation will become real, within a useful time frame. "I was on the Tour as a rider and I want to get back as a team manager this time," he told Cyclingnews. "But I won't go there to make up the numbers, that's not my way."

Zeferino explains his philosophy, which is that of the team's. "Our riders will not ride the Tour to tell their grandchildren, "I was in the same peloton as Lance Armstrong and I asked him 'sir, could you give me an autograph?"'," stated Zeferino, "No way. In the Tour, our riders will race the same way as they did in Paris-Nice, and the same as they will do in the Critérium International, in the Tour de Romandie, and everywhere they'll ride. They will attack. With us, you'll never have five hours of boredom before the action starts."

Manuel Zeferino knows that his approach of cycling demands riders who are at 100 percent of their capabilities, and that's why he places a deadline on accepting a wild card for the Centenary Tour. "If an invitation comes after April 30, I will not be in a position to accept it," states Zeferino, "Simply because it will not leave me enough time to present a highly competitive team at the Tour, and I will not go there to play a role of an extra."

If an invitation for the Tour doesn't come, or if it comes too late, Zeferino will implement Plan B for next year. "We can ride the Tour by obtaining a wild card, by being the winners of the teams classifications in one of the three Grand Tours, or by being ranked at the Top 10 of the UCI team rankings," he says. "Any one of those options serves us well enough, but we want to get as many UCI points as possible this year in order to reach the Top 10."

If Milaneza rides the 2003 Tour, it will take all its best riders. That implies a weaker team for the Volta a Portugal, which begins a week after the Tour of France finishes. Milaneza has won that tour for the last two years, with Claus Møller (2002) and Fabian Jeker (2001). However, the sponsors would no doubt be happy with a Tour de France invitation.

In the short term, Milaneza will be back in France to ride the Critérium International (March 29-30), a 2.1 race that might help it further along the road to the Tour. Manuel Zeferino has retained five (Møller, Sousa, Lavarinhas, Cardoso and Jeker) of the riders who were present in Paris-Nice. Gilberto Martins, Joan Horrach and Francisco Perez will replace Bernabeu, Barroso and Lizuarte Martins in the Critérium International.

Latest UCI rankings

By Jeff Jones

The UCI has updated its men's individual and team rankings up to last Sunday, March 16. Holding his customary number one position is German sprinter Erik Zabel (Telekom), who has 2,252 points, 142 more than Lance Armstrong (USPS) and 191 more than Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step). Dario Frigo (Fassa Bortolo) maintains his fourth place despite pulling out of Paris-Nice while in the lead, and Davide Rebellin (3rd in Paris-Nice) has moved up to fifth spot.

Other notable movements up the scale include David Bernabeu (Milaneza, 59th - 29th), Sylvain Chavanel (La Boulangere, 52nd - 36th), Kurt Asle-Arvesen (Team fakta, 51st - 39th), Gilberto Simoni (Saeco, 57th - 42nd) and David Millar (Cofidis, 111th - 79th).

The rider who has amassed the most points this year is Javier Pascual Llorente (Kelme), who has done very well in the early season Spanish stage races. He has 330 points this year, which make up the majority of his 357 points over the last 12 months. Paolo Bettini and Davide Rebellin are just behind Llorente, on 326 points each.

In the teams rankings, Quick.Step-Davitamon has continued where Mapei-Quick.Step left off, and has claimed the top position in Division I with 1002 points. Only just though, as ONCE-Eroski is right behind them with 997 points, followed by Kelme on 898 points. In Division II, it's Bankgiroloterij leading Panaria by 240 points.

UCI Rankings as of March 16, 2003

Individuals
 
1 Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Telekom                              2,252.00 pts
2 Lance Armstrong (USA) US Postal presented by Berry Floor   2,110.00
3 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick.Step-Davitamon                   2,061.00
4 Dario Frigo (Ita) Fassa Bortolo                            1,768.00
5 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner                         1,729.00
6 Mario Cipollini (Ita) Domina Vacanze-Elitron               1,698.20
7 Aitor Gonzalez Jimenez (Spa) Fassa Bortolo                 1,616.00
8 Robbie Mcewen (Aus) Lotto-Domo                             1,545.00
9 Roberto Heras (Spa) US Postal presented by Berry Floor     1,455.75
10 Francesco Casagrande (Ita) Lampre                         1,447.00
11 Joseba Beloki Dorronsoro (Spa) O.N.C.E.-Eroski            1,298.00
12 Michele Bartoli (Ita) Fassa Bortolo                       1,265.00
13 Johan Museeuw (Bel) Quick.Step-Davitamon                  1,155.50
14 Santiago Botero Echeverry (Col) Team Telekom              1,131.40
15 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Team Saeco                           1,101.00
16 Michael Boogerd (Ned) Rabobank                            1,077.60
17 Laurent Brochard (Fra) AG2r Prévoyance                    1,053.00
18 Baden Cooke (Aus) FDJeux.com                              1,037.00
19 Mikel Zarrabeitia Uranga (Spa) O.N.C.E.-Eroski            1,020.25
20 Igor Gonzalez De Galdeano Aranzabal (Spa) O.N.C.E.-Eroski 1,007.00
 
