News for April 5, 2000

Rain for Gent-Wevelgem

As opposed to the good conditions last Sunday, rain has been forecast in Belgium for the 62nd Gent-Wevelgem, starting today. The 214 race is a fairly standard sprinters race, although the types of sprinters that can win have to be hard enough to withstand several sections of Belgian pavé. Only four climbs - the Kemmelberg and the Monteberg, each done twice - make this semi-classic somewhat easier than the Ronde, though it is certainly not a doddle. The last climb (the Kemmelberg) comes at 167 kilometres, allowing 47 kilometres for the sprinters to get back to the front.

Sunday's winner, Andrei Tchmil will ride the same bike that he used in the Ronde for Gent-Wevelgem, however he will have a new one for Paris-Roubaix. Though it's unlikely that he will be able to pull off the same type of victory twice, the sprinters' teams will have to keep an eye on him in the final few kilometres.

Dual winner, Tom Steels (1996, 1998) will have a reasonable chance, however he has not been in the best form so far this season. Others with more of a showing include Romans Vainsteins (AG2R) and Tristan Hoffman (MC J&J), Zbigniew Spruch (Lampre) and Saeco's Dario Pieri.

Johan Museeuw and Peter van Petegem may choose to take it easy for this coming Sunday, but van Petegem's teammates, Sergei Ivanov and Andreas Klier might be in for a strong showing. Jans Koerts was due to race for Farm Frites, but after breaking his elbow last Sunday he will be replaced by Wim Vansevenant.

Telekom have Erik Zabel and Steffen Wesemann as their front runners - the latter might even pull off a surprise victory as he has been strong throughout the early season classics so far, and finisheed ninth in this race last year. Wesemann has also indicated that he will start in the German "Rund um Köln", providing a boost for this 1.4 race held on April 29, and he will be amongst the favourites there.

The odds:

Tom Steels (Bel) 6 to 1, Zbigniew Spruch (Pol), Romans Vainsteins (Lat), and Erik Zabel (Ger) at 12 to 1, Fabio Baldato (Ita), Jeroen Blijlevens (Ned), Jaan Kirsipuu (Est), Andrei Tchmil (Bel), and Markus Zberg (Swi) at 15 to 1, Johan Museeuw (Bel) and Peter van Petegem (Bel) at 20 to 1.


Pieri's success

Dario Pieri is a winner. Last Sunday he had one of his best performances ever in the Tour of Flanders. He came in second after World Cup title holder Andrei Tchmil but almost missed the second place out of pure disappointment.

Ha had launched an all out attack, caught Ekimov with less than 200 meters to go but when he realized that he wasn't going to catch Tchmil he banged his hand to the bar and just rolled the last twenty meters and was almost caught by the sprinting peloton!

With a couple of days perspective he is happy about his race, but mostly because it shows that his form is good heading for his major goal, arriving alone on the velodrome in Roubaix next Sunday, he said to La Gazetta dello Sport.

He was recruited to Saeco with a promise to act as a captain in the northern classics. He needed the change from Navigare-Gaerne, a team too far down in the rankings to compete in the northern World Cup events. Dario Pieri is a pavé rider. In the Driedaagse van de Panne in 1998, age 23, he won the first stage, escaping on the pavé at Paadestraat. He is prepared to do it again. On the road to Roubaix.

He will also ride the Gent-Wevelgem and since Mario Cipollini won't ride he might have a go at the victory if opportunity knocks. However, his mind is set on Roubaix.

MemoryCard-Jack & Jones to continue

By Tomas Nilsson, correspondent

A well documented report on Tuesday seemingly saved the Danish first division team Memorycard Jack&Jones from closing immediately. At a meeting in Vejle the team direction presented a still secret report, made by a Belgian clinic, on Nicolaj Bo Larsen's haematocrit values for the three leading sponsors, and the sponsor obviously accepted the conclusion of the report:

"It's a well documented report that clears Nicolaj Bo Larsen. After the presentation we sat down together and decided that the team will continue. The report is convincing and the doctor that has done it is trustworthy," said John Trolle, managing director of MemoryCard, to news agency Ritzaus.

"There are figures that raise questions regarding the UCI test," said Morten Mortensen of Jack&Jones who earlier has spoken out quite freely about the team and it's haematocrit problems. With the decision to continue, Nicolai Bo Larsen is also expected to pursue his cycling career.

