News for September 3, 1998

Contracts and Transfers

* Festina: it seems that the team will be registered under a Swiss licence next year and all the current Swiss riders will stay with the team. So Alex Zülle, Laurent Dufaux, Armin Meier, Fabian Jeker being the most prominent. Some other Swiss riders will be signed like P. Buschor from Saeco and Rolf Huser from Post Swiss. Wladimir Belli is leaving and will ride for the re-emerging Italian team Lampre-Panaria. D. Rous has resigned for two years with the team but World Champion Laurent Brochard has been aprroached by Casino.

* Gilles Maignan (Mutuelle de Seine et Marne) has signed for the Casino as has current stagiaire Andy Flickinger. Pascal Richard will leave this team.

* Jean Cyril Robin (US Postal) is back in France. He has signed for 2 years with La Française des Jeux.

* Christophe Capelle (Cofidis) will ride next year with the Big Mat-Auber 93 team. Team mate Cyril Saugrain will also come across to Big Mat. Both of them were with Big Mat 2 seasons ago.

* Pavel Tonkov will be the leader of the Lampre-Panaria team next year managed by Beppe Saronni.

* Former Danish Road Champion ('97) Nicolai Bo Larsen is refusing to ride for his team TVM anymore. He's very disappointed that he wasn't selected for the Vuelta Espana, and if TVM allows him, then he will probably ride for Team home Jack and Jones next year.

* Franck Vandenbroucke has signed with French team Cofidis for 3 years and is being touted as the natural leader. The director general of Cofidis François Migraine told the press: "Franck will be the uncontested leader of the team because of his great record and the great number of UCI points he brings." In effect, the American Bobby Julich, 3rd in this year's Tour de France, and Frenchman Christophe Rinero, who won the mountain's jersey in the Tour, are being overlooked for team leadership. It is hoped that that doesn't cause Monsieur Migraine any migraines.

Vandenbroucke told a press conference organised by Cofidis at home in Wasquehal, near to Roubaix: "I hope to be the leader in the races that I ride" He was asked whether this meant the 1999 Tour de France to which he replied: "I am hoping for a great season. I am yet to prove myself in the Tour. I will focus on the World Cup. Whether I ride the Tour in my first season with the team will depend on my ranking in the World Cup after the Amstel Gold Race.

He was asked about whether he could cope with the high mountains in the Tour. François Migraine replied: "Is he capable of riding hard for 6-7 days in the mountains? It is the only question that remains to be answered. He knows what is expected. He will also be able to count on the help of Julich et Rinero."

Vandenbroucke, will finish this season with Paris-Tours, the World Championship and the Tour of Lombardy. He will then be aiming to ride hard in Paris-Roubaix. He noted that this plan was "Incompatible with la Flèche Wallonne".

Next year, Vandenbroucke will have three new Belgian teammates at Cofidis: close friend and training partner Nico Mattan (Mapei), Steve De Wolf and Peter Farazijn (both from Lotto-Mobistar).

Drugs Update

Virenque makes admissions

Yesterday, the news reports was that French rider Richard Virenque has told police who are investigating the drugs scandal during the Tour de France drugs that he had used banned substances despite previously vigorously denying any such use. Apparently, he made the declaration during an interview on July 23 and 24.

Virenque has now strongly denied the report that he had confessed to police to taking illegal drugs. Virenque, who has consistenly denied any involvement with banned medication, said on French radio Tuesday evening: "None of that is true. Somebody is hounding me. I have never taken drugs. In this affair the embers are always stirred when the fire seems to be dying out to destroy us even more. I am now concentrating on the Tour of Spain. I'm beginning to become hardened."

Casagrande leaves Cofidis amicably

Cofidis announced an amicable separations with the Italian rider Francesco Casagrande, who was suspended yesterday for 6 months for drug abuse by the Italian Cycling Federation.

François Migraine (director of Cofidis) said during a press conference in Wasquehal organised to announce the signing of Franck Vandenbroucke that: "There are no changes in our provisions and we have separated amicably. Under the same circumstances, other teams may have decided to keep the rider contracted. But we do not think that that would be good for cycling. We advise our riders when they come to us that the use of banned substances is out and they will lose their contract if they are found guilty.

The UCI is getting tough

Meanwhile, the UCI have said that they believe the 6 months suspension for Casagrande is "insufficient" and they are now proposing to introduce a new Sport's Arbitration Tribunal (TAS). They have also said that riders found guilty during the Tour scandal should be punished by September 13. The UCI has sent this stipulation to the Swiss, French and Australian national federations. All three have Festina riders who were expelled from the Tour.