Tour de France Cycling News for July 4, 2004
Edited by Chris Henry
Matt White out
Australian Matthew White (Cofidis) crashed while warming up for the Tour
de France prologue in Liège, Belgium. White was rushed to the hospital
with a severe cut on his head. White's teammate Stuart O'Grady told Cyclingnews
that he also suffered a broken collarbone. White is thus out of the Tour,
missing once again his first chance at the Grande Boucle. He is replaced
by Belgian Peter Farazijn.
Cancellara's emotions run high
Photo ©: Sirotti
Tour de France prologue winner Fabian Cancellara (Fassa Bortolo) makes
no secret of the fact that he is an emotional guy. When Lance Armstrong,
the last man to start the race, failed to better Cancellara's time, the
23 year old Swiss rider grew very quiet as the weight of his accomplishment
began to sink in. Minutes later, he was all smiles as he climbed the podium
to don the first yellow jersey of the 2004 Tour.
"It's very difficult to say what I really think," he said after his victory.
"I'm a very emotional guy. I can't hide my feelings. To have the yellow
jersey is really really great."
Cancellara is known as a time trial specialist, particularly adept at
short efforts such as the prologue. This year he claimed his first road
race win at the Tour of Qatar, and while his short term ambitions are
modest, he is sure of one thing: he wants to win the Tour.
"My biggest objective is to finish in Paris," he said of his goals for
this year. "I am only 23. It's my fourth season and what I want here is
to gain some experience. My one ambition in future is to come back and
win the Tour."
Cancellara started cycling at age 13 after dusting off one of his father's
bicycle in the garage. Playing soccer soon lost out to enjoying the scenery
of Switzerland on two wheels, and now ten years later he rides for one
of the world's strongest professional teams, Fassa Bortolo. Despite the
obligations for sprinter Alessandro Petacchi, Cancellara believes he can
profit plenty from his first yellow jersey.
"Alessandro is here for the sprint stages, and with me in yellow, it's
something different," he explained. "I am a time trial specialist but
it's also very important for me to win a road stage. I won a stage in
the Tour of Qatar earlier this year and it was one of the best victories
of my whole career. It was the first time I won a road race so it was
very important. I wanted to prove that I'm something other than a time
full results, report & photos
Anti-doping measures get tougher
By Jeff Jones in Liège
At a press conference on the morning of the Grand Départ
in Liège, the UCI and the organisers of the Tour de France unveiled
the latest methods for combating doping in cycling, which is still clearly
alive and kicking. The revelations of the Cofidis affair, where high profile
cyclists David Millar and Philippe Gaumont have admitted to EPO use without
testing positive; and the horror stories of former Kelme cyclist Jesus
Manzano have demonstrated that the current drugs testing procedures are
inadequate for reaching the goal of a clean sport.
Cycling has been at the forefront of developing new methods to combat
doping, introducing blood testing as a health measure in 1997, followed
by the first test to detect EPO in urine in 2001. However, while a high
hematocrit from a blood test can indicate the use of EPO, it has not been
used to sanction a rider for longer than 15 days, and it does not constitute
a positive test. Additionally, while the urine test is used to determine
a positive, its effectiveness is relatively short range: 3-4 days at most
before artificial EPO becomes impossible to detect. However, the effects
of EPO last much longer: 3-4 weeks, and it doesn't take a genius to work
out when the ideal time is to take EPO before a race.
In view of the Tour de France, the UCI has tried to eliminate this by
doing out of competition tests in early June - a month before the riders
want to be at their best for the Tour. For this reason, the UCI demands
to know the exact whereabouts of all riders during this time period in
case they are required for a drug test. The UCI is also getting smarter
with its testing, zeroing in on riders with abnormalities in their blood
profiles. "The health data that we accumulate allow us to target our controls,
and to carry out surprise controls on suspected riders or those preparing
for an event," said UCI doctor Mario Zorzoli.
More tests planned
During this year's Tour de France, the race's assistant director Christian
Prudhomme confirmed that at least 180 riders will be urine tested after
each stage. 100 of these samples will be tested for EPO. This is a significant
increase from last year, where a total of 142 urine tests were carried
out. The stage winner and yellow jersey will be tested, as well as between
four and six other riders each day. In addition, surprise controls can
be carried out at any time.
