News for June 1, 2000

83rd Giro d'Italia

Galdeano saves the day

Alvaro Gonzalez
Photo: © AFP

After Vicioso's declassification in stage 15, the Spanish were looking for revenge and they got it to an extent. Today, Alvaro Gonzalez de Galdeano (Vitalicio Seguros) managed a 115 kilometre solo breakaway to win stage 17, 236 kilometres between Meda and Genoa. It was the third win for the Spanish team, but the first by a Spaniard in the team (Jan Hruska = Czech, Victor Pe˝a = Colombian).

In fact, before the start today, the older brother (and teammate) of Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano confidently said that "today, I'll win a stage." It was only by 24 seconds in the end, but that's as good as 10 minutes as far as stage wins are concerned. It was an important victory for the team, as the main sponsor, Vitalicio Seguros (a Spanish insurance company) is considering pulling out at the end of the year.

"We hope that after these three Giro stage wins that the sponsor reconsiders his decision," said De Galdeano afterwards.

On his stage win, he said that it was the last one that he had a realistic chance of winning, so he went for it. "I had my break under control, I always knew what was going on behind me, because on the last three laps I could have lost everything," he said of his victory. "I was never certain until the finish, when I still had 30 seconds in the last kilometre. I am 30 and this has been my first Giro. It has proved to be worthwhile."

Di Luca retires

Danilo "di Caprio" di Luca, the blonde bombshell from Cantina Tollo was forced to quit the Giro today after suffering from achilles tendonitis for the past few days. Although at one point he was up with the top GC riders, the young rider from Abruzzo couldn't go for longer than 28 kilometres today before it was too much.

"Next year, I will return to the Giro in order to win," he declared afterwards. "I've had many offers from Italian, French and Spanish teams, but I have not yet decided," he said in relation to his contract for next year.

Belda annoyed

Kelme's director, Vincente Belda is still angry at Angel Vicioso's disqualification in stage 15 of the Giro, and now has the backing of most of the Spanish cycling public to get the decision reversed. "Never was there so much solidarity in the team and in the Spanish press," he said. He has petitioned the UCI to look into the matter, and has demanded that the four commissaires who made the decision be expelled from the race.

"We will present an official demand before the Disciplinary Commission to annul the declassification that took place in the jury room. It was not a fact of the race. What we lost in the jury room, it is possible to win there," he said to European Press.

He was astounded because the commissaires did not even consult the rider or the team before they made their decision. He also was amazed at the length of time it took to make the ruling, as it took place after the ceremony and after the anti-doping control. He compared it with TV umpires in a soccer match, who have to make their decision within a few seconds. "The judges have time to study the riders, and view the video countless times. They do not have to decide in a second if a ball enters or not," he said.

The mountains return tomorrow

The final three decisive stages begin tomorrow with stage 18, 176 kilometres from Genoa to Pratonevoso, a tough mountain finish at 1615 metres. The following day will be a little harder though, with the Colle del Agnello (2748 metres, the highest point in the race) and the Col d'Izoard (2361 metres) to overcome before the run into Briancon. Then stage 20 will be from Briancon to Sestrieres. Cyclingnews will be providing live updates of these stages as they unfold. Stay tuned!

The Intergiro explained

The intergiro (blue jersey) one of the competitions of the Giro that many cycling pundits have no idea about. It's not the same as the intermediate sprints or points, as it is a timed competition. It is designed to make things interesting on easier stages because it requires the riders to get aggressive early on. Each stage (including time trials) has one designated intergiro spot, and the first (or fastest) rider to that point scores a 30 second bonus in the competition, with the next five riders scoring 24, 18, 14, 9 and 4 seconds respectively. The bonuses only count for the intergiro and not the overall GC.

The competition, although measured in time, is actually decided on bonuses, because even if a rider has a one minute gap when he crosses the intergiro point, his recorded time (when it's calculated at the end) is the same as the next rider across. Hence, the leader of the intergiro (Fabrizio Guidi) will not end up with a large gap to second place. His time will be approximately half that of the overall leader.

Clear?

Tour de France teams 2000

The last three 'wildcard' teams for the Tour de France were selected in Paris yesterday, bringing the total to 20 in the race. To recap: US Postal Service, Mapei-Quick Step, Rabobank, ONCE-Deutsche Bank, Team Polti, Deutsche Telekom, Mercatone Uno, Saeco-Valli & Valli, Banesto, Farm Frites, Lotto-Adecco, Vini Caldirola, Ag2r-Prevoyance, Festina-Lotus, Cofidis, La Franšaise des Jeux, and CrÚdit Agricole are all automatically selected, with the final three spots going to Kelme-Costa Blanca, Memory Card-Jack & Jones, and Bonjour-Tourpargel. Some people would call it uncanny, but the final three were not that hard to pick. This brings the total to six French teams, five Italian teams, three Spanish teams, two Dutch teams, and one German, American, Belgian and Danish team.

