News for May 12, 1999

French drugs developments

Cofidis act to protect their name

At 16.00 European time, Cofidis decided to suspend Frank Vandenbroucke and Philippe Gaumont from racing until such time as the most recent drugs matter in Paris is clarified. The team which is sensitive to the bad publicity that an association with drugs would bring is taking a no risk policy and they are awaiting further investigations. They will be meeting with the riders today to explain further measures to them.

The decision has caused a storm in Belgium. Vandenbroucke was held by Paris police from 12.00 to 18.00 on Friday but was not formally charged with any offence. Conversely, Gaumont has been charged but is himself denying being part of a drug dealing ring. He has said that he acquired some "homeopathic" substances from Dr. Mabuse.

Frank Vandenbroucke has scheduled a press conference on today at his home town of Ploegsteert and it is predicted that a huge press contingent will descend on the village.

Ben Bosmans (from Belgium and a great fan of VDB) writes that, interestingly, lawyer Bertrand Lavelot, who is being charged for drug dealing in this affair, was a lawyer who worked for Cofidis! On Monday, Cofidis came under attack for engaging such a lawyer and also for giving Philippe Gaumont (caught twice using drugs in the past) a contract. The Belgian media has said it was unwise to associate these types with the Belgian superstar.

TVM breaks link with Stavelot

The TVM team has decided not to do business with their French lawyer Bertrand Lavelot any longer. He was the attorney who helped the team during the 1998 Tour de France when it became involved in the drugs storm. Now that Lavelot, himself, is implicated in a drugs dealing ring, the team has decided to break their links with him.

Cees Priem told the Dutch press on Monday that: "We knew nothing about this until we read it on teletext. He came to us with good references. He gave the team advise during the Reims business. Our team now has to re-think the relationship in the light of these new revelations. We are having no further professional relationship with him."

Meanwhile, in Lille, Virenque maintains his innocence

Richard Virenque has continued to maintain his innocence after his long-awaited confrontation between Bruno Roussel and Willy Voet, organised by the judiciary in Lille.

But Virenque had not counted on a visit from the French drugs squad from Paris. They want to hear from him on Tuesday about his knowledge of the doping matters that have been discovered in Paris over the last week. The examining magistrate Michele Hake has noted that Bertrand Lavelot was Virenque's lawyer and Virenque appears to have been a customer of Bernard Sainz, the horse breeder, aka "Doctor Mabuse" in the world of cycling. Lavelot and Sainz are now key suspects in a drugs ring involved in trafficking drugs throughout cycling and beyond.

Gilbert Collard, who is assisting Virenque at Lille estimated that the "Paris drugs squad has to talk to Virenque as a logical matter and they will also be interviewing up to 50 or 60 riders who have had associations with Lavelot or been assisted by Bernard Sainz ".

According to Collard, the confrontation of Monday between judge Patrick Keil and the three Festina antagonists has not changed anything." However, Voet's lawyer Jean-Louis Bessis said that: "Virenque maintained his strategy of defense. He continues to deny the obviousness of the charges against him."

The atmosphere at the meeting was at times tense. Collard said that Voet had: "made death threats against Virenque." Voet's lawyer said that Voet was accused by Virenque of being a drug dealer and that his client should not be the scapegoat.

Bruno Roussel's lawyer Thibault de Montbrial said his client continued "to recognize the obvious. I think that the judge has a good idea of the way the Festina team operated and, in particular, the role played by the leader Richard Virenque."

Zülle to miss the Vuelta Asturias

Swiss rider Alex Zülle (Banesto) has decided not to start in the Vuelta a Asturie to start today in the north of Spain. Zülle, has just returned to the peloton after serving a suspension for his involvement in the Festina scandal has decided to concentrate on the Giro d'Italia which starts next Saturday in Sicily. He will be riding in the Giro to help the Spanish climber Jose Maria Jimenez. He will be replaced in the Spanish race by Spaniard Candido Barbosa.

