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Photo ©: Swift

Latest News for May 16, 2003

Edited by Jeff Jones

Farewell, Rik I

By Jeff Jones

The death of Rik Van Steenbergen on Thursday evening from cancer, aged 78, has been met with sadness in the world of cycling, which has lost one of the great riders of the sport. During his career which spanned 25 years on both the road and track, Rik won 952 races, including 270 professional road wins and 40 Six Day races. Cyclingnews asked a number of those who knew him and raced with him for their reactions to his death.

Eddy Merckx

"A big heart and a great champion"

Farewell Rik
Photo © AFP
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Eddy Merckx is considered the greatest cyclist ever, and his palmares on the road will probably never be equalled. Merckx was active in the period between 1965 and 1977, winning 525 races including 5 Tours de France, 5 Giri d'Italia, the Vuelta Espańa, 4 World Championships (1 amateur), and 29 classics.

Merckx was justifiably saddened by the death of one of his fellow greats. "It's a pity now," he told Cyclingnews. "Rik was a very nice guy and a very big champion. He was 78, which is not so old, but he was sick since last year. I've always had very good contacts with Rik. Last Monday I saw him and he was not so good, and I didn't think he would recover."

How much did your careers overlap? "Not so much. Rik was at the end of his career when I started. I rode the last meeting he did at the Sportpaleis in Brussels, and for me it was a big honour to ride together with Rik Van Steenbergen. It was also the last meeting at the Sportpaleis. I did the same in Gent. I rode with Rik in some Six Day Races in '65 - Brussels and Gent, but not with him as a partner."

Merckx said that Rik was "A very complete champion. He was strong on the road and very strong on the track. He was very complete on the track too - behind the derny, or in the sprint. He could do anything."

"I would like to remember him as a great person with a big heart and a great champion."

Patrick Sercu

"We lose one of the three greats"

Road success
Photo © AFP
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Patrick Sercu is without doubt the best Six Day rider ever, winning a total of 88 Six Day events during his career that also included three track World Championships, an Olympic gold medal, numerous world records, and the green jersey in the Tour de France. He is now the race director for the Gent Six, among other commitments.

Sercu wasn't surprised by the death of Rik Van Steenbergen but he was saddened, telling Cyclingnews, "We knew before that he was very sick, but it's always painful when someone dies. Everyone knows he was a big champion. He was special and a very strong guy."

Sercu's career overlapped with Van Steenbergen's in the mid-60's. "My father [Albert] rode with him and I was also riding with him in the last two years of his career. As the son of an ex-colleague I had a lot of contacts, and I rode with him a lot, especially in '65."

"Rik was racing at the time when there was no TV, so everybody had to go to watch him," continued Sercu. "He was a man who raced in summer and winter. It was in a difficult time in the six days, the time without sleeping. But Rik was never sick and he was never tired. In that period he filled tracks only with himself."

Sercu also recognised his feats on the road, which included four Tour stage wins, six Vuelta stage wins and 15 stages in the Giro d'Italia. "Rik was also very strong on the road: he came second in the Giro without a being a climber. But he raced a lot for making money out of these races: criteriums, small velodrome meetings and so on. He could have won a lot more races if he wanted to."

As a person, "I knew him very well, and for me he was a very kindly man. When in company he could talk always and always. He was a man who went by the name of 'The Boss' - everybody respected him."

"I think for the public in Belgium, we have Van Steenbergen, Van Looy and Merckx. So we lose one of the three greats. It's a shame, but that's life."

Walter Godefroot

"Death always comes too early"

Massively popular
Photo © AFP
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Now manager of the Telekom team, Belgian Walter Godefroot was also beginning his career as Rik Van Steenbergen was finishing his. In 1965, Godefroot was Belgian champion, but when he rode a criterium with Rik that year, he was amazed at the reaction of the public, who adored Rik I. That will always remain as a memory for Godefroot.

"Death always comes too early," Godefroot told Cyclingnews. "He was a professional for 25 years and had great palmares. In the track races he would still be on the velodrome at 4 o'clock in the morning, because the public wouldn't leave. There was always Rik Van Steenbergen, the man for the public. He was a great man."

