News for January 6, 1999

Danny Nelissen has decided to retire

Danny Nelissen has decided to retire from professional cycling. The rider from the Limburg province in the Netherlands, who most recently was with the Danish team Team Home-Jack and Jones, went to hospital two weeks ago with what seemed to be heart problems. After a series of investigations the 28-year old Nelissen was advised to stop racing. He said: "I have followed the advice of my doctors and will end my cycling career. I shall explain the results of their tests in due course."

The full team press release (with some English modifications) is as follows:

Danny Nelissen quits cycling......... The Dutch Team home Jack and Jones rider Danny Nelissen has been advised by doctors at the University Hospital of Maastricht to stop with top-sport.

This was the unfortunate message today January 5th after several tests at the hospital, where we visited Danny Nelissen Wednesday December 30th

We have been in contact with Danny during his stay at the hospital and he asks us to publish this statement:

"After getting the advice of my treating doctors - dr. Smeets and dr. Wellens - to stop with cycling, I will do so. When I am ready I will personally give a statement of what happened to the press. This is a very difficult and hard period for me and my family. Therefore I hope everyone is able to respect that we need rest without disturbances.

Further I want to thank my team and all other people for the support I have received in these bad and difficult times."

We are very sorry about this most unfortunate and very sad development, but of course we respect Danny’s decision without questioning it.

Danny has throughout 1998 been a very valuable person for our team as a great support and tutor for the young riders. In the fall he regained his former strength after a period of injuries and succeeded in being our 3rd best UCI-point acquirer with 149 points and not least in winning 2 victories in Merksem and Hessen.

At our visit at the Hospital we were pleased to see that Danny’s spirit and moral were high, and that he at that time was already mentally ready to follow the advice of the doctors - whatever that might turn out to be.

Danny himself will - as mentioned - will tell about his experience and decision when he is ready, but for those who do not know the story, here is a short summary: On December 23rd he felt very bad during his daily training. He went home and called the doctor, whom immediately called an ambulance. When he arrived at the hospital his pulse was over 250 and his situation was very critical, but the doctors succeeded in re-establishing a stable pulse. At a test at the University Hospital the pulse was again extremely high. This is a life threatening situation and therefore the background for the doctors’ advice to retire. The situation arises from an a-rhythmical heart, and he needs to go into medical treatment.

Both his team mates and the rest of the personnel of the team are very sad about the situation and we all send Danny and his family the very best wishes for the future.

It will be very hard to do without Danny at the team and as the situation is new to us, we do not yet know what we will do in the future. We will be looking for a replacement, but at this time of year it is very hard to find riders free of contracts.

We hope that the press will respect Danny’s wish for peace and quiet. We believe that the 1995 World Champion deserves that!

Best regards
Team home Jack and Jones
Alex Pedersen Torben Kølbæk

The 1999 Team home Jack and Jones:

  UCI 				    UCI
Ranking				Point 1998

  90	Marc Streel		    453
 121	Arvis Piziks		    348
 193	Mikael Kyneb		    220
 253	Michael Sandstød	    165
 277	Danny Nelissen		    149
 280	Nicolaj Bo Larsen	    148
 282	Juris Silovs		    147
 413	Michael Blaudzun	     81
 472	Michael Steen Nielsen	     62
 590	Rene Jørgensen 		     41
 610	Christian Andersen	     39
 628	Jesper Skibby		     37
 682	Michael Rosborg		     32
1320	Marc Strange Jacobsen	      5

The top 8 bring 1711 UCI points

Virenque to Lampre?

Latest news is that Richard Virenque may ride for the Italian team Lampre-Daikin. The former French Festina rider, who had refused to admit guilt in the 1998 drugs scandal, has been talking to the team manager Giuseppe Saronni, according to reports in the Belgian news paper Het Laatste Nieuws.

The former World Champion (Saronni) could not be contacted to confirm this. The report has said that there is no problem with the money that Virenque is asking but he must be able to get along with his teammates. The decision will be made around January 15. Lampre has already assembled a strong team with World Champion Oskar Camenzind (Swi), Franco Ballerini (Ita) and Jan Svorada (Cze).

In an earlier interview (Monday) with L'Equipe, Virenque indicated that he was still training although he was not positive about finding a team at this late stage. He told the French newspaper that: "It's lucky my brother [Lionel] comes to fetch me to go out training, otherwise I think I would already have put my bicycle away,"

Lampre is not the first Italian team that he has been negotiating with. Initially he tried to gain a contract with Mapei but the suspicions over his real role in the drugs scandal at Festina saw that fall through. In the L'Equipe interview, Virenque said: "It was then that I realised that everything would be in jeopardy from then on. Ever since, it has only got worse, to the point where today, I have laid down my sword. I don't want to fight any more. Only my entourage still believes in me and my supporters who keep on writing to me. My sporting aspirations are still the same."

Most recently, he was offered a contract with Benfica, the new team from Portugal but they only wanted him for some smaller races.

L'Equipe asked him to put a date on when he might actually stop training. He replied: "What date do you want me to set? In my mind, there is no date which counts for anything particular. What I really fear is the beginning of the season; it is then that I will realise that I am no longer racing."