Four of five top teams to Tour of Denmark

Four of the world's five top ranked teams: Mapei, Telekom, Rabobank and Farm Frites are among the teams that will start in the Tour of Denmark in August. Among other teams US Postal Service, with last year's winner Tyler Hamilton will come and so will Liquigas with Davide Rebellin.

Home ground heroes MemoryCard-Jack & Jones will probably have Swede Martin Rittsel as captain. Mapei, Telekom and Farm Frites has promised to come with strong line ups, which means Peter van Petegem, Sergei Ivanov, Servais Knaven, Robbie McEwen and Glenn Magnusson for the latter. The other two have not named any riders.

Rolf Sřrensen, with five second places in the race, will of course lead the Rabobank squad, while the two other top Danes on foreign teams, Lars Michaelsen and Frank Höj have been promised by the Francaise des Jeux management to be able to ride for Danish National selection. Other teams are Linda McCartney and Danish Team Fakta with Peter Meinert.

The field will have 16 teams with eight riders each in this category 2.2 race that starts August 1 in Ringkřbing with a 215 km long stage, with a good part of it along the Jutland peninsula's windy west coast to Viborg. The second stage will be the "mountain" stage - 185 kms from Ikast to Horsens. The third goes from Skanderborg til Faaborg on the Fyn island. The fourth stage is split with a first part on Lolland from Lalandia to Nakskov, the other part is a probably deciding 17 kilometre ITT from Nysted to Nykřbing Falster. The final stage from Vordingborg finishes, as six times before, on the Frederiksberg Allé in Copenhagen.

The race budget is at 3.2 million Danish kroner, roughly 400,000 US dollars. The main sponsor, Post Danmark, raises half of it, other sponsors and stage towns the rest. The race will be covered by TV for ten to fifteen recorded minutes every day.

More stars postpone

It's becoming a common theme this season - many of cycling's top riders have been putting off their start into competition for various reasons. Pantani, Vandenbroucke, Ullrich, Cipollini, Evans...the list continues to grow. The latest is that Italy's Michele Bartoli will miss two of his favourite races: La Fleche Wallone and Liege-Bastogne-Liege, due to ongoing problems with his knee. "I am missing 30 percent of my power in my right leg. I can ride for 200 kilometres, but then it's all over," he said.

29 year old Bartoli won Liege-Bastogne-Liege twice (1997, 1998) and La Fleche Wallone last year. He will now aim at the Tour de France. He will ride Gent-Wevelgem today before making his final decision however.

The next rider on the list is Cofidis' Nico Mattan, who was involved in the fall in the Ronde van Vlaanderen on Sunday due to an oil spill on a cobbled section at 117 kilometres. He broke his thigh bone(!) and rode for another two hours(!!) on it. However, he was taken to hospital afterwards in Kortrijk where he found out the damage. He saw a doctor the next day in Antwerp who told him that it would be several weeks before he can ride again.

His classics season is over now, and he is bitterly disappointed, as must his Cofidis team be without VDB as well. "I had the legs on Sunday for a top 10 placing," he said. "Now I'm hoping for a good Tour and a strong last half of the season. If everything goes well, I will start with Vandenbroucke in the Midi Libre on May 15, and a week later in the Bicileta Vasca. I will follow this with the Tours of Luxembourg and Switzerland, before I start the Tour de France."

There is good news for Mirko Celestino (Polti) at least. He was experiencing problems with his left knee, and was forced to pull out of the Ronde after 150 km. However, after visiting his doctor, it was found that the problem was easily resolved through use of ultrasound. He can therefore resume training to contest LBL and the Amstel Gold Race.

Karen's GranFondo

By Karen Kurreck

My computer died over here and I have been lost without email for awhile! I had to have my old one sent over and it got stuck in customs. I am finally back online - at least as much as one can be in a house with no phone! We have a different house this year as well as a new director sportiff. Our new director lives in Castel San Pietro Termo, which is about 20km from Bologna, so that is where we are based. It is an old farmhouse about 3km out of town on a dirt road. The house is nice and we even have a toaster! It is smaller than last year though and the team is bigger. There are only 2 bedrooms and when everyone comes in, it gets a bit crowded. Normally, there are anywhere from 2 to 6 of us here at a time. Cathy Marsal and I are here all the time and the Italians come and go. Valentina and her family live in the old apt. in Tuscany and Svetlana and her daughter live here in towm.

