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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition News for May 24, 2003

Edited by Chris Henry and Tim Maloney

Team Bianchi official

The UCI announced Friday afternoon the official registration of Team Bianchi. The new team takes the place of Team Coast following the two suspensions imposed upon Coast by the UCI due to irregular payment of riders and a general uncertainty concerning the team's financial viability.

As of today, Team Bianchi is afforded a place in the Top Club, which grants the team all rights of participation to races on the international calendar. In a written statement, the UCI acknowledged the efforts of title sponsor Bianchi to salvage the situation facing the riders and staff of Team Coast.

"The independent legal and financial structure of the Bianchi Team, the willingness to commit to cycling for the next few years, the fact that this [trade team] is welcoming the whole of the riders and staff from Team Coast wishing to join it, as well as the economical warrantees provided, have enabled the UCI to approve the integration to the Top Clubs as they prove satisfactory to all regulation-aspects."

Ullrich to the Tour

Almost immediately following the UCI's announcement, the Société du Tour de France confirmed that Team Bianchi would receive the final invitation, that originally reserved for Team Coast, to the Tour. The Société had left the option open to replace Team Coast with another team if the suspension weren't lifted, or if this new trade team did not develop in sufficient time. However now that Team Bianchi has been granted official status by the UCI, the Tour would have no grounds to exclude the team, meaning Jan Ullrich should race the Tour, and Mario Cipollini has seen his last chance for an invitation disappear.

"This decision puts an end to the questions we had to ask," Daniel Baal told l'Equipe. "From the moment Bianchi becomes a Top Club team, the team has a place guaranteed according to the regulations."

Team leader Jan Ullrich will now have an uninterrupted build up to the Tour, where he will surely be a star attraction, even if he and director sportif Rudy Pevenage insist that this year's ambitions will remain modest. Ullrich last raced May 1 in Frankfurt, and his preparation before the Tour is scheduled to include a return racing May 31 at the Rund um die Hainleite in Erfurt, Germany, followed by the Tour of Germany (June 3-9) and the Tour of Switzerland (June 16-25).

"Finally we're there," Pevenage commented, relieved with the news of Bianchi's acceptance. "We're going to work overtime to make sure Jan can race for the first time in the Team Bianchi jersey on May 31."

Leblanc: No discussions with DVE

The rumoured meeting between Domina Vacanze boss Rumoured Preatoni and Tour de France director Jean-Marie Leblanc will not take place. In fact, it was never scheduled. Anxious thinkers in Italy had presumed that Leblanc's visit to Italy this week would bring some good news- or at least negotiations- concerning the exclusion of Mario Cipollini and Domina Vacanze from the Tour.

"I am not going to have a meeting with him," Leblanc told l'Equipe. "I'm here in Italy for a long-scheduled social engagement at Elite [ed: Tour de France water bottle sponsor]. At this point I'm waiting to see what happens regarding the status of Bianchi before we make any decisions. We would like to take our time with this situation. I'm not a dictator as they're saying in Italy. But we need to look at the overall status before we make any decision about inviting Domina Vacanze."

All this was said, however, prior to the UCI's announcement of Team Bianchi's acceptance in the Top Club, which according to normal procedures would automatically qualify the team for the Tour. Given the quick response Friday evening from ASO's director of cycling Daniel Baal, all appeared to have been finalised concerning Tour invitations, with Jan Ullrich and Team Bianchi getting the nod at the expense of Cipollini and Domina Vacanze.

Still hope for Cipo?

Just when the issue of Tour selection began to look settled, Jean-Marie Leblanc managed to leave the door open ever so slightly for Domina Vacanze. At an impromptu press conference Friday night at Elite headquarters in Italy, Leblanc said there is still 'a ten percent chance' that Domina Vacanze could be invited to the Tour de France. "There are a lot of problems still with the logistics, but we are continuing to study the situation," Leblanc explained. This statement shows that all is not settled within ASO, given Daniel Baal's rejection this week of any discussion of a 23rd team.

Despite his being labeled as a dictator by some, Leblanc understands the importance of having the world champion on the start line in Paris. As director of the Tour, Leblanc's affection for this year's centenary celebration of the race, and his understanding of the enormous scope of the event, arguably cannot be matched. Nonetheless, even with the best of intentions to make room for Cipollini and his team, the logistical hurdles of adding a 23rd team to the Tour are substantial.

