News for January 26, 1997

UCI to introduce blood tests

Cyclists competing in major races this season will have to submit to blood tests, the International Cycling Union (UCI) said on Friday.

In a closed door meeting at a Geneva hotel, the UCI met team directors and medical officials to discuss how to fight the increased use of EPO (erythropoietin) by some riders.

Cyclists will be tested before the start of races and those with abnormally high EPO levels will not be allowed to compete.

Riders will be barred from racing until the number of red blood cells in their bodies returns to acceptable levels.

The UCI said the tests, which can be completed in 15 minutes, would constitute ``medical control'' rather than ``anti-doping.''

EPO, which is normally used to help people with kidney problems, occurs naturally in the body where it regulates and generates oxygen-rich red blood cells.

It is allegedly being used more frequently in sport as it simulates the effects and benefits of altitude training.

Studies have shown extended EPO use can thicken the blood and cause heart-attacks. The drug has been linked to the deaths of several athletes

[Bill notes: so why not just ban them for 2 years and force them to disclose the doctor's names and ban them from cycling forever?]

Furlan not starting well

Giorgio Furlan hasn't started 1997 well, the Saeco rider and winner at Milano-San Remo in 1994 had to leave the team retreat at St. Vincenzo because Mapei-GB, the number one team in the world classifications which combines the Italian Mapei with the Belgian GB. This year without Rominger, Olano and Bortolami, the multinational italo-Belgian has for captains Johan Museeuw, champion of the world and two times winner of the World Cup; Gianni Bugno; Pavel Tonkov, who won the 1996 Giro and Andrea Tafi, Stefano Zanini, Franco Ballerini, Frank Vandenbroucke and Gianni Faresin. A total of 25 riders along with Giuseppe Saronni [team] manager and Pietro Algeri, Patrick Lefevere, Fabrizio Makers and Maurice Piovani sport directors. Also present at the presentation yesterday was team owner, George Squinzi, who has disclosed how Museeuw will aim for a victory at Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

Interview with Enrico Zaina

Here is an interview with Enrico Zaina: "I could follow Marco, but I have decided to stay here" - says Zaina-. "My stay was of a Professional nature, Pantani and I never had any differences. The Giro d'Italia will be the my big objective for '97 and with Pantani we would have both had the same goal and would have made cohabitation difficult. When I spoke to Pezzi (president of the Mercatone 1, Pantani's new team), he spoke clearly, the team would be built for Marco and I would have to remain an assistant. But that role was not enough me".Will Chiappucci ever accept to work for Zaina?

"It is a completely different situation, Zaina reason. My relationship with with Claudio is different, he is by now a big character and he won't change. But Marco instead is in front of a decisive season, he must demonstrate that he can become again that of previously".

Zaina's career mirrors his nature: he has come up little by little, but always taking a step forward. Last year he had his consecration at the Giro: he arrived second behind Pavel Tonkov, he won the stage at the Pordoi and raced intelligently. At this point he needs to consider the effect on the peloton in riders trying to occupy the "free space" left by the departure of Miguel Indurain from competition. "It will be very hard to replace the figure of Miguel, however Tonkov, Z|lle, Olano, Gotti, Francisco Casagrande and I could try to ignite interest from the spectators, like it happened at the last Giro. I think that I'm matured enough for the Maglia Rosa, the only thing I fear is bad luck. After eight years of professionalism, I know my limits and can see my position in the peloton".

In terms of his rivals, Zaina pays at the ITT, however that doesn't worry him too much. "Perhaps a specific task could improve me, but according to my 29 years I can only improve so much. I must make of my ability to climb and of the tactical sense I have, to try to change all that could hurt me, without improving in the ITT and the getting worst in the mountains".

The Giro will not be Zaina's only goal. "I finished sixth last year at Fleche Wallone and together with Liege-Bastogne-Liege those are two races that I like very much. is two races that like me so much. Naturally the Tour de France, which is the grandest cycling spectacle: I want to forget the bitter experience of the '96 Tour, when as a consequences of a fall on the third stage I was forced to retire and for 35 days stop riding, ruining my conditioning all the remainder of my season. And finally, I would like to earn a Blue Jersey to represent Italy at the Worlds".