Change of venue for Track Worlds signals change of plans for Australia

Bradley McGee confirms participation in Stuttgart

Words of wisdom
Photo © Anthony Tan/CN
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By Anthony Tan

According to the head coach for Australian Cycling, Martin Barras, the change of venue for the 2003 World Track Championships from China to Stuttgart, Germany spells great news for Australia's medal chances.

The location change is most beneficial to the men's endurance track events, notably the Teams Pursuit, the Individual Pursuit and Madison, where a number of Australia's medal hopes were initially unavailable due to their professional road commitments in Europe. Since the announcement, however, star riders Bradley McGee and Graeme Brown have confirmed their participation at the World's as a consequence of the venue becoming more accessible to them, with McGee to ride the Individual Pursuit and Brown penned in for the Teams Pursuit and possibly the Madison.

"From the beginning of the season, our plan was to put Luke Roberts on the start line at the World's, but now that the World's have moved to Europe, Bradley McGee has made himself available, so we're extremely pleased with that," said Barras on the first day of competition at the final round of the Track World Cup. "Between those two, they finished first and second at the last year's World's, so we're looking very strong in this area. It remains to be seen whether Mark Jamieson has qualified for a spot from his performance at the Oceania titles though."

McGee: In Pursuit of Gold
Photo © Mike Gladu
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Asked about Australia's other strong medal hopes, the new face of Australian track cycling success leant heavily towards his male riders in both endurance and short course events: "Jobie [Dajka] definitely will be one of our gold medal contenders, however, we'll have to see how he's come out of Japan after racing the Keirin circuit, because it's pretty tough over there.

"Out of the two pursuiters, you look at [Luke] Roberts and [Bradley] McGee and you expect at least a medal from that, and the Teams Pursuit is likely to be another [gold] as well," added a confident Barras. "The Team Sprint will depend on whether we can bring [Sean Eadie] back to good form, but if we can, we've got a good chance in that as well. I think these will be our main opportunities."

To read the full interview with Martin Barras, click here.

Cipollini: "My job is to win"

On the first rest day in the Giro, Italian God and Champion of the World Mario Cipollini was brave enough to face the gathered press with a smile on his face. He seemed relaxed and very comfortable, even though the Giro hasn't been a great success for his team so far.

"If I'm not winning a bunch sprint anymore," Cipollini was quoted in the VUM newspapers. "What certainties are there left in life? C'mon guys, put on a brighter face. Or did you think I would be desolate because I haven't beaten Binda's record yet?"

"Some of you say that I always have an excuse after not winning," he changed his tone lightly. "I admit, it's not yet a Super Mario sitting here. Because of that, the hierarchy of sprinters in this Giro is messed up. Alessandro (Petacchi) is performing fantastically, it is all working out for him. I have known better legs and nothing works for me. Look at Wednesday. There was a crash one and a half kilometres from the finish. Without that, I wouldn't have lost Lombardi's wheel. And if I didn't hit a hole ten metres before the line, I dare to say I would have won. But that is the way it is."

"I refuse to talk about giving the reign to Alessandro in this Giro though. If one looks at the stages to come, there are seven more chances for me to equal and surpass the Giro stage win record of Binda. That should be enough."

"My job is to win and I'd like to keep it that way."

Tour Wild Cards: Super Mario vs. Mad Dog

Next Monday, May 19, the organisers of the Tour de France will name the final four wild card teams that will take part in this year's Tour. It will be a tight contest between the French teams (Brioches La Boulangčre, Ag2r, Jean Delatour) and the strong foreign squads, namely Domina Vacanze, Phonak, and Euskaltel-Euskadi. Although there are other candidates, these six teams are the ones which will probably fight it out for the last four places.

It's likely, given the French focus of the event, that both Ag2r-Prevoyance and Brioches la Boulangčre will make the cut. Jean Delatour is a chance after a better performance in the Four Days of Dunkirk, but its season has been pretty lean so far. If the organisers opt to take two foreign teams, then it will come down to Domina Vacanze, Phonak and Euskaltel.

