First Edition News for May 28, 2003
Edited by John Stevenson
Simoni feeling good as Giro moves into endgame
With five stages remaining of this year's Giro d'Italia, race leader Gilberto Simoni (Saeco) says he is determined not to let the race slip from his grasp this year.
"Even after more than two weeks of hard racing I still feel good," Simoni told Reuters. "The stages in the Dolomites were very tough, but I've recovered well and I'm looking forward to the final stages.
"Garzelli is my biggest rival. We've been battling it out since the first mountain finish to the summit of Terminillo on stage seven and our duel seems to have captured everybody's attention.
"Two minutes is a good lead to have but it might not be enough and so I'll attack again if I feel good. I'm not going to let this Giro slip from my grasp."
But it certainly won't be plain sailing to Milan for Simoni. His lead over second-placed Stefano Garzelli is just 1 minute 58 seconds, with the fairly hilly stage 18 and final time trial still to come, and Garzelli determined to perform better in the final time trial than in stage 15 where he lost 39 seconds to Simoni.
"It'll be difficult for me to pull back almost two minutes and beat Simoni but I'm not going to give up easily," said Garzelli. "The important thing will be to give it everything right to the last kilometre of the race and take advantage of every chance I get. I have to hope Simoni has a bad day perhaps in the mountains and then again in the final time trial to Milan."
"I've got to try something in the mountains. I'd be willing to blow my chances of a place on the podium if I knew I had a chance of victory," he added.
Simoni challenges Armstrong
Gilberto Simoni has thrown down a gauntlet to four-time Tour de France winner: ride the Giro.
Speaking at the rest day press conference, Simoni would not be drawn on his post-Giro objectives except to say of the Tour de France, "of course, I will be there." Simoni added that, "I think Armstrong has never found a true adversary in the cols of the Tour."
But Simoni did have a challenge for the US Postal champion: "He should come to the Giro, at least once!"
With five stages of the Giro still to go, Simoni says he is comfortable to defend the pink jersey. "Until now I have always attacked," he said. "Now it is up to someone else to take the initiative." With a lead of just 1 minute 58 seconds over Stefano Garzelli, Simoni knows he can't risk complacency, however. "But I am not underestimating anyone," he added. "I have never done that and will not start to do it now."
Pantani ponders switch to Bianchi
Boosted by his on-going respectable performance in the Giro d'Italia, where he's currently tenth on GC, Marco Pantani is so keen to ride this year's Tour de France, he's prepared to temporarily jump ship to Jan Ullrich's Bianchi team, according to a report from the BBC.
At a Giro rest day press conference, Pantani told reporters, "I'd love to ride the Tour de France again. It would be an honour for me and I'd like to see what I can do against Lance Armstrong."
But of course there's the small problem that Pantani's Mercatone Uno team, currently languishing two-thirds of the way down Division II, hasn't been invited, as Pantani recognizes. "The only way of riding is by joining another team. I've never had any problems with Jan Ullrich, I've close ties with Bianchi and my current team is not against the move. I could ride the Tour with Bianchi."
Pantani went on to say that he would meet with his sponsors after the Giro to see if such a move was possible.
"I'm always looking for the motivation to keep racing and the Tour would be perfect. It would also show I'm serious about racing again which should get Armstrong worried," he said. "Last year I didn't deserve a place because I wasn't riding well but this year things are different - I'm competitive and would be a threat to Armstrong."
Cipollini back on the bike
Mario Cipollini is back on the bike after x-rays revealed no sign of a fracture yesterday. Cipollini was examined at the hospital in Lucca yesterday, where orthopedic experts diagnosed a partially dislocated left shoulder and extensive bruising after the crash in stage 11 that ended his Giro. He then spent an hour on the bike, riding at low intensity.
Cipollini now faces 15 days of rehabilitation and physiotherapy before another examination.
Perez B test due June 17
The UCI has confirmed that a rider has tested positive for a banned substance on two occasions at the Tour of Romandy, but UCI spokesman Enrico Carpani has refused to confirm that the rider in question is Milaneza's Francesco Perez.
Nevertheless, Tour of Romandy spokeswoman Corinne Druery yesterday told Reuters, "We learned today that Spanish cyclist Francisco Perez has failed a drugs test taken during the race." Carpani has said only that the rider's B test sample will now be analysed and the results known on June 17.
Perez was reported yesterday to have tested positive for EPO at the Tour of Romandy. The Milaneza rider won two mountain stages of Romandy and wore the leader's jersey.
Giro blood tests clear
UCI doctors performed random blood tests on 32 riders, including race leader Gilberto Simoni during the Giro rest day yesterday. All riders tested were declared fit to race.
SARS silver lining for Chinese cycling
The SARS virus has had a positive effect on the rate of bike use in China. Commuters keen to avoid public transport have taken to their bikes to avoid contact with potential carriers.
US Postal rider David Zabriskie has a broken leg, arm wrist after a near head-on collision with a car on Tuesday, according to the team. Zabriskie was training near his home in Salt Lake City, Utah when he collided with a Nissan Xterra that was attempting to make a turn.
Zabriskie is scheduled for surgery on his leg today, and will have pins inserted in his wrist.
Zabriskie was back in Utah after he was involved in a crash in stage one of the Tour of Belgium that put him out of the race. He had returned hom to Utah to recover from the wrist injury he sustained in that crash, and to prepare for the upcoming Wachovia series which starts June 3.
Marco Polo recruits African riders
The Marco Polo Cycling Club has announced that two of Eritrea's top riders will be joining the Marco Polo Cycling Team in Europe. Habte Weldesimon and Ephrem Tewelde took first and second places respectively in this year's Tour of Eritrea.
Weldesimon and Tewelde's debut on the European scene has been made possible by the Dutch Interchurch Aid organization ICCO. ICCO is attempting to help the Eritrean Cycling Federation build international contacts and gain expertise. ICCO also aims to demonstrate in Europe that Africans are people who can set their own goals, work hard and be successful.
While Eritrea may not be known as a cycling powerhouse, the sport is very popular there, according to the Marco Polo team. There is a strong Italian influence in this East African nation that sits on the Red Sea coast just South of the Tropic of Cancer. Weekly races in the capital Asmara attract 15,000 spectators every Sunday.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2003)