News for December 17, 2000

US Postal denies Actovegin use by riders

In a statement issued by the US Postal team's management company Disson Furst and Partners, the general manager of the team, Mark Gorski, has firmly denied that any of US Postal's riders used Actovegin in the 2000 Tour de France, but has admitted that Actovegin was present in the team's medical supplies for other reasons. Gorski has also stated that the Tour de France remains the team's major aim in 2001.

The statement in full reads:

"Since the preposterous rumor continues to fester in the international press, I want to clearly state that none of the nine riders representing the US Postal Service Pro Cycling Team at the 2000 Tour de France used Actovegin.

"Prior to the start of the 2000 Tour, Actovegin was brought into France by our team physician with the full authorization of the Agence Française de Securité Sanitaire des Produits de Santé, the French medical control agency. Actovegin was available to be used to treat severe skin abrasions due to crashes and to aid one of our staff members who has diabetes.

"Due to his ongoing frustrations at the many claims that have been brought against him, team member and two-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong publicly suggested he might not participate in the 2001 Tour. Lance and Directeur Sportif Johan Bruyneel have assured me that our goal remains the same — to defend the yellow jersey in the 2001 Tour. This will continue to be our team's main competitive focus and we will enter the 2001 season with a goal of winning cycling's greatest event for the third consecutive year."

Lemond on cycling's black period, Mercury and Armstrong

"You don't boycott the greatest race of the year like that."

In an interview with AFP, triple Tour winner and twice world champion Greg Lemond said cycling was currently passing through a black period of struggling with doping, but a unified effort by the IOC and UCI could solve the problem.

Asked how he currently viewed the world of cycling, Lemond responded: "I adore this sport, it is very dear to me. But cycling has been passing through a black period for a few years. The Nineties were hard, they were unhappy. The sport has been closely watched by everyone and has lost its credibility. It's necessary to restore the public's confidence."

To achieve that, Lemond believes the UCI and IOC need to work together to avoid conflicts of interest and control irregularities, corruption and bribes around doping. "I do not want to appear critical, but the IOC is not clean of suspicion," he said, adding that he wanted to see a healthy sport, free of scandals and doping.

On the threat by Lance Armstrong to boycott the Tour because of the accusations of doping directed at Armstrong's US Postal team by the French media last month, Lemond said: "I don't understand it. It's not logical. I know that Lance is disturbed by everything that is currently happening, but onyou don't boycott the greatest bike race of the year like that. It would be a big mistake. If he believes that the media attention evaporate after a year, he is mistaken. The best way of proving his innocence is to take part."

Turning to his involvement with the Mercury team, Lemond said he was very pleased to be back in cycling, but he would not be as involved in day-to-day decision-making in the team as has been reported, but could not say more because the contract was not due to be finalised until Tuesday.

Cipollini suspended for February

Volatile Italian sprint star Mario Cipollini will spend February eating pizza and watching videos while the rest of the pro peloton gets its season underway. Cipollini has been suspended for a month by the UCI as punishment for fighting with Spanish rider Francisco Cerezo (Vitalicio Seguros) at the sign-in of stage five of the 2000 Vuelta Espana. At the time Cipollini claimed Cerezo insulted him when the Italian attempted to discuss the previous day's sprint, in which he believed he'd been obstructed. Cipollini was immediately suspended from the race and later apologised, asking Cerezo's forgiveness via Spanish radio.

The suspension means Cipollini will miss the Tour of Majorca, the Ruta del Sol and the Tour of the Mediterranean, but will be available for the Tour Down Under in January, as announced earlier this week.

Jalabert on a new team and the Tour

"I am still a winner," he tells Danish press

Laurent Jalabert recently met the Danish press for the first time in his capacity as captain for his new Danish squad, CSC-World Online. His usual relaxed and low-key self, Jalabert talked about his feelings on the move to the team ­ only his third team in what is arguably the most illustrious career among active members of the peloton ­ and his expectations for the coming season.

"I am still a winner. I am convinced about that. I have won an average of 11 races per season in the course of my 12-year career, and I don't see any reason why I shouldn't be able to remain at the top. But anyone who knows anything about cycling knows how incredibly difficult it is to win and how many there are who want to do it so badly. If I am able to continue my streak of victories it will be to the team's credit to a great degree. It is only in the time trials that one man can do it on his own. Nobody can manage without support from team-mates. Therefore I am also really happy about the fact that I have been able to develop a good relationship to everyone on the team at this assembly in Herning (Denmark). That is the way I feel, in any case. I feel that I have proven in the past that I deserve full support when I call for it. But also that I am not afraid to support a team-mate who finds himself in a favourable position. And that is the way it will continue to be. I can guarantee, that everyone that proves to have the capacity to win will get the opportunity to take his chance. And I will be overjoyed if that leads to victory. But I also believe that I will experience a season that is going to be so good that most of the time it is going to be me that the team is riding for."

