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Cycling News and Analysis

News for November 4, 1998

Drugs Update

The French riders in the Festina team will have to wait at least another month before the results of the investigation into their doping activities are known. This is also the case for the TVM riders. The French police ordered tests of their hair, urine and blood. The results will not be known until the first week of December. Once the results are known the French Cycling Federation will then look into what if any sanctions will be imposed. The three Swiss Festina riders (Dufaux, Zülle, Meier) are already serving suspensions until May 1, 1999. This was on the basis of their confessions. The French riders have refused to admit to taking any EPO or human growth hormones. Pascal Hervé and Richard Virenque have always maintained their innocence.

Meanwhile, the Italian Cycling Federation have given Rodolfo Massi a 6 month suspension after being found guilty of having cortisone during the Tour de France. He was also fined around $US1800. He was thrown out of the Tour while wearing the Mountain's jersey after being arrested by police. He was accused of being one of the drug dealers in the peloton. On May 1 Massi will be able to ride again.

It has now been revealed that the French police from Chambéry (Savoie) have been investigating the Belgian team Vlaanderen 2002 after they found syringes, capsules and bottles in a rubbish bin along the A41 expressway. A workman from a petrol station nearby has told them how he saw a man from a car dump the items. The car was a Vlaanderen 2002 team vehicle. It was alleged to have happened on September 11 during the Tour de l'Avenir. A day later the police raided their hotel.

Vlaanderen 2002 is a team led by Roger Swerts and aims to sponsor younger riders who cannot get contracts with the bigger teams. They get a chance for one or two seasons to ride with the professionals and prove that they are worthy of a higher-paid contract in one of the bigger teams. Swerts has denied that the team has any involvement in drugs. He stated when faced with these allegations that the team only "uses sugars and vitamins".

In Den Haag, the government Minister of Justice Korthals is not planning to speak to his French equivalent over the Cees Priem business. He said this on the local Sunday TV program, Buitenhof. Priem, team leader of TVM, is currently unable to leave France while he is facing charges associated with drugs smuggling. He was arrested on July 23 in the Southern French town of Pamiers during the Tour de France in relation to the discovery in early March of 104 capsules of EPO in a TVM truck near the northern town of Reims. Since August, he has been under house arrest in a French hotel.

Leontien van Moorsel

Leontien van Moorsel will remain for another season with her own team. The rider from Rotterdam, who trains under the eye of her husband/manager Michael Zijlaard, was hoping for a supported place in the Dutch national team. She had also been looking for a major sponsor for her own team. The contract with the main sponsor, Opstalen, runs out next season.

In the week of the World Championships in Valkenburg she was speaking with many interested parties. After a brief vacation she will pursue some of the opportunities. She has an outstanding World Championships with a gold in the ITT and silver in the road race. The KNWU (Dutch Cycling Federation) was expecting an answer from her on November 1. She met with National Women's coach Jean-Paul van Poppel last Saturday, without knowing if she had a new sponsor or not.

Last Criteriums of the 1998 in Catalonia

Alex Tarroja, who keeps us updated on Catalonian events, has sent me the results for the last two criteriums for the season in Catalonia. You can see that the local riders are listed at Cat rather than Spa.

Cerdanyola Criterium, 31 October 1998

 1. Melcior Mauri (Cat) ONCE-Deutsche Bank
 2. Eleuterio Anguita (Spa) Estepona-Brepac
 3. Angel Edo (Cat) Kelme-Costa Blanca

l'Hospitalet Criterium, 1 November 1998

Elimination Race:

 1. Melcior Mauri (Cat) ONCE-Deutsche Bank
 2. Jose-Maria Jimenez (Spa) Banesto
 3. Angel Edo (Cat) Kelme-Costa Blanca
 4. Abraham Olano (Spa) Banesto

Points Race:

 1. Abraham Olano (Spa) Banesto
 2. Andrei Zintxenko (Rus) Vitalicio Seguros
 3. Angel Edo (Cat) Kelme-Costa Blanca
 4. Jose-Maria Jimenez (Spa) Banesto

Banesto Update

Manuel Beltrán confesses that he feels a little bit bad that Olano is leaving and he will probably have a hard time not to get confused in a race next season: "What if I make a mistake and I start pulling for Abraham?"

- How do you feel about separating from Olano?

- Hmm! I have been with Olano for four years, two at Mapei and two at Banesto, always watching for him. We have lived together, the victories and the failures, the happiness and the pain. This season, without going too far, we suffered at the Tour and made it at la Vuelta. With all that, I must admit that I have bad feelings about his departure.

