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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest News for May 8, 2003

Edited by Jeff Jones & Tim Maloney

Martinelli on the Giro favourites

Gilberto Simoni
Photo: © Yuzuru Sunada
Click for larger image

Three of the Giro d'Italia's past winners, Marco Pantani, Stefano Garzelli and Gilberto Simoni, have ridden for the current Saeco directeur sportif Giuseppe Martinelli at some point in their careers. Martinelli, nicknamed 'Martino' is a 51 year old from Brescia, and is considered one of the most easy going yet professional directors in pro cycling. This is his second year at Saeco and he clearly has the team running well and focused, as evidenced by its results this season.

In an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport, Martinelli spoke about 1998 winner Marco Pantani, who is making a big comeback for this race. "I would put him among the riders who can animate the mountain stages, and I sincerely hope that he'll be there because he could become an ally for Simoni against the time trial men like Gonzalez and Frigo," said Martino.

"I also see Garzelli [2000 winner] riding very strongly. He is well motivated, and has a lot of determination. But because of his long period without racing, the last week might be tough for him."

Of his own man, Gilberto Simoni, Martinelli regards him as "probably the favourite," cautioning, "When you start as the favourite, you should always be a little worried because everyone is watching you. But Simoni is in great shape, as he showed in winning the Giro del Trentino and Giro dell'Appennino. As things go along, Simoni has a classic 'Trentino' character. He's able to maintain his calm and keep himself above all of the day to day events, while Pantani and Garzelli are more emotional riders."

McEwen hopes for a birthday present for Ewan

Robbie McEwen
Photo: © Sirotti
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On Saturday, May 10, Robbie McEwen's son Ewan will celebrate his first birthday, the same day as the Giro d'Italia starts in Lecce. Last year, the Giro started on May 11, and McEwen barely had time to see his newborn son before he headed off racing for 10 days, winning two stages along the way. Thus year, McEwen hopes to beat Mario Cipollini and the gang to win the first stage in Lecce. "That will be a nice birthday present. And good for me," he told Het Laatste Nieuws.

At this time last year, McEwen had won 10 races, but this year he only has three, and he wants to make up for this in the Giro. He crashed three weeks ago in the Scheldeprijs, and says he is still recovering. "Even my tailbone muscles are pulled. It's these muscles I need to go fast in the sprint. But it will be alright on Saturday."

McEwen's task is straightforward, but not necessarily easy. "Cipollini is my biggest rival, this time more than ever, as he wants to break the record of 41 stage wins. So he's got the whole team riding for him to lead him out for that final burst. Take for example Lombardi: that guy can win a mass sprint himself. But in fact, I don't turn a hair: I've got my plans too. I want to beat everybody, including Cipollini."

McEwen remembers the last time he came up against Cipollini in a sprint: in the 2002 World Championships in Zolder, where he finished second behind a triumphant Cipo. He also finished in front of an angry Erik Zabel, who accused McEwen of 'boxing' in the lead up to the sprint. McEwen says that the incident is now closed. "On May 1 in Frankfurt, Zabel and I shook hands on the bike. I think he understood we both pushed as much. Look at the pictures. It takes two to tango, right?"

He also defended himself from accusations that he was a 'cowboy' and a 'kamikaze'. "I don't agree with that. A kamikaze doesn't only kill the others, also himself. I'm not mad. Graeme Brown, he is mad. Look how he swarms from left to right. He'll be in the Giro too."

Finally, McEwen said that he's not worried about having only three wins this season. "I have no doubts about myself," he said, confident that his preparation has been good in the last three weeks. However, he also added that he will not finish the Giro. "I will do 11, maximum 13 stages in the Giro. The 13th stage ends with some finishing circuits in Marostica. But the day before we have to climb Monte Zoncolan. If that's too steep for me, I'll be leaving the Giro the day before. I'm not interested in the purple [points] jersey. Cipo won it last year, and who's still talking about that? It's not like the green jersey in the Tour."

Local riders with different ambitions

At the Giro's start in Lecce on Saturday there will be two riders from the Puglia region, both of whom ride for the Formaggi Pinzolo Fiave team. In particular there is Elio Aggiano, who is from Brindisi and will be really motivated for a win in Saturday's first stage. His style is to attack in the final kilometres and try and steal the win from the sprinters.

