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News for October 20, 2000

94th Giro di Lombardia

The last round of the World Cup, and the last major one day race of the season is the Giro di Lombardia in Italy, the "Race of the Falling Leaves". The race was under threat due to the floods and bad weather conditions that caused the cancellation of Milano-Torino and the Giro del Piemonte, however organisers RCS Sport have confirmed that the race will go ahead.

The main players include many of the competitors in the World Championships last week, as well as the World Cup leader, Erik Zabel who was forced to miss the Championships due to illness. Can Tchmil win the last Classic of the season and push Zabel out of the number one spot? For a full preview and start list, please consult the main page of the Giro di Lombardia.

A full report of the race will be posted by cyclingnews.com correspondent, Tim Maloney.

Prostate problems again for Dufaux

Saeco-Valli&Valli will have to do without one of the ir star riders, Laurent Dufaux at Tour of Lombardy this Saturday. The winner of the Meisterschaft von Zurich succumbed to prostate problems that he has been suffering all season.

"Dufaux suffers from a chronic prostatite that often hardens," explained Dr. Carlo Guardascione, Saeco-Valli&Valli team doctor. "We are doing assessments in order to discover the causes of this pathology that has been manifesting itself more frequently since June."

In absence of Dufaux, directeur sportif Antonio Salutini will start with German Joerg Ludewig, American Danny Pate, Moldavian Igor Pugaci, all of whom took part in the World Championships in Plouay, Swiss Armin Meier, Belgian Christoph Brandt, and Italians Alessio Galletti and Alessandro Guerra.

Contract troubles for Vainsteins

After winning the World Championship, Romans Vainsteins isn't free yet from Mini Caldirola. His Italian boss, who is also the father Vainsteins' new girlfriend Elisabeth, has now asked for a higher buyout fee. Vainsteins has already signed for two years with Domo.

"Vainsteins left Belgium on Wednesday for Italy. He assures me I don't have to be worried," said his new director, Patrick Lefevere.

And Bartoli and Mapei...

Michele Bartoli has given his sponsor a difficult question: it's Bartoli or Bettini, but not both.

After the World Championships in Plouay, Bartoli accused Bettini of not following orders, as agreed before the start. Bettini should have taken care of the sprint leadout for Bartoli, but that didn't happen.

According to national coach, Antonio Fusi, "Bartoli is wrong. He was a protected rider and couldn't make it. Everybody followed the orders. It's Bartoli who failed. It isn't sporting to say your teammate is guilty."

ONCE hang on

Spanish team ONCE-Deutsche Bank will honour the future contracts of Czech Jan Hruska and Spaniard, Alvaro Gonzalez de Galdeano, both of whom tested positive to Nandrolone recently. The cyclists are currently with Vitalicio Seguros, and had successfully negotiated contracts with ONCE before the news of their tests came to light. Hruska has already been suspended for six months, while Galdeano is awaiting a decision from the Spanish Federation.

ONCE manager, Pablo Anton said that they believed each rider had good faith, and cited the (rather worn) finding by the UCI that certain American food products were contaminated with Nandrolone.

"Maybe that's why the Czech Cycling Federation imposed the minimum sanction possible," said Anton.

Marcussen to direct Coast

Dane Jřrgen Marcussen, the director of the Danish national road team at last Sunday's world championships in France, will join German Team Coast as Director Sportif for next season.

"It will be a big change, I am really motivated and it will be fun to return to the world of professional cycling I left as a rider 11 years ago," said Jřrgen Marcussen.

"The job with Team Coast will be entirely different than that of National coach. Team Coast is a top professional team, where I will not have to develop the riders in the same way as on the national team, I will now be instead more of a tactical advisor during the races," added Marcussen, who will double his travelling calendar from 100 to 200 days with the new position.

50 year old Marcussen has been National Danish Road Coach for the last 4 years. His riding career saw him participate in the Olympics in 1972 and take the bronze medal at the World Championships in 1978 in Germany.

It is not certain as to how long his contract will run but the former national coach says there is discussion on a two or three year contract. Team Coast is currently in the second division, but the team expects to move up to the first division, dependent on the UCI points of Swiss Alex Zülle and Spaniard Fernando Escartin among others.

The two Danes Frank Hřj and Lars Michaelsen are perhaps on their way to the German Team with over 1000 UCI points between them but this depends largely whether Danish Team CSC/MemoryCard manages to sign Frenchman Laurent Jalabert and is therefore unable to afford the other riders.

Courtesy of Ben Larsen

Other signings

Estonian rider Janek Tombak will renew his contract with Cofidis for one year.

Luxembourg's Mark Vanacker (VC Dinan) has signed a pro contract with Swiss team Phonak.

