News for September 5, 2000

55th Vuelta a España news

Cardenas assured

Felix Rafael Cardenas was the winner of today's mountain top finish at Super Molina and the Colombian added yet another climbing stage to Kelme's palmares. He was best over the second last climb (Coll de la Creueta at kilometre 132) and though that he was the strongest of his breakaway group.

"I looked at how the others were very tired and was happy. My options were better later when I only had to dispute the victory with a single rider (Odriozola)," said the Kelme mountaineer.

The Kelme plan was to have Cardenas as a sacrifice for Rubiera or Heras, but when ONCE's Santos Gonzalez joined the break, Kelme were forced to chase in the peloton as he was the leader on the road. That's the way it remained, but the damage was at least limited and Kelme won the stage.

After their poor showing in the first week, the boys in green, white and blue are looking to make amends as soon as the road goes up. Heras, at 3'21 is still their best GC hope, but stage wins and attacking in the mountains are likely to be high on the agenda.

Zülle and Olano suffer

The leader during week one of the Vuelta, Alex Zülle has, in the past two days, dropped completely out of contention. Firstly there was his below par showing in yesterday's Tarragona time trial, but today in the mountains was far worse. He finished 68th, 15'47 behind the winner and bowed out of contention yet again. This year, it seemed as though Zülle could do what he did four years ago and win the Vuelta, but his consistency is simply not there any more.

Kelme's boss, Vicente Belda said that "We have eliminated Zülle, already there is one less. It could be that tomorrow another one falls. Roberto Heras is riding well, and he could do something great."

Belda could also be comforted by the fact that Olano was put into difficulty today (30th at 2'47). Holder of the golden jersey for just one day, Olano relinquished it to teammate, Santos Gonzalez, and ONCE are now in the 1-2 position. Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano (Vitalicio) also suffered, as did Jan Ullrich (Telekom). With these big names under pressure, Kelme may yet get Heras into a winning position.

Again, Belda was proud of his team: "We were the first to attack to see who would fail. We have shaken the tree and first it was Zülle and soon we will make up the distance," he vowed.

Tomorrow: Arcalis awaits

Stage 11 is an even greater challenge for the riders, travelling from Alp to the Andorran ski station of Arcalis. Although it is only 136.5 kilometres, three first category and above climbs in the stage will produce some big gaps in the classification. ONCE will have to choose between the relatively unknown Santos Gonzalez and their designated leader, Abraham Olano. Given Olano's form today and his past record, ONCE could do worse than support Gonzalez. That is of course if the latter is up to the task.

Then there is Festina's Angel Casero, lying in third overall at a minute behind Gonzalez. The team said that they didn't want to attack too early, as there are plenty of hard stages to come. He is certainly in a good position should the opportunity arise.

The main difficulties are the Alto de Rabasso (1,800 m) and the Coll d'Ordino (1,980 m), both category one. The final ascent to Arcalis goes to 2,230 m and is rated above categorisation. Catch all the action once again live on

Wüst out of hospital

German cyclist Marcel Wüst (Festina), who was severely wounded in his right eye on August 11 during a criterium in France, left the hospital in Cologne over the weekend. Festina/Specialized's Kirsten Begg spoke to him after he returned home and provided the following update on his condition. Thanks also (from us at cyclingnews) to everyone who sent email wishing him back to good health. Hospitals can be lonely places!

KB: How are you doing?

MW: Well finally I am at home. You know what hospitals are like - you need them but if I wanted some fresh air I had to go down fourteen floors through all these sick people. Now I can just walk out the door. It's really great to be home with my family, and where I can be comfortable and just rest, or hopefully soon ride the trainer, if the doctor gives me the OK.

KB: Did you know how many people are thinking about you and wishing you a speedy recovery?

MW: Oh, I received a mountain of cards and letters and I'd like to say thanks to everyone for that.

KB: How do you feel?

MW: I feel good. After being told that when I arrived at the hospital I had brain fluid coming out my nose, I realize that I really am lucky to be alive. I look around me here and - it's such a gift that I have a wife and son and we can hug and kiss. Plus Alexander is sooooo excited that his dad is home and he wants to play all the time. Unfortunately I can't do very much so Heike (his wife) sort of has two babies to take care of for a while!

It makes you realize what's important in life, I've had a great sports career and, although I'm nowhere near finished, I've achieved a lot. If it turns out I can't race any more then I'd be pretty happy with what I've achieved in my 12 years in the peloton. Right now it's wait and see but it's also important to me to be a good father to my son, and a good husband to my wife. It's also my son Alexander's second birthday in a few weeks so we are all looking forward to that.

Also now I talk with friends on the phone and talking to my teammates helps keep my morale up.

KB: Do you remember anything about the crash, were you wearing a helmet?

MW: I don't remember anything about the race or the crash, which is probably a good thing, so I don't know if I had a helmet on or not. I wear my helmet all the time so it would be unlikely that I wouldn't have been wearing it.

KB: What was the damage that you did to your eye? (Squeamish people may not want to read on)

MW: I had four fractures to the orbit of the eye and fractures of the skull. The eye was just exploded by the impact so they had to totally reconstruct it. They filled it with some sort of silicon gel to hold the shape. The right eye is bandaged so it can heal and recover and in two months time we'll reevaluate and see what the prognosis will be - whether I'll see nothing or just black-and-white or color or whatever - and there'll probably be another operation on the eye.

