News for April 14, 2000

Jaja's gamble in Flèche Wallonne

Frenchman Laurent Jalabert placed third in yesterday's Ardennes semi-classic, Flèche Wallonne, won by Vini Caldirola's Francesco Casagrande. Jalabert rode a cautious race however, and was hoping that it would come down to a final grind up the Mur de Huy, where he could use his power to outsprint the rest. He did not take into account all the variables - namely Merckx and Verbrugghe's break near the finish, and Casagrande's bridging effort that won him the race. However, things like this happen when there are still over 40 riders in contention for the finish.

Jalabert made it clear that he didn't want to expend a great deal of energy before Sunday's Liege-Bastogne-Liege, and he came away with a decent result and some more confidence. Casagrande might have dug too deep in order to win yesterday, but he will still be one of the front riders on Sunday. Jalabert would dearly like to add "La Doyenne" to his palmares, and has come agonisingly close in the past. He was second in 1997 and 1998 to Bartoli, the rider who will not be participating this year due to his knee injury. With no VDB or Bartoli, could 2000 be JaJa's year at last?

He has long planned for it, admitting that his career is drawing to a close (he is 31) and that he does not have many chances left to win. He could take heart from Andrei Tchmil, who is winning classics at 37, but Jalabert is a different style of rider. Tchmil is still an opportunist, although a very strong one at that - if he is allowed to go in the closing kilometres, it's goodbye to the win. Jalabert prefers to wear down his opponents, and then just ride away from them when the race reaches a tough section. He needs a strong team in order to do so, and ONCE are certainly up to the task. They will all be riding much harder for him on Sunday than they did yesterday.

Dekker signs again

Rabobank's Erik Dekker was looking down the barrel last year after he was disqualified from the Dutch World Championships team due to having too high a hematocrit. Subsequent investigations by the team as well as independent tests showed that he was OK, due to irregularities in the testing procedure. The team kept him on and have also extended his contract until the end of 2001.

He made his return today in the Veenendaal-Veenendaal, after breaking his elbow in Paris-Nice. He rode 70 kilometres, about the same as most of the other riders who abandoned at the first feed zone. The weather was shocking, and only 31 out of 128 starters finished.

In other contract news, 24 year old German, Dirk Ronellenfietsch will sign next week with Dutch team Farm Frites.

Verbruggen raises the ante

The UCI president Hein Verbruggen wants to raise the allowed haematocrit level from 50 to 53 percent, according to Belgian news sources. His idea is that there will be fewer false results leading to the compulsory two week break for the cyclist. Why stop there? A barrier of 60-70 percent may achieve this quite comfortably, and see some very fast racing.

So far he has gained no substantial support from riders or team managers. Many managers and riders prefer an individual haematocrit level to be set, established by several controls during the season. The International Ski Federation, FIS, already recognizes a 53 per cent limit.

The net tightens in Perpignan

Magistrate Francis Boyer is getting into the midst of the details of the French doping affair that started last week in Narbonne, southern France. He will hear Camillo Corcetti, a 40 year old resident of Nivolas-Vermelle (Isère) today who was placed in police custody on Wednesday. Corcetti is a former rider with the club of VC Bourgoin-Jallieu (Elite 2), and is currently unemployed. He is suspected of trafficking doping products that he obtained from Belgium.

Assistant prosecutor in Perpignan, Pierre Sennes, said on Wednesday that there were two sources of the drugs - one in Belgium and one in the Netherlands, which had yet to be identified. 13 people have now been put under examination, most of them being former riders. The investigation is broadening its search to the community of Saint-Just-Chaleyssin to the north of Isère, where another doctor is under suspicion. The area of Bordeaux will also be targeted next week.

Gros denies association

Current director of French division II team, Jean Delatour, Michel Gros has denied any connection with the doping affair. His former club, Vaulx-en-Velin has been named in the business, but he claims that they were always against doping.

When he started as a member, in 1978, the club was mainly for veteran/masters riders. A few years later, he started a junior squad which evolved into a fully fledged elite II team from 1982 to 1994. He said in an interview with AFP that they only had one problem with a rider who took drugs - in 1987 and that rider was immediately suspended. The allegations against Michel Gros' former club, he claimed were merely jealousy and slander.

Eric Magnin, a French track rider and a former member of Vaulx-en-Velin is one of the riders involved in the current investigation. According to Gros, he was completely above board when he was a member of the club seven years ago, and joined two other clubs afterward: Créteil then in Charvieux-Chavagneux."

Gros said that the problem was that "there are many riders who put all their ambitions into cycling. They are have no recourse if they fail. That situation exists a lot at the amateur level and also unfortunately a little on the professional level."

He is quite strict in his direction of his current team, Jean Delatour, which contains ex-Festina rider and admitted EPO user, Laurent Brochard. He orders additional blood controls to that required by the Federation, and any that are our of the ordinary are investigated further. "I will not say that we will never have a positive rider because unfortunately, who can be sure? Today, no sporting director can state that," he said. He also pointed out that noted anti-drug proponents, Cristophe Bassons and Patrice Halgand chose to ride for him, as they supported his principles.

Pirate's team doctor investigated

The former team doctor of Mercatone Uno, Romberto Rempi has come under investigation from the district attorney in Trento, Bruno Giardina. Rempi is being questioned in regard to Pantani's high hematocrit levels after his Giro exclusion in 1999. The charge is that he illegally tampered with medical records.

Stone gets further

Round Australia in 30 days, that's what Canadian Perry Stone wishes to accomplish this month. In dollars and cents, this works out to be 14,500 kilometres, or 480 kilometres a day. To do this, he's on a 10 hour ride-2 hour sleep schedule, making it tough for he and his crew to keep up.

Reports say that he has covered 2100 kilometres, expecting to arrive in Adelaide either on Saturday or Sunday. He's had to overcome rain, bad feet, headwinds, knee problems, sleeping in, and a near tragic accident on the Nullarbor plain the other day - the rear end of two road trains tried to overtake the front as well as Perry and his crew before being forced to desperately brake to avoid hitting an oncoming road train. It was a very near miss with the road train's brakes smoking and almost catching on fire. Perry and the rest were reportedly quite shaken up.

Since then, he has progressed well, and even had a tailwind on the odd occasion. He has also met up with a couple named Craig and Lisa Goozee, who are on a charity race from Albany in Western Australia to Broken Bay in NSW to raise money for the research and prevention of cancer. Craig is cycling and surf skiing his way across Australia to raise money to be donated to 3 organizations: The Childrens Cancer Institute of Australia, Sydney Children's Hospital in Randwick and the Starlight Children's foundation of Australia. He hopes to raise over $500,000 dollars during the trip. For more details, please consult:

Server update

As you may be aware, we are currently implementing a newer, faster, more powerful than a locomotive (etc.) server and link system to cope with our burgeoning traffic. We hope to have this up within two days and it should give us at least ten times our existing link capacity. This will help enormously with our live updates and picture loading capabilities.

Unfortunately despite being so close, we were once again the victim of a Telstra outage last night - their link went down twice(!) and we were forced offline. Although Dino (our server) is extremely reliable, Australia's telecommunications giant has not been living up to its usual standard. We apologise on behalf of our readers who were trying to access the site between 20:00 and midnight, EST yesterday. The new system being built by our system administrator, Adrian Butterworth should be able to cope significantly better with these occasional problems.