News for January 10, 1999

Suspension for Casagrande lengthened

The Italian Sports Tribunal has extended the suspension for Francesco Casagrande by 3 months. 29-year old Casagrande was caught in March last year with a positive testosterone finding and was suspended in August for 6 months and was sacked by his team Cofidis.

Casagrande now must wait until June to resume competition.

He said after the decision: "I do not believe this decision. It is a case where no new evidence was tendered."

Yvonne Brunen leaves Dutch national team

Yvonne Brunen has quit the national Dutch women's team and will ride this season for The Greenery. The 3-times national road champion has ridden with the national team for the last 5 uears. After a leg operation in November she has decided to leave Jean-Paul Van Poppel's team.

French Cyclocross Championships

The French National Cyclocross championships are being held in Pontchâteau in the Department of Loire-Atlantique , which is north-east of Nantes. It is a town of 7,500 residents. The circuit at Coët-Roz is 2,530 kms in length with 4 portages. There is 335 metres of road, 1440 metres of open fields, 395 metres of paths, and 360 metres forest paths.

The program for Sunday is:

10.00 - Juniors (born between 1981 and 1982)  40 minutes
11.30 - Cadets (born between 1983 and 1984) 20 minutes
13.30 - Elite - 60 minutes with Espoirs (born between 1977 and 1980)

Preview - Mengin is favourite for his third win

Christophe Mengin, from Lorraine (in the north east) will be trying to become the French cyclocross champion for the third consecutive year, a feat not achieved since 1963. Three elite titles in three years. No-one has succeeded in doing this since the legendary Andre Dufraisse. Not even Yvon Madiot one of the managers of Mengin's team, La Française des Jeux could do that. And he was one of the big cross stars in France.

Having previously won in the north at Harnes in 1996, and in the east in Nonmay (1997), Mengin now travels to the west of France to Pontchâteau to attempt to enter the realms of cycling legends in France. He will face stiff opposition from Domenique Arnould, a local rider Patrice Halgand, and the youthful Miguel Martinez. This is not to ignore the other top rider in the Madiot brothers La Française des Jeux, Emmanuel Magnien. the other asset of the Madiot brothers.

Mengin is a rider who knows how to prepare for the top races. He has followed the same preparation that he used to success in the last two years. He started the season carefully because he was getting over an ankle injury but was reaching top form by the time the first major French event was held.

He has had won win and two seconds this winter to date - a similar outcome to the last seasons. He is approaching top form. In Sarrebourg, last Sunday, the only real challenger was his principal adversary, Domenique Arnould.

Marc Madiot, convinced of the benefits of cyclo-cross for road racing (6 La Française des Jeux riders are racing this winter), has also entered Emmanuel Magnien, an exceptionally gifted crosser, to reinforce his team's numbers on the circuit at Pontchâteau. The course of Coët-Roz, which was used for the 1978 French Championships, favours the strong riders in the peloton.

Magnien said: "The circuit requires much power and offers little time of recovery. Even on the descents, one is obliged to pedal!" Magnien, has ridden well her before and in 1989 he finished second in the World Junior Championships behind Dutchman Richard Groenendaal.

Vis-a-vis the duet Mengin-Magnien, Arnould is looking iolated. But he is the last French rider to have won the world title (1993) and he has great assets. He is also concentrating on MTB racing from now on. He has won three open cross titles between 1989 and 1994 and his current form is good - he has seven victories - and has shown consistancy all winter. He is riding very confidently.

Miguel Martinez and Patrice Halgand, who are leading the French cross challenge, and Christophe Morel, appear to be in the position to play spoilsports. Martinez, twice French champion of the Under-23's, has made a successful transition to the elite division but has not won since autumn. As for Halgand (Festina), who has been one of the lowly ranked cross riders, has set his sights on performing well at these championships to lift himself up the rankings. He lives within twenty kilometers of Coët-Roz and knows it well.

