News for February 9, 2001
Frédéric Grappe on anti-doping and Armstrong
La Francaise des Jeux trainer, Frédéric Grappe, has come out in support of Lance Armstrong, after doping accusations have been leveled at him and the U.S. Postal team. In an in depth interview with L'Equipe, Grappe said that Armstrong's results have come through hard work and not hard drugs, despite the climate of suspicion that still surrounds cycling (especially in France) at the moment.
Grappe started by saying that to fight doping in general, the role of a good trainer is paramount. They must be able to set a program that will not over-tax their riders but keep them in top shape for a certain competition period. Some top riders already do this, although they are subsequently criticised by fans for not riding the whole season at their best. Not everyone can be an Eddy Merckx.
"A great many riders spend their time during the week at home unsupervised," said Grappe. "The trade is so difficult that sometimes they are mentally quite low, in a state of weakness. In these moments of great loneliness one could suppose that a very influential person could propose things to a rider. I know this for a fact...I do not blame the riders, but the system because it would only take a few things to change it."
Grappe believes that doctors are given too much status by the FFC and the UCI, compared with trainers such as himself who know the riders. "It is necessary to work from the base and to develop riders with quality supervision from teams...to offer the riders a true 'alternative' to doping."
He then commented on the accusations that have been made against Lance Armstrong regarding 'impossible' power outputs. "Certain people say silly things. When we are told that a rider is not able to put out 420 - 430 Watts in a time trial, that is false. Not so long ago, one of the riders with whom I was involved climbed Mont Faron at a power of 400 Watts for 20 minutes, and he is far from being Armstrong. Consequently, I am not astonished that Armstrong or others can produce 460 or 470 Watts on a mountain. It is not impossible."
In addition, a cadence of 80-90 rpm to produce this power on climbs is also not impossible, according to Grappe. "It is the result of many days of hard work. With what has happened in the past 10 years, many riders are using bigger gear ratios. Some have lost the suppleness, i.e. they are not able to utilise higher pedalling frequencies...a high pedalling frequency makes it possible to relieve the muscles," said Grappe who expressed his annoyance of people's poor analysis of the data.
Grappe also commented about the inaccuracy of hematocrit testing, which he said can change by up to 5 percent depending on the status of the rider (upright, lying down, dehydrated, previously active etc.). "We see riders who can reach 50% naturally, and that can move to 51%. That does not mean doping."
Etxebarria says ONCE was no family
Although he was six years with the top Spanish team ONCE, David Etxebarria (Euskaltel-Euskadi) does not feel any fondness for his former team. In an interview with Diario AS, Etxebarria said that it was "a lie that ONCE is a family" as well as letting fly at Spanish national selector, Antequera Alpaca.
He said that his decision to move to Euskaltel was because of a change of status. In ONCE, he ran the risk of being "accommodated" while in Euskaltel he could be one of the team leaders. "In ONCE I had my opportunities, but other times I had to work a lot for others to win," he said.
He added that he hoped to contribute experience and victories to Euskaltel, although he would treat his teammates as equals. He is also still resentful towards ONCE director, Manolo Saiz, who he says influenced Spanish selector Antequera Alpaca to leave him out of the Olympic squad. Santos González (ONCE) was included at the last minute after a strong showing in the Vuelta, but Etxebarria only learned about this via the press.
"Antequera behaved badly. For that reason, I will not consider returning to the Spanish team while he is selector. That person no longer interests to me, because it is like when a fiancée is unfaithful to you," said Etxebarria.
As for Saiz, "I do not understand why he did not deign to listen to my agents to negotiate my contract renewal. Manolo always said that ONCE are a family, but that ended as a lie. His relationship with me and the other riders who have left, finished as one of a boss and employee."
However, with his new team there are several objectives. One is to gain a Tour wildcard, but "we do not have to be obsessed with the Tour. There are teams with higher budgets and we must be conscious of the possibility of being outside. But the season also has other incentives."
Pantani aims at Giro
Marco Pantani has said that his main goal of the year will be the Giro d'Italia (May 19-June 10), given that his team's Tour de France start is by no means assured. Speaking to Italian sports newspaper, Corriere dello Sport, Pantani commented on the doping accusations against him that have led to a three month probationary sentence for sporting fraud.
"In an emotional sense, it is difficult to surpass this situation. I only hope that they will let me work in peace. Then I expect a good season," Pantani said from his training camp in Terracina, near Rome. "I have been condemned by a system that needed a scapegoat in order to solve the problem. But they believe that they can cleanse our sport this way, adding injustice to injustice."
Pantani intends to start his season on February 27 in the Vuelta a la Comunidad Valenciana, followed by the Vuelta del Almería and possibly Milan-San Remo on March 24. His appeal to get his sporting fraud sentence overturned is still in process.
Although it is only the start of the season, the battle for the final four Tour wildcards is intense. CSC and Lotto have already shown themselves at the front, winning the GP Marseilles and the first stage of the Etoile de Besseges. Saeco have already won two UCI races and the prestigious Italian opener, GP Costa degli Etruschi, while Mercury-Viatel are making a strong impression in Malaysia again. Other teams such as Coast, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Big Mat, La Francaise des Jeux, and Mercatone Uno will therefore be eager to get some results on the board.
Coppi and Bartali memorial
The UCI have declared that the Settimana Ciclistica Internazionale race (March 27-31) will be dedicated to Fausto Coppi and Gino Bartali, two former greats of Italian cycling. It was known as the Memorial Cecchi Gori last year, and was organised by the GS Emilia. The families of Coppi and Bartali will be present at the presentation on February 22 along with many other well known names in international cycling.
Bellutti on the Bob
Dual Olympic gold medallist, Antonella Bellutti, announced her retirement from cycling last December, but not from sport altogether. 'Timida' (very shy) Antonella's next goal is the bobsled, where she will continue her sporting career that has encompassed cycling, basketball and triathlon.
She may compete at the next two winter Olympics in Salt Lake City (2002) and possibly Turin (2006) in the two-woman bobsled. She will commence training soon with Gerda Weissteiner, another 'golden girl' from South Tryol. Weissteiner won an Olympic gold medal in Lillehammer.
Olympic gold medallist Brett Aitken was awarded the "South Australian Sports Star of the Year Award" last night (February 8). Brett achieved a total of 68 points to beat another Olympic gold medallist, archer Simon Fairweather who accrued 62 points.
Czech triathlete and Olympic bronze medallist, Jan Rehula, suffered one of the worst possible consequences of a seat breakage after a training accident in Sydney recently. 27 year old Rehula hit a pothole, snapped his seat, was gouged in the rear by his seat post and lost two litres of blood.
He has so far had two operations and has internal damage in his lower back. His start in the Hawaii Ironman triathlon in October is in doubt, but his spokesman said that he was quite positive that he will be able to resume his career.
Team THF Racing
The latest in our semi-regular listings of US elite amateur teams is the THF Reality team, formed from a partnership between THF Reality and Boulder based Rocky Mounts team. Team THF Racing contains State and National Champions, including 1999 Collegiate Cyclocross Champion and world cyclocross participant Alex Candelario, as well as professional mountain biker Jimi Killen. The team will be looking to gain exposure both in the Rocky Mountain region and in National Series races.
The title sponsor, THF Reality is a St. Louis based company which is reportedly one of the fastest growing real estate developers in the country.