"It's clear that there is doping in cycling, but it's also clear that
there is a strong anti-doping culture," said Dr Zorzoli. "The UCI is taking
a pro-active approach. We want to anticipate rather than wait for [the
The Tour must go on
In response to calls that the Tour de France should be suspended because
of doping problems in cycling, Tour de France boss Patrice Clerc was completely
dismissive. "To suggest that the Tour should stop is stupidity," he said.
"You don't stop the Olympic Games because American athletes tested positive,
you don't close motorways because there are accidents. Our sport has done
more than any other sport against doping and Tour organisers have done
more than any other sports promoters against doping."
Although doping stories are ongoing and widely reported, Dr Mario Zorzoli
pointed to the UCI's testing statistics from 2003. Of 5206 tests carried
out worldwide, including 360 for EPO/NESP, 55 riders were sanctioned,
which represents 1.05% of the sample size. In the 242 out of competition
tests conducted by the World Anti-Doping Agency, only 1 rider was positive
(0.41% of the sample size).
With the introduction of the new blood tests, it will be interesting
to see whether these numbers vary.
Click here to read
the full story.
Tough start for Aussies
By John Trevorrow
There was no fairy tale beginning for the Aussies in this year's Tour
de France. The day started tragically when Matthew White crashed out of
the tour two hours before the start. Australia's best hope overall, Michael
Rogers, also hit the bitumen whilst red-hot favourite Brad McGee fell
nine seconds short of a consecutive prologue victory.
Matt White has nearly made it to the start line of the world's premier
cycling event on three previous occasions, and again it was not meant
"It's hard to get my head around but the good thing is I can't remember
anything about it," Matty said. "Mate I am not going to give up on it.
It's been my dream since I was a kid, I've done nearly everything else
in the sport, three Giros, three Vueltas, the Olympic and Commonwealth
Games, but this is the one I want to ride. It's just going to have to
wait another year."
The hard question to ask Matt was how this would effect his Olympic selection
but he was very positive. "The break is not so bad in the collarbone,
I didn't have to get it pinned and I should be back on the bike in a few
days. There are still six weeks to go and I should be fine."
Brad McGee sat in the gutter after his usual full bore effort. "I was
beaten well. I can't say I felt I did the perfect ride but it was solid
anyway. I think I lost a bit of all over power. I might have to stop a
bit of this climbing racket and get back to my pursuiting," Brad joked.
"I've been very happy with my year so far and I'm glad I'm the rider
I am today. I still dream of winning prologues but if I have to give up
that extra bit of power to climb with these guys in the mountains then
I've got no problem with that. I'm a bit of a lightweight now. I've never
started a tour this light in my life, but it helps up hills. I have tried
to change it a bit but it hasn't come back quick enough. I still have
my eyes on the Olympics and I'll have it by then.
"I was more relaxed this year and the next stages I will be stronger
as I was really tired after the prologue last year. I watched the SBS
coverage of the Tour the other day and I got goose bumps. You see yourself
in yellow and you want to get it back."
Stuart O'Grady's first thoughts after crossing the line were for his
mate Matt White.
"There is no word for it, I'm just glad to be here at the moment. The
gods definitely aren't smiling on us. Whitey is a great friend of mine
and he was so excited about riding his first Tour, I just feel for him.
"It's been a rough year and I hope to get rid of the demons at some stage
on this tour," O'Grady added. "It's been a terrible year."
Stuart was asked how you recover from this and his reply was simple.
"Win a stage, it would be very very sweet. This is the Tour de France
and just when you think your stuffed and everything is gone, you can come
out the next day and win the stage and get the jersey. Nothing is impossible,
you just keep chipping away and see how it ends up"
Michael Rogers fell on the tightest corner of the circuit when he evidently
hit a small stone just past the apex of the corner and came crashing down
to earth. "I'm not sure what happened, I was going round the corner at
what I thought was the right speed to get around and then I think I hit
a pebble because my bars jolted to the right and before I knew it I was
sliding along the ground. I'm a bit disappointed but the Tour is long
and I don't think the 30 seconds I lost today will make much difference
when we get to Paris.
"I would like to finish top 15 or even top 10 if possible. Obviously
today wasn't the ideal start but I am not hurt and there are plenty of
mountains to get that back."
