First Edition News for October 27, 2003
Edited by Chris Henry
Addio, Robbie - Roberto Conti retires
By Tim Maloney, European Editor
After 17 seasons as a professional cyclist, Italian Roberto Conti rode
his last race Saturday in the Firenze-Pistoia time trial. Not even a contender
in the test, the soon to be 39 year old Mercatone Uno-Scanavino pro finished
outside the top 10, but Conti, known as a consummate pro, was happy to
finally hang up his bike on his own terms.
"Ernesto Colnago wanted me to ride for his (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago)
team through the Giro d'Italia next year, but if I accepted his offer,
it would have worked out that I'd keep on going," Conti told La Gazzetta
dello Sport. Conti, known as the gregario's gregario, would have retired
already two years ago, but his passion for the sport kept him going on
Conti's former teammate Davide Cassani, RAI-TV's expert cycling color
commentator, told Cyclingnews that "Roberto is one of the nicest riders
in the gruppo and also one of the most expert. He's a rider who's always
worked for others, a breed that's disappearing in the sport where everybody's
chasing points. But he also has the satisfaction to have won on the most
important climb in cycling, l'Alpe d'Huez. He will be missed." Conti always
rode hard for his leaders, riders like Pantani, Argentin, Cipollini, Casagrande
Starting his career on the modest Santini-Cierre-Conti-Galli team in
1986, Conti broke through the next season with a 15th place in the Giro
d'Italia and Best Young Rider. In 1990, his Romagna neighbor Giancarlo
Ferretti hired Conti for the Ariostea squad, where he stayed for three
seasons and had one top 10 Giro finish and two top 20 Tour finishes.
Conti's best season was 1994 at Lampre-Panaria, where he won the 224.5km
Stage 16 of the Tour de France from Valreas to l'Alpe d'Huez. An opportunistic
Conti attacked after 13km and was joined by 12 other riders, including
Marco Pantani, hard men Udo Bolts and Alberto Elli, and current US Postal
Service media guy Jogi Muller. Conti took the win in 6h06'45", 2'02" ahead
of runner-up Hernan Buenahora. Conti's future teammate Pantani was 8th
on the stage at 5'41", and established the record for the fastest ascent
ever of l'Alpe in 38'41". Conti went on to finish 6th in the '94 Tour
won by Miguel Indurain, as well as 3rd in the Midi-Libre (also won by
Indurain) and 19th in the Giro.
Two years later, Conti was a key teammate for Pavel Tonkov when the Russian
won his first Giro d'Italia, then signed on with Pantani's new Mercatone
Uno squad, where his 10th on GC superbly supported leader Pantani's 3rd
place overall and two stage wins along the way. The next year, Pantani,
Mercatone Uno and Conti were back and they took no prisoners, with the
Giro-Tour double for Pantani.
But In 1999 it all fell apart, when Pantani was kicked out of the Giro
for high haematocrit while leading the race with several stages to go.
Conti saved his season with his second career win, his hometown pro race
Giro di Romagna, with a powerful solo win over Alexandre Vinokourov and
Francesco Casagrande. 2000 was a transition year for Conti at Vini Caldirola
(16th overall in the Tour), followed by two years of virtual oblivion
at Acqua e Sapone pulling the Cipo tempo train. Reunited with Pantani
again at Mercatone Uno-Scanavino, Conti ended up 56th in his last career
Grand Tour, the 2003 Giro, as Pantani's squad was not invited to participate
in the Centenary Tour de France.
Last winter, a telephone call from his old friend Pantani kept the lanky
climber from Bagni di Romagna in the pro peloton once again. "Marco called
me and ask me to help him with his new team," Conti explained. "Pantani
was the leader for whom I gave my best efforts. In 1997, I was almost
without a contract because I got mono but he hired me for Mercatone Uno.
So I was in his debt."
