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Cycling News and Analysis

News for August 3, 1998

Marco Pantani to Mapei

I reported that Belgium TV said that Marco Pantani will sign with Mapei next year. This was not quite correct. In fact, it was said that Mapei is interested in signing him. Later on they also interviewed Patrick Lefevere on the subject and he replied "which team wouldn't want Pantani now, especially an Italian team." He confirmed there had been contacts, but no negotiations yet. Pantani has a clause in his contract with Mercatone Uno that he can go to another team in 1999 if he can earn more with a new contract with a new team. Mapei is also still talking with Michele Bartoli and Axel Merckx.

A Top 40 that is music to data lovers

My mate, Wim van Rossum, a.k.a wimspreadsheet, has compiled this Unofficial Top UCI 40 riders as at August 1. He cannot keep his fingers of the computer doing calculations.

 1. Marco Pantani (Ita) Mercatone Uno             1961.00
 2. Laurent Jalabert (Fra) ONCE                   1786.00 
 3. Michele Bartoli (Ita) Asics                   1493.00 
 4. Alex Zülle (Swi) Festina                      1249.00 
 5. Michael Boogerd (Ned) Rabobank                1229.00 
 6. Erik Zabel (Ger) Telekom                      1207.00 
 7. Jan Ullrich (Ger) Telekom                     1004.00 
 8. Laurent Dufaux (Swi) Festina                   996.75
 9. Andrei Tchmil (Bel) Lotto                      955.00
10. Rodolfo Massi (Ita) Casino                     935.00 
11. Frank VandenBroucke (Bel) Mapei                898.00 
12. Alberto Elli (Ita) Casino                      890.00 
13. Bo Hamburger (Den) Casino                      881.00 
14. Pavel Tonkov (Rus) Mapei                       849.00 
15. Francesco Casagrande (Ita) Cofidis             754.00       
16. Tom Steels (Bel) Mapei                         718.00 
17. Mario Cipollini (Ita) Saeco                    705.00 
18. Rolf Jaermann (Swi) Casino                     671.00  
19. Bobby Julich (Usa) Cofidis                     669.00  
20. Davide Rebellin (Ita) Polti                    664.00 
21. Jaan Kirsipuu (Est) Casino                     661.00 
22. Roland Meier (Swi) Cofidis                     654.00 
23. Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Mercatone Uno           637.00 
24. Emmanuel Magnien (Fra) La Française des Jeux   628.00 
25. Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Gan                       610.00 
26. Beat Zberg (Swi) Rabobank                      603.00 
27. Alexander Vinokourov (Kaz) Casino              601.00 
28. Giuseppe Guerini (Ita) Polti                   592.00 
29. Peter van Petegem (Bel) TVM                    587.00 
30. Franco Ballerini (Ita) Mapei                   584.00 
31. Leon van Bon (Ned) Rabobank                    573.00 
32. Christophe Rinero (Fra) Cofidis                540.00 
33. Maarten den Bakker (Ned) Rabobank              539.00 
34. Johan Museeuw (Bel) Mapei                      534.00 
35. Jan Svorada (Cze) Mapei                        532.00 
36. Aitor Garmendia (Spa) Banesto                  529.00 
37. Daniel Clavero (Spa) Vitalicio                 526.00 
38. Viatcheslav Ekimov (Rus) US Postal             519.00 
39. Abraham Olano (Spa) Banesto                    516.00 
40. Luc Leblanc (Fra) Polti                        515.00 

Interview with Felice Gimondi

Roger Thomas sent me this interesting interview with Felice Gimondi who was the 1965 Tour de France winner and the last Italian winner of the Tour before Marco Pantani. He was interviewed by L'Equipe just before Pantani won his first stage of the 1998 Tour, Stage 11 to Plateau de Beille in the Pyrenees. As well as the 1965 Tour, Gimondi's palmares included three wins in the Giro d'Italia (1967, 1969, 1976) and one in the Vuelta a Espana (1968). He was world road champion in 1973 (Barcelona) and his classic wins included Paris--Roubaix, Paris--Bruxelles, Milano--San Remo and the Giro di Lombardia.

The interview was headlined "After the model of Coppi".

Q: - It seems that you've had enough of being described as the last Italian to win the Tour de France. Does this weigh heavily on you?

Gimondi - Every year, ten days before the start of the Tour, the journalists want me to retell what I've already told them the year before. That's why I'm awaiting a successor with genuine impatience. If, on top of that, he were to be riding a Bianchi [translator's note: Gimondi is the Bianchi bike firm's PR boss] I'd be even more pleased. And if it's Pantani, that would be perfect because we hold him in the highest esteem.

Q: - How do you explain the inability of Italian cycling to find a successor to you?

