Mario CipolliniItalian Mario Cipollini continues to create scandals. Yesterday after the sprint for the third stage at Paris-Nice, he was penalized a minute by the race commisaires after an incident with Stonian Jan Kirsipuu. Cipollini, who was 14th at the finish, struck Kirsipuu in the face, when this one beat him to the finish. "He got in my way on purpose, when he saw that I was advancing", Cipollini justified himself.
More EPO storiesThe first official blood controls has provoked panic among the professional peloton. The war declared by the UCI on EPO, the biologic drug which is undetectable in urine tests, has derived a controversial formula which could detect more riders as guilty, than what ther really are. Yesterday, after Santaromita, Colombo and Mentheour were taken out of Paris-Nice and suspended for 15 days for the good of their health. Meanwhile the first accused proclaim their innocence. Erwan Mentheour, one of the three, assured that he had "done personal controls during the month of February and his reading were not alrming. How could this change? The night before, I had intestinal problems. I don't know if this could have a relationship". Mentheour is very upset: "This is totally unfair. They have fined me and the team and we are innocent. This is the last drop".
Olano on the blood testsOlano: "I don't think that the blood controls are going to change anything".
After his participation at la Vuelta a Murcia, Abraham Olano continues his daily training, while he awaits his participation at Semana Catalana, first and then la Vuelta al Pais Vasco, races where he expects to go up one more step in his preparation. He's still calm, trusting that his time will come. And he continues to have very clear ideas about certain subjects. One of them, the blood controls, he thinks that "I don't think that it is the right thing to do". The rider is the first one interested in taking care of his health and for it to be watched also. But he feels that what's happening is very serious.
"There are people that have talked about a drug that can be used and which will only be controlled in professionals -referring to EPO-. I feel that all this has damaged cycling. I think that this matter has gotten out of hand". He doesn't even feel that the start of the analysis will change things much in cycling: "It's not true. People are talking a lot about things that are untrue. I don't think that things will change at all, at least from where I stand".
He has total confidence in the preparation that he's following and is not worried about what his rivals are doing in France. We told him that Riis is also taking it calmly: "If he has tried a method and it has worked, there's no need for him to change. LeMond and Indurain, did the same thing and they did well". He adds names to the list of possible rivals at the Tour: "It all depends on the form in which everybody reaches the Tour. If one is superior to the others then you have no rivals -he laughs-. Ahead will be the same as other years, with some exceptions like Tonkov or Berzin. People like Ullrich, Zulle or Ugrumov will also be ahead, plus some others will appear. Berzin is a rider who timetrials well and if he's capable of crossing the mountains he can cause damage; Riis is also good in the time trials, the same as Ullrich, who has to be watched.
"And the climbers?
I don't think that they'll be able to match us, the timetrialists. They have it tough. It depends who we call climbers". He doesn't feel that winning the Tour is a dream: "it is not a dream, it is an ambition, for which I fight and sacrifice. Is not taboo, or impossible". And he doesn't think that if he won the Tour his life would change: "I wouldn't change at all, I would continue with the same desire, there's no reason to change. The character, the private life shouldn't change. The only ones that can try to change it, are the people from the outside".
UCI Rankings - Top 10 (March 9)
1. Alex Zulle 2055 2. Laurent Jalabert 1925 3. Johan Museeuw 1587 4. Bjarne Riis 1565 5. Richard Virenque 1495 6. Michele Bartoli 1457 7. Abraham Olano 1376 8. Tony Rominger 1358 9. Francesco Casagrande 1327 10. Lance Armstrong 1315
Kathy WattNews from Tasmania as the build up to the nationals later this week is that Kathy Watts will scratch due to a hamstring injury. It looks like the showdown with Lucy Tyler-Sharman will now not occur.