News for April 30, 2000

Ivan Gotti: still hopeful

He suffered during Trentino, but Polti's Ivan Gotti is confident that he can put in a good ride in the Giro. The two-time winner of his home race will start in the Tour of Romandie this week (May 2-7) as a final form tuner for the May 13 Vatican Prologue.

The other favourites, Gontchar, Tonkov, Simoni, Savoldelli, Borgheresi, Piepoli (those 'i' words) have all shown themselves this week, but it is up to them to take the race from Gotti. For his part, Gotti has certainly been putting in the hard training, doing a lot in between Settimana Lombarda and Trentino. On stage 2 of Trentino where he lost a lot of time to Barbero, Gotti said that he "felt empty on the climb".

However, he added that in the previous week in training he had done the Col de Madonna (13 km) in Montecarlo several times, as well as three times up San Marco, (1900 m, 15 km), the 30 kilometre long Morbegno, and the Foppolo (12 km). Heavy work.

He was bitten by a sheepdog on the left ankle on the Madonna whilst training with Armstrong and Merckx (the younger) which set him back a little. "It tore my sock and I had to go to hospital for a tetanus shot," he said.

"The Trentino was a test, and it didn't go well. There is still the Tour of Romandie which I need for the confidence," he added.

One of his main rivals, Pavel Tonkov (Mapei) is just a kilo off his race weight although he is a little cagey regarding his chances. "I know that I'll never be considered the top favourite: I don't feel like the king of the Giro, but in the climbs I am hard to get rid of," he said.

Savoldelli is another who is in better shape - two kilos less than at this time last year, the Saeco rider might again finish on the podium. If things go well, then even on top but there is a lot of riding to come before June 4.

Serguei Gontchar will prepare by riding the Four Days of Dunkirk (May 2-7, meaning that it's the Six Days of Dunkirk and the surrounding region). Piepoli (Banesto) will contest this weekend's Italian double (Larciano and Toscana) before travelling to Portugal for the Journal de Noticias. Ivan Basso, Roberto Sgambelluri and Danilo Di Luca are all putting the finishing touches to their program. Di Luca is certainly in good shape, winning today's GP Industria & Artianato-Larciano and will back up for tomorrow's Toscana race.

Cipo loses one

Saeco's Mario Cipollini and his famous 'red train' has been shortened by one for the Giro d'Italia, commencing in two weeks on May 13. Massimiliano Mori crashed out of the Giro del Trentino this week, breaking his wrist. He will not be able to start in the Giro, making life difficult for Super Mario in his quest to gain another four or five stages this year.

Trofée des Grimpeurs

The 26th edition of this French race to be held today is run on the hilly circuit of Argenteuil-Sannois in the western suburbs of Paris. 'Grimpeur' means 'climber' in French and this race has no shortage of ups and downs. The circuit is 7.8 kilometres long and is completed 17 times, for a total distance of 133 kilometres. The main obstacle is the Côte de l'Ermitage (300 m high at 13%), which usually sorts out the best climber after 17 laps. The race is part of the Coupe de France, currently led by Ag2r's Jaan Kirsipuu, but this is certainly not his preferred course.

It is more likely one for the likes of Laurent Brochard (Jean Delatour), Didier Rous (Bonjour), David Moncoutié (Cofidis), Stéphane Heulot (FdJ), and Benoit Salmon (Ag2r). Also, Credit Agricole's Jens Voigt and Bobby Julich (2nd last year) are good picks. Festina (C. Moreau), Saint-Quentin, Besson, Charleroi, and Kia are some of the other teams in the race.

The race is organised by Josette Leulliot, who used to run Paris-Nice before she sold it to Laurent Fignon. This year, she has introduced a women's edition, to be raced over 59.2 kilometres. Lithuanian Edita Pucinskaite, Jeannie Longo, Fany Lecourtois and Juliette Vandekerkhove are some of the names down to ride.

Ronde van Nederland looking for a sponsor

The 40th edition of the Ronde van Nederland starts on August 21 with a prologue in Den Bosch, however it may have to fund itself, according to reports in the Dutch press. The organisers have built up enough financial reserves over the past few years, and with support from some sponsors the budget for this jubilee tour is 2,000,000 Dutch guilders (US$800,000).

Chairman Paul Nouwen said that "We are still looking for a new head sponsor after Vise stopped. We are talking to three candidates. But I think it will be no problem to find one. We made a deal with NOS-TV that they broadcast the finals of three stages live, including the Queen stage in the South of Limburg. Also, the Belgian television station VRT will cover the tour too. So it can't be too great a problem to find a good head sponsor."

Telekom will start with at least half of their Tour de France team in this tour, including Jan Ullrich.

Perry Stone update

He's in FNQ now (Far North Queensland) and going well, despite being below his anticipated average of 480 kilometres per day. The climate in the north is hot and humid, and Perry is reportedly excelling in the conditions. Last Friday, he rode some 410 kilometres between Calliope to Mackay on the Bruce Highway, aided by a tailwind. The highway is not known for its friendliness to cyclists however, and Stone has been quite fortunate in keeping himself on the bike so far.

He will turn left at Townsville, cyclones permitting, to start his journey westward. Since Perry's start from Fremantle at 7am Friday April 7 he has covered well over half of the 14200 kilometres of the route following Highway One circumnavigating Australia. Despite major setbacks he is still on track to smash his own record of 41 days 22 hours.