News for April 7, 2001

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85th Ronde van Vlaanderen news

There is less than two days to go before the start of the second round of the World Cup, the Ronde van Vlaanderen. With the start list almost final, there is now a lot of speculation as to who will take out the 85th edition of the race when it finishes in Ninove-Meerbeke on Sunday. Andrei Tchmil and Michele Bartoli are two of the biggest favourites, but expect strong challenges from Romans Vainsteins, Johan Museeuw, Erik Zabel, Erik Dekker, Nico Mattan and the like.

There will probably be an early suicide break, probably containing riders from some of the Belgian division II teams who obtained wildcards for the race. However, when the race really gets going over the final 150 kilometres, the stronger teams and riders (e.g. Lotto, Rabobank, Domo, Cofidis) will come to the fore.

The weather forecast is for a cool (11 celsius), clear and windy day, although you can never rule out the possibility of rain in Belgium. The wind is typically from the North West, which will be behind the riders as they travel from the west coast to Oudenaarde and Zottegem. The parcours then turns back to Oudenaarde and Kluisbergen, which will be a headwind, before once more heading East to the finish in Ninove-Meerbeke.

For all the Ronde van Vlaanderen action as it happens, log on to on April 8 at 0930 Central European Time/0030 USA East Coast/0330 USA West Coast/1730 Australian Eastern Time (note:April 7). If you can't be on the Muur on Sunday, we will at least be able to describe what happens.

Big names missing

There will be just 8 riders from the top 25 in the UCI rankings starting in Brugge on Sunday for the second round of the World Cup. Those absent include world number one Francesco Casagrande, as well as Davide Rebellin (3rd), Lance Armstrong (5th), Robert Heras (6th), Jan Ullrich (7th), Gilberto Simoni (12th), Wladimir Belli (14th), Stefano Garzelli (15th), Dari Frigo (16th), Raimondas Rumsas (17th), Laurent Jalabert (18th), Michael Boogerd (19th), Alexandre Vinokourov (20th), Pavel Tonkov (21st), Christophe Moreau (22nd), Oscar Freire (23rd) and Axel Merckx (25th).

It should be noted that the UCI scale favours tour riders, as there are quite a few points awarded for holding the leader's jersey each day, as well as finishing high up in the GC. A glance at the above list reveals that most are not aiming to peak until at least the Giro d'Italia - in over one month's time. Either that or they are injured or just do not want to ride.

RVV Organiser Harry van den Bremt regretted the withdrawal of the three Spanish teams: "Also there's not one Spanish team participating. Because we were tired of hearing their excuses of missed planes and lost bikes, so we preferred to give the wildcards to teams that were interested. But it is not a good thing for the international reputation of the World Cup. That's why we plead for stronger actions from the UCI against teams that cancel. For example, take away UCI points."

Walter Planckaert hopes for bad weather

Lotto-Adecco team director, Walter Planckaert, is hoping for bad weather in Sunday's Ronde van Vlaanderen. Although it increases the risk of a crash, it will also increase the chances of Andrei Tchmil, who is a formidable rider in bad conditions.

"Cold and miserable weather so the Italians are frightened," said Planckaert to Het Belang van Limburg. "That will make a dint in their morale. According to me, Bartoli is the big favourite for the victory, but if it is raining and cold then I think that he will perform less. That's why."

"Our team? We are ready for it. Look at what we did in the Driedaagse van De Panne. It is fantastic for the sponsors, good advertising."

However, Bartoli scored a remarkable victory in miserable conditions during the 1999 Fleche-Wallonne. The Italian attacked on the second climb of the Muur de Huy with 80km to go and only Maarten den Bakker and Oscar Camenzind could follow. Wearing knee warmers and a jacket, the Italian rode away in the snow to score a solo victory.

Steels not in Rennes, Tafi in RVV

Mapei's Tom Steels has left the hospital in Milan to return home. The medical tests didn't show anything for Steels, and sports director Eric Vanderaerden wanted him to start in the GP de Rennes on Sunday. "He isn't ready yet for RVV. But I expect Andrea Tafi at the start after his gall-bladder problem...He went back to Italy, but he is free to start..."

However, Steels will not start in Rennes, as he does not to push the load too high, too quickly. "I want to listen to my body," he said.