About the uncertainty preceding Jalabert's signing with Riis's squad, Jalabert explains, "It was my clear goal to sign with a French team. But I quickly found out that there weren't too many serious offers. I don't know why. Perhaps I am too expensive. The fact of the matter is that I was very surprised that there was such little interest. Only Bonjour tried to hang on, but apparently they couldn't get things to fit financially. For that reason I was open to new opportunities when the first call came from Bjarne Riis and my old team-mate at ONCE, Johnny Weltz. I was in Sydney at the time, so it was my attorney who took care of the preliminary negotiations. I will honestly admit that I didn't know much about the Danish team beyond the fact that I had noticed their presence in the races and the fact that they managed to win once in a while. But I didn't have any particular relationship to the riders, even though I am perfectly aware of who Bo Hamburger and Rolf Sørensen are."

"Conversely I feel that it has been incredibly easy to get a feeling for the team's spirit. Perhaps that is related to the fact that the team is so international. In any case, I can certainly say that I really feel comfortable and that I haven't regretted signing the contract for a moment." The class act that he is, Jalabert did not wish to comment on his break with Manolo Saiz and ONCE.

Looking forward to his first season with CSC-World Online, Jalabert indicated his expectations for 2001: "The team's leadership has not laid any pressure on me. I'm going to take it easy and find my form and work to be on top for the Classics. Milano-Sanremo, the Tour of Flanders and Liege-Bastogne-Liege are going to be my big goals. Actually, I would like to take a shot at Paris-Roubaix, but I think I will wait a year with that, as Bjarne [Riis] thinks that it is too risky. But I am looking forward to taking a go at it at some point in time. After my many years at ONCE it is going to be something totally new to ride for a team that is giving everything it has in this area. ONCE was almost participating out of a sense of obligation if the team was there at all. That's the case for almost all of the Spanish teams - the Classics aren't as interesting as the stage races. But personally I feel quite differently. Because they offer the challenges that are best suited for me."

"And then there is the Tour de France, of course ­ it will be one of the highlights of my season as well. In that connection I am really looking forward to working with the plans that Bjarne Riis has laid out for the team. All-in-all I must say that I am really impressed by his training philosophy. The training regime he has developed is very detailed and well considered. I am ready to totally follow his plans. While it is true that I have been in the peloton for many years and feel that I know what it takes for me to be able to function optimally, I need new incentives. And that is what I am getting with the plan for the coming season that is being prepared for me, which includes the time necessary for structured training."

"I know what a hell the Tour can be. It is the biggest race that one can possibly imagine participating in, but that brings terrible suffering with it if one is not properly prepared. I have dropped the idea of possibly winning the Tour. There were several years where I approached the task convinced that it was possible for me to win it. Keeping in mind that it does not pay to meet up for such a big race in a demoralized state. But now I have recognized that I am not the best in that area and never will be. It just can't be done. I do not feel that it has been a particularly painful process of recognition, even though it naturally requires a certain amount of morale to accept that one will never be the winner of the greatest bicycle race in the world. But the Tour de France can provide so many other sources of encouragement. And with the plans and the team that we will be riding with next year, I certainly do not regard it as improbable that we can win the team time trial, for example, and that way capture the yellow jersey for myself or another member of the team, depending on who has fared the best in the prologue."

"ONCE's victory in the TTT this year demonstrated that it is not necessarily the best team in the Tour that wins the TTT. The team that has prepared itself 100 per cent for precisely that task can do it. It doesn't work if you approach the job with the objective to lose the fewest possible minutes or seconds. It is a situation in which it is all about being convinced that one is better than everyone else. And that is the kind of self-confidence that I am going to try to beat into our team when things bust loose next summer."

"Beyond that I am hoping that I am able to be prepared to fight for stages and jerseys at the Tour. As I already said, it is impossible for me to wear the yellow jersey all the way to Paris. I still haven't studied the details of the route, but there will be mountain stages where I'll have to give up on following the leaders. Normally the Alps are the hardest for me, but it doesn't help me that the toughest challenges this year appear to be waiting in the Pyrenees. The green jersey might also be a possibility. In any case, I'm really looking forward to riding the Tour with a team that is going to be giving it all for the race. Because obviously I want to be able to do well on my home court."

Saulius Ruskys signs for Gerolsteiner

26 year old Lithuanian rider Saulius Ruskys, recently with the French St Quentin Octos team, has signed for German division II squad Gerolsteiner. Gerolsteiner team boss Hans Michael Holczer said the new acquisition would help close the gap in the team's sprinting ability caused by the loss of Sven Teutenbergs to Festina. "after we strengthened the team with climbers like George Totschnig we needed another man for stage wins," said Holczer. Ruskys completes the team's 18-man roster.