News for January 16, 2001

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Armstrong vents at French

In an interview with the newspaper USA Today, Lance Armstrong has cast doubts on the French authorities conducting tests on urine samples taken from members of US Postal during last year's Tour De France, and taken a major swipe at French culture in general.

In remarks that are rather unlikely to endear him to the millions of French cycling fans who line the roads every year for the Tour, Armstrong said "It's unfortunate that the biggest bike race in the world is in France. We're living in an era of French innuendo and insinuation."

Armstrong is concerned that there will be no team official to hand when US Postal's urine samples are tested by French judicial authorities, but he added that the test must be seen to be fair: "This is a French-designed test, and they need it to be credible. They can't mess with the results to make me or the U.S. Postal team look bad."

Armstrong believes his treatment by the French press over the last couple of years is symptomatic of French culture. "Doping is a trendy topic is France," Armstrong said. "That's where all this comes from. I couldn't figure out why until (French teammate) Cedric Vasseur told me that people in France don't like the winner, they like the runner-up."

However, Armstrong is certain the testing will vindicate him and US Postal. "I'm confident they'll find nothing," he said, expressing relief that the testing will happen.

Armstrong restated his claim that his Tour wins were simply down to training, saying,"(The French media) are not interested in our training. They don't want to know about the sacrifice - that's no story for them. The simple truth is that we outwork everyone. But when you perform at a higher level in a race, you get questions about doping."

Despite all this, Armstrong claimed US Postal's recent decision not to race in France before the Tour was not an act of retaliation. "I'm not trying to get back at the French," he said. "We're just doing what's best for our training."

Baal frustrated

The outgoing president of the French Cycling Federation, Daniel Baal, is not happy about the snail's pace development of the fight against doping. Slowness in getting test results, slowness in developing new tests and getting them validated are just part of Baal's frustrations at what he terms an "impotent" fight.

"Although there is no doubt about the political will, there is also a lack of resources," said Baal in an interview with L'Equipe on Monday. "Three months for the results of the controls, plus five to six months for possible disciplinary proceedings - that is a nine month difference between the infringement and the sanction."

Currently, the search for a test to detect corticoids has been suspended for technical reasons. In addition, only two of the five races in the French cyclocross championships on the weekend were subject to doping controls, despite urging from Baal.

After he leaves the job in March, Baal does not think the FFC will rethink its anti-doping policy. The recent news that some of the Tour de France's major sponsors are rethinking their commitments because of the doping problem, is unfortunate but also ironic.

"Independently of their convictions, the leaders of our sport have no other choice than to head in the direction of the fight against doping. There is no other way for the sport to return to its values," he said.

However, there are promising things such as the longitudinal medical follow-up (SMLC) that has done its job to improve rider health. "Undoubtedly it will be necessary it to add other tests - the UCI is working on them," he finished, without specifying details.

Michael Rogers interview

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Michael Rogers
Photo: © CN/JDW

Currently racing for Mapei-Quick Step in the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under, Australian Michael Rogers was instigated the main breakaway in last night's first stage. It was an auspicious start, and he was able to pull on the sprint king jersey because of it.

This is but the first of many races that Rogers will be doing this season, his first as a fully fledged pro.'s Gabriella Ekstr÷m asked him about his plans and his thoughts about Mapei's 'Aussie Army'.

Q. Were you pleased with your own results last year?

M.R: Yes, I was in good form early in the year but started to get tired around June. I had a short break in July before starting training for the Olympic games on the track.

Q. What do you rate as your best performance in 2000?

M.R: Certainly my ride in the second stage of the Tour Down Under and also to hold the yellow jersey for two days.

Q. Were there any big disappointments for you?

M.R: No not really but I would have loved to get a medal at the Olympic Games in Sydney. We had a bad qualifying round in the Team Pursuit and came up against the Germans in the next round.

Q. Have you determined your program for 2001 yet? Which races will you be targetted at?

M.R: My first year with Mapei and the pro ranks will be more of a learning year. I have my race program for the first half of the year. I will be doing a mixture of races, but not the really hard races. I also have a lot of one-day races in Belgium.

Q. What are your expectations of riding with such a big team as Mapei?

M.R: I have been told in my first year that not so much is expected from me. But of course they expect me to always give my best and work for the team well.

Q. What about Mapei has impressed you most so far?

M.R: They are so professional in everything they do. From training to racing and everything in between.

Q. Have you met up with the team yet?

M.R: We had a team get-together after the World Championships last year. All the guys are great.

Q. What do you think of the other new arrivals in the team for 2001? With the signing of Scott McGrory there will be three Australians in Mapei.

M.R: It's great that Scott has joined the team. I spent a fair bit of time with Scott this year leading up to the Olympic Games and I look forward to working with him more. Also with Allan Davis joining the team in 2002 we will have a good little Aussie army.

Q. Mapei is currently in Australia, preparing for Tour Down Under. Is that your early season goal, or is it something else?

M.R: I would love to do what I did at this race last year. I guess I will find out how my fitness is after a few days of racing. We have some great riders here such as Tom Steels, Dani Nardello and Stefano Zanini.

