News for January 24, 2001
Tour de France teams: 4 places left
The SociŔtŔ du Tour de France has named the first 16 teams that are eligible to compete in the Tour 2001 that starts on July 7. Apart from the nine top ranked teams as per the UCI ranking, as well as the team of the 2000 Tour winner, Jean-Marie Leblanc has named six other squads, including five more French teams.
This ensures that the Tour will at least six French teams, which was Leblanc's plan when he unveiled the Tour 2001 last October. However, there are now only four places left, and there will be considerable competition for these when they are announced in late April. Included amongst these are Team Coast, CSC-World Online, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Lotto-Adecco, Liquigas, Mercatone Uno, Saeco, Tacconi Sport, Mercury-Viatel and two more French teams, Big Mat Auber and La Francaise des Jeux.
Most of these teams have good line ups, and it will be up to each of them to prove their status in the first three months of the season. For example, CSC-World Online will have to do particularly well after their less than memorable 2000 Tour (as MemoryCard), but they do have the advantage of a pair of Jalaberts led by former Tour winner, Bjarne Riis.
Mercatone Uno manager, Guisseppi Martinelli, was surprised that Marco Pantani's team was left out, especially after he won two stages in the last edition. "We would like to discuss things with the Tour organisers to learn more," he said.
Saeco (sans Cipollini) have started their 2000 season well, with two stage wins in the first major UCI race of the year. However, it seems that Cipo will have to reach top form again if they are to put in a strong case for selection, and the Italian sprinter will have one less month to do so after he serves his suspension in February.
The pressure will also be on French division II teams, La Francaise des Jeux and Big Mat, whose future may depend on getting a Tour start. And Mercury-Viatel will have to prove themselves as a division I squad if they are to achieve their goal of a Tour start. However, triple TdF winner Greg Lemond will add a positive influence in that regard.
The first 16 Tour de France teams
Team Deutsche Telekom (Germany)
Quintuple king of the mountains in the Tour de France and now confessed doper, Richard Virenque, has claimed that "no rider wants to do doping" in a recent interview with French paper, Le Monde. Virenque is currently attempting to get his nine month suspension reduced, after the Swiss Cycling Federation penalised him at the end of last year. He is not too happy with the suspension, which he claims is the longest for a professional rider in the past 30 years.
He and his agent, Eric Boyer, are currently looking for a new team. However, they must await the decision of the Court of Arbitration before any teams will negotiate with them. Virenque is keen to race again: "I will always consider myself a racing cyclist. I do not want to stop at all. I did not prepare for this possibility," he said.
He also does not regret his confession in Lille. "It was necessary. I was put under examination. For my testimony to be credible in front of the judges, I had to speak the truth. I knew that I was likely to be sanctioned," he added.
When asked why he didn't speak out before the lawsuit, Virenque replied "It was impossible. If I had spoken in July 1998, I would have paid for all the others. The cycling authorities and other teams were only waiting to send us to the abbatoir. "
When he and the team were taken into court in Lyon on July 28, there were "about thirty police officers waiting for us in a big room...it lasted 20 hours. They worked me verbally. The more I was attacked, the more I closed down. I was persuaded that as long as I didn't speak, I was 'saved'. On the other hand, some of us cracked or were afraid," he said. "If I had spoken, the business would have stopped there and only Festina would have been tarnished. Nobody would have blamed the system and the authorities for responsibility."
Virenque said that when he joined RMO in 1991, doping already existed "and will still exist when I leave...You do not say: I will dope myself. Gradually, you ask for recovery products. The doctors and soigneurs look after us, but it is not to dope yourself, it is to look after yourself...I am certain of one thing: if they had the choice, 100 percent of the riders would not dope."
He added that Festina chief doctor, Erik Rijkaert "was like my family practitioner. I would have entrusted my children to him. I know that he did not do anything to us."
Virenque was asked what he thought about the long term implications of EPO and other drugs on his health. "What happened, happened. I will not be able to go back. My parents did not know all my practices...my wife, I am unsure. We don't speak about it. [His wife added that "it is an unknown thing...I imagine that the risk depends on the amount."]
Although he was threatened with banning from the 1999 Tour de France, Virenque ended up competing anyway with his Polti team. He commented that over the past two years the mentality has been changing in the peloton with regard to doping. "In 1999 I finished the Tour with a hematocrit of 38%. In 2000, it was 40%. I would not have been allowed the least amount of variation. I asked that my urine samples from the 2000 Tour be defrosted in order to be analysed. In any case, for a rider to speak frankly of doping, it is difficult as long as they are still active."
He finished by saying that he has "never thought" of life after riding. He has only trained with friends in Jean Delatour last week, but "my telephone never rings - I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of riders who have called me."
Armstrong in Girona
Lance Armstrong is looking for a house in Girona (Spain), where he arrived yesterday prior to the next US Postal training camp in Altea. Although his move from Nice (France) was reported late last year, the TdF champ has yet to decide on a new place of residence. Girona appears likely as he and his wife Kristin have found a suitable school for his son, Luke David.
Girona is also attractive due to the presence of other US Postal riders, George Hincapie, Christian Van de Velde and VÝctor Hugo Pe˝a.
Best Russian Cyclists of the Century ceremony.
By Sergey Kurdukov
This Tuesday the head office of ITERA International Holding in Moscow never saw so many cycling stars before. The greatest Russian champions, their coaches and cycling journalists were honoured here at the picturesque gala.
Double Olympic Champion and 10 times Tour de France finisher, Viacheslav Ekimov got the Grand Prix as "Best Russian Cyclist of the Century". The very first Soviet Olympic Champion, Victor Kapitonov (who was also extremely successful as the head coach of the famous Soviet team of the seventies) and 1980 Olympic road race winner Sergey Sukhorutchenkov were also awarded. Ekimov's trainer Alexander Kuznetsov and the new President of Russian cycling federation Alexander Gousiatnikov received special awards. Unfortunately however, Eugeni Petrov, the rising star of Russian cycling, couldn't come as he is getting ready for his first serious pro battles as one of Mapei's young stars. Mr Hein Verbruggen came to the gala as a guest of honour, and you could also see the legendary wrestler Alexander Karelin.
ITERA gas producing holding, which organized the gala together with Russian cycling federation, can surely be titled "the big company with more former cycling stars on the staff than anywhere in the world". Even car drivers and receptionists were classy riders in the past. The head of ITERA, Igor Makarov was in the national track team of the eighties. So it's no wonder that the company has recently taken up sponsoring both the federation and the new Russian pro team.
ITERA team has grown from Lokosphinx, and its riders, especially Pavel Broutt, look rather impressive in the Vuelta a Tachira at the moment. The yearly budget is going to be about $1.5 million, yet Kuznetsov is not planning to push under-23 boys straigth into top contest. The goal is to give them a chance to race as much as possible and to improve slowly but steadily. "Everything in good order" is Kuznetsov's philosophy, which still works as far as Ekimov is concerned. The young and promising Russian roadies will be getting rather moderate salaries, but for those of them who win, lucrative bonuses are in store.
Mr. Hein Verbruggen also received a special award at the ceremony in Moscow. After the gala he was beseiged by journalists and gave answers to some questions.
Mr Verbruggen is unrepentive about the openness of the fight against doping in cycling (in contrast to some other sports). There always will be people in mass-media whose call is to sniff around for scandals, who care about making money on that, not about cleanliness of the sport. After all, statistics show that cycling is steadily growing in popularity despite Festina affair and other problems.
Of course, he said, the federation will go on taking both direct and indirect measures to solve these problems. Shortening stages in grand tours is one of the answers, but you should be reasonable here, as there is danger of losing the very essence of road races. Hard and long mountain stages mean overstepping the limits, make cycling a supersport, and that's what people like about it.
There were some questions dealing with the coming cyclocross WC. Mr Hein Verbruggen is convinced the sport will go on and on, though it's unlikely for it to be rated among the most popular ones. It will always be fan's treat, say, in Belgium, Netherlands, and the Czech Republic, but it doesn't make too much sense to try hard to promote it all through the world. For example, he said slightly shivering, cyclocross being a winter sport, is not the best variant for the Russian winter (it is about -15 C in Moscow at the moment).
On the question of Pantani Mr Verbruggen confirmed that he is a real fan of this rider and hopes with all his heart that Marco will be back to his highest level, although it is still far from easy because of never-ending battles in court.
*Sergey Kurdukov is a Russian Eurosport commentator
Van Petegem and Van Bondt in the clear
Peter van Petegem and Geert van Bondt are officially allowed to start with Mercury-Viatel this season, after the arbitration committee of the Dutch Olympic Committee made a decision in the conflict between Van Petegem and Farm Frites.
Gerrit Vixseboxse, of the Dutch cycling workers union (VVBW), is representing Van Petegem and Van Bondt. He has not yet received the written report of the decision however. "I know the contracts are dissolved and Farm Frites has to pay the salaries up to mid-January," he said. "It isn't clear yet if the riders have to pay for a buy-out."
Mapei team presentation
The 41 riders of the Mapei-Quick Step squad for 2001 will officially be presented in the Hotel Robbiano di Mediglia, Milan this Saturday, January 27. The entire team will be present, including former World Champion Oscar Freire, Giro d'Italia winner Stefano Garzelli, and former world number one, Michele Bartoli, along with the rest of the Mapei starts.
The team will outline its goals of the 2001 season, where it will attempt to keep its number one ranking.
Verona circuit examined
New UCI technical delegate, Charly Mottet, has examined the road circuits that the city of Verona wishes to use for the World Championships in 2004. Mottet, winner of the Tour of Lombardy and second in the '86 World's, has been scoping out the Torricelle climb that was also used in the '99 World's. The time trials would take place near Lake Garda, should the championships be awarded to Verona.
Other contenders for 2004 include Caneva, Imola, Cuneo and Valladolid. The decision as to where the World's will be hosted will be made in Lisbon (Portugal), during this year's World Championships.
Van Santvliet signs for two more years
Belgian 'crosser, Peter Van Santvliet, has extended his contract with SpaarSelect until March 2003. He had previously negotiated a one year deal with them, but team management was so impressed by his performance this season (5 wins) that they offered Van Santvliet an additional year. However, he was not part of the Belgian team selection for the World Championships in Tabor - he will travel to the Czech Republic as a spectator.
New Name for Cycling Horsens
The Danish UCI division III team, Cycling Horsens, will now be known as Glud & Marstrand Horsens. The new sponsorship deal allows Glud & Marstrand Horsens to have 11 riders instead of 9 as they did last year, as well as being able to provide better clothing and team cars.
Team sponsor Glud & Marstrand A/S is a primary supplier of cans to the Danish food industry and has a world-wide export of empty cans. The G&M group supplies metal packaging for food, chocolate, butter cookies, tobacco, shoe polish, and paint and varnishes and its factories in L°sning, Hedensted, Odense and in Lysekil in Sweden have approximately 1300 employees.
Glud & Marstrand