Jesper Skibby

Jon Jay Neufeld regularly updates us on happenings in Denmark. He is his first report from 1999.

Danish veteran Jesper Skibby has indicated that the 1999 season, his 14th year in the peloton, will be his last. Skibby, who turns 35 in March, turned pro with Roland in 1986 and rode with them for 3 seasons before switching to TVM (1989-1997). Last season he signed on as team captain for Team Home Jack and Jones, the first professional Danish squad. In the course of the past 13 seasons, Skibby has amassed 21 victories, including stages in all 3 of the major tours.

1998 was not a banner year for the Dane. "1998 was the worst year of my career," Skibby is quoted as saying in the Danish daily Politiken. "And not just because I fell so far in the UCI world rankings [Skibby is presently #628]. The first season with HJ&J had me so stressed that I was ready to burst. I don’t think that I’ve ever been as nervous as when I found out that I couldn’t live up to the expectations that I - and those around me - had for me, and things fell apart during the Tour of Denmark," Skibby says in reference to dropping out of the race last August, an action which was the object of much speculation in the Danish press.

"When it was at its worst, I was impossible to be together with. But now I feel that I have come to grips with what happened last year, and I am not afraid that it will repeat itself. I have recognized that my approach to racing last season was stupid - I was way too tense and perhaps the expectations which I placed on myself were too great."

"The problem concerning expectations is related to my nine seasons with TVM, where I was used to demands for results. If I had ridden for TVM like I did last year, I would have been degraded to garbage man. But suddenly I was riding for a team that was largely satisfied just with the privilege of being able to start in the big races. And it took far too long for me to be able to recognize the nature of this situation."

Looking ahead to 1999, Skibby says that, "The significant thing for me is that the team achieves success. I don’t have lofty ambitions for myself, which I am to strive after. If I were to do that, I would just start to get stressed out again. That doesn’t mean that I have put a lid on my ambitions. I’m ready to go. I am secure in the knowledge that I am preparing adequately, and the results just have to come by themselves. And why shouldn’t I be able to put a cap on my career as well as Brian Holm did last year? I really feel that he bid the peleton adieu with style," Skibby says in reference to his countryman, who retired last year to assume the position as sports director for Team Acceptcard.

Holm and Skibby began the 1998 season as co-captains for Home Jack & Jones, but Holm came at odds with team leadership, which resulted in his being sent home to Denmark shortly before the racing of Amstel Gold Race, and ultimately his dismissal from the team. After which he was promptly picked up by Acceptcard.

Skibby is uncertain as to what the future will bring, but he is certain that he will not be following Holm’s example. "Over the course of the last 13 years I have spent a lot of time flying and running around from the one place to the other, and there is no way that I am going to continue to do so after hanging up the bike. And that is exactly what would be demanded of me, were I to continue as sports director. No, it is not a job for me."

Home Jack and Jones have picked up 4 new riders for the new season, and are particularly looking for results from Michael Blaudzun (from Telekom) and Nicolia Bo Larsen (from TVM), two youngish Danish riders who have yet to ‘fulfill their potential.’ Baudzun has been riding as a helper for Telekom for a few seasons, while Larsen won a stage in the Giro in his first season as a pro, racing for Amore e Vita, and the Danish Championship in 1997. Last season he suited up for TVM, but never felt good with the Dutch team, and is now hoping for a good season together with his countrymen on Home Jack and Jones.

Ullrich for Vuelta?

Jan Ullrich has been thinking about including the Vuelta a España in his calendar for 1999. This would mean that he would take part in what is being billed as the "edition of the century for the Vuelta". Many other top riders have indicated they will be riding including Italian Marco Pantani and the top Spanish riders like Abraham Olano, Fernando Escartín, and climbing sensation Jiménez. The route for 1999 is spectacular and includes five mountain top finishes.

The German rider announced his intentions at a small press conference to the German press in Rottach Egern (Bavaria). Ullrich wants to ride the Worlds at Verona this year and be in top form by the time October comes. He said that to achieve that goal he thinks it is essential that he ride the Vuelta. Ullrich told the press: "If I go to the Worlds looking for good results, I would be forced to prepare seriously. And for that I would have to ride the Vuelta a España".

The captain of Team Telekom added that, his calendar was so far only determined up to the Tour de France. Ullrich has learned his lesson from 1998 and in this pre-season he hasn't allowed his appetite to take over. Last year he gained 14 kilos over his ideal weight (73 kgs). At present, he is only 7 kilos over his racing weight. The German has ridden 4,500 kms so far this pre-season. Initially, he went to the Canary Island of Lanzarote (with his teammates Riis and Zabel) in November and then in December he trained in San Diego (California), this time with Zabel, Aldag, Wesemann and Schffraft.

Massi recuperates slowly

As reported yesterday, Rodolfo Massi has begun eating solid foods and should be moved fron intensive care in the next copuple of days. He was hit by a car that drove through a stop sign while he was training on the outskirts of Mexico City. Massi suffered fractures in the clavicle, humerus and ribs. He underwent surgery the day of the accident and the area has been immobilized. He will have to remain in the hospital for at least another week before returning to Italy. It is estimated that he won't be able to train for a month and a half.