News for September 6, 2000

55th Vuelta a Espańa news

Casero on

Festina's Angel Casero has found himself in the lead of the Vuelta after the first 11 stages. With plenty more testing stages to come, the question is whether his team can support him into Madrid. Today he showed good signs, putting a minute into Ullrich and four into Olano, finishing in roughly the same time as Igor González de Galdeano. However he lost time to Kelme's Roberto Heras who is now just 1'15 away from grabbing the golden jersey. Heras might well do that in stage 14 and 16 but the question is by how much and whether he can maintain it in the final time trial in Madrid. Despite the loss of some of the favourites these past few days, the 55th Vuelta a Espańa is still alive and kicking.

Casero will be without Guiseppe Di Grande and Florent Brard who retired during today's stage. However, he said afterwards that "This is my first leader's jersey in a Grand Tour. My form is good and I was happy to limit the time I lost to the pure climbers. Some of the rider's who also rode well today are the same riders who can take the jersey from me so now my teammates and I have to defend it."

Angel Casero Bio

Quite quiet and unassuming, Angel is car crazy, has a great passion for the Tour de France and is extremely proud of his Valencian heritage and all things Valencian. He had surgery on his left achilles tendon over the winter and missed most of the early season races. He also crashed out of this year's Tour de France on the Mont Ventoux stage.

His main goal for 2000: Finish on the podium at the Tour de France (was 5th overall in 1999 Tour) and/or the Vuelta Espańa

Born: September 27, 1972 in Valencia (Spain)
Marital status: Married with a son, Alvaro
Lives: Valencia
Pro since: 1994
Prior teams: Banesto (94, 95, 96, 97), Vitalicio Seguros (98, 99)
Began cycling at age: 13
First race win: age 14
First pro win: 1994
Biggest pro win to date: Overall winner 1994 Tour de L'Avenir
Total career wins: 6
Favorite race: Tour de France
Most admired racer: Miguel Indurain
Mountain bike: Specialized 2000 Stumpjumper XC
Hero: None
Product that has most advanced the sport: Campagnolo Ergopower combined shift/brake levers
Winter activities: Spending time at home
Car: Audi TT, Mercedes ML
Favorite meal: Paella Valenciana (Valencian-style paella)
Favorite music: Pop
Favorite team: Valencia (soccer)
Hobbies: Cars, cars and more cars.
Dream tandem partner: My wife
Perfect day: Stay at home
If not a racer, would be a: Teacher

Favourites suffer

ONCE's fortunes took a hammering today after Mikel Zarrabeitia was forced to abandon, and Olano and their man in gold, Santos Gonzalez both lost significant amounts of time. Their saving grace was Carlos Sastre who took second in the stage to Roberto Laiseka, but he is currently lying 14th overall. Gonzalez is a very shaky 5th, while Olano is 9th and dropping. With more steep climbs to come, will Manolo Saiz' boys be able to marshall themselves for some glory in the latter half of the Vuelta?

Jan Ullrich finished 4 minutes down today, and lost over one minute to new leader Casero. The German is still fourth overall at 2'21 and may be playing a tactical game with the rest so he doesn't have the pressure of defending the jersey for too long. If he wants to win the Vuelta and have a shot at the Olympics, then this is the best way to go about it: he doesn't have to expend his team or his reserves until it counts in the final stages. If he's there in Madrid at a similar time gap, then look out.

Zarrabeitia abandons

One of ONCE's top riders, Mikel Zarrabeitia was forced to abandon in stage 11 after he fell at the 82nd kilometre. He was taken by ambulance to the medical centre at Seo de urgel in order to assess his injuries. The most serious were to his right fingers, one of which (the little finger) will require stitches while the other (the ring finger) unfortunately had to be amputated.

Zülle off

Swiss cyclist Alex Zülle has admitted defeat in this year's Vuelta after a surprising collapse of form in the last three stages. Today he lost 8'11 and now lies 30th overall at 19'02, a far cry from his golden days of week one. He was looking to repeat his wins of 1996 and 1997 but several mountains and a time trial have put paid to that.

He blamed his lack of success on his inability to recover between stages: "My legs do not turn well. I believed that it was simply a bad day, but I have now had several days like that," he said.

However, despite losing Jimenez, the Banesto leader said that he would continue on in order to help the rest of the team. Their best rider now is Eladio Jimenez, 4th in the mountains classification and 17th overall at 7'23.

Coming up...

There are two rest days in the coming three days punctuated by a transition stage 12 in Zaragoza on Thursday, September 7. Stage 13 will also be fairly flat and the next real test will be on Sunday, September 10 with another mountain top finish in Lagos de Covadonga.

