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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

News for July 24, 2002

Edited by Jeff Jones

Ullrich given six months suspension

The German Cycling Federation (BDR) has voted to suspend Jan Ullrich for a period of six competition months following his positive drug test for amphetamines in June. The BDR's disciplinary committee announced their decision today, and the ban will take effect immediately. Allowing for the two months where there is virtually no road racing (November/December), Ullrich will be allowed to compete again on March 23, 2003. The German was also fined 2000 Swiss francs.

Ullrich tested positive on June 12 while in rehabilitation following a knee operation. He accepted the results of the test, saying he had taken a couple of pills the previous night while out at a disco. In making their ruling, the BDR's disciplinary commission specified that Ullrich was not doping in the conventional sense, but had broken the anti-doping regulations. "Ullrich did not take this for performance enhancing reasons," said the commission.

Ullrich won the Tour de France in 1997, and has finished second in every other year that he has ridden it (1996, 1998, 2000, 2001).

More Quick Step news

Museeuw offered PR spot

The newly created Quick Step-Davitamon-Latexco team has made Johan Museeuw an offer that he can't refuse. Well, more or less. Quick-Step boss Frans De Cock has already offered Museeuw a professional contract until the 2003 Tour of Belgium, and after that a place in Quick Step-Davitamon-Latexco as their PR officer.

"It is up to Johan to make the decision but I really hope he'll accept our offer," said De Cock. Quick Step manager Patrick Lefevre will be talking to his most experienced pro in the week to come.

Why Lefevere left Domo

While he was being touted as the sporting director of the new Lotto-Domo fusion team, Patrick Lefevere already had an offer from his old boss Frans De Cock at Quick Step. Lefevere knows De Cock well, as he brought Quick Step to Mapei. When he realised that things with Lotto weren't going to be smooth, he decided to accept De Cock's offer to join Quick Step.

The problem with the Lotto-Domo deal was that behind closed doors, their current manager Christophe Sercu had guarantees from the government that he was going to be the big man in the team. That meant that Lefevere didn't have the power that he wanted, and it looked like he was in a bad situation. Lefevere didn't think he could get along with Sercu, but the question was who would crack first?

That means although there will be a number of former Mapei riders in the Quick Step-Davitamon-Latexco team, Mapei managers Aldo Sassi and Alvaro Crespi will probably be left out of the deal. Lefevere left Mapei because his style of management clashed with the Italians.

The Domo people don't seem to care that Lefevere is leaving them. They want exposure for their brand - whether it's with Lotto/Sercu or Quick Step/Lefevere. They are not interested in who's running their team but who's giving them exposure. They just want a good team.

Omega Pharma boss is one of Belgium's top 20 richest men

Mr. Marc Coucke (37) is the boss of Omega Pharma, an international company which employs 1,700 people. The head office is located in Nazareth, Belgium. Coucke is the son of a chemist from the centre of Gent. In the heart of East Flanders he studied chemistry himself and added a year management to that. He started a modest company that produced shampoo and travelled as representative around the country to sell his product to pharmacies. The business flourished and son had a complete range of products. Once noted on the stock exchange the company did extremely well.

The wealth of Marc Coucke, who is married to a chemist and will become father in January is estimated around the 388 million Euro mark. That makes him number 20 on the list of the richest Belgians.

"Cycling has always interested me," he was quoted as saying in the Belgian press. "As a kid I was a big fan of Eddy Merckx. When I bumped into Frans De Cock I heard all about his scenario to make a new big team. I took a proposal to the board of direction. The time was right. Cycling is getting even more popular."

"We have got an agreement for one year with an option for several more seasons. It will be a three to five year project. In 2003 we will invest two million Euro and will attract Chemist Filip Demyttenaere, previous general manager for Belgium, to the project."

Of course there was the obvious question of a pharmaceutical company sponsoring a cycling team. "We are not afraid of any smart remarks concerning the fact we are a pharmaceutical company," said Coucke. "We will apply zero-tolerance concerning doping. And on the same level, it is not bad for the sport to be associated with health. Because that is what we are about. Omega Pharma has got a range over the counter products; Davitamon is the promotional name for our vitamins, Minerals and Natural supplements. The product line is market leader in Holland, was previously know well as Vitamon in Belgium and has just been launched on the Spanish market."

Mirjam Melchers to lead Farm Frites-Hartol in Thüringen

Team Farm Frites-Hartol will race the International Thüringen Rundfahrt der Frauen (July 23-28) with last year's winner Mirjam Melchers as the top rider. Melchers is currently the world's leading ranked rider in both World Cup and UCI rankings, and will be supported by a strong team including Arenda Grimberg, Sissy van Alebeek, Elsbeth Vink, Sandra Missbach, and after a long break, Sweden's Madeleine Lindberg. The team will be led by Michael van der Wolf.

Punkt Grand Prix - a true parking lot criterium

By Gabriella Ekström, correspondent

One of the most innovative sports arrangements of the year will be ridden in Västerås, Sweden on August 16th. At 19.00 the Västerås based Team Mälarenergi will be racing the combined forces of the Nordic top riders over 20 laps on a 2.2 kilometre course - the Punkt Grand Prix. What is so special about the GP then?

What makes this race unique is that it is partly ridden in a nine storey parking lot. Almost half the distance of every lap will be ridden in the parking lot that offers a 350 meter climb with a 10% gradient. The race is expected to be very challenging since the climb will be contested 20 times.

"We were supposed to arrange a race named Djäknebergs GP," says Patrick Serra, one of the brains behind the idea and also the directeur sportif of Team Mälarenergi.

"Then we were contacted by the City co-operation, and they asked us if it was possible to race in the city instead. I've been thinking about arranging a race in this parking lot since I drove my car here for the first time, and now we had the chance."

Special rules for the riders will apply since the race is a bit different, for example the riders will not be allowed to ride on tubulars because of the multiple turns.

The Urban Polaris Rides Again

Bringing Mountain Bikes to the City

After running the Urban Polaris for the last two years in Sydney, it's off to Canberra for this year's event on Sunday November 17th. Teams of two riders will have 8 hours to pick up as many of 35 checkpoints as they can by whatever (legal) route they like. Checkpoints will be scattered across a huge chunk of the ACT - up buildings, down twisting singletrack, on (or in?!) the lake; who knows perhaps even the Prime Minister's pad!

Canberra offers great cycle paths, excellent forest mountain biking and plenty of 'interesting' checkpoint locations, and is fast building a reputation as Australia's best mountain bike city with the biggest clubs in the country and the home of the Mont 24 Hour race

"We normally run these events out in the bush but Canberra offers some great riding and the Urban Polaris is a chance for people to plan routes around the city without hopping into a petrol guzzling, air polluting vehicle. The Urban Polaris isn't a race, it's about planning a route to maximize points. Some checkpoints are worth a lot more than others. Mountain bikers, road riders, recumbents and even unicycles are all welcome," said Polaris organizer Huw Kingston said.

The 2002 Urban Polaris will also be part of this year's Canberra Festival of Cycling.

As part of our 4Wheels4Sean fundraising (raising $50000 to purchase a vehicle for Sean Fitzgerald, made a quadraplegic in a cycling accident) a major fundraising dinner