News for April 25, 2001

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Mapei talks: Michele Bartoli looking for another team?

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Michele Bartoli
Photo: © Sirotti

Top Mapei one day specialist Michele Bartoli may be seeking another team next year, after his contract with the Italian super squadra ends at the close of this season. Bartoli's early season has been leaner than expected, despite his impressive win in Het Volk. In both La Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege - races that suit the Italian powerhouse - Bartoli failed to make the final break and the whole team came away empty handed.

As a result, Mapei do not have any riders ranked in the UCI top 10, and is trailing in 4th place behind Rabobank, Fassa Bortolo, and Lotto-Adecco in the UCI teams classification. Interestingly enough, Mapei combined with Domo would give them more than enough points to rule the roost as they have done for so many years. But that is out of the question of course.

Yesterday, the Mapei head honchos got together for a discussion. "I had expected a crisis meeting, but there was no panic," said Belgian team director Eric Vanderaerden to Belgian daily, De Standaard. "First we had an hour's winding down and analysing the races with the team leaders, before Dr Squinzi gave his views. The conclusion is that we must stay calm, keeping the serenity within our team and transfer this to the riders."

"Some of my colleagues were annoyed about the four lost battles, but we still have won about 20 races. For Lampre-Daikin, La Doyenne was almost their first victory, but it was a good one. That is the difference. With Steels and Freire as well, we might have had another 10 wins, including a World Cup," added Vanderaerden.

But there will be some changes. Next year, Squinzi is still planning on having a 40-strong team, but there will be "drastic modifications" to the race program. "The strong team of the last few months will be heavily cut back," said Vanderaerden. "And for the first time ever, there will be an evaluation taken of the riders. A few of them will be riding in another jersey next season."

"Bartoli has already indicated that he has candidates for next season. He can quietly look for another sponsor. My colleague Serge Parsani has defended Bartoli for the last couple of weeks, but he saw in Liege that there was no point in having Bartoli as the absolute head of the team."

Mapei's Giro d'Italia squad will place new signing, Stefano Garzelli, under pressure as the top GC rider. And now, with Tom Steels out of the Giro, Squinzi's plan to have Steels and Freire contest the bunch sprints has been scrapped. Instead, the pair will be saved for the Tour de France and the Vuelta España.

"It was a long but most productive meeting," finished Vanderaerden.

No Tom Steels in Giro

The slowly recovering Mapei sprinter, Tom Steels, will not be part of the Mapei team for the Giro d'Italia, that starts on May 19. Steels' program will be centred on the Tour de France, where he hopes to repeat, or better, his two stage wins of last year. He makes his return to racing on May 8, in the Four Days of Dunkirk, followed by the GP Wallonia, Tour of Germany and the Tour of Sweden.

Sunderland case: Priem guilty of "unintentional injury"

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Scott Sunderland
Photo: © Jeff Jones/CN

The ongoing court case involving Scott Sunderland (Fakta) and former TVM director, Cees Priem, has started to tip Sunderland's way, after Priem was found guilty today of "unintentionally injuring and wounding" Scott during the 1998 Amstel Gold Race.

According to the judge of the Police Court in Tongeren, the accident was caused by Cees Priem because of "imprudent and dangerous driving" after he hit Sunderland while the latter was riding in the convoy of the peloton. Priem was fined, and has to pay a provisional amount of BEF750,000 ($US17,000) to AXA/Royale Belge, the insurance company of Palmans-Ideal which has paid the major medical costs, and BEF750,000 to Scott.

He has not been found guilty of hit and run, and a medical expert will now be appointed by the judge. This doctor will thoroughly examine Sunderland, and his diagnosis will be used during the upcoming court sessions, where the judge will consider the financial and other damage inflicted on Sunderland.

The decision comes at an important time for Sunderland, who will be leading his Fakta team in the Amstel Gold Race this Saturday. It is the first time since 1998 that he has been in top racing form (although he was close in the 2000 World Championships where he placed 7th), as evidenced by his wins and placings in recent weeks. He is battling the end of a throat infection at the moment, but has "super legs" and should be considered one of the favourites for the Foot and Mouth modified Amstel.