Armstrong update: fractured vertebrae

Lance Armstrong's training crash last week in Nice resulted in more serious injuries than first thought, it was revealed by the US Postal team today. An MRI scan taken at the Centre d'Imagerie Medicale De Monaco showed that Armstrong suffered a fractured vertebrae in the region of his neck and will keep him out of competition in the coming weeks.

The collision with the car took place on August 29, and Armstrong immediately went to hospital for X-rays. Although they proved negative, he complained of neck pain and went for an MRI and CT scan. where the fracture of the transverse process of the C7 vertebrae was revealed.

The injury is certainly a setback to his Olympics preparation but he said that he still intends to compete in Sydney. He is able to train but cannot move his neck too far, meaning that road training is quite dangerous. He will not be able to race on Saturday's Paris-Brussels and Sunday's Grand Prix Fourmies, however he does intend starting in the GP des Nations time trial on September 16. After that, he will decide whether to come to Sydney.

Team news

Domo has started sorting out which Farm Frites riders will join the team next year, although the list is not yet definitive: So far (according to Belgian/Dutch press): Servais Knaven, Glenn Magnusson, Robbie McEwen, Koos Moerenhout, Steven Kleynen, Gerben Löwik, Mario De Clercq and Bram Tankink are amongst the riders named to join Johan Museeuw, Max Van Heeswijk, and Axel Merckx. With twenty rider places to fill, over half are taken according to these names.

Cofidis will acquire Vini Caldirola's Guido Trentin as well as Jean Michel Tessier (FdJ) for next year, with the latter signing for two years.

The German division II team Gerolsteiner will have ex-Telekom rider, Christian Henn and Rolf Gölz as directeur sportifs, with Hans Michael Holczer as team manager. Henn, 36, had a premature end to his racing career last year after he gave a high epitestosterone:testosterone ratio in the Tour of Bavaria. He denied the claims but decided to retire anyway, and started out this year directing the ill-fated IPM team. That team was forced to stop after its main sponsor was arrested on fraud charges. Henn then involved himself with Nürnberger before accepting the post at Gerolsteiner.

US team Manheim Auctions-Mercury are wheeling and dealing (so to speak) and several names have been bandied about for their lineup next year: Jans Koerts, Leon Van Bon, Fabrizio Guidi, Chann McRae, Bingen Fernández, Niklas Axelsson, Alain Gallopin (now FdJ as directeur sportif) in addition to their current riders. Team boss John Wordin assured us that September 10 is the day of revealing the full lineup.

Van Peteghem threatens to stop

Gaspard Van Peteghem, the director sportif of the Spar-Oki team, has threaten to stop sponsoring his team if they don't get a start in Paris-Brussels this Saturday.

"They won't let us start because we only bring cars with us and no money," said an annoyed Van Peteghem yesterday.

Paris-Brussels organiser De Mol responded, saying that "I have 30 teams that want to start, but only 25 teams can do so. I'm in the position to say which teams will start or not."

NORBA at Mammoth

The final showdown of the VISA National Off-Road Bicycle Association (NORBA) Downhill Series and SoBe Dual Slalom Series will take place this weekend, September 9-10 at Mammoth Mountain, California. With less than 75 points between the first and second ranked rider in each series, racers will be primed for fast and heated action. National championship titles are on the line for U.S. riders, while international stars will be looking for a piece of the cash purse as well.

The action begins on September 9 with the SoBe Dual Slalom Series finals at 17:30. The women will see dual dual slalom national champion Cheri Elliott (Maxxis/ODI) up against Aussie Katrina Miller who leads the series and has won two of the four SoBe Dual Slalom races this year.

In the men, World Cup winners Eric Carter (GT) and Brian Lopes (Volvo-Cannondale) are in first and second, respectively. Lopes won two of the four SoBe Dual Slalom races this year and trails Carter by only 20 points. Carter snagged the national dual slalom title in 1996 and 1998, while claiming the World Cup championship in '99.

Carter is also positioned to take the Stars and Stripes jersey in the VISA Downhill the following day. He is in second place, less than 30 points behind Kiwi John Kirkcaldie. Reigning world champion Myles Rockwell (Giant) won the first two VISA Downhill races, but will miss the finals in Mammoth. After bruising a hip bone at June's national race in Utah, Rockwell suffered hairline fractures in his left arm's ulna and radius during August's World Cup competition in Kaprun, Austria.

Durango residents Elke Brutsaert and Missy Giove currently sit one and two in the VISA women's downhill. Brutsaert has won three of the four events thus far is scheduled to race in Mammoth after suffering an injury in August. At the World Cup race in Austria, Brutsaert tangled with her bike and ended up with a hole in her hamstring. If she captures the national title, it will be her first U.S. championship of her career. For Giove, the 2000 national title would be her second-consecutive championship after winning last year in Mount Snow, Vermont.