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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for February 14, 2004

Edited by Chris Henry

Rogers injured in training

Australian Michael Rogers (Quick.Step-Davitamon) suffered a fall while training Thursday near Legnano, Italy. Although he sustained abrasions and a large hematoma, initial x-rays apparently exclude any fractures.

Rogers was climbing when a dog crossed the road and caused him to fall. "I was lucky that the crash happened while climbing and no descending," he explained.

It is unlikely that Rogers will start the Trofeo Laigueglia (February 17) as planned. 

Giro della Liguria stage cancelled

The opening stage of the Giro della Liguria was canceled Friday, to the surprise of riders and fans alike. The towns of Imperia and Savone did not grant race organisers the necessary permits to hold the race in the municipalities, forcing the cancellation of the first day of racing in the three day tour. The second stage from Andora to Pietra Ligure should go ahead as scheduled.

US Postal divides to conquer

As is typical for a big team with multiple objectives, US Postal Service will see two different groups in action in upcoming races with different goals in mind for the early season racing. US Postal will field teams in the Spanish Ruta del Sol (February 15-19) and the Volta ao Algarve in Portugal (February 18-22). While Lance Armstrong will make his racing debut in Portugal, US Postal's spring specialists will build form at the Ruta del Sol.

"The first race is mainly for the spring classics team, with the addition of local rider Manuel Beltran," directeur sportif Johan Bruyneel explained. "Beltran will be excited to race in front of his home crowd, while George, Eki and Max will be testing their form against rivals they will compete against in the month of April.

"The other group for Algarve is comprised with some of the slower starters, guys whose objectives are a bit later in the season," Bruyneel added.  "Although, Peña and Landis might surprise with a good place in the general classification.  Algarve is also Lance's first race and I feel like he's ready to race. José Azevedo will also be motivated in his new team colours in his home country, so I certainly expect him to have a few good stages."

Ruta del Sol: Manuel Beltran, Antonio Cruz, Stijn Devolder, Viatcheslav Ekimov, George Hincapie, Benoît Joachim, Max Van Heeswijk, David Zabriskie

Volta ao Algarve: Lance Armstrong, José Azevedo, Michael Barry, Floyd Landis, Patrick McCarty, Benjamin Noval, Victor Hugo Peña, Daniel Rincon

Rund um Köln without Ullrich?

In 2003 the Rund um Köln race in Germany marked a triumphant return to winning ways for Jan Ullrich (then Team Coast) after a dark year in 2002. This year's edition of the race may be run without the star attraction of Ullrich, back in T-Mobile colours.

According to a SID report, Ullrich's asking price for start money may be too high for organiser Artur Tabat. After a €20,000 start fee in 2003, Ullrich's manager Wolfgang Strohband is reportedly asking for €50,000 this year, which could be too rich for Tabat's budget.

French federation doctor concerned

French cycling federation (FFC) doctor Armand Mégret has reaffirmed concerns he voiced over the health of the professional and amateur pelotons. Quoted in an article in French newspaper Le Monde Thursday, Mégret reiterated his worries expressed in a letter from September 2003 that doping practices were common in the professional and amateur ranks.

Mégret estimated, based on a review of medical tests performed prior to the 2003 national championships, that some 50 riders had artificially elevated red blood cell counts, a result that an FFC committee member reportedly blamed on laboratory error.

Mégret further concluded that up to 20% of riders who submitted blood tests could be using EPO. He acknowledged himself that some laboratory errors could have played a part in the results, but maintained that the fundamental problem of doping still exists.

"I stand by what I said," he told Le Monde, referring to the earlier communiqué. "All of the other data are reliable, and show the return of certain anomalies that would prompt fears of new methods of manipulation."

Overall, Mégret considers the situation to have improved since the Festina affair of 1998, but concerns remain over new and continued methods of doping.

Banesto support staff cries foul

A number of soigneurs, mechanics, and other staff from the team have gone public with assertions that Illes Balears-Banesto team managers José Miguel Echavarri and Eusebio Unzue have not honoured promises to integrate the staff into the new incarnation of the team, now sponsored by the Balearic Islands of Spain.

"Almost everybody was told by the managers of Banesto that they would be offered a contract with the new team sponsored by Illes Balears-Banesto, but the hiring has never been formalised and we received even the possibility of a contract with the new team," the written statement said.

The members of the staff without contracts with Illes Balears have taken legal against the team management, according to a Todociclismo report.

New stage for Redlands

Organisers of the Redlands Bicycle Classic have announced the 2004 parcours, with a new road stage added that could serve up the toughest day in Redlands' 20 year history. The 2004 edition of the California stage race, scheduled for March 23-28, will take the peloton 90 miles through Phelan, Apple Valley, Hesparia and Lake Silverwood, finishing in Crestline on the second day of racing. A separate women's race will start in Adelanto and follow the men's race to Crestline. The Crestline stage will replace the traditional Highland Circuit race.

"We appreciate all the great support we have received from Highland over the years, but our number one request from racers has been another point-to-point road race," said marketing director Craig Kundig. "Changes in the race format are needed to keep the event interesting and challenging."

2004 Redlands Bicycle Classic route:

Prologue - March 23: Mount Rubidoux ITT
Stage 1 - March 24: Crestline road race
Stage 2 - March 25: Oak Glen road race
Stage 3 - March 26: Panorama Point road race
Stage 4 - March 27: Criterium
Stage 5 - March 28: Sunset road race

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