The team leader Alex Zülle gave an interview to Swiss TV (German). He expressed regret and was reappraising his future in cycling. He said: "I regret it for my fans and I especially regret being untruthful. But I could not do it any differently. But I take responsibility for my decision. While the use of drugs is not confined to Festina it remains that I made an error. EPO is on the list of doping products. EPO is prohibited. It was my decision to use it under medical control."
So who is to blame other than Zulle himself? While acknowledging that in the end it was his own decision, he said that the results obtained without drugs, while excellent, were not enough to satisfy the sponsor who kept upping the ante. But he conceded he was not obliged to use drugs and he made the decision personally.
He now faces a 6 month to 2 year ban. His initial reaction after being released from jail in Lyon was to quit the sport. He has now reconsidered. He was very traumatised by his treatment by police in Lyon. He was deprived of his spectacles and was unable to see. He said to the interviewer that: "I do not exaggerate, but I was treated like an animal. I was put in an extraordinary state of anxiety, I could not think more normally ".
Armin Meier, the first to go public, told the Swiss newspaper the Sonntags Zeitung that he believed more than 100 riders will be suspended by the UCI. He said in the interview that: "I would not be surprised if that started an avalanche. Perhaps that the UCI must suspend more than one hundred riders after the Tour. I do not believe in a general amnesty."
The third Swiss rider Laurent Dufaux, who was 4th last year in the Tour, did not want to become the sacrificial lamb in the affair. He said in an interview with the Swiss Sport Information agency that: "I know that I must serve a period of suspension. But I do not want the 5 Festina riders who have come clean to play the role of the scapegoat. Our cases must provoke reflection by the authorities. It would be a shame to once again close the lid. The use of drugs is widespread and the authorities must now clean it up."
Dufaux said he initially denied the charges of EPO use but when he was incarcerated, he felt differently. He said he had to admit to the offences because the "the evidence too was overpowering. Yes I took EPO. I did it to keep my form. It is not this product which has made me a top rider. Take the case of a viral infection. My hématocrit level fell then to 40. The UCI made a level of 50% the limit. So I felt it was possible to make up the difference. I always did it under medical control, without never misusing this product."
After nine days of speed mania the real racing - the gut-busting that decides the winner of the Tour de France - began in the Pyrenees on Tuesday. In other words the big climbs had begun, and defending champion Jan Ullrich reached out and commandeered the yellow jersey from the pretenders of the flat. The annual truth had emerged that only a handful of riders, the so-called "big animals", have a true chance of winning the race. And that is as it should be . Ullrich last year, and Miguel Indurain from 1991-95, proved that the race goes to the strongest man. It is a race for teams but it is when a team can no longer help that the greatest riders emerge. These are men who may never win a stage in a Tour but still wear the yellow down the Champs Elysses, and with it the title of one of the very elite athletes in the world.
We saw Ullrich, who is still only 24, win our own Commonwealth Cycle Classic, in 1993 as a slim, freckled, fresh-faced teenager coming off a world-amateur championship win. And now that the sport is open we see him reign over the professionals, with the potential to be as dominant as Indurain. In 1994, just to prove that road cycling can still be won by teamwork in lesser races, our Classic was won by another young German, Jens Voigt, who caught the right breaks and ended up with Ullrich riding in support.
On Monday Voigt distinguished himself with a second placing into Pau, after being the big mover in a breakaway, and grabbed the coveted red polka dot king of the mountains jersey. Voigt was recruited by national road coach Heiko Salzwedel to ride for the Giant-AIS team which was building towards a competitive professional team last year until it had its funding cut. Now Salzwedel is also cut, dumped both by the Australian Cycling Federatioon and the Australian Institute of Sport.
Watching the Tour on TV, and seeing the Aussie connection so evident, is enough to make fans weep to know that we are so carelessly killing off the momentum of the sport here. For years promotor Phill Bates and his band of dedicated volunteers, with little help from the authorities, built the Classic into one of the great amateur races and a launching pad for scores of professional careers. Along with the international competition came better performances from the Australians.
I have no doubt that the sensational little Queenslander Darren Smith, who was killed on a training ride in 1992 after returning home from the Barcelona Olympics, would have won stages of the Tour. His little mate from BMX days Robbie McEwen, who was never considered quite as good as Darren, has had two stage placings this year.
