News for August 25, 2000

55th Vuelta a España: Ullrich favourite

The Vuelta a España is the youngest of the three Grand Tours, but is arguably more popular than the Giro d'Italia in terms of its riders and audience. The organisers, Unipublic, recently issued a statement saying that the Vuelta this year had more accumulated UCI points than the Giro (by over 3000) and would have had more than the Tour if Beloki and Jalabert had started. The number was obtained by adding the UCI points of the top 50 riders before the start of each tour, and is of course subject to seasonal variations.

This year, 1999 winner Jan Ullrich goes in as favourite again and he certainly has the form at the moment to win. The question is whether he wants (or needs) to push himself that far in order to win, as he has indicated that an Olympic gold medal would mean more to him than the Vuelta victory. His Telekom team is not as strong as that in the Tour, although they will at least be able to ride solely for him rather than Erik Zabel as well.

"Jan is much, much better than he was in 1999 before the Vuelta," said Telekom's sport director Rudy Pevenage. The parcours will suit him, with its three time trials with the last concluding in Madrid on the last day. Ullrich can also go up hills a little better than he could prior to the Tour, and the 23 percent climb of El Angliru may see most of his rivals suffer rather than him.

Who are those rivals? 30 year old Abraham Olano (ONCE) has won the Vuelta before (he was pushed, according to his then teammate, Jose Maria Jimenez), but that was in the absence of Jan, who is a superior time trialist an climber. A definite podium chance, but can he go all the way to the top? He will be ONCE's leader after Jalabert pulled out earlier this week.

Banesto have Alex Zülle and Jose Maria Jimenez. Zülle is 32 and would dearly like to win La Vuelta for the third time, especially after a poor Tour. He has the class to do it if on form, and is usually a better climber than Ullrich. Jimenez won this year's Tour of Catalunya and was KOM in last year's Vuelta. He is not a good enough time trialist to limit the damage, although he can do a lot on the hills.

Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano (Vitalicio Seguros) will go in as the team's leader, and has said that he will give his best to try and improve on his second placing last year. He has been in solid, but not brilliant form of late and will have to ride on a higher plane to beat Ullrich.

Kelme have a strong squad this year, and could easily replicate their Tour de France performance. Fernando Escartin will be the leader, although his teammate Roberto Heras may end up with a higher position after his third place last year (Escartin crashed on the Angliru stage). Of course, there's also Tour de France KOM, Santiago Botero from Colombia who surprised many by breaking Richard Virenque's grip on that jersey.

Speaking of Virenque, he'll be in there this year as well, although he may not have the strength in the time trials to keep his gains in the mountains. His Polti team also boasts Pascal Hervé and Ivan Gotti and they will be ones to watch in Spain.

Mapei will lead with Manuel Beltran and Pavel Tonkov. The Russian may have to play second fiddle to his Spanish compatriot but should be a little fresher after not competing in the Tour. Mapei also have Oscar Freire who is a good bet for a stage win any day.

Festina will pin their GC hopes on Angel Casero who has made a comeback of sorts this year after being out for a long time with an achilles injury. Fresh could be best in this case and the team would love to repeat their Tour performance where Beloki, Moreau and Wüst did so well.

Other overall classification outsiders include Euskaltel's Haimar Zubeldia, Telekom's Andreas Klöden, Cantina Tollo's Roberto Sgambelluri, Fassa Bortolo's Wladimir Belli, Jean Delatour's Patrice Halgand, Lampre's Oscar Camenzind and Gilberto Simoni, and Saeco's Laurent Dufaux.

Sprinters will have their chance as well, and there are some good names amongst the start list: Mario Cipollini returns for Saeco after a long absence, Jeroen Blijlevens (Polti), Glenn Magnusson and Jans Koerts (Farm Frites), Stefano Zanini (Mapei), Jan Svorada (Lampre), David Clinger (Festina), Fabio Baldato (Fassa Bortolo), Danilo Di Luca (Cantina Tollo), and Giovanni Lombardi and Danilo Hondo (Telekom).

