News for April 2, 2000

VDB: No ONCE contract...yet

Team Cofidis' "most valued player of 2000", Frank Vandenbroucke, has been in the press again denying rumours that he is to sign with Spanish team ONCE next year. According to a report in Belgian daily, "Le Soir", VDB considered a future with them although the man himself denies it at the moment: "To join ONCE would be a logical step in my career," he told Spanish press. "But at the moment, there is no plans for this in my head, I only think about the present and the past form that I want to recover."

"I will return to racing in May. Before I did not plan to do the Midi Libere, but now it will be without a doubt in my program. I will run the Bicicletta Vasca, the Dauphiné and the Tour de Suisse," he said to Le Soir. However, he also played down questions that he would be competitive in the Tour de France, as "I do not have the qualities of a favourite. But, the Tour is a dream and in principle the route is good."

VDB almost left Cofidis late last year after he claimed the team treated him badly in sunspending him. There were rumours at the time that he would go to ONCE, but eventually he and his team management sorted things out, but shortened his contract until the end of 2000.

Giro teams announced

Twelve Italian and eight foreign teams will start in the Giro d'Italia this year with nine riders in each team. British squad, Linda McCartney realised one of their major goals this year after they were invited to participate. This was an important step for the team who have been riding quite well in the Italian races of late.

The teams are:

Aguardiente Nectar-Selle Italia (Col)  Banesto (Spa)
Vitalicio Seguros-Grupo Generali (Spa) Kelme-Costa Blanca (Spa)
La Francaise des Jeux (Fra)            Rabobank (Ned)
Linda Mc Cartney Racing Team (Gbr)     Farm Frites (Ned)
Cantina Tollo                          Ceramica Panaria-Gaerne
Fassa Bortolo                          Lampre-Daikin
Liquigas-Pata                          Mapei-Quick Step
Mercatone Uno-Albacom                  Mobilvetta Design-Rossin
Saeco-Valli & Valli                    Team Polti
Vini Caldirola-Sidermec                Amica Chips-Tacconi Sport

The women's Tour to start in Italy

The women's Tour de France, officially La Grande Boucle Féminine, will start in Milano August 6 and finish in Paris August 20. Seventeen teams will take part, six national and eleven trade teams. The race will pass Le Midi from east to west along the Mediterranean coast and the turn towards Paris by the Massif Central, the Alps and the Vosges. There will be two mountain top finishes, one of the on Col de Tourmalet in the Pyrynees. Ballon d'Alsace, another classical mountain, will also be climbed.

Two days before the race the World Cup race Trophée International will be held in the Alpes-Maritimes, 115 kms from Villeneuve to Loubet.

The teams in La Grande Boucle: Germany, Canada, USA, France, Netherlands and Russia.

The trade teams: Acca due, Alfa Lum,, Edil Savino, Empella, Fanini, Gas, Master Team, Nürnberger, Red Bull and Vlaanderen 2002

Marzoli caught

The Italian rider, Ruggero Marzoli, Cantina Tollo, has been banned for six months by the Italian Cycling Federation for use of doping. He was caught during an investigation of the Italian police force's anti doping brigade.

"We will investigate this matter thoroughly and we will fire him if we find that he has used doping," said his team manager Vincenzo Santoni.

It has not been revealed yet what kind of drugs Marzoli was caught for.

Weisspfennig answers

German six day racer, Erik Weisspfennig returned a positive test to fenoterol during the six days of Bremen earlier this year. The German Federation may suspend him for this, as the drug is a beta2 agonist and is on the banned list. Beta2 agonists are best known for their bronchodilating properties, and cyclists are allowed to use them provided they have a doctor's certificate stating that they are asthmatic.

In his defence, Weispfenning wrote to German that he was diagnosed as asthmatic back in December 1999, and was told that he needed the medication when under high physical load. He obtained a certificate for it, and was under the impression that no further problems would be encountered. In January at the mandatory doping control in Bremen, he informed them that he was using the drug during the race. It was logical that it would be found in his urine, and he was surprised that he received a "positive" result from the Federation in March.

