News for September 3, 2000

55th Vuelta a Espańa news

Big names abandon

Despite it being a relatively easy day in terms of the stage profile, there were several more abandonments in the 55th Vuelta a Espańa with some big names disappearing in stage eight. First of all, Ivan Gotti continued his miserable season after he failed to make the start in Vinaroz. The reason was a fever and sore throat that he has been suffering from the past two days. Gotti has had almost no luck or success this year, and he will ride the next two seasons with second division Alessio. Given the fact the Polti will stop at the end of this year it might not be such a bad move.

Oscar Freire brought his spectacular Vuelta campaign to a close in kilometre 94 after succumbing to the pack pains that have plagued him all season. He was disappointed with himself at not making it to Santander (stage 13) but erred on the side of caution with the Olympics in sight. Dual stage winner Freire said afterwards that "I first felt pains in the seventh stage, and although I felt OK this morning, during the eighth stage I decided to pull out."

"Each doctor says another thing to me, I have done everything possible, but I have not found a solution to my physical problems," he lamented. However, he hopes to arrive at the Games in good form and will clearly be one of the favourites.

The next rider out was Banesto's Jose Maria Jiménez, who has had a rough time since the start of the Vuelta and his departure was not unexpected. His crash, combined with sickness a week before meant that he was well below par for his national tour. He stopped today after 48 kilometres, lying 50 minutes behind on GC to Alex Zülle.

He said after abandoning that he didn't regret starting the Vuelta, but he was quite sad to abandon with his leader in the golden jersey. "I have shown that I can work for others, since I did it with Olano, but when I can't, I can't," said El Chaba who blamed his injured leg for the withdrawal.

"I wanted to see if the change of terrain to the mountains would suit me, but it took too long to recover. I tried to attack normally yesterday but I did not notice any improvement," he added.

His team director, Eusebio Unzúe was disappointed with the loss, as he hoped that he would improve each day in order to help Zülle toward the end. "It was a certain risk to take, and we thought he could go for longer but it was not to be," he said.

"I continue to trust those which we have left and we will try to maintain the leadership. Zülle is the favourite in tomorrow's time trial, but Olano, Ullrich and Hruska could all win, and Casero and Gonzalez de Galdeano will not be far off."

Banesto's team manager, Jose Miguel Echávarri had some interesting comments to make about Zülle and the Vuelta. Clearly, Zülle's priority is to win this tour and his task has certainly been made easier by Jan Ullrich's decision to concentrate on the Olympic Games (although it's not over yet!).

"It is a special year with Sydney. You can't think about the Vuelta and the Games. The culture of the Olympic Games is American, and does not exist here. If you win the Games, you don't get anything, but you win the Vuelta, your life is solved," commented Echávarri.

Etxebarría hurt

Unai Etxebarria
Photo: © AFP

Euskaltel's Unai Etxebarria became another crash victim after he lost his balance in the heat and fell on his head. He was taken to hospital in Tortosa where they treated him, although he was not seriously hurt. He fractured his elbow and received three stitches to his forehead as a result of a "silly crash".

"I was suffering quite badly because of the heat. I was going very slowly when I lost the front wheel and I could not remove my hands from the handlebars. It was a very stupid fall, because we were going so slow," said Etxebarria.

"I hit my head in the crash and they gave me three stitches, but then they discovered that I had a fractured elbow because it was hurting me. They did some x-rays to find where the breakage was."

Ziliute all set

Women's World Cup leader, Diana Ziliute (Acca Due O) will go into today's finale at Embrach, Switzerland as the clear favourite to take the overall. She currently lead's Finnish Pia Sundstedt (Gas Sport) by 60 points, and therefore needs just 16 points to clinch the win, provided that Sundstedt wins in Embrach. Ziliute came close last year but was beaten in spectacular fashion by Australia's Anna Wilson, who is not contesting the series this year.

The seventh and last round of the Women's World Cup comes immediately after the women's Tour de Suisse which was won by Zulfia Zabirova for the second time this year. Ziliute was in good form however, and picked up third on the final stage while helping her teammates completely dominate the race. Acca Due O-Lorena Camicie took 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th positions overall, as well as winning each stage and all the additional classifications save the sprint (won by Edil Savino's Giovanna Troldi). With a team like that behind her, Ziliute will find it tough to lose.

