News for July 18, 1999

Tour news

Christophe Bassons: "I was alone in my own team"

"At the end of his nerves" Christophe Bassons cracked. The rider from the Française des Jeux team who is the clean skin of the professional peloton, left the Tour de France on Friday morning, after having "understood" that he "was alone in his own team".

Bassons explained in Le Parisien, the French newspaper which has been running a daily diary by Bassons since the beginning of the Tour: "On Thursday after I finished, I learned that the LCI wanted to interview me. A rider from my team came up from behind and said to me - Pay attention to what you are going to say... I have been feeling a sense of isolation for several days and in the company of 170 riders it is a difficult situation to cope with. But from that moment on I realised that I was alone in my own team."

Bassons noted that he had "upset certain teams" with his earlier statements and said that he knew that "personally, that mean't that they would never have allowed me to win a stage. They would always work against me no matter what. But he said that they also made me understand that this was also the case for my own team members."

The rider wrote in this column that his team manager Marc Madiot had tried to make him change his mind about retiring from the Tour. Madiot considered that "instead of stopping dialogue about doping it would have been better to have open discussions about it." But from his perspective, Marc Madiot "was not able to understand that I was alone in the middle of everybody and that was difficult for me."

He also reproached several other riders who did not answer the questions of journalists about doping. "4 or 5 riders would have been enough. I would then not have had as many questions to answer... I was ill at ease when I told the TV that it was not possible to win a stage of the Tour without using drugs." He actually used the phrase "à la pédale" which literally means "on pedals alone."

In his column on Thursday, Bassons wrote that leader Lance Armstrong approached him and suggested that he leave the race. "Armstrong told me: Why don't you just go away?"

According to Christophe Bassons, there had been one day where a number of riders wanted to rebel against the drugs. This was the day when Lance Armstrong won the stage from Le Grand Bornand to Sestrières. "And there was also the performance of Stéphane Heulot on the stage of l'Alpe d'Huez which put a little happiness back in the team and all was forgotten."

Questioned in Le Parisien, Jean-Marie Leblanc did not think that the retirement of Christophe Bassons made him a "martyr" Leblanc said: "As a matter of fact, I think there is a bit of self-promotion by Bassons out of the whole thing."

Leblanc continued: "The rider upset his fellow riders in the peloton and hinted that the progress we have made to clean up the sport was unsuccessful. He irritated the peloton by using his tongue to get media attention instead of his legs."

Lance Armstrong has been forced to respond to a campaign of innuendo in parts of the French press about what might be fueling his success. Armstrong has categorically denied taking banned drugs, crediting his success to hard work, preparation and good luck.

Jean-Marie Leblanc said on Friday that the results from a third set of blood tests - which included race leader Lance Armstrong and his US Postal Service team - turned out negative.

PFC test available

According to the French sportspaper L'Equipe the UCI will announce that they have found a test to detect the presence of PFC (perfluorcarbon) which they consider is a more dangerous product than EPO.

The use of PFC raises the red blood cell count and allows the user to achieve better results in endurance sports. The is used by doctors in trauma cases when their is no blood plasma available. The president of the UCI anti-doping commission, Leon Schatenberg said: "The test for the presence of this product is based on an alcohol test using breath rather than blood."

The UCI has reached an agreement with all the teams to conduct the test on all riders during the rest day on Monday in Saint-Gaudens. If the UCI detects the use of PFC it is currently unable to act because there are no sanctions legislated. The exercise is being used as an experiment for future use.

Only five complete teams left

After Ivan Gotti's retirement at the feed zone during Stage 11 there were only 5 full teams left in the Tour. The teams who still have all 9 riders are: Telekom, Lotto-Mobistar, Festina, Banesto and Big Mat-Auber 93.

Americans getting interested in cycling

With Lance Armstrong in control of the race after the first 11 stages, more members of the American press are appearing in the press centre each day. Reporters from the Boston Globe, Philadelphia Inquirer, Chicago Tribune and USA Today have either arrived or will arrive in France shortly, to join journalists from The New York Times and Associated Press.

With each passing day, more and more American flags are showing up on the parcours. It seems that not all of the flag bearers are Americans. The French crowd are also giving the team cars a good reception as they pass along the roads during the Tour.