The other rider is 23 year old Giuseppe Muraglia, a neo-pro who won last year's baby Giro. Muraglia lives near Andri near Bari and is looking to survive his first experience in the Giro.

Live coverage

Cyclingnews will be providing live coverage of the second half of each stage of the Giro d'Italia, commencing approximately 14:30 local time (08:30 EDT/05:30 PDT/22:30 AEST).

Giro d'Italia coverage on Cyclingnews

Preview and history

Start List

Euskaltel waits for May 19

By João Cravo

Iban Mayo, Roberto Laiseka, Haimar Zubeldia, Samuel Sanchez, David Etxebarria, Unai Etxebarria, Alberto Lopez de Munain, Iker Flores, Alberto Martinez and Inigo Landaluce are ten Euskaltel-Euskadi men waiting for a sentence. All of them are hoping to be sent to the roads of France in July for three weeks of hard labour.

Their team manager Julian Gorospe has a similar hope. "We've been very good since the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, and we believe that we've got the best results out of all the teams still interested in a Tour invitation," he said.

The victory of Iban Mayo in the Hors Categorie Vuelta al Pais Vasco in April means that Gorospe is a little more at ease. "The Tour organisation demanded results from us and we gave them what they've asked for. Now we'll wait for May 19."

There are already rumours in the peloton that one of the wild cards has been decided. "I was told during the Tour of Romandie that one wild card is reserved for Phonak," sighed Gorospe. Phonak has been lobbying hard for a spot in the Tour, sponsoring the A.S.O. run Paris-Nice, as well as employing USA Cycling president Jim Ochowicz as a consultant. Ochowicz was quoted on Eurosport TV during the last stage of Paris-Nice as saying that he was helping Phonak get into the Tour.

Gorospe believes that the Tour wild cards should be decided on sporting grounds above anything else. "I'm sure that we deserve our place in the centenary Tour. We obtained our rights on the road, which is the place where those rights should be won."

Three other tickets are still theoretically available, and Euskaltel will still be working as though one of them was in their pockets. The main Euskaltel rider for the Tour, Iban Mayo, will not compete until the Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré (June 8-15). Roberto Laiseka, the winner of the 2001 Tour mountain stage to Luz Ardiden, will ride the Euskal Bizikleta (June 4-8) and quite possibly the Volta a Catalunya (June 16-22). His colleague Samuel Sanchez is back in action next week in the Vuelta a Asturias (May 13-17).

"Our main objective for the next two months is to put our riders at the top of their form on the day of the Prologue of the Tour, and for the three weeks that follows," explained Gorospe. "We want to make our mark on the 2003 Tour. That can avoid the same situation in 2004 as we are in today."

Steels happy with sprint

Belgian champion Tom Steels won the sprint for third place yesterday in Dunkirk, and he was certainly happy. "It doesn't matter if it's first or third: I won the sprint," he told Het Laatste Nieuws. "I'm very happy about that. It's very hopeful and good for the morale."

He was led out in the final rush by younger teammate, Yuri Mitlushenko. "I don't call him a locomotive, but a TGV. I really had to rush to get out of his wheel. He was fourth himself at the finish, that's how fast he went."

Mitlushenko was so enthusiastic about his work that he gave Steels a kiss at the finish. What's it going to be when Steels wins a stage?

Helmets are go

The threat of the loss of 50 UCI points and a fine of up to €6,250 persuaded all the riders in the first stage of the Four Days of Dunkirk to wear their helmets. Not all were in agreement with the rule, with Laurent Brochard quoted in Het Nieuwsblad as saying "The UCI is treating us like children."

Also there was Jacky Durand, who tried to start with his customary white hairnet (leather helmet), but was called up by the UCI commissaire five kilometres into the race and asked to exchange it for a proper helmet, which he did. Durand did suggest that there should be exceptions made to the rule in case of extremely warm conditions.

McGee crashes in Dunkirk

Brad McGee ( suffered a bad crash in the first stage of the Four Days of Dunkirk, when he fell on the cobbled section in Orchies. The Australian did not break any bones, but did injure a muscle quite heavily, and this will affect his preparation for the Tour.