Last year Henk Vogels grabbed an astonishing third in the biggest, wildest sprint of all, the mass finish up the Champs Elysses with the world watching. And Victoria's veteran pro Neil Stephens won a stage. Stuart O'Grady has worn the yellow jersey for three days this year and is now an international star. He came through Charlie Walsh's track endurance program - and Bradley McGee may follow him - but his opportunities were enhanced by the work put into Australia'a road reputation by men like Bates and Salzwedel and the organisers of our longest-running pro race, the Herald Sun Tour in Victoria. So many years, so much road work, and even the people who run the sport here can't seem to see past Olympic track medals, the small beer of the sport. The one saving grace is that the public is becoming more educated.
Crowds at the Olympic road races for men and women, with Australia having chances in both, will be enormous. If Australia's progress falls away in road cycling there will be a demand for new leadership in the sport. The building numbers of aficionados will already have recognised the feats of O'Grady and McEwen this year. They will know that the Tour progresses in acts like a stage play. The first day was a 5.7 km prologue, which was always going to be won by England's former track star Chris Boardman. Then would come six flat road stages before the 58 km time trial last Saturday. These are stages in which the teams chase down breakaways to give their sprinters a chance. And McEwen proved himself one of the world's best road sprinters - living gods in Europe - by taking two placings. But O'Grady did get into a rare breakaway and, with ability to pick up sprint time bonuses along the way, got the leader's jersey for three days. Once more Australia has put its stamp on the great race. Then came the time trial. O'Grady, spent from his efforts, was now riding for survival as Ullrich, easily won and picked up enough time to grab the race lead and set himself up for the mountains.
Italian Rodolfo Massi won yesterday's 197 km stage 10, with its five big climbs. Ullrich finished ninth, 59 secs behind, but reclaimed the race lead and has handy time breaks on main rivals like Marco Pantani, Abraham Olano, and Bjarne Riis, and also has another time trial on the second-last day, August 1, to seal the win. O'Grady and McEwen will now try to survive in the Pyrenees and Alps for another week for the privilege of contending in three flat stages before the finish in Paris on August 2.
Cyclists from across the United States completed the 1998 Masters Cycling Championships this weekend in this mid-sized southern city better known for its collegiate football.
Racers from 30 years-of-age through to the 75-plus category competed in a time trial, a road race and on a downtown criterium course. Cyclists with disabilities competed over the first three days for medals and Stars and Stripes jerseys, as well.
Last year, racers had to contend with heat reaching into the 100s and a tropical storm that was battering the west coast of the state.
This year's event started scant weeks and days after huge forest fires ripped across Florida. Even though it seemed that Mother Nature was trying to make up for last year with a week of mild and clear weather, a cloud of overly cautious and negative racing tactics hung over many of the pelotons.
With only three medals and a jersey up for grabs at the finish line, pack after pack of racers refused to work together in breakaways in the road races. Tactics became the buzzword instead of effort in several of the categories as riders were obviously saving their legs for attacks that never came or bunch sprints in the final 200 m.
These tactics were in contrast with appreciably quicker times in the ITT recorded Wednesday compared with the ones posted last year on the identical board-flat 40k course.
Former two-time U.S. Olympic team member Carl Sundquist (Boston Mountain Cyclist), racing in the 35-39 age group, posted the fastest ITT of the entire event with a 50:17. Only the tandem duo of Glenn Bunselmeyer and Lawrence Shannon (Control Tech) went faster at 49:13. The pair was racing in the men combined 70-plus tandem category.
Judging from the time trial, it was not hard to see why U.S. masters have enjoyed recent success in worldwide competitions on the road and on the track. With the hour mark being a barometer of elite riding for 40k, the appropriately named Franz Hammer (Saturn of Bellevue) was more than one minute under the mark with a 58:54. Particularly impressive considering that Hammer was racing in the 60-64 age group. Seven men broke the hour in the 55-59 category and better than half of the 45-49 category were also less than 60 minute men.
Kim Erdoes (PowerBar) was the lone female competitor to crack the hour mark, posting a 58:33. Floridian Beth Mundy (Florida Sports Racing Team) came close with a 1:00:03. Both were racing in the 30-34 category. Rita Robben (KCBC Racing Team) was the closest in the 35-39 category with a 1:00:11.
