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News for October 24, 2000
Festina: Day 1
The first day of the reopened Festina trial in Lille saw cyclist Richard Virenque once again put under scrutiny after he was questioned about whether he had doped whilst on the team. He refused to give a statement when he arrived and then denied in court that he had anything to do with systematic doping use in the Festina team of 1998. However, when asked whether he had doped, he did not give a direct answer.
Judge Daniel Delegove indicated that he was not pulling any punches at the beginning of his questioning when he stated "Excuse me, but I will chip some reputations in this lawsuit." He recalled that Willy Voet was the one "who had doped Sean Kelly", at the end of his career in Festina.
He put the question to Virenque, "Did you dope?" and got the following, somewhat hesitant answer: "I trusted the doctor, my wish was not to fall ill and not to fall positive later."
Virenque did not deny that he had received injections from Dr Erik Rijckaert (who was not able to be present due to health reasons). "But I thought they were for vitamins and food supplements," he said.
When asked whether he had incited his colleagues to take drugs, he replied that he "had never encouraged riders of any level to take doping products."
Of the others on trial today, there were two absentees: the aforementioned Dr Rijckaert and ONCE doctor Nicolas Terrados, who was excused for 24 hours. Two of the key players in the case were former team director Bruno Roussel and former soigneur Willy Voet, who both admitted that they had "taken their share" of responsibilities.
Roussel, who is now a sales manager in a real estate company said, "I admit to having given the order to pay for the products, that is my share of the responsibility."
He added that "Richard Virenque could not have been so easily deceived. He could not have taken doping products without his knowledge" after saying that systematic doping was practised in Festina "since the beginning of 1994".
"There was an strong and omnipresent demand for doping products at the beginning of Tour in 1993. It was too late, but products were urgently transported from Spain."
The team at that time was made up largely from French, Spanish and Dutch riders, many of whom were former members of RMO. They quickly realised that they were not in the same league as the other teams, and the vastly inferior "medical program" was the cause. They chose to work with Dr. Rijckaert, because they could at least practise "doping with a medical followup."
Mr Roussel said that none of the riders escaped from the program. "Nobody on our team would have doped somebody without their knowledge," he affirmed. Virenque was at the time "improving in ability, a good worker and courageous," but his "ambition and first results ended up making him a recipient of it."
Finally, Willy Voet stated that he was quite careful with the hematocrits of his riders, never exceeding 54%, although other Dutch and Italian teams went up to 64%. "All the riders took some, including Virenque."
"You look at the champions like demigods. You do all that they ask, if not, you are replaced," said Voet who maintained that he was simply following orders from his superiors, in particular Dr Rijckaert.
Tomorrow, former rider Luc Leblanc will be questioned as a witness, followed by Erwan Menthéour and Christophe Bassons on Wednesday. Tour de France director, Jean-Marie Leblanc and the FFC president Daniel Baal were present today, although president of the UCI Hein Verbruggen, was not.
Stefan Nimke out
Germany received another blow to their World Championship hopes when Olympic silver medallist in the 1000m time trial, Stefan Nimke was forced to withdraw due to illness. He has a fever and a cold and the German team did not want to take any chances with him.
He will also be missed in the Olympic sprint team, although it was not as successful in Sydney (7th). His place will likely be taken by Jens Fiedler, who wished to concentrate on the sprint and the keirin only.
Russian Oxana Grichina, silver medallist in the Women's Sprint at the Olympics will not be competing at the World Track Championship in Manchester as she has been suffering from a cold. The two places on the Women's sprint team will be taken by Svetlana Grankovskaia and Galina Enukhina. Grankovskaia beat Felicia Ballanger to win the first leg of the World Cup in the Women's sprint which was held in Moscow, with Enukhina finishing fourth.
Courtesy of Liam Collins
Things aren't all bad for the Walloon Whirlwind...
Frank Vandenbroucke and Italian fashion model Sarah Pinacchi were wedded on Sunday, October 22 in the church of Marbaix Saintes Marie, Belgium.
There were few changes in the latest rankings released by the UCI after the Tour of Lombardy and other events over the weekend. Erik Zabel gained a few points by winning the World Cup overall, but kept his position as third in the rankings, which are still led by Francesco Casagrande and Romans Vainsteins. Tour of Lombardy winner, Raimondas Rumsas moved from 47th to 20th, while Davide Rebellin improved from 10th to 7th, and Michele Bartoli from 18th to 15th.
Last year's World Cup winner, Andrei Tchmil, lost some points and moved down to 12th from 7th. Similarly, Rabobank's Markus Zberg dropped from 17th to 35th, and Michael Boogerd from 36th to 23rd.
In the teams rankings there were only minor changes, with Fassa Bortolo moving into 3rd place in division I, and looking like one of the major contenders for 2001.