- It will be strange next year to get to the Challenge de Mallorca and see each other in different jerseys.

- Yes, but each one will know where our place is. The only thing would be if one day I get confused and start pulling for him.

- Olano and you are good friends, the same as Fernández Ginés, who has also left. Don't you feel bad?

- For sure, I feel bad, but friendship is something separate that doesn't have to disappear. But then during racing each one will defend their interests.

- You must also feel bad about the conflict between Olano and Jiménez.

- Yes, I feel very bad, especially because we couldn't celebrate the win at la Vuelta a España, like we should have, when we had won the right for an all out party.

- Was there that much tension?

- It affected us all a bit even though the press made things bigger than they were. If there was any rivalry between them it was only a sporting rivalry. Plus we are talking about two good people. Life takes many turns and it could happen that in the future they may be teammates again. We have to stop stirring this matter.

- Are these types of tensions common in the midst of a team?

- Sometimes there are little things, but I'm one of those that thinks that we already suffer enough on the road, to also fight against each other.

- How would you summarize your season?

- It has been a very good year, even though I haven't forgotten that I didn't have any victories. But I have contributed with my work and that has brought wins. I know that the teams is happy with me and that satisfies me.

- With the new Banesto, I suppose that you will continue working, even though you have to assume responsibilities at some point.

- I welcome the responsibility. Whatever comes, will come. I will limit myself to continue working.

Eusebio Unzué, sporting director for Banesto, seems very relaxed these days. "Yes, I am because I think that we have a great team - a very young team, for next season". The new Banesto looks good. "With Zulle's arrival and the rest of the signings, I think that for our two main objectives we will start with as many possibilities as any".

A novelty for Banesto will be the inclusion of the Giro d'Italia, which they haven't raced since 1995. There are two defined leaders for that race already: Piepoli and Baranowski. The rest of the program is basically the same as in other years, adding the return to the Tour d'Avenir. After the Giro, Zülle and Jiménez, accompanied by Chente García and Beltrán, will take over at the Tour (where they will also be accompanied by Piepoli and Baranowski) and la Vuelta.

Unzué knows that Zulle's arrival and Olano's departure are going to generate a certain rivalry, but he likes the circumstances, because the fans will benefit. Banesto's directors have not talked to Alex Zülle yet about his plans, but the idead is for his debut to be on May 4th at the Tour of Romandie, once his sanction is completed. Before the Tour he would also compete at the Midi Libre, Dauphiné Liberé and la Volta a Catalunya.

"That should be enough to reach the Tour in perfect conditions", says Eusebio Unzué. "It's not necessary to overload him with races before the Tour, because Zülle is an expert rider and very professional, so he will surely comeback in good shape", added Unzué.

At Banesto we are not worried about the public's reaction to a foreign leader. "Apart from the fact that Zulle is a well liked rider, we have not changed our philosophy, because the objectives are the same. If a Spaniard wins, perfect, but if not, let it be a Swiss, an Italian or a Polish".

Eusebio Unzué is convinced that Zulle's arrival is the "best complement for José María Jiménez, because that way he won't have to carry the whole responsibility. That doesn't mean that Chaba will not have responsibilities, but that he will be more tranquil sharing them". "The best Spanish rider has left; but we have the popular leader, what is left not is for him to become the sporting leader" added Unzué.

Festina Update

Festina will show a radical new face for 1999. The team is practically finalised, with the exception of a pair of neo-Pros. To this date there have been 6 new signings and 8 departures - including the departures of their two main riders, the Swiss pair Alex Zülle and Laurent Dufaux. Neither was willing to accept the offer of lower contract values.

Significantly, the plans for 1998 are being set with a consideration for Richard Virenque. Frenchman Virenque is likely to leave the team any day now. The director Juan Fernández said: "Right now it seems like the most logical option and we are planning without him, but we wouldn't mind if he stayed, because he is a great rider, although he knows what the offer is."

One rider to accept the lower salary offer is Frenchman Laurent Brochard, who signed his renewal on Thursday in Barcelona. He follows the steps of his compatriots Pascal Hervé, Didier Rous and Christophe Moreau. They have also signed two neo-Pros: Spaniard Ángel Saiz de la Maza and Frenchman Frederic Brard, national champions in the ITT sub-23 for their respective countries. With those signings, the team currently has 21 riders.