Frédéric Lecrosnier will join St Quentin-Oktos next year, which will see Jean-Philippe Duracka succeed Martial Gayant as the team's director.

Poor French season

President of the French Cycling Federation, Daniel Baal, considers that the 2000 season has been particularly bad for the French riders. "In all the most important races, we weren't there," he said in an interview with a French regional paper. "The probable reason is that the French amateur teams are trying to get results with foreign riders and ex-professionals. So we don't have many good U23 riders coming up."

In addition, he added that "the medical preparation of the French riders is not on the same level as that of other nations. However, we must not risk going backwards into doping. I don't have any illusions about that."

World Championships 2004

They're just around the corner...

Italian cities Verona and Bardolino are putting in a bid to host the World Championships in 2004. Verona successfully managed the World Road Championships in 1999, and the organising committee believe they have the capability to do the same in four years time.

The proposal has yet to be submitted to the UCI, and there is expected competition from Germany and Spain, as well as other Italian cities Bergamo, Brescia, Pescara, Venezia Giulia, and the racing track at Imola.

The mayor of Bardolino (which would host the time trials) Armando Ferrari, said that the hotel and services infrastructure in his town is already well equipped to handle the event. In addition, the Veronese committee have signed up several major managing companies to help with the organisation.

The patron of the bid is Olympic MTB Champion, Paola Pezzo, who is uncertain whether she will be still competing in 2004.

Paralympics: Jeroen Straathof

Duthc cyclist Jan Mulder (who had a kangaroo steal his jacket and license recently) broke the World Record (4.26.498) in qualifying in the Male Tandem 4,000m pursuit yesterday at the Paralympics in Sydney. He was riding as visually challenged behind Jeroen Straathof on the tandem. Mulder won the gold medal four years ago in Atlanta, with another person steering.

The following article from Dutch daily, Gelders Dagblad, gives some interesting background about the able-bodied tandem pilot, who is also a well known speedskater in the Netherlands:

Jeroen Straathof has always said that his skating career would end after the Winter Games in Salt Lake City in 2002. Ten years of skating, that's enough. And then? Maybe he will do something with his education as a mechanical engineer - he has been asked by a skating factory once. Possibly he will stay active in the sporting world, for example as a skating trainer.

Or will he concentrate on track cycling? Athens 2004, it's possible. His time in the 1000 m is just two seconds slower than 12th place in the Olympics in Sydney, and he's not even training.

He met his team mate at the Paralympics in Atlanta, where his girlfriend Evelyn van Leeuwen was playing in the Dutch wheelchair basketball team. Jeroen Straathof decided in the summer to join the Paralympic team. He let the decision depend on a talk with his new coach in the national skating team, Ingrid Paul. She was surprised when she heard of his plans, and she thought that cycling could fit into his preparation on the skating season. Later, she became more involved to discuss the best method to do this.

Why did you want to go yourself? "Because of the challenge. The challenge I see is to ride as hard as Jan and I can and get a medal. I think it's fun to do, and for me it's pure top sport. And I like cycling."

Is it because you can do something for someone else? "No, a lot of people think that. But I want to get that medal for myself. I'm not doing it for Jan. I want to bring more out of myself."

Would a medal be more important for Evelyn, because speedskating is Jeroen's main sport? Evelyn replied "I don't think so. I know what a medal means for him, so I don't believe that it's any more or less important for him than it is for me. Of course I want to take a medal and I do a lot for it. But Jeroen is training maximally as well. He can't ride any more than he's doing now."

Jeroen added, "I've just come back from a training camp. When we give everything for 6, 4 and 2 minutes, I think: this is good for the 1500 meter, but it's also useful for cycling."

The Dutch women's wheelchair basketball team played the Paralympic final in 1996 in front of an audience of 3000, but the stadium was so big that it seemed empty. Jeroen Straathof became world champion on the 1500m in Hamar in 1996, in a stadium with 15000 people. That's the difference.

Of course Evelyn van Leeuwen thinks it's sad that there's so little interest for handicapped sports. "But I understand. A lot of sports aren't nice to broadcast on TV. But tandem cycling is, and wheelchair basketball is too, especially the men. But you have to broadcast it more often. When my father was watching the first time, the thought, so rough they are playing. In the beginning you see that someone has an amputation, but when you watch it more often, you don't look at that anymore. Then you watch the sport."

Less TV broadcasts, less sponsors and less facilities than non-handicapped sports. But it's changing. For the Dutch Olympic Committee (NOC*NSF) there's already less of a difference between handicapped and normal sports. Van Leeuwen hopes that there will be more of the Paralympics on TV than last time, when only the Evangelical Broadcasting Organization (EO) had two broadcasts about it months later. "And that was really with commentary like: see how cute, and so nice that those people actually have a life. Then I think: they don't understand a thing about this. I'd rather have it that there was no broadcast, because this was pretty stigmatizing."