David Etxebarria

Ludo Dierckxsens

At nearly 35-years of age, Belgian Ludo Dierckxsens is one of the oldest riders in the Tour de France. The bald Belgian has shown that he has a great attacking character. By winning stage 11 into Saint-Etienne, he achieved his 17th victories in 6 years as a professional. He was 29 years of age when he signed his first professional contract.

Leblanc says EPO is almost gone from the Tour

Jean-Marie Leblanc estimates that EPO has almost or perhaps disappeared from the Tour and also acknowledges that he has been surprised by the performance of Richard Virenque. He told Europe-1 TV that: "After all that this boy has been through, he still has the character and will to forget all his worries and conduct himself as a great cyclist. That surprises me. I recognise that he remains the most popular rider in the Tour de France. But I cannot say with 100 percent surety that Virenque or any other rider is clean. I will not sign a paper that guarantees that Armstrong is completely clean but the experienced cycling observers can see what the riders are doing and their performances."

He also said he did not support the publication of medical files relating to the riders. He said that medical secrecy is still something worth maintaining. observe the riders

Laurent Roux suspended for 6 months

Laurent Roux (Casino), who tested positive to amphetamine use after the Waalse Pijl in April has received a 6 months suspension which will see the rider prohibited from cycling until April 1 next year. Roux appeared before the French Professional Cycling Leage in July. The 6 month suspension stops him riding until April 1 under a new rule that counts the periods of inactivity in the winter. The rider has the possibility of appealing within two weeks of the decision being announced.

Vincent Lavenu, the Casino manager said: "I am waiting for official communication. For the moment we are waiting. But if there is to be a suspension I will take the measures that are proposed. We respect the ethical charter that governs cycling."

Roux tested positive on April 14. The rider is currently under suspension by his team after revelations were forthcoming during the Lavelot/Sainz affair. At 26 years of age, Roux is one of the better French riders during the spring classics. He finished 5th in the Amstel Gold Race and 10th in Luik-Bastenaken-Luik. In early May he won the Trophée de Grimpeurs. He was one of the riders banned from participating in the Tour de France.

The lightest bike in the world

The lightest bicycle in the world, built with titanium and carbon fibre and weighing only 5.450 grams was unveiled this week in Ordicia, Spain. Dionisio Coronado, who conceived the idea for the bike, former rider Jokin Múgica and the general director of the Professional School of Goierri, Carlos Ormazabal, were at the presentation. The frame is built with a special titanium which was made in the United States six months ago. It weighs 327 grams less than lightest bike previously declared.

The frame weighs 1.6 kilos, the saddle is 194 grams but the cost is certainly not lightweight. The cost of the materials alone costs $US6,500. The bike was built as a collaborative project between THT (from Vizcaya, Spain), the Professional School of Goierri and the entrepreneur Dionisio Coronado. Coronado added that it would be difficult to see the bike as a commercial reality because "the titanium that was used is for military use and we were able to get it because it was used to beat a Guiness World Record".

Even if the bike could be made in commercial quantities it would still not satisfy the new UCI rules coming into force from January 1, 2000 which will ban any bike weighing less than 6 kilograms.

USA, International Cycling Week, Stage 5, Festina Alpine Valley Road Race, July 14

Giana Roberge writes that from the gun of the 176 km men's event, the Mercury Team began its assault on the 90-man field, but the SmarTalk team was always there to protect Harm Jansen's second position in the overall Super Week standings. Saturn was also intent on protecting Michael Barry's yellow jersey. Within the first two laps the cross-wind - like Tuesday's stage - proved to be a decisive factor. Dereck Bouchard-Hall's (Mercury) early move set up what would become the final and successful break for Mercury.

With 11 laps to go, a group formed containing Jansen, Mike Sayers (Mercury), Seth Pelusi (Saturn), John Liewsyn (Shaklee) and Monday's race winner Wong Kam Po (Hong Kong). This initial group was later joined by 6 riders - Dereck Wilkerson (Mercury), Glen Mitchell and Graeme Miller (Shaklee), Levi Leipheimer (Saturn), and Dale Dedgwick (UCC-Now Sports) - and together they gained 4 minutes on the field. Overall race leader Barry made the selection only to find himself in trouble and quickly reabsorbed by the main field.

