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Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

Latest News for March 28, 2003

Edited by Jeff Jones & Tim Maloney

Big Belgian weekend: E3 Prijs and Brabantse Pijl

This weekend will be the last chance for riders to test themselves in a Belgian one day classic before next Sunday's Ronde van Vlaanderen. On Saturday, the 46th E3 Prijs Vlaanderen (UCI 1.1) will be staged over 200 kilometres, starting and finishing in Harelbeke, and including 12 of the well known Flemish bergs. On Sunday in Alsemberg (just south of Brussels), the 43rd edition of the Brabantse Pijl (UCI 1.2) will take place over 197 kilometres, including 23 climbs and finishing with an uphill sprint in Alsemberg.

As far as the Ronde van Vlaanderen is concerned, the E3 Prijs is considered a key race given the similarities in the parcours. Most of the Ronde favourites will also ride the Driedaagse van De Panne next week between Tuesday and Thursday, however for many riders there the aim will be to stay out of trouble and get some more quality time in the saddle.

Johan Museeuw
Photo: © Sirotti
Click for larger image

As is normal at this time of the year, injuries and sickness take their toll on the peloton, and those riding in the Belgian early season classics often don't get off lightly. The Lion of Flanders and winner of Het Volk, Johan Museeuw, "is licking his wounds" after the crash in Dwars door Vlaanderen that left him with a sore and swollen left knee.

"But I'm not complaining," the Quick.Step-Davitamon rider told Het Nieuwsblad today. "If I complain, what should Hans De Clercq be doing? The poor guy is so much worse of than me. His knee is broken: I know all about that."

Museeuw says he will decide on Friday whether to race on the weekend. "The urge to start there is very big, I need the competition for the Tour of Flanders," he said. "I feel kind of obliged to start. I was sick just before Tirreno-Adriatico; and I didn't ride Milan-San Remo because I was afraid of possible crashes. And then I go arse up in the first race after La Primavera!"

If he misses this weekend, he will have had 10 days without any real competition, "far from the ideal way to prepare for Tour of Flanders," he said.

Team doctors Yvan Vanmol and Toon Cruyt are not too pessimistic about the knee. "Nothing's broken, that's for sure. There is a lot of fluid and blood in the joint though. Somewhere, a tendon might be hit, but that is hard to diagnose at this moment."

Another rider who is uncertain for this weekend is Belgian champion Tom Steels (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago), who suffered from a serious stomach 'flu in the middle of the week. He said that he'd have to "place a horseshoe above our door to turn the tide" of bad luck that has plagued him for the last few years. He feels partly recovered from his illness and will also decide today whether to ride the E3 Prijs and Brabantse Pijl. Then, "Gent-Wevelgem, Paris-Roubaix and de Scheldeprijs. I'll have to show myself in those races. If only I finally could work without all those hiccups..."

Peter Van Petegem
Photo: © Luc Claessens
Click for larger image

Last year's third place getter in the Ronde, Peter Van Petegem (Lotto-Domo), doubts his form at the moment. "You can't expect to be going well on the bike after not touching it for three, four days, and not having any competition for a week," he told Het Nieuwsblad.

Despite being part of the winning Lotto-Domo train in Dwars Door Vlaanderen, Van Petegem says that he "suffered big time" on the hills. He added that the presence of the Italians this weekend will make things a lot harder. "I think I will know after the weekend if I can be ambitious about the Ronde van Vlaanderen."

Landbouwkrediet's Ludo Dierckxsens has been sick for much of the season, but thinks that he's finally coming good again. "I don't know how good my form is though, the upcoming races will make that clear. On Sunday I'll make my come-back in the Brabantse Pijl, after that the Driedaagse van De Panne should go better."

Dierckxsens believes that the Ronde van Vlaanderen will come "a bit too early" and he hopes to be back in top form by Gent-Wevelgem and Paris-Roubaix.

Frank Vandenbroucke Photo: © CN
Click for larger image

On the more positive side, Belgian star Frank Vandenbroucke (Quick.Step-Davitamon) has come out of the early season races unscathed. "I was very good in Waregem, but on Saturday, in Harelbeke I will be even better," said VDB. "Everything is going to plan perfectly. I'm not a hundred percent yet, but every day I'm getting closer. A super-VDB would have attacked once more in the finale on Wednesday, even if it was useless, with all those Lotto-Domo riders around me."

"The most important thing is staying on the bike right now...all those crashes!"

Finally Jo Planckaert (Cofidis) says that he lacks a little competition. Despite being strong last Wednesday, Planckaert said that, "Waregem is not the Tour of Flanders. But the stronger Jo is coming. Or let's say: the usual Jo for these type of races."

