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Cycling News and Analysis

News for November 23, 1998

MTB Tour de France is finished

After 4 years, the Tour de France for MTBs will not continue. Its organiser, the Société du Tour de France, announced the decision not to continue last Thursday citing a lack of interest from sponsors and the media.

Festina may not race the big ones

Festina team manager Juan Fernandez announced on Thursday that in the aftermath of the doping scandal during the Tour de France, and the fact that it has deprived the team of its best riders, the team still does not know if it will take part in the principal races next season .

At a press conference in Bern, he said that: "No decisions have been taken yet. But it seems to me that even the Giro d'Italia will be too difficult for us next year." The Tour de France participation is also not assured because the team is unlikely to have enough UCI points to qualify.

Bugno begins life as a promoter

Gianni Bugno will promote a cycling school in Milan for the Italian Cycling Federation. The Federation will organise the school as a result of a decision taken at the re-united federal council to Rome. The school will focus on junior boys and girls, and aims to develop this group of aspiring cyclists so that they can compete in the 17-18 year category. The Director of the school will be Claudio Santi and the technical staff will comprise Damiani, Balboni and De Candido.

The San Vincenzo (Livorno) school will focus on the track and aims to restore the Italian supremacy in the sprinting events.

Bartoli and Asics - divorce!

On Friday, Michele Bartoli sent a letter to La Gazzetta dello Sport, the leading Italian sport's news daily which directly attacked his former sponsor, Franco Arese. Arese, a former champion athlete is the president of Asics Italy and in 1998 sponsored the company run by Davide Boifava - Sportdit - which managed the Asics Cycling Team. Michele Bartoli was its star rider and was contracted with the company until 1999. At the end of this season, Bartoli broke that contract to take a place in the Mapei team for 1999 along with his teammates and friends Luca Scinto, David Tani and Paul Bettini. Boifava gained sponsorship through the Vinavil company from George Squinzi which has given him the resources for a new team.

Boifava has made an agreement with Emanuele Bombini to take over several riders from the defunct Riso Scotti team. With Mario Chiesa as the sport's director and perhaps also Roberto Damiani assisting, if he will give up the direction of the Italian Under-23s, the old Asics-CGA group will ride in 1999 as Riso Scotti-Vinavil. The team will be equipped with Carrera bikes. Boifava will be able to count on the Kasakh Shefer, the Under-23 World Champion Basso, and Arvesen, Malberti, Bianchini, Turicchia. Simeoni, Pozzi, and Mancini, to name a few.

Bartoli's attack has provoked a reaction from Arese. He said: Reading La Gazzetta dello Sport I was displeased to learn, for the second time in a month, than Michele Bartoli had the worst year of his career in 1998 with Asics-CGA. This is a remarkable claim. It is not exactly specified by Bartoli how this torment manifested between him and Sportdit and/or Asics. Nothing has been communicated to Sportdit except this letter, which is similar to the letter we received after the World Championships at Valkenburg."

Arese issued a press release later in the day. He said: "It is clear that Michele Bartoli had a great season in 1998 (10 victories and overall victory in the World Cup competition) although he failed to win the World Championship. Despite all that he is saying in the press about the team, there is one fact that has been lost in all this. Michele Bartoli, may think he only has a contractual relationship exclusively with Sportdit, but that is the company that runs Asics. The contract is with the team."

"Michele Bartoli thinks he has respected all the obligations he had to Asics - he was team leader after all. But that is not correct. I also want him to stop saying things about my behaviour as a person and not to disclose things that may discredit me or the company that I represent."

But Arese is also on the move. He is trying to promote the Japanese Asics brand into Europe. In that regard, he has focused on Tour de France winner Marco Pantani and has aimed at sponsoring Mercatone Uno-Bianchi. He met Pantani in Bologna on Friday and has signed an agreement with Romano Cenni, for a two year clothing deal, beating companies like Robe di Kappa, Nike and Santini. The deal is top secret but is rumoured to be worth lots.

Pantani will soon to be formally engaged by Asics to promote its products. Arese already has Max Biaggi in motorcycling; football players Marcio Amoroso (Udinese), Roberto Mancini (Lazio), Alessandro Nesta (Lazio) and Andrea Pirlo (Inter); and athletes Andrea Giani and Casa Modena. The commercial operation of Arese with Mercatone Uno-Bianchi is highly significant.

Franco Arese is of-course disappointed with Bartoli. A year ago he announced the plan to use Bartoli to promote the Asics brand throughout Europe. He said at the time that he was hoping to see Bartoli in the maillot rose (the Giro d'Italia leader's jersey). He succeeded in seeing Bartoli win the World Cup this year. But then Bartoli decided to leav Boifava and go to Mapei.

The following developments have led to the divorce between Bartoli and Asics:

In the summer of 1998, there was a maturing in the Mapei-Asics relationship. Davide Boifava was working with the agreement of all concerned to see Bartoli and others (Bettini, Scinto, Tani et al) move over the the Mapei team run by George Squinzi. Up until July (during the Tour) everything seemed to be on track. Then in August, the plans fell apart. Arese started to object to the interest that Squinzi was showing in Pantani, as soon as he had won the Tour de France. Asics suspended the negotiations with Mapei and instead decided to support Boifava for 1999. But it was too late as Bartoli had already been wooed by Mapei and had decided himself to race for Squinzi next year.

The relationship with Arese deteriorated when he sought to enforce Bartolies contract with Sportdit in court. Bartoli reacted to these threats with his harsh letter.

Colli Classic, Western Australia

Roger Sutton has kindly sent me these details from the races that were contested as part of the Colli Classic. It was held around a park in Armadale just a little south of Perth. The cicuit was approximately 1.3 kms. The Men did 50 minutes plus 3 laps and the Women 20 minutes plus 1 lap.

Liz Tadich had come over for the event which had Sandra Smith, Tanya Bailey, Kelly McCombie and Lyn Nixon in the field of about 20. Sandra Smith won in a sprint finish from Sharon Wheatley and Haley Rutherford.

 1. Sandra Smith
 2. Sharon Wheatley
 3. Hayley Rutherford
 4. Lyn Nixon
 5. Liz Tadich
 6. Cathi Dixon

The Men's event was expected to be dominated by the Credit Agricole pair of Henk Vogels and Stuart O'Grady. We weren't disappointed. As early as lap 3, a group of four riders went away to a small lead. On lap 6, only Chris Brown remained but was joined by O'Grady, Shaun O'Neil and Ryan Suckling. The race came together again, but on lap 10, a determined effort by Jamie Drew and Eddie Hollands opened up a gap. Vogels and McMurdo were trying to get over to them. By lap 14 they were altogether again. On lap 15 Jamie Drew once again had a go and made what appeared to be the deciding move. Brett Stapleton got across with Henk Vogels following up.

The three riders, once together, worked well and were never headed especially with O'Grady acting as watchman of the bunch! Towards the end of the race they had built their lead to around a minute, and slowly increased it from there.

In the final sprint Vogels won by cms from Drew with Stapleton half a bike at third. O'Grady not to be outdone won the bunch sprint.

 1. Henk Vogels (Aus) Credit Agricole
 2. Jamie Drew (Aus)
 3. Brett Stapleton (Aus)
 4. Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Credit Agricole
 5. Eddy Hollands (Aus)
 6. Wayne Van Moorsel (Aus)
 7. Glenn Harris (Aus)
 8. Jim Krynen (Aus)
 9. Michael Simms (Aus)
10. Daniel Rutherford (Aus)

Another snippet of Western Australian news from Roger is that Danny Clarke is leaving his coaching position with the WACF and is heading east. No reasons are known as yet.