News for December 8, 1998

Richard Virenque update

Will he retire?

There is now speculation about the announcement by Richard Virenque that he is retiring. He is still young. The former house-painter once told the French press that he earned a better living from racing than anything else he could do. That was in 1992 soon after he turned professional.

Seven years later, Virenque had one of the best wages in the peloton (750,000 francs monthly estimated), and it is hard to believe he would stop at his age with that sort of money. Some have said that he is too expensive.

There are those that are dubious. Daniel Baal, the president of the French Cycling Federation said: "I really do not believe that he will stop. I think it is more about telling us he is now in a difficult situation. I think that he can still find a team provided that the past is balanced."

Jean-Marie Leblanc, Director of the Tour de France agrees: "Nothing is final. For the moment, it is premature."

Daniel Baal like Jean-Marie Leblanc, while remaining reserved, are skeptics. On the other hand, the former team boss Cyrille Guimard who, is on the other side of the fence to the officials, is less dubious. He said: "From the moment that Richard Virenque cannot find a team to ride with he has to stop. He does not have a choice. He cannot ride anymore. A professional cannot ride as an independent. He needs a team."

As an expert, Guimard quickly summed up the situation. He said: "I am not persuaded that it is about a budgetary problem. I believe more sincerely that the teams do not want to have a rider like Richard Virenque because he will bring them problems of image and notoriety. It is currently very difficult to attract sponsors into the sport. When a sponsor is attracted the last thing they want is to be associated with matters that do not concern them. I believe this is the issue with Virenque. His wages are clearly large and would represent a third of my budget. But it is image that is driving this."

The system of UCI points hardly supports riders like Richard Virenque. He was 46th in the UCI rankings on October 16 with 718 points and this does not bring large benefits to a team. By way of comparison, Switzerland's Alex Zulle, fellow-member of the Festina, had 1571 UCI points. Virenque alone cannot add a lot to the points of a team. His strength is his climbing skills in the Tour de France which does not bring a lot of points over the whole season.

Where does Richard live?

Theo Muller has written to clarify the residential status of Richard Virenque. It's correct, that Virenque has a house in Carqueiranne and also sometimes lives there. But Carqueiranne is not near to Geneva. It is close to Toulon, in the south of France. It is not far from HyŤres, where there is the famous French track cycling centre. It's also true, that he is living in Switzerland, near Geneva, in Veyrier. It is close to where Laurent Jalabert lives. They both are able to pay less taxes as a result.

Netherlands, Eerde, National Cyclocross

 1. Gretinus Gommers (Kollemerzwaag)     55.35
 2. Van der Ven (Schijndel)               0.20
 3. Lubbeman (Hoogeveen)                  0.25
 4. Leijten (Udenhout)                    0.35
 5. Dekker (Gemert)                       0.38

Rooks gets the job at TVM

TVM has signed Steven Rooks as its new team manager. The former professional completed the contract details on Monday in the Dutch city Vlissingen. The contract will run for one year. Rooks, who has been negotiating for some time with TVM, will take the place of Cees Priem, who will take a role in management in the TVM company. 35-year old Rooks retired from racing in 1995 after a 12 year career as a professional. The last two years of his career were spent with TVM. Since then he has been a NOS TV cycling commentator.

Third time unlucky for Longo

On Sunday, Frenchwoman Jeannie Longo again failed to break her own world hour record at the Mexico City velodrome. It was her third attempt to break the record in 5 weeks. She stopped after 25 kms when her average speed was 48.167 km/h and was on track to beat the record set on October 26, 1996. Her record average speed was 48.159 km/h. She said the reason she abandoned was that the wind was increasing and she knew she would begin to drop speed.

Tour of Johor Cycling Championships

Uzbek Sergei Krushevskiy beat Evegeny Vakker of Kyrgyzstan by more than a minute to win the 50 kms road race from Segamat to Tangkak in the Tour of Johor Cycling Championships which were held last Saturday. Krushevskiy travelled the 50 kms in 1.04.16 to beat Vakker by more than a minute. Third and fourth went to fellow Uzbek riders, Kahraman Mominov and Ser Yazov. Krushevskiy now holds the yellow jersey going in to the last stage which was to be raced last Sunday.

Asian Games Cycling, Thailand

Men's MTB Downhill:

 1. Phannarong Kongsamut (Thailand)		3.43.13
 2. Takashi Tsukamoto (Japan) 			3.44.79
 3. Cook Lam Brian (Hong Kong) 			3.57.65
 4. Liao Tsung Chieh (Taiwan) 			3.59.61
 5. Liao Wu Hsiung (Taiwan)         		4.02.24
 6. Jung Hyung-Rae (South Korea) 		4.10.23
 7. Nikorn Kuapunya (Thailand) 			4.12.64
 8. Joseph Oncada (Philippines) 		4.28.09
 9. Hamdani HJ Besar (Brunei) 			5.09.30

Women's MTB Downhill:

 1. Sachiko Kamakura (Japan) 			4.26.49
 2. Mami Masuda (Japan) 			4.44.15
 3. Chen Ju Miao (Taiwan) 			4.54.18
 4. Liu Hsiang Lan (Taiwan) 			5.12.47
 5. Liu Chunxiu (China) 			5.33.63
 6. Kanittha Pratom (Thailand) 			7.30.29
Priem and Scott Newspaper sources in Cees Priem's Zeeland province have been claiming that because Scott is back racing in Australia as part of his recovery, the legal claims against Priem will lapse.

I found out from the horse's mouth today about how Scott is going. Priem better think again if he is the source of the newspaper rumours. Scott told me today that he is still 100% work incompetent - the employers' insurance company which is handling the worker's compensation claim has validated that fact. This status does not mean that Scott is prevented from training. Far from it. The recent criterium that he appeared in at Noosa Heads was a training ride. He did not receive any start money from the promoter and went along to see where he was in his training. His form was not good. The spectators will have seen that Scott had to sit up on the handlebars half the time because of the pain in his neck and back. He is far from recovered. Scott is not able to race in competition. He is still under the supervision of his doctors and he has blurred vision in his right eye. He is still not sure if he will ever be able to race a full program again. He suffers daily headaches and other physical and mental discomfort from the injuries.

So Mr. Priem, he told me that the legal claims for damages are proceeding.

Irish rider signs with Rabobank

Shane Stokes, an Irish journalist has sent me this story about the sensation from the recent worlds, Mark Scanlon.

Mark Scanlon, the Irish rider who won the 1998 junior world championships has signed a contract for the Rabobank squad. The 18-year old from Sligo will race for one year with the amateur wing of the team.

'It is like an apprenticeship, they have more or less outlined that', said Scanlon. 'I am pleased because it is one of the best teams in the world. The fact that Jan Raas and Nico Verhoven came over to Ireland to talk to me (about a contract) meant a lot.'

Scanlon took 39 wins in 1998, including the junior Het Volk, the junior Acht Van Chaam criterium and a runaway victory in the Junior Tour of Ireland. His triumph in the Junior world championships confirmed a prodigious talent which in Ireland has earned comparisons with the amateur performances of Sean Kelly.

Scanlon will attend the team presentation on January 20th and will begin racing in March.