News for June 8, 2001

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Giro close to collapse, but goes on

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Riders meet
Photo: © Sirotti

It was a tumultuous day for cycling after last night's police drug raids on team hotels and vans provoked a protest from the riders, team managers, and cycling officials in this year's Giro d'Italia. The raids were aimed at seizing any illicit substances that may have been present among the team's supplies, and were clearly pre-planned by Italian drug squad police (NAS), who were acting under orders from the anti-drug magistrate in Florence.

Approximately 200 policemen were employed in the raids on 20 different teams, with the result that no one could rest on the night before the critical stage in the Giro. According to police sources, more than 200 examples of stimulants, steroids and doping substances were seized, which were sent to laboratories in Florence for analysis. However, nothing concrete can be determined until the results of the tests are known.

Saeco's Mario Cipollini told journalists that "It was like being in an action movie. I wanted to quit after the police's behavior; they could have done it on Tuesday when we were resting instead of the evening before such an important stage."

Shortly before midday today, race officials decided to cancel stage 18 to Sant Anna di Vinadio, which contained 5 climbs and two very tough ones to finish. Initially, team directors had agreed to ride a reduced stage of 133 kilometres, but this was not to be after the riders met for several hours to discuss the future of the race.

At 1545 CEST, the riders came out of the seven hour meeting with Enrico Ingrilli, the president of the Italian riders association, with the news that they will be prepared to start in tomorrow's 19th stage from Alba to Busto Arsizio (163 km), and that they would finish the Giro in Milan on Sunday, June 10.

"In the light of the debate held, and with the aim of saving the values of cycling, the riders have decided they will finish the 84th Giro D'Italia," the cyclists said in a statement.

Verbruggen encourages

They were encouraged earlier in the day by UCI president Hein Verbruggen to do so, and he told reporters that he fully understood the riders' actions.

"I always said, and already did so in the Tour de France in 1998, that I was favourable to the work of the justice authorities." However, he also stressed in an official statement that the raids were "disproportionate" and "deplorable in their methods."

"Acting in this manner, the Italian police force has consciously and indisputably done serious damage to the credibility and tradition of a sporting event which forms part of the Italian and international inheritance," read the statement.

"The operation appears perhaps justifiable in its ends, but absolutely deplorable in its methods, with respect to individual dignity and specifics related to the professional activity of the riders."

In separate comments, he criticised the Italian doping law for being too heavy handed. "To my knowledge, Italy is the only country in the world where doping in sport is a penal offence," he told French newsagency AFP. "It is an incomprehensible law which goes against all the political agreements."

This year, the UCI have added blood and urine based EPO testing to their arsenal of anti-drug tests, with 6 positive cases reported so far this year, two of which have been in the Giro.

Seized material in the hands of justice

The material seized during police raids on Wednesday night in San Remo has been transferred to the prosecutor of the court in Florence. Nearly 300 products were taken from team hotels, some of which are suspected of being doping substances. The products were sealed in containers and plastic envelopes, to be taken away for laboratory analysis.

The prosecutor in Florence, Luigi Bocciolini, has specified that no legal charges have been laid against anyone yet.

Castellano's comments

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Carmine Castellano
Photo: © Sirotti

The director of RCS Sport, Carmine Castellano, said that today "The Giro lost an arm, and me a piece of my heart," after the cancellation of the 18th stage.

"At the time of the first official notice I thought that the situation was not irreparable, but that it was very serious".

What was the decisive point? "At the end, the sponsors have been most important".

The riders? "I cannot justify them, but I understand they considered it an intimate offense. The action yesterday evening remains legitimately unassailable."

"The sensationalism given to the action offended the riders and also the organisers."

CONI president calls for order

President of CONI (Italian Olympic Committee) Gianni Petrucci has called for a meeting next Tuesday to put things back "in order" in the cycling world. "We have to define immediately the means and measures in order to give back some credibility and confidence to Italian cycling."

The meeting will be held between the Italian Cycling Federation, representatives of the three professional groups (riders, teams and organisers), and the present members of the Conseil du Cyclisme Professionnel (Carmine Castellano, Felice Gimondi and Francesco Moser), the supervisor for the Italian national team, Alfredo Martini, and a CONI delegation.

Ivano Fanini comments

The patron of the Amore e Vita cycling team, Ivano Fanini, has commented on the police blitz in San Remo last night. "The world of sport, especially our concern with cycling, gives us cause to reflect and say a big mea culpa for this noble discipline that has been soiled in the last 20 years ".

