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89th Tour de France - Grand Tour

France, July 6-28, 2002

Tour de France news for June 4, 2002

Edited by Jeff Jones

No Savoldelli, Cipollini in the Tour de France

The two biggest stars of the Giro d'Italia, Paolo Savoldelli (Index-Alexia) and Mario Cipollini (Acqua e Sapone) will not be seen in the Tour de France this year. Neither rider's team has been invited, and if they were, they wouldn't go anyway.

Cipollini has been very vocal in his criticism of the Sociètè du Tour de France after they excluded him and his Saeco team last year, despite the fact that he has won 12 stages in the Tour and has shown no signs of losing his speed.

The feud started again this year after Cipollini changed teams to Acqua e Sapone and won Milan-San Remo for the first time in his career. He then decided to start in the Tour of Flanders to defend his World Cup jersey, where he finished 9th. However, he angered the Amaury Sport Organisation, who run several cycling events including the TdF and Paris-Roubaix, by choosing not to take part in Paris-Roubaix after his team was invited at the last moment, with special dispensation from the UCI.

After that, there was not even a remote chance for A&S to gain Tour de France selection, despite the fact that they have one of the best and most colourful sprinters in the world on their team. During the Giro, Cipollini was reported as saying that even if he did get an invitation, he wouldn't accept it.

The Savoldelli case is different. Index-Alexia were not amongst the 16 teams automatically qualified at the beginning of the year, and were completely overlooked for a wild card selection on May 2. There was of course a perfect opportunity today, when Saeco was pushed out after the Simoni affair. But Jean-Marie Leblanc chose the politically safe French option by selecting Jean Delatour, who have had some success in recent weeks but nothing like Savoldelli's dramatic victory in the Giro.

Savoldelli talked about his surprising success after the final stage yesterday, and although he is quite modest, he is not taciturn and has a deadpan sense of humour. For example, with a straight face he would talk about the baby his girlfriend and him are expecting by the end of this season: "Simonetta, my girlfriend said that I can choose the name if it is a boy. I told her "Mephisto". Yep, Mephisto Savoldelli! Sounds very original doesn't it?... My girlfriend worried for two days before she figured out I was only joking."

'Il Falco' Savoldelli is also known as 'angel face' for his boyish looks and blond curls...

About winning the Giro, he said that he didn't start believing in the overall win until the first stage in the Dolomites. "Only then, when I could follow without problems on the Fedaia, a climb I was really scared of. Then I realized that the form was right. A day later I left Hamilton behind on the Passo Coe. Then I knew it was possible. I suddenly had a really strong morale: 'I'm the strongest' I thought. That's the way it works for me. I'm a huge doubter, don't have much self-confidence. Until that first big result; then I toughen up; I don't let go."

"I am Italian, and the Giro is above the Tour for me. To combine the both, you have to have the right head. I doubt I've got that. Don't forget I came to the Giro to win a stage! Look at who can win more than one big stage race: Indurain could do it, now we have Armstrong. I am Paolo Savoldelli; a good athlete but no Armstrong. He is a cyclist with superior qualities; otherwise you wouldn't overcome cancer and return to win multiple Tours."

"The Tour de France is a big, big race. I have ridden it three times, finished twice. I have taken a second in one stage (Briançon in 2000). The race is nervous and the time trials are long. You have to prepare for it in a special way; constantly ride in the front. And on top of that, I hate the heat in July!"

"But, I'm not thinking about that right now, I want to party and let it sink in, try to understand what I have just accomplished."

Savoldelli's next goal is the tour de Suisse. In the meantime he will be enjoying the pink spumante.

Saeco respond to Tour de France snub

The Saeco-Longoni Sport team had a large hole cut out of its season today by Jean-Marie Leblanc and the Societe du Tour de France, who voted to exclude the team in the wake of the Gilberto Simoni affair. Simoni tested 'non-negative' on two occasions for cocaine; he has already been suspended by his team and will likely receive a suspension from the Italian Cycling Federation.

In making their decision today, the Societe stated that "the absence of Simoni no longer justifies the team's attraction to the organisers of the Tour de France. Furthermore, the Simoni case has again discredited the image of cycling. The direction of the Tour de France is determined to fight against doping and promote athletic prowess, and will remain faithful to its firm stance in not welcoming a team to the Tour involved in such a 'grave affaire'."