Conti was Pantani's key lieutenant in his 1998 Giro/Tour double, but
the bad vibes after Pantani's Giro expulsion in '99 caused Conti to head
for greener pastures. "My only regret in my career is that (with Pantani)
we threw away some good years without any help from the people close to
Even Lance Armstrong pays some homage to Conti in his new book "Every
Second Counts". When Armstrong bonked big-time on the Col de Joux Plane
in the 2000 Tour, he relates that "Conti, a good, strong, respected rider,
saw what state I was in. What happened next was a classic case of cycling
sportsmanship and one I will never forget: they stayed with me and helped
me to the top. Without being asked, they moved in front, shielding me
from the wind, allowing me to draft on them, and sparing me untold amounts
of work. It was a gesture typical in the Tour; we were competitors, but
we shared a mutual compassion for extreme physical suffering."
Now that he's retired, Conti won't jump back into cycling. Instead, he'll
relax at home with his wife Melania and two kids Leonardo and Lucrezia
in Bagnolo di Romagna and get ready for his winter hobby: truffle hunting
with his sniffer dogs in the hills of Romagna. "I'm a little sad because
I'm winding up a good time in my life," explained Conti, "but I'm starting
another period as I'll stay home now to be a good dad for my kids."
No transfer for Mancebo
Francisco Mancebo has decided to remain with the iBanesto team, which
next year will become known as Illes Baleares. Mancebo had considered
a move to either Kelme-Costa Blanca or Saunier Duval, but in the end decided
to stay loyal to team manager Eusebio Unzué. Mancebo re-signed
with Unzué for two years. Former iBanesto rider David Navas, who
rode for Colchon Relax-Fuenlabrada in 2003, will also rejoin the team
Pantani thinks of his future
Marco Pantani, who considers himself a retired cyclist, is still interested
in the sport and is reportedly considering a new direction: team management.
According to an article in La Repubblica, Pantani and his manager Manuela
Ronchi have been in contact with Manolo Saiz to discuss the possibility
of a management position with Saiz's new team for 2004, to be sponsored
by Italian electrical company Stayer.
"I always have my bike with me, but one can forget about the professional
cyclist Pantani," the Italian said last weekend.
Armstrong follows Ullrich's progress
In a l'Equipe interview last Thursday, Lance Armstrong revealed the extent
to which watching one's rivals can figure into preparations for the Tour
de France. Discussing his bid for an unprecedented sixth Tour de France
victory in 2004, Armstrong noted that his key rival, Jan Ullrich, had
one weakness: race tactics. Does Armstrong keep tabs on what the 1997
Tour winner Ullrich does in the months prior to the Tour?
"Of course!" Armstrong insisted. "One night while he was sleeping we
secretly implanted a GPS unit, and that way we can follow all of his actions.
For example, I know where he is right now on vacation... No, I'm kidding!"
It seems Ullrich was right to note that the one of the American's big
strengths is indeed his incredible tactical sense.
"But seriously, we follow him via the Internet and we talk with other
teams who watch him race," Armstrong added. "Nothing special; in any case
nothing more than what his entourage does with us. Keeping track of one's
rivals is part of the job. If I didn't do that, it would be a professional
Astarloa and Valverde honoured in Valencia
Two on the podium
Photo: © Sirotti
World champion Igor Astarloa (Saeco) and silver medallist Alejandro Valverde
(Kelme) were honoured by the president of the Delegation of Valencia,
Spain, Fernando Giner. The delegation has been a sponsor of the Spanish
Cycling Federation since 1998. Valverde himself praised the Spanish national
team, saying its members "did everything so that [Valverde and I]
could rise to the podium."
Astarloa also thanked the delegation of Valencia for its sponsorship
of the Spanish federation, noting that what Spain lacks in cycling is
sufficient financial support from additional sponsors. World time trial
champion Joane Somarriba was also to be honoured but was unable to attend
the event due to personal commitments.