Enrico Zaina was born in Brescia, September 27, 1967 and he lives in Cortine di Nave with his wife Angelic and his son Michele. Zaina raced as an amateur for the Carrera amateur team, before becoming a Pro in 1989 at the side of Claudio Chiappucci. He spent three seasons there, and then went to Mercatone Uno: his first victory was at the Vuelta 1992, at the stage to Avila. In 1993 still with Mercatone Uno, he conquered the Settimana Bergamasca. In 1994 Zaina changed team again to the Gewiss-Ballan of Eugene Berzin, which escort him to win the Giro d'Italia. He finally returned to Carrera, Boifava's team: He won the Giro's stage to the Ciocco to the Turn and on the Pordoi Pass at the Giro 1996, finishing in second place behind Russian Pavel Tonkov. For 1997 he will race with the Asics of Boifava and Chiappucci. Zaina's hobby is building scale models of airplanes and ships and he has a big passion: Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

Leonardo Piepoli

An obstacle for Leonardo Piepoli. The climber from Pugliese has come back last night from Mexico, to undergo further medical interventions. The rider of team Refin-Mobilvetta has arrived at the Milanese airport of the Malpensa with a fractured left ulna and radio. Piepoli had fallen while training and had undergone a first surgical operation already. Now it will ne the Italian doctor's responsibility to take care of it. Piepoli, 25 years old and a Pro since 1995 has won two races, the Trofeo dello Scalatore of the Gazzetta dello Sport and la Subida a Urkiola in Spain.

Roslotto-ZG Mobili

Tomorrow will be the team presentation at 11 AM for Roslotto-ZG Mobili, the Italo-Russian formation of Moreno Argentin with Massimo Ghirotto and Dario Mariuzzo as sport directors. The team is composed of 18 riders: Cattai, Djavanian (Rus), Ferrigato, Fincato, Gontchenkov (Rus), Kokorine (Rus, neo), Konyshev (Rus), Manzoni, Nelubin (Rus), Padrnos (Rep. Ceca), Savoldelli, Schmidt (Ger, neo), Sedun (Rus), Sgnaolin, Sivakov (Rus), M. Strazzer, Ugrumov (Rus), Zen. The presentation will be attended by the Cycling Federation Presidents from Italy, Carlesso and the from Russia, Syssoev.

The Roslotto-ZG will ride Bianchi bicycles: with this brand, Argentin won the Worlds in 1986 at ColoradoSprings. The special Bianchi bicycles will use special tubing made of different metals, steel, aluminum and titanium and also of composite materials. The equipment will be Campagnolo.


Marco Pantani, 1997 version will wear the jersey of the new Mercatone, which by the way will have the rider's name on the shoulders. Mercatone 1, affiliate to San Marino, returns to cycling after a year off. With Patron, Luciano, along with sport directors Joseph Martinelli and Alexander Giannelli, while the [team] manager will be Davide Cassani. The bicycles will be provided by Wilier Triestina. The team will be as follow: Artunghi, Barbero, Borgheresi, Bottaro, Checchin, Conti, Dall'Olio, Della Santa, Garzelli (neo), Pantani, Pellicioli, Piovaccari (neo), Podenzana, Settembrini, Siboni, Traversoni and the Swiss brothers Beat and Markus Zberg (Swi).

Lance Armstrong Update

His numbers are good and getting better, and so is he, Lance Armstrong happily said Tuesday. By numbers, the 25-year-old American bicycle racing star meant his markers: the protein count in his blood that signifies how his battle against cancer is progressing. "They're down to three," he said. "Three from a high of 90,000." Zero means the body is free of cancer. In late September, testicular cancer was diagnosed in Armstrong, and it had spread to his abdomen, lungs and brain. He immediately underwent an operation to remove the malignant testicle and then began 12 weeks of chemotherapy, which ended in mid-December. His odds of recovery are now 80-20 in his favor, Armstrong said.

"At the end of the last treatment, I asked my doctor, 'If I was 50-50 before, where am I now?' " Armstrong said. "He said 80-20. And that's a month ago." His next visit to his doctor in Indianapolis is scheduled for Feb. 10. Armstrong, who was in Paris for the formal presentation of his new Cofidis team, planned to fly home to Texas on Wednesday. He arrived in Europe last Thursday and has spent his days meeting his new teammates, renegotiating his contract and resuming serious training. Until he began riding hard again in Florida late in December, he had not been training since he ended his season last September. "On the bike, I've never had to suffer as I did in the last few weeks," Armstrong said. "I tried to ride through the chemotherapy but I had to ride slow and to go just that speed would hurt. That was a big adjustment. "And off the bike, of course, there were many, many, many adjustments to make, just mentally, knowing you were fighting for your life."

