Tour de France News for June 29, 2004
Edited by Jeff Jones
Millar due in court
Cofidis rider David Millar is due to meet with French judge Richard Pallain
Thursday in Nanterre, outside of Paris, France. Millar was held for nearly
48 hours by police in his home town of Biarritz, questioned as part of
the ongoing investigation surrounding the Cofidis team. Millar was released
from custody but during his interrogation is said to have admitted to
On the advice of his lawyers, Millar has yet to issue a statement concerning
his situation. His management agency Face Partnership confirmed to Cyclingnews
today that a statement would be forthcoming after his court appearance.
In the meantime, Millar finds himself dropped from the Cofidis team roster
for the Tour de France, Cofidis having accepted the Tour de France organisation's
wish to exclude any rider subject of a police investigation.
Millar does remain a candidate for the Olympic Games in Athens as the
British Olympic Association awaits more information pertaining to Millar's
alleged EPO use.
"Until the facts are presented to us by British Cycling the athlete remains
a member of Team GB," a British Olympic Association spokesman commented
in The Guardian. Millar was selected for his national team last
August and has planned to compete in the individual time trial (road)
and the individual pursuit on the track.
"We have no notification from any official French legal source and, unless
we have notification and confirmation of what has been written in the
press, we cannot take action," said Dave Brailsford, British Cycling's
world-class performance director said of Millar.
Vasseur keeps fighting
While still a subject of investigation by judge Richard Pallain for possible
involvement in the doping affair surrounding the Cofidis team, Cédric
Vasseur continues to maintain his innocence and is unwilling to let his
expulsion from the French national championships and Tour de France go
without a fight.
Vasseur has begun legal proceedings against Cofidis and Amaury Sport
Organisation (owner of the Tour de France), claiming that his exclusion
from competition is in conflict with the presumption of innocence. His
case is expected to be heard Wednesday morning in Lille.
"We'll find out whether the presumption of innocence is recognised in
France," said Vasseur's lawyer Bertrand Wambeke. "The Cofidis team was
put under considerable pressure by ASO, and Cofidis gave in. When you
look at the texts of this affair, it's absolutely clear.
"What really brought things to a head, I think, is a minister [sports
minister Jean-François Lamour] who has taken a position counter
to the law," Wambeke added, referring to Lamour's own statements calling
for the prohibition of any rider under investigation from racing in the
Steels still dreams of Tour
Four for Steels
Photo ©: AFP
Belgian Tom Steels has given up on his goal of Olympic competition but
he still dreams of returning to the Tour de France, where he has found
success in the past in both stage wins and in the fight for the green
points jersey. Steels, riding for Landbouwkrediet-Colnago, won his fourth
national road title Sunday and by all accounts has returned to his best
form in years.
Steels is proud of his team, refuting the notion that after his years
with the Mapei powerhouse his move to the smaller Landbouwkrediet-Colnago
formation was somehow a step backwards.
"I found with [team manager Gérard Bulens] the energy to come
back to the top, and what's fabulous is that the whole team has moved
up with me," Steels said, quoted in La Dernière Heure. "I've
rediscovered the enthusiasm that helps me do my job the best I can. I
don't need 35 bikes at my disposal or a luxurious infrastructure to do
this. People say this is a modest team, but I've never been more proud."
Steels' team did not earn selection for the Tour de France this year,
but the experienced Belgian holds out hope that a Tour invitation could
come next year.
"I hope to come back some day to the Tour and try to win once again,"
he said. "I feel like I still have the speed and the potential to do well
at the highest level, and there is no level higher than at the Tour de
France. The important thing for me is to keep progressing."
Leblanc seeks varied Tour
In the creation of a somewhat unusual
parcours for this year's Tour de France, race director Jean-Marie
Leblanc hopes to see a change in race tactics from the contenders and
their team directors. This year the toughest mountains of the Tour are
stacked in the third week of racing, and the first individual time trial
doesn't come until the uphill test on l'Alpe d'Huez, the 16th stage.
For Leblanc, who expects the tough transitional stages in the Massif
Central to play a role as the Tour heads for the big hills, assuming all
will be played out on l'Alpe d'Huez could be a mistake for teams and fans
"We're not the ones who are saying come to l'Alpe d'Huez, everything
will be decided there," Leblanc told AFP. "If this stage overshadows
the rest, that would indicate that the directeurs sportifs and the riders
didn't use the terrain we've given them to separate themselves."
The Tour will still begin with traditional flat stages for the sprinters,
but with sections of the route in Belgium and northern France bearing
closer resemblance to the spring classics, it's clear the Tour organisers
have proposed plenty of opportunities for excitement in the Tour aside
from the high mountains.
"We made l'Alpe d'Huez the first individual time trial to provoke a change,
to oblige the riders to imagine some new strategies," Leblanc added. "Perhaps
some of those who wait until l'Alpe d'Huez will find it's too late!"
For Leblanc, following the grandeur of the centenary Tour in 2003 is
no easy task, but the changes proposed this year are designed to serve
that very purpose.
"The challenge now is to maintain the passion that was put to good use
last year at the centenary Tour," he explained. "Basically, we have to
be as modern as possible without forgetting our history..."
Tour braces for police raids
Given the latest round of doping investigations in cycling, Tour de France
Jean-Marie Leblanc understands fully that this year's Tour could find
itself the subject of police raids. Leblanc accepts this, while at the
same time expressing his hope that any police actions would be undertaken
diligently and with respect for the race.
