News for March 8, 2000

Ullrich's Olympic aspirations

Although four years ago, the Olympic games were not high on every pro's agenda, this year many riders will consider them a priority. Telekom rider, Jan Ullrich revealed to Spanish newspaper AS some of the reasons why he would like to focus on them this year.

Yes, the Tour remains number one, but Ullrich wants the World's, the Vuelta and the Olympics on his schedule this year. "I grew up in the GDR, and there the Olympic Games were the most important. For me the reason was that Olympic winners become Tour winners," he said.

Ullrich will probably concentrate on the time trial, but he says that he would value a road race medal far more, though he admitted that he would need a little luck, being such a heavily marked person.

On the main aim for the year - the Tour, he believes his main rivals will be Lance Armstrong and Marco Pantani. He rates himself a good chance though, because "they are already at their highest level, whereas I have some improving to do," he said. "But, there are always some others to consider - few thought that Armstrong would win last year."

There are the comparisons with Big Mig as well, but Ullrich palms off those questions with the statement that "I do not know whether I am better or worse than him. I am different though."

VDB to be tested

Franck Vandenbroucke, who withdrew from Paris-Nice at the last minute because of a suspected wrist fracture, will undergo x-rays to see if the injury is serious. The Cofidis rider fell down the stairs of his house in Belgium, experiencing pain in his wrist. According to his teamhowever, so far x-rays have been unable to determine whether the wrist is fractured or not.

Watt succeeds

Australian Olympic pursuit hopeful, Kathy Watt, has finally succeeded in breaking the 3:38 barrier for the 3000 m individual pursuit, set as the qualifying time for the Australian Olympic long team for this event. Last night, in good conditions at the Midvale Speed Dome in Perth, she rode a 3:37.98 to just sneak under the mark, also beating her personal best.

She becomes the second Australian cyclist to do so this year, after Alayna Burns broke the mark last week in Adelaide. Three cyclists will make the long team, and they will have to try and break 3:35 to earn the chance to represent Australia at the Games. Failing this, it will be the cyclists who comes closest to this, amongst other selection criteria detailed by Cycling Australia.

Watt returns home to Melbourne this weekend to prepare for the Australian national women's time trial championships on March 18, with the national track championships following a week later.

Another Rabobank setback - Dekker out

Erik Dekker was one of the victims of the fall on the second stage sprint in Paris - Nice. The Dutchman broke his elbow and will be treated at the hospital in Amersfoort, Netherlands.

Adri van Houwelingen, team manager of Rabobank comments: "Just as one rider has recovered, the other one leaves the peloton." Rabobank isn't lucky this season. Earlier Leon van Bon and Steven de Jongh had knee problems, Aart Vierhouten and Rolf Sørensen has broken collarbones and Bram de Groot had a fracture of the skull base. "When will this stop", Van Houwelingen said.

Other riders who were involved in the crash just after the kilometre banner in Nevers were Axel Merckx (Mapei), who hurt a knee, Nicolaj Bo Larsen (Memorycard) with bruises all over his body, Christophe Moreau (Cofidis), head injury with blood and dizziness, Emmanuel Magnien (FDJ) and Damien Nazon (Bonjour).

"It was perilous today", says Tom Steels (Mapei), 14th on the stage. "Some don't stick to the rules in the sprint. The danger always comes from those who not really are sprinters. When the wheather is fine, sunshine and little wind, it's also riskier, since everyone belives he has a chance to win."

Freire's aches

World champion Oscar Freire, who has been suffering back problmes of late, has found out that the pains are of muscular origin, rather than a result of a hernia. He underwent radiological tests on Tuesday, but according to his team Mapei, his pains are not of a discal nature.

Freire will start in Tirreno-Adriatico today, and if he gets through it, will have some more tests carried out before starting in Milan San Remo the following week.

Gazelle grows

The Dutch bicycle factory Gazelle has been growing significantly this year. This month, they have a announced a new record of 1800 machines per day. Normal production is around 1650 per day, but this new demand means that the factory have had to hire 35 new employees, to add to its 600 existing ones.

Last year 1,450,000 (plus 7 percent) new bikes were sold in the Netherlands. Fifty percent of the bikes cost more than $US 500. Commercial manager, Van Diermen of Gazelle (part of the American group Derby Cycle) expects another 4 percent growth in 2000.

Another factory, Accell (produces Gazelle, Sparta and Koga), is also satisfied with the market. The production of Batavus and Sparta is growing, while the Koga-factory is looking for 40-50 new employees.

GDK after VDP

Gerben de Knegt (24) signed today for Rabobank for two years as the successor of Adri van der Poel in the cyclocross team. With this contract, de Knegt has made cyclocross his definitive choice. He has combined this with mountain biking earlier.

De Knegt is the most promising Dutch cyclocrosser behind World Champion Richard Groenendaal. He is ranked 13 in the world, was 11th in the World Cup and eighth in the World Championships this season.

IPM team finishes

Christian Henn's potential GS-II squad "IPM team Schwerin" has been forced to stop, owing to difficulties with the major sponsors, "Ipm marketing GmbH", who were involved in financial fraud this year. It was not possible for Henn to obtain new sponsors for the season in time, and he was forced to give up his hope of managing a team this year.

It was to have been the 5th professional team in Germany, with an annual budget of DM 2-3 million ($US 1-1.5 million). However, the majority of the funds were to have come from IPM (International Product Marketing). The company were accused of credit fraud, and money laundering amongst other things, and two of the directors were arrested in February.

Cologne gets wildcard

German GS-II team Cologne, has received a wildcard entry for the Amstel Gold race, scheduled for April 22 in the Netherlands. They will join 22 division I teams that are automatically qualified for all World Cup events. The course for the event will be much the same as last year.