News for February 18, 1999

South American Update

Once again Rodrigo Gines, from Brazil, joins us as the South American correspendent. He writes that it will be a very busy year for everybody because we have a lot of interesting competition. The main goal for Brazilians, Argentinians and Uruguayans will be Panamerican Games to be held at Winnipeg (Canada) in June. With the Olympics approaching next year, all countries want to keep their positions in the Olympic Games. The goal is to "make as many UCI points as they can" to improve positions in the world ranking.

For the first time, we will have an International Tour in Argentina. Starting in February 23th until March 7th, "La Vuelta" as they are calling the race, will start in Mar del Plata, and, after almost 1,880 kms, the riders will arrive at La Rioja. Two TTs (prologue and stage 8) and some tough mountain stages are scheduled. No information about the teams is yet confirmed, but we can expect some US and European pro squads (I bet Navigators, Mercury and Loteria Bono/Selle Italia), as well as national teams of Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Chile and Venezuela.

At present, we have the 28th edition of Uruguay's Rutas de America (Gran Premio Tiempost). Due to the concurrence of Argentina's Tour, no US team is racing this time (US Postal used to prepare here), but a strong field of 136 cyclists have entered. The field includes the best of Uruguay (Federico Moreira, Milton Wynants, Gregorio Bare, Jose Maneiro, Gustavo Figueiredo), Argentina (Ruben Pegorin, Emilio Carricondo, Walter Perez, Jose Giacinti), and Brazil (Andre Grizante, Murilo Fischer).

Another big South American event this year will be the World Track Championships to be held in Montevideo.

Michele Bartoli speaks

Bartoli's victory at yesterday's stage of la Vuelta a Andalucía shows that he's on the right path for another successful season. He told the press afterwards: "Winning gives you confidence. Before the start, we wanted to go for this stage. Our intention was to make the race tougher on the climbs, but when we were told that the finish was pretty tough, we decided to wait. It really was a difficult climb. I accelerated to try an drop the sprinters and it worked out well".

Bartoli's sight is on Milano-San Remo, first race of the World Cup, which he won last year with a huge advantage. He remarked: "I had a big point advantage, but it is never easy to win the World Cup and I'm sure that this year it will be more complicated to win it".

The Italian rider will participate in every race in the series except for Paris-Roubaix: "You run a lot of risks on the pave. It's easy to fall and lose it all".

He names his most dangerous rivals for the World Cup to be: Vandenbroucke, Jalabert, Tchmil, Sorensen and Museeuw, his teammate at Mapei and winner of the World Cup in 1996 and 1997. "Johan will once again regain his level."

Berzin - trying to make up for lost time

The fallen angel? In 1994, a 24 year old Russian came into the limelight after being the first one to beat Indurain in a major stage race, the Giro d'Italia. But after that great success, Berzin went into a decline from which he now wants to recover. He said: "I feel that I can reach the level that I found in 1994. This year I have worked more than ever and I hope that I will get the results that have been denied to me all this time".

Berzin doesn't talk openly about being careless with training or relaxing too much after his success: "Cycling continues to advance and it is clear that you always have to do doing something more to remain on top. In 1994 I had a great training base from my time in Russia, plus when you are young you are more concentrated and motivated in a race. Afterwards everything turns into a routine. Nobody has an always upwards progress trajectory in cycling. With the exception of Indurain with five straight Tours, we all have our ups and downs".

La Vuelta - Berzin will be one of the main figures to be riding la Vuelta a España. For him it will be the first time: "I know that the route will be tougher than other years. I don't know why, but I always end up participating in very tough races".

His aspirations are modest: "I will decide what I will do at the Giro and Vuelta once I see how I feel. If I see that I'm going well, I will race for the overall. If not, I will try to go for a stage".

Legal Battles - Berzin was one of the main riders accused by Frenchman Erwann Mentheour in his book about doping in the peloton. "My lawyers have already sued, not a civil suit, but a criminal suit against Mentheour. Hhe has said that I use drugs and he will have to prove it or pay the consequences. I don't know how a person that I don't even know can say those things about me. How can he say that I have a tumor due to doping. If that was the truth, I couldn't even get on the bike. I can't say for sure, but I think that the book is moved by opportunism and financial interest. What does Mentheour know about me?

