Although it seemed to have disappeared from view in late March, the enquiry into Lance Armstrong's US Postal Team by French magistrates is still going on. Paris judge Sophie-Helene Chateau expects to finish her report within the next two months, meaning that there is a possibility that the results will be known during the Tour.
The allegations are that the US Postal team were using illegal drugs during the 2000 Tour. The investigation was opened based on France 3 TV footage which showed allegedly suspicious behaviour by the garbage disposal unit hired by the team, and examination of the contents of said garbage. In addition, analyses of blood and urine samples of the Postal team members were requested by the judge, with the urine tests showing no evidence of doping substances.
"It would be unacceptable for Lance or the team to be disturbed during the Tour," said U.S. Postal Service team attorney Georges Kiejman to Darren Tulett of Bloomberg News. "After nine months with no news, it would show an unwelcome desire for publicity."
Armstrong and his team deny taking banned products. The Paris public prosecutors' office, which employs the judge, will release a statement on the inquiry by the end of the week.
Armstrong is aiming for a third straight victory in the Tour, which starts on July 7 in Dunkirk. Should he bag a victory in the Tour de Suisse (likely), he will need to become the first rider to win both races in the same year since Eddy Merckx did in 1974. It's a long way to Paris yet.
One of his rivals, Gilberto Simoni (Lampre) confirmed yesterday during the Tour de Suisse that he wouldn't be contesting the Tour de France due to the physical and mental stress of the last 5 weeks. He should finish second in the Tour de Suisse, but had no answer to Armstrong's remarkable uphill time trial yesterday, where he lost 1'26 in 25 kilometres.
On the other hand, there is Fassa Bortolo's Francesco Casagrande, who was honest in his comments to Cyclingnews last week: "If all goes well, I can finish the Tour in the top 5," he said. "I'm not as good as either of them in the time trial, but there is the uphill time trial and I can gain time (on Armstrong and Ullrich) on the climbs."
Casagrande seems to have found some form after his crash in the first stage of the Giro that forced him out of the race. He won the toughest stage of the Route du Sud that finished on top of the Plateau de Beille (where Pantani won during the Tour in 1998 prior to demolishing Ullrich on the Galibier). His Fassa Bortolo team is a match for US Postal, and on paper he is a better climber.
Jan Ullrich has spent the past week training over the climbs in the Alps and the Pyrenees, as Armstrong did a month or so ago. Ullrich showed no indications during the Giro that he was near his best climbing form, but the German has had more preparation and is very motivated for the Tour.
He is now training 220 kilometres a day in the Black Forest, and according to his coach Peter Becker, is in better shape this year than at this time last year.
We will have to wait until stage 10 of the Tour to determine who has done their homework on the climbs.
Despite winning his second Tour de Suisse stage and his 16th race of the year, top sprinter Erik Zabel gave the clear indication after stage 9 that he was not happy with the potential Telekom Tour de France team. If his excellent domestique, Gian-Matteo Fagnini is not on the start list, Zabel will either have to bribe Jan Ullrich and Alexandre Vinokourov into leading him out or fend for himself in his quest for a record 6th green jersey.
"Maybe I won't ride the Tour at all," he said today without a smile at the end of the stage.
Telekom has not hidden its intentions that it wants to win a third Tour de France, after successes in 1996 and 1997 promoted massive publicity for Telekom back home. Another yellow jersey would carry a lot of kudos in cycling mad Germany, but it may come at the expense of Zabel's green. The question that will be answered on Friday is whether Telekom will take the risk in having Fagnini there at the expense of a better climber, and whether this will have any effect on Jan Ullrich's climbing ability.
The preliminary 11 man Telekom selection is as follows:
Rolf Aldag (Ger)
Udo Bölts (Ger)
Gianmatteo Fagnini (Ita)
Giuseppe Guerini (Ita)
Jens Heppner (Ger)
Andreas Klöden (Ger)
Kevin Livingston (USA)
Jan Ullrich (Ger)
Steffen Wesemann (Ger)
Alexander Vinokourov (Kaz)
Erik Zabel (Ger)
The Division I Euskaltel-Euskadi team was one of the five wildcard selections for the Tour this year. In announcing his team, Miguel Madariaga, left out one of his best performed riders in recent months, 25 year old Iban Mayo. The winner of the Midi Libre, Classique des Alpes and also the Galibier stage of the Dauphine Libere will not be lining up in orange in Dunkirk.