Ullrich to ride Tour de Romandie

Jan Ullrich has included the Hors Category stage race, the Tour de Romandie (May 8-13) in his program for next month. Team doctor Lothar Heinrich said that "Jan is back to normal training with the aim of starting in the Tour of Bern (April 19) and the GP Frankfurt (Rund um den Henninger Turm) (May 1). After a week of training he will start in the Tour de Romandie."

Speculation is still rife about whether Ullrich will ride the Giro d'Italia, starting May 19.

Mercury-Viatel for Amstel Gold Race

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Chris Horner
Photo: © JF Quenet

The members of the Mercury-Viatel cycling team who will take part in the Amstel Gold Race, the fifth round of the world cup on Saturday, are the following: Niklas Axelsson (Swe), Chris Horner (USA), Fabrizio Guidi (Ita), Chann McRae (USA), Andrei Teteriuk (Kaz), Leon van Bon (Ned), Peter van Petegem (Bel) and Wim Vansevenant (Bel).

Cipo - Petacchi Tour showdown?

By Tim Maloney, correspondent

Should Mario Cipollini and his Saeco squad be selected for the 2001 TDF on May 2, his head to head battles for sprint supremacy with emerging Alessandro Petacchi of Fassa Bortolo could be the best sprinter showdown in recent times. Petacchi is the best young Italian sprinter in years, while the aging Cipo still has a super kick, but he'll have a lot on his hands with the talented Petacchi, who was the winningest Italian rider in 2000 with 9 victories.

Cipo was 34 in March and has had a slow start in 2001 after his suspension for the Vuelta punchout, while Petacchi's broken collarbone in February and subsequent tendinitis have slowed the 27 year old from La Spezia. Both riders currently have 3 wins to their credit in 2001.

No Giro for Petacchi, but Cipo will look to get his red Saeco leadout train going in the corsa rosa, where he's so tough to beat. Come Tour time, it's doubtful Petacchi will have the same level of sprint support at FB as DS Ferretti is really looking to put Rumsas on the podium in Paris, but Petacchi's speed and gutsy sprinting resembles no other rider more than...Cipo. Le Tour 2001 may show if Petacchi is really the heir apparent.

89th Grote Scheldeprijs

Belgium's longest running classic is not the Ronde van Vlaanderen or Luik-Bastenaken-Luik. That honour goes to the Grote Scheldeprijs, which is in its 89th edition this year. The 205 kilometre race carries a 1.1 UCI rating, which is considered high but not at the same level as World Cups (CDM). The race parcours is devoid of any hills or other major challenges, and often yields itself to sprinters. It is typically quite fast, with an average speed of 45 km/h being standard.

The neutral start is in Antwerp's spectacular Grote Markt, before the official start in Schoten a short distance away. A big lap of 160 kilometres will take the riders via Lichtaart, Arendonk, Turnhout, Rijkevoorsel, Wijnegem, finishing in Schoten. There follows three finishing laps of 15 kilometres, with the race expected to end at 1642 CET.

Start list

56th GP Liberazione

Italy's top U23 international race of the spring happens tomorrow; the 56th GP Liberazione, a nationally televised race commemorating the Allies liberation of Rome from Axis troops.

Held on a fast 6 km merry-go-round circuit around the ancient walls of the Terme de Carcalla, the parcours provides non-stop action and should inspire sprinter Alberto Loddo and his powerful Zoccorinese Vellutex squad to strut their stuff. Don't count out the Pagnoncelli team of Alessio Ciro or the solid U23 squad of Australia either.

Past winners of GP Liberazione include names like Gianni Bugno, Dimitri Konyshev, Festina DS Juan Fernandez, Brits Bill Nickson and Bob Downs and Navigators pro, Vassily Davidenko.

Hamilton back within 6 weeks

US Postal's Tyler Hamilton, a victim of a crash in last Sunday's Liege-Bastogne-Liege, should be able to return to racing within 6 weeks, according to his team. This means that his Tour de France plans will not be affected, much to the relief of his team leader Lance Armstrong.

Hamilton suffered what is thought to be a hairline fracture of his left elbow following the crash, but despite the recovery period, he will not miss a lot of planned racing.

"I don't think it's going to be serious," said USPS directeur sportif, Johan Bruyneel. "Liege-Bastogne-Liege was Tyler's last race of the first part of his season."

