News for April 11, 2001

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63rd Gent-Wevelgem

By Jeff Jones

Tomorrow will see the 63rd running of the Gent-Wevelgem semi-classic in Belgium. The 215 kilometre race is often held mid-week between the Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix classics, and is often used as a form sharpener. As well as being 55 kilometres shorter, the race is also far less hillier than the Ronde van Vlaanderen, and often ends in a sprint finish.

The main difficulties are the Zwarteberg, Rodeberg and Kemmelberg, the latter climbed twice. The summit of the Kemmelberg is at 173 kilometres, meaning that the sprinters have 40 kilometres to re-group. If there is a lot of wind, as was the case last year, then the race takes on a different shape as the peloton is shredded into echelons.

25 teams are entered for the race, including most of those from last Sunday. Domo will compete with Romans Vainsteins, Max van Heeswijk and Johan Museeuw as their main riders, but will be without Robbie McEwen who is not in form. Lotto might be seeking some revenge from Sunday, but they will be without Andrei Tchmil who has gone back home to Italy to spend time with his family before Paris-Roubaix. Nico Eeckhout, Hendrick Van Dijck, and Jeroen Blijlevens will represent the Belgian national lottery in Gent-Wevelgem.

Telekom have a strong team with Erik Zabel, Steffen Wesemann, Gian Matteo Fagnini, and Danilo Hondo, while Fassa Bortolo have Fabio Baldato, Alessandro Petacchi, and Dimitri Konyshev. Cofidis (Mattan, Planckaert, Peers), Saeco (Cipollini, Pieri, Conte) and CSC-World Online (Hoffman, Sorensen, Piziks) are all capable of producing winners as well.

The race will start at 1130 local time, with an expected finish at 1650. Once again, will be providing live updates of the event, starting at 1500 European time (0900 USA East Coast, 0600 USA West Coast, 2300 Australian East Coast).


Domo-Farm Frites, Mercury-Viatel, Rabobank, Fassa Bortolo, Mapei-Quick Step, Lotto-Adecco, Telekom, Saeco Macchine per Caffe, Cofidis, CSC-World Online, US Postal Service, Crédit Agricole, Lampre-Daikin, Tacconi Sport-Vini Caldirola, Team Coast, Bankgiroloterij, Française des Jeux, Bonjour, Geroslteiner, Collstrop-Palmans, Alexia Aluminio, Vlaanderen T Interim, Landbouwkrediet, Flanders-Prefetex, Ville de Charleroi.

Recent winners

2000 Geert Van Bondt (Bel)
1999 Tom Steels (Bel)
1998 Frank Vandenbroucke (Bel)
1997 Philippe Gaumont (Fra)
1996 Tom Steels (Bel)
1995 Lars Michaelsen (Den)
1994 Wilfried Peeters (Bel)
1993 Mario Cipollini (Ita)
1992 Mario Cipollini (Ita)
1991 Djamolidine Abdoujaparov (Uzb)

Pantani risks missing Tour de France

It appears that Marco Pantani's chances of competing in this year's Tour de France have taken a blow after one of his team-mates failed a blood test before last Sunday's Ronde van Vlaanderen.

The Mercatone Uno team is one of several aiming to secure one of the four wildcard entries into the 2001 edition of the tour, due to be announced on May 2. "We will look at a team's conduct on the road and off it," Tour de France director Jean-Marie Leblanc told Darren Tulett of Bloomberg News. "We'll try to take decisions that are in the best sporting interests of the Tour."

Prior to the start of the RVV last weekend, 35 year old Fabiano Fontanelli from Mercatone was the first rider to officially fail a hematocrit test this year, and was given a mandatory 15 day suspension from racing by the UCI. He also submitted a urine sample, which will be tested and the results known within two days. Whatever the outcome, Mercatone Uno will probably fire him according to reports in the Italian press.

With the recent introduction by the Tour de France of a 10 point anti-doping program, Mercatone Uno chances have taken a serious setback. "This couldn't have come at a worse time for Mercatone Uno," Jean-Luc Gatellier, who has written several books on the Tour de France, told the Bloomberg reporter. "With organisers underlining their determination to send out an anti- doping message, it will be hard for them to include Pantani's team now."

In 1999, Italian team Vini Caldirola was banned from the race after Serhiy Honchar failed a hematocrit test earlier in the year. However, that decision stirred up a lot of controversy after Richard Virenque was allowed to compete, although at that time he had not yet admitted to doping.

Fontanelli faces a one year ban if found guilty of doping, as he has previously tested positive for high levels of testosterone and it would be his second offence.

Pantani: LBL or Settimana Bergamesca

Marco Pantani's Mercatone Uno team manager, Giuseppe Martinelli, says that he will decide tomorrow when and where Pantani will come back to racing. He will ride either Settimana Bergamesca or Liege-Bastogne-Liege, the latter being organised by the Societè du Tour de France.