Of course, you'll know where to catch all the action of this year's last Grand Tour -

Vuelta 2003 to Miami?

Forget the Angliru, this is the best yet. La Vuelta a España 2003 may start in Miami, Florida after a plan was revealed by the organisers today. Unipublic have never been afraid of new destinations for their Tour, which as mentioned above boasts more UCI points amongst its riders than the Giro and almost as many as the Tour.

The plans are uncertain at the moment, but a scenario for 2003 is to have the prologue start in Miami and the first two stages in southern Florida. It would be a significant coup if it occurred, to have one of the three Grand Tours start in the USA (How about Kalgoorlie in Australia?). The Vuelta and the Giro are always up against the Tour in terms of popularity, and looking for novel ways to present their race. Of course, novel does not always mean better, but the Tour organisers have also considered starting the race in Guadeloupe, which is not that far away.

Collinelli in doubt for Sydney

Italian Olympic medal hope in the pursuit and madison, Andrea Collinelli, is in serious danger of missing the Olympics after he was found to be "not negative" in a doping control a month ago. The outcome of the test was reported in Italian newspaper, La Republicca on Thursday, and it was taken during the time of the Italian track championships, late July.

There is some speculation as to what the substances are. If they were undeclared painkillers, such as Lidocaine, then he will face a light suspension. Stimulants could result in a three month ban, while anabolics are for two years, possibly meaning the end of the 31 year old Italian 1996 Olympic champion's career. These will be confirmed by his B sample.

Italian national track coach, Sandro Callari took a dim view, saying that "Collinelli has disappointed the team, the federation and the whole of Italy. He has ruined us." Whether it was for "carelessness" (undeclared painkillers) or a more serious affair did not matter in the eyes of the coach.

Magnien out for 6 months

Emmanuel Magnien (Francaise des Jeux) has been suspended for six months with deferment by the disciplinary commission of the French Cycling Federation (FFC) after he tested positive to a doping control in the Tour de France. The decision was made today in Paris and accepted by Daniel Baal (FFC president), but not by Magnien. The cyclist immediately said that he would appeal the penalty which he described as unacceptable.

"I am scandalised by this decision which condemns those innocent people who have established good faith," read his official statement. "I will immediately consult with my lawyers to overturn this unacceptable sanction."

As the suspension is with deferment, there is even a chance that he may be able to contest the Olympic Games. If the UCI or the Council for the Prevention of Doping appeal, then they can prevent this. According to the UCI (and Daniel Baal), a procedure is in progress.

Magnien was found positive for Kenacort 80, a corticosteroid that he had injected two days prior to the start of the Tour. It was, he claimed, to cope with a pollen allergy and he did note it in his health booklet. However, UCI and French rules prohibit this type of substance being injected. The test was taken after stage 16 into Morzine.

McEwen update

Australian Olympian, Robbie McEwen was injured during a fall in stage 2 of the Ronde van Nederland and had to be taken to hospital for a suspected broken collarbone. Fortunately, he was found to have sustained lesser damage and will be able to participate in the road race on September 27.

"I have done a little bit of damage to the ligaments in my left shoulder but nothing is broken. It will keep me off the bike for a few days but I'll be back training on Sunday (European time) and plan to start in the Tour of Poland on September 4th. I'll then do a one day race before heading to Australia for the opening ceremony," said McEwen via telephone last night.

"The Tour of Holland had been the start of my final build up to the Games but there's 35 days until the road race so I've got plenty of time. I had a right shoulder AC joint problem in the past so now I'm well balanced (he joked). So long as they don't want to enter me in the 100m butterfly I should be fine for the Olympics."

It was a silly crash typical of the Tour of Holland. I was coming off the right side bike path towards a roundabout and some other riders were coming off the left side. We sort of crisscrossed. I missed the first guy and thought "okay that was close but then someone else clipped my back wheel and I went over the handlebars onto my shoulder."

