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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition News for May 11, 2003

Edited by Chris Henry

Giro underway, Marzoli non-starter

The Giro d'Italia got underway Saturday with the first road stage in Lecce. Fassa Bortolo's Alessandro Petacchi claimed the first bunch sprint win ahead of world champion Mario Cipollini. Cipo is chasing Alfredo Binda's record of 41 Giro stage wins, but will have to wait at least another day to tie the record. For a blow by blow account of the first stage, click here.

The total number of starters this morning at the Giro d'Italia dropped to 169, after Alessio's Ruggero Marzoli decided not to start. Results from Marzoli's pre-race blood tests taken on Thursday indicated a 'state of fatigue', and the rider was advised not to take the start.

"No abnormalities were revealed in his tests according to the UCI's guidelines for declaring a rider apt to start," said Alessio directeur sportif Bruno Cenghialta. The medical report indicated that there were no problems with doping parameters, such as hematocrit and hemaglobin, simply that Marzoli was not considered in a strong enough state to start the race.

Verbrugghe wants a stage win

Photo: © CN
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Following recent bouts of illness and a tendon injury, Lotto-Domo team leader Rik Verbrugghe has been forced to temper his expectations for the Giro d'Italia. Verbrugghe, who has worn the pink leader's jersey and always dreamed of a high overall finish in Italy, knows that this year the podium is likely out of his reach.

"It's true that I would have liked to fight for a place in the overall in [the Giro], which has smiled on me in recent years," Verbrugghe told La Dernière Heure. "But given my current condition, which is not ideal at the moment, it's no longer a possibility."

Verbrugghe does hope for some good performances in this year's Giro, even if he does not touch the sharp end of the general classification. "My condition should come around after seven or eight days of racing," he noted. "I am hoping for a stage win. This could be in either the smaller mountain stages, or in one of the time trials."

Verbrugghe added that he has always loved the grand tours, and hopes to succeed in the Tour de France as well. "I hope to find my form and be able to finish well in the general classification at the Tour de France. A top 10 would be a good performance. To wear the pink jersey in the Giro d'Italia is something else! I still need to taste the yellow..."

CCC-Polsat looking ahead

By João Cravo

If things continue to progress, the admission in May of 2004 of Poland as full-member of the European Union could conceivably be followed by the entry of the Polish team CCC-Polsat in the Tour de France just two months later. CCC-Polsat profited from the last minute decline from Bankgiroloterij to assume its place in the Division I ranks, joining the elite field for the first time in its short four years history. Now the team management believes that fate gave the team an opportunity it should not turn down.

The CCC-Polsat team is managed by Andrzej Sypytkowski, silver medallist of the Olympic games held in Seoul, South-Korea in 1988. The squad is sponsored by shoe manufacturer CCC and Polish satellite TV channel Polsat.

Despite an almost invisible budget of 500,000 €, CCC-Polsat presented a sufficiently compelling plan for the years to come to convince Polish riders Tomasz Brozyna and Dariusz Baranowski to leave and return home. Pavel Tonkov, winner of the Giro d'Italia in 1996, accepted the invitation to contribute his experience and talent to a dream that is being built in the eastern European cycling community.

The reasons to feed great expectations were not all imported from Spain and Italy, however. CCC-Polsat won 30 races in 2002 and already had in its ranks the winner of the 2002 Peace Race, Czech Ondrej Sosenka, as well as Jacek Mickiewicz, who counted nine wins last season. In its quest to get as many UCI points as possible in order to remain amongst the elite and keep the dream of a Tour participation a little closer, CCC-Polsat has a first major challenge to overcome. A strong performance in the 2003 Giro could be an important step on the way to the Tour.

An ex-pro laments

In interview with French newspaper Le Monde, former professional Thierry Laurent has spoken frankly about his drug use during his pro years, and offered an unusual insight into the doping practices of some teams. According to Laurent, who rode with RMO, Castorama, Festina, and Lotto, domestiques were often given certain products by team doctors to slow them down in races and keep their personal ambitions in check.

Laurent, 36, has been charged with drug use and trafficking and will face charges as part of the trial in Perpignan, France, which begins May 13.

Laurent has accepted the consequences his actions, and while not excusing himself of all responsibility, he maintains that during his tenure as a professional doping was par for the course, and a necessary evil. "In cycling, when you reach a certain level, either you remain a small rider, or you want to progress," Laurent told Le Monde. "I took the risk of trying to improve and I fell into the system that everyone knows."

Laurent explained that the infamous "pot Belge" became a routine part of his preparation for both training and racing, along with corticoids and EPO, which at the time were undetectable in normal doping controls. While these helped his performances to a degree, he also explained the control exerted by teams to keep the support riders in their place.

"[Teams] don't like to see a good domestique progress too much," he said. "To avoid having riders gain too many points and thus demand higher salaries, they gave them injections at the end of the season to blunt their performances."

This was something Laurent claims to have experienced this first hand, with disappointing consequences. "One year, at the French national championships, they gave me some substance," he explained. "My race went much worse than usual and I wasn't selected for the Tour de France."

Laurent ended his career in 1999, after coming to the realisation that his career had become too dependent on drug use, and his salary was no longer sufficient to fund the doping products he required to perform at the level demanded by his team. In addition to his own admitted doping as a rider, Laurent also fell into the trap of supplying other riders with banned substances, another contributing factor in his decision to quit the sport. Implicated with a number of other ex-pros, Laurent now faces criminal charges before the French courts.

Sevilla still sidelined

Oscar Sevilla was unable to take the start at the Clasica de Alcobendas, still recovering from the operation to remove a painful boil in March. Sevilla had planned to begin his season relatively late this spring, focusing on the Tour de France and Vuelta a España. The healing process after the operation has not gone smoothly, and the Kelme leader will no doubt begin to wonder about his preparation for the Tour in July. Nonetheless, Kelme team doctor Ignacio Labarta has said that "there is still time" for the Tour.

Paltry sentence for California drivers

According to the Sacramento Bee, two drivers who were implicated in the death of a 44 year old cyclist last April have been given paltry sentences. Bryan Purgason and Stephen Graoutte were street racing when one of them hit and killed Thomas Burgess, who was crossing the street on his bicycle. Graoutte was sentenced to 12 months in jail earlier this year, and Purgason, who had fled the scene and was already on probation, was sentenced to two years in jail for vehicular manslaughter.

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