Pronk in Rabobank team

Matthé Pronk has found his way into the Rabobank team for the RVV, after a strong performance in the Driedaagse van de Panne. He was selected for the final spot ahead of Mathew Hayman and Coen Boerman, and joins Erik Dekker, Maarten den Bakker, Markus Zberg, Steven de Jongh, Aart Vierhouten, Jan Boven and Karsten Kroon in the Rabobank lineup for Sunday.

Wuyts breaks a rib

Cofidis' Peter Wuyts broke a rib in the second stage of the Driedaagse van de Panne, and he is in doubt for the Ronde on Sunday. If he is unable to start, his place will be taken by Latvian Juris Silovs.

Another injured Cofidis rider is Peter Farazijn, however the prognostics look good for him to start on Sunday.

10 point Tour plan: some comments

Jean-Marie Leblanc and Patrice Clerc yesterday revealed their 10 point plan to combat doping in the Tour de France. Many of the measures are fairly general in nature (an ethical code, rider/team doctor responsibility and health education), but there will also be an emphasis on an increased number of drug tests, as well as the utilisation of the newly ratified EPO test.

All of the riders in the race will undergo a pre-Tour health checkup in Dunkirk on the Wednesday before the Saturday start. This means that the results of the blood and urine tests will be known before Friday noon - enough time to exclude any riders fail any of them.

"Similar measures will be carried out before the Tour of Spain later this year and the 2002 Tour of Italy," said Leblanc to Bloomberg's Daren Tulett. "This way we will be able to build up long-term medical dossiers on all the riders and be able to spot any anomalies."

"Doping hasn't disappeared from cycling," said Festina's Carlos Da Cruz. "These new measures might make people think twice about what they're doing though."

Tour de France sponsors supported the move. "We only came into the event because we had assurances of this initiative," said Hubert Genieys of Nestle, who comitted approximately $US 12 million in sponsorship over the next three years.

French sports minister Marie-George Buffet also added her praise to the Tour de France organisers, saying that it would "protect the health of sportsmen."

"It constitutes a positive step forwards," she added. "This objective can be achieved only with the cooperation of all the parties concerned with the development of the sport."

Antwerp happy with Tour stage

Belgium's capital Antwerp "Diamond City" is happy to have the Calais-Antwerp stage of the Tour de France on July 9. After 47 years, the Tour has returned to the town of mayor Leona Detiege and governer Camille Paulus. The winner of this stage will receive a diamond worth 50,000 Dutch guilders (EURO 22,500).

Selle Italia news

The team doctor of the Italo-Colombian Selle Italia team, Alberto Beltran, has been fired by the team manager Gianni Savio. José "Chepe" Gonzalez Pico has been shown the door as well, after doping products were were found in his hotel room. Ruber Alveiro Marin and Freddy Gonzalez-Martinez will probably be suspended.

For 34 year old "Chepe", it's a sad end to his career. He won a Tour de France stage in 1996, as well as two Giro d'Italia stages (1997, 1998) and the Vuelta a Colombia twice (1994, 1995).

More Italian doping

Pharmacist Massimo Guandalini from Bologna has testified in front of Judge Pierguido Soprani that he sold doping products (mostly DHEA, and anabolic steroids) to Dr Michele Ferrari for years. This is part of the ongoing investigation into Dr Ferrari, who was the former team doctor of Gewiss and Ariostea and advised many top cyclists, including Axel Merckx, Mario Cipollini, Ivan Gotti, Gianluca Bortolami, Abraham Olano, Fernando Escartin and Tony Rominger.

Bölts wants to go on to 2003

Telekom's super domestique and triathlete, Udo Bölts, said that he wants to retire in 2003. The 34 year old has even considered ending at the end of next year, as the demands of running "Teams 23 Udo Bölts" will presumably be great.

Bölts will start in the Tour of Germany and the Tour de Suisse with Telekom. It has not yet been decided whether he will help Jan Ullrich try to win his second Tour de France. This will depend on how he performs in the lead up races.

Bölts also wants to ride Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the Amstel Gold Race, and a few more of the World Cups.

Rona adds

Genevieve Jeanson's Rona team has added another rider to its lineup, making 7 in total. Mexican Gabriela Gonzalez de Ferrat is the new rider, and she joins Amy Jarvis, Manon Jutras, Raphaële Lemieux, Mélanie McQuaid, and Mélanie Nadeau in the team.

Franken dies

Bernard Franken (87) died on Thursday. He was a Dutch professional rider in the years between 1936-1951 and won around 30 races.