Bruyneel added that following Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Hamilton was scheduled for a five-week period of non-competition, highlighted by specific training for the upcoming Tour de France. Bruyneel said Hamilton's next scheduled race is Bicicleta Vasca stage race in Spain, starting on May 30.

Peter Farazijn breaks hand

Cofidis' Peter Farazijn has had to end his spring season a little early, after breaking a bone in his right hand during last week's Fleche Wallonne. Farazijn was taken to Lille (Rijsel) hospital, where he was X-rayed and operated on. He must return there on May 9 for a check up, and "until then, training on the road is forbidden," he said, although he is allowed to ride a stationary bike.

Landbouwkrediet do it tough

Landbouwkrediet-Colnago's top classics rider, Michel Vanhaecke, is looking for a rest after a heavy spring season. Riding for a second division team, Vanhaecke put in two notable efforts in the Ronde van Vlaanderen and Luik-Bastenaken-Luik, where he managed to make the important breaks and put the team's sponsors in the limelight.

"But now tiredness has crept up on us," said team director Gerard Bulens. "Our nucleus is made up of a small pack of riders. That means that we have ridden the spring classics with a group of 10 riders, while other teams can put in 20 men."

"But the balance is still positive with respect to our sponsors, who got a lot of publicity. We think that we reached the standard of a middle-range first division team, with a budget of just 10 percent the size."

Trent Klasna honoured

Consecutive victories in the Redlands Bicycle Classic and Sea Otter Classic have earned honours for Saturn's Trent Klasna by the San Diego Hall of Champions. Klasna, a resident of Pine Valley, California (outside San Diego), was one of four athletes named as Professional Stars of the Month for March by the organization.

The two stage race wins have also given Klasna the top spot in the NRC (National Racing Calendar) standings, which are measured by the U.S. Cycling Federation. Currently, Klasna 184 point lead over Chris Horner (Mercury-Viatel).

Klasna's next races are the First Charter Criterium in Shelby, N.C., April 27, the Twilight Criterium in Athens, Ga., on April 28, followed by the Tour of the Gila in New Mexico, May 2-6.

Jackson joins WCPP

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Andrew Jackson

After seven wins in France and three top 12 overall placings in UCI stage races since 1999, 21 year old Andrew Jackson from Middlesbrough in the North East of England, has been selected for the World Class Performance Plan U23 road squad by the British Cycling Federation.

Up till now, Andrew has been supported by his family and the Dave Rayner Fund, giving him the opportunity to live and race in France since 1999. His main ambitions this season are to compete in the European and World Espoir Road Championships, and to turn professional for a continental team.

Jackson's main strength is his climbing, and he started this season in the Dominican Republic, where he competed in two UCI stage races and Elite 2 races with one win and a 6th place overall in the UCI 2.5 Vuelta Independencia Nacional.

He returned to France in March with several good results in Elite 2 category races, representing his French team Cycle Olympique Chamalerois. In June and July, Andrew will return to the UK to compete in the National Espoir and Elite Road Championships.

Chain Breaker

By Tim Maloney, correspondent

Belgian soigneur Willy Voet's international best seller about drugs and cycling, the true story, is set to be published in English as part of Random House UK's Yellow Jersey Press imprint in on May 10. Retitled "Breaking The Chain / Drugs & Cycling - The True Story", it tells he story of Voet's capture on July 8, 1998 and the subsequent incarceration of the Festina provides a "graphic and uninhibited account" of all the sordid details. For those of you who don't read fluent French, the shocking exposé will likely change your point of view on cycling forever.

Newport to get covered velodrome

Following on from the story that Edinburgh may be getting a covered velodrome, is the news that Newport in South Wales could also get one. Plans have been unveiled for a £6.3 million stadium with seating of 500. The 250 metre track would be constructed to the same specifications as the Sydney Olympic and Manchester tracks.

Sport Council of Wales chief executive Dr Huw Jones is quoted in the Western Mail as saying "We were particularly impressed with the Newport bid. The authority showed that they were committed to the building and running of a velodrome and the development of cycling generally. They must now develop their bid and we would hope, all going well, that we will be able to confirm the grant of £7 million this summer."

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