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News for June 5, 2000

83rd Giro d'Italia

What the winners said

The podium: Casagrande, Garzelli and Simoni
Photo: © AFP

Overall winner, Stefano Garzelli of Mercatone Uno described his win as a dream. "I can not believe it. I came with the idea of being on the podium perhaps, so I had nothing to lost. This is why I was always relaxed," he said.

"I must thank my teammate Pantani for his help in the hardest parts of the race. During the race, in the stage to Briançon, and afterwards as well. His advice helped me a great deal, especially from a psychological perspective. I would also like to say that I feel very honoured to be compared with him. But now it's time to find another name for me than Piratino," said the small Pirate.

Francesco Casagrande, second overall said that he was "guaranteed" to win this year, had he not experienced problems with a sciatic nerve in his left leg in the time trial to Sestrieres. "It is very hard to lose the Giro so close to the end. But, I'm not bitter and I'll come back next year. I had the Maglia Rosa for 12 days, and I still have a few years to win the Giro. It is better to look for the good moments - I was however very optimistic in the time trial yesterday."

Casagrande had the consolation of finishing first in the green mountains jersey, ahead of Columbian Chepe Gonzalez. Also, he is now the new World number one, overtaking Laurent Jalabert in the UCI rankings.

Marco Pantani, Garzelli's teammate and mentor commented that he "thought that Garzelli was the strongest and thoroughly deserved his overall win."

Gilberto Simoni, third overall for the second year in a row. "I tried several times to attack and go for the jersey. But the parcours was not appropriate for me to do this. Perhaps I was missing something of my courage in the stage to Abetone. My comfort is that I gave everything. I did not win, but I finished on the podium for the second time in two years. I will see what the future brings."

"What can I say about Garzelli? He laid the foundation for his win with the time trial. Whoever wins the Giro earns it."

Mapei's Andrea Noè finished fourth overall, taking that position from teammate Pavel Tonkov. "Our team rode well together, and we won two stages. I thought I rode a good race. In Sestrieres I rode the best time trial of my life. I regret that I cracked a little during the stage to Briancon in the heat."

Tonkov was straightforward: "I went to the start in order to win the Pink Jersey. At the finish, I was fifth. That is, without doubt a disappointment. I congratulate Garzelli as he won in a beautiful way."

Ivan Gotti (Polti) blamed his bad Giro this year on trachitis (inflammation of the bronchial tubes). He contracted this after the Tour de Romandie and didn't recover in time for the Giro. He also admitted that he wasn't racing well in the early stages quite apart from this. "I will now recover and will return to preparation and competition in August for the Vuelta."

Stefano Garzelli: a profile

Stefano Garzelli
Photo: © AFP

Stefano Garzelli won the Giro in his fourth attempt, and also his fourth year as a professional. He is not yet 27, and lives in the small village (2,500 people) of Besano, Lombardy near the Swiss-Italian border. This is his biggest victory, although he won the Tour of Switzerland in 1998. He has only ridden the Tour de France once, in 1999 where he finished 32nd.

Born: July 16, 1973, Varese, Italy
Lives: Besano (Lombardy)
Height: 1.75 m
Weight: 62 kg
Professional since: 1997 (Mercatone Uno)

Career highlights:

1997

9th, Giro d'Italia

1998

1st, Tour of Switzerland, overall & two stages

1999

1st, GP Miguel Indurain
3rd, Stage of Tour of the Basque Country
4th, Milan-San Remo
32nd, Tour de France

2000

1st, Giro d'Italia, overall and stage 18
4th, Stage of Settimana Lombarda

Ullrich training again

After he wasn't able to start in the important Classique des Alpes on Saturday due to back pain, Tour favourite Jan Ullrich is looking to fast track his training. His team director, Walter Godefroot is concerned, saying that "If he cannot train fully next week, then we will have enormous problems. But I'm still intent on him starting."

For the time being, he has been given the all-clear by team doctor Lothar Heinrich. He trained today with relative ease around Mont Ventoux. His team is hoping that he will lose just this one day of competition before the Tour starts.

On Saturday, the pain was such that he couldn't even tie his shoes and racing was out of the question. Heinrich gave him two injections in the back as well as a massage and by the evening, Ullrich had improved significantly. Ullrich will race next on June 13 in the Tour de Suisse, the final leadup tour before the big one.

All of the other favourites appear to be in good form already: Pantani, Jimenez, Escartin, Armstrong, Zülle are racing well. Lance Armstrong appears not to have been greatly affected by his fall in the Pyrenees a few weeks ago. He placed third in the Classique des Alpes and second in the Dauphiné prologue. "I am riding better than at this time last year," he said. "My weight is already what it was at the start of the Tour in '99. However, this Critérium is harder than last year, and I'm not aiming to win it," said Armstrong.