Gimondi - First of all it can be put down to that period of Saronni-Moser for whom the Giro organisers put together gentler Tours of Italy, without big mountain stages with the objective of making the race more attractive. Young riders were also expected to apply very strict racing tactics, impelling them to downplay that which was most beautiful in them - instinct.

Q: - Pantani is indeed an instinctive rider. Could he be, perhaps, the successor you're waiting for?

Gimondi - He came to this Tour thinking that it wasn't ideal for him. He came to win stages before 5 million TV viewers, because it was that way he could increase his renown. He got through the first stages without any hitches; it's necessary to see now if Ullrich is what he was last year, if he is indeed the new Indurain - or then to hope that next year's Tour will be harder, with better designed Pyrennean stages. The first of these, this year, was the wrong way round. It would have been preferable if the finish had been 10km after the last col, either the Aubisque or the Tourmalet.

Q: - It's a month since Italian cycling mourned the loss of Luciano Pezzi, your directeur-sportif at Salvarini who was also Pantani's manager at Mercatone Uno [translator's note: Pantani was to dedicate his win at Les Deux Alpes to the memory of Pezzi]. Can one speak of a relationship between you and Pantani to the extent that Pantani's team seems to be built on the model of the Salvarani team in which all the riders were devoted to you?

Gimondi - Pezzi had this advantage: for a long time he'd lived at the side of Fausto Coppi, having been his domestique. He spent his whole career looking after Coppi's interests, and thought that a team, to function properly, must be built around a single leader. At Salvarani he recruited riders of great value for me - Ferretti, Poggiali, Houbrechts - who were indeed totally devoted to me. Everything was perfectly regulated [by Pezzi] and he applied much rigour and seriousness. He paid attention to keeping fiancees and wives of team members at a distance. We lived a monastic life, a man's world. This was sometimes difficult, but it was fair, because Pezzi imposed all these rules with the sole aim of improving performances.

Q: - In the case of Mercatone Uno what has his influence amounted to?

Gimondi - With Martinelli [Giuseppe Martinelli, Mercatone Uno's directeur sportif] he had the merit of building the team around Pantani, refusing to hire a sprinter or a classics specialist, which would have obliged the team to aim for several objectives. All this without taking account of FICP points which govern the transfer market today. In this sense, Mercatone is conceived like Coppi's Bianchi team. But if the team organisers acted in this way, it was because they had in Pantani someone who before he became a great rider was already a great personage for reasons that had nothing to do with the sport. Pantani had difficult beginnings. He was the victim of two terrible accidents, for example when he was run into by a car in Milan-Turin, but each time he clawed his way back through the force of his courage. He has also taken courageous positions on drug-taking. His victory in the Giro has amplified his standing and if he wins the Tour de France he will bring all the publicity to Mercatone, with extra on top derived from his charisma and his strong standing as a human being.

Q: - What do you think are his greatest qualities?

Gimondi - He's an economical climber, an intelligent champion who's able to recognise when he's made mistakes, who's able to apologise to a team-mate who he's given too harsh a talking to during a race. He's understood that his team-mates have a soul; something that it took me years to understand. I was egotistical, but it's an indispensable trait of a champion. If you're too altruistic, you can't be a winner. As these things go, Merckx was even more egotistical than me. He came to ride a criterium at Bergamo and sprinted for all the primes and to win the race! One year, in the Tour, he swept off with a prime of 2 million [translator's note:" old" French francs, I presume!] a few days before the finish. He was, nevertheless, wearing the maillot jaune.

Q: - If Pantani wins the Tour, it will be down to Pezzi...

Gimondi - It would be the last heritage of Pezzi, his last gift to cycling. This is even the more so since there weren't that many people who believed in Pantani when Pezzi sought him out. Pantani was still on crutches, but Pezzi was convinced that if there was an Italian who could win the Tour, it was him. It was a truly inspired move.

Q: - You've said that Pantani gives out a certain air of austerity, but you yourself were a bit austere!

Gimondi - I've always thought that a professional bike rider must live beyond the contingencies of [ordinary] life; outside the world and all its temptations. We've already seen champions going astray in business dealings while they're still riding, and that never survives long. And then again, I have religious faith and that faith reinforced me in my metier. But it also helped me overcome terribly sad moments.

Q: - The death of Simpson, for example? In the photos from that period you can be seen in tears.

Gimondi - It was the only time I ever thought of abandoning the Tour. I was in a little hotel, with vines on the walls, on the massage table, when I heard about his death on the radio. I felt a profound sadness. I thought of my wife, in those moments the Tour seemed derisory.

Q: - Perhaps one could say, due allowance being made, that the Festina affair has taken precedence over the Tour?