The longest hour - Berzin made an attempt on the hour record on October of 1997, in Bordeaux, but had to quit after 17 minutes. "Nobody will be able to beat the hour record. Not Olano, nor Zülle, not even Boardman himself. What I don't understand is how the UCI allowed Boardman to beat it under certain conditions that they do not allow for the rest. If the rules are changed, the record should start at zero. That's why I won't try it again. When I tried it, I rode between 2 to 3 second faster per kilometer than Boardman. It could be improved by a little, but not by much". Boardman set the hour record at 56.375 kilometers on September 6, 1996, in Manchester, England.

Personal Details:

Eugeni Berzin, 3-6-1970, Viborg (Russia)

Teams: Mecair (1993), Gewiss (1994-96), Batik (1997), La Française des Jeux (1998) & Costa Almería (1999).

Main Wins: Giro d'Italia 1994, 5 stages at the Giro (3 in 1994, one in 1995 and 1996), 1 stage at the Tour de France 1996, Liege-Bastogne-Liege 1996, Giro Apeninos 1994, Bicicleta Vasca 1995 and Coppa des Nations 1997.

Ullrich back in Germany

German cyclist Jan Ullrich, winner of the 1997 Tour de France and runner up in 1996 and 1998 has interrupted his preparation in Mallorca. Ullrich has return to Germany and will not train again until Friday due a strong attack of bronchitis, diagnosed by Telekom's team doctor, Andreas Schmid.

Mathias Schumann, spokesman for the team, assured the press today that even with the bronchitis and intestinal problems that forced the German to abandon the Challenge Mallorca, his preparation is going as planned. "Jan weighs 10 kilos less than a year ago and has 3,000 more kilometers of training", added Schumann. The beginning of the season is only a form of training for Ullrich, so Jan was only rolling along with the peloton anyway. But the sickness took more strength out of him than expected and that's why he decided not to race the last stages and do light training

"Jan doesn't want to make the same mistakes of last season, when his season was all planned and he wanted to participate in every race, no matter what. Now he knows that the training plan needs to be flexible and has to listen to his health."

Ullrich is supposed to rejoin the team on February 23rd at the Vuelta a Valencia, but if he doesn't feel well, he won't race.

Laigueglia - the cops strike

As reported yesterday, six riders including Ivan Gotti, Pavel Tonkov, Axel Merckx and the race winner Paolo Savoldelli were questioned by a judge after the race. Here are the events that occurred:

16:45 - Bortolami arrived, a little grim faced.

17:00 - Judge Giovanni Spinosa arrives.

17:07 - A smiling Gotti arrives, with Stanga. A little later Axel Merckx arrives, alone and smiling. Pavel Tonkov has a hood on to protect from the wind.

17:20 - Savoldelli comes in eating a sandwich.

18:00 - Alessandro Bertolini arrives: "Tomorrow I leave for the Vuelta a Mexico, I was at the hospital because I fell and hit my left wrist, which I had surgery on. I wanted to be sure that it isn't injured".

18:56 - Savoldelli is the first one to leave. "Judge Spinosa asked the questions and I was happy to answer them. They have treated me very well. He asked how our environment works and how we prepare. I answered a dozen questions, no problem".

19:04 - Gotti leaves the barracks: "We had a nice chat, they were courteous, the subject was my preparation with Mr. Ferrari, who's training I followed, how I trained. Judge Spinosa told me that my name came from a search done on Ferrari, while investigating other personal matters. I return home tranquil".

20:07 - Tonkov comes out very serene: "My testimony has to do with the period when I was under the care of Ferrari as trainer, from the Spring of 1996, to last year, how I trained and what tests I did". During the questioning, Tonkov has a Russian interpreter, who had to leave early. But Pavel decided to continue.

20:09 - Axel Merckx: "It's not something that I enjoyed, I am here to participate in races, not to come see the police".

20:29 - Bortolami's wife, Stefania, greeted him: "The computer broke, that's why my questioning was the longest. I said what i had to say and that's enough. The Festina case? No, it wasn't talked about".

21:05 PM - Bertolini concluded the day: "Everything OK".

Vitalicio Seguros denies being searched

According to a French newspaper, Spanish team Vitalicio Seguros was searched by French police at the end of the Tour of the Mediterranean. Yet, Domenico Cavallo, the sports director for the team, denies it. "I can assure that it isn't true. We haven't had any problems with French police. It was published, but it isn't true".

Vitalicio crossed the Franco-Italian border to participate at the Trofeo Laigueglia, without any problems. Today they will cross the French border again, where they will dispute the Tour du Haut-Var and the Clasica Haribo.