Luxembourg, Schifflange, Elite 2, 112.5 kms, May 9:

 1. Steve Fogen (Lux) UC Dippach		     2.36.25
 2. Steve Schleck (Lux)LC Tetange
 3. Vadim Konlakhine (Ukr) St. Jean de Mont		0.05
 4. Gérard Schalk (Lux) LC Kayl				0.05
 5. Frank Schleck (Lux) LC Tetange			0.10
 6. Tom Flammang (Lux) UC Dippach			0.11
 7. Ben Schaack (Lux) LC Kayl				0.13
 8. Claude Michely (Lux) LC Tetange			0.15
 9. Barry Austin (RSA) Everest Wheelers			0.22

Started: 73
Thanks to Gérard Schiltz, Luxembourg

Graeme Miller reports from Tour of Gila

Day 4 Tour de Gila, Gila Monster Road Race, 160 kms with lots of climbs

Oh what a day! Brian Walton escaped in a small group right from the start (we had Dan Bridgeman there for the ride) and was the leader on the road for a while. 7-Up, who had Speaks in second, started the chase when the gap got to 4mins. We put Kent Bostick up there to help. After 20km of chasing I was enrolled to help as well. We pulled the group back by the time all the big climbs arrived at 90km but it had taken it's toll on the 4 7-Up guys, Kent and myself. As we started the first of the big climbs the break came back and we all were done. What went on from there I have no idea, but the guys told me (after waiting for me at the finish for a while). Danny Pate attacked as our John Lieswyn was receiving a wheel after a flat from the now new lead group on the cat 1 climb. This is where it went a little wrong for our guys. Wherry went with him and bridged to Sheehan, Landis, Walton, Gragus. Our guys waited a little to see if John would get back on and he did but were left to now chase to the finish. That's about as close a story as I can give you all. At the end Wherry won from Sheehan and Landis.

GC: Wherry, Sheehan, Pate, Beauchamp, Landis, Walton, Wohlberg and Lieswyn was 10th

Karen Kurreck reports from Italy

Again, I don't know the names of these races, but we did another Italian National race near Milan on Saturday. After the relative "calm" of 2 weeks of European stage racing, it was back into the "frying pan" of 1-day Italian races! These races become all-day affairs because since we are in Italy, there always has to be lunch included! Italians believe that is is not possible to eat less than 3 hours before a race. They also believe that one must be early to everything. THis particular race started at 2pm. Since Milan is about a 3hr drive from where we stay, this meant a 7am departure so that we could arrive at least by 10:30 for lunch at 11. Then you eat a plate of pasta and sit around and wait to warm up for about 1 1/2 hrs! Of course whenever Italians have extra time on their hands, they go for a cup of coffee. I think this is the real reason they like to be early!

Anyway, back to the race. This was one of what our director calls a "Kermesse". It was a 10km loop that we did 9 times. It had 1 overpass and 1 underpass. THose were the climbs. The course was not particularly technical but there were some sections of pretty bad pavement. I'm guessing the field was at least 100. It was definitely a course for our field sprinter, Greta Zocca. We had our full team of 6 for once and our job was to keep the field together and then Cathy, Nada and myself were to do a leadout train for Greta at the end.

Keeping the field together was no easy task since the Dream Team had their usual team of at least 12 riders. Cathy, Louisiana, Sara, Nada and myself all took turns covering the attacks. The last 2-3 laps the Dream Team started firing their big guns and things got pretty hard, but it was also a very hard course to get away on. By the way, we raced just over 90km in almost exactly 2hrs. For the non-metric types, that is an average speed of just a hair under 28mph. There was some wind and there were definitely some slow points in the first few laps.

With 2-3km to go, the field was still together. The Dream Team was amassed at the front and World Champ Diana Ziluite started to wind things up. You know it is going to get fast when the rainbow jersey STARTS the leadout train! With 12 riders, you can also start a train pretty early. Sara and Louisiana had already given all they could, so Cathy, Nada, and I tried to stay just behind the sea of blue and orange to help Greta close to the finish. With about 2km to go, Gabriella Pregnolato (Dream Team) gets a gap. She didn't really attack, it looked like she was just sort of leading the train and opened a slight gap in a turn. Her team then shut things down and she was off. By the time I got around the blockade, She had about 100+m on the field. The way Cathy puts it, it is easier to sit behind a motorcycle than to sit behind Pregnalato! I went as hard as I could at the front and with a little over 1km to go, I had the gap down to maybe 30-40m. I blew and an Alpha Lum rider, Cathy and Nada finished off the job. Now the field was together again, but our team was completely blown and Greta still had something like 10 more Dream Teamers to deal with in the sprint. Greta is pretty well known as a sprinter, so half of the Dream Team sprinted and the other half boxed Greta. Zinaida Staginskai won with Sara Felloni in 2nd (both Dream Team). Alpha Lum took 3rd with Cinzia Faccin and Dream Team took 4th and 5th. Greta finished 6th. I rolled in at the back of the group with Pregnalato. At least she was also blown from her effort!