The team is as follows:
David Etxebarria (Spa)
Unai Etxebarria (Ven)
Roberto Laiseka (Spa)
Alberto López de Munain (Spa)
Haimar Zubeldia (Spa)
Ińigo Chaurreau (Spa)
Angel Castresana (Spa)
Txema Del Olmo (Spa)
Iker Flores (Spa)
The comments made by Jean Delatour's Christophe Bassons in Tuesday's edition of L'Humanité have provoked a response from the president of the team's head sponsors, Jean Delatour. Jean-Pierre Fréty told the Lyon Figaro newspaper that he had no regrets in hiring Bassons in 2000, but he did regret that he had reached the point of despair, as told to L'Humanité.
"It is an enormous waste, and an acknowledgment of failure," said Fréty. "The failure of the integration of a rider within a group."
He did not agree with Bassons' view that since 1998 there has been no change in the percentage of riders who doped. "I don't know what happens in other countries, but in France there was a general awakening since 1998 which makes me say that 98-99 percent of the riders are clean."
Fréty does not know of Bassons' intentions, whether he wishes to stop cycling or not. "But it certainly seems that he is on the point of stopping. He passed is diplomas and is able to enter the administrative system in September. He will therefore have to present his resignation to us. For the moment, Christophe will continue to be a professional rider."
'For the moment' will apply for the next month only, as Christophe Bassons and his directeur sportif Michel Gros announced that he will "retire from the cycling team on July 31, 2001 instead of December 31, 2001, in order to begin a new professional career."
Bassons holds a sports teaching diploma, and he is looking to join the French ministry of Youth and Sports. He will take part in the French championships in Argenton-sur-Creuse in both the time trial on Thursday and the road race on Sunday. In July, he will ride the Tour du Doubs and the Tour de la Somme.
Michel Gros specified that there was "no polemic. Christophe wishes to make a new start, and we agreed on this solution, which is best for all and sundry."
The French national championships are scheduled over the next four days (June 28-July 1), culminating with the 229 kilometre elite men's road race on Sunday. The circuit this year is at Argenton-sur-Creuse, and it doesn't appear to offer the climbers any chances.
Favourite for the men's time trial on Thursday is Dauphine Libere winner, Christophe Moreau (Festina), who is in top form prior to the Tour de France. He may be challenged by his teammate Florent Brard, or Didier Rous (Jean Delatour), with Gilles Maignan (Ag2r) not to be underestimated.
In the women's event, Jeannie Longo will be aiming to win her 34th French title, and the 42 year old world hour record holder is unlikely to be challenged in her favourite event.
In the road races things could go differently, with the 16.38 kilometre parcours suiting sprinters more than climbers or roulers. Christophe Capelle is the defending champion in the men's event, while Longo is once again the women's title holder. Jimmy Casper or Jean-Patrick Nazon (FdJ), or Damien Nazon (Bonjour) all have good chances to win in a sprint.
The French Cycling Federation (FFC) will have to go through the Italian authorities if it is to receive the "Giro doping dossier" from the magistrates in Florence. FFC president Jean Pitallier had contacted the court in Florence which refused to allow the transmission of the file unless it was approved by the Italian authorities. Pitallier then sent requests to the anti-doping commission of the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) and the Italian Cycling Federation (FCI) and hopes to receive a response soon.
The Florence investigation was opened on Monday and will question 86 people, including 64 riders who took part in the recent Giro d'Italia. All of them are under suspicion for sporting fraud according to the Italian anti-doping law, however preliminary findings are only expected to be known in September.
This has sent things into a spin for the upcoming Tour de France, after the organisers issued a statement on Monday saying that: "The Tour de France will rule out before the start, or exclude during the cycling race proper, the teams or individuals found guilty of charges that would be in contradiction with the ethical and sporting principles defended by the Tour."
"We have have expressed to the international sporting authority (UCI), and the national (FFC), the need to put at our disposal reliable, precise and proven information on the facts regarding those people put under investigation from the Giro, before considering a possible decision prior to the Tour."
As mentioned above, no-one will be found guilty before September, so the last part of the statement can be interpreted in several ways. Cyclingnews has requested a clarification of the statement.
Dylan Casey is recovering from his injuries sustained during the Four Days of Dunkerque, and is coming back to racing form with his return being set for July 7 at the Boston Criterium.
"I am feeling stronger each day and the rehab has gone really well," said Casey from his home in Mountain View, Calif. "Boston will be a tough race to return with, but I am looking forward to racing again."
