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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition News for May 16, 2003

Edited by Chris Henry

Coast in breach of contract

Hein Verbruggen, president of the UCI, has declared that Team Coast is in breach of its contract following the latest non-payment of riders' salaries. Team Coast remains suspended, and in a fragile state of existence, particularly following reports that Jan Ullrich and Rudy Pevenage have sought to distance themselves from the sponsor.

According to Verbruggen, all riders on the team may consider themselves free to consider other options, as the breach of contract could no longer tie them legally to Coast and embattled owner Gunther Dahms. "The riders whose salaries were not paid are free to change," Verbruggen said after an International Olympic Committee (IOC) meeting in Madrid, Spain. "The riders should not worry," Verbruggen added. "We have the bank guarantees for three months of salaries, and we will use these to pay the riders if necessary."

The first in a new wave of riders to jump ship was Manuel Beltran, who has signed a deal with US Postal Service for the remainder of the season.

Verbruggen presents a calm tone on the matter, however the critical issue of Tour de France selection for Jan Ullrich and his Coast teammates is perhaps less clear. Daniel Baal of the Société du Tour de France commented on the situation, and left the door open to a change of status for the team, which was pre-selected for the Tour. "Perhaps we will designate five wild card selections, since after the suspension of Team Coast the number of automatically qualified teams drops from 18 to 17," Baal explained, quoted in Radsport-News.

Baal affirmed the Tour's support for Jan Ullrich, winner of the event in 1997 and still considered the greatest threat to Lance Armstrong's reign. He indicated that the decision date for the remaining Tour team selections is fast approaching (Monday, May 19), but the Tour "has not forgotten that Jan is a race winner and could be counted among the favourites this year."

Calls for extension of 1km rule

A movement is afoot to change the UCI regulations concerning the protection of riders in the final kilometre of a race. As it stands, riders who crash or suffer mechanical problems in the final kilometre of a road race are granted the same time as the riders in whose group they would have finished.

Some riders and teams, notably Stefano Garzelli and the Vini Caldirola-Sidermec team, have indicated a desire to extend this zone from one to three kilometres. Several riders have been involved in crashes or been delayed at the end of the Giro stages thus far, Garzelli included, as well as Fassa Bortolo's two leaders, Dario Frigo and Aitor Gonzalez (Frigo lost 19" at the end of stage 5).

"When we lost seven seconds the other day, we didn't say anything because we didn't want people to think we were only speaking in our own interests," commented Vini Caldirola directors Vittorio Algeri and Franco Gini. Quoted in l'Equipe Thursday, the two heads of Garzelli's team revealed that discussions are in fact already underway on the subject. "The idea was broached a month ago, in a meeting with the UCI. It's a matter of pushing this limit from one to three kilometres."

If Garzelli had his way, the limit would be even greater, giving riders 5km of time protection. "Riders like myself who are riding for the general classification have to stay in the front of the race with our teammates until the final kilometre," Garzelli said. "But doing that gets in the way of the sprinters' teams."

Pantani needs more time

Pantani still searching
Photo: © Sirotti
Click for larger image

Marco Pantani, enjoying a first good week in the Giro d'Italia, and a strong return to competition in general, isn't overconfident for the mountains that lie ahead. Speaking of the Giro's looming encounter with the Terminillo climb on Saturday's stage 7, Pantani indicated that he might not have what it takes to conquer the mountain.

"They say it's going to be a difficult day," Pantani said in a Datasport interview. "I won't have the necessary strength on that climb." The Italian climber noted that he still needs some more time in competition to reach the necessary level of fitness.

Nonetheless, Pantani knows how to race, and he knows the importance of remaining vigilant."In my career I have seen a lot," he said. "I've seen LeMond and Roche, Chiapucci and Indurain. I've learned something from all of them. In a race I've always started climbs from behind, to see what's happening. I'm always careful, paying attention to the race and not making mistakes."

Many riders have learned the importance of visiting key climbs and stages before the grand tours, notably four-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, and a growing contingent of team leaders such as Gilberto Simoni, who made several visits to the key climbs of this year's Giro. Pantani, on the other hand, does not see the need to test the climbs. "I've tried in the past, but there's no comparison," he said of training vs. racing. "In a race you always put in a performance that can't be repeated in training."

On the eve of stage 6 of the Giro, Pantani sits in 11th place overall, 1'16" behind race leader Alessandro Petacchi.

Simoni still ready

Gilberto Simoni (Saeco), one of the heavy favourites for the Giro title, is looking forward to the first mountain stage and the Terminillo. "The first climb is always difficult to judge," he told Datasport. "Nobody will be saving anything."