The parcours in Embrach (near Zurich) is a hilly 21.5 kilometre circuit to be completed six times. However, it is a power rider's course and not a pure climber's course as Anna Wilson showed last year. With two weeks before the Olympic Games in Sydney, this race will be an important one day test for many on the start list.

80th Paris-Brussels

This 249 km former World Cup race will not see the Alsemberg this year. In previous years, this climb was often the decisive obstacle in the finale. Instead of the Alsemberg the organisers have put the climbs from the Kasteelbrakel to the Hallerbos (especially the Bruine Put which is considered more difficult than the Alsemberg) into the parcours. The finish line on September 9 is again in the Constand Vandenstock stadium in Brussels.

25 teams from 8 countries will start and there is a big chance that Lance Armstrong will start as well as last year's winner Romans Vainsteins. Other starters include Michele Bartoli, Axel Merckx, Paolo Bettini, Leon Van Bon, Marc Wauters, Nico Mattan and Davide Rebellin. The start is in Soissons, France at 11.15 am.

Team news

Domo update

The entire name of Patrick Lefevere's Belgian super team will be Domo-Farm Frites-Latexco. The team has a budget of Euro 5 million (approx. equivalent $US) and will ride on Eddy Merckx bikes.

Lefevere is hoping he can obtain Peter van Petegem, Andreas Klier and Geert van Bondt, "but they have to be motivated 100 percent," he said. Regarding Van Petegem, "I know he signed with Mapei, but Mapei didn't know that he still had a contract for next year with Farm Frites. I'll keep the door open for Peter."

There are still legal problems for Peter van Petegem because Domo will take over the administration of Farm Frites. "I have signed with Mapei on one condition: I have to be free of Farm Frites. If the written proof for this isn't available, I can't go to Mapei. But I have to talk to Peter Post, but I can't arrange a meeting with him," said Van Petegem. "Isn't it strange, such a construct with Domo, so late in the season? There is a big force at the moment. Believe me, they are shooting sharply."

"Some time ago I nearly said yes to Patrick's team. But he didn't follow my proposal to work together with Cees Priem," he added. "Mapei or Domo, maybe I can choose between two nice things. But leaving Farm Frites is number one for me, and from what I hear: after the merger there isn't too much left of that team. I can say that I have wanted for a long time to ride with Johan Museeuw in the same team. So I don't want to block anything, but I hope the way will become clear soon."

Servais Knaven was the first rider who signed (for 2 years) for Domo-Farm Frites on Friday. "It was always a dream for me to ride with Museeuw in the same team."

The rest of the Farm Frites riders are not sure though: "First, I'll talk with Peter Post and speak to the riders afterwards. I plan to complete the whole team before October 15," said Lefevere. However there are reports in the Belgian press that Steven Kleynen, Koos Moerenhout and Robbie McEwen will sign for the team.

More Mercury

After signing Dutchman Jans Koerts, the US Mercury team hopes to sign Leon van Bon this weekend. Both will get two year contracts.

Leon van Bon confirmed the negotiations that he had with team director John Wordin, "We are very close to an agreement," he said.

Wordin added that "besides Koerts and Van Bon we are talking with some big names. We want to sign a big tour rider as well. We will have enough UCI points to start as division I team in 2001 in the World Cup and the major tours."

Memorycard gets a new sponsor

The possible future team of Mario Cipollini, Memorycard-? have announced that they have a new sponsor for next year, with the name to be revealed later. They recently lost main sponsor Jack&Jones after Bjarne Riis became the new team manager.


Another recent Belgian merger was between the second division Collstrop and Palmans teams to form a 'super' second division team. Marc Streel is one rider who is sure for the new team, who will acquire the services of Kristof Trouvé from Vlaanderen 2002 as well.

Team director Hilaire Van Der Schueren said that "we now have 13 riders for the next season and I hope to get a team of 18."

Correction: Hřlestřl will retire

Norwegian Svein Gaute Hřlestřl, who currently rides for Gerolsteiner will retire at the end of the season despite an earlier report to the contrary.