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News for September 8, 2000

55th Vuelta a España news

Ullrich gives up

Jan Ullrich, winner of the 1999 edition of the Vuelta a España, today abandoned the race after stage 12 in Zaragoza. Ullrich was lying 4th in the overall classification at 2'33 and finished the stage in the top group, although he did lose 12 seconds. He gave a six minute press conference in the evening afterwards where he explained the reasons for his departure.

"I want a medal in Sydney. There is the risk that my form would decrease if I have to go to my limits each day here in order to ride at the front," he said. "I noticed after the stage to Arcalis that I'm not recording high heart rates, and that is a sign that I am no longer fresh."

"I am sorry to leave the Vuelta, as it is a beautiful race and I would have liked to have defended my title of last year. I said at the start that I was using it as preparation, and if there was a possibility of winning I would try. However, it has not been the case. It was not a premeditated decision, but I have taken things day by day," he added. "I wanted to respect the organisers, but I did not want to ride with the back group just for training."

Ullrich will fly back to Germany tomorrow, to follow a specific training program leading up to the Olympics. His team boss, Rudy Pevenage realised the signs were there on stage 11 and wants to get "super Jan" back into shape.

Despite having won the Vuelta and the World Time Trial Championships in 1999, this year is clearly different as Ullrich already has a second place in the Tour de France behind him, and some good results in Italy since then. He will lose a large number of UCI points that he gained from the Vuelta last year, and probably his number one ranking. However, he rates the Olympic Gold Medal quite highly, although not as great as a second Tour de France win.

Petacchi rates it higher

Fassa Bortolo's Alessandro Petacchi said of his win today in Zaragoza that it was better than the one he obtained in stage 8 because "the conditions under which we raced were much harder," referring to the wind and the high speed.

"We had to work hard during the stage against the winds that blew from almost every direction and we lost a lot, but in the final kilometres the work of my teammates, in particular Belli, ensured that we were compensated with a win."

Casero gains time

Vuelta a España leader, Angel Casero (Festina) did the expected today and held onto his golden jersey in the fast paced stage around Zaragoza. In a day marked yet again by strong crosswinds, Casero stayed with the front group that was only 16 strong by the finish. It was an interesting stage, coming between two rest days and all the top riders were watching each other closely. However, with 25 kilometres to go, a top group of 27 split off with Casero, Olano, Ullrich, Galdeano, and Heras in the lead, while Tonkov, Beltran, and Escartin were behind.

Casero said afterwards to Spanish TV (as he was transferred by helicopter to Santander) that when he saw some of his GC rivals off the back, he started working hard. All advantages, however small, can help although he would dearly have loved to have made Heras lose some time. Even Gonzalez de Galdeano and Ullrich lost more seconds towards the end, although the latter didn't really care at that point.

"It was a very tricky day because the wind was in different directions. The favorites were too close together and we were all a little afraid," said Casero who went to the front after the split caused by Telekom and ONCE. "The idea was to drop Heras, but Kelme worked for him"

"Just as Heras will attack us in the mountains , we have done it in terrain that doesn't suit him".

Escartin suffers but Heras OK

Kelme's Fernando Escartin has lost time on just about every stage of this year's Vuelta wherever there has been a crosswind. Today he lost a further 34 seconds to race leader Angel Casero, and is now 5'27 adrift in 13th. The short stage today was by no means easy however, as the riders averaged nearly 48 km/h on the circuit starting and finishing in Zaragoza.

Escartin said afterwards that he was quite tired and worn out, although we can certainly look to some more Kelme fireworks on stages 14 and 16. Roberto Heras needs just 1'15 to unseat Angel Casero and is looking strong, and Escartin said that they "would put everything into the stages to Covadonga and Angliru."

Zarrabeitia leaves

Mikel Zarrabeitia (ONCE) today left the medical center in Zaragoza where he was operated on to amputate his right ring finger. Zarrabeitia had crashed during stage 11 after he accidentally put his hand in the spokes of the front wheel, severely injuring his right hand. The operation went well though, and Zarrabeitia will return home to Abadiano shortly where he will be married on November 4.

