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News for September 10, 2000

55th Vuelta a España news

Piccoli in transition stage

Only one mountain had to be overcome in today's stage 13 of the Vuelta, but as it turned out it did not have a significant effect on the final result. The winner, Lampre's Mariano Piccoli was actually dropped on the climb but managed to regain his breakaway companions on the descent, eventually attacking them with 5 kilometres to go to win. The main break had gone after 48 kilometres, and the Festina and Kelme teams merely kept things in check, as no-one in it was a threat to the head of the GC. The majority of the peloton rolled in at 2'20 behind the five escapees.

However, tomorrow's stage 14 will be a different story, as the race once again ends on a mountain top. Starting in Santander, the riders will race 146 kilometres to Lagos de Covadonga, with just one category three climb before the tough finale. The final 12.5 kilometres averages 7.2 percent, with the steepest part at 15 percent, and the peloton will once again be in small groups by the top. It will be an important test for race leader Angel Casero (Festina), who if he can hold Roberto Heras to a reasonable gap today, may start thinking about the final overall victory.

Lagos de Covadonga saw the end of Miguel Indurain's career as well, after he retired during a stage of the Vuelta that finished there in 1996. Banesto's director, Eusebio Unzúe has not returned since then but will be forced to confront it today. However, he realises that it will be an important stage, "It is like the Tourmalet. It's the same whether it's hot or it rains," he said.

Organisers fear prostitutes

The organisers of the Vuelta are afraid that the final 38 kilometre time trial in Madrid could be disrupted by prostitutes, according to a report in El Pais yesterday. The reason is that the route takes in the city's largest park, the Casa de Campo which is also the main 'hunting ground' for a large number of ladies of the night.

Both Unipublic and local authorities fear that the image of the city of Madrid might be tainted if large numbers prostitutes array themselves along the parcours. "Seeing prostitutes along the length of the route isn't exactly showing the best side of Madrid, especially if they aren't wearing many clothes," said a Unipublic spokesperson to El Pais.

However, this was not supported by members of the prostituting community, who said that the race would be held at the wrong time of day for them to ply their trade.

Euskaltel builds

The Spanish (Basque) team, Euskaltel-Euskadi have steadily been building a strong team for next year as they hope to compete in the first division. They are currently second to French team Credit Agricole in division II, but recent results may boost them at the time of the next ranking. Today, 24 year old Iker Flores gained the Tour de l'Avenir, providing a morale boost for the team that has suffered a little during the Vuelta. Although the Tour de l'Avenir is only ranked 2.5 (and therefore won't give the Euskaltel team a lot of UCI points), the win was important in that it signified a foundation for the future of the team.

Rúben Gorospe said that the team's strategy was to control the situation in the first week, where the leader's jersey was held by Hungarian Laszlo Bodrogi, before making an assault in the final few days. Such a strategy paid off quite well and kept the team relatively fresh while the others rode themselves into the ground at high speed. "The idea was to waste as little time on the flat and go for the Maillot Jaune in the mountains," said Gorospe, brother of Julian, in an interview with European Press.

"Euskaltel is doing incredible things. What we are doing, nobody expected. We are a modest team who are obtaining tremendous results," he added. "The protagonists is the cyclist. The motivation and the desire are fundamental, especially for a race like this one, that goes for 10 days."

Of course, with their good results this year, more is expected of them next year. "That is logical," says Gorospe. "Each goal must be surpassed by a following one. This year, the team is very good but the riders are getting better each day. Next year, we will aspire to be the best."

GP Fourmies

Backing up from the Paris-Brussels today is Sunday's GP Fourmies classic in France. Again classed at 1.1, the 210 kilometre race will see the likes of Russian Dimitry Konyshev (10th in P-B) up against the likes of Francesco Casagrande (Vini Caldirola), Davide Rebellin (Liquigas), Michele Bartoli and Paolo Bettini (Mapei). Of course, the Italians are not the only favourites for this event despite having won it between 1993 and 1998. Konyshev broke their hold last year, beating Max Sciandri, Dave Bruylandts and Geert Verheyen in a four man bunch sprint.

Other riders favoured for the event include Markus Zberg, Erik Dekker (Rabobank), Romans Vainsteins (Vini Caldirola), Jean-Cyril Robin (Bonjour), Geert Verheyen (Lotto), Christophe Agnolutto (Ag2r), Dave Bruylandts (Palmans), Jeroen Blijlevens (Polti), Salvatore Commesso (Saeco), Stuart O'Grady (CA), Jo Planckaert, Nico Mattan (Cofidis), Frank Høj, Fabrizio Guidi (FdJ), and George Hincapie (US Postal). The main absentee is Lance Armstrong, who was intending on using it as part of his Olympic preparation, but had to postpone it due to neck problems.

The GP Fourmies is raced in the centre of the Thiérache du Nord region, and is the 14th round of the Coupe du France. It is often called the "little" Paris-Roubaix and has seen France and Belgium battle for supremacy over the years until the Italians took over in the second half of the 90's. With two more rounds to come in the Coupe du France, Patrice Halgand (JD) currently leads the classification with 153 points followed by Jaan Kirsipuu (Ag2r) and Jens Voigt (CA). Of the three, only Voigt will start in today's race.

