News for April 28, 2001

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36th Amstel Gold Race news

Domo: Peeters replaces Van Heeswijk

Belgian Wilfried Peeters will ride in place of Dutchman Max van Heeswijk in the Domo-Farm Frites Amstel Gold Race team, which is as follows: Dave Bruylandts (Bel), Enrico Cassani (Ita), Servais Knaven (Ned), Koos Moerenhout (Ned), Johan Museeuw (Bel), Wilfried Peeters (Bel), Fred Rodriguez (USA), Romans Vainsteins (Lat).

Rabobank: Boven in for De Jongh

Race favourites Rabobank will be without Veenendaal-Veenendaal winner Steven de Jongh in Amstel. He injured his neck after crashing in the Scheldeprijs on Wednesday. His replacement is Jan Boven. The Rabobank Amstel team is: Michael Boogerd (Ned), Maarten Den Bakker (Ned), Erik Dekker (Ned), Marc Lotz (Ned), Karsten Kroon (Ned), Boven (Ned), Beat and Markus Zberg (Swi).


Bart Voskamp (Ned), Pieter Vries (Ned), Martin Van Steen (Ned), Remco Van der Ven (Ned), Jan Van Velzen (Ned), Bert Hiemstra (Ned), Tom Desmet (Bel) and Corey Sweet (Aus)


Oscar Camenzind (Swi), Sergio Barbero (Ita), Ludo Dierckxsens (Bel), Gabriele Missaglia (Ita), Max Sciandri (GBr), Frank Vandenbroucke (Bel), Johan Verstrepen (Bel) and Matteo Frutti (Ita).

Full start list

Race details

Start/finish: Maastricht, The Netherlands
Parcours length: 254.6 km
Start time: 1015 CEST
Finish time: 1645 CEST
Number of climbs: 29
Important climbs: Cauberg (km 68, 178 and 237), Eyserbos (km 156), Geulhemmerberg (km 243 - final climb)

Favourites: Romans Vainsteins (Domo-Farm Frites), Erik Dekker and Michael Boogerd (Rabobank), Erik Zabel (Telekom), Stefano Zanini (Mapei), Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo), Lance Armstrong (US Postal), Oscar Camenzind (Lampre-Daikin)

Big names absent: Francesco Casagrande (Fassa Bortolo), Jan Ullrich (Telekom), Marco Pantani (Mercatone Uno), Rik Verbrugghe (Lotto-Adecco), Laurent Jalabert (CSC-World Online)


Out of 35 editions since 1966, there have been 16 Dutch, 9 Belgian, 3 Swiss, 2 French, 2 German, 1 Australian, Danish and Italian wins.

The record for the most victories is held by Jan Raas (Ned), with 5 wins between 1977 and 1982.

Last 10 winners

2000 Erik Zabel (Ger)
1999 Michael Boogerd (Ned)
1998 Rolf Järmann (Swi)
1997 Bjarne Riis (Den)
1996 Stefano Zanini (Ita)
1995 Mauro Gianetti (Swi)
1994 Johan Museeuw (Bel)
1993 Rolf Järmann (Swi)
1992 Olaf Ludwig (Ger)
1991 Frans Maassen (Ned)

Record average speeds

1967 Arie den Hartog (Ned) 43.711 km/h
1996 Stefano Zanini (Ita) 42.600 km/h
1968 Harry Steevens (Ned) 41.704 km/h
1997 Bjarne Riis (Den) 41.689 km/h
1983 Phil Anderson (Aus) 41.434 km/h live coverage starts (April 28):

Los Angeles  0115
Denver       0215
Chicago      0315 
New York     0415
London       0915
Perth        1615
Sydney       1815

Foot and Mouth security measures

Several safety measures have been adopted by the organisers to minimise the risk of spreading foot and mouth disease, which is a big concern in the Netherlands at the moment. After the start in Maastricht, the entire following convoy will have to pass through a disinfecting zone, or they will be removed from the race. The riders and sporting directors will be required to remain on the tarred sections of road.

The parcours of the Amstel Gold Race was previously modified to remove the incursion into Belgian territory.

Tour de France deadline nears

Next Wednesday, May 2, will see the Tour de France organisation announce the four remaining teams to complete the 20 team line up for this year's race. Rumour and speculation have been growing enormously as to which teams will make the cut.

