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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

First Edition News for June 16, 2003

Edited by Jeff Jones & Chris Henry

Mercado ready for July

Juan Mercado
Photo: © Jeff Tse
Click for larger image

"Today I discovered the Galibier," said Juan Miguel Mercado ( said simply after his victory in Saturday's stage 6 of the Dauphiné Libéré. "The break went well, although my directeur sportif Eusebio Unzué suggested I wait for Mayo on the climb when he was still a few seconds back. He did the descent flat out, which wasn't easy, but we had nothing to lose."

After a strong climb of the Galibier and a fast descent with Iban Mayo (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Mercado launched a late race attack after race leader Lance Armstrong caught Mayo and the two GC leaders eased up. With 15km to go, Mercado was in the lead group along with Armstrong, Mayo, and teammate Francisco Mancebo. The Spaniard Mercado won alone in Briançon with 26" over Mayo.

Motivated after his victory, Mercado added that his objective is to "shine in the mountains of the Tour de France." Francis Lafargue, second directeur sportif for iBanesto, also commented on the team's outlook for the Tour de France. "We have climbers, but no leaders like Miguel Indurain," he said. "The leader for the Tour will be Francisco Mancebo, who at 28 has the necessary experience."

Armstrong comments on Rumsas

Photo: © Jeff Tse
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Lance Armstrong offered his own opinions on the latest affair surrounding Lampre's Raimondas Rumsas, who finished third behind the American in the 2002 Tour de France. When asked what he thought of Rumsas and his non-negative test for EPO from the Giro d'Italia, Armstrong commented in a Reuters report that "[Rumsas] is an idiot to take drugs after what happened last year and knowing that the UCI is watching him."

Rumsas has denied any use of EPO or other banned substances, and has even offered that the result from the Giro could be an effort from his Lampre team to remove him from its ranks. The Lithuanian did not test positive during the 2002 Tour, but following the arrest of his wife Edita with banned substances in her car on the last day of the Tour, Rumsas has remained under increased suspicion from the UCI.

Tour says no to Pantani, so Pantani says no to Tour

By Tim Maloney, European Editor

La Gazzetta dello Sport's Claudio Gregori eloquently encapsulated Marco Pantani's career as the mercurial climber from Cesenatico made a popular comeback at this year's Giro d'Italia. "First he was an angel, then a demon, and now Pantani's just a normal man", wrote Gregori. Although Pantani finished 14th in the Giro, he may have even cracked the top 10 had he not crashed hard and lost 15'00 on the descent of the Colle di Sampeyre during Stage 18. No matter, as this year the roads of the Giro were lined once again with I Pantanisti, Marco's tifosi, re-energised to cheer on Italy's most popular rider.

Although Marco's Mercatone Uno-Scanavino squad was not granted a Tour De France wild card, Pantani declared his desire to be present at this year's Centenary Tour. And it almost happened, as thanks to the hard work of Mercatone Uno's business manger Cornacchia, both Jan Ullrich's Bianchi squad and Vini Caldirola were willing to take Pantani and his Mercatone Uno co-sponsor cash as "guests" for the Tour De France. The UCI had also given its OK for a guest transfer, but the still emotionally fragile Pantani had hardly touched his bike since the Giro concluded two weeks ago, and had lost interest in racing the Tour in the meantime. The always proud Pantani may have felt that as a former Tour winner, he deserved an invite to the Tour in his own right, and not as a "guest" in another squad.

Next Tuesday, Pantani will meet with Davide Boifava of Mercatone Uno-Scanavino to determine his program for the rest of the season, including the Vuelta a España and a possible shot at the World's in Hamilton, Canada. Thus, this year's Tour de France won't have the two top Transalpine cyclists. Neither Pantani nor World Champion Mario Cipollini with be at the start of the Centenary Tour this July 4th in Paris.

Ullrich focusing beyond Tour

Team Bianchi leader Jan Ullrich enters the Tour de Suisse Monday with the goal of fine tuning his training and testing himself in the high mountains just weeks before the Tour de France. Ullrich, who spent 2002 out of competition, remains modest in his ambitions for the Tour, despite the popular consensus that he remains one of Lance Armstrong's biggest challengers.

The ten day Swiss race will also provide Ullrich a low-pressure finish to his preparations, as he will not face off with Armstrong or Giro d'Italia winner Gilberto Simoni. Ullrich heads into the race with a solid performance on Sunday's GP Kanton Aargau/Gippingen, finishing 6th and in the same time as a lead group of seven riders.

"I don't want to put myself under much pressure since I wasn't able to prepare ideally for the Tour," Ullrich told Swiss newspaper NZZ am Sonntag.

Ullrich has never finished the Tour de France below second place overall, and won the event in 1997. Despite showing good form in this return to competition this year, and weathering the storm surrounding the demise of Team Coast, the German maintains that this year's Tour would be an ambitious objective, and has decided to focus on the second half of the season, including the Vuelta a España, which he won in 1999.

"Of course I'd like to perform well in the general classification this year," he added, "but my priorities are still the Vuelta in September and the World Championships after that."

Rebellin prepares for Tour, thinks of Italy

Italian Davide Rebellin has chosen this year to skip the Volta a Catalunya, which begins Monday, in order to prepare solely for the Tour de France. Leader of the German Gerolsteiner squad, Rebellin was deprived of a start in the Giro d'Italia due to injury, and is now focused on the Tour, Gerolsteiner's first.

