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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest News for June 17, 2004

Edited by Chris Henry

Boonen can't wait

Quick.Step-Davitamon's most successful rider this season, Tom Boonen is growing increasingly anxious as his first Tour de France participation draws near. Boonen, winner already of major races including Gent-Wevelgem and the Tour de Picardie, took the lead of the Ster Elektrotoer Wednesday after victory in the prologue time trial. The big Belgian will go head to head with Erik Zabel, Oscar Freire, Tom Steels, and other sprints throughout the Dutch tour, but his thoughts are still focused on the Tour de France.

"At the beginning of the season, I didn't think riding the Tour was absolutely necessary," Boonen explained at a press conference before the Ster Elektrotoer prologue. "But now I'm happy and I can't wait to get there. I feel like if I didn't ride it would be a mistake. To race and finish the Tour would mean to get stronger and step up to the next level."

Boonen has evolved quickly into a bunch sprinter capable of beating the fastest finishers, though he has yet to come face to face with Alessandro Petacchi, winner of eight Giro d'Italia stages this year and undeniably the top sprinter of the moment.

"I want to win at least one stage," Boonen said. "Being second or third doesn't matter, and I know that to win I have to beat Petacchi. Maybe I'm in for a rude surprise, but I think it's possible."

Unlike some riders who enter their first Tour de France with plans to race only a week, or ride conservatively to use the race as a learning experience, Boonen is very clear in announcing his ambitions.

"I'm going to race all out because otherwise I might as well stay home," he said.

Bouyer sidelined

France's Franck Bouyer (Brioches La Boulangère) has been officially prevented from racing by the UCI as a medication he takes figures among the list of banned substances. Bouyer, winner of Paris-Camembert and a stage of the Circuit de la Sarthe this year, suffers from narcolepsy and cataplexy, episodes of muscular limpness and spasms brought on by strong emotions. Though he has suffered from the problem for some time, Bouyer's condition was only formally diagnosed in November.

At pre-season medical checks, Bouyer was told that his racing license could be withheld if he did not use the medication modafinil to prevent the attacks which can prompt him to fall asleep in the middle of everyday activities. Bouyer's medical file was updated to include the medication and his condition was verified by the team and two independent neurologists.

"I didn't want to accept that I had the condition," Bouyer commented in l'Equipe. "It's not easy to accept any life-long treatment, and for more than a year I didn't want to take care of myself. For a long time I lied to the doctors, saying I was getting better."

Following an out of competition doping test on April 17, the UCI announced to Bouyer and the team that the use of modafinil is prohibited, however the team continued to enter Bouyer in competition, believing he had the right to use the medication due to his documented condition.

"Legally I know they're right, but in a case like mine they could make an exception," he said. "Right now I'm very angry at a number of people. When I see that certain people are allowed to take the start but I'm not allowed to take care of myself, I feel like the world of cycling has become completely unjust."

A tale of two medications

The timing of Bouyer's removal from competition coincides with another difficulty in the team concerning Joseba Beloki's allergy treatment. Beloki, who this week announced his departure from Brioches La Boulangère, was prevented from using his habitual asthma medicine as it is considered in France a banned substance, despite being permitted by the UCI and the Spanish federation. Beloki expressed his frustration that the team did not accept his need for the medication, but team management and even Beloki's teammates offered an unwavering stance on the matter.

"The team doctors didn't give in, and I think we can be proud of ourselves," commented teammate Franck Renier. Team manager Jean-René Bernaudeau added that "I can't take the place of the doctor. In France there is legislation in place and the medical decisions are up to the doctors."

In Bouyer's case, the team was willing to test the waters with the UCI, evidently waiting until being called on the rider's use of modafinil before pulling him from competition. For Beloki, who found an unsympathetic ear in the team doctor, who did not believe the Basque rider suffered from asthma as claimed, the team offered no solution to his own needs for medication. Exit Beloki.

Verbruggen trusts Armstrong

UCI President Hein Verbruggen, asked for comment on the latest round of doping allegations in the sport, providing a firm stance on both the UCI's efforts to curb drug use and added his own conviction that five-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong is not among the cheats.

"Most of all, these people are trying to make money," he said of the new book targeting Lance Armstrong. "I've seen the results of Armstrong's medical controls. I'm told that his medical file is impeccable and I know he's not using banned substances. I believe in the results and I trust Lance. My opinion isn't going to change.

"In six years this hasn't stopped, and it's not going to stop," Verbruggen said of criticisms linking doping with cycling since the 1998 Festina affair, quoted in l'Equipe. "Our problems have always received more press than other sports, but that's how it goes. There are always cheaters, I know that, but we're fighting against them. We're doing everything we can and we can't go beyond that."

Meanwhile, the UCI has come under fire once more for not having signed the World Anti-Doping Agency's (WADA) World Anti-Doping Code. The UCI remains the only Olympic federation which has not signed the code.

"The UCI is dragging its feet," said French minister of sport Jean-François Lamour in an AP interview. "I think that's unfortunate, but I'm sure [the UCI] will sign very soon."

Lamour still expressed hope, despite his current dismay over the state of affairs in cycling, that the sport has a cleaner future ahead.

"I'm convinced there are young riders in the clubs who are training and who are practicing the sport clean," he said. "They need our confidence... I admire these cyclists who compete in such a hard sport, and I'm sad that the Tour de France bears this image."

Evans and Savoldelli at Route du Sud

Tour of Austria winner Cadel Evans will lead T-Mobile's team at the upcoming Route du Sud (June 19-22) stage race in France, alongside former Giro d'Italia winner Paolo Savoldelli, who has missed competition since a heavy fall in the Rund um Köln in April. Both riders missed the Tour de France last year due to injury, and after Evans' success in Austria it is the turn of Savoldelli to try to discover top form in France.

Evans and Savoldelli will be joined by Mario Aerts, Torsten Hiekmann, Sergej Jakowlew, Matthias Kessler, Andreas Klöden, Tomas Konecny, and Christian Werner.

Last GP des Nations

Amaury Sport Organisation, organiser of the Tour de France and many major races throughout the season, has announced the end of the Grand Prix des Nations time trial. This year's GP des Nations will be the final installment of the event, which next year will fall victim to scheduling changes prompted by the UCI's new Pro Tour.

"It's never easy to let go of a classic," Tour de France director Jean-Marie Leblanc told AFP Wednesday. "But the context has changed; cycling has evolved. There's a disconnect between such a difficult event and the riders who, along with their directeurs sportifs, don't focus as much on these specific events."

The final GP des Nations will be held September 19 in Elbeuf in the Seine-Maritime region of France.

Madison returns at LVV

The madison event will return to the Lehigh Valley Velodrome with the Madison Challenge, including the Mid-Atlantic Madison Championship, to be held at the velodrome Friday, June 18, 2004.

The Madison Challenge will include several events for both men and women. Men's events are to include the 500-metre heats and final, the Java Joint miss-and-out, and the 100-lap Mid-Atlantic Madison Championship. Women's events are to include a 30-lap points race, the Java Joint miss-and-out and a one-mile final.

Top riders of the season are expected to compete Friday night including the 2003 The Morning Call Men's and Women's Riders of the Year, Jame Carney (Northwestern Mortgage) and Becky Conzelman (Frisco Cycling Club) and 2003 National Champion, Bobby Lea. 

Gates open at 6pm and racing begins at 7pm. Fathers get in free in honour of father's day. For more information about The Madison Challenge at the Lehigh Valley Velodrome see

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