For the Tour organisation to make the necessary arrangements for an additional team, particularly at this late stage, would be no small feat. Adding a team to the world's biggest bicycle race- entering what should be its biggest year ever- means more than finding hotel rooms for nine riders. Team staff, sponsors, and invited guests make up a considerable entourage, in addition to the extra vehicles and equipment necessary for another team. For these reasons, Leblanc insists that the situation must be reviewed carefully, because of the size of the undertaking.

Giro stage wrap-up: Petacchi times four

For Zanette
Photo: © Sirotti
Click for larger image

After an easy start in Pordenone and the brief stop in Sacile to greet the family of the late Denis Zanette, a hot sunny Friday saw little action until Moreno DiBiase (Formaggio Pinzolo) extended his lead in the Intergiro over monstrous Magnus Bäckstedt with a win in Caneva. Just down the road, De Nardi-Colpack's sprinter Andrus Aug took the €1000 prime in front of his sponsor's door factory in San Fior.

Following a nervous period, the race settled down, until the peloton reached the finishing circuit in Marostica, which included three laps up the Salita della Rosina climb. On the final climb, Stefano Garzelli blew the race apart with a strong attack, which pulled clear the heavy favourites of the Giro, and saw Dario Frigo (Fassa Bortolo) on the attack heading into the final kilometres.

Frigo's team director Giancarlo Ferretti decided the best chances were with top sprinter Alessandro Petacchi, and as the finish neared the team switched gears, setting Petacchi up for his fourth sprint victory of the race. Garzelli showed his sprinting form, taking third place and narrowing the gap to race leader Gilberto Simoni, thanks to an all-important time bonus.

Stage 13 full results and report
Live report

Petacchi: More than a sprinter

Four's the score
Photo: © Sirotti
Click for larger image

Alessandro Petacchi, in claiming his fourth stage win of this year's Giro d'Italia, once again insisted that he is not 'just' a sprinter. Today's dramatic finale, set alight on the final climb by Stefano Garzelli, required a certain amount of climbing ability, which Petacchi amply demonstrated, before his Fassa Bortolo team brought the race together and launched the Italian to another bunch sprint win.

"I've demonstrated that I also know how to hold on during a climb, as I already did on the way to Matera and Terme Luigiane," Petacchi told La Gazzetta Dello Sport. "I was ready to work for Frigo, who was ahead, but Ferretti told us to close the gap and my teammates did a fantastic job."

When asked if he were chasing Mario Cipollini's record of six stage wins in a single Giro, Petacchi answered modestly that the only records he was after were his own. "Mario is Mario," he said simply. "I'm Petacchi."

Gonzalez progressing

Fassa Bortolo's Aitor Gonzalez, winner of the 2002 Vuelta a España, has not enjoyed the best of starts to his Giro. The same can be said for co-leader Dario Frigo. Both riders, however, are coming into form in the second half of the race, evident in Frigo's late race attack in Friday's stage 13. Gonzalez is also optimistic that the last two stages are signs of better things to come.

"I'm getting better, although the high mountains are not the best place to work on my progression," Gonzalez told Spanish paper AS. "I hope to have a similar result to that on the Monte Zoncolan."

Gonzalez currently sits in 24th place overall, 15'02" behind Simoni.

Tamouridis recovering

At the recent UCI Track World Cup in Sydney, Australia, Greek rider Ioannis Tamouridis fell quite heavily in the first heat of the Madison, having already finishing 6th in both the points race and pursuit. He suffered a broken collarbone in the fall. Tamouridis has returned to Greece and undergone surgery to place a pin in the broken bone, according to the Greek cycling team.

Ioannis is considered Greece's best road rider, having finished 11th in the U23 time trial at the 2000 World Championships.
Courtesy of Theo Bougatsas

Marco Polo online

The Marco Polo Cycling Club expands its global reach thanks to a new web site. Currently racing in the Tour of Korea, the team of race leader Kam Po Wong can be followed on Information is also available for the Marco Polo Cycling Fund, which seeks to assist riders from poor/developing nations get the support they need to become professional cyclists.

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