When asked about Matt White Michael just shook his head. "Australia's
had a bugger of a day, let's just hope Brad can bring it home for us."
Baden Cooke, on the other hand, looked comfortable and quite happy with
his prologue performance. "I felt strong, I felt good, I didn't blow and
I kept the pace going," he said. "I couldn't ask for more."
Baden was asked if he could take the yellow jersey. "I will try and win
a stage and then see what happens. I will also have to see what opportunities
present themselves as far as the intermediate sprints are concerned."
Scott Sunderland had a huge grin when he crossed the line and was obviously
enjoying being back in the Grand Boucle. "Yeah it's good to be back,"
he said. "Mate this is purely for myself. After the doctors wrote me off
from riding bike again, I've been able to achieve some personal goals
that I wasn't able to do before that. I've had a bit of a before and after
career. I'm just bloody stoked that a man of my age can still be here
and be asked to come along and join this little criterium around France.
"It was tough bloody tough. The wind was coming from all directions.
One minute you had a bit of a tail wind and your doing 60 kph and bang
the wind changes and comes between the buildings and you've got a head
wind. It takes the big boys, the strong boys, to fight against it and
I struggled a bit there today.
"I am really looking forward to this Tour. We only have two guys who
don't have to go in the breaks, that's Noe and Caucchioli, the two climbers.
The rest of us are just going to go in the breaks each day. We work really
good as a team and as soon as one group comes back we plan to have someone
in the next one. I can't get any better than this as I don't have to be
on the front riding for the sprinters
When asked what he thought of Matt Whites terrible misfortune Scott replied
"I've been struck with bad luck myself but to have that happen just before
signing on for your first Tour de France, he must be gutted. I know I
would be. Nobody asks for that, I feel really sorry for him."
Nick Gates was a relieved man after the finish. "I'm glad that's out
of the way, it was so gusty out there. The first few days of the Tour
are real tough because you have to put in a bit.
Like most of the Australian riders, thoughts of Matt White didn't take
long to surface. "Poor Whitey, I'm devastated for him. I just feel that
bad, I can't believe it."
Petacchi not seeing green
Photo ©: Sirotti
Alessandro Petacchi, winner of nine stages in this year's Giro d'Italia,
enters the Tour de France as the sprinter to beat. The field of fast finishers
is deep this year, as is the competition for the points jersey, something
Petacchi confesses is not his top priority.
"I want to concentrate on stage wins," Petacchi told l'Equipe.
"If I took the start with the green jersey in mind, I would have to fight
for the intermediate sprints, which is a sure way to compromise what matters
most: getting to Paris."
Petacchi, who ranks as the top rival for the other sprinters, also makes
it clear that he is not focused on beating any one man, rather... beating
all of them.
"People ask me if it's important to beat Cipollini in this Tour, but
to me it's simple, the important thing is to win, not who I beat.
"As far as Cipollini is concerned, all I can say is I hope I'm still
capable of winning when I reach his age," Petacchi added. "Cipollini's
got a fantastic career behind him, but if he's still at the start it means
he's still competitive."
McEwen tired of the talk
Robbie McEwen, one of only two sprinters to beat Alessandro Petacchi
in this year's Giro d'Italia, is eager to let the legs do the talking
in this year's Tour. McEwen recognises Petacchi's talent, but he's grown
weary of the Italian's 'super sprinter' moniker. McEwen is the focal point
of his Lotto-Domo team in this year's Tour, and he's anxious to take on
his top rival in the Tour's famous bunch sprints.
"I suppose it's understandable that after his nine victories on the Giro,
Petacchi will be the main favourite if it comes down to a sprint finish,"
McEwen said in an AP report. "But I'm certainly not worried about
him. Even if he has a whole team dedicated to his cause, I know I can
Just like Petacchi, McEwen- a former green jersey winner- has a clear
objective at the Tour. "My aim is first to win a stage," he said, "because
the fight for the green jersey could come down to a lot of things."
Cipollini, as usual
Photo ©: Sirotti
Mario Cipollini (Domina Vacanze) was fined CHF200 for improper equipment
(colour and design). Team Domina Vacanze was fined CHF250 for the same
Matthew White (Cofidis) crashed during training in the morning, suffering
a broken right collarbone and a wound above his right eyebrow. Other crashes
during the prologue were without serious consequences.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2004)