"It's impossible not to expect it," Leblanc commented in an AFP
interview the week before the Tour start in Liège, Belgium. "We
know that there could be, if necessary, a police or customs intervention
at the Tour. But as I said in 1998, it's important that, if this happens,
these interventions are done with the greatest possible respect and dignity
for the athletes who face three weeks of tough competition."
Blood tests to be introduced for Tour
In a new effort to combat doping in cycling, the UCI plans to introduce
full blood testing in the Tour de France - the first time that such a
measure has been used to determine whether a rider is positive or not.
Up until now, blood testing has only been used as a health measure (haematocrit
test) or as a precursor to a urine test. But the relatively short range
effectiveness of urine testing for blood boosting drugs such as EPO has
greatly reduced the chance of catching athletes using the drug, as EPO
has performance enhancing effects lasting several weeks.
Blood screening has been used for several years now, and there was a
strong push by researchers at the Australian Institute of Sport to get
an anti-doping blood test approved before the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.
But they were knocked back, partly because of fears of false positives.
Now it appears that all the hurdles have been overcome, and UCI doctor
Mario Zorzoli told Procycling today that, "We have decided to introduce
anti-doping blood tests. Nothing is official yet, but we know that our
regulations permit us to perform blood tests and we're not worried about
doing precisely that. It should happen: we have methods available to us
to do it. I believe that it will be a first in a sporting event."
The irony is that a number of personnel from France's National Anti-Doping
Laboratory in Chatenay-Malabry have planned a strike on Saturday, July
3 to coincide with the start of the Tour de France.
Cofidis names its nine
Although the absence of David Millar will certainly put a hole into
the Cofidis team for the Tour de France, the nine man squad named today
should still make a strong impression. Candidate stage winners include
Stuart O'Grady and Jimmy Casper, who have shown that they can take part
in long breakaways as well as mix it up in the bunch sprints. O'Grady
won two stages of the Dauphine Libéré while Casper came very close to
winning one, and both are in good form.
The rest of the team includes Frédéric Bessy (Fra), Christophe Edaleine
(Fra), Jimmy Engoulvent (Fra), Dmitriy Fofonov (Kaz), David Moncoutié
(Fra), Janek Tombak (Est) and Matthew White (Aus), who will finally realise
his dream of riding the Tour. The reserves are Daniel Atienza and Peter
Farazijn, with Francis Van Londersele and Alain Deloeil as directors.
Wegmann in for Gerolsteiner
Not surprisingly after his third place in the German championships yesterday,
Giro d'Italia mountains jersey winner Fabian Wegmann has been selected
as the ninth rider for the Gerolsteiner team to replace the injured Markus
Zberg. The 24 year old will be riding in his first Tour, and will start
with no particular ambitions.
The full Gerolsteiner team is thus: René Haselbacher (Aut), Georg Totschnig
(Aut) and Peter Wrolich (Aut), Danilo Hondo (Ger), Sebastian Lang (Ger),
Uwe Peschel (Ger), Ronny Scholz (Ger), Fabian Wegmann (Ger), Sven Montgomery
Scanlon officially confirmed for Tour
By Shane Stokes, Irishcycling.com
Mark Scanlon's participation in the 2004 Tour de France was officially
confirmed today by his Ag2R Prévoyance team with the announcement of their
nine man line-up for the race. Scanlon will join Ag2R Prévoyance teammates
Laurent Brochard, Jaan Kirsipuu, Jean Patrick Nazon, Stéphane Goubert,
Nicolas Portal, Yuri Krivstov, Mikel Astarloza and Samuel Dumoulin in
the Tour lineup.
The 23 year old professional will make history by becoming only the
eighth ever Irish starter, and the first since Stephen Roche back in 1993.
"I am delighted to get the chance to ride the Tour," said Scanlon today.
"I'm very happy to ride but I am going to approach it like any other race,
rather than build myself up too much. I'll just take it as it comes and
see how I get on."
Scanlon was chosen yesterday evening by the Irish selectors for the
Athens road race but, like his Tour de France participation, this was
anticipated beforehand due to his good results this season. These include
two race wins in Estonia, plus the accumulation of 198 world ranking points.
Scanlon is the most talented Irish cyclist in many years. Ever since
that dramatic victory in the 1998 world junior championships in Valkenburg
he has been recognised as the most likely rider to earn a Tour de France
Earlier this month he spent time training in the Alps in order to prepare
for the demands of the Tour. As the race approaches, he will taper down
his training in order to ensure his batteries are fully charged before
the arduous three week contest.
"I haven't been doing any special training of late, just following my
normal routine," he said. "I won't be doing anything too excessive over
the next few days, just getting ready for the start of the race."
Click here for more Tour teams
Armstrong appeal due Wednesday
Lance Armstrong's legal team is expected to hear the verdict on their
appeal of a court decision in France denying their request to force the
publishers of "L.A. Confidential" to insert a statement from the five-time
Tour de France winner denying the charges of doping contained in the book.
Armstrong lost the first legal round against Editions de la Martinière,
the book's publisher, but filed the appeal immediately. He has likewise
threatened legal action against the two authors, David Walsh and Pierre
Ballester, as well as l'Express magazine in France and the Sunday
Times in England.
Cyclingnews Tour de France fantasy game
With the Tour de France around the corner, Cyclingnews is pleased to
offer once again the Tour de France 2004 fantasy game. Registration is
open now and will remain during the first week. As always, great prizes
will be on offer, and participants may enter as many teams as they wish,
trying out different combinations before final entry by the start of stage
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2004)