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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

First Edition Cycling News for February 15, 2004

Edited by Jeff Jones

Cyclo-cross World Cup: Wellens going for "Grand Slam"

Bart Wellens
Photo ©: AFP

Bart Wellens (Spaar Select) will this Sunday bid for a unique "Grand Slam" in the sport of cyclo-cross. Already the winner of the Belgian Championship, World Championship and Superprestige series, Wellens is a realistic chance to knock Sven Nys off the number one spot in the World Cup, which has its final round in Pijnacker on Sunday. Nys has 243 points in the series, followed by Ben Berden on 204 and Wellens on 200. With double points on offer in the last round, that means Nys has to finish in the top four in Pijnacker to guarantee his number one position in the World Cup, otherwise Wellens could take what could be termed the Grand Slam of cyclo-cross, despite the fact that it's only open to Belgians!

Nys of course hopes that he will hold onto his lead, which he built after winning the first three rounds of the six round series. But he has been well off his best in recent weeks, and will have to perform well to finish in the top four. His mysterious cramps during the World Championships were a result of "a blocked back" which was in turn caused by a number of crashes last December. After having physiotherapy, Nys is confident that he won't suffer this problem again.

Pospisil left at home

One rider who definitely won't be able to defend his place in the World Cup standings is Czech Jiri Pospisil, who learned that he was excluded from the Czech team by coach Petr Kloucek because he had a "bad influence" on the other riders of the team. Pospisil was lying sixth on the World Cup table, but will probably lose some places as a result of his non-attendence in this final round.

Pospisil remains a little perplexed by the situation, but told Cyclingnews that, "I will definitely keep racing, I won't give up this time...I don't know what influence I exerted on my national team mates, but I was delighted, for example, that the father of Junior rider Roman Kreuziger, who won silver at World's in Pont-Château, came to me right after the race to personally express his thanks for the fact that I went through the whole training and cyclo-cross season with his son as a second father. Similar thanks were expressed by Mr. Kubín, the long-standing masseur of the national team.

"I resented that on Tuesday before the World Championships, the Czech coaches ordered some teammates to keep at least a five metre distance from me. And during one training session, they even loaded one of the junior riders and his bike into a car and moved him several kilometres away to prevent him from riding with me.

"Now I'm considering various options. Let's wait and see how the UCI will decide about the regulations of the next World Cup series. If selections are approved by national federations, I will have to find the federation that will be interested in selecting me. However, I will definitely race next season."

50th Vuelta a Andalucia (Ruta del Sol)

Commencing on Sunday, February 15 is the 50th edition of the Vuelta a Andalucia (Ruta del Sol). This five day/871 km stage race will see most of the top Spanish pros taking part, including Oscar Sevilla (Phonak), Manuel Beltran (US Postal-Berry Floor), Oscar Freire (Rabobank), Juan Miguel Mercado (Quick.Step), Juan Carlos Dominguez (Saunier Duval) and Aitor Osa (Illes Balears). The foreign contingent includes Peter van Petegem and Axel Merckx (Lotto-Domo), Erik Zabel and Daniele Nardello (T-Mobile), Viatcheslav Ekimov (US Postal-Berry Floor), Erik Dekker (Rabobank), Johan Museeuw and Tom Boonen (Quick.Step). The peloton is only 104 riders strong, as the race does not have a major sponsor this year.

The Ruta del Sol starts in Huelva with a 181 km flat stage to Sevilla. Stage 2 is between Arcos de la Frontera and Benalmadena, featuring three categorised climbs, including the Cat. 1 Puerto del Boyar (km 42). The third stage starts in Humilladero and finishes atop the Cat. 1 Puerto de Alto Virgen de la Sierra, and will likely be the decisive stage. Stage 4 from Lucena to Jaén contains several Cat. 2 climbs, but is favourable for the sprinters. The fifth stage from La Zubía to Almería is generally quite mountainous, although the last 30 km is either downhill or flat.

The stages

Stage 1 - February 15: Huelva - Sevilla, 181 km
Stage 2 - February 16: Arcos de la Frontera - Benalmadena, 185 km
Stage 3 - February 17: Humilladero - Puerto de Alto Virgen de la Sierra, 169 km
Stage 4 - February 18: Lucena - Jaén, 159 km
Stage 5 - February 19: La Zubía - Almería, 186 km

Museeuw likely to skip MSR

Johan Museeuw (Quick.Step-Davitamon) will probably pass up the chance to ride Milan-San Remo for the final time in his career. "I could do it in the service of Paolo Bettini," he told Het Nieuwsblad. "Work until the foot of the Cipressa and then wish him the best. On the other hand, we have within our team a few guys who are eager to ride La Primavera: Boonen, Van Goolen, and Nuyens. Besides, I've never paid much attention to San Remo, a race that doesn't suit me."

€100,000 for Ullrich?

According to VRT Teletekst, the Austrian town of Innsbruck will pay €100,000 (double last year's fee) to have Jan Ullrich on the start line for its post-Tour criterium on July 29. The organisers received the fax with Ullrich's signature on Friday, and expect that 40,000 spectators will turn out to watch the race which takes place four days after the finish of the Tour.