Gimondi - I believe that's so. I was surprised that the Festina riders were thrown out of the Tour. I don't think it was a good decision, even if I appreciate the political weight involved in making the decision. It's a terrible loss for the Tour. One mustn't be hypocritical. There are Tour regulations, but Virenque and Zulle haven't infringed them. The organisers should have held to that. Now I hope that this business will serve to modify mentalities.

Q: - That's never going to be easy, above all when they rest on a long-standing culture of doping.

Gimondi - That's true. There are perhaps too many interests; too much money in play. But it's necessary to find solutions.

Q: - You always get pleasure out of coming back onto the Tour?

Gimondi - Yes, because I get to recollect the little scenes of my youth, moments of life that go beyond cycling, notably the sad little passages in the Pyrenees: the place where I collided with a gendarme in the mist because I had lost track with the white lines in the middle of the road. I remember the Pyrenees in the rain, when I arrived at the bottom of a descent more fatigued than I was at the top of the climb; that was the time when Merckx attacked in the Tourmalet on the road to Mourenx.

Q: - That day, you felt you had been humiliated by Merckx?

Gimondi - At the finish I was so drained that I had to get into the car to get back to the hotel. I had several terrible days with Eddy. I found it hard to admit that he was the stronger. It took two years of my career to realise that. I understood it when he beat me in a time trial in the Tour of Catalonia in 1968. I was wearing the leader's jersey, it was the first time he beat me in a time trial. That evening I went for a walk on the beach, I was looking for all the possible excuses, but I knew that I would have to change my way of thinking.

Dutch Women's Team for Tour de Feminin

The Dutch team for Tour Feminin (starting on August 11) was selected by the manager Jean-Paul van Poppel. It includes Nicole Vermast, Elsbeth Vink and Edith Klep (all from the Opstalan-team of Leontien van Moorsel). Van Moorsel will not start. Other riders selected: Yvonne Brunen, Mirjam Melchers and Meike de Bruijn.

Lillestrøm, Nordic RR Championships, August 2

Tomas Nilsson who reports for www.cyclingnews.com from Scandinavia writes that Norwegian amateur Vegar Øverås-Lied took his second Nordic champion title by winning the 216 km Scandinavian Open road race in Lillestrøm on Sunday. Øverås-Lied, champion also in 1996, was one of five survivors of 20 from an early attack on the second of twelve laps. In the sprint he outsmarted three swedes and one french rider by taking the last position, Bäckstedt style, and passed the group 50 meters before the line.

Men, Road Race, 216 kms:

 1. Vegard Øverås-Lied, Norway		     5.14.02
 2. Mattias Carlson, Sweden	
 3. Jan Karlsson, Sweden	
 4. Henrik Sparr, Sweden	
 5. Mideric Clain, France	
 6. Mika Hietanen, Finland 			0.55

Juniors, 110 kms:

 1. Lars Bak, Denmark			     2.35.46
 2. Lars Fredriksen, Denmark			0.05
 3. Simon Söndergaard, Denmark			0.07

Women, 90 kms:

 1. Wenche Stensvold, Norway		     2.28.21
 2. Pia Sundstedt, Finland	
 3. Monica Valen, Norway			0.50
 4. Jenny Algelid, Sweden	

The drugs scandal update

With the Tour de France now over the recriminations are due to begin with judicial police authorities declaring an all-out offensive against drug smuggling and use within the cycling peloton.

Bernard Gravet, the Director for Judicial Police, said that the judges in Lille and Reims will go all the way to stamp it out and bring criminal charges against those involved. Rodolfo Massi is the first to be charged with dealing in banned substances. The police are putting pressure on the politicians in France to bring in tougher laws. These will be considered in the last quarter of 1998.

The TVM team is due to be heard in Reims today. Their masseur, Jan Moors has been held in custody since the team was taken in for questioning last Tuesday in Albertville. A suitcase was seized and contains evidence so the police say. The five TVM riders - Bart Voskamp, Servais Knaven, Serguei Outschakov, Serguei Ivanov and Stephen de Jongh - are scheduled to appear today.

The team manager Cees Priem and Russian doctor Andrei Mikhailov have been held in custody after being placed under official investigation. Two matters are of concern - the March discovery of a large stash of drugs in the team truck on the way back from the Tour of Valencia, and the discovery on Tuesday night.

But don't think that justice can't wait! The Festina enquiry in Lille, seemingly so urgent while the bike race was on, is now in abeyance while the judge goes on holiday.

The police have admitted that they are in no hurry despite trying to wreck the bike race in what seemed to be an indecent haste. They have openly said that the riders who they are putting pressure on a slowly realising that it is better to talk.

The information that Festina riders have already given the police has led to many more riders coming under suspician. Birds have talked.

Meanwhile, at the weekend, Bjarne Riis, angrily denied he had told the police that it was Massi who was involved.