Rankings as of October 22, 2000
1 Francesco Casagrande (Ita) Vini Caldirola-Sidermec 2292.00 pts 2 Romans Vainsteins (Lat) Vini Caldirola-Sidermec 1989.00 3 Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Deutsche Telekom 1901.00 4 Lance Armstrong (USA) US Postal Service 1895.00 5 Roberto Heras Hernandez (Spa) Kelme-Costa Blanca 1767.00 6 Jan Ullrich (Ger) Team Deutsche Telekom 1671.75 7 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Liquigas-Pata 1527.00 8 Laurent Jalabert (Fra) O.N.C.E.-Deutsche Bank 1493.75 9 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Mapei-Quick Step 1297.00 10 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Lampre-Daikin 1266.00 11 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Mapei-Quick Step 1263.00 12 Andrei Tchmil (Bel) Lotto-Adecco 1247.00 13 Wladimir Belli (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 1211.00 14 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Mercatone Uno-Albacom 1192.00 15 Michele Bartoli (Ita) Mapei-Quick Step 1175.35 16 Andreas Klöden (Ger) Team Deutsche Telekom 1128.00 17 Erik Dekker (Ned) Rabobank 1127.00 18 Abraham Olano Manzano (Spa) O.N.C.E.-Deutsche Bank 1074.75 19 Pavel Tonkov (Rus) Mapei-Quick Step 977.00 20 Raimondas Rumsas (Ltu) Fassa Bortolo 953.00 Teams: Division I 1 Mapei-Quick Step 9727.25 pts 2 Team Deutsche Telekom 8271.25 3 Fassa Bortolo 6570.00 4 Kelme-Costa Blanca 6402.00 5 Lampre-Daikin 6327.00 6 Rabobank 5808.75 7 Vini Caldirola-Sidermec 5764.00 8 O.N.C.E.-Deutsche Bank 5716.75 9 Banesto 5167.00 10 Festina 4237.00
Heroin smugglers pose as riders
Forget EPO trafficking, this is the real thing...
Cyclist Carlos Arturo Vargas and his associate Edwin Hernandez were stopped by police on the Colombian border when they tried escape with four kilos of heroin. The pair were masquerading as a members of the Colombian team that was to compete in the Vuelta a Guatemala (October 21-November 1). The heroin was hidden in their bicycles and wheels, according to the police commander in Bogota.
The six Colombians that were competing as part of the national team are: Jhony Ruiz, Alexis Rojas, Everth Gutiérrez, Juan Barrero, Luis Espinoza and Raúl Gómez. Upon arriving at the border with Vargas and Hernandez, they assured police that they were not together, and were allowed to continue into Guatemala.
The five had been granted permission to race by their club, Ciclo Ases de Bogotá, as well as the Liga de Ciclismo in Cundinamarca. However, the Colombian Federation had not actually authorised them to compete as a national team, only the cyclists Gregorio Ladino and Julio Caesar Rangel who are riding for the Costa Rican team.
Race organisers confirmed that in addition to the five man Colombian team mentioned above, Adolph Rico and Víctor Rodríquez were also down to compete, although there was no mention of Vargas and Hernandez.
Riis' Big Day
There are many strong opinions about the manner in which Bjarne Riis took control of Denmark's top cycling team (to be known as CSC/MemoryCard in the 2001 season) but almost everyone agrees that the '96 Tour winner has proved his worth to the team in record time.
First was the agreement and signing of new major sponsor CSC, then last Friday saw Riis at a press announcement in Copenhagen presenting the team's newest star, Laurent Jalabert.
Jalabert, who for the last 10 seasons has always been on or near the top of UCI rankings (he is currently number 8) has, together with his brother, signed a 2 year contract with Professional Cycling Denmark, the company behind CSC/MemoryCard.
With the Jalabert brothers on board, the team is almost guaranteed a top-10 world ranking and with that comes automatic entry to all World Cup races and the major tours including the Tour de France.
"It is a huge day for our team, in which Laurent Jalabert will naturally become a major member in the coming season," said Bjarne Riis at the press announcement, he also mentioned the the contract had already been agreed upon earlier in the week after the two had spoken together for the last 2-3 weeks.
Riis is convinced that he is building a super team which, while still a Danish team, will have a very international profile, "We are very international Danes. Our new sponsor CSC is basically American and MemoryCard is also very internationally orientated. Our training camps will be down south because of the climate and besides a team gathering in December we will primarily be outside of the country."
The contact with Laurent Jalabert was initiated a month ago by current director sportif and former pro rider Johnny Weltz, who had ridden with Jalabert while riding for ONCE. "There was immediate interest," says Riis, who wanted the best talent over UCI points for the team, "Laurent has shown his class for many years and this year alone has ridden approx. 43,000 kilometres, of which 33,000 were ridden before the Tour de France. We have both agreed that he will start the coming season a little later than normal."
Laurent Jalabert said all the things you should say at this type of press announcement, He is looking forward to riding for a new team, he has found the team to be well structured and very professional and he is motivated for the coming season. He did not rule out riding the Tour of Denmark or the Tour de France.