USA Team for Okinawa
USA Cycling has announced its team for the 2003 Tour de Okinawa. The
race, the longest in Japan at over 200km, is a UCI 1.5 event scheduled
for November 9. U.S. national road champion Mark McCormack will lead the
way in the elite men’s race along with Saul Raisin, Oliver Stiler-Cote,
Adam Bergman, Dane Jankowiak, and Trevor Irons.
T-Mobile’s Lara Kroepsch will be the sole representative in the 50km
women's race, while David Nelson and Chad Beyer will contest the 120km
junior men's race.
Rotorua begins World's preparations
Representatives from Bike NZ, Mountain Bike NZ, the Rotorua Mountain
Bike Club, the Rotorua District Council, Events Promotions and Tourism
& Marketing met to begin the process of structuring the organisation that
will run the 2006 UCI World Mountain Bike Championships to be held on
Mount Ngongotaha, New Zealand.
Dave Donaldson, who headed up the successful bid for the 2006 World's,
was unanimously confirmed as Chairperson of the Organising Committee at
a recent meeting in Rotorua. Arthur Klap, who was Event Director of the
1997 Mountain Bike World Cup Cross Country in Wellington and who has also
been involved in the Rotorua bid, was appointed Event Director.
While a management company will be set up with a small board of directors
to oversee the running of the event, the Rotorua Organising Committee
will do the nuts and bolts planning, preparation and running of the Championships.
The management company, board and committee will be in place by early
At the meeting it was also decided to pursue a bid for the 2006 UCI World
Marathon Mountain Biking Championships. Donaldson rode in the inaugural
World Championship Marathon in Lugano, Switzerland this year in a field
of over 1,000 riders. If the bid is successful the Marathon will be run
a fortnight before the World's.
2004 American Mountain Bike Challenge
The schedule for the 2004 American Mountain Bike Challenge (AMBC) series
has been announced by USA Cycling. The 2004 AMBC series will begin in
North Miami, Florida on January 18, 2004 with the Oleta Fat Tire Festival
and run throughout the year, culminating with the Florida State Championship
Series on November 21, also in North Miami.
During the ten months in between, the AMBC will visit 18 different states,
welcoming 12 new events to the calendar for the coming season.
In addition to the senior, master, and professional races, some AMBC
events also host the Alison Dunlap Junior Olympic Mountain Bike Series
(ADJO-MTB) and the Shimano Youth Series classes. The AJDO-MTB offers riders
age 10-18, the chance to test their skills against competitors of the
same age. The Shimano Youth Series provides a first-time racing experience
for kids 12 and under.
All AMBC events offer cross-country racing, with some events also including
downhill, dual slalom, mountain cross, short-track cross-country, and/or
observed trials competitions. The AMBC has also expanded in the past few
seasons with a competitive 50-miler and two stage races.
The full calendar can be found at www.usacycling.org/news/calendar.php?series=ambc.
Banned substance watch for Greek customs
Beginning January 1, 2004 inspections will be heightened at the Greek
borders, with customs agents on the lookout for banned substances as the
country enters the final months of preparation for the summer Olympics
in Athens. Customs agents will be provided with banned substance lists
from the International Olympic Committee, and any athletes found with
these substances in their luggage could be automatically disqualified
from the games.
CrossLogic Cyclocross Challenge
The 3rd Annual CrossLogic Cyclocross Challenge will take place Sunday,
November 2 at historic English Landing Park in Parkville, Missouri. Event
highlights include the Pee-Wee Cross event. Kids 10 & under will get to
compete on the same course as the grown-ups, only smaller. All Pee-Wee
Cross participants receive awards. A team relay race has also been added.
Course highlights include two sand pits, a boat ramp excursion, high-speed
gravel trail, chicanes, plenty of pavement, and "a few surprises". Registration
begins at 10:45am and the first event begins at 11:30am. Professional
men and women will race at 1:30pm, followed by the team relay at 2:30pm.
For more info visit see http://multisportmarketing.tripod.com, call Chris
Locke at (816) 926.4424, or email email@example.com.
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