Peña slams Minguez

US Postal's new recruit for 2001 (currently a member of Vitalicio Seguros), Victor Hugo Peña, has come out in criticism of his team manager, Javier Minguez. In the Colombian newspaper, El Tiempo, Peña said Minguez "mistreated and humiliated him" and has not too many regrets about leaving Minguez.

Minguez called him "the worst rider that he had," in their Giro team. Despite this, Peña went onto win one of the time trial stages, of the four that Vitalicio won in total. "Minguez set himself up as a god, and he thought that I and the others were only good enough to work for him," said Peña, who added that he still respected him for his knowledge and wisdom.

Peña was a triple champion in the Pan American Games, held in his own country of Colombia this year but Minguez failed to recognise this and only spoke of "plagues in our country." However, it appears that Minguez doesn't have a thing against Colombians in general, as Ivan Parra (another Colombian in Vitalicio) is "treated the opposite. He is good".

This Saturday, Peña will start in the Vuelta España for the team, as well as being a member of Colombia's Olympic team. Relations might be a little chilled in Malaga, and for the rest of the year, but Peña stands by his declarations. "I would not have said them I he hadn't treated me this way," he said.

Minguez' co-director, Jose Luis Lopez Cerrón reacted by saying to European Press that Peña "will not suffer in our team," despite his accusations. "The declarations are not serious, they are simply the expression of his opinion," said Lopez Cerrón.

"He is in good form at the moment and I hope that he wins a stage of the Vuelta," he added although he did consider Peña's words a little "inopportune".

Watt loses appeal

Australian cyclist, Kathy Watt has joined the list of unsuccessful athletes to appeal against non-selection in the Austrlalian Olympic team. After her initial appeal to an Independent Tribunal was rejected, she took the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (where she successfully won her appeal in 1996).

Watt argued that Cycling Australia's selection criteria had been incorrectly enforced, and the final hearing ran from 5:00 pm yesterday to 2:00 am this morning. The result this time was not in favour of Watt, and the Australian women's team remains as Alayna Burns, Lyndelle Higginson and Michelle Ferris. This may mean the end of Watt's professional career, with her latest success being the National All States Australian Titles (NASAT) last weekend (full results are still in the ether).

Additionally, NSW cyclist Brent Dawson had his appeal turned down by the CAS today. Dawson and Watt were the only two of five appeals which progressed to the court. The other three, Scott Sunderland (NSW - Road), Stephen Wooldridge (NSW- Track) and Ben Kersten (NSW - Track), were dismissed at the independent tribunal level and the appellants did not pursue the case further.

The entire Australian Olympic team has been subject to a plethora of last minute appeals, most of which have been unsuccessful. Some readers and correspondents have commented that appealing is an Anglo-Saxon tradition.

Wüst stays in

German sprinter, Marcel Wüst will have to stay in Cologne hospital for another week after a third operation was carried out in the area of his damaged right eye. The latest operation was performed by professor Zöller on small breaks in bones around his brow, and he can still only differentiate between dark and light out of that eye.

Marcel was involved in a crash in a criterium in Issoire, France nearly two weeks ago where he fell at over 60 km/h.

Correction: no AXA-ZVVZ

Recently, cyclingnews featured a report on a possible merger of the two teams, AXA (a Dutch division III team) and ZVVZ-Wüstenrot (a Czech division II team). The item stated that the two teams would form a co-sponsored team for the next five years under the name, AXA-ZVVZ. This is not the case however, as ZVVZ owner and manager, Jiri Zenisek informed us that the team as it stands has a contract for 2001 and does not intend to merge with a team of lower status (Banesto or Mapei on the other hand...). The contracts with 10 riders on the team as well as the sponsors have already been ratified. We apologise for the incorrect information and wish the team the best of success in 2001. The merger is actually between AXA and the Dutch amateur squad VVZ-Hitachi.