Pro criteriums to merge

The spectacle of post Tour de France criteriums has been significantly reduced over the past 25 years, and there are now just 18 left in the Netherlands compared with around 70 in the 1970's. Although they are very much staged events, they can still be fun to watch, giving the public a chance to watch their heroes in action.

One idea to increase their popularity is to have an overall classification which covers 11 races: Made, Chaam, Heerlen, Steenwijk, Roosendaal, Surhuisterveen, Oostvoorne, Pijnacker, Emmen, Zwolle and Spijkenisse. A total prize pool of 50,000 Dutch guilders (EURO 22,500) is being offered by John Hertogh, member of the Draai van de Kaai organisation.

We want to preserve the phenomenon of the criterium," said Hertogh. "And that was becoming more and more difficult. For example, last year we got annoyed with taxes. That puts us with our backs against the wall. What couldn't be accomplished over the last 22 years has now finally happened. Last week on Wednesday, the 11 of us reached an agreement."

Ronde van Drenthe off

Both the men's and women's versions of the Ronde van Drenthe, scheduled for April 7, have been cancelled. The reason given is the Foot and Mouth outbreak in the Netherlands, that caused the cancellation of several other races recently.

New women's BCF-WCPP endurance coach

The British Cycling Federation's World Class Performance Programme (BCF-WCPP) has appointed Canadian Peg Hill as British National Women's Endurance Coach. Hill takes up the position on April 20 and will report to the National Women's Endurance Team Manager, Ken Matheson.

US born Peg Hill's has credentials as a coach and nutritionist, and she was an rider of international standard. Racing under her maiden name of Peg Maass, she won two US National Titles, a World Championship Bronze Medal and set a World Record in 1989 for women's 24-Hour Endurance, riding 490.5 miles. She represented the United States at the World Championships in 1985, 1988, and 1989, riding a variety of events including the road race, pursuit, points race, and team time trial. She retired from from full-time racing at the end of 1989, going on to pursue a coaching career in Canada.

She will lead the WCPP Women's Endurance Squad, including Olympic Bronze Medallist and World Champion, Yvonne McGregor, top ranked Under-23 Ceris Gilfillan and Olympians Sara Symington and Emma Davies. Peg will be working closely with National Women's Endurance Team Manager, Ken Matheson, and she will be based with the riders at Alsager, near Stoke on Trent, south of Manchester.

British event updates

Phoenix crits on

The Newport Phoenix Criterium Series (WCU), to be held on 21st and 28th April and the 12th May in now definitely on. For further details, call the he new promoter, Mike Davies, 10 Glen-Usk View, Caerleon NP14 3FY Tel - 01633 420856.

Beaumont Trophy off

The Beaumont Trophy RR (North East), scheduled for 8th April has been postponed. More details will be posted when available.

Daedalus crits move to Thruxton

The Hantspol Daedalus Crits (Wessex) on the 19th May, is to be moved to the Thruxton circuit.

Janus cancelled

The Janus RC RR (Manchester) scheduled for the 15th June has been cancelled.

Welsh Cycling Classic reduced to one day

The Welsh Cycling Classic (BCF/Reynolds National Women's RR Series) scheduled for 26th-28th May has now been reduced to a one day event, to be held on Saturday 26th May.

Colour-Tech switches to Lee Valley

The Colour-Tech Road Race (BCF National Espoirs RR Series) on the 27th May has been moved to the Lee Valley Cycle Circuit.

Betty Pharoah re-scheduled

The Legstretchers Memorial to Betty Pharoah Road Races, originally to have been held on 11th March has been rescheduled for 29th April.

Astley and Tyldesley off

The 10th Anniversary Meeting, to have been held at Astley & Tyldesley Cycle Speedway club on Easter Saturday, 14th April, has been cancelled. This is due to the extensive building work going on at the main club building having fallen behind schedule during the wet winter.

The Westral Wheelrace

The 2001 Westral Wheelrace Track Carnival, sponsored by the Perth Criterium Series and promoted by Midland Cycle Club and the WA Cycling Federation will be held on Saturday, April 7 at Midvale Speed Dome. The front doors are open to spectators from 6pm, and the entry fee $5.00 (15yrs and over). Racing starts at 7.00pm

Feature events include the 2001 Westral Wheelrace Handicap, Sprint Challenge, Keirin Challenge, Open Men Elimination Championship of WA, plus support program for seniors, U/19, U/17 and tandems.

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