News for April 21, 2000

35th Amstel Gold Race

1999 winner, Michael Boogerd
Photo: © Bert Geerts
The fifth and final World Cup race this spring will be disputed on Easter Saturday, starting and finishing in Maastricht. The Amstel Gold Race is the race for the Dutch, and cycling fans throughout the country are preparing for a great day worth of spectating. Several big names who have missed previous few rounds of the World Cup will be there - Abraham Olano, Fernando Escartin, Lance Armstrong and Oscar Freire. Not all are in top form, but this race will also be valuable in terms of preparation for the Grand Tours. The Giro starts in 4 weeks, and the Tour in 10.

The teams fighting it out will likely be Rabobank, who always target this race, Farm Frites, Mapei-Quick Step, and Lampre. ONCE will try and project Jalabert into a winning position, or even Etxebarria, D. after his strong ride in last week's Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

Rabobank have last year's winner, Michael Boogerd as their leader once more. They have been fine tuning their tactics and form by training on the course: "We did the last part of the parcours on Thursday. From the Gulpenerberg to the finish, 150 kilometers. It was beautiful weather. I wanted to know how explosive I was on the hills, and could do the Halembaye in the 14. The same 14 which I had last year in my attack with Lance Armstrong. But training isn't the same as a real World Cup," said Boogerd.

"For Saturday I'm not bad, but all the champions want to win here. I'm at 90 percent now, after my fall. And I know it's difficult to win a World Cup race for the second time in a row. My target is a Rabobank winner. I will be satisfied with a top 10-place."

The other Dutch team, Farm Frites, will see valued domestique Koos Moerenhout start in the race this year. Last year he was left out by his Rabobank team due to sickness. He developed a case of the flu after the Ardennes Classics, compounding his problems of the early 1999 season. "In Tirreno-Adriatico I was in good health, but after I contracted bronchitis. I had to take antibiotics which helped," he told ANP.

After a training camp in the Ardennes, the team declared him not fit enough to start in the Fleche Wallone/Waalse Pijl. Therefore, no Amstel for Moerenhout. This year, a new team and now in good health will see Moerenhout alongside Sergei Ivanov, Miquel van Kessel, Andreas Klier, Servais Knaven, Michel Lafis, Geert van Bondt and Peter van Petegem.

Lampre however will miss one of their top riders, Oscar Camenzind. The 1998 Swiss World Champion is suffering from a virus after last weekend's Liege-Bastogne-Liege, and will relinquish his place to Italian teammate, Massimo Codol. Franco Ballerini will be their likely number one for the race.

Mapei have once again entered a strong team. After successive wins in Paris-Roubaix (Museeuw) and Liege-Bastogne-Liege (Bettini), they would like a hattrick. Bettini and Museeuw will be their leaders, along with Giuliano Figueras (Ita), Oscar Freire (Spa), Max van Heeswijk (Ned), Wilfried Peeters (Bel), Luca Scinto (Ita) and Andrea Tafi (Ita).

Once again, follow the live coverage from us at on Saturday, commencing 10:15 CET

Pantani closer to freedom?

Italian cyclist Marco Pantani (Mercatone-Uno) may be cleared today of the charge that he was involved in "sporting fraud" - falsifying results via doping. The investigation, which was recently moved to his home locality of Forli, was commenced on November 11 last year by prosecutor Rafaelle Guarinello in Turin. It related to his alleged high hematocrit (60%) measured by doctors in Turin hospital after Pantani's crash in Milan-Turin in 1995. The charge was that if he had doped himself for the race, he could be prosecuted for "sporting fraud" from Italian law 491, going back to 1989.

He fractured his leg in the race after he ran into a car on the course. It was doubtful whether he would ride again, but he managed to come back and win the Tour de France in 1998. However, then followed his famous exclusion from last year's Giro d'Italia on the penultimate day after failing a hematocrit test. That case is still being investigated.

In Italy, doping is not a crime punishable by law, hence the reason to prosecute for "sporting fraud". However, justice Michele Leoni in Forli decreed, after examining Pantani's file, will decide on the case today.

Pantani continues to train, according to team reports but it is still unsure when or if he will return to competition. Mercatone-Uno will likely turn to 1998 Tour of Switzerland winner, Stefano Garzelli as their number one for the Giro d'Italia.

What happened to Steels?

In yesterday's Grote Scheldeprijs, Mapei's Tom Steels could only manage 9th in the bunch sprint. Teammate, Oscar Freire was 14th despite Mapei's hard work in the closing kilometres.

"A sprint is won in the last 2 kilometers and not always in the last 200 meters," said Steels. "We were alone. We needed one or two riders to control the race, but I can't blame anybody. The teammates worked very hard, but without any result. I thought I was sitting perfectly on the wheel of Zabel. But Erik lost his train Fagnini..."

Up till now, Steels has only won three small races: "The pie is there, but without cream," he says. Now it's time for him to rest a little before the Tour de France, but first Tom will go to Patrick Lefevere in Italy.

