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News for March 25, 2000

VDB at it again

Frank Vandenbroucke might not only cancel his start in the E3 Harelbeke and Brabantse Pijl, but also replan his whole season by skipping most of the classics and aiming for a good Tour de France, with the Amstel Gold Race as his only spring World Cup race. On Wednesday he stayed in bed with a 39.3 centigrade fever according to the press.

This is also the way that the management of his team Cofidis has learnt about his new plans. Manager Alain Bondue said to Reuters that he has searched for Vandenbroucke for four days and now he finally reads in the Belgian press about VDB's illness and his plans to skip the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.

"It's infuriating," said Bondue who has had to put up with a few things from Vandenbroucke who wanted to leave the team late last year, but then agreed to shorten his remaining two years on contract to one year. He also missed the Pars-Nice after falling and injuring his wrist on the way to the airport in the morning before the first stage. And now this.

"I will simply tell him that I expect him to pursue his program for the next weeks. That is what teammates and management expect," said Bondue.

Olano's good form

The Spanish ONCE rider, Abraham Olano has been enjoying his best year for quite some time, with wins in the Tour of Valencia and Tirreno-Adriatico so far. He starts in tomorrow's two day, three stage race, the Critérium International in France as clear favourite.

He has kept his time trialling up, while improving his climbing - formerly his weak point in tour racing. The reason is a simple matter of a few kilos of weight loss during the off season, something that many professional cyclists find hard to do. However, weight loss without power loss is tricky - Olano managed to lose weight a few years ago, but lost power in the time trials, defeating the purpose. He has been on a special diet imposed by director Manolo Saiz and has succeeded in maintaining his lean body mass to a large degree.

Tomorrow's race will see Olano up against Telekom's Alexandre Vinokourov, who will be their designated leader in the absence of Ullrich and Klöden. Also, Jean Delatour's Laurent Brochard will be there, aiming to capitalise on his Paris-Nice form. Credit Agricole have several strong chances in Julich, Vaughters, O'Grady and Boardman, but maybe not enough to challenge for the overall. It will also be interesting to see how US team Mercury does, in their first European trip for the year. However, the relative shortness of the tour may not be enough to get them up to Euro style racing so quickly.

Pantani: April 17th

No, he has not announced his return for that date, but rather has been called to appear again in court. Judge Michele Leoni in Forlě has rejected the demand for the case to be shelved by Pantani's lawyers, and has asked Pantani to re-appear on April 17 for more questioning.

The original case started in Turin under prosecutor Raffaele Guariniello, who wanted to know the reason for Pantani's super-high hematocrit after Milan-Turin in 1995. Marco's lawyers asked for, and were granted permission that the case be transferred to a different locality (on technical grounds). Following this they requested that it be dropped, but were unsuccessful. Patani must try and defend himself from the accusation of "sporting fraud" - falsifying results through the taking of illicit substances. This and the other problems in his life at the moment have kept him from any serious competition thus far this year.

Lotto goes Dutch?

The future for Lotto has been secured after the co sponsor Adecco signed for another two years. It took Lotto quite some work to find a co sponsor late last year, despite that the team had World Cup winner Andrej Tchmil in their ranks. Adecco is a staffing company with strong interests also in the Netherlands, and it seems possible that the company will increase its sponsorship provided a couple of good Dutch riders are added to the team.

Crashes in the Settimana

This week's Italian race, the Settimana Ciclista Internationale has been plagued by bad weather and many crashes. Amongst those coming down included Linda McCartney's Ben Brooks and Matt Stephens in yesterday's stage, while today they managed to avoid the worst. Team reports say that Ben's crash happened when the bunch were chasing down Andrea Ferrigato, who had a huge lead. A large hole was created in the bunch when 12 riders crashed after touching wheels. Brooks was hospitalised, , but was later declared OK, although he had to retire from the race and fly home. Stephens' was less serious and he was able to finish the stage and ride today.

The team have Pascal Richard in fourth place now, and enjoyed success today with Irishman, Ciarán Power coming in in 6th. Tomorrow's mountain finish will be hard however, and will no doubt see a complete rearrangement in the GC. Linda McCartney aim to ride in this year's Giro, and would dearly love some more top placings in this event to try and obtain a wildcard entry.

Bruylandts to Palmans

Dave Bruylandts who was fired by Farm Frites yeasterday found a new boss within a few hours: Palmans, the team that he worked with until last year. Palmans manager Walter Planckaert has said that Bruylandts will be able start in the upcoming classics, after he finishes his two week suspension, meaning that he will miss the Ronde van Vlaanderen.

Moser wants individual haematocrit levels

Francesco Moser, chairman of the union for professional cyclists, said in an interview with the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine: "It's unfair to use one limit for a hematocrit level. One rider might have 40, another 42 and yet another 50 percent. With the modern techniques it has to be possible to make an individual level for every rider."

This is true, but the time and effort to implement this will probably be a waste. When the new multi-paramater drug tests are introduced, having a hematocrit of 42 will not produce a negative result in an EPO test.

Amica Chips to Amstel

Banesto will not ride the Amstel Gold Race. Amica Chips will be invited instead. Other wild cards have gone to Bankgiroloterij, Palmans and Team Cologne.