There was no race here this weekend, so we did a GranFondo. These are a purely Italian invention and the closest thing I can think of to describe it is a Bay to Breakers for cyclists. They have them in various places most weekends of the spring and summer. They get in the order of 3000 entrants!! This is, after all, a bike crazy nation! There are pros, amateurs, tourists, men, women, tandems, people on mountain bikes, a guy with 1 leg etc. There were 3 options: short (64km), medium (110km) and long (175km). Everyone starts together and there is a winner in each distance. The only categories are "Elite" and "Amateur" and both lump men and women together. Some people take these things very seriously, others are just out for exercise. If you try to stay with the front groups, it can be harder than a race.

Cathy, Sonia, Giovanna and our director, WIlliam chose the long option. The rest of us did the medium one. The Alpha Lum team as well as part of the Dream Team were also there. I lined up at the start line about 10 min before the announced start time. This meant I was almost dead last! For the first few km, all I did was pass people and maneuver around them. The pace was pretty high - 47-50kph whenever I looked down. Someone up front must have been working, but I sure couldn't see who it was! After about 5km, I could actually see the front of the group and it was probably at least 500m away and the pack completely filled the road from one side to the other! Every so often, you would have to slam on your brakes as the group maneuvered around stopped cars. There were police motorcycles stopping cars for the front group and marshals at every corner stopping cross traffic.

There were 3 climbs in the course, each about 6km, and the last 2 were quite steep (avg. 10% grade with sections of 12-14% so the road signs said). Once I got up to the first 100 riders or so, it got harder to move up, but the skill level did increase slightly. The first climb started at 26km, and shortly before that, I could almost see daylight up ahead of me. The all of a sudden there was a crash in front of me. I managed to get around it unscathed, but I probably lost 40-50 positions. Oh well.

We turned and started up the hill. I was riding close to Svetlana and Valentina but I had no idea where anyone else was. The pace was hard up the climb and some people started going backwards real fast! Then all of a sudden, on a really steep section, I saw all the people right in front of me just about come to a stop and there were some cones in the road. It turned out to be a checkpoint that everyone had to go through single file. We all had to wear these armbands with a magnetic card on them and when you went through the checkpoint, it beeped and registered everyone's number. I lost a lot of momentum getting through the checkpoint and everyone was strung out when I got through. I chased back onto the back of the group and then I realized my front tire was going flat!

There isn't exactly a follow caravan in these things! First I had to get over to the side of the road while people kept whizzing by. Then I got out my pump and spare tube. Problem was, the wheel my team gave me has a somewhat aero rim and the spare tube I had in my seat bag had a short valve stem. I couldn't get air into it. There was a steady stream of people going by the whole time. One of the guys who hangs out at the bike shop and drove over with us saw me and stopped to help but he couldn't get air in the tire either. Right about that time, Mikhail came by in the team car with spare wheels so I got one.

There was no longer anyone for me to "race" with, but it was a nice sunny day and I still had a couple of thousand people to ride with! I pretty much climbed at my own pace but fairly hard, and passed a few hundred people. After the hills, I was joined by a group of about 15-20 for the last 30km. We more or less did something resembling a paceline and I spent a lot of time at the front for safety reasons. There was 1 other woman in this group and when we got back to the finish town, the guys said something about "le donne prima" meaning "ladies first". I pulled the last km and the other woman sprinted at the end. Afterwards, there was pasta and fruit and wine for everyone. Everyone also got a "diploma" with the race name, their official time and their placing. I didn't want to wait in the long line, so I skipped getting mine.

There was no official women's category, but just for bragging rights, in the medium race, Valentina Polkhanova (EdilSavino) was 1st, with Daniela Veroniesi (Alpha Lum) 2nd in the same group, followed by Svetlana Bubnenkova (EdilSavino). In the long race, Tatiana Staikjina (Dream Team) was 1st, the only woman in her group, and beat most of the guys. The next group, about 2 min. back had Giovanna Troldi (EdilSavino) and Edita Pucinskaite (Alpha Lum). Giovanna's official placing in the "Elite" division was 7th, so Tatiana must have been even higher.

Courtesy of

Bruylandts still in trouble

Ex-Farm Frites rider, Dave Bruylandts who had a hematocrit test of over 50% on March 21 in the Setmana Catalana was offered a position in Palmans last week. However, this was subject to him undergoing another test to confirm the high result. His latest test came back with a level of 50.2 percent.

Palmans team director, Walter Planckaert has not yet decided on what action to take: "We have to wait for the reaction of the UCI. I expect an official letter," he said.