He has requested a hearing in accordance with the Federation's regulations to put forward his case, however the date has not yet been set. If he can prove that he took the drug for medical rather than performance enhancing reasons, then he will be cleared. However, the distinction between performance enhancing and medicine is not cut and dried as is well known. An analogous case in football is where a player is injured during the match, but receives a cortisone "spray" so that he can continue to play. He will certainly play better than if he were injured. True, he may not be at a higher level than originally, but an injury could be construed as part of the wearing down process of the sport.

The same applies to cycling of course and this is where the whole drugs debate gets tricky. Firstly, define what a rider's level of "performance" is (current, past, potential?), and secondly to define at what level this becomes "enhanced". Is an antioxidant C+E+Beta Carotene pill performance enhancing because it allows you to recover slightly better?

Beta2 agonists - a brief background

Several well known pro cyclists have tested postive to beta2 agonists in the past, including Miguel Indurain (salbutamol) and Djamoladine Abdujaparaov (clenbuterol). Whilst their bronchodilating (beta2) properties are well known, it is possible that they could act on beta1 and alpha1 receptors, however this is not that well known yet.

In Abdu's case, clenbuterol was just a stronger and longer lasting version of a beta2 agonist. There was some belief in past years that this drug could promote both fat burning and an increase in muscle mass - certainly a wonder drug, and it was banned. The evidence mainly came from rodent studies, and the dosage used was quite large. Also, a side effect was that they decrease oxidative enzymes i.e. made it harder to breathe. Not something you would want as a professional cyclist, unless the bronchodilating properties outweighed the decrease in oxidative enzymes.

As far as salbutamol (ventolin), and other "normal" beta2 agonists like fenoterol are concerned, there have been some studies carried out on humans using standard dosages. Most of these show that there is no performance enhancing effect of inhaled, metered doses of these drugs. This applies to both athletes and non-athletes, asthmatic or not.

There are one or two papers that have shown otherwise (i.e. that they are performance enhancing). However, no-one has been able to repeat the research.

The above background information was provided to courtesy of Richard Stern

Mapei to hit Flanders with a bang

Despite Johan Museeuw's withdrawal from the last stage of the Driedaagse De Panne, he and his Mapei colleagues are gearing themselves for an all-out assault on the Ronde van Vlaanderen. Museeuw will have the support of Michele Bartoli, Andrea Tafi, Tom Steels, Wilfried Peeters, Daniele Nardello, David Tani, and Stefano Zanini during the 269 kilometres of Flemish punishment on Sunday.

Both Museeuw and Bartoli are the designated captains in Mapei's World Cup challenge this year, and will have plenty of strength to call upon in the coming races. These two riders have four wins between them in the ronde - Museeuw in 1993, 1995, and 1998, and Bartoli in 1996, and look quite good on paper at least. As for form: Museeuw showed it last weekend by winning the Brabantse Pijl on Sunday, while Bartoli demonstrated he had some two weeks ago in his attack up the Cipressa. Riding with a heavily strapped knee, he created havoc in the peloton when he tore off the front with Juan Carlos Dominguez in pursuit of earlier escapee, Robert Hunter. The two had a twenty second gap at the bottom of the Poggio, despite the frantic efforts of Telekom to chase them down. We all know that they were ultimately caught, but Bartoli definitely showed that he has some of the strenght of old.

This week, Bartoli has been a little up and down in the Driedaagse, sometimes feeling good on the climbs, but other times suffering by the time the race reaches the end. The finishing climbs of the Ronde are critical to success, and Bartoli knows that he will need a good ride on Sunday to win. The entire team have been training the last couple of days and should be well prepared.

Oliviero Rincón released

The Colombian ex cyclist Oliviero Rincón was released by his kidnappers, an unidentified guerilla group in Colombia today. This was the second time that Rincón was kidnapped in the past couple of months. The 32 year old Oliviero Rincón spent several years in Europe and won stages in all the three major Tours.