Team news

2001 Mercury Cycling Team

The rumours have solidified at last, as John Wordin today officially announced the lineup for the Mercury team for 2001. Twenty riders are on the roster, three more than this year, with the core remaining the same but some interesting new faces. The team will have a much greater proportion of non-US riders now, much the same as US Postal.

The biggest new signings are Dutch Champion Leon Van Bon and Mapei's William Chann McRae. Van Bon is of course a top one day specialist, while McRae is often consistently high placed in big stage races. Both these riders bring 1250 UCI points to the team, an important factor for Wordin who wants to start in the first division next year. At the last ranking (August 21), the top eight riders in the team had a combined total of 3157 points, which would rank them as 14th in division I.

These two will join Khazakh Andrei Teteriouk (winner of this year's Tour of Galicia), Swede Niklas Axelsson (6th in the Giro in 1999), Dutchman Jans Koerts (stage winner Vuelta 2000), Fabrizio Guidi (Giro and Tour of Holland stage winner), US rider, Chris Wherry (overall winner of the Killington stage race), currently riding for Saturn and neo pro, Plamen Stainov (Bulgaria).

In addition, the team's current stars: Henk Vogels, Gord Fraser, Jamie Drew, Derek Bouchard-Hall, Floyd Landis and Scott Moninger will all be back with several other strong workers and star potentials. One more rider will be named by the end of next week.

The team will ride world wide as the Mercury Cycling Team next year, with big hopes of competing in the Tour de France. This would certainly make history as there has never been more than one US team in the Tour, and would help gain exposure for US cycling.

"We feel that with Leon and Co, we will have a chance to make a strong showing in our first season in Europe. We have a strong contender for the overall World Cup and the overall Tour de France. This is important for our sponsors who we've had great support from this season," said Wordin as part of the announcement.

"We hope that this group will make the first division and get some good results...Jans Koerts gives us a great complement to Gord in the sprints. Guidi will also win some big events for us."

In addition to European results, the team aims to remain competitive on the lucrative US circuit, where they are currently ranked number one, and have been named as North American team of the year for the past four years.

Finally, it is confirmed that Francaise des Jeux' Alain Gallopin will join the team as a Director Sportif in addition to John Wordin and Thurlow Rogers. He has a history with Mercury rider Chris Horner who came to Mercury from FDJ.

2001 Mercury Team Roster

Name			    UCI rank (points) - 21/8/2000

Niklas Axelsson (Swe)		195 (257.0)
Derek Bouchard-Hall (USA)	503 (72.0)
Baden Cooke (Aus)		813 (29.0)
Jamie Drew Aus)			200 (254.0)
Gord Fraser (Can)		139 (335.0)
Will Frischkorn (USA)	       1231 (11.0)
Fabrizio Guidi (Ita)		 96 (471.0)
Chris Horner (USA)		205 (251.0)
Jans Koerts (Ned)		163 (299.0)
Floyd Landis (USA)		405 (102.0)
Chann McRae (USA)		 74 (554.6)
Scott Moninger (USA)		327 (137.0)
John Peters (USA)		 -    - 
Chris Pic (USA)		       1262 (10.0)
Mike Sayers (USA)		 -    -
Plamen Stainov (Bul)		 -    -
Andrei Teteriouk (Kaz)		195 (257.0)
Leon Van Bon (Ned)		 49 (691.0)
Henk Vogels (Aus)		168 (293.0)
Chris Wherry (USA)		728 (39.0)

Departures:

Roy Knickman (USA)
Thurlow Rogers (USA)
Steve Zampieri (Swi)
Kirk Willett (USA)
Jesus Zarate Estrada (Mex)

Total team points: 4062
Effective team points (top 8): 3157
Hypothetical Division I team rank (August 21): 14

Memorycard, HSBC

Danish sources says that Lars Michaelsen (FDJ) might sign for Memorycard for the next season. Michaelsen is the highest ranked Danish rider at 53rd on the UCI list.

South African Team HSBC plans to register as a GS III team with the UCI for next season. The team management hopes to get access to more international races this way. HSBC won the teams competition in the Vodacom Rapport Toer (2.4) this year and had Nicholas White in sixth position and Rodney Green in tenth overall in the same race. White is ranked 541 on the UCI list overshadowed only by Robert Hunter (Lampre).

UCI Calendar for 2001

The will be some changes made to the UCI calendar for next year, especially towards the end of the season. The World Road Championships in 2001 will be on September 24, one week after the last stage of the Vuelta. After the World Championships will come the remaining two World Cups, Paris-Tours (Oct. 1) and the Tour of Lombardie (Oct 7).

A decision about the early part of the season, in particular grouping the flat World Cups with the hilly ones, will be made before December 1.

Protests stop races

Protests in France against rising taxes on gasoline and diesel are stopping a number of cycling races. Lorries and tractors are blocking roads and the Nocturne de Bruch had to be stopped after the roads in the area were blocked. Other races that have been cancelled are the Critérium d'Epinal, Prix des Chaintrainois and Le Chrono Champenois.