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News for May 25, 2000

Giro d'Italia news

Stage comments

Victor Pena
Photo: © AFP

Today's stage 11, a 42 kilometre time trial from Lignano to Bibione went to a somewhat surprising winner - Colombian Victor Hugo Peña (Vitalicio Seguros), who beat his teammate Jan Hruska by 11 seconds and noted time trial specialist, Serhiy Honchar (pick spelling of choice) by over a minute. Mapei's Pavel Tonkov was 1.52 back - quite a large gap, but it was enough to move him into third overall, just 7 seconds behind Francesco Casagrande. The latter performed not too well today, finishing 31st, at 3.31. His lead that he established on stage 9 to Abetone all but gone. As did Paolo Savoldelli, who lost more than four minutes to finish 40th. This is not his Giro.

Tonkov said afterwards that "It was a good day. I wanted to take a minute out of Casagrande. I found it hard to get my rhythm, but I feel that my form is getting better each day. I am annoyed that I had a bad day on the stage to Abetone because of a hunger flat. The Giro is open once again."

Stage winner, Victor Hugo Peña: "I have always dreamed about winning one time trial in Europe, and today that dream was fulfilled." he said. "I dedicate my victory to God and Ivan Parra (who did not start due to injuries from yesterday). Bicycle racing is in my blood."

Peña derives his name from the famous French writer, Victor Hugo, and became the second Columbian to win a TT stage of the Giro in its 91 year history. The last time trial winner was in 1989, when Lucho Herrera won a mountain time trial. Peña is one of the few Columbians to win a flat stage however.

Francesco Casagrande: "I expected to lose time in this stage, especially to people like Tonkov," said the Maglia Rosa. He considered his ride to be "normal", losing 3.32. "I felt good and tried to pace myself, but I lost time very quickly."

Tonkov and Fassa Bortolo's Wladimir Belli are the closest challengers to Casagrande now, with Danilo di Luca (Cantina Tollo) sitting nicely in 4th, 10 seconds back. Gotti placed 23rd, and now lies 1.19 back seemingly improving as the Giro goes on. The race is wide open now with 10 stages to go, and many of the favourites are still well in contention. Tomorrow is a rest day before the action resumes on Saturday with a 191 kilometre stage from Bibione to Feltre.

Giro 2001 to Slovenia

The organisers of the Giro d'Italia, RCS Sport, announced that next year's 84th edition will make a foray into Slovenia. This will be the second time that the race has visited that country, first doing so in 1994 when there was a stage into Kranj, won by Andrea Ferrigato.

Chiotti hands it back

Jerome Chiotti
Photo: © AFP

Former World Cross Country Mountain Bike champion and admitted EPO taker, Jerome Chiotti today renounced his gold medal that he won in Cairns, Australia in 1996. At a press conference in Paris today, Chiotti handed his medal and jersey to the second placed rider on that day, Thomas Frischknecht of Switzerland.

"I'm turning the page. I was young, full of ambition and I stole something from him by taking the title," said Chiotti to AFP at the conference. Chiotti has since parted from his Giant team - on friendly terms - while he attempts to sort other matters out.

"Four years ago, he did something evil," commented Frischknecht. "But today, he showed that he has a good hard and a good spirit. There are others who cheat, but don't make admissions like Jerome." Frischknecht has been runner up in the World Championships all too many times (1990, 1991, 1992 and 1996 in XC mountain biking) and even in cyclocross in 1997, and now takes his first world title.

There will be an official modification made to the results by the UCI following this, but Chiotti is far from being off the hook. He still wants to race however the French Cycling Federation (FFC) want to discipline him. They are not only interested in the doping, but also in the claim that Chiotti had an agreement with Miguel Martinez to fix the 1999 French Championship so that Chiotti won. They will look into the matter in June.

French EPO test

Tomorrow in Geneva, a meeting will take place to discuss new anti-doping measures. The meeting will be between the head honchos of cycling and members of the French Sports Ministry. They will debate whether the newly developed urine test for EPO is viable, and whether it can be used for the Tour de France. Other anti-doping measures will be discussed as well, such as a proposed test for PFC (A perfluorocarbon based synthetic blood substitute), corticoids and a general medical test.

The most contentious issue is the urine test, which has been developed by French scientist Jacques de Ceaurriz at the National Châtenay-Malabry Laboratory in Paris. It has yet to be validated by means of peer reviewed scientific publication, but at the rate of speed which this normally happens, it mightn't be until December 2001... If it does work, there is the question of verification using a wide population, something that the blood-based EPO test is currently trying to achieve.

A urine based EPO test would make a lot of people in cycling very happy, however the other question is to its effectiveness. EPO is not like amphetamines, which are taken just before racing: six weeks to two months before competition is the optimum time for an EPO injection so that new red blood cells can have enough time to grow and mature. A detection method using urine must either be used out of competition, on every cyclist who is to compete in the Tour or be extremely sensitive if it is to be implemented such a long time afterwards.

UCI president, Hein Verbruggen said although he was not a scientist, he was "optimistic" that the test would work, but was "impatiently waiting the words of Mr. de Ceaurriz" tomorrow.

Mapei line up Tour contenders

The world's number two team, Mapei-Quick Step, who are currently trying to win the Giro d'Italia with Pavel Tonkov, gave a hint to their Tour de France ambitions recently. During the broadcast of stage 10 of the Giro, Mapei team boss, Patrick Lefevere said that they would once again want Tom Steels as their main sprinter. He would be supported by Bart Leysen, Fred Rodriguez, Stefano Zanini, and Max van Heeswijk. Not Paolo Fornaciari though, who will be getting married shortly before the Tour. Johan Museeuw is a possibility, although he'll decide to start after the Tour de Suisse.

Their GC hopes will probably lie with Daniele Nardello and Paolo Bettini, and Michele Bartoli will have a "free role".

Thanks to Joris van den Berg for the update

Vuelta 2000: Three Asturian stages

Alberto Gadea and Ramon Mendiburu, the technical directors of the Vuelta a España, are finalising the details of three Asturian stages of the race, to be contested in September. The 14th, 15th and 16th stages (September 10-12) will end in the towns of Covadonga, Gijón and Angliru. The principality of Asturias is investing some 20 million pesetas (US$110,000) to improve the roads on the climb of the Angliru, part of the stage that destroyed many hopes last year.

Linda McCartney double up

Not only did they place first and second in consecutive stages in the Giro last weekend, but they also managed some good results in another race. U23 rider, James Griffiths, took out the prestigious Arctic 2000 Tour d'Espoirs event in Worcesterhire, England. The U23 team are going to the Tour of Serbia next week, along with new signing Matt de Canio (back from North Carolina) and Huw Pritchard. The latter is currently riding in the Olympia's Ronde in the Netherlands as part of the British National Team.