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Photo ©: Schaaf

Latest News for September 8, 2003

Edited by Jeff Jones

Slow start for Leipheimer

The start of Levi Leipheimer's Vuelta España was not quite as bad as his Tour de France start, but the Rabobank captain still saw his GC chances vanish in the first road stage. Leipheimer was caught, along with others like Alex Zülle, Jose Luis Rubiera and David Millar, in the second half of the peloton when it split on the approach to the day's final climb of the Alto del Mirador. His teammates chased in vain, and the gap grew to 2'30 by the foot of the climb. But it didn't stop there for Leipheimer, who lost more time on the climb to eventually finish nearly 13 minutes down on the winners, dropping to 141st place on the general classification.

After crashing out of the Tour de France, Leipheimer was hoping for a good Vuelta to salvage his season. However it's clear that he hasn't recovered his form in time after breaking his hip bone in the crash. Rabobank's directeur sportif Frans Maassen said after yesterday's stage that, "Leipheimer was not good enough. That is naturally disappointing, for himself and for the team, but we must accept that."

Maassen didn't put all the blame on Leipheimer's position in the peloton, as he also realised that the American was not having a good day. "They were riding incredibly hard. In the lead up he already felt that he was not good. Then you sit a long way back, and then the peloton breaks...We couldn't get it back together again. But I must honestly say that if we had closed the gap he would have lost more than five minutes on the last climb. For on the climb it was also clear that he wasn't ready."

"But you still hope - maybe against better judgment - that it will come good. And he hopes that he can make the best of it, and that he gets a chance to improve in the race...He has assured me that he will certainly not abandon. He hopes that in the second half of the race he can still win a stage. But OK, now his loss is still fresh. He and the whole team are disappointed."

For the general classification, Rabobank will now rely on Danish rider Michael Rasmussen, who managed to finish in the front group yesterday. "Now we have just one man for a top 10 classification," said Maassen. "I knew that today at most four men could stay with the front. But Leipheimer and Beat Zberg were already dropped before the category 1 climb, and Addy Engels couldn't climb with the top 30. It's lucky that we still have a good man with Michael. He made a good impression, and he also had morale. He remains the only captain for this tour."

Ullrich likely to stay with Bianchi

Despite being courted by several teams for next season including former employer Telekom, Jan Ullrich is likely to remain with Team Bianchi under Rudy Pevenage's wing. According to the Associated Press, Ullrich should sign a contract next week with Bianchi for three years.

One of the conditions however is that the team is strengthened sufficiently to be able to fully support Ullrich in the Tour. "If one demands that I win the Tour, then they must also give me the team to do it, and an optimal environment as well," said Ullrich to Bild am Sonntag. "If the helpers are concerned about their salaries and jobs, then the motivation flows away."

Ullrich maintained that if Bianchi cannot provide what he asks for, then he will leave. "I have only three or four years that I can ride at the top level. If I want to reach all my goals in this short time, then I can't risk anything more."

Team Bianchi manager Jacques Hanegraaf said that he wants to announce a co-sponsor for the team soon, which could solve all the financial problems. He announced that he would have a "solution by the end of September to give Jan Ullrich the necessary support."

Planckaert questioned in Landuyt affair

Ex-amateur speaks out about Landuyt

Cofidis rider Jo Planckaert has been questioned by police in Kortrijk over the Jose Landuyt affair. Planckaert, who has been racing in Hessen for the last five days, arrived at 9:00am but was not questioned for long. His teammate Chris Peers will be questioned later today, and cyclo-crosser Mario De Clercq some time in the near future.

The investigation which burst into the limelight last Thursday is trying to determine to what extent Landuyt was involved with doping. It's alleged that the Oostrozebeke veterinarian supplied doping products to cyclists, pigeon- and horse racers. Landuyt has already admitted to supplying cyclists with doping products, although it is not clear whether these were professionals.

An ex-amateur rider, David Windels, blamed Landuyt for destroying his career in the 1990's. "He gave me amphetamines until I was literally stupid," Windels was quoted in Het Nieuwsblad. "I visited a psychiatrist four times, and it was mainly his fault."

Windels was convicted of amphetamine dealing in 1997 after retiring from cycling, and was sentenced to nine years in prison. However at the time he did not point the finger. "I never blabbed, never said that Landuyt was the one I was getting the amphetamines from."

Now, with the latest Landuyt affair coming before the courts, Windels thought it time to speak up. "It worries me that Landuyt, after everything that he has caused me, is still busy with these things and is now abusing others and making them crazy again. I now have to speak up. I find it particularly bad for Johan Museeuw, the purest racer that I know, and Chris Peers, the biggest father of the peloton."

Museeuw back in action

Johan Museeuw, who was questioned by police for nine hours last Thursday over the Landuyt affair, is trying to resume his normal job. The Quick.Step rider rode two races on the weekend in Holland and Belgium, and despite not finishing either of them appeared to be in a good frame of mind.

"I've had difficult days and a sleepless night behind me, that I can't deny," Museeuw told Het Nieuwsblad. "But racing still remains my life. There are people who are seriously ill, who have cancer and they still have to go on in life. But it is nice when you feel that people are still standing behind you."

Quick.Step back in Paris-Tours

The Quick.Step-Davitamon team, which contains World Cup leader Paolo Bettini, will be allowed to start in Paris-Tours, round 9 of the World Cup. The team was not initially on the organiser's list of 25 squads for the race, because it had not notified the ASO of its candidature. If they could not start, then a farcical situation could have developed in that Paolo Bettini would not be allowed to win the World Cup, as he would not have ridden the minimum number of races.

Fortunately this was averted after the team phoned the organisers last week and received the necessary papers on the weekend. Quick.Step will now be allowed to start Paris-Tours, and Paolo Bettini could well clinch the World Cup in that race.

Go Pass-ABX no more

One of the top Belgian U23 teams, ABX-Go Pass-Slagino, will no longer exist next season after logistics company ABX withdrew its sponsorship last week. The reason, according to the sponsors, is that photographs of nude women were placed on the team's website: "This doesn't gel with the image of the sponsors."

Team manager Marcel van der Slagmolen was very disappointed by the news. "Last Wednesday we had a division III team on paper," he was quoted in Het Nieuwsblad. "One day later the dream vanished like a bubble in the air."

Time running out to join Vuelta Fantasy Game

There are just three more days left to join in the Cyclingnews Vuelta Fantasy Game, with registrations closing at midnight, European time after the end of Stage 5 on September 10. You must build and pay for your teams before stage 6 begins to be eligible for the prizes on offer. First prize in the game is a very nice Orbea Vertex bicycle, with supplementary prizes from fi'zi:k saddles and Rudy Project eyewear.

The Fantasy Vuelta follows the same rules as our Giro d'Italia and Tour de France games, where you select a team of 15 riders worth a maximum of 9,000 UCI points, from which you pick nine for each stage, the overall, points and mountains classifications. It's a great way to get involved in following the Vuelta stage by stage and you can increase your chances by adding more teams.

Join now at

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