Past Open Champions:

1993 (Montreuil): Dominique Arnould
1994 (Sablé-sur-Sarthe): Dominique Arnould
1995 (Cublize): Jérôme Chiotti
1996 (Lanarvily): Emmanuel Magnien
1997 (Harnes): Christophe Mengin

1998 (Nommay): Elite: 1. Christophe Mengin 2. Dominique Arnould 3. Emmanuel Magnien Under-23: 1. Miguel Martinez Juniors: 1. Romain Denhez Cadets: 1. Grégory Bernard

Marc Janssens and Bart Wellens favourites for Belgian Cross Championships

Saturday and Sunday brings the Belgian Cyclocross Championships at the Ardennes town of Soumagne (near Luik). Belgian National Cyclocross coach Eric De Vlaeminck, who ought to know having won two National titles himself sums up the weekend: "the parcours will be marshy. And with the persistent rain, the riders will face a soft, sinking surface to race on. It will be a race where the early lead will be rewarded. There are a pair of obstacles which will slow everyone down and a pretty serious hill that will require having your goat's shoes on to handle."

Eric De Vlaeminck thinks that the juniors and juvenile races will be dominated by a single rider respectively. Also he thinks that Bart Wellens will win the Espoirs (Under-23) title: "He cannot lose although he now has some competition from Tom Vannoppen." But the professional race (elites) is another question altogether. Of the hopes, the skilful Marc Janssens - who is on one day and off the next - has some support. He is the smartest rider. He is the rider who knows how to peak and he is a man in form. Erwin Vervecken must use his long legs to perform some tricks on the obstacles but the most likely contenders, apart from Janssens are Sven Nijs or Mario De Clercq scoren. Nijs, is an acrobat, who is the best rider this season so far. De Clercq, is the tough man, the hatchet-man, the current World Champion. Their confrontation will answer some of the questions as to who is the best.

Belgian journalist Noël Truyers interviewed the two contenders Mario De Clercq and Sven Nijs.

Mario De Clercq

Parcours: "I will judge it tomorrow when I see it. I will ride it after the junior race and get a pretty clear picture then."

Favourites: "Marc Janssens because he is in the best condition. When he is on form no-one can surpass him. He takes a lot of chances in other races and sometimes he storms. I cannot ride like that as it is against my character. I am also in the process of peaking. I have been on a constant high, since the summer road season. It follows that I am less fresh than Marc.

Start Tactics: "Everyone will be watching out for some tricks in the first metres. In the next section, there will be a lot of forcing the pace. Then we have to watch over the hurdles. I want to be in 4th or 5th position as we enter the field. I will look to have a good first lap. While the tactics remain within the team, I will work for Marc Janssens. He helped me win the World Championship and so on Sunday it is my turn to give him a hand. Unless we ride over the line together, we want to make sure of a win for the team.

Number of bikes: "3. Two are identical and the third is not really used unless the other 2 fail. The 2 are set up with the angles of the frame just the way I like it."

National Titles: "I have won the World title naturally, but never a National title. I did get a second place in the juniors and a second place with the professionals at Hoogstraten. On the road, I came fourth once.

Most recent training: "On Tuesday I rode 100 kms and on Friday 60 kms behind a car. During the derny ride I spent the whole time with my fingers freezing from the cold. Behind the car I ride very smoothly. The police in my town know that I do this regularly but as I go past they look the other way!"

What about Sven Nijs?: "A fabulous bloke. I am not a beer drinker but I still like to go out to a cafe with him. He is always honest and fair, and remains down-to-earth. You must know as a rider what you can do and Sven is good like that.

Superstitions: "Two years ago my grandmother gave me a small medal of Our Lady Mary. I take it everywhere with me and it is always under my jersey.

Secret Weapon: "That is always my father René. He is more nervous than I am but he understands racing and the circuit like no other. What he says is true. He has a perfect insight into the current racing scene. He hopes that I can win the title, me also."

Sven Nijs

Parcours: "Very nice, but very muddy. There is a chance of injury. But my father says that I must not take chances. He says I have to aim for the World Championships."