Top riders in 2003
 
1 Javier Pascual Llorente (Spa) Kelme-Costa Blanca             330.00 pts
2 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick.Step-Davitamon                     326.00
2 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner                           326.00
4 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Team Telekom                      325.00
5 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Brioches La Boulangère                268.00
5 Jaan Kirsipuu (Est) AG2r Prévoyance                          268.00
7 David Bernabeu Armengol (Spa) Milaneza-MSS                   264.00
8 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Crédit Agricole                         253.00
9 Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Fassa Bortolo                          247.75
10 Claus Michael Möller (Den) Milaneza-MSS                     211.00
 
Division I
 
1 Quick.Step-Davitamon                                       1,002.00 pts
2 O.N.C.E.-Eroski                                              997.00
3 Kelme-Costa Blanca                                           898.00
4 Rabobank                                                     845.00
5 Fassa Bortolo                                                820.00
6 Milaneza-MSS                                                 806.00
7 AG2r Prévoyance                                              743.00
8 Brioches La Boulangère                                       736.00
9 Gerolsteiner                                                 687.00
10 Lampre                                                      684.00
 
Division II
 
1 Bankgiroloterij Cycling Team                                 643.00 pts
2 Ceramiche Panaria-Fiordo                                     403.00
3 Colombia-Selle Italia                                        292.00
4 De Nardi-Colpack                                             273.00
5 Formaggi Pinzolo Fiave                                       225.00
 
Nations
 
1 Italy                                                     13,636.20 pts
2 Spain                                                     10,649.63
3 Germany                                                    6,799.00
4 France                                                     6,522.00
5 Belgium                                                    6,122.80
 
Full rankings

Bad luck for Bettini

Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step) is ruing the ill fortune that cost him 20 seconds in yesterday's sixth stage of Tirreno-Adriatico, and thus the leader's jersey. At the end of the 179 kilometre stage to Torricella Sicura, Bettini was caught up behind a crash with 600m to go and came in 50th, 20 seconds behind winner Danilo Di Luca. Bettini had started the stage holding a slim lead on general classification, but the time loss meant that he forfeited the lead to Di Luca, and now sits in seventh place.

"It's a shame to lose a race like Tirreno Adriatico because of a crash. It's not good for a race as important as Tirreno Adriatico to end like this," said a disappointed Bettini.

Normally if there's a crash after the 1 km to go banner, riders are credited with the same time as the winner. However, UCI rule 2.6.028 states that this rule "will not apply in either Time-Trial stages nor where the finish is at the top of a hill climb."

Bettini had to accept the interpretation of the rule in this case. "It's a shame this stage is considered a mountain stage, because today was not truly a summit finish line. The rules are the rules, but..."

Good luck for Cassani

Enrico Cassani (Alessio) did not start in the last stage of Tirreno-Adriatico, despite lying eight on the general classification. The reason was a good one however. Today at 11:44am his wife gave birth to Alessia Cassani, weighing in at 2.77 kg and reportedly doing well. Congratulations from all of us at Cyclingnews on this new addition.

Bad luck for Fofonov

Kazakh rider Dimitri Fofonov (Cofidis) suffered some bad luck while attending the funeral for former teammate Andrei Kivilev on Monday. Fofonov had his car broken into during the service, and his visa, carte de sejour, and bank card were stolen.

Arnaud Tournant starts over

Sidelined since the winter by a herniated disc, French track pro Arnaud Tournant (Cofidis) has decided not to travel to Mexico for the next round of the UCI Track World Cup. "To go (when not at my best) and take another blow to the morale just isn't worth it," Tournant told l'Equipe. "I've practically spent all winter in bed. At the Cofidis presentation I wore two braces to stand up."

Tournant, who cites pushing the buttons on the TV remote as his only exercise, has also put on an extra 10kg. He will now set the Sydney World Cup event in May as his next objective, beginning a slow rebuilding process. "I have to rebuild my muscle mass and redevelop my aerobic capacity," Tournant explained, "as if I'm starting from nothing."

Keeping up with training partner Arnaud Dublé is a challenge, and weights that were once used for warming up are now objectives for Tournant.

"It's hard to believe, when I get home at night, that I'm at this level," the former world champion confided. "But it's a necessary step."

U.S. Elite Nationals dates correction

This year's U.S. Elite National Championships will be held on the dates of May 21-22, and not May 22-23 as previously reported. The Elite time trial will be on Wednesday, May 21, and the road race on Thursday, May 22. The championships will be held in the Seven Springs resort, located southeast of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

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