News for March 30, 2000

VDB announces return

That international man of mystery, Frank Vandenbroucke (Cofidis), is to return to competition in mid-May, thereby missing the spring classics. His team announced that their number one rider has been suffering from digestive disorders, headaches and fever this past week, and is in no shape to compete. Vandenbroucke has lost four kilos, with considerable muscle wastage, possibly as the result of a viral infection they said.

He will commence training soon, with racing planned for May in order to prepare for the Tour, his (now) principle objective for the year. Team director Alain Bondue said that "Other examinations are planned. The first stage for him is to get better, then to find form."

"The Tour is the objective of Cofidis," he added. "We will set up a program for him. The details are not fixed but he should be able to undertake a two week training course soon, in a sunnier country. It is necessary that he be set up under the best conditions."

Bondue also denied rumours that VDB would be disciplined by the team, after his latest "no showing".

De Panne snippets

After his win in today's stage 2 of the "Driedaagse de Panne", Belgian Tom Steels attributed it to getting the right wheel in the sprint. "The wheel of Tchmil was the best," said the rider who had, somewhat ironically suffered a broken saddle yesterday. "Over the Kemmelberg I had good legs, which is good for both the Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix. I was alone without helpers in the lead group," he added. "I didn't think to take Vainsteins wheel. Rather Tchmil, and it turned out to be the right one."

Romans Vainsteins (second in the stage and leader in the GC) said that he was "lucky to be wearing the white jersey. Steels is much quicker than me in the sprint, that I know. I still have a chance to win overall, but we'll see after the time trial."

ONCE no to Giro

As reported yesterday, ONCE-Deutsche Bank will not take part in the Giro d'Italia. The reason is that with only a limited number of riders for all three grand tours it would be too much. The team has only seventeen riders that can be used for the grand tours. Also with only a two week break between the races it would be hard to recuperate.

The team has started the season in style (7 consecutive stage race wins) and will go on for another two weeks, past the Liege-Bastogne-Liege, before it's time to calm down and begin the count down for the Tour de France, according to sports director Manolo Saiz on Spanish TV.

José María Jiménez and Aitor Garmendia will lead the Banesto squad for Gran Premio Indurain (April 1) and Vuelta al País Vasco from April 3 to 7. Arrieta, Mancebo, Baranowski, Barbosa, Brozina, Garmendia, Latasa and Aitor and Unai Osa will be the others.

Boogerd no to Flanders

Rabobank's captain Michael Boogerd will not start in the Tour of Flanders. He still has pains in his neck and back after the fall in the closing individual time trial of the Setmana Catalana in Spain last week. He managed to race and finish eighth in the Brabantse Pijl last Sunday but was still in pain.

He will consult his doctor on Wednesday but he thinks that the cobbles of Flanders will make things worse and will wait for a full recovery.

The Rabobank team will be Maarten den Bakker, Steven de Jongh, Leon van Bon, Markus Zberg, Rolf Sörensen, Marc Wauters, Aart Vierhouten and Matthé Pronk.

German Telekom has also announced its team for the Ronde: Rolf Aldag, Gianmatteo Fagnini, Ralf Grabsch, Danilo Hondo, Kai Hundertmarck, Jan Schaffrath and Steffen Wesemann will aid captain Erik Zabel.

Dave Bruylandts back

Recently sacked Farm Frites rider, Dave Bruylandts is now riding with Palmans. However, he will have to undergo another hematocrit test in Lausanne before he is allowed to compete again. Providing this is in order, he will most likely start in Gent-Wevelgem next Wednesday.

Axel Merckx to ride Giro

Mapei's Axel Merckx has shifted his seasons plans somewhat, and will ride the Giro d'Italia this year. Although it was not on his plans, the Belgian will include it now along with the Vuelta and not participate in the Tour de France. His other main goal this year is the World Championship road race in Plouay.

Merckx meets the Pope

Eddy Merckx the elder had an audience with the Pope on Wednesday, according to an official announcement from the Vatican. 54 year old Merckx is the winner of 524 races, including 5 apiece in the Tour de France and the Giro d'Italia. He was chosen as sportsperson of the year in 1969, 1971 and 1974 and is in most eyes, the greatest cyclist of all time.

Jan van Eijden proven not guilty

The track sprinter Jan van Eijden has been proven to be not guilty of using EPO after a test where he has been found to have a naturally high haematocrit value. Van Eijden was tested at last year's track World's in Berlin and had a haematocrit level over 50 percent and was subsequently kept from racing for two weeks.

The case seemed odd though, since EPO is used to gain endurance and not strength, which is what a sprinter needs. Anabolics are usually the drug problem among sprinters. Van Eijden will now be allowed to have a haematocrit level of 52 percent instead of the 50 that UCI allows in general.

Eric Weisspfennig used Fenoterol

German track rider Eric Weisspfennig tested positive for Fenoterol, a beta2 agonist (similar to ventolin or salbutamol), during the Six days of Bremen in January, the German Cyclist's Union announced Tuesday. 30 year old Weisspfennig was an Olympic prospect this year, as he was German champion in 1998 with Stefan Steinweg in the Madison that will be raced for the first time at the Sydney Games.

Eric Weisspfennig is one of the also-rans in the indoor six day races in the winter time, often finishing somewhere in the middle of the field, mostly with Stefan Steinweg. In the last race of the season though, he and his partner Gerd Dörich came in third.

Team Lycos

A new Spanish team will be formed sponsored by internet giant, Lycos. The team will be directed by David and Francisco Padilla (of Catalan news fame) and will be an elite-U23 team. They intend on competing in the main national and international races on the Spanish calendar. The team has yet to be chosen, however the project has been underway for quite some time.