Sundquist's speed in the 35-39 road race on Friday was largely wasted as a series of breaks got away without him in the 64-mile race. Knowing he was a marked man, Sundquist went to the front of the pack on the final 15.8-mile lap and single-handedly pulled a 1:35 break containing former professional racers back within seven miles. John Wordin (Mercury), on a break from his professional team's schedule, gave yeoman's work at the front, also, but to no avail. From there, a second break formed containing the eventual winners: First, Richard Meeker (Simply Fit); second, James Warsa (Wild Oats); and third, Dirk Himley (Sunchase-Sprint).
The men's 30-34 race the day before looked like it was going to follow the form of major European races; piddle around for 60 miles or so and then drop the hammer. The race was only 64 miles long. In fact, the winning break basically strolled off the front at the end of the first lap and was largely held in sight by a dozing pack until it finally disappeared by the middle of the third lap.
Fittingly, the top three finishers in the 30-34 road race were the top three in the ITT: Kenneth Williams (Saturn of Bellevue), Buster Brown (Boston Mountain Cyclist) and Kenneth Zimmerman (Wild Oats). Last year's winner, Gordon Stiel (Outspokin' Bicycles) was in the seven-man break, but was dropped by the trio in the final miles.
Stiel was not the only rider in the chase that wanted to add to his championship jersey collection. 1990 World Collegiate Champion Paul King (Wisconsin Ginseng - Athens Bandag), on a break from his doctoral work in microbiology at the University of Georgia, drove a several-rider chase pack that closed the gap from the breakaway down to 30 seconds at the finish. King's frustration at not making the break was evident, as the other chase riders were comfortable pulling in between 27-30 mph and King was stroking it in excess of 32 mph after attacking through the start/finish and feed zone on the final of four laps.
King must have known he had made a mistake when the chase pack contained the event's announcer, playing hooky from his duties.
A live oak dying and falling across a portion of the racecourse provided the most excitement of all the road races. Small packs and excellent coordination of safety crews by the local sheriff's department and the organizers of the race had the raceway cleared in a matter of minutes.
A wide open, mostly flat, .7-mile criterium was held around the downtown civic center Saturday and Sunday. Organizers held a kid's safety and bike jamboree and put 150 helmets on 150 heads in connection with the racing.
The line of the week, actually the word of the week, was provided by Mark Hagen (CCB/Volkswagen) while racing in the men's 45-49 criterium. Hagen had spent the middle 10 laps of the 40-lap race off the front. When the announcer announced to the crowd over the loudspeakers that Hagen had been caught on the main drag, Hagen growled "Temporarily," as he passed by the grandstand. Hagen made good on his boast, attacking inside the final five laps out to win the race in a solo break.
The criterium saw King revive his jersey aspirations in the 30-34 event. Finally up in a winning break, all eyes were on the Wisconsin native as he and four other riders powered away in the latter part of the 60-lap race. King was joined by Jake Hemboldt (HDK/Sentara), Robert Lee (Jamis), Raphael Clemente (Florida Sports Racing Team) and Paul Kavan.
But it was Hemboldt's sprinting prowess that won the day. He had plenty of opportunities to hone is sprinting in sanctioned Tuesday-night training races in his hometown of Richmond, Va. Hemboldt regularly went up against quality riders like John Hamblen (Snow Valley), who recently placed third in the national amateur road championship, and former teammate Eric Saunders who has begun notching top finishes in national races. "King was definitely the strongest rider in the break - all eyes were on him," Hemboldt said during a grandstand interview minutes after winning. The new champion said that he was "humbled by the effort the other riders put out - everyone bled today." Lee used power earned in years past as a professional mountain biker to come around King in the final meters.
The best sprinting of the entire weekend belonged to the legs of James Joseph (Team Unity). Joseph wound up his sprint from a good half lap out and destroyed all comers in what looked would be a pack sprint. Joseph, a Brooklyn, NY resident told the crowd that he only rides 100 miles a week, but keys on intensity and intervals to stay competitive.