"This is the most healthy and effective operation for cycling that has ever been achieved. Beforehand, those who fought concretely against doping has become isolated and excluded from the most important races in Italy, as happened to Amore e Vita in the last three years".

Gianni's phonecall

Gianni Letta, an aide to prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, placed an important phone call to the organisers of the Giro mid-afternoon in an attempt to stop the riders from completely abandoning the Giro. He ensured the organisers that this would be the last time that such an event would occur, as they would - with the new Italian government - take steps to limit the powers of the magistrates.

"After solicitation from the IOC, Gianni Letta called us, putting them at our disposition and ensuring us that the new government would support us in order to improve the dialogue between cycling and the institutions."

Pantani back to Cesenatico

Marco Pantani finally left the Giro d'Italia to return home to Cesenatico in northern Italy, after he was involved in some of today's events. He was to abandon anyway due to illness, and the raids on his hotel last night cost him too much sleep to even consider going on. Pantani was accompanied by his personal soigneur, Roberto Pregnolato, who had been the subject of close scrutiny by the police last night.

He had already indicated his intentions to withdraw after last night's stage 17, stating that he would see how he felt in the morning. He lost over 12 minutes in stage 17, and finished in 89th place.

"We are prepared for this abandonment, he has some problems and will now undergo a whole series of examinations, because he is not going well," said Mercatone Uno president Felice Gimondi.

How the day unfolded

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Baliani with Savio
Photo: © Sirotti

0710: The main part of the 20 directeurs sportifs convened in a big hotel in San Remo to decide what course of action to be taken.

0830: Carmine Castellano (director of the Giro) and Hein Verbruggen (UCI president) met with team officials.

0900: The first riders arrive to take seats in one of the rooms in the hotel. The others come in several waves.

0915: The directeurs sportifs and the organisers agree with the race jury to reduce the 18th stage by 100 kilometres. The new departure time is envisaged to be 1315 (11h15 GMT) from Santurario de Vicoforte.

1010: Race leader Gilberto Simoni, who was telephoned, joins the riders meeting.

1140: Carmine Castellano announces the cancellation of the 18th stage, adding that the following stage must take place normally.

1200: With one representative per team, the riders meet again. Marco Pantani, who officially abandoned the race due to bronchitis, expresses his opinion several times.

1230: Hein Verbruggen says that he understands the indignation of the riders.

1400: There are more telephone calls. Various authorities are contacted, although Italy is still on a standby government. President Berlusconi's aide, Gianni Letta called the organisers, to assure them that this will not happen again.

1500: Carmine Castellano and Candido Cannavo (director of la Gazzetta dello Sport, organising newspaper) insists that the riders race again, and is supported by Hein Verbruggen.
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Enrico Ingrilli
Photo: © Sirotti

1545: Several directeurs sportifs who discussed with the riders affirm that the race will set out again.

1600: Enrico Ingrilli, president of the Italian riders association, reads the official statement. "The riders disapprove of the methods of the police, but agree to continue the race."

1630: The hall of the Astoria hotel in San Remo is emptied. Everyone departs for Alba, where the 19th stage will start.

Cyclingnews live updates from today's cancelled stage

A first for the Giro

Today's "riders meeting" which led to the cancellation of the 18th stage is the first time in the Giro's history that such a strike has been "successful". Although there have been occasional protests in the past due to bad racing conditions, none have ever led to the cancellation of a stage.

Marie-George Buffet satisfied

The French minister for Youth and Sports, Marie-George Buffet, has expressed her satisfaction towards the action taken by police in Italy. "It testifies that the Italian government and its sports minister, Giovanna Meandri, have really started the anti-doping fight," she said in Paris today.

"Unlike the French law, the Italian law does not distinguish the users of banned substances and the suppliers." Sports drug users are not sanctioned in court in France, only in sporting tribunals.

"Italy is therefore committed to the fight against doping and I am satisfied that it can only be effective if it is international. The WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) is progressing in its harmonisation and consistency in this area."

However, she also pointed out that it "did not need to be spectacular. I hope that the Giro will continue tomorrow, while moving back this plague," she said, adding that the Tour de France has stepped up its controls this year.

"I hope that these preventative measures will be dissuasive and that this year, the Tour will be conducted in the respect of those men who ride it."

UCI president Hein Verbruggen has supported the riders decision to protest the police raids. He, together with Giro director Carmine Castellano and the director of La Gazzetta dello Sport, Candido Cannav˛, attended the meeting held by the riders to discuss whether they would continue the race.

