News for January 8, 2000

Cees Priem and TVM stop

After 14 years of major sponsorship, Dutch company TVM have decided to end their involvment with cycling. Although they had originally planned (last October) to co-sponsor the Farm Frites team this year, the company decided that enough was enough, and ended the agreement today.

Ad Bos, director of TVM told Dutch press: "We told Farm Frites we wished to stop in January. It was enough. They wanted to be the head sponsor, but asked us to be the co-sponsor. Because we want to keep the team alive, we agreed. However, after 14 years as head sponsor, we didn't want to be in the shadow for a year."

Meanwhile, former leader Cees Priem along with Egon van Kessel will depart the team as well. Although Priem had orginally planned to stay, the new team of Farm Frites wished to start with a clean slate. For his part, Priem didn't comment. He left for a skiing holiday to France, a country where he has spent some time in fairly recently.

The new team leader is Teun van Vliet, while Jacques Hanagreef will be the general manager.

Gisbers: A former rider speaks

The recent comments of former PDM team leader, Dutchman Jan Gisbers have provoked a varied response from sections of the cycling community. After Rooks, Winnen and Ducrot, and then Theunisse revealed that they had doped during their careers, Gisbers stated that "every teamleader in cycling knows that riders - in cooperation with doctors or soigneurs - use doping. How much is unknown."

While this may seem like a passive condoning of drug taking within the team, does it mean that he ever suggested it among his riders? Cyclingnews recently spoke with Joao Corriere, a Portuguese rider who rode for one of Gisbers' teams four years ago, the Dutch third division Europolis team (later Axa). The team rode in the Top Competition in Holland, and was the number one team for that year. A second section of the team also participated in races abroad in Spain, Italy and Portugal.

However, Corriere has since joined the ranks of racers that have left the sport as an indirect effect of drugs, and he know rides for enjoyment. His experiences in Portugal led to this, where one of his colleagues died of a heart attack and several others were doing some crazy things.

Corriere only rode with the Europolis team for a year, however he developed a good relationship with Gisbers, living next door to him in Eindhoven. He was adamant that he had never been asked by Jan, or for that matter the team soigneurs or doctors, to take any illegal products.

"Nobody I knew of or saw took drugs, or even suggested it while I was there. I think that we had a clean team, although I can't speak for PDM as I didn't ride there."

"Jan was a great 'riders' guy, and he often gets a bad wrap from people who don't know him personally. Anything he promised, he delivered, and all the boys really liked him. He was a very responsible person."

"I'm not really surprised at his comments though - nobody breaks "the silence" regarding doping, as far as who's doing it. It was very closed and never discussed."

On ex-TVM manager, Egon van Kessel: "I travelled with the Dutch team to the Junior World's in Greece and Australia, under Egon van Kessel. He strictly informed us that if any of us were caught taking drugs or tested positive, then we would be immediately be kicked off the team and our licences revoked."

That said, the question is still whether this is the case amongst the first division teams. The riders are ultimately responsible for their own drug taking (unless they are tied down and injected). But, the responsibility stretches further than this: the doctors for obtaining the drugs, the sponsors and the team leaders for making demands on the riders, and the UCI for enforcing penalties and make them mean something, and finally, the press for printing the truth rather than "what constitutes a good story".

Of course, this can lead to one (or several) witch hunts once politics takes over. See the current Italian prosecution for an example. It is a very complex issue and everyone needs to help by being as honest as possible, despite the risks.

Early season training: from Guadaloupe to Australia

The world's top professional bike riders have once again spread their wings at the beginning of the season, choosing to visit exotic climes in pursuit of some training kilometers.

Despite his commitments back home, Marco "Il Pirata" Pantani has been in the Canary Islands, possibly hooking up with Michele Bartoli for a spin. The two certainly get on like a house on fire and they will undoubtably have fun exchanging tactical tips.

Jan Ullrich is off to South Africa and Majorca, while teammates Zabel and co. are in Australia for the Tour Down Under. Lance Armstrong is busy sunning himself in California, while both Oscar Freire and Manuel Beltrán are choosing to start their seasons in Jávea, Spain before their season opens with the Tour of Majorca.

Also in Jávea, Freire's old team, Vitalicio Seguros will hold a training camp from January 13 to 24, with team leader Igor González de Galdeano making his first steps towards his Vuelta a Espana preparation.

Likewise, the Festina team of Juan Fernandez will commence their training camp in Calpe (Alicante). However, Banesto will head to the Costa del Sol from January 17 - 25 for their camp, with Zulle and "el Chaba" Jiménez who starts his eleventh season.

ONCE, with top riders Olano, Jalabert, and new signing Iván Gutiérrez, world U-23 ITT champion will meet on the 18th of January for 8 days, while Vicente Belda's new Kelme outfit heads to the Mediterranean and then the Ivory Coast on the 1st of February.

Euskaltel will be stay in Bilbao in the Basque Country from January 26 - 27 of January then Vitoria on the 28th and 29th. Finally, Costa Almeria and Fuenlabrada have opted not to have the whole team meet before their first competition of the season.