Planckaert has been sick for the last few weeks but has been getting himself back into top shape with plenty of motorpacing along the canals.

Cyclingnews will be providing live coverage of this Saturday's E3 Prijs, starting from 14:30 CET. In addition we'll have full results, reports and photos from both Belgian races this weekend.

Pantani calm after Tour snub

After being ruled out of Tour de France selection by race director Jean-Marie Leblanc yesterday, Mercatone Uno-Scanavino's Marco Pantani is not too concerned by the whole affair. The winner of the 1998 edition of the race told La Gazzetta dello Sport that "Right now, I am really just enjoying racing my bike, and the rest is really not that important. If I'm not going to be in the Tour there'll be other races."

Team manager Davide Boifava had been in contact with the Tour organisation very recently, and related that he believed the Tour had some interest in having the team present. That doesn't seem to be the case now however.

Team Coast bids farewell to Zülle and Perez

The embattled German Team Coast yesterday said goodbye to two of its riders, Alex Zülle and Luis Perez, who left for other teams after being unsatisfied with the team's current and past problems. "We are sorry about this decision," said team trainer Wolfram Lindner. "But we do not feel weakened. Satisfied riders are always the best riders".

Team Coast will race in this weekend's Criterium International with Niki Aebersold (Swi), Daniel Becke (Ger), Bekim Christensen (Den), Fabrizio Guidi (Ita), Thomas Liese (Ger), Sven Teutenberg (Ger), Malte Urban (Ger), and Thorsten Wilhelms (Ger). At the same race, Alex Zülle will make his debut in the Phonak colours, after the UCI approved his transfer.

The Criterium International will be held over three stages:

Stage 1 - March 29: Charleville Mézičres - Charleville Mézičres, 187.5 km
Stage 2 - March 30: Les Mazures - Monthermé, 98.5 km
Stage 3 - March 30: Charleville Mézičres ITT, 8.3 km

More voices raised against USAC selection procedures

By Jeff Jones

Several more US track cyclists have raised their voices in protest of the timing of USA Cycling's World Championships selection criteria, which were released last week. The initial complaints were made by Colby Pearce and Jame Carney, who stated that announcing the criteria mid-season was unfair to riders who had planned their seasons differently, based on what they thought the criteria would be.

USAC's CEO Steve Johnson responded by saying that there had in fact been no changes to the selection criteria, "We simply had not yet published them for this year. Jame and Colby have complained that the selections were different to what they had been told, but they hadn't been told anything, they had just assumed."

Johnson also added that USAC had no intention of changing the selection procedures "based on the complaints of two riders," and this has provoked a predictable response among the track racing community in the USA.

Jame Carney's teammates at Prime Alliance, Jonas Carney, Mike Creed and Ryan Miller, have all said that they would be "negatively affected by the retroactive selection procedure recently posted." Carney told Cyclingnews that there are at least 10 others who have responded, who haven't gone public. "How many of the Elite riders have to object? 100%? A lot of the Elite Track Riders in the US probably don't know about the new Selection yet."

Mike Tillman, one of the top three US riders at the World Cups last year (along with Pearce and Jame Carney), told Cyclingnews that he left Steve Johnson a voice mail on Monday, March 24 "voicing my objection to the change in the selection procedure....I wondered how Steve Johnson could possibly think it was okay to publish in December that there would be a "World Championship Selection Race" in Colorado Springs on June 13-15, allow athletes to plan their seasons around this event, and then in the middle of the World Cup season, change the selection procedure so that World Cup results qualify you for the World Championships instead?"

Tillman believes that this is unacceptable, "and what does the number of people objecting to this completely unfair action have to do with whether or not he [Johnson] does the right thing and retracts the latest selection procedure and implements it instead, in an timely and appropriate fashion next fall for the 2004 season?"

John Walrod, a multiple US National track champion, has also sent his objections to USAC, and said that "USAC's point on selection procedures that only two riders have protested is facetious at best."

Finally, US elite track cyclist Dr. David B. Bailey put forward his complaints in a detailed letter to USAC. Dr. Bailey found Steve Johnson's response to be "offensive and rather shocking in light of the facts," pointing to Article VII in the USOC constitution:

"Among other things, Article VII states in Section 1.D that the National Governing Body (NGB) must 'disseminate and distribute to amateur athletes, coaches, trainers, managers, administrators and officials in a timely manner the applicable rules and any changes to such rules of the National Governing Body...' In addition, Section 1.C requires the NGB to 'keep amateur athletes informed of policy matters and reasonably reflect the views of such athletes in such decisions'. I believe that USAC has a long and consistent track record of utter indifference to both of these requirements and should thus be considered in breach of its obligations as a member of the USOC."