Simoni is eager to ride an aggressive race, as his his compatriot Francesco Casagrande. "I've spoken with Casagrande, and we told each other that we're going to attack," Simoni said. "We don't have to wait for anybody. We don't want to repeat the mistakes of years past, when we worried too much about stage victories and lost the opportunities to win the Giro."

Simoni, who ranks Casagrande (Lampre), Aitor Gonzalez and Dario Frigo (Fassa Bortolo), and Stefano Garzelli as his key rivals, isn't so quick to discount Marco Pantani (Mercatone Uno-Scanavino). Neither is his team director, Claudio Corti. "I would now include Pantani [among the favourites]," Corti explained. "I see him more active now. We'll need the first climb to understand the situation better."

Simoni currently sits in 5th place in the general classification, 1'04" behind Petacchi.

Cofidis makeover for 2004

Following a series of public outbursts between riders and management of the French Division I Cofidis squad, Cofidis president François Migraine has promised some substantial changes for 2004. Cofidis has been accused by riders such as David Millar as focusing too heavily on UCI points and individual performances, rather than as a collective effort in support of team leaders. The Belgian contingent of Nico Mattan, Jo Planckaert, Chris Peers, and Peter Farazijn has also lashed out at the criticism of team manager Alain Bondue following some less than stellar performances this spring.

In an interview with l'Equipe, Migraine announced that changes would be made for 2004, and the pressure is on Bondue to remake his team into a winning collection of riders. Migraine, who has given his support for the team through 2007, threatened to end his involvement sooner if Cofidis' results don't improve. A number of riders, Mattan and Farazijn included, are up for contract renewal at the end of the year. Although he did not initially insist on a change of teams, Mattan has received offers from the likes of Michele Bartoli to join the Italian Fassa Bortolo team.

Bettini glad to be back

As reported earlier, Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step-Davitamon) will make his return to competition May 21st at the Tour of Bavaria in Germany. Bettini has been out of racing since his crash in the early kilometres of Gent-Wevelgem in April, where he injured his shoulder.

"My shoulder still aches a little bit, especially when I move it to certain positions, but this shouldn't really hinder me for the races I'm about to do," Bettini explained. The winner of this year's Milan-San Remo will race the Tour of Luxembourg, Tour de Suisse, and the Italian national championships, before tackling the Tour de France. He's happy to be back in the saddle, training since the beginning of May, but admits "I really need to do a lot of pedaling to regain my competitive rhythm."

Bettini will chase stage victories in the Tour, which will be his third. Following the Tour, the World Cup will once again become the Italian's focus, though he'll have to dethrone Peter Van Petegem, who currently leads the competition after his Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix victories.

"If we exclude Van Petegem, who has a 100 point advantage over me, the others are all very close," Bettini noted. "Personally I feel very much in line for this title, even though it won't be easy. Getting good results in August could also be an excellent launch ready for the World Championships."

Jalabert gives back

Recently retired French hero Laurent Jalabert will share his wisdom with young cyclists aged 12-16 in several cities throughout France. Jalabert will take part in the "Découverte des Sports Cyclistes" program, an effort to introduce kids to cycling promoted by the French cycling federation (FFC) and the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), which owns the Tour de France.

The first meeting will take place in Montgeron, the birthplace of the Tour de France, just south of Paris. Two sessions will be held each day, with events to follow over the next month in Marseille, Lyon, Bordeaux, Toulouse, and Nantes. Demonstrations, instruction, and competitions will be held for mountain bikes and BMX, videos will be shown, and discussions will also focus on equipment and safety.

Payment time for Fantasy Giro

If you haven't already, remember you need to pay for your teams BEFORE stage 7 of the Giro d'Italia begins in order to be eligible for the Giro Tour competition at http://fantasy.cyclingnews.com. You can pay now through normal credit card transaction.

From the end of stage 6 you will also need to select your stage team IN ADVANCE of the stage 7 beginning, which is Italian time 10:00 (GMT+2) on Saturday 17th May 2003.

Also, remember you need to select your Mountain, General Classification and Classification by Points teams of 9 before stage 7 begins. As long as you have paid and registered your teams by 10:00 Italian time (GMT+2) on Saturday, May 17, 2003, you will be eligible for the Giro Tour competition.

The competition is going to hot up now so make sure you pick the best teams possible with major prizes on offer and more to be announced very soon. We hope you have enjoyed the chance to get to understand the game play and configure your teams to give yourself the best chance to winning the prizes.

If you have any further questions about payment and picking your teams, or to see your local time deadline for entering the Giro, click here.

Good luck!

 

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