"We have no requirements of Jalabert to ride for GC in the Tour de France or any other specific races" said Riis, who would only confirm that CSC/MemoryCard will send 8 riders (Jalabert unlikely) to Australia in January to train and also to ride the Tour Down Under.
With 22 riders on the team for next year, the goal is to be competitive for the whole season from March to October. For the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix they have Tristan Hoffman and Rolf Sørensen as the best hopes, while Jalabert and Bo Hamburger will figure in the Ardennes classics and the tough tours.
Bo Hamburger was elated at the contract with Laurent Jalabert, "I think that this is the right strength for the team and much better than if we had got Van Petegem. It will be nice to ride a little in his shadow. This season I have repeatedly been alone up the front of the races that suit me, where now with Jalabert we have more cards to play in Amstel Gold Race or Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Of course I will also have to work for him now and then, it is certain he will ride into several leaders jerseys" laughed Hamburger, when contacted whilst on his way home to Denmark from his Italian residence.
Bo Hamburger and the MemoryCard team did not ride the season's last classic, the Tour of Lombardy on the weekend. This also came up at the Jalabert-press announcement. "We thought that it was simply uneconomical once the two Italian races preceding the classic were cancelled" said Riis, "We were essentially sending 8 riders with the only likely finisher was Hamburger"
Courtesy of Ben Larsen
The transfer market: making sense of it all
The transfer season has been in full swing for some time now, and as usual there have been many changes. Some teams are finishing, others are starting, others are merging, and others are rebuilding. The following list covers most of the major moves so far.
Francesco Casagrande (Ita): Vini Caldirola to Fassa Bortolo
Robbie McEwen: Farm Frites to Domo
Georg Totschnig: Telekom to Gerolsteiner
Dave Bruylandts: Palmans to Domo
Ivan Parra: Vitalicio to ONCE
Rolf Sørensen: Rabobank to Memory Card
Stéphane Barthe: Ag2r to US Postal
Robert Bartko: neo-pro with Telekom
Ivan Basso: Amica Chips to Fassa Bortolo
Serguei Beloussov: Besson Chaussures to Cofidis
Jeroen Blijlevens: Polti to Lotto
Piotr Wadecki: Mroz to Domo
Pavel Tonkov: Mapei to Mercury
Santiago Blanco: Vitalicio to Banesto
Nicklas Axelsson: Panaria to Mercury
Niki Aebersold: Rabobank to Team Coast
Kevin Livingston: US Postal to Linda McCartney
Zabriskie to Postal
David Zabriskie, who had been riding for 7-Up/Colorado Cyclist, is working out a contract with the U.S. Postal Service Team. The deal will complete a breakthrough season for the 21-year-old Zabriskie from Salt Lake City, Utah (home of the original Olympic scandal). He came within a fraction of a second of winning the Redlands Classic in March, won the time trials at the National Under-23 Road Cycling Championships in Staten Island, N.Y., and captured the espoir race in the Grand Prix des Nations. He also took fourth in the espoirs time trial at the World Road Cycling Championships and was the top U.S. rider in three other races in Europe: the espoir Liege-Bastogne-Liege, the Ronde L'Isard and La Transalsace.
Courtesy of Kim Morris
Other transfer news
Although Team Coast were not in the end able to sign Robert Bartko for 2001, they have enhanced their lineup with another member of the World Record breaking pursuit team. 22 year old Daniel Becke, who flies to Manchester to contest the World Championships has signed a two year contract with the team.
29 year old Renger Ypenburg, currently riding with the BankGiroLoterij team, has signed for one year with the AXA-VVZ team. Renger won the Ster van Zwolle this year. AXA has also renegotiated the contract of Sandro Bijnen for another year.
Redlands gets a boost
The Redlands Bicycle Classic in the USA has been awarded a higher UCI category ranking for 2001, putting it equal with the Sea Otter Classic stage race. This year, it entered as a 2.5 event, but has been granted 2.4 status for next season. In addition, the women's event has been awarded 2.9.2 status.
This mean's that there are significantly more UCI points available for winning the event overall (80 as opposed to 25), making it far more attractive to both top domestic riders and international competitors. "Now it will be a question of how many and which teams the budget allows us to get here," said Craig Kundig, promotions director of the race.
The invitation only Redlands Bicycle Classic will take place from March 13-18, in 2001 and races through the Inland Empire for six consecutive days. The men's field is 200 deep, the women's over 100. In addition, the "Classic" holds public rides, as well as amateur and kids races as part of the festivities on the weekend in Redlands.
U23 Thuringen Rundfahrt
The 26th edition of the Thuringen-Rundfahrt, a well known race for Espoirs, will be held from May 3-9 in 2001. It will start in Muhlhausen, with other finishing towns being: Nordhausen, Ilmenau, Sonneberg, Bad Salzungen, Oberhof and Weissensee. The Tour is 866 kilometers in length.
This year, German Patrick Sinkewitz won the Tour. Sinkewitz is one of several promising espoirs who will make their professional debut with Mapei in 2001.