"I want to be a protagonist in France and also continue in August for the World Cup races and the Italian classics," Rebellin told Datasport. Still feeling the pain of his shoulder injury, Rebellin expects to compete for stage victories in the Tour and not concern himself with the general classification.

Rebellin is also considering a change of team, having reportedly received offers from French and Spanish teams, and "an important Italian team". While Rebellin has not offered any specifics, a move to Alessio could be possible, as the team has several aging riders who may retire at the end of 2003, and could be looking to bolster its UCI ranking and revitalise its classics ambitions. Rebellin could be a good fit in the Alessio formation, whose headquarters are not far from Rebellin's home in Galliera Veneta, whereas there is likely no place for him in the Fassa Bortolo team of Giancarlo Ferretti.

"It's premature to speak about this," Rebellin said of a move back to Italy, "but it's a possibility to satisfy my desire to return to racing in Italy after two years in Germany."

Gonzalez de Galdeano philosophical

By João Cravo

Fate has decided that Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano will not be riding the Centenary Tour this year. Ironically, the final blow didn't come from the six month ban that he incurred from the CLPD, which he was deeply convinced he would overcome. Instead it came after a crash with three kilometres to go in the Tour of Germany time trial, which left him with a broken collarbone. It was to be the last race that Gonzalez de Galdeano would ride before the Tour.

After having surgery on the collarbone, which was fractured in three places, Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano finally realized that once past the door of the Clínica La Esperanza he would not be going to France this July. "This time it's for good," he admitted, "Now I know that I will not ride the 2003 Tour."

If pain killers helped to ease the pain of the wounded flesh, the words of wisdom of doctor Mikel Sanchez played an decisive role in ONCE's and Igor's decision not to tempt fate any further. "Igor had a triple fracture of his collarbone and also a small haemorrhage in his head," said Dr. Sanchez. "He should have a rest period of at least two weeks before restarting training. He would not be in good condition to participate in the Tour."

Now Igor hardly can wait for the time to go home. "I'll be a dad in few weeks," he said. "My little baby-girl will bring me the morale I lack now."

Igor has just passed through a hard test, but he believes he will come out of it stronger than ever. "What I lived in the last few months is part of the choice I made to be a rider," Galdeano reflected. "You have to assume it and adapt yourself to all the situations your job puts you under - bad or good."

Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano will not be there to help Joseba Beloki when the blue postmen ride the Pony Express uphill to deliver Armstrong in yellow in Paris for a fifth time in a row. "Unfortunately I can't do anything about that," he said. "I must resign myself to my fate and start thinking about the Vuelta. This is very hard to live with, but there's no use crying over it."

Super Mom Paola Pezzo pronto for World's

By Tim Maloney, European Editor

Paola and Kevin
Photo: © CN
Click for larger image

Double Olympic MTB XC gold medalist Paola Pezzo is making her way back to competitive fitness slowly but surely this season. Pezzo, still sponsored by Gary Fisher for over a decade, gave birth to her son Kevin Pezzo-Rosola last November and is looking at the first ever World Marathon Championship this August 31 in Lugano, Switzerland.

"I tried the course last was really hot, over 35 degrees and the course is very, very tough," Pezzo told Cyclingnews. "I've been racing mountain bike Gran Fondos quite a bit and slowly the fitness is coming, but it's tough to steal enough time from raising Kevin to train!"

Kevin's dad and Pezzo's longtime companion Paolo Rosola told Cyclingnews that "Paola rode the Lugano World Marathon Championship course with some Swiss bikers last week and it took over 6 hours to do the 70+ km course in training. I think that in the race, the top woman rider will take at least 4 hours to win it...that's tough!"

Along with Thomas Frischknecht, who designed the XC course, Pezzo is a spokesperson for the upcoming MTB World's in Lugano, slated for 1-7 September this year in the Ticino city that hosted the 1996 Road World's.

These days, La Paola is riding both a custom team issue Gary Fisher Sugar softail and her 29-er hardtail and is undecided which will work best for Lugano. Should her Marathon outing go well, Pezzo may decide to make a full comeback for the 2004 Olympics in Athens.

"I've been keeping in touch with (Italian national MTB coach) Morelli and he tells me there my be a spot for me so I'm keeping my options open", said Pezzo after racing Sunday at a Gran Fondo in Bardonecchia, Switzerland, where she finished with the top riders, then made sure Kevin had his bottle right after the race.

Palmans-Collstrop to reduce

The Palmans-Collstrop team will remain in the peloton next season, but with a reduced line up of riders. The Belgian Division I squad managed by Hilaire Van Der Schueren will cut back from 22 riders to 16 or 17, with the emphasis on quality.

Seven Belgians in 'cross World Cups

The 2003/2004 Cyclo-cross World Cup will feature seven Belgians on the start line of every round, after the UCI decided that the reigning World Cup Champion has an automatic start in each event, in addition to his country's six riders that are normally allowed per race. One of these riders also has to be U23. The current World Cup Champion is Belgian Bart Wellens.

Two Sydney cyclists seriously injured

Two riders from the Sydney based "Billy's Pushies" bunch were seriously injured in a crash on Saturday morning after a Four-Wheel-Drive drove into their training group. The accident occurred at an intersection near the Royal National Park at approximately 7:20am. The most seriously injured riders were Dave Hornby and Kevin Congdon, who were taken to St George Hospital to be operated on on Saturday night. Mr Hornby was reported to be in a critical condition with head, chest and leg injuries, while Mr Congdon's condition was serious.

The driver of the car, who was returning home after working night shift, claimed that he did not see the riders. He was questioned by police over the accident.

Source: The Daily Telegraph

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