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Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

First Edition News for October 14, 2003

Edited by Jeff Jones

Astarloa celebrates his triumph in New York

Golden boy
Photo: © Sirotti
Click for larger image

Newly crowned World Champion Igor Astarloa celebrated his victory by spending a day in New York on Monday, October 13 (Columbus Day). Astarloa will fly back to Italy on Wednesday morning after will line up in Saturday's Giro di Lombardia in the rainbow jersey. However the World Champion won't be seen in too many more races for Saeco, as he is transferring to Cofidis next season.

"We are happy, however, that Igor has been coming to his maturity so that he could reach such an important victory while he was in our team," team manager Claudio Corti said. "We took the decision not to renew his contract some months ago, but it was a very calm decision taken together with the rider. Astarloa received a very good offer from a French Team that was impossible to refuse and it was correct telling him that we wouldn't make a higher bid. Anyway Igor is very attached to our team with whom he reached, only during this last year, such important goals as the Flèche Wallonne and the World Championships. We could certainly say that this year has been a very gorgeous one."

De Clercq hangs it up at 37

Goodbye Mario
Photo: © Luc Claessen
Click for larger image

Triple cyclo-cross World Champion Mario de Clercq (Palmans) has finished his career as a 'cross rider. His last race was (appropriately) the GP Mario de Clercq in his home town of Wortegem-Petegem on Sunday, held under dry sunny conditions in front of a large crowd of 5,000 spectators. De Clercq, who won all three previous editions of the race, could only manage seventh in Sunday's event, which was won by Ben Berden (John Saey-Deschacht) from Sven Nijs and Tom Vannoppen.

Afterwards, De Clercq celebrated on the podium and in the VIP tent, and on Sunday evening even burned his racing shorts as a sign that his career was finished. "No, you will not see me at the start of the Superprestige, World Cup or Belgian Championship," he said in an interview with Het Nieuwsblad. "It is a difficult moment to retire, but I'm happy that I can complete the last stitch. Today I was again confronted with reality. The young guys ride one level quicker. And two days of 'crossing in a row is too much. Yesterday I was still second in Harderwijk, but today I had difficulty to follow the pace. Furthermore my back has almost had it. I can't do it at the top level any more. I'm stopping not one day too early."

De Clercq added that although this was definitely his last race in Belgium, he may do a couple of races abroad as a "farewell tour", but he is not sure which ones yet. After that, he will take up a role in the Palmans team, which has accepted his decision to retire early and it shouldn't affect the team's sponsorship for next season.

De Clercq's professional road and cyclo-cross career has spanned 13 years, and includes three World Championship titles (1998, 1999, 2002), the World Cup (1999) and two Belgian Championships (2001, 2002). Although his background was in cyclo-cross, he turned professional on the road in 1991 with Buckler, subsequently riding for Lotto (1993-1995), Palmans (1996-1999), Domo (2001-2002) and back to Palmans in 2002/2003.

Zabel finishes his season

Although there will be no UCI number one ranking for Erik Zabel at the end of this year, the Telekom sprinter has every reason to be satisfied with his season, which saw him win 14 races, including the Paris-Tours World Cup and two stages and the points jersey in the Vuelta a España. Zabel finished with an 11th place in the World Championship road race on Sunday, only 12 seconds behind winner Igor Astarloa.

"It's naturally annoying, I would have preferred to be further in front and absolutely wanted a medal," Zabel said to DPA in an interview. "But when Astarloa attacked on the final climb, I was on the limit. There was nothing more."

Zabel summed his year up: "It was not great, but a good season for me."

T-Mobile switches to Giant

Boosted Health Net team also expected to ride Giant

It's official that T-Mobile (the Team Formerly Known As Telekom) will be riding on Giant bikes next year. The announcement was made by Giant at Interbike in Las Vegas on Monday. "We are delighted that one of the most successful teams in road cycling has selected Giant to be their weapon of choice for the coming years," said Tony Lo, President of Giant, Inc..

"During the last few years we have made a reputation with our time trial bike where we have won many stages at the leading tours," added Mr. Lo. "We are therefore very excited and looking forward to see that leading time trial specialists like Jan Ullrich and Santiago Botero will be riding our time trial bikes."

This also marks the end of the successful relationship between Giant and the ONCE team. Giant's Sports Marketing Manager Tom Davies said, "Whilst we are very excited to partner with T-Mobile for next season, we are sad that the ONCE Eroski team could not continue for 2004. Manolo Saiz and his team of riders and support crew was part of our family and we have had some great times together. They have certainly been instrumental over the past six years in helping establish Giant into becoming a leading bicycle innovator. Their feedback allowed us to build better bikes, and for that we are eternally grateful."

As well as officially confirming rumours that T-Mobile will ride Giant bikes in 2004, Giant sources have told Cyclingnews that they expect to announce in the next two or three weeks a deal for the revamped Health Net team to ride the company's bikes in 2004.

Health Net is expected to be one of the two strongest teams on the US domestic scene in 2004, benefiting both from previous expansion plans and the high-caliber riders released by the recent demise of the Saturn and 7Up teams.

Two details not previously reported are that both teams will use all or mostly Shimano components, a change for T-Mobile/Telekom from Campagnolo, and the T-Mobile bikes will carry Giant's logo on the down tube. The team's previous Pinarello bikes had Telekom decals.

Giant's involvement with Health Net will be the first time the company has sponsored a US team since 2001, and is part of a marketing and product development strategy that sees a strong racing presence in both the US and Europe.

MTB program continues

Giant hasn't forgotten its successful mountain bike racing program, which this year supported riders such as Tara Llanes, Jared Rando and Adam Craig. The program, "is going to be changed around a bit, but they will be good changes," said our source.

Italian season culminates with Trittico d'Autunno

The Italian season will all but close with the three autumn classics this week, starting with Milano-Torino on Wednesday, followed by the Giro del Piemonte on Thursday and finishing with the Giro di Lombardia, the last round of the World Cup on Saturday. All three races are organised by RCS Sport/La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Milano-Torino is organised over a traditional 199 kilometre parcours, finishing on the historical "Fausto Coppi" motordrome. The key point in the race comes at 16 kilometres to go with the Colle di Superga climb. The next day, the Giro del Piemonte will be run over 197 kilometres between Acqui Terme and Valenza, in the provinces of Alessandria and Asti. The parcours is considered to be quite selective over the final 50 kilometres.

Saturday's Giro di Lombardia, known as the 'Race of the Falling Leaves', will start in Como and finish in Bergamo after 249 kilometres. The start of the race will firstly run through the province of Como where the well known climbs of Madonna del Ghisallo, Colle del Gallo, Selvino and Berbenno will be tackled. Finally, on the outskirts of Bergamo, the climb of Largo Colle Aperto should force the selection, coming with just four kilometres to the finish in Piazza Matteotti.

23 teams of 8 riders will take part in Milano-Torino and Giro del Piemonte as follows

Fassa Bortolo
CCC Polsat
Ceramiche Panaria Fiordo
Cofidis, Le Credit Par Telephone
De Nardi Colpack
Domina Vacanze-Elitron
Formaggi Pinzolo Fiave'-Ciarrocchi
Kelme - Costa Blanca
Mercatone Uno-Scanavino
Phonak Hearing Systems
Saeco Macchine Per Caffe'
Team Bianchi
Team CSC
Team Telekom
Vini Caldirola-Saunier Duval

Roesems has a choice

Belgian time trial specialist Bert Roesems (Palmans-Collstrop) has not yet decided which team to ride for next season. Although he has an offer to stay with Palmans-Collstrop, Patrick Lefevere has also offered him a position in the new Bodysol-Brustor team, where he would help Nico Mattan look after the younger riders in the squad.

Carlos Zarate turns pro with Kelme

Spanish elite rider Carlos Zarate Fernandez has signed a contract for four years with Vicente Belda's Kelme-Costa Blanca team. The 24 year old, measuring 1.80 m tall and weighing 63 kg, won 11 races this year riding for the Cropusa team, specialising in long breakaways and final kilometre attacks. Zarate only started racing in 1999 and is considered a good prospect for Kelme.

Former Miss America kills cyclist

Heather French Henry, a.k.a. Miss America 2000 and now the wife of Kentucky Lieutenant Governor Steve Henry, killed a female cyclist while driving in Louisville on Sunday evening, the Associated Press reported. Mrs Henry was turning at an intersection when she hit the woman, who was riding across the crossing. The woman died later at the University of Louisville Hospital.

An investigation into the matter has been made, although it's expected that no charges will be filed against Mrs Henry.

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