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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

First Edition News for May 31, 2003

Edited by Chris Henry

Giro stage wrap up: Simoni comfortable

Pantani came close
Photo: © Sirotti
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There was never any doubt, but Saeco's Gilberto Simoni confirmed himself again as the best rider in this year's Giro by winning the final mountain stage, a marathon 239 km run from Canelli to Cascata del Toce. When Marco Pantani started the serious attacking with 5 km to go, Simoni calmly chased him down, and eventually ended up in front with Franco Pellizotti on his wheel. Simoni had little trouble dropping Pellizotti to win the stage solo, by a margin of 3 seconds on a fast finishing Dario Frigo, winner of the Giro's biggest climbing stage yesterday.

"I wasn't thinking about the stage win," Simoni said after the finish. "But when the attacks begin you wait until the decisive moment, and I gave it a try."

While Simoni now has an 8'04 lead to Stefano Garzelli on the general classification, the battle for the second place on the podium has yet to be decided. Yaroslav Popovych (7th) put more time into Garzelli today, but not quite enough to move into second place; he still needs another two seconds to overtake him. Garzelli may well choose to contest tomorrow's sprint for the extra time bonus seconds, rather than waiting for Sunday's time trial, where Popovych, a former U23 world champion in the discipline, will have the advantage.

Following the elimination of Alessandro Petacchi the day before, Gilberto Simoni also took over the points jersey today, while Magnus Bäckstedt won the day's Intergiro sprint and is all but assured of arriving in Milan with the blue jerseys on his shoulders. Colombian Fredy Gonzalez has also wrapped up the green jersey of the mountains classification, having taken double points yesterday on top of the Colle d'Esischie, the highest climb of the Giro.

Popovych according to plan

Stage 18 attack
Photo: © Sirotti
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Lying in third place overall, just two seconds behind Stefano Garzelli, Yaroslav Popovych (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago) has seen his Giro d'Italia go according to plan. Popovych, just 23 years old, turned pro in 2002 after having won the road race at the 2001 U23 World Championships in Lisbon, Portugal. The talented Ukrainian has been taken under the wing of the legendary Ernesto Colnago, who sees in Popovych an enormous potential, and a future grand tour winner.

"It's been 20 years, since Saronni, since a rider sparked the same sort of emotion for me," Colnago told l'Equipe. "I'm convinced he'll win the Giro and the Tour."

Popovych admits to having faced a difficult first season as a professional, after a dominance in the amateur ranks that prompted comparisons to Eddy Merckx. "My first year as a pro was very difficult mentally," he explained. "I went from a situation where I could win whatever I wanted to one where I was trying to keep up. I often asked myself what was going on."

In 2003, patience, a focused training program, and continued confidence in his mentor Colnago have allowed Popovych to taste the success that seems almost inevitable for his pro career. "This year [the Giro] was the big objective for my season," he added. "I would have liked to race the classics, but I worked for six months solely to prepare for the Giro."

Popovych has ridden consistently throughout this year's race, and in the freezing rain on the Colle di Sampeyre (stage 18), decided the time had truly come to take matters into his own hands. Attacking on the treacherous descent, Popovych put his rivals on notice, even if his attack would not produce a stage win. In Friday's stage 19, Popovych once again climbed with the leaders, and pulled back additional time from Garzelli, making a final podium position in Milan a real possibility with a key time trial stage still to come.

Simoni's preparation pays off

Three for me
Photo: © Sirotti
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Gilberto Simoni continues to insist that the Giro is not won until Milan, but after another emphatic stage win Friday, the Maglia Rosa can at least take comfort knowing his Giro preparations have paid off.

"I prepared meticulously for the Giro," he said. "I was especially careful about my diet. Now I weigh just 57kg and my bike goes on its own. I also raced hard at the start of the season to get fit and finished second on Mont Faron in France in March. I've never been so fit so early and prepared well for the Giro."

Simoni has no doubt been the dominant climber of this year's race. Winner of three stages, he has taken time out of his closest rival, Stefano Garzelli, on every occasion. "I think the Terminillo stage was a very important day because there were important time gaps," he explained. "The Zoncolan and the Alpe di Pampeago stages were two great wins that increased my overall lead.Thursday's stage to Valle Varaita was probably the decisive stage and was also very satisfying, while today was a win I wanted for myself. Destiny owed me a win and so now back on equal terms."

Ullrich back at Erfurt

With Team Bianchi formally accepted into the Division I ranks by the UCI, Jan Ullrich will make yet another return to racing Saturday at the TEAG Hainleite race in Erfurt, Germany. The TEAG Hainleite will in fact be the first race for the newly formed Team Bianchi, after the Tour of Luxembourg organisers denied entry, citing several outstanding issues that were not resolved in time for the stage race.

Team manager Jacques Hanegraaf told l'Equipe quite simply that "Jan has been training and is very motivated."

Team Bianchi will be formally presented Monday, June 2, the day before the first stage of the Tour of Germany (June 3-9).

Bettini still wants World Cup

Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step-Davitamon) is continuing his comeback from injury at the Tour of Luxembourg. Bettini was deprived of the chance to challenge in his favourite race, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, after injuring his shoulder in a crash in Gent-Wevelgem. The return to racing hasn't been easy, but the 2002 World Cup champion is determined to challenge once again for the season title this year.

"It hurt after 41 days without racing," Bettini told Het Laatste Nieuws of his return to the peloton. "The Tour of Luxembourg is the best way to improve my condition: four days of hard riding and not a metre of flat."