Linda McCartney add Jaguar

The Jacob's Creek-Linda McCartney team, who did a perfect job of leading out non-team members, Graeme Brown and Stuart O'Grady in last night's JCTDU Glenelg criterium, while their man Ciaran Power placed fourth, have signed a new sponsor for the coming season.

Car manufacturer Jaguar has announced that it will be sponsoring the team, termed "a great leap forward" by team general manager Julian Clark. Jaguar said that they wished to be involved in the long term and were happy to support the Linda McCartney squad.

While 10 members of the 19 man squad are in Australia under the guidance of Neil Stephens, the remainder have flown to Malaysia in order to prepare for the Tour de Langkawi that starts on February 6.

"With a 19-man squad, the aim is to bring everybody to form at the right time," said Sean Yates. "It's a long year, and we have to ensure that all the riders are given the right mix of racing, training and rest. Working out the programme has been fun!"

Berlin Six future assured

Berlin Six organiser Heinz Seesing says that with a budget of 4.5 million marks, the future of the annual track event is assured.

The 2001 Berlin Six runs January 25 to 30 and marks the end of the six-day race season. It will feature a star-studded lineup this year, albeit slightly depleted by the commitments of German stars like Erik Zabel, who has a Telekom team presentation to attend, and Robert Bartko, who is racing the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under.

Nevertheless, significant players slated to take part include Carsten Podlesch (Germany); Jan van Eijden (Germany); Jens Fiedler (Germany); Frederic Magne (Franec); 2000 German road champion Rolf Aldag, teamed with Italian Silvio Martinello, and Marco Villa paired with Adriano Baffi. Other teams to watch include Bruno Risi/Kurt Betschart; the Belgian duo Etienne de Wilde/Matthew Gilmore and German pairing Andreas Kappes/Andreas Beikirch.

The Berlin Six was revived in 1997 after a seven year break and has rapidly rebuilt its popularity. According to Seesing only a few tickets remain for the Friday and Saturday nights, and the VIP area has had to be extended, a symptom of the event's welcome popularity as corporate entertainment.

Euskadi tribute to Somarriba

February 3's Six Hours of Euskadi will be celebrated as a tribute to the winner of last year's Tour and Giro, Joane Somarriba.

The Six Hours of Euskadi is held at the Anoeta velodrome, San Sebastian, in the Basque country (northern Spain). Stefan Steinweg and Erik Weisspfennig are among the teams taking part in the Madison this year. The Six Hours is also noted for its sideshow events, including rural sports like stone lifting and wood chopping.

SIME Telecom misses out

The Spanish SIME Telecom team will not be competing internationally this year because its manager, Vicente Martinez, missed the deadline to submit the team's papers to the UCI.

All international teams had to register with the UCI by December 12 last year, but SIME Telecom was working to a 'team year' that finished January 15 and so missed the deadline.

Mercury-Viatel training camp in California

The Mercury/Viatel cycling team is now training under the Californian sun, based in Woodland Hills, near Los Angeles, until January 24. Two of the 26 riders will arrive one day later: Aussies Baden Cooke and Jamie Drew, who flew out directly from Portarlington after competing in their national championship.

The first riders to join the camp have been submitted to lactate testing, body composition, heart response to exercise, at the Pepperdine University, the home of the Pepperdine Waves. No time for basketball though, but soon, the Mercury "Green Wave" should be ready to lead out its fast men. Sprinting should be again the strength of the reinforced US squad with riders such as Cooke, Fraser, Koerts, Van Bon, Vogels and Van Petegem.

Oceania re-run for Kiwis only

Quite how the New Zealand cross country mountain bike team missed Sunday's Oceania championships continues to be a mystery. Sources close to the event tell us that the Kiwis were sent an email in early January detailing the date and schedule of the race, but a mix-up occurred because the Oceania road and track events didn't start until the following Tuesday. Nobody wants to engage in finger-pointing, but it does look like the New Zealanders simply assumed the MTB event would be concurrent with the other Oceania events and didn't double-check.

Whatever the reason, the New Zealand riders are understandably disappointed at missing out and in a compromise that just about manages to keep everyone happy - or at least not too miffed - there will be a repeat event on the Olympic course at Fairfield City Farm on Saturday. However contrary to our earlier report, this will be restricted to the New Zealanders, who will be then be listed in the official results after the Australians who raced Sunday.

This means the Australians will get the lion's share of the event's UCI points, but the New Zealanders won't miss out on those crucial international ranking scores.

Quaranta on the catwalk

Italian sprinter Ivan Quaranta (Alexia Alluminio), winner of four stages in the Giro and wearer of the Maglia Rosa in 1999 has other talents it seems. He will be modelling a new line of clothing from Faentina, the company that supply Alexia Alluminio's team gear. He is certainly not the only cyclist to moonlight as a model - Great Dane, Rolf S°rensen also is available (you can even book him online).

Alexia Alluminio will hold their team presentation in Marne Castle in Filago (Bergamo), on Friday January 19.

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