Järmann admits EPO use

Former Swiss professional, Rolf Järmann has admitted to using EPO during his career. In his book, 'Doping, Spitzensport als gesellschaftliches Problem' (Doping, Top Sport as a Social Problem) he reveals that he came in contact with the drug in the early 90's. He realised that to make it at the top level, he would have to take it and did so with the help of Swiss pharmacists, who "knew exactly what I wanted it for but they were happy to help."

Extracts of the book were published, anonymously at first, in the Swiss newspaper, Neuen Zürcher Zeitung. However it was revealed in today's edition that Järmann was the author. He commented also on Alex Zülle's current form, saying in the newspaper Blick that he "now rides clean" after he admitted to EPO use as a result of the Festina affair. "But without EPO you can ride only ten stages at a very high level. Afterwards the fire is burned out," he said.

Järmann is well known amongst internet cycling fans as being one of the first online diarists, and his entries were often an interesting view behind the closed wall of the peloton. He alluded to EPO in those writings without directly admitting that he used it.

Järmann rode for 13 seasons professionally, with teams such as Ceramiche Ariostea, GB-MG, Casino and Post Swiss, winning 23 races including the Amstel Gold Race (twice), Tirreno-Adriatico, GP Ouest France, and stages in the Giro, Tour de France, Romandie and Switzerland.

Team news

Two more Belgians to the Domo-Farm Frites squad are Wilfried Cretskens and Karel Vereecke, who currently ride for Vlaanderen 2002. They have each signed 1 year contracts with the team.

Fernando Escartin has negotiated his contract with Kelme a good deal earlier this year, and has signed for another year with the team.

27 year old Belgian, Geert Verheyen (Lotto) who finished 20th in the Tour de France has signed a two year contract with with Rabobank. "Geert is a strong rider who can ride well in tours and in the mountains, but he can also play an important role in hard World Cup races," said team manager, Theo de Rooy.

German team Gerolsteiner will acquire the services of Swiss Marcel Strauss, currently riding for Post Swiss. Strauss, 24, is a good mountain climber and finished second in the Tour of Bern earlier this year. He also managed two top 10 placings in the Tour de Suisse and finished second in the Swiss road championships behind Markus Zberg.

Robert Förster and Christian Werner will ride for the second division Nürnberger team after they signed two year contracts with the team. Förster comes from DHfK Leipzig and this will be a significant step up for the 22 year old who won the sprints competition in the Peace Race this year.

Christian Werner (RV Henninger Sossenheim) was a member of German U23 team for several years. In addition, Austrian U23 champion, Werner Riebenbauer will ride for Nürnberger and will provide a significant boost, along with the other two, to Nürnberger's development prospects in the next season.

Note: Mercury is not a division of General Motors as stated in yesterday's "Mercury news from Holland". Unless Ford and GM have merged recently...

BMC Tour of Arlington

The final race in the four event BMC series in the US will be the BMC Software Tour of Arlington on September 17. With a strong overseas contingent for the race, Canadian Gord Fraser's bid to win $US250,000 could be under pressure. National teams from Belgium, the Netherlands, and the French CR4C-Roane team make up some of the international flavour of the event that will take place in Arlington, Massachusetts in 10 days time.

Other notable entrants include Kiwis Graeme Miller and Glen Mitchell and the Shaklee Team with (of course) John Lieswyn in attendance. Russian Vasiliy Davidenko (Navigators) has won three races this year, but featured on the podium 14 times. Navigators' Franky Van Haesebroucke is a well known criterium specialist and has over 18 years of European racing experience.

7UP/Colorado Cyclist will feature Guatemalans, Juan and Oscar Pineda amongst their strong lineup, which includes relatively new signing Chris Fisher.

The four race BMC Software Cycling Grand Prix exists within the Saturn USPRO Cycling Tour, a 17-event professional cycling series with a points system to decide the winner. At the moment, Mercury's Gord Fraser has an unbeatable lead in the USPRO Tour, but the $US 250,000 for wining all four BMC events would be a sweet send off for the Olympic Games in Sydney shortly afterwards.