His new team is based in France and includes three other American veterans of the extinct Motorola squad: Kevin Livingston, Bobby Julich and Frankie Andreu. They said that Armstrong seemed fit enough, everything considered. "We rode about 120 kilometers yesterday," he reported. "I enjoy riding. Now it's physically easier. I feel stronger. Stronger, not strong. I lost a lot of condition. I lost muscle and put on some fat because of the inactivity. I think I have to start working on my strength." Armstrong said he will emphasize weight training in Texas. "That's really what I lost: a lot of leg strength," he said. "I'm going to start Monday as if I were starting in November or December, go back and do your typical off-season training, strength-building. Then I'll work on the aerobic engine."

While he remains in Texas, the 20 other Cofidis riders will be starting their season -- first with a training camp in the south of France for the next week and then in races in February. When the riders trooped on stage to be presented one by one, the Texan won the loudest ovation. His illness and recovery have been major news in Europe, especially France, where he has distinguished himself in the Tour de France by winning two stages. Wearing a white baseball cap to mask the two scars that brain surgery left on his hairless head ("Look," he said earlier, removing the cap, "I've got fuzz already. Four to six more weeks, I'll have my hair back."), Armstrong answered questions through an interpreter.

In which race did he expect to return to competition? "Any race," he said. "It depends what the doctors say." He returned to this theme later when a television interviewer asked him how long he expected to be away from bicycle racing. "Six months, a year," he said. "Maybe forever. Living is more important than racing." Copyright 1997 The New York Times

Lance Armstrong is winning his race against cancer. Appearing at the presentation of his new team, Cofidis, here in Paris on Tuesday, Armstrong said doctors have told him his odds of complete recovery are now 80-20 or better, rather than the 50-50 chance given him three months ago. The protein "markers" in his blood doctors use to monitor his progress against the disease have dropped to three, from a high of 90,000. "I'm happy to be back with the other half of my family: cycling," said Armstrong.

Just as remarkable as his rapid recovery from a disease he only learned he had on October 2, is his return to training. Since December 13, Armstrong has not had any further treatment for cancer, and after some time at home to regain his strength, he began to increase his outdoor cycling. He had been riding an indoor trainer, and outdoors occasionally, through most of his ordeal.Before arriving in Europe last Thursday (January 9) he had been training in Florida. "I covered 500 kilometers in a week," he said. Armstrong had also ridden during the team get-together in Lille, in northern France. "Yesterday I did 120 km with the team, which was fantastic," he said. Armstrong is returning home to Austin today (Wednesday 15) for more medical checks and rest, while his teammates head for a training camp in southwestern France. Although he would clearly like to join them, Armstrong is taking things one step at a time. "I'm not going to put pressure on myself to do anything particular," he said. "I'm just going to see how it goes. The better I feel, the more I can ride, and the harder I can train."

"Except for having no hair and no eyebrows and maybe looking a little pale, I feel healthy and 100 percentnormal," said Armstrong. Armstrong is not ready to set a date for his return to racing. "I want to race," he said, "But all it depends on what the doctors say. May is just a guesstimate. It could be October, or August or April. I have no idea. I'd like to race as soon as possible, but I'm not going to rush my recovery or risk my return, I don't think that would be a wise decision. "The team is very supportive. They've given me as long as I want to come back, so there's no hurry. I'm going to go in the gym to get some strength back, and in February I'll start a program just as it would normally start in November."

However, Armstrong does plan to ride "The Race of the Roses" charity event around the Texas hills west of Austin on March 23. Rides of 50, 100 or 200 km will help raise awareness of, and financial support for the fight against testicular cancer, and will be the launch of the Lance Armstrong Foundation. Armstrongalso thanked all who have sent him messages of support in the last few months. "I've had tons of e-mails and letters; lots of cards and gifts," he said. "It makes a difference for me. I appreciate it a lot."