Favourite: "Erwin Vervecken because he has the longest legs. Others with a good chance are Marc Janssens and Mario De Clercq. I don't think that Mario will give Marc Janssens the title as a gift. A world champion gives no gifts. Mario would be a great champion but of-course Janssens is at the moment the rider with the most power."

Start: "I want to be in 3rd or 4th position going onto the field. At the start is is crucial that you avoid being checked. Mario De Clercq is a rider who can go hard from the start. But I can also do that."

Number of bikes: "Normally 3, but for Soumagne I will take a 4th: a cycle with a different front set up. A 42, so that I can get the best match of speed and weight for efficiency and perhaps fly over the mud better. In this way I hope to avoid any problems with speed changes at the crucial moments."

National Titles: "9 in the BMX category, 1 in cyclocross. I won once here at Soumagne with the juniors but it was then in the snow and the parcours was different. Lighter to ride on."

Number of supporters: "120 are coming by bus and 200 will travel to the east in their own cars."

Most recent training: "No kms behind the derny. On Tuesday I did a very long 160 kms ride, and Thursday a 2 hour ride at an average speed on 34 kms/h. I am thus pretty rested."

What about Mario De Clercq?: "He is a very tough character. A top bloke who will go to the pub with me even though he doesn't drink. He is always friendly and is not outspoken, and remains very honest and fair. He is always aiming to win. He is a very worthy world champion."

Superstitions: "None really."

Secret Weapon: "Food is important. I have been eating a lot of vegetables early this week. From Thursday I have been eating a lot of spaghetti. This week, for the first time, I have eaten some pigeon. My mother says that a pigeon has very substantial meat. Before the race I will have a big meal of spaghetti, a small coffee and a rice pudding. That is my normal pattern."


Professional (Elite)		Under-23:

 1. Marc Janssens	 	 1. Bart Wellens
 2. Ben Berden	 		 2. Patrick Bassez
 3. Koen Bulckens	 	 3. Kristof Boelens
 4. Nico Clarysse	 	 4. Kevin Bossaerts
 5. Ronny Couliez	 	 5. Hans Carron
 6. Arne Daelmans	 	 6. Bjorn Christiaen
 7. Gianni David	 	 7. Davy Commeyne
 8. Danny De Bie	 	 8. Michel De Kezel
 9. Tom De Kort	 		 9. Gert De Vos
10. Kurt De Roose		10. Wim Jacobs
11. Jaak Eeckhout		11. Sten Raeymakers
12. Jan Goris			12. David Roodhooft
13. Nico Henderickx		13. Wim Sas
14. Paul Herijgers		14. Ken Van Dessel
15. Luc Joos			15. Paul Van Loon
16. David Laenen		16. Andrew Vancoillie
17. Geert Lauwers		17. Frederik Vandevivere
18. Erik Myngheer		18. Frederik Vanlerberghe
19. Johan Myngheer		19. Tom Van Minnebruggen
20. Axel Naessens		20. Kipcho Volckaerts
21. Stefan Nerinckx		21. Tom Weytens
22. Robby Pelgrims		22. Olivier Willems
23. Tom Pynaert			23. David Romischer
24. Bjorn Rondelez		24. Tom Vannoppen
25. Christoph Roodhooft		25. Yoeri Leaerts
26. Patrick Schurmans		26. Tim Goris
27. Kris Smits			27. Dieter Honraet
28. Marnik Snoeck		28. Rik Van Isterdael
29. Eddy Van Bouwel
30. Geert Van Daele
31. Peter Van Den Abeele
32. Jan Van Doninck
33. Pascal Van Riet
34. Peter Van Santvliet
35. Bert Vervecken
36. Erwin Vervecken
37. Ivan Verweft
38. David Willemsens
39. Peter Willemsens
40. Kris Wouters
41. Mario De Clercq
42. Sven Nijs
43. Geert Vandaele
44. Koen Claes
45. Hans Wuyts