Delatour protests

Along with Lampre-Daikin, French team Jean Delatour are officially protesting about their exclusion from the Tour de France. They are down as "first reserve" should any of the 20 teams not start on July 1. J-T's big boss, Jean-Pierre Fréty has sent a letter to the French minister for sport, Marie George Buffet, criticising Tour patron Jean-Marie Leblanc's decision to exclude them in favour of the rest (Kelme, Memorycard-Jack&Jones, and Bonjour).

"The goalposts have moved. Ethical and moral considerations demand that the selection procedures be made known. We want to know why, because we are just like teams that have got starts," wrote Fréty, probably referring to Memorycard Jack&Jones.

What's the word on Zaxby's?

By John Alsedek, cyclingnews.com correspondent

Hear the name 'Zaxby's', and, unless you reside in the American Southeast, odds are that your response will be "huh?" Zaxby's is a fast-growing chain of 'high quality fast food' restaurants that specialize in buffalo wings and chicken fingers, owned by entrepreneur Zack McElroy. Zaxby's was lured into the sport by Athens Twilight Criterium co-director Micah Rice, who was hoping that they'd be interested in doing a sponsorship deal for the race. While that didn't pan out, Zaxby's bit on Rice's Plan B: a cycling team. They liked the idea of tying a racing team in with a helmet safety program that would be carried out both in schools and in Zaxby's restaurants, so Rice started recruiting regional riders and assorted co-sponsors, including Audi, who supplied the team with a pair of A6 sedans ("the most amazing team vehicles in the peloton!", chimes in neo-pro Rusty Miller).

When all was said and done, they realized that they had enough money to actually field a Division III professional team...and so they did, blending a group of rookies with a couple of old hands like Steve Sevener and Chris Pic. Thus, the Zaxby's Cycling Team was born.

As is the case with any new team, Zaxby's has had its ups and downs. The team has had some modest results this season, but lost Chris Pic - the rider who got a number of those results - to the powerhouse Mercury squad in May. Says Rice, "We were happy to have Chris, but we let him go his own way. He was ready to ride for a big team".

Then there's the issue of team organization, particularly the lack of a manager: as Rice notes, "It's tough to go to a race and worry about racing, and then have to worry about where you're staying the night - it takes some of the edge off."

Still, the riders are optimistic about the team's present and future both, according to team elder statesman Sevener, "We're satisfied with where we are and where it's all going, both for now and in the years to come." They've set reasonable goals for themselves, concentrating their efforts on the Southeast, while at the same time trying to get some visibility on the national circuit via riders like sprinter Sevener and neo-pro Scottie Weiss, who was third in last year's National Elite Road Race.

There's one other thing they're hoping to get out of this season: "We want to earn respect", says Miller. "If we don't prove ourselves, people are going to laugh at us because we're the low men on the totem pole." Weiss echoes those sentiments, adding that "I've really been pushing myself to get better results."

Zaxby's has done a credible job of earning respect over the past few weeks: Weiss placed seventh in the Tour Le Fleur time trial, Miller helped ignite the longest-lived break of the day in the Olympic Trials Road Race, and the whole team has ridden hard, albeit with very modest success, in the First Union series. Should someone like Weiss crack the top ten or fifteen in today's U.S. Professional Championship, that would go a long way towards earning Zaxby's that sought-after respect. Once that comes, the other goals should follow.

Evans leads Aussie assault

Reigning World Cup Series champion, Cadel Evans, will lead a 30 strong Australian team at this week's Mountain Bike World Championships in Sierra Nevada, Spain. Evans has twice won the World Cup but has yet to win the World Championship gold medal, despite winning 6 World's medals of various colours throughout his career.

Although Evans was injured twice this year with a broken collarbone, he is now riding well again, if not quite at his best. "Obviously because I've won the World Cup twice now and come so close so many times to winning the world title it's very important to me to win this week," said Evans from his base in Switzerland. "A good result would be a great confidence booster but because of the set backs I've had with two broken collarbones this year I know my lack of racing might impact on my chances."

He almost won the race last year, but crashed in the final kilometre allowing Italian Marco Bui to win. Evans had to be content with silver.

The women's team will be led by Canberra's Mary Grigson, who celebrated her 29th birthday on Saturday, who has been a top performer in the World Cup so far this year. Winner of round one in Napa, Mexico, Grigson is keen to go for a medal in Spain this weekend.

The Championships are being raced at 2100m altitude in the Andalusian ski resort of Sierra Nevada. The men's and women's cross country events are scheduled for Sunday June 11th, while the downhill events will take place on June 10 and the dual slalom competition on June 8.

Livingston joins Saturn

Bobby Livingston (Emmaus, PA) has joined the Saturn Cycling Team as the Women's Team Director. Livingston is a 1988 Olympian and a five-time US National Champion. Although much of his racing experience was on the velodrome, Livingtson has been coaching and directing riders since 1993 and was the Director for the Cox Cycling Team in 1999.

Livingston, who is married to Saturn rider, Karen Bliss Livingston, said that he is looking forward to the post and is very excited to be working with the team.