Bettini will follow the Tour of Luxembourg with more steady build up in preparation for his third participation in the Tour de France. "Who says it's not possible to do both the Tour and the World Cup?" Bettini asked ."As long as you don't blow yourself up in July, it's possible. Pick out a stage here and there and try to reach Paris with a fresh head and great legs, that's how I'm going to do it."

Peter Van Petegem currently leads the World Cup after his wins at the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, but Bettini still favours his own chances in the second half of the season. "Van Petegem won the two most beautiful races of the spring season, but he'll be at a disadvantage in the second half of the World Cup," Bettini explained. "He has two possibilities to gain points: Hamburg and Paris-Tours. On paper I have one more, with Zurich, San Sebastian, and Lombardy. Van Petegem isn't finished with me yet!"

Australians in UK for MTB World Cup

Australia will field six men and three women in cross country competition at this weekend's MTB World Cup round in Fort William, Great Britain. Fort William hosts the second of five rounds for the cross country specialists and the first round of the downhill and 4X, in which Australia will also be well represented.

Australian national cross country coach, Damien Grundy says he's especially pleased with the progress of reigning junior world champion Lisa Mathison who, in the first World Cup round in Germany, recovered from a crash to finish mid-field.

"She's still a junior but her performance was very solid, especially given she crashed in the start and fell on the chain rings of another rider's bike suffering a nasty cut on the back of her arm," said Grundy. "After the crash she was pretty well in last place but by the start of the final lap she had moved into 42nd and I think we'll see even more improvement from her this weekend."

The Australians enter the downhill and 4X events on the heels of a good showing in the first round of the US NORBA national series at Big Bear, California earlier this month.

The full Australian team for Fort William includes:

Sid Taberlay
Craig Gordon
Josh Felming
Trent Lowe
Chris Jongewaard
Ian Longville
Anna Baylis
Lisa Mathison
Jenni King

Irish rider positive for pseudoephedrine

By Shane Stokes, Irishcycling.com

Twenty year old Irish cyclist Conor Murphy has tested positive for the substance pseudoephedrine, following a test carried out at the Tour of Ulster on May 5th, 2003. Murphy had placed second on the second stage of the three-day and finished seventh overall. He was also best under 23 rider.

The test was conducted by the UK Sports Council's Drug Free Sport Unit, with the subsequent analysis of the sample provided showing that pseudoephedrine was present at a level greater than the permitted threshold of 25 micrograms per millilitre.

The substance is contained in many cold and flu medications, and helps ease breathing. Although classified as a 'soft' substance by cycling's world governing body, the UCI, Murphy faces a possible ban of up to six months at the disciplinary hearing next month. Under current UCI and IOC rules, an athlete is responsible for ensuring that any product or substance consumed is free from anything which would provide a positive test result.

Murphy's case will be heard by a panel comprised of legal, medical and sporting experts.

Reacting to the news, Cycling Ireland's Chief Executive Stuart Hallam stated that "It is imperative that all athletes from cycling and other sports show great diligence when taking medicines. Ignorance is no excuse for contravening the clearly stated anti-doping regulations of the national governing bodies. Over the counter medicines and those prescribed by doctors can often contain banned substances and the athlete is responsible for the care of their own bodies and must always check the contents of any medication."

Kerry Youth Tour

By Tommy Campbell, Irish Independent, Evening Herald, Sunday Independent

The organising committee of the Kerry Youth Tour 2003 is pleased to announce details of the race, which will use the now traditional routes of Beaufort, Sun Hill and the Donal McKenna circuits. The race will start in Beaufort on Saturday, August 2nd and will finish on Monday the 4th following two stages and an individual time trial in Killorglin.

The event is the biggest cycling race in Ireland at any level. For the Irish Youth rider it is second in importance only to the National Championships. The race is open to boys and girls who are together in three categories based on the age of the riders.

The race usually attracts most of the Irish riders as well a very large contingent of riders from British Cycling, lending an edge to the competitiveness of the racing. Outside of the race times the event is famous for the degree of sociability that follows it. Race director Miceal Concannon says "The real reward comes at the end of the race in when young people and their parents compliment us both on the race and on the amount of fun they have had."

The 2002 race attracted 199 starters, and race organisers are confidently predicting that the total field for 2003 race will be close to 250 riders.

The Kerry Youth Tour has made a twinning agreement with the U-6 Dagars Tour in Sweden. Riders representing the Kerry Youth Tour will ride the six day race in Sweden and a group of riders from Sweden will race in the Kerry Youth Tour. Besides the Swedish team we have confirmed entries from the Youth Cycling Association of South Africa. This is the first time that South African Youth riders will have raced in Ireland.

Subject to final agreement we will also have teams from Denmark (Harbo Cycling Club), Belgium (Ardennes region), Portugal (National Youth Squad) and the British Schools Cycling Association.

The race proceeds because of the good will of the local community. Race director Miceal Concannon pays particular tribute to the assistance of the Kerry County Council Road's Department (Killorglin), the Gardai in Killorglin and Killarney, The Killarney branch of the Order of Malta, Killorglin Sports and Leisure Club, Killorglin Community College and Kerry Education Service. "Without their support and the goodwill of local people, this race could not succeed," he said.

Full details of the race and entry forms are available on the Youth Tour section of Killorglin Credit Union Cycling Club website: www.killorglincycling.com, or from Micheal Concannon. Carhoonahone, Beaufort Co. Kerry. Tel + 353 (0)64 44396 and 087 2802071, e-mail mikeconcannon@eircom.net.

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