USAC launches new website

In between responding to rider criticisms about track selection criteria, USA Cycling has redesigned its website, The site will be re-launched today (Friday, March 28) and is aimed at "providing better service to USA Cycling members and promoters and to provide easier and better navigation within the site."

One of the first new features will be the ability for members to buy or renew their licenses online, which USAC hopes will expediate the entire licensing process. In future, race promoters will be able to permit their events and post results and reports on the site. Finally, members will be able to create their own race resume and build a race calendar and post results to their personalized site within the USA Cycling website.

Somarriba with Sabeco

Basque cyclist Joane Somarriba will race with the Sabeco team this year, according to Marca. Somarriba received permission from the Diputación de Vizcaya to ride for Sabeco, having spent the first part of the team with the Spanish national squad.

Riis sacks marketing boss

Former Danish tour champion, Bjarne Riis, is re-organising his company Riis Cycling A/S (Syndicat Anonyme) in an attempt to create a new offensive to attract sponsors to his CSC Team. In recent months Bjarne Riis, has experienced the disappointment of missing two great opportunities to recruit firstly Jan Ullrich and then Alex Zülle because of lack of funds.

As a consequence, Riis yesterday announced that the present marketing director, Jan Facius, will leave his post to be replaced by former handball pro, Lars Gjřls Andersen. His main task will be to find new sponsors. The present contract with CSC expires by the end of the season and it is still not clear whether the IT-company will continue its sponsor activities.

Courtesy of Ole Ryborg

Derganc moved to Lucca

Slovenian rider Martin Derganc (Domina Vacanze-Elitron) has been moved to a hospital in Lucca to recover from his injuries sustained in a crash in Milan-San Remo. His team captain Mario Cipollini arranged for Derganc to be shifted to the Centre for Sports Injuries in Lucca directed by Enrico Castellacci. Cipollini knows Dr Castellacci because his clinic is near Cipollini's home. He thought that Derganc would be better served in this clinic for the recovery of his head trauma and broken collarbone.

Leinster Road Race Championships preview

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

Saturday, March 29 will see the Leinster Road Race Championships being staged in Rathcoffey, Co. Kildare. However, with Sunday's Carlow classic also on the menu this weekend, some may find themselves at a disadvantage if they choose to do both. Many of the hopefuls from the Leinster clubs might find they may not have recovered sufficiently to do justice to themselves in such a prestigious promotion by the Carlow Road Club, but it will stand them in good stead for the upcoming promotions at Easter.

The Des Hanlon Memorial Classic cycle takes place in Carlow on Sunday, starting at 11.30. It is sponsored by Dan Morrissey Irl. Ltd. The prize-money for this year's event is €1,500 and will draw competitors from all over the country to this popular venue.

The event is divided into three different races, Senior A's and B's in the first race. Senior C's and Veterans in the second race, and Juniors and Ladies making up the last race. The first race will leave from the Rowing Club in Carlow at 11.30 am, followed at ten minute intervals by the other two categories.

The route takes in Carlow, Graiguecullen, Crettyard, Castlecomer, Kanesbridge, The Ridge, Gallow's Hill, Whelan's Cross, and Moore's Cross Roads. At this point the race will have completed a full lap of 30 miles. The Senior A's and B's will tackle three laps of the course, with the C's and Vets doing two laps, and the juniors and ladies completing one lap. Ambulances provided by The Civil Defence, the Order of Malta and the Red Cross will accompany each race.

Competition in the Classic will be very keen, as it will be a selection guideline for riders who want to represent their country abroad later in the season. Missing from the line up will be David O'Loughlin, who has opted to compete in the Archer Grand Prix on Sunday in England. David is the form cyclist of the moment with three wins under his belt, but UCI ranking points divided his loyalty.

"The ranking points in the Archer were too big a temptation to pass up and my form would suggest that I have the legs to do the business in the Stuart Benstead promotion," said David who will also miss the Ras Mumhan and the Elliott next month in favour of the Tour of Georgia in America.

Dual winner of the event, Eddie O'Donoghue from Clonmel with the Dublin based Usher Irish Road Club, has the pedigree to open his account for the season. He has triumphed in 2000 and 2001 and finished third last year. A teammate of Eddie and Carlow based rider Michael Mulcahy from Monaccuragh cannot be excluded from the favourites, due to a very strong early season showing. Out of the first four races of the season, Mulcahy has not been placed outside of the first eight. Other Carlow cyclists taking part in the race are Bill Miller (Ballycarney), Sheamus Haughney (Leighlinbridge) both members of Carlow Road Club and Brendan Mulhare (Graiguecullen).

O'Loughlin's training companion during the off season Vincent Geeson, who triumphed last week, cannot be ruled out of the equation, and equally Timmy Barry will relish the big stage.

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