"We have to talk. I want to know how the team management want to play the game in the Tour. Do we go for the final standing or do we go for stage victories and maybe the green jersey for me. But not for both. Telekom can do such a combination with Ullrich and Zabel, but we can't. I don't want to do sprints like last year. I want two or three riders working for me. Zanini for sure in the last kilometre, and further, Bart Leysen, Wilfried Peeters or Johan Museeuw (if he wants to do that). I want to know what I can expect before the Tour!"

Midi Libre

Jan Ullrich will of course be the man to watch in GP Midi Libre, from May 16-21, where he makes his reentry into the peloton after suffering from influenza. This race is by tradition the start of the Tour de France preparations in the area of Cévenole and Languedoc.

The third stage will have five mountains to overcome, not on the same scale as the Alps or the Pyrenees but hard enough in the expected high temperatures. 160 riders from 20 teams will take part, among them of course last year's winner Benoït Salmon (Ag2R). Ullrich will bring along Alberto Elli, Alpe d' Huez winner Guiseppe Guerini or Alexander Vinokourov which means that this is a trial for the mountain stages of the Tour.

Nine French teams will take part. Among the Tour qualified teams are Crédit Agricole, with Americans Bobby Julich and Jonathan Vaughters as candidates for the victory. Bonjour, with Jean-Cyrille Robin, and Jean Delatour, with Laurent Brochard, will of course do their best to gain tickets to the Tour. Possibly BigMat Auber will as well but the chances for the latter, without any real stars, are slim. There are three seats left and Spanish Kelme, with last year's third Fernando Escartin ought to be qualified. In the Midi Libre, their team will be represented by Javier Pascual Rodriguez.

The stages:

Stage 1 - May 16: Palavas-Port Barcarès, 193 km
Stage 2 - May 17: Port Barcarès-Narbonne, 187 km
Stage 3 - May 18: Cuxac-Cabardes - Decazeville, 188 km
Stage 4 - May 19: Laguiole-Laguiole, ITT, 26.1 km
Stage 5 - May 20: Saint Geniez d'Olt - l'Esperou, 184.5 km
Stage 6 - May 21: Le Vigan - Sète

Wesley Huvaere told to rest

Vlaanderen 2002 rider, Wesley Huvaere has been forced to stop training and competing for a while until he regains his health. The reason is one of hematocrit. No, he hasn't gone over 50% but has done the opposite - a recent test showed he was down at 35%, well below his normal level. Doctors do not want to risk him becoming anemic, and have ordered him to stop riding.

Stone towards Sydney

Ride around Australia campaigner, Perry Stone continues his arduous trek and he is now heading up Australia's Eastern Seaboard. He passed through Melbourne and towards the Dandenongs a couple of mornings ago, where he was espied, as cyclingnews contributor Mark Chadwick so delicately put it, "riding in the pissing rain". He is aiming at reaching Sydney on late Friday night presumably in order to avoid traffic(!).

He is still consuming vast amounts of liquid energy - no potatoes though, as he maintains roughly a 380 kilometre per day average. Of course, he is experiencing the usual problems with saddle sores, exacerbated by the wet weather in recent days. Talcum powder and vaseline are in order.

Rising numbers in French doping affair

The number of suspects in the French doping affair has now reached 16, and nine of them are imprisoned. On Thursday, a 33 year-old former amateur cyclist was held for questioning in Saint-Tropez on the French Riviera. He is under suspicion for possessing, usage and dealing narcotics. He was alleged to have been named by ex-pro Thierry Laurent, who said he delivered "Belgian pot ", a mixture of amphetamines, cocaine, caffeine, morphine and heroin, to a number of the suspects all over southern France.

At the same time in the Alps, in Isère, another two people, a bicycle dealer and his amateur racing son, have been placed under guard by police investigators.

Good Friday track meet

For those of you in the vicinity of London's Herne Hill velodrome (Burbage Rd, London SE24) today, there will be a Good Friday track meeting held there. Commencing at 11.00 am with a sprint session, it will go all day with a variety of events.

Featured riders (subject to confirmation) include Sean Yates, Matt Illingworth, Bryan Steel, Keith Murray, Colin Sturgess, & Spencer Smith in the roadman's special events. Also, there will be the attraction of France vs Great Britain in the Olympic Sprint. The home team will have Hoy, Maclean, and Queally against Rousseau, Tournant, and LeQuellec. An impressive lineup to say the least.

Tickets are available from 9.00 am costing between 5 and 20 pounds (Concession to Family ticket).

Courtesy of Nick Rosenthal a.k.a. Fat Nick

Survey winner

We have indeed obtained a winner in our survey competition, and their details have been verified by us. So, a set of Spinergy Spox wheels is on the way to our winner. Thank you again to everyone who responded. Hopefully you will notice some of your suggestions being implemented in the near future.