With Shaklee and Mercury keeping the pace high this group continued to time on the main field. Sayers, intent on regaining the red Saturn Teamwork jersey took the majority of the intermediary sprints. With eight laps to go, and after 45 miles in the wind and heat, it was clear this would be a race of attrition. The group was now nine riders, with Wilkerson, Sayers, Leipheimer, and Jansen looking strong. Sedgwick attacked in the head wind section after the Saturn Team Work challenge sprint, and only Jansen, Lieswyn, Sayers, and Leipheimer joined him.

With 6 laps to go it was clear this group would continue to improve its 6-minute gap to the main field. Sedgwick, the initiator of the main break, faltered in the cross winds, then Leipheimer lost contact at the base of the climb.

As Sayers, Lieswyn, and Jansen approached the 3-to-go point, the filed lagged behind some eight minutes. At Mile 85, Sayers clinched the red Saturn Teamwork challenge jersey and Lieswyn weaken, and by top of the climb Jansen and Sayers were alone.

The two rode steadily into the finish, with Sayers taking the final sprint in a time of 4 hours and 30 minutes -- about 14 minutes ahead of Lieswyn in third. Jansen, in second, conceded that "He (Sayers) was riding very strong; he deserved to win today." The 1997 Super Week champion was just happy to be returning to form after his battle with Epstein - Barr Syndrome. When asked how difficult today's conditions and terrain were, Sayer's answer was simple, "Cycling and suffering are synonymous."

But the suffering paid off for Harm -- he took over the leader's jersey, and leads Barry by five points.

In the 64 kms women's race, Clara Hughes proved that her preparation for the Pan Am games later in July is working. Hughes and Dede Demet Barry (both Saturn) rode away from the group of 24 women on the first of five laps in the 40-mile race.

Demet Barry is returning from a month's recovery and is finding her form in time for the late summer races. These two stayed away to finish in 1 hour 55 minutes, crossing the line arm and arm. Demet Barry, with nearly a 5-minute gap on third place Anna Wilson (Saturn), was given the win. Wilson and Sandra Smith (Western Australian Institute) escaped with two laps to go. Demet Barry now has the red Saturn Team Work Challenge jersey, sharing the podium with her teammate Susy Pryde, who wears the yellow leader's jersey.

Men's 176 kms:

 1. Michael Sayers (Mercury)             4.30.00
 2. Harm Jansen (Smartalk
 3. John Lieswyn (Shaklee)
 4. Graeme Miller (Shaklee)
 5. Kevin Monahan (Bren Racing)
 6. Michael Barry (Saturn)
 7. Levi Leipheimer (Saturn)
 8. Gareth Jones (Team Oschner)
 9. Dereck Wilkerson (Mercury)
10. Glen Mitchell (Shaklee)

Grand Total (Leader for Super Week):

 1. Harm Jansen (Smartalk)                    69 points
 2. Michael Barry (Saturn)                    64
 3. Michael Sayers (Mercury)                  53
 4. John Lieswyn (Shaklee)                    44
 5. Pelle Kil (Smartalk)                      41
 6. Levi Leipheimer (Saturn)                  35
 7. Scott Mercer (Navigators)                 33
 8. Tim Lefebure (Ital Pasta)                 32
 9. Mark McCormack (Saturn)                   30

Women's, 64 kms:

 1. Dede Demet Barry (Saturn)            1.55.00
 2. Clara Hughes (Saturn)
 3. Anna Wilson (Saturn)
 4. Sandra Smith (West Australia Institute)
 5. Laura Van Gilder (Navigators)
 6. Susy Pryde (Saturn)
 7. Tania Duff Miller (Counties Manikau)
 8. Nicole Reinhart (Saturn)
 9. Tiffany Pezzulo (Hind)
10. Emily Morris (Morris Trucking Video)

Grand Total (Leader for Super Week):

 1. Susy Pryde (Saturn)                       85
 2. Laura Van Gilder (Navigators)             81
 3. Anna Wilson (Saturn)                      76
 4. Clara Hughes (Saturn)                     74
 5. Dede Demet Barry (Saturn)                 61