Other injuries in Dunkirk included Frederik Willems (Vlaanderen-T Interim-Merckx), who has a pain in his wrist and knee after a crash, and Kurt Van Landeghem (Lanbouwkrediet-Colnago), who abandoned due to sickness.

Track World's in Stuttgart

This year's Track World Championships will take place in Stuttgart, according to the Stuttgarter Zeitung. Mayor Wolfgang Schuster and UCI president Hein Verbruggen reportedly reached an agreement on Wednesday. The championships had to be moved from China after several teams announced that they would not take part due to the threat of SARS.

18th Clásica Internacional Alcobendas

Botero back in action

The 18th edition of the Clásica Alcobendas marks the third year that it has been run as a mini stage race, having started life as a one day event. It takes place this weekend (May 10-11) over three stages, and is similar to the Criterium International in format. All stages are held in proximity to the Spanish capital, Madrid.

The first stage on Saturday is a moderately hilly 148 km between Alcobendas and Collado Villalba, but the race is really decided on Sunday. Stage 2 in the morning starts in Collado Villalba and takes the riders up the Puerto Navacerrada, an 1870m mountain that rises 790m in 12.2 km. The stage is only 63 km in length, and will thus be a sprint to the top of the climb. In the afternoon, the race finishes with a flat 9.7 km time trial in Alcobendas.

After 27 teams applied to take part in the race, the organisers Unipublic chose to select 16, split up between seven Spanish teams and nine foreign. Last year's event was won by a pair of Davids from Cofidis: David Moncoutié claimed the win by just two seconds from teammate David Millar. Moncoutié will be back to defend his title this year, and will face opposition from the likes of Alex Zülle (Phonak), Igor Astarloa (Saeco), Angel Casero (Coast), Juan Miguel Mercado (iBanesto), Joseba Beloki (ONCE), Oscar Sevilla (Kelme) and Santiago Botero (Telekom), who will be making his first racing appearance in Telekom colours, having spent the early part of the season training in Colombia, as usual.

The stages

Stage 1 - May 10: Alcobendas - Collado Villalba, 148.2 km
Stage 2 - May 11: Collado Villalba - Puerto Navacerrada, 63 km
Stage 3 - May 12: Alcobendas - Alcobendas, 9.7 km

Sven Vanthourenhout on the road

Cyclo-cross rider Sven Vanthourenhout (Quick.Step-Davitamon) will concentrate on a career on the road in 2004, according to the Belgian papers. He will spend this summer preparing for his last cyclo-cross season. "In the Quick.Step team I'm very much pushed to chose for the road, but I first want to prove - for myself and for the outside world - that I belong to the top six Belgian cyclo-cross riders," he said.

Dylan Casey Day: 29th Annual Cat's Hill Criterium

The 29th Annual Cat's Hill Criterium, sponsored by Phoenix Technologies, will be held on May 10, 2003 in Los Gatos, California. This year's event will feature 'Dylan Casey Day'. Dylan will receive The Mayoral Commendation Award from the Town of Los Gatos, presented by Mayor Sandy Decker. The Los Gatos Bicycle Racing Club and the Town of Los Gatos will recognize and honour Dylan for his cycling career, with the presentation to take place at 4:10pm.

The Los Gatos Bicycle Racing Club has presented the Cat's Hill Criterium continuously since 1974. The race is one of the oldest grass roots cycling races in the US, and the grueling climb has challenged the likes of Greg LeMond (winner 1978), Derek Bouchard-Hall, Karen Kurreck, Suzy Pryde, Nicole Freedman, Eric Heiden, Davis Phinney, Bob Roll, Ted Huang, Eric Wohlberg, and Antonio Cruz, as well as Dylan Casey.

Over 200 riders will compete on the demanding one mile lap that starts at the corner of Tait and Nicholson Avenues in Los Gatos. The route is a clockwise loop that includes a steep 23% climb and six 90 degree turns. Race distances are between 3 and 35 miles, with the first race beginning at 10:00am.

The Cat's Hill Criterium is held under United States Cycling Federation (USCF) permit and is a member of the Lance Armstrong Junior Olympic Race Series.

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