Mario Cipollini's Domina Vacanza-Elitron team is behind Alex Zülle's Phonak squad by two places in the latest UCI team rankings. But it has an advantage due to its big drawcard, Mario Cipollini, nicknamed "Super Mario". Phonak has Alex Zülle, who has twice finished second in the Tour de France. His nickname is "Perro Loco" or "Mad Dog" from his early racing days in Spain.

"Cipollini is a huge star, a showman and world champion to boot," ex-team manager Cyril Guimard told Darren Tulett or Bloomberg news. "That gives his team a considerable edge."

Phonak hasn't had any big results this season, despite signing "Mad Dog" Zülle from Coast in March. However, the Swiss company is also involved in sponsorship of Amaury Sport Organization events such as Paris-Nice. And it employed USA Cycling president Jim Ochowicz as a consultant to help it gain Tour selection.

"It would be almost a scandal if Phonak snuck in," said Jean-Luc Gatellier to Bloomberg, who has written several books on the Tour de France.

However Phonak is committed sponsoring its cycling team through 2007, and that may sway the Tour selectors, said team manager Urs Freuler. "It would be nice if the Tour organizers put some value on longevity, rather on teams that are likely to disappear into thin air next year," he said

According to Tour spokesman Matthieu Desplats, "It's the global impression, how a team has been riding, whether its racers attacked or hung back. Then there are the big personalities, those who will give something to the Tour."

In the personality stakes, Cipo is still Super Mario, even if he hasn't surpassed Binda yet. But Alex Zülle's Mad Dog days might be over. "If it's a straight choice between Mario and Alex, it won't take the Tour people long," added Cyril Guimard. "Worthy as Zülle is, people don't go out of their way to watch him pedal by."

The teams selected so far:

U.S. Postal Service
Fassa Bortolo
Team Telekom
Team Coast
Quick Step-Davitamon
Kelme-Costa Blanca
Credit Agricole
Team CSC

Quaranta to come back in Germany

Ivan Quaranta's comeback aimed at the Tour de France will start in Germany with the Saeco sprinter in action from May 21 to 25 at the Internationale Bayern Rundfahrt. Saeco will send Juan Fuentes, the recent winner of the GP Industria & Artigianato, Antonio Bucciero, Giosuč Bonomi, Nicola Gavazzi and German Joerg Ludewig to help Quaranta win some stages.

Cyclingnews Giro Fantasy game - last chance for excellent prizes

Today will be the very last chance to enter the Giro d'Italia fantasy game on, as entries will be accepted until the start of stage 7, but after that date you will only be able to watch. The competition boasts a major prize of a Cannondale CAAD7 frame painted in Saeco colours and we have also added prizes from Campagnolo, Selle Italia and Rudy Project.

The second prize in the Giro d'Italia Fantasy cycling game is a pair of Eurus wheels from Campagnolo. This wheelset is at the top end of the new generation of medium-profile wheels, characterized by the G3 spoke system and the 30mm rims. The Eurus wheels are a top-class product; aerodynamic yet very light. The rims are lightened by a special machining, the spokes with variable cross-section in the G3 configuration and the Record class HPW hubs combine to create a pair of wheels weighing little more than 1500 grams that have the speed of high-profile wheels and the weight and comfort that are typical of low-profile wheels.

The rear wheel provides high torsional and lateral stiffness thanks to the G3 system, which doubles right-side spokes, reduces spoke tension and gives an even lighter rim section. The front wheel combines the new HPW hub with radial spoke lacing and a lightweight profile. A product for top-flight competitions that not only provides the outstanding performance that people have come to expect but also stands out through design creativity, engineering sophistication and unique styling.

In addition, the second place prize includes a saddle from Selle Italia and a pair of cycling sunglasses from Rudy Project. For third and fourth places, we have also a saddle from Selle Italia and a pair of cycling sunglasses from Rudy Project, while fifth place wins a pair of cycling sunglasses from Rudy Project.

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 You can pay now through normal credit card transaction.

From the end of stage 6 (May 16) you will also need to select your stage team in advance of the start of stage 7, which is 10:00 Italian time (GMT+2) on Saturday May 17, 2003. Also, remember you need to select your Mountain, General Classification and Classification by Points teams of nine before stage 7 begins.

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, go here.

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