A fall during races at the skating rink in Leiden ended the skating dreams of young Evelyn van Leeuwen ten years ago. She has an incomplete spinal cord lesion. "Not everything is ruined. The front sides of my upper legs work, and that's what I walk and cycle with. There's my bike, it looks pretty normal, but I put my heels behind the pedals because I can't use my feet. This way, I stay on the pedals. And I can't get on and off my bike, so I have to watch carefully all the time. If I can't cross the road, I'll take a right turn or whatever."

Jeroen: "She sometimes brings some nice action in town. People appreciate that." The first five years were the hardest. "You feel like you're a skater, and then you're handicapped. Now I'm not a skater anymore. C'est la vie. I'm Evelyn, and I play wheelchair basketball. I'm not handicapped: I have a handicap. And there's a huge difference between to have and to be."

How did you feel Jeroen? "She wasn't my girlfriend then, but I did see it from close-up."

"You were never there," Evelyn smiles and Jeroen responds, "I'm still never there. First, she still wanted to skate. Now you can't see that she misses it, and she's just herself. Of course, it's logical that she's fed up with it. We can't skate together, and we miss that. But if you see what kind of life she has now. She can go to Spain through the basketball, she can go to Sydney through the basketball. She has her own life."

Are you jealous sometimes because she has such a strong character? "Who says that you or I couldn't do this? I don't think jealousy is the right word. I admire what she has done," replies Jeroen.

Evelyn: "Nobody knows how you will react. If it happens, you don't have a choice. You will have to. You can jump in front of a train or you can continue. I want to continue living, not sit at home and fade behind the flowers on the window sill. Continuing to live is living."

A rude question - didn't Jeroen ever think, 'I don't want a relationship with a handicapped woman?' He looks at her, and thinks for a while. Then: "You can see the handicap, but you accept a person like she is. You can make a big deal out of us not being able to skate together. If I would do that, I wouldn't start a relationship with her. But at that moment, Evelyn could give me more than not being able to skate together. Of course I know she has a handicap. I wouldn't forget that, the handicap will always be there. But many people see the wheelchair and Evelyn. I only see Evelyn."

Then Evelyn says that it was her who thought: what does he want with a handicapped girl? "But that was in the beginning, because I didn't feel handicapped. I was trying to figure out what I could and couldn't do, I didn't have a car, couldn't go anywhere. Then I thought, this is ridiculous. A top sportsperson with a handicapped girlfriend, it's such a joke."

Now it's different. She is mobile, independent. "I have crutches and a wheelchair, but they're just for help. They're not a part of my being. Yes, they belong to me. When people ask what I can't do, I always have to think hard. Yes, I can't skate," she says.

There are people with a chronic disease or a handicap that don't want to get rid of it, because it makes them what they are. Evelyn doesn't understand that, "I want to be as normal as possible. So if there was a pill to become healthy again, I would take it. It would be a pity that the pill wasn't there a couple of years earlier. Then I could have seen how far I would have come with skating."

However she doesn't believe in miracles, "I know it will stay this way, and I'm okay."

Jeroen will be in Sydney one week, Evelyn a bit longer. They hope to be able to see one of each other's matches. They already know now that they have to miss each other's finals. On November 4, he will compete for the IJsselcup in Deventer, one day later she flies to Spain. "It's going to be a vague season," Evelyn van Leeuwen says. "We'll have to phone a lot, I think."

Rider paralyzed

An unfortunate addition to the ranks of disabled cyclists was made prior to the Paralympics that started yesterday. On September 17, Tricia Downing, a USCF Category 3 racer who also captained a tandem for a blind stoker, was hit by a car while out training. It was a head-on collision and she struck the windscreen, suffering multiple vertebral fractures in her upper back and neck as well as a fractured scapula. She will most likely remain paralyzed from the chest down.

The driver was booked for careless driving, and did have insurance, but after 3 weeks in intensive care, multiple surgeries, and now what will probably turn into months at a rehabilitation hospital, Trish's medical expenses will probably far exceed the limits on the insurance policies.

There has been a fund set up in her name at Community First National Bank, PO Box 339, Conifer, CO 80433. The Routing number is 107002147. In addition, her friends and teammates are holding a Silent Auction and Celebration for her survival at the Handle Bar and Grill Restaurant in Denver, Colorado (305 S. Downing St.) on November 15, from 6-9 PM. $10 donation at the door.

Finally, if anyone would like to send cards or notes of encouragement, they may be directed to:

Tricia Downing, c/o Craig Hospital
3425 S. Clarkson Street
Englewood, CO 80110