Young Belgian dies

21 year old Belgian rider Johan Sermon has died in his sleep during the night of Thursday/Friday, February 12-13. His body was discovered by his mother on Friday morning at 11:00am - he had planned to go for an eight hour training ride that day.

Sermon, an U23 rider for the Daikin team, appears to have died of heart failure. His team manager and former president of the Belgian cycling federation Ernest De Vuyst was quoted on TV1 as saying, "The fact that his body was released from the autopsy on Saturday leads us to believe that it was sudden heart failure. He had been medically tested a few weeks ago, including a complete cardiovascular check up. The results were judged to be good. Doping? That appears to me to be excluded."

De Waele calls it quits

28 year old Belgian rider Fabian De Waele is retiring, according to Het Nieuwsblad. De Waele, a past winner of Brabantse Pijl, Japan Cup and stages in the Dauphine Libéré and Paris-Nice, was looking at riding in Division III this year with Flanders, which did not receive a Division II licence. More worrying for De Waele is an abnormal heart rhythm, which started giving him problems in the Tour de la Region Wallonne last year.

"The doctors said then that racing would not pose a problem," said De Waele. "But I have still had problems with it since then. Now I'm looking for a job."

Luck of the Irish?

By Shane Stokes,

McCann's forks
Photo ©: Shane Stokes

The Hibernian Team Ireland squad have had two lucky escapes this week in the Tour de Langkawi, with two riders placing to the fore in stages and then discovering serious problems with their machines afterwards.

On Tuesday, David McCann finished 14th in the time trial and moved up to 11th in the overall classification. On a warm down ride afterwards his headset loosened for no obvious reason. The Irish mechanic John Keegan checked the bike afterwards and discovered that the bonding between the carbon and metal was coming apart. A frenzied search for a replacement fork then followed and, to Keegan's surprise, a Look carbon model was found in a small, backstreet bike shop. "The place looked very small and run down," said team manager Frank Campbell, "So we were both very surprised and relieved to find out they had exactly what was needed."

Eugene Moriarty continued the Irish amateurs' strong showing in the 2.2 race on Wednesday when he sprinted home fifth, passing at least ten riders in the final 200 metres. After the finish the team realised that the rear stay on his bike was broken. The frame had been slightly damaged in transit, but had seemed to be well up to the task. However, the damage was clearly worse than it had appeared and, like McCann, Moriarty was fortunate to have ridden to a strong result without problems. He's been fitted with a spare bike and is hoping to have another big chance in Sunday's race concluding criterium in Kuala Lumpur.

Both bikes were the riders' own machines, rather than the Team Ireland issue Merlins. Cycling Ireland are currently awaiting delivery of the 2004 bikes.

Perez suspended for 18 months

The UCI has confirmed that Spanish rider Francisco Perez Sanchez (Milaneza-MSS) has been suspended for a period of 18 months from October 18, 2003 to April 17, 2005 and fined CHF 2,000 for testing positive to EPO (twice) during the 2003 Tour de Romandie. In addition, Milaneza-MSS team doctor Basil Ribeiro has been sanctioned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), and been suspended for 1 year from August 21, 2003 to August 20, 2004 and fined of CHF 3,000.

Other riders to be sanctioned for various doping offences include Tatiana Stiajkina, sanctioned by Federation Ukrainienne de Cyclisme, fined CHF 300; and Hennie Morel, sanctioned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), disqualification from the Ronde van Zuid-Oost-Vlaanderen in August 2002, suspended for 7 months with 3.5 months of deferment for a period of 3 years starting on July 15, 2003 until January 31, 2004.

Top U.S. teams for Joe Martin Stage Race

The 27th edition of the Joe Martin Stage Race is expected to attract some of the top teams in U.S. cycling. The Pro/1/2 men's race will include Health Net presented by Maxxis and Jelly Belly presented by Aramark, Bianchi/Grand Performance, Endeavour Cycling Team, while the Pro/1/2/3 women's field will feature Genesis Scuba/FFCC, Team Basis, TDS/Schwalbe High-Speed, Victory Brewing, America's Dairyland, Athletes By Design, Team Kenda Tire, OBRU/The Bicycle Store, and Women's Cycling. Equipe Cycliste Rona, Quark Women's Cycling and Team T-Mobile are yet to confirm their entries.

The Joe Martin Stage Race is a three day, four stage event (two days, three stages for USCF events) that will be held on May 14-16. It is a National Racing Calendar event (Category 2.3), and features two road races, an uphill time trial, and a downtown criterium in the race's hometown of Fayetteville, Arkansas. The race is named for the late Joe Martin, a cycling enthusiast from Fayetteville whose dream was to have a national calibre race in his hometown.

Recycled Cycles Racing 2004

Recycled Cycles Racing of Seattle, Washington, intends on fielding strong squads in all the senior men's and women's categories in the USA this season. The beefed up category 1/2 squad will feature northwest fastman David Richter, who did the double last year when he ended the 11 year reign of Kenny Williams in the Seward Park Criterium Series, in addition to capturing top honours at the Pacific Raceways Tuesday Night Series. Climbing specialist Troy Heithecker also figures to make a big impact on the hilly stage races in Oregon and Washington.

Click here for the full team roster.

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