Before he went in he said that "The decision is up to them, I would not make this appeal if they were in the wrong, but we must consider what has happened last night and in recent years."

"It is always cycling that is under scrutiny, even though it looks as though other sports have small problems. It already happened in the Tour of 1998 - why act on TVM four months after the opening of the inquiry. Why raid Three Days of De Panne in 1999 for something nothing to do with cycling?"

"To carry out an action as that which occurred yesterday in the final week of a Grand Tour puts enormous pressure on the riders. I feel sorry for them."

Erin "Erv" Hartwell retires from cycling

Erin Hartwell, one of the most decorated track cyclists in American racing history, has announced his retirement from the sport. Hartwell, winner of two Olympic medals, has struggled with a nagging Achilles heel injury that has plagued him since February.

Hartwell, known as "Erv", cited the lack of recovery from this injury and a desire to move onto the next phase of his life as the reasons for his departure when discussing it with Saturn.

"It was difficult for Erv to come to races and not be able to contribute at a level he wanted and needed to help the team because of this injury," said Tom Schuler, general manager of the Saturn Team. "He became very frustrated and it was becoming increasingly difficult for him to resurrect this season. He thought maybe it was best to end his career with no regrets."

Hartwell, who turned 32 on June 1, is looking to pursue a career in aviation and plans to attend flight school in North Dakota. He is married to May Britt-Vaaland, a former member of the Norwegian national cycling team, and they have two sons.

The Indianapolis native won two Olympic medals in the kilometer time trial event - bronze in 1992 and silver in 1996 - and was a member of the team pursuit squad at the 2000 Sydney Games. Hartwell also won two bronze medals (1995, 1998) and a silver (1994) in the kilometer at the cycling world championships.

He joined Saturn in 2000 after he decided to shift his focus from the kilo and move it to the team pursuit and road sprinting. "An injury had prevented him from doing the weightlifting that was necessary of a kilo rider so he switched to team pursuit for the Sydney Olympics," added Schuler. "He wanted to pursue a career as a road sprinter and he was making progress. He came to camp in January lean and hungry, but then the Achilles problem surfaced in February. It's really unfortunate his career had to end this way.

"Overall, flight school is a good option for him. Erv will be missed and we wish him all the best in his future plans."

Columbia Plateau Stage, Oregon

Among bike racers Oregon is known for two major stage races, Tour of Willamette and the Cascade Cycling Classic. Both are great races with riders from many pro teams and intense competition. However, there is another stage race in Oregon each year which draws racers from throughout the U.S. and Canada, and this year from England.

Prize money isn't the lure for the riders, as it's not all that much. They don't come for the crowds; they'll see far more horses,cows and wildlife than people. They come instead for the incredible racing in wonderfully beautiful settings on virtually vehicle free courses.

This year's newly crowned National Road Race champion, Remi McManus is coming along with four of his teammates so they too can enjoy the unique camaraderie created by a stage race in which the promoters not only provide accommodation but food as well. The promoters haul the riders' gear from one town to another as well.

The event begins Friday the 8th in Heppner, Oregon; races to the tiny town of Ione. The kind of town where the UPS driver leaves folks' packages in their cars if he sees them at the market, no one locks anything in these parts. On the 9th after a 2 mile uphill time trial, the groups race from Ione to Fossil, another small town high up in the mountains. Here the racers camp at the high school, many of them close to the eastern football goal post on the hill above which someone is usually digging for fossils.

Finally on the last day everyone races from Fossil back to Heppner via Spray, Oregon. The first portion of the stage travels along the John Day river and most racers save themselves for the crux which soon follows, an over 4000 foot climb out the valley back up the plateau.

The stages

Stage 1 - Friday, June 8: Heppner Road Race

Cat 3/4, 55 miles, 1:00 pm
Pro/1/2, 76 miles, 1:05 pm
Masters 40+, 55, miles, 1:10 pm
Women, 55 miles, 1:15 pm

Stage 2 - Saturday, June 9: Rietmann Grade TT

All categories: 2+ miles, 9:00 am

Stage 3 - Saturday, June 9: Ione Road Race

Pro/1/2, 77 miles, 1:00 pm
Cat 3/4, 63 miles, 1:40 pm
Masters 40+, 63 miles, 1:50 pm
Women, 63 miles, 1:55 pm

Stage 4 - Sunday, June 10: Fossil Road Race

All categories: 85 miles, 9:00 am

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