Women's Time Trial 35-39 (24.8) 1. Rita Robben, KCBC Racing Team) 2. Kathleen Scully (Team Las'Port) 3. Clare Rude (Casper Wheelmen) 40-44 (24.8) 1. Deborah Dudas (Snow Valley) 2. Debra Vanderalan (Bill Bone/Canari) 3. Elizabeth Benishin (Alto Velo) 45-49 (24.8) 1. Elizabeth Tyrell (Somerset Wheelmen) 2. Mary Allen (Century Road Club Assoc.) 3. Linda Atwater (Southbay Wheelmen) 50-54 (24.8) 1. Anne Huntington (Louisville Wheelmen Racing Team) 2. Dottie Saling (Somerset Wheelemen) 3. Susan Buttaravoli (West Palm Beach Bicycle Club) 55-59 (12.5) 1. Jeannette (Valley Spokesmen) 2. Judy Carroll, (Summit Freewheelers) 3. Christine Dauphas (Tulsa Wheelmen) 60-64 (12.5) 1. Joann McCranels (Bill Bone/Canari) 2. Kathryn McCarthy (San Diego Cyclo Vets) 3. Joyce Quadri (Frontier Bike) 65-69 (12.5) 1. Jeanne Omelenchuk 75-79 (12.5) 1. Martha Hanson Men's Time Trial: 35-39 (24.8 miles) 1. Carl Sundquist (Boston Mountain Cyclist) 2. Skip Foley (Golds Gym/Saturn/Dominoes) 3. Brian Lemke (Landis Cyclery/Toyota Parts and Service) 40-44 (24.8) 1. Roy Sturm (Sports and Wellness) 2. John Houghton (Celo Pacific) 3. Larry Nolan, (USPS-Montgomery) 45-49 (24.8) 1. Glenn Swann (Finger Lakes Cycling Club) 2. Tim Kerr (team DeFeet) 3. Mark Hagen (CCB/Volkswagen/Eastern Bank) 50-54 (24.8) 1.Kenny Fuller (Canyon Velo) 2. Kenneth Roanhaus (team Wisconsin) 3. Richard Raspet (Outdoors) 55-59 (24.8) 1. Scott Tucker (Schwab Cycles) 2. David Spangler (Velo Avanti Cycling Team) 3. Michael Williams (GNO Racing) 60-64 (24.8) 1. Franz Hammer (Saturn of Bellevue) 2. James Bryan (Silks) 3. Thomas Hendricks (Sand Diego Cyclo Vets) 65-69 (12.5 miles) 1. Larry Reade (Buffalo Cycling Club) 2. Francois Mertens (Zephyr Bicycling Club) 3. Raymond Kellner (Silks) 70-74 (12.5) 1. Richard Green (Lighteningbolt C.C.) 2. Raymond Putnam (Lighteningbolt C.C.) 3. Rudi Schuster 75-79 (12.5) 1. Thomas Keeley (Team Metropolis) 2. Victor D'Alessio (Daytona Bicycle Club) 3. Harold Kessler (Westwood Velo) 80-84 (12.5) 1. Ray Florman 2. Frans Pauwels 85+ (12.5) John Sinibaldi (Suncoast Road Club) Women's Road Race 40-44 (31.6 miles) 1. Debra Vanderlaan (Bill Bone/Canari) 2. Sharon Fulwood (Saturn of Bellevue) 3. Deborah Durand (San Diego Cyclo Vets) 50-54 (31.6) 1. Elaine Miller (Celo Pacific) 2. Anne Huntington (Louisville Wheelmen Racing Club) 3. Linda Spitz Men's Road Race 35-39 (63.2) 1. Richard Meeker (Simply Fit) 2. James Warsa (Wild Oats) 3. Dirk Himley (Sunchase-Sprint) 45-49 (47.4) 1. Ian Jackson (Team Charlotte) 2. David LeDuc (Team Charlotte) 3. Arnie Baker (San Diego Cyclovets) 55-59 (47.4) 1. Barry Free (Red Rose Rockets) 2. Joe Saling (Somerset Wheelmen) 3. M. Moll (Clarksville Schwinn) 65-69 (31.6) 1. Francois Mertens (Zephyr Racing Team) 2. Raymond Kellner (Silks) 3. Raymond Sweet (Laurel Bicycle Club)