Casey suffered a broken pelvis and broken clavicle when he crashed into a soundman at the finish line of the race in May. According to Casey's agent, Clay Young, he has had a "remarkable recovery. One doctor I spoke with in the early stages had said he doubted Dylan would ever ride again and here he is two months later and ready to race. He is dedicated to cycling and has worked so hard in rehab."
Top cyclocrosser Peter van Santvliet (Spaarselect) is allowed to start in this weekend's Belgian championships in Halle on the road. Unfortunately, his teammate Bart Wellens will not be joining him on the start line after falling and abandoning the final stage of the Tour du Nivernais.
After the championships, both Spaarselect riders will take two weeks break before preparing for the Belgian mountain bike championships in Michelbeke on July 29.
Young Dutch rider Miquel van Kessel has given up his professional career, after not racing since April. For the past three years, he has ridden for TVM/Farm Frites and Farm Frites, before joining Gerolsteiner this season. "I have definite reasons for doing so," he said. "This is however something for myself. Two months ago I told the team management of my decision. They gave me one month to think about it, but I have no regrets."
When Farm Frites merged with Domo, there was no place for him. He was took a spot in Gerolsteiner in January. "What is it actually? There are small things when combined that are the reason that I have stopped."
At the moment he is working in a flower shop owned by his father, which he intends to take over.
The Dutch Farm Frites-Hartol team has selected a strong line up for the women's Giro d'Italia that starts on July 2 and finishes July 15. Led by Leontien Zijlaard-Van Moorsel and Hanka Kupfernagel, the team also includes newly crowned Swedish time trial champion Madeleine Lindberg, along with Sissy van Alebeek, Esther van der Helm, Daphny van den Brand and Andrea Bosman.
Zijlaard-Van Moorsel's participation in the Giro means that she will miss the Dutch track championships from July 10-14.
Next Tuesday, July 2 the Wielerbond Vlaanderen (WBV) will be inaugurated as part of the Belgian Cycling Federation (BWB). The first president will be the Limburger, Jean Brebels, and the WBV will have the whole of Flanders as its domain.
This branch follows a few weeks after the opening of the Waals-Brussels wing (FCWB) of the national body, as the "federalization" of the BWB is increasingly becoming a reality.
Major Races and Events
September 7-29, 2002: Vuelta a Espańa (GT) - Preview, stage list
May 11-June 2, 2002: Giro d'Italia (GT) - Preview, stage list, photos
July 6-28, 2002: Tour de France (GT) - Full preview & official route details
December 8: Superprestige Rd 5 (Cat. 1) - Erwin Vervecken
November 29-December 4: Six Days of Noumea (6D) - Sassone/Neuville victorious
November 26-December 1: Six Days of Zurich (6D) - Day 6 - McGrory/Gilmore/Schnider win
December 1: Melbourne Cup on Wheels (IM) - Scott Moller, Keirin, Sprint, Support races
December 2: Cyclo-cross World Cup #2 (CDM) - Sven Nijs again
November 24-December 3: Juegos Deportivos Centroamericanos (JR) - Final results
December 8-9: Frankfurter Rad-Cross (Cat. 2) - Alex Mudroch, UK National Trophy Series #4 (Cat. 3) - Roger Hammond, Grote Prijs Industrie Bosduin - Kalmthout (Cat. 1) - Bart Wellens, Int. Radquer Obergösgen (Cat. 2) - Björn Rondelez, Trofeo Mamma e Papa Guerciotti (Cat. 3) - Enrico Franzoi, Premio Egondo (Cat 3) - David Seco, Irish cyclo-cross championships - Robin Seymour
Results: local racing
Australia - CycleWest Promotions Omnium Series #2, Eastern Suburbs Summer Criterium Series, Carnegie Caulfield Tuesday criterium, Southern Cross Junior Track Open & Madison Cup, Manly Warringah CC, George Town Track Carnival, Carnegie Caulfield CC, Randwick Botany CC, Gold Coast CATS CC, Caesar's Illawarra CC, Caesar's Illawarra (track)
Denmark - Danish cyclo-cross Post Cup #3
Italy - Gran Premio Cittŕ di Bassano
Luxembourg - GP De Kopstal
New Zealand - Cyco Criterium series
Spain - Elorrio cyclo-cross
USA - Georgia Cross Series Championship, Chimborazo Grand Prix cyclo-cross, Boulder Cross Rd 6, New Mexico State Cyclo-x Champs, Sorrento Cyclo-x & California State Champ's, Boulder Cross Rd 5, Verge New England series, Northampton CC Cyclo-cross Championships, Chris Cross International CycloCross
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