Currently, the only sure-fire bet seems to be Lotto-Adecco, but the Sociètè du Tour de France may have a surprise in store next Wednesday. Other teams that have been touted include CSC-WorldOnline, Saeco Macchine per Caffe, Liquigas, Tacconi Sport, Mercatone Uno, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Mercury-Viatel, Team Coast, Francaise des Jeux, Big Mat Auber 93, and Alessio.

Results alone aren't enough to decide Tour wild cards, and this has been shown on many occasions in the past. This year the organisers have selected the first 16 teams based on merit, on the condition that a minimum of 6 French teams were present. This is different to World Cup races, where all Division I teams are given an automatic invitation to start, with a few remaining spots going to wild cards.

Tour de France officials, seeking to improve the image of a sport tarnished by drug-taking, are likely to pick teams that meet Jean-Marie Leblanc's criteria of 'ethics and behaviour,' while also increasing the popularity of the event through global exposure.

"You can make a strong case against Pantani," said 1990 Yellow Jersey wearer Ronan Pensec to Bloomberg News' Darren Tulett. "People want to see him in the race though, because he sets the race alight in the mountains."

The case for Marco Pantani's Mercatone Uno team is an interesting one, given that Pantani is a former winner of the event (1998) and is extremely popular amongst French fans. However, he and his team have also been involved in doping allegations recently; Earlier this year, Pantani was actually found guilty of 'sporting fraud' (doping in order to falsify results) in relation to an incident in Milan-Turin in 1995 when he was taken to hospital after a terrible crash.

Added to that is his teammate, Fabiano Fontanelli's exclusion from the Ronde van Vlaanderen due to a high hematocrit, although the 34 year old did not test positive for EPO. "In light of Leblanc's anti-doping message, the timing was very bad," said Pensec.

But Mercatone Uno team manager, Guiseppe Martinelli, is still confident. "I wouldn't say we have little hope," he told Alessandra Bacchetta of Bloomberg News. "We want Pantani to go to the Tour de France in perfect shape, and we are certain we have him completely recovered now. I am sure we will be competitive at the Tour of Italy and I bet on Marco for our admission to the Tour de France, which tells you how much I believe he's fully recovered."

"We weren't very lucky as Pantani had bronchitis after the Milan-Sanremo race. I had a lot of cyclists in my team sick. It's just bad luck. Now Marco is back, and with four stages (in this year's Tour de France) finishing atop mountains and a mountain time trial too, it will be hard to leave out a fit Pantani."

"We base our whole season on the Tour of Italy and the Tour de France," he continued. "I believe the Tour de France organizers made a good choice changing the entry rules, but that implied choosing the 10 best teams in the world and six French teams, as the French were angry at the small number of home teams admitted to the Tour last year."

You can please some of the people all of the time, or all of the people some of the time.

Mercatone Uno isn't the only big team with big name riders not making the initial cut. "...Mario Cipollini's Saeco, or Alex Zulle's Team Coast were left out," said Martinelli. "Even a popular Frenchman like Laurent Jalabert was left out...we surely deserve the Tour less than some others because we haven't had good results up to now, but this has always been the case for us."

According to Jean-Marie Leblanc, the selection committee is looking at the "results, promise and the nature of riders" in each team. This means that even for a team that has won a lot this season like Mercury-Viatel (26 wins), selection is not guaranteed.

Mercury will be led by Russia's former Giro d'Italia winner Pavel Tonkov, with three-time Tour de France winner Greg LeMond as spokesman. "If they're objective, we should be in," said team manager John Wordin to Bloomberg News.

In terms of results, Euskaltel-Euskadi did themselves no harm by having David Etxebarria win the Ardennes Trophy last weekend, by being the best placed rider in Liege-Bastogne-Liege and La Fleche Wallonne.

As for the other teams, there is no shortage of popular riders. The Danish CSC-WorldOnline team boast the number one ranked French rider for the last 10 years, Laurent Jalabert. Earlier this week, Danish newspaper Berlingske Tidende reported that "All speculations can stop...CSC-WorldOnline is among the four teams who are to be pulled out of the hat on May 2."

The presence of Jalabert, who is just starting to race again after his accident, is of course crucial to the selection, although the Danes did manage to sneak in last year as MemoryCard.

Saeco is another interesting case. Mario Cipollini is one of the Tour's most successful sprinters and a character that draws media attention, a big plus, although he never gets over the mountains. But Salvatore Commesso, stage winner last year, has recently been suspended by his team and the Italian federation until mid-May, after he was found in possession of illegal recreational drugs around this time last year.

