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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest News for May 27, 2003

Edited by Chris Henry

Perez positive for EPO

Tainted result?
Photo: © Jeff Tse
Click for larger image

Spanish rider Francisco Perez, who lit up the roads of the Tour de Romandie for his Protuguese Milaneza-MSS team, has twice tested positive for EPO from that event. According to a l'Equipe report, Perez and the team have requested a counter analysis, which won't be available until mid-June. No announcement has been made regarding possible sanctions or suspension for Perez from the Milaneza camp.

Perez finished third overall in the Tour de Romandie, behind Tyler Hamilton (CSC) and Laurent Dufaux (Alessio). Perez also won two stages, one of which was a shared victory with Dufaux after Perez went off the course while on a solo break.

Casper hopes for birthday gift

Jimmy Casper, one of two sprinters on the Giro team, finally reached the podium in stage 16 after two weeks of relative anonymity. The French sprinter shows a good turn of speed in the final metres of a sprint, but has yet to time his effort to perfection. Casper may be looking for something special in Wednesday's stage 17, which falls on his 25th birthday.

"Most of all I've learned how to get myself on the right wheel," Casper said, explaining his Giro progress to l'Equipe. "I just need a better approach in the final kilometre to avoid extra efforts in the sprint."

Directeur Sportif Marc Madiot has noticed Casper's talents, and has tried to spur his young charge on further. "You're just a hair behind Petacchi," Madiot told him. "You can see it, you're faster than him in the last 50 metres!"

Casper's selection for the Tour de France is not assured, but the Picardie native's progress in the Giro is a good sign, and all part of Madiot's plan to provide his younger riders with the exposure they need to one day challenge in the biggest races.

More tests for Cipo

Mario Cipollini will undergo more tests today, including an MRI, to rule out with complete certainty any serious damage from his crash in stage 11 of the Giro d'Italia. Cipollini suffered considerable pain in his back and shoulder following his high speed slam into the barriers in the final corner of a wet sprint finish in San Dona di Piave. The world champion retired from the race the next morning, and stayed off the bike until Monday, when he made his first venture back on the road.

Rabobank hits the hills

Quality time
Photo: © Mark Shimahara
Click for larger image

Levi Leipheimer and his Rabobank teammates are wrapping up an intensive training camp in the French Alps, part of the team's preparation for the Tour de France in July. Leipheimer finished 8th overall in his first Tour de France last year, and hopes for improvement this year, even if he doesn't consider himself a heavy favourite.

"I'm a year more experienced and after looking back at last year, I see there is room for me to improve," Leipheimer explained. "Time was lost in certain areas and I'll try to improve on that."

As for his preparation, the American notes that things are progressing well. "I'm definitely not behind schedule," says Levi. "If anything, I'm ahead."

For a full story on the Rabobank camp, and an update on Michael Rasmussen's condition following his crash in training, see Mark Shimahara's report here.

Hincapie happy

George Hincapie is a happy man after exceeding his own expectations at his first race in several months, the Tour of Belgium. Hincapie was sidelined for virtually the entire spring season, suffering from a viral infection which sapped his strength and prevented him from training and recovering properly. Hincapie finished the Tour in 7th place overall, less than a minute back of race winner Michael Rogers (Quick.Step-Davitamon).

"I felt better in the Tour of Belgium then I thought I would," Hincapie said. "I have really only been training for three weeks, so I thought I would be worse (than I was). I was a bit nervous coming into the race because I had never been away from the races for so long and did not know what to expect. My expectations going in were to try and get through (the race) and I hoped that I could just gain some race fitness out of it."

The simple pleasure of just being back with the team was encouragement enough for Hincapie, who will now work to build up for the Tour de France, although his selection for the team is not as certain as in past years. With or without the Tour, however, Hincapie hopes to target major races in the second half of the season, which normally have been out of reach after his traditional spring classics schedule and the Tour de France.

"I would obviously love to go to the Tour (de France), but I won't know until after the Tour of Catalunya," he explained. "The team for the Tour is stacked this year and I have to prove that I am ready to do it. I would love to have a strong August and basically race until the Worlds, which is a goal of mine now."

New Italian national team jersey

By Tim Maloney, European Editor

New threads
Photo: © Tim Maloney
Click for larger image

With a new year there's a new look for the "Squadra Azzura". With a baseball style graphic for Italia and a new sponsor in Liquigas, Italian National Cycling Team clothing sponsor Sportful presented the new Italian National Team Jersey for 2003 before Stage 14 of the Giro d'Italia.

Plenty of postive comments on the new maglia for the azzuri di ciclismo, but the most important came from Alfredo Martini, Italian National cycling coach for three decades and now the "supervisore". Martini, a former loyal gregario of Fausto Coppi told La Gazzetta dello Sport that the retro look was great and "this is a jersey that brings me back in time..."

Sportful General Manager Marco Balzarini also had some interesting news for Cyclingnews. Balzarini, a former General Manager at Castelli, told us that "the Cremonese family (owners of Sportful) and myself have just licensed the Castelli brand of cycling wear from Gruppo spa for 10 years. There have been a lot of rumors that we have bought Castelli, but that's not true. We are very excited about the license and thing that this will be very positive."


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