First Edition Cycling News for April 10, 2004
Edited by Jeff Jones
Cofidis suspends whole team
No Paris-Roubaix on Sunday
The Cofidis team announced on Friday that it will cease all competition in order to give itself "the time and the means to see things clearly" in the wake of the escalating doping scandal surrounding the team. "From this day onwards, and for the time that is deemed necessary, the Cofidis corporation will not present any more teams at the start of races," a communique from the team read. That means the team will not be riding Sunday's Paris-Roubaix.
The top French squad has been under heavy fire after Friday's edition of L'Equipe published extracts from ex-Cofidis rider Philippe Gaumont's hearing. Gaumont was recently questioned by Nantes investigating magistrate Richard Pallain about his doping practices, and he proceeded to implicate several other members of his team, such as Cédric Vasseur, Médéric Clain, David Millar, Massimiliano Lelli, team doctor Jean-Jacques Menuet, manager Alain Bondue and directeur sportif Alain Deloeil.
David Millar called Gaumont a "nutter" in UK newspaper The Guardian. "...but what's dangerous is that he's very gifted at manipulating people. At the moment he seems to be manipulating the judge, the police and the press. He's behaving like an absolute lunatic. It's guerrilla warfare against the team."
Cofidis claims that it is astonished to see extracts of the judicial investigation published in the press, which it has not had access to, and has ordered that the April 9 edition be removed from circulation. "Cofidis is indignant to read in the press the extracts of the judicial investigation. This is why [Cofidis] will take the case to court for breaching the secrecy of the investigation."
UCI president Hein Verbruggen called it a positive move by Cofidis. "I respect this decision," Verbruggen was quoted by Europa Press as saying. "I believe that Cofidis has demonstrated its seriousness towards the circumstances so that the matter can be resolved."
Tafi: It won't be my last Roubaix
38 year old Andrea Tafi (Alessio-Bianchi) vows that this Sunday's Paris-Roubaix will not be his last. After many years of trying, Tafi won the legendary classic in 1999 in a solo breakaway, but his preparation for this year's race has been hampered by a tooth abscess at the beginning of the season, combined with other more recent health problems.
"I'm good enough," he said in a Datasport interview. "At the end of last week I was sure I wouldn't participate. Now I've recovered a bit of condition thanks to three days in France where I did rather a lot of base work. Certainly I hope to be at the top but I am not there. I'm motivated to do well. To race a Roubaix also means that you have to have the motivation to do it."
Tafi rates the Belgians as the big favourites for Sunday. "And above all Museeuw in his last Roubaix. He will be longing to do a big race, then Pieri who did very well last year.
Tafi finished by saying that it would not be his last cobbled classic. "No. I'm sure of being able to dispute another," he said.
Clinger follows the program
David Clinger will line up in his new Domina Vacanze colours for his fourth Paris-Roubaix this Sunday, but the American doesn't count himself among those raring to go for the Hell of the North. Team management decided that Paris-Roubaix constitutes the 'program' before the Tour of Georgia later this month, which naturally Clinger will contest, along with the USPRO races in June. Cyclingnews caught up with Clinger on pre-Roubaix spin over several sections of pavé on Saturday to get his impressions of a race riders tend to love or hate.
"It's like putting a race car on a jeep track," Clinger said,
wondering aloud what the point might be in such an exercise. "I've
never had a chance to really prepare for it."
Paris-Roubaix may not inspire him, but Clinger's motivation isn't lacking for the upcoming races in the United States. His big objective for the year is "Philly week", as he put it, and he also hopes to put in a strong performance at the Tour of Georgia. "I can win some stages," he said confidently.
Asked if the presence or absence of the team's biggest presence, Mario Cipollini, had an effect on team morale, Clinger thought not. Cipollini made waves by withdrawing from Paris-Roubaix in 2003, but this year he was never expected on the start line.
"I wasn't on the team last year, so I don't know if things have changed, but I don't think it makes much of a difference," Clinger commented, adding that Cipo's absence in fact allows other riders on the team to take their own initiatives for victory rather than work for their leader.
Fassa Bortolo for Paris-Roubaix
The Fassa Bortolo squad that will ride the 102nd edition of Paris-Roubaix will be led by classics specialist Frank Vandenbroucke, who will have the excellent Juan Antonio Flecha and Fabian Cancellara by his side. In addition, Francesco Chicchi, Alberto Ongarato, Roberto Petito, Fabio Sacchi and Matteo Tosatto will form part of the team.
Capelle and Van Bondt OK
Ludovic Capelle (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago) has been given the OK to ride Paris-Roubaix, despite his crash in yesterday's GP Pino Cerami. Capelle trained for more than 200 km on Friday and was not suffering from his injuries. In addition, Geert Van Bondt is right to race on Sunday, after a crash in Gent-Wevelgem left him in doubt.
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With just two more professional races left in his career, Belgian legend Johan Museeuw (Quick.Step-Davitamon) is considering life after cycling. Although he already has a position as a Quick.Step team director, debuting in the Tour of Belgium this year, Museeuw's ambitions stretch further.
"I dream one day of becoming the national coach," he told the Belgian RUG papers. "Don't get me wrong. [current coach] José De Cauwer is very valuable, but I am prepared to take my turn. I would do it with the same motivation I had as a rider."
De Cauwer's response was generally positive. "Why not?" he said. "Although I don't know how Johan sees this function. It is a full time job. But you should also be concerned with all facets: from beginners to professionals. Race understanding is important, but you should also have other qualities. Be a good psychologist for example."
Belgian cycling federation president Laurent De Backer was even more positive, saying that although he hadn't heard from Museeuw himself, he was "happy to hear it. It is a complete honour when such a champion offers himself. Museeuw is an experienced expert. I hold him in very high regard as a man and as a rider. With his name, he can bring a lot to cycling in our country."
Schotte's funeral in Kortrijk
Albéric "Iron Briek" Schotte was given a hero's send off on Friday afternoon when his funeral was held in Kortrijk's Sint Maartenskerk. Hundreds of people showed up to pay their last respects to the cycling champion, who died last Sunday in Kortrijk, aged 84. The crowd included UCI president Hein Verbruggen, who flew in especially from Geneva, and Belgian cycling federation president Laurent De Backer, in addition to many others, who could watch the service on a big screen outside the church.
Briek's coffin was borne by eight past and current top cyclists: Eddy Merckx, Rik Van Looy, Roger De Vlaeminck, Benoni Beheyt, Freddy Maertens, Erik Leman, Sean Kelly and Frank Vandenbroucke. His son Johan read out mourning declarations from the king and cardinal Daneels, who was born in Schotte's home town of Kanegem. In the homily, Schotte was described as a "great champion, but above all a great man; humble and very religious."
Schotte will be buried in his family's grave in Waregem cemetery.
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Too high hematocrit for US rider
US rider Walker Starr has been ejected from the Manchester Track World Cup due to having too high a hematocrit. Starr was one of 35 riders from the USA, Australia, Britain, Greece and Japan who were blood tested on the Friday morning before the meeting started, and was the only rider to have an elevated hematocrit. He will be suspended from competition for 15 days for health reasons, although the test does not count as a positive drug test.
French cyclist Nicolas Jalabert (Phonak) will be out for at least three weeks, after crashing in Wednesday's Gent-Wevelgem and breaking his left shoulder blade. His team hopes that if everything heals well, he will be back in action at the beginning of May.
Nicolas Jalabert is the fourth Phonak rider to be out for a long period of time this season, following Marco Fertonani (broken hand), Daniele Bennati (viral infection) and Cyril Dessel (inflammation of the Achilles tendon).
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2004)