The first three operations where pretty intensive - six hours of facial surgery on the broken bones and two four-hour operations on the eye. I have a scar right over the top of my head from ear to ear.

KB: So what are you going to be up to now that you're home?

MW: My emphasis now is on recovering and letting everything heal. I've lost a bit of weight in the hospital - I'm lighter now than when I had to quit the Tour! When you're used to riding 150 km every day, your body doesn't adapt well to just doing nothing.

Also I have to do exercises to reeducate the muscles in my eyelid. But I can't do too much. Right now my left eye has to do all the work and it gets tired pretty quickly so I can't watch much TV or read very much. I haven't got into my e-mail yet so I'm sure there will be a pile of e-mails to get through.

I have a long road ahead of me recovery-wise but as a cyclist I'm used to struggling against stuff. The bottom line is be healthy and be happy.

Collinelli out

Italian track star, Andrea Collinelli, will not be able to defend his individual pursuit title in Sydney after it was confirmed today that he had failed a drugs test. President of the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI), Giovanni Petrucci, said on Italian radio that Collinelli had traces of Lidocaine (a pain killer) and Fentermine (a stimulant) in his urine after a test taken in mid-July. This was confirmed by his "B" sample which was recently tested in a laboratory in Cologne.

For his part, Collinelli denies that he took them, saying that the must have been put into his food or drink and that he had not knowingly doped.

Rider killed in France

The women's Trophee d'Or in France, finally won by Leontien Van Moorsel, was unfortunately the scene of a fatal accident, when Swiss rider Magali Pache was killed by a car after the last stage. She was hit while she was riding to her hotel, and the car also collided with her team director's car. Two others were injured: Irishwoman Geraldine Gilles and Englishwoman Michaela Fisher. The driver of the vehicle was arrested and taken to Saint-Amand-Montrond police station.

In today's stage of the Tour de l'Avenir, the race observed a minute's silence in memory of the deceased who was a compatriot of Mercury's Steve Zampieri (2nd in today's stage.).

Frischknecht awarded

The UCI have officially awarded Swiss rider Thomas Frischknecht the gold medal and championship jersey that he earned in the 1996 World Mountain Biking Championships in Cairns, Australia. The ceremony took place in Lausanne after the final rounds of the Mountain Bike World Cup, when UCI president Hein Verbruggen presented Frischknecht with the jersey and medal. In addition, Norwegian Rune Hoydahl and Italian Hubert Pallhuber had their results upgraded to silver and bronze.

The results had to be changed after French mountain biker, Jerome Chiotti admitted to using EPO prior to winning the title. In an interview with "Velo Vert" magazine earlier this year, Chiotti made the surprising admission which provoked a strong reaction from many members of the cycling community, including the French Cycling Federation. The FFC decided to suspend Chiotti for a whole year with deferment, a punishment considered a little light by the UCI.

Chiotti was remorseful and gave his jersey and medal to Frischknecht in an unofficial ceremony shortly afterward. The UCI wanted an official ceremony, and chose the final day of the World Cup in order to do so.

"I'm happy for Thomas that he gets his medal and jersey he deserved, the only thing is it should have happened in 1996," Verbruggen told Reuters. "We are correcting a mistake but that's life."

Mapei's 500th

The world's current number one team, Mapei have been in cycling since 1993 when they started with a moderately sized co-sponsored team. In the past eight years, they have grown to be a "super team" with their second string squad the envy of most teams' first squads. Of 85 professionals that have passed through their ranks during this period, 53 have won races - an impressive testimony to the depth of their squad.

This year, the team finally lost its director, Patrick Lefevere who wants to build a new super team of his own: Domo-Farm Frites-Latexco and has succeeded in signing many top riders including Johan Museeuw. However, Mapei are still number one and still have a good enough line up to remain that way in 2001. The Italian contingent remains extremely strong, they have the talented Oscar Freire for another two years and they have signed several more young riders in order to develop in future.

They recently recorded their 500th victory in the Tour de l'Avenir with promising young Hungarian Laszlo Bodgrogi winning the stage two time trial to Saint-Mars-la-Jaile. His honour of winning their 500th was of course built on the shoulders of giants but there could be more to come from this young rider.

The team's most successful riders are Tom Steels (49 wins), Tony Rominger (46), Johan Museeuw (39), Frank Vandenbroucke (37), Jan Svorada (26) and Andrea Tafi (22). Their most successful year was 1997 where they won 97 races, including four national championships (Italy, Belgium, Switzerland and Japan) and a round of the World Cup. In 1996, 1998 and 1999 they placed 1-2-3 in the Queen of the classics, Paris-Roubaix, which they also won this year with Johan Museeuw. They have won the Giro d'Italia and the Vuelta a España (Rominger), the overall classification of the World Cup (Museeuw, Bortolami), and the World Road Championships three times (Olano, Museeuw, and Camenzind). This year, their victory list in UCI ranked races is 65 and growing.

World record attempt postponed

54 year old Dutchman, Fred Rompelberg has postponed his attempt at a new world speed record in cycling. Rompelberg already holds the record at 268 km/h (behind a pace car), but wanted another try at it on October 22 on the Bonneville Speedway, a salt lake in Utah. However, he has injured his left knee and has set a date for November 12 to try and break the record.