The Societe then specified that Jean Delatour had been called up as the replacement in favour of other teams such as Team Coast and Gerolsteiner, not to mention Acqua e Sapone and Index-Alexia.

The Saeco-Longoni Sport manager Claudio Corti said that the team was "very saddened" by the decision to leave them out of the race.

"I spoke with Jean Marie Leblanc for a long time," said Corti. "I told him about the details the whole affair and explained our line of behaviour. Leblanc confirmed his esteem and consideration but said he did not have any choice but to exclude us from the Tour."

Saeco wished to point out that it was unfair to penalise the team, "which includes other important riders such as Danilo Di Luca and Mirko Celestino" on the basis of one rider's error. It also said that there was "no official communication by the Tour organisers [stating that] the invitation to take part in the Tour was under the condition that Gilberto Simoni took part."

The team also believes it is being unfairly implicated in a doping affair: "The refusal of the team implicates some kind of responsibility on their part regarding the case of doping which has involved Gilberto Simoni. This is offensive and has also been refuted by the official position taken by the team. They have suspended the rider from racing and frozen his salary, so showing yet again their complete fairness. This means that a veto on the presence of Simoni was surely justifiable but not that of the Saeco-Longoni Sport team."

Saeco pointed out that there are other teams in the Tour which (quelle horreur) aren't as pure as the driven snow. "If the decision taken - as has been implied by the French organisers, was inspired by the principal of sporting ethics, it is impossible to understand why other teams and other riders - including the team which has replaced Saeco - involved in equally or even more serious (in the sporting sense) doping cases than Simoni, will be able to take part in the Tour de France."

Finally, the team decried the speed at which the decision was taken. "The extremely quick way in which the decision has been made shows that the organisers were put under non-sporting pressure which was so great to force them to cancel a choice already freely made."

"Considering the serious damage incurred and referring to the rules in the existing agreement between the international association of teams and the Societe du Tour de France, the Saeco-Longoni Sport team believe the decision to be unacceptable, hurried and without any adequate explanation and make note that they will everything they can to defend what they think is an acquired right."

The 21 Tour de France teams

France: Ag2r Prévoyance, Bonjour, Cofidis, Crédit Agricole, Française des Jeux, Jean Delatour
Italy: Fassa Bortolo, Lampre-Daikin, Mapei-Quick Step, Tacconi Sport, Alessio
Spain: iBanesto.com, Kelme-Costa Blanca, ONCE-Eroski, Euskaltel-Euskadi
Belgium: Domo-Farm Frites, Lotto-Adecco
Germany: Team Telekom
USA: US Postal
Denmark: CSC-Tiscali
Netherlands: Rabobank

Hamilton's Tour de France start depends on broken shoulder

A broken shoulder will hamper Tyler Hamilton's (CSC-Tiscali) preparations for the Tour de France next month, after a diagnosis was made last night at a hospital Milan. Doctors found that Hamilton's crash in the fifth stage of the Giro d'Italia more than likely resulted in a fractured shoulder where the bone meets the rotator cuff. This would help to explain why he couldn't hold the flowers above his head with his left hand after his stage 14 win, and had problems getting out of the saddle on the climbs.

Team manager Bjarne Riis said on the team's website that "It really puts Tyler's performance in the Giro into a completely new perspective, when we are told that he completed most of the race with a broken shoulder. There can be no doubt that his condition has had a negative influence on his performance and that makes it even more impressive that he was able to finish second overall."

"During the Giro, I could feel that something was not quite right in my shoulder, but I chose not to have it x-rayed because I was afraid that I might have to quit the race in order to avoid the long-term effects of racing with a fractured bone. Now that the race is over, I am overcome with joy that I was able to complete and - on top of that - obtain such a fantastic result", said Hamilton.

No ligaments or tendons were damaged and at the moment, surgery does not seem to be necessary. However, Hamilton has been told to wear his arm in a sling for at least three weeks while it heals. He still thinks that he will start in the Tour, but his preparation will be hampered.

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