News for October 23, 1997

Melbourne to Warrnambool Classic

The tough Melbourne to Warrnambool classic will be almost a welcome relief for in-form New Zealand cyclist Gordon McCauley after a difficult week.

McCauley, 25, who is hoping his bike will stay in one piece for Saturday's race, has been sick, along with compatriot Brendan Vesty, since finishing the Herald-Sun Tour last Sunday.

Despite these problems, McCauley said today he was aiming for a top 10 placing in the historic race, which will start from Bourke St Mall in the CBD here.

"I got sick after the Tour and there's something wrong with my bike frame," McCauley said.

"It's not good - I think it might be cracking.

"I took it to a bike shop today but there was nothing they could do, so we will just have to see."

McCauley and Vesty, 24, impressed in their Tour debuts and will be two of the riders to watch in Saturday's big race.

McCauley, not noted for his speed at the finish, surprisingly won the sprint classification on the Tour and Vesty won the King of the Mountains after winning the two toughest stages of the race.

While McCauley expects to start on Saturday, Vesty's sinus problems might put him out of the race.

They will be part of a Kiwi quartet in the Warrnambool classic with Tour finishers Graeme Miller and Glen Thompson, who won the most aggressive rider award on the Tour.

While staying coy about any possible teamwork by the Kiwis, McCauley made it clear his race would not start until well into the 260km journey to the coastal town.

"Really, from what I've heard, the race doesn't start until 160km," he said.

"If someone's brave enough to do anything beforehand, then good luck to them, but I don't fancy their chances."

The race will feature A, B and C-grade fields, with the A-grade competition also including several other top finishers from the Herald-Sun Tour.

But Australian Tour de France finisher Stuart O'Grady, who won three stages in the Herald-Sun Tour, won't be racing because he has already started a well-earned end-of-year break.

Some bad news about Tuesday's Boland Bank Stage

American rider Scott Mercier, winner of the 1996 Rapport Tour, crashed out of the race, after he and Fabrizio Bontempi went to ground 10km after the start in Malmesbury.

Bontempi got back on his bike and still managed to win the hill-prime on the Piketberg 30km later (he did complain of elbow pain after the stage and is going for x-rays) Scott was not so lucky. Although only going about 25km/h he managed to mess up his face badly! It seems he got hit in the face by another bike as he came down resulting in lacerations to the right side of his face. He was taken to City Park Hospital in Cape Town for emergency reconstructive plastic surgery and they also removed shards of "glass" from his eye and the right side of his face. (his shades were shattered - they looked like they had a bullet-hole in them) nothing further at this stage.

Naked Runner at TDF

A 30-year-old man who ran naked behind the bunch in last July's Tour de France finish on the Champs-Elysees told judges on Wednesday that he wanted to disturb winner Jan Ullrich.

``We were wondering how we could upset Ullrich and favour (second-placed Frenchman) Richard Virenque,'' said Xavier Clement, an actor who had been challenged by friends to carry out the stunt.

A Paris court fined him 2,000 francs ($334) for the offence. His friends, in contrast, offered him lunch in an expensive restaurant. ($ - 5.987 French Francs)