Patron of the Tour, Jean Marie Leblanc said of the wildcard teams that "they appear to us to have the best sporting record." It was a a little surprising, selecting just one more French team as a wildcard out of three potential candidates, but the results are (or aren't) there to see.

Bonjour, the obvious choice

This Bonjour team, directed by Jean-Rene Bernaudeau is probably the best of the rest of the remaining French teams, especially after its results in May. Didier Rous' victory in the Grand Prix Midi Libre was the key to Bonjour jumping over the next team, Jean-Delatour. In addition, other riders such as Damien Nazon, Jean-Cyril Robin and the French Champion, Francois Simon are all strong members of the team with good results. The Midi Libre was unkind to Big Mat though, who lost three of their important riders in crashes.

Kelme: not surprised

The directeur sportif of Kelme-Costa Blanca, Vincente Belda wasn't that shaken when he was told that his team had scraped in. "It would have been a big surprise if we had not gone to France," he told European Press afterwards. "The season has been good so far, and in addition we have last year's third place. It would have been a huge disappointment not to go, but with Fernando Escartin, we were sure that it would not happen."

Danes happy

Danish cycling is celebrating today after Memorycard Jack&Jones got one of the wild cards to the Tour de France. The team had given up hopes a month a go but very strong performances by Martin Rittsel and Michael Sandst°d in the Four Days of Dunkerque and The Tour de l'Oise et Picardie must have convinced the organisers. The Danes also had a good classics season with Tristan Hoffman earning top ten spots in several of the spring classics. They also had a good Paris-Nice with Bo Hamburger winning a stage and Rittsel in the top ten.

The season hasn't been completely cloudless. Danish Champion Nicolai Bo Larsen's high haematocrit values at the Tour of Flanders all but finished the team. The sponsors were ready to withdraw their contributions immediately, and high haematocrit levels aren't too popular with Tour de France director Jean Marie Leblanc.

"I am sure we will see the team at the front the first ten days of the tour, before the mountains. A Tour without Memorycard Jack&Jones isn't a fair Tour. They won the second division, and they are now tenth among the 22 first division teams," Jean Marie Leblanc said at the official announcement.

"They don't have the greatest climbers, but it's a good team. And who knows? Maybe Sandst°d will win the yellow jersey in the prologue," he added. The prologue, that actually is a 16 km TT stage, is held in Futuruscope on July 1. Let us add that Martin Rittsel also excels in short TT's.

The team has eighteen riders. The team will of course not be revealed until a few days before the start but some names can be expected: Sandst°d for the TT stages and the western flats. Rittsel who is a good all rounder. Bo Hamburger and Jesper Skibby will add Tour experience. Tristan Hoffman is also a strong rider and Michael Blaudzun should also be expected on the team and so should, (despite the haematocrit test) Danish champion Nicolaj Bo Larsen. Maybe the "Dannebrog" - the red and white Danish flag - will be seen in the tour again. It was worn by Bjarne Riis in 1996 until he traded it for a yellow.

The ones left out

For every winner there is more than one loser, and Jean Delatour and Lampre-Daikin are the two biggest teams left out of this year's Tour. Michel Gros, directeur sportif of Jean Delatour said that he and his team were "enormously disappointed" with the decision. They thought they had done enough to be selected, and were actually out on a training ride in the Alps when the news was broken. Gros said that it was very hard to convince them to finish climbing the Izoard (part of one of the Tour stages) after they heard the news.

As a French team, they had big hopes for Tour selection and built their team around this possibility. Now, their future next year is uncertain, but Gros will take a few days to decide.

As far as Lampre are concerned, they have the Giro as one of their major goals and Gilberto Simoni is trying his best to topple Casagrande and Garzelli. They've already had two stage wins, and were close to a third in the mountains, so the team can certainly go on without the Tour.

Their team director wasn't as happy though. "Completely unacceptable! We are, according to the latest ranking, the seventh team in the world, so it is not right that we cannot enter the Tour de France," said Pietro Algeri, who will consider engaging UCI president Hein Verbruggen in the matter.

It might be worth noting that MemoryCard-Jack & Jones is ranked tenth and Kelme twelfth while Jean Delatour is fourth in the second division and Bonjour sixth.

Hohenfelder adds

German division III team, Hohenfelder-Concorde, lost one of their riders last month (Rafael Chyla) after he was fired. They have now filled the hole with a promising young rider, Tobias Niggemeier, from Wittekind Herford. He is strong in the mountain bike peloton where he is ranked in the elite, but he wishes to concentrate more on the road. He is 20 and rode quite well in the K÷ln-Schuld-Frechen where he finished with the leaders on his debut. He is expected to be a useful domestique for the team, and played a key role in Nick Gates' victory in the Harsewinkel Rundfarht.