"People say that our invitation to the Tour depends on Pantani's participation in Liege-Bastogne-Liege," said Martinelli. "But that is not true."

"Marco is training at the moment, and working well," he added. "The most important thing is for him to recover from bronchitis, then we are one. Our biggest objective remains the Giro d'Italia."

Sick/injured brigade

Cipollini in doubt

Just a day after he announced his intention of doing well in the race, Mario Cipollini (Saeco) is now in doubt for Gent-Wevelgem. The Italian sprinter is suffering from dysentery, and will decide whether to ride tomorrow morning. Cipollini won the race in 1992 and 1993.

Hoste sick

Belgian Leif Hoste had to pull out of the Vuelta a Pais Vasco after stage 1. The Domo-Farm Frites rider was ill and didn't make the time cut.

Marichal out of G-W

Thierry Marichal (Lotto-Adecco) has had to pull out of starting Gent-Wevelgem due to knee pain. He will be substituted by Kurt Van Lancker. Dutchman Jeroen Blijlevens will start the race on Wednesday, his first on Belgian soil in the Lotto jersey.

Van Petegem still suffering

Mercury-Viatel's Peter van Petegem is still not 100% recovered from the cold that has plagued him for over a week. He failed to finish the Ronde van Vlaanderen, and has trained lightly for the past two days on the road. "If I don't ride well in Gent-Wevelgem, I can forget about Paris-Roubaix for sure," he said.

Tafi busy

On the Monday after riding the Ronde van Vlaanderen, Mapei's Andrea Tafi started in the Vuelta a Pais Vasco in Spain. The former Italian champion intends on stopping the race on Wednesday (stage 3) in order to prepare for Paris-Roubaix. Tafi and Ballerini are Mapei's main men for Sunday.

Frank Vandenbroucke satisfied

Despite only finishing 142nd @ 6.59, Lampre's Franck Vandenbroucke made a "satisfactory" return to competition in the Vuelta a Pais Vasco. VDB hasn't raced since the 2000 Tour de France, and many thought that he would quite for good. However in yesterday's first stage, he managed to come in with a small group, some 7 minutes behind winner Davide Rebellin.

"I did not expect the tempo to be that high as from the start. I really had to force myself during those first 50 km. My physical condition still has to improve every day but I knew beforehand that this would be a tough race. The Basque racers ride their World Championship here every day. It will be the other racers who will decide in the coming days if I will go home or not. Let's wait and see."

Amstel Gold Race: no St Pietersberg climb

The organisation of the Amstel Gold Race (April 28) will probably have to look for a new decisive point in the finale. Due to the Foot and Mouth disease, they can't ride over the Sint-Pietersberg (3.5 km to the end). The climb goes through a green area in which there is a big herd of sheep.

Race director Leo van Vliet is looking for an alternative. "We are now negotiating with the council, Nature preservation groups, and the Limburg Farmer's Union," he said. "At the moment, it is not necessary to cancel the race, and we are continuing to organise it."

Olympia's Tour not in danger yet

The Olympia's Tour is not endangered by Foot and Mouth disease at the moment. According to one of the race directors, Wim van Steenbergen, the 9 day stage race is not passing through areas where the virus has been found.

"We are thus assuming that the race will go ahead," said Van Steenbergen. Olympia's Tour starts on May 19. However, the De Hel van het Mergelland (April 21) has been cancelled.

WCPP to France

The BCF-WCPP Track Endurance squad will be contesting the Circuit des Mines stage race (UCI 2.5) in France, from April 26-May 1. The team's top rider will be Bradley Wiggins, 7th last year and recent winner of the Cinturón Ciclista Internacional a Mallorca in Spain. His teammates will be Paul Manning, Chris Newton, Steve Cummings, Bryan Steel and Phil West. Paul Manning won two stages in the Circuit des Mines last year, and Chris Newton goes into the race in good form following a stage victory in Majorca.

Prior to France, the team will be visiting Belgium for the Vlaanderens Tweedaagse der Gaverstreek (April 14-15), which replaces the cancelled Girvan Stage Race.

Youth Super Squadra Sports

The Seattle based Youth Super Squadra Sports Program (YS3) is aimed at providing opportunities to young people (Ages 5 - 14) who want to get involved in cycling. YS3 provides equipment for its members to use and support through coaching and encouragement.

Youth Squadra

Justin Kerr, Age 10
Johnathan Skeehan, Age 12
Cole Cutright, Age 8
Kyle Howlett, Age 6
Julia Armstrong, Age 5
Amber Gossett, Age 7
Jeremy Kerr, Age 10
Nicholis, Age 8

YS3 Team Management

Team Manager: Jerry Cutright,
Assistant Manager: Steve Skeehan
Ride Leader: Mark Lambie


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