Twice runner up Alex Zülle, and Fernando Escartin (3rd in 1999) are the big guns for Team Coast, who have not impressed so far this year. The question is how much past performances will count for if another German team is to be selected.

The two French teams in realistic contention are La Francaise des Jeux and BigMat-Auber, with the latter facing collapse if they don't make the cut. "Our financial support will dry up," said Stephane Javalet, director of BigMat-Auber, which also missed out last year. "The main sponsor will pull out and the pyramid will crumble."

And what of the other Italian teams, Liquigas, Tacconi Sport-Vini Caldirola and Alessio? They have all obtained good results so far this season, and could also perform well in the Tour. However, many pundits believe that these teams will be overlooked in favour of the others mentioned above.

31st Giro Ciclistico d'Italia Internazionale Under 23

Run over two weeks in June, just after the completion of the professional Giro d'Italia, is the Giro Ciclistico d'Italia Internazionale Under 23, better known as the "Baby Giro". Starting in Castelfranco Veneto, and finishing in Messina, the 12 stage race is one of the jewels of the espoir racing season.

The race is organised by the Unione Ciclistica Vittorio Veneto, and is dissimilar to the professional Giro in that it bypasses the Alps and the Dolomites, although there will be no shortage of climbing. Even the first stage (150 km, starting and finishing in Castelfranco Veneto) involves a climb of the col del Monetello, before descending back to the city for a circuit finish, The sprinters should still perform well here.

The second stage on June 13 takes the riders on a 138 kilometre jaunt through Padova, starting and finishing in Este. The parcours enters hillier terrain for stage 3, June 14, with a 152 km stage from Sandrigo to Breganze, containing several climbs.

After a sprinter's stage on Friday, June 15, the race will have its first mountain top finish on Saturday, June 16 in Sassuolo Montegibbio. This 152 km stage will be quite spectacular, starting in Salsomaggiore, and passing through Soragna, Roncole Verde, Busseto, Parma and Collecchio before the final climb up to Montegibbio.

Sunday's stage 6 is no less important for those with desires on the GC. The 17.5 km time trial starting in Castellarano and finishing in Prignano sulla Secchia is quite challenging and generally uphill, certainly favouring the climbers.

On the rest day (June 18), the riders will be transferred to Lazio before the race gets under way again on Tuesday with another tough stage. 145 km between Anagni-Veroli and Prato di Campoli at 1200 metres will again favour the climbers.

Stage 8 (June 20) is reasonably flat, 165 km between Frosinone and Ercolano, passing via Naples before a volcanic sprinter's finish. Stage 9 is similarly flat, taking the riders along the Tirrenean coast, starting in Marsico Nuovo and finishing in Cetraro Marina after 147 km.

The 10th stage (June 22) will also be Calabria, starting in Cetraro Marina and passing over a "nervous" parcours before finishing in Pizzo Calabro (134 km). The second last stage on June 23 starts in the Piazza del Duomo in Messina, and progresses via the Portella Mandrazzi (1125 m), then Randazzo and Bronte, with the finish in Catania after 159 kilometres.

This is probably the last important stage, although Sunday's 12th stage finale from Adrano to Messina (128 km) also contains a tough climb - the Divieto. The riders finish in Messina after enduring 1635 kilometres of hard racing, 12 stages and 8 different Italian regions.

The Stages

  • Stage 1 - June 12: Castelfranco Veneto-Castelfranco Veneto, 150 km
  • Stage 2 - June 13: Este-Este, 138 km
  • Stage 3 - June 14: Sandrigo-Breganze, 152 km
  • Stage 4 - June 15: Calvisano-Crema, 148 km
  • Stage 5 - June 16: Salsomaggiore Terme-Sassuolo Montegibbio, 152 km
  • Stage 6 - June 17: Castellarano-Prignano sulla Secchia ITT, 17.5 km
  • Rest Day - June 18
  • Stage 7 - June 19: Anagni-Veroli Prato di Campoli, 145 km
  • Stage 8 - June 20: Frosinone-Ercolano, 165 km
  • Stage 9 - June 21: Marsico Nuovo-Cetraro Marina, 147 km
  • Stage 10 - June 22: Cetraro Marina-Pizzo Calabro, 134 km
  • Stage 11 - June 23: Messina-Catania, 159 km
  • Stage 12 - June 24: Adrano-Messina, 128

Selle Italia news

Colombians Freddy González Martinez and Ruben Marin have not been fired from the team, as was reported previously, due to their involvement in the Selle Italia drug bust in early April.

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