Latest News for May 22, 2003
Edited by Chris Henry
Cipollini out of Giro
Mario Cipollini, who crashed in the dramatic finale of Wednesday's stage 11 of the Giro d'Italia, has decided to abandon the race. Cipollini went for x-rays following the race, which did not reveal any fractures. However, after a sleepless night and continued pain in his back, Cipo decided not to start today's day of heavy climbing, which finishes atop the feared Monte Zoncolan.
Cipollini's untimely exit comes with the consolation that the world champion was able to equal and then surpass the long-standing record of Alfredo Binda for the most career Giro stage wins. After a difficult first week, which saw fellow Italian Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) get the better of Cipollini on several occasions, the Lion King rallied to take back to back stage wins (stages 8, 9) and put his own name in the history books as the most prolific Giro stage winner of all time.
With his team's exclusion from the Tour de France, however, not everything is going according to plan for the world champion. Cipollini must rethink the remainder of his season, having based his season on three primary objectives: Milan-San Remo, the Giro, and the Tour de France.
Galvez also out
Spanish sprinter Isaac Galvez, who was the first to go down in the final corner of stage 11, did not start stage 12 today. Like Mario Cipollini, Galvez escaped without any fractures, however several severe contusions after the high speed slide into the barriers has left the Kelme rider out of action. Galvez could consider himself particularly lucky, having landed on his right hip, which he had broken once before.
Thursday's stage to the Monte Zoncolan began with a peloton reduced to 158 riders.
No 23rd team for Tour
Any hopes that the Tour de France might make special arrangements for a 23rd team in this year's race to accommodate Mario Cipollini and the Domina Vacanze team have been quickly dashed. Daniel Baal, director of cycling for the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), categorically rejected the idea, but noted that a slim possibility does still exist for Cipollini, pending a determination of the viability of the new Bianchi team which is due to replace Coast as title sponsor of Jan Ullrich's team.
"The only possibility for Domina Vacanze is to be the 22nd team," Baal told l'Equipe. "There will be no 23rd team."
While Team Coast was automatically qualified for the Tour, its structural demise prompted ASO to leave its place in the Tour open for the moment, waiting for confirmation that Bianchi can fully establish a new team in short order, or the most likely alternative: replacement by Domina Vacanze.
Yes, yes to Cipo, say cyclists
By Gerard Knapp
A Cyclingnews.com survey has shown overwhelming support for the inclusion of Mario Cipollini and the Domina Vacanze-Elitron team in this year's Tour de France at the expense of French teams. Also, if another spot is made available on the Tour, the majority of cyclists surveyed would prefer to see it go to Cipollini's team, rather than the financially-challenged team of former TdF winner Jan Ullrich.
Earlier this week, organizers of the Tour de France shocked the cycling world when they omitted the team of the reigning world champion, Mario Cipollini in announcing the four remaining wildcard entries for this year's Grand Boucle. The Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO) named French teams Ag2r-Prevoyance, Brioches La Boulangère and Jean Delatour and Spanish squad Euskaltel-Euskadi to fill the remaining places.
The omission of Domina Vacanze resulted in widespread criticism of the ASO and its selection policies, with critics ranging from four-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong through to last year's winner of the Tour's green jersey - and Cipo's principal rival - Robbie McEwen.
The Cyclingnews.com survey of over 3,000 cyclists in 67 countries showed that 89.4 percent believed Cipollini's team should have been offered one of the four wildcards last Monday, with cyclists preferring to exclude Jean Delatour (69.8 percent), Brioches La Boulangère (21.3), Euskaltel-Euskadi (3.7), Ag2r-Prévoyance (1.8) and some 3.4 percent were undecided.
Similarly, the same number of people (89.4 percent) also believe a 22nd team should be invited to ride in the Tour. However, the selection of that 22nd spot is not so clear cut. The survey shows that 51.2 percent want to see Cipollini and Domina Vacanze, with 37.7 percent preferring to see Jan Ullrich and Team Bianchi (formerly Coast, and currently suspended by the UCI). Beyond those two teams, there is support for the rapidly emerging Milaneza squad (5.5), while Phonak scored 4.5 percent of the votes and 1.1 percent were undecided.
The response varied somewhat from country to country, with Italy registering 100 percent support for the Lion King and the USA also registering a vote 94 percent in favour of the Italian sprinter. Of the respondents from host country France, there was still 67 percent in favour of replacing one of the four wildcards with Domina Vacanze.
The general view was that Cipollini deserved a spot because of his status as world champion and his popularity, not to mention his ability to provide some interest in the first week of the Tour. Many also believed he would finish the Tour if he said that was his plan. Similarly, Ullrich was favoured by over one-third of respondents as he "is the only rider who can challenge Lance", said one respondent, typical of many.
However, not all believed Cipollini should be allowed to ride the Tour. One respondent from France supported the argument that French teams deserve support: "It is in the global interest of the TDF, and cycling in general to have a (sic) relatively good French cycling. It is therefore understandable that TDF privilege French teams", said one.
The majority of French respondents took a worldly view of their race, with the majority wanting to see Cipollini in action. It's significant that almost all respondents to this survey could justify their selections and below we share the opinion of one French cycling fan, as this Breton covers the issues from a French point-of-view.
"Mario Cipollini is the greatest sprinter of the history. The Tour de France is the greatest race of the history and must have all the best racers at this start for the century edition. I think the Tour de France isn't a French race but a international race. The nationalist opinion of Jean-Marie Leblanc could be good for the middle of the 20th century, but not at the beginning of the 21st century.
"We're in European Union, we use all the same money, we have all the same culture. What is the signification of the national opinion now? I don't understand. I'm Breton (the little land of Robic, Petit-Breton, Hinault, Bobet, Guimard... and Arnaud Gérard - the junior world champion), I've got the French nationality, but for me this nationality have no real signification.
"France is a country different of the other in Europe, it's a country made by a lot of people from all over the world, of all over the Europe. In this country the people are very different, they haven't all the same story, the same culture. So the preference 'nationale', in cycling or in a other thing, isn't a good idea and have absolutely no signification for the French people. Look the French public at the Tour de France, the blue-white-red flag is absent. Just look this particularity when, this summer, you look TDF at the TV. And you can understand why Jean-Marie Leblanc haven't made the good choice.
"For me Delatour is a good team with some young "talent" (Lefevre, Dumoulin, Joly) and a Breton leader (Halgand) who I support when I see him on the different races in France (last year he won a stage at the Tour). But Delatour is a little team and can be considered like Panaria in Italy or Colchon Relax in Spain. If the Tour de France had only the dimension of Giro or Vuelta, Delatour must be at the start. But the Tour have an other dimension, it's like the world cup in football.
"The absence of Mario, Marco Pantani, Alex Zuelle is like the absence of the England or Argentine team for the world cup. The Tour must be the race of all the stars of cycling because the Tour is not only a race but the greatest sport show of the year. If we want some new generation of racers in France we need the presence of the famous champions at the start of the Tour. Marco Pantani and Mario Cipollini have got more supporter in France the Delatour team can have.
"The public want to see the rainbow jersey, want to see the skin head of Marco: two symbols of modern cycling. Like the "casque de cuir" of Robic or the long legs of Coppi at the middle of the 20th century."
Steels winning again
"This will be so good for his morale," said Landbouwkrediet-Colnago manager Gérard Bulens after Tom Steels had crossed the line, winning the first stage of the Tour of Belgium. "Tom hasn't had it easy because of problems in his family. But he is such a super professional. This year will be another one with highs and lows. I admit, certain moments I wasn't optimistic either. Like last year in Dunkirk when he was in the front one day and dropped the next. He just needs to have one more good winter, then again he'll be able to handle two week races."
"Exactly," Tom confirmed. "I feel such a big difference compared to last year; then I had to stop racing sometimes for three weeks just to recuperate. Now I'm a lot more constant. I never thought it was over for me. I did suffer in the intermediate sprints today, but in the last three kilometres I had sufficient adrenaline not to feel my legs anymore. I am certainly ambitious still. I think I've still got that spot with the absolute top with my name on it. Sprinting doesn't have an age-limit. It just is a case of getting in the right position at the right time and to be able to accelerate still at that moment."
"I don't fear what's coming up now," Steels told the VUM newspapers. "The second stage is definitely a hard one. It will be a real battle to get into a break. But this victory puts us in a different position. And that I won here in Belgium makes me feel twice as good."
US Hall of Fame inductions
This Sunday, May 25 will see five more names added to the United States Bicycling Hall of Fame. An annual dinner and induction ceremony will be held in Bridgewater, New Jersey, beginning at 6pm. This year's inductees include:
Chris Carmichael - Current coach of Lance Armstrong and former United
States Cycling Federation coach (1990-1997)
Liège highlights on SBS
Australia's SBS Television network will air highlights from Liège-Bastogne-Liège Sunday, May 25 at 11:30am. Tune in to witness Tyler Hamilton's impressive victory in "La Doyenne", the oldest of the classics and one of the most coveted victories in the sport.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2003)