News for June 6, 2001

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84th Giro d'Italia news

Rest day reflection

By Jeff Jones
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Photo: © AFP

It's been a long haul in this year's Giro d'Italia, with the one and only rest day scheduled more than three quarters of the way through the 23 day tour. As the riders relaxed in San Remo doing the usual things - eating, sleeping, going to the hairdresser, and being drug tested - we can take stock of what has happened so far in the race.

Overall, the 84th edition of the Corsa Rosa has been well balanced with sprint wins, mountain battles, and opportunist breakaways. The current situation is that we have a two horse race for the GC, with a determined Gilberto Simoni (Lampre) holding a 15 second advantage over former Maglia Rosa wearer Dario Frigo (Fassa Bortolo) with five stages (two of which are mountainous) to come.
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Gilberto Simoni
Photo: © Sirotti

On current form, the 56 kg climber from Trentino, Gilberto Simoni will win. He has looked completely composed on the climbs, although he did not manage to lose Frigo on the steep slopes of Santa Barbara (Stage 14), much to his annoyance. He came back the next day with an amazing time trial performance where he finished second, just 28 seconds behind Frigo after 55.5 kilometres of racing over a hilly, technical parcours.

That performance has raised doubts amongst some that he is doing it "au naturel", after he beat specialists such as Abraham Olano and Sergey Gontchar, who were favoured to win. Points in Simoni's favour are that a) the course was quite difficult, and would suit a rider with better technical and climbing skills, b) he was wearing the Maglia Rosa, which as Eddy Merckx commented on Belgian TV that day "gives you wings" c) the riders had just raced for 15 days, with the last two days being in the mountains, and Simoni did not appear to have dug as deeply as the rest, and d) the average speed of the time trial wasn't particularly high at 46.519 km/h, which supports point a).

Other points against him include the fact that his teammate Sergio Barbero was taken out of the Giro a few days previous, after returning a "non-negative" test for EPO in the Tour of Romandy. Also, somewhat ironically, Marco Pantani commented that he was "amazed" by Simoni's time trial performance, despite the fact that he had done something similar in 1998. "The results is all the more unexpected as Olano and Gontchar made this time trial a target," said Pantani.
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Simoni's position
Photo: © Sirotti

However, Simoni was one of the seven riders urine tested today in San Remo, and hopefully he will avoid the result of Alexia rider Pascal Hervé, who returned a positive result to a previous Giro control (see separate article).

Simoni's doctor, who also looks after the Cantina Tollo team, Giuseppe Mastrodicasa, said that Simoni's new time trial position was a "fundamental change" and "the medical products do not have anything to do with it."

"Simoni has reaped the fruits of his personal labour. He gave up his position where he was getting pains in his legs. I also proposed to Pantani to subject himself to test his position on the bicycle. But neither he nor its sporting director (Giuseppe Martinelli) made a point of doing it."
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Photo: © Sirotti

The Simoni/Frigo battle on Thursday will be fascinating, and a real test of who has recovered the best in the final week. Whatever happens, Dario Frigo has already made himself a hero in Italian cycling with his gritty defence of the Maglia Rosa for 9 days, and his refusal to give up the race even when he lost it in stage 13. It remains to be seen whether Simoni will gain the same respect, but there is no doubt that he has earned it.

Top seven tested on rest day

Surprise urine tests were carried out on the top seven riders on GC during the Giro's rest day in San Remo. Gilberto Simoni (Lampre), Dario Frigo (Fassa Bortolo), Abraham Olano (O.N.C.E.), Unai Osa (, Sergej Gontchar (Liquigas), Jose Azevedo (O.N.C.E.), and Andrea Noe (Mapei) were the lucky riders. Eighth placed Ivan Gotti (Alessio) who had his caravan searched by Police last week was not tested.

Hervé positive for EPO

French cyclist Pascal Hervé (Alexia Alluminio) has tested positive (or if you like, "non-negative") to the banned substance EPO. And will not start in tomorrow's stage 17 of the Giro d'Italia. A statement issued by the Alexia team said that "Hervé has withdrawn and awaits a counter-evaluation to show that he knows nothing about this. We do not want to influence the other riders in a negative way."

Hervé has already served a suspension for taking EPO, as part of the Festina affair in 1998. Although he did not admit to it at the time (and there were no approved EPO tests available), he chose not to race "in solidarity" with his teammates who were given suspensions. Finally, when the Festina trial finished in late 2000, both he and Richard Virenque did admit that they had taken banned substances. "Yes, I doped myself," said Hervé on October 25, 2000 in Lille.

He was then given an additional 8 month suspension, later reduced to two months (February 1-March 31, 2001) before he could resume racing. 36 year old Hervé, who turned pro in 1994 with Festina, started the Giro with some ambitions to win a stage, but they have now gone after he was declared positive after a doping control taken during the race. He was lying 20th overall at 21'04 behind Gilberto Simoni.

He had previously said "I am an adventurer. The day when I have had enough, I will stop. It is not the contract that makes me continue. Now, it is for pleasure. There is no pressure."

And in a strange twist came the news earlier in the day that Alexia was seeking to sign the aforementioned Virenque, after he finishes his current suspension in mid-August. Virenque was in San Remo during the rest day of the Giro d'Italia and discussed terms with the Italian team.

"We're still negotiating," said Alexia PR man Stefano Bertolotti when asked if Richard had signed.

Pantani tips Frigo and blames sickness

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Marco Pantani
Photo: © Sirotti

Former Giro d'Italia winner Marco Pantani has tipped Dario Frigo to win the race this year. "I prefer Frigo, because of his manner of racing," said Pantani to AFP on the Giro rest day.

As for his own condition, he claims it was "influenza" that has led to a below par performance so far. After stage 16, Pantani is in 17th overall, 17'57 behind Simoni.

"For the last few days, I have felt the effects of influenza. On the day of the stage of Pordoi (Stage 13), I did not understand why I could not go forward. Now I know. It was the influenza!"

"Several riders of our team have been affected, and we have seen it pass from one to another. On the Parma stage (yesterday) I thought of giving up. Now, I want to see whether I can improve from here to the end of the Giro. I will know tomorrow (Stage 17) if I am able to play a rôle in the great stage of Sant'Anna di Vinadio."

"I had come to the Giro with the aim to win. It is difficult to be on the other side, to see the others fighting for the victory. Fortunately, the tifosi are always at my side."

"As for the race, when I see how the mountains were climbed, I think that I could have been at the same level of the others, I do not say I would beat them, but at least to accompany them. In the time trial, I certainly would have lost two to three minutes to riders like Olano or Gontchar. I am not a specialist."

Marco Pantani also has ambitions post-Giro. "I would like to ride the Tour de France but I do not see it being possible. I have no hope that the organizers will reconsider their decision. For next year, I would like to join a big team to avoid a similar situation."

With Mercatone Uno? "That does not depend on me. In theory, when I fit into a team, it is when I feel good. I would really like to continue to work with them."

Lotto goes to the hairdresser

The seven remaining riders from the Lotto-Adecco team spent part of the rest day in San Remo at the hairdressers. They each dyed their hair grey, similar to one of the soigneurs in the team.

Cipollini's "skinsuit" auctioned for charity

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Photo: © AFP

Mario Cipollini's controversial prologue "skinsuit" has fetched 100 million lira (US$43,710) in a charity auction today. The money raised will be put into cancer research at the Gaslini hospital in Genoa.

Previously, Cipollini and the Saeco team were fined SFR800 (US$458) by race organisers for using the non-standard skinsuit that depicted the complete human musculature.

"Because it attracted so much attention I thought about using it for a good cause," said Cipollini to Italian TV "This was the best rest day I've ever had. I don't know how to thank the people who took part in the auction."

Five stages to come

The 84th Giro d'Italia finishes on Sunday, June 10 in Milan, and there are just five more stages left before the winner is decided.

Stage 17 - June 6: San Remo - San Remo, 119 km

Also called the Circuito Dei Fiori, this is a two lap race around San Remo and the Riviera hinterland. It is certainly not flat, with the climb of Monte Bignone (1064 m) to be tackled each lap, in addition to a generally up and down parcours.

Stage 18 - June 7: Imperia - Sant'Anna di Vinadio, 230 km

This stage and stage 13 are the two toughest Giro stages. Both are of similar length, and both finish atop special category climbs. There are a total of 5 categorised climbs en route, including the mighty Colle della Fauniera (2511 m) the highest point (Cima Coppi) in the race. After a technical descent, the finishing climb to Sant'Anna di Vinadio is 15.9 kilometres long for an 1119 m altitude gain at an average of 7% (maximum 14%).

Stage 19 - June 8: Alba - Busto Arsizio, 163 km

This is another flat stage, the second last chance for the sprinters to shine with several laps of a finishing circuit in Busto Arsizio near Milan.

Stage 20 - June 9: Busto Arsizio - Arona, 181 km

Another "two lap" stage containing one ascent of the Mottarone (1389 m, category 1) each lap. This is the last difficult stage of the Giro, but by then, the winner should be known.

Stage 21 - June 10: Arona - Milan, 121 km

The final parade stage will take the Giro back into Milan, finishing with a 10 lap circuit around the Castle of Sforza. Definitely a sprinters showdown.

UCI women's rankings

Released after round 5 of the women's World Cup in Montreal, the latest set of women's UCI rankings sees Anna Millward (Saturn) well entrenched in the number one position, holding a 209.5 point lead over Dutchwoman Mirjam Melchers (Acca Due), with Leontien Zijlaard-Van Moorsel (Farm Frites-Hartol) in third wheel.

Millward's consistency this season has seen her more secure in the number one position, especially as she is racing (and winning) more of the World Cup circuit. Other notable movements on the scale include former number one Diana Ziliute (Acca Due O) who has suffered health problems this year and has yet to hit top form. Meanwhile, Swedish standout Susanne Ljungskog (Vlaanderen T Interim) has jumped up to 7th place, courtesy of another good World Cup race last Saturday, where she placed 2nd.

Jeannie Longo (14th-11th), Judith Arndt (20th-15th), Lyne Bessette (73rd-26th) and Genevieve Jeanson (54th-30th) have been the main climbers since the last ranking. Team Saturn has also moved closer to its goal of being the number one women's team in the World, moving into second place behind Acca Due O.

Rankings as of June 5, 2001


1 Anna Millward (Aus) Saturn-Timex                            755.00 pts
2 Mirjam Melchers (Ned) Acca Due O-HP-Lorena Camicie          545.50
3 Leontien Zijlaard-Van Moorsel (Ned) Farm Frites-Hartol      506.00
4 Diana Ziliute (Ltu) Acca Due O-HP-Lorena Camicie            481.00
5 Zinaida Stahurskaia (Blr) Gas Sport Team                    474.00
6 Hanka Kupfernagel (Ger) Farm Frites-Hartol                  428.67
7 Susanne Ljungskog (Swe) Vlaanderen-T-Interim Ladies Team    418.00
8 Joane Somarriba Arrola (Spa) Alfa Lum R.S.M.                377.00
9 Edita Pucinskaite (Ltu) Alfa Lum R.S.M.                     354.50
10 Chantal Beltman (Ned)                                      352.50
11 Jeannie Longo-Ciprelli (Fra)                               314.34
12 Svetlana Boubnenkova (Rus) Edilsavino                      302.00
13 Mari Holden (USA) Alfa Lum R.S.M.                          297.00
14 Fabiana Luperini (Ita) Edilsavino                          282.00
15 Judith Arndt (Ger)                                         270.00
16 Ceris Gilfillan (GBr)                                      250.00
17 Zoulfia Zabirova (Rus) Acca Due O-HP-Lorena Camicie        212.50
18 Pia Sundstedt (Fin) Gas Sport Team                         212.00
19 Madeleine Lindberg (Swe) Farm Frites-Hartol                208.00
20 Sara Felloni (Ita) Alfa Lum R.S.M.                         197.00
21 Rasa Polikeviciute (Ltu) Acca Due O-HP-Lorena Camicie      192.00
22 Petra Rossner (Ger) Saturn-Timex                           188.00
23 Olga Slioussareva (Rus) Carpe Diem-Itera                   181.00
24 Sarah Symington (GBr)                                      175.00
25 Heidi Van De Vijver (Bel) Vlaanderen-T-Interim Ladies Team 173.00
26 Lyne Bessette (Can) Saturn-Timex                           166.00
26 Trixi Worrack (Ger)                                        166.00
28 Alessandra Cappellotto (Ita) Gas Sport Team                157.00
29 Valentina Polkhanova (Rus) Carpe Diem-Itera                153.00
30 Geneviève Jeanson (Can) Equipe Cycliste Rona               152.00


1 Acca Due O-HP-Lorena Camicie             1,431.00 pts
2 Saturn-Timex                             1,242.00
3 Alfa Lum R.S.M.                          1,225.50
4 Farm Frites-Hartol                       1,215.67
5 Gas Sport Team                             975.00
6 Edilsavino                                 801.00
7 Vlaanderen-T-Interim Ladies Team           683.00
8 Carpe Diem-Itera                           449.00
9 Team Sponsorservice                        327.00
10                            262.00


1 Netherlands                              1,517.50 pts
2 Lithuania                                1,199.50
3 Germany                                  1,186.17
4 Australia                                1,065.00
5 Russia                                     904.50
6 Italy                                      817.00
7 France                                     732.34
8 Sweden                                     682.00
9 U.S.A.                                     647.00
10 Great Britain                             524.00

Stolen bikes for GB women

After going from the high of placing 3 riders in the top 11 in the Montreal Women's World Cup on June 2, 2001, the Great Britain squad have suffered a devastating low.

Overnight the Team's truck parked up at McGill University, Montreal, was broken into and two bikes stolen. Ceris Gilfillan and Yvonne McGregor who both placed in the top 10 both lost brand new bikes complete with SRM Power Cranks and Rolf Vector Pro Wheels valued at £5,500 each (US$7700).

Even though a crowbar was discarded next to the truck the local police did not rate the crime important enough to visit the scene and GB Team Manager Dave Mellor had to go downtown and file a report.

The team is hoping that their bike sponsor Trek will replace the stolen bikes ready for this weekend's World Cup in Philadelphia, USA.

Nicolas Liboreau signs for BigMat

24 year old Frenchman Nicolas Liboreau has signed a two year contract with the BigMat-Auber team, and will start with them as a stagiaire in the Tour de l'Avenir (September 6-15) this year. The sprinter has won stages in the Tours of l'Indre, Loiret, and Ruban Granitier.

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