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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest News for October 14, 2003

Edited by Chris Henry

Sevilla close to Phonak

Sevilla on the move?
Photo: © AFP
Click for larger image

Oscar Sevilla is reportedly close to signing with the Swiss Phonak Hearing Systems team, preparing to leave Kelme-Costa Blanca despite initial indications that he would re-sign with the Spanish team. Sevilla was expected to sign a contract with Kelme prior to departing for Canada for the World Championships, but is now linked with Phonak, wooed by directeur sportif Alvaro Pino.

The news comes with great shock and disappointment for Kelme's manager Pepe Quiles, who in recent years has seen several leaders plucked from the team, notably Roberto Heras (US Postal) and Santiago Botero (Telekom), and Aitor Gonzalez (Fassa Bortolo). Sevilla has been courted by Phonak to provide another leadership role alongside new recruit Tyler Hamilton, and with Sevilla could come his faithful Kelme teammate Enrique Gutierrez.

"We were in advanced talks with Kelme, but nothing was finalised," Sevilla's representative Enrique Rodriguez told Spanish paper Marca. "Oscar had been considering a change of scenery for a while, but he wants to leave Kelme with a good taste in his mouth, because he has made his career there."

Kelme's Quiles does not share such a positive outlook, noting that the team had been formed around largely around Sevilla. "What do I do with those riders now?" Quiles asked. "The team has neither a head nor feet."

Astarloa offers apology

Recently crowned world champion Igor Astarloa of Spain has offered an apology to Paolo Bettini after telling the press that Bettini offered him money to collaborate in the final kilometres of the World's. Although Bettini accepted Astarloa's apology on the telephone Monday, he and the Italian federation have not ruled out taking legal action against the Spaniard.

"Astarloa said he didn't understand what Paolo had said to him during the race," a rider close to Bettini commented in a l'Equipe report. "It happened in the heat of the excitement, at a very tense moment."

Astarloa launched the winning counter attack on the final climb of the Hamilton circuit, breaking clear of a move sparked by Belgium's Peter van Petegem and including the heavy favourite Bettini. Following the race he declared that Bettini had offered him money before the climb to work together, then dispute the final amongst themselves.

"It was all a misunderstanding," Astarloa commented later. "I'm very friendly with Paolo, I've even been on vacation with him. He just asked me to help him to attack his principal rivals. In no case did he offer me money, because he knows that I wouldn't have traded this World's victory for all the gold in the world."

Women's World Cup expands

The women's World Cup series will welcome a new event for 2004: the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders). The season-long series will include ten events with the introduction of the women's Tour of Flanders, scheduled for April 4, 2004. The World Cup will begin once again in Australia (Geelong), and wrap up in September with the Rund um die Nürnberger Altstadt in Germany.

2004 World Cup

February 29: Geelong, Australia
March 20: Primavera Rosa, Italy
March 28: Gran Premio Castilla y Leon, Spain
April 4: Ronde van Vlaanderen, Belgium
April 18: Amstel Gold Race, Netherlands
April 21: La Flèche Wallonne, Belgium
May 29: Montreal, Canada
August 28: GP Ouest France-Plouay, France
September 5: Lowland International Rotterdam Tour, Netherlands
September 12: Rund um die Nürnberger Altstadt, Germany

Great Britain's Nicole Cooke (Ausra Gruodis-Safi) won the 2003 World Cup ahead of Regina Schleicher (USC Chirio Forno d'Asolo) and Mirjam Melchers (Farm Frites-Hartol).

Baal tries BMX

With BMX getting ready to make its Olympic debut at the Peiking, China games in 2008, the UCI is in the process of establishing its own organisational structure for the discipline. Frenchman Daniel Baal has been named president of the UCI's BMX commission. Baal is currently the Director of Cycling for the Amaury Sport Organisation. Prior to joining ASO several years ago he served as the head of the French Cycling Federation.

Four abnormal tests at Hamilton

The UCI has confirmed that four blood samples taken on the eve of the Elite Men's road race in Hamilton have been sent to Lausanne, Switzerland for further analysis. The samples, taken from two Spaniards, one Belgian and one Italian (reportedly not Paolo Bettini), revealed 'abnormal parameters', prompting additional scrutiny. Results are expected this week.

Van der Kooij to continue

Although diagnosed recently with Hodgkin's disease, Dutchman Vincent van der Kooij will look to continue riding next season with his Bankgiroloterij team. The 24 year old was offered the chance to continue by team manager Arend Scheppink, who told ANP that "the least I can do for him is give him the security that when he is well, he can ride."

Van der Kooij is currently undergoing medical treatment for the disease, hoping for a return to competition in 2004.

Finances uncertain for Tour of Malaysia

Although the Tour of Malaysia (October 6-15) is well underway, the Malaysian National Cycling Federation (MNCF) is not yet reassured that race organisers Jet Fit Sdn Berhad will come through with prize money and teams' start fees by the time the race ends on Thursday.

As of Sunday, the MNCF had yet to receive any of the organiser's deposits for prize money and start fees, and with a possible sanction of the MNCF as a result, the national body is undoubtedly concerned. Nonetheless, the organisers insist there is no cause for alarm.

"We feel sorry, but there was a misunderstanding over the matter," Syaya'a Othman, chairman of Jet Fit Sdn Berhad said in an article in the New Straits Times. "We assure you that all related money will be paid by the 16th (Thursday). I also assure you that the race will be completed up to the 10th stage as planned. We will fulfil whatever promises we have made as the co-organisers."

The Tour of Malaysia is a UCI 2.6 event, including seven road stages in seven days. Malaysian National Cycling Federation president Abu Samah Wahab expressed his hope that the matter would be straightened out. "If that is what Jet Fit says, then we would be out of the rubber," he said. "We will take it as their word. The only assurance we need is that the prize money and the subsidies to all the teams are paid."

The Tour of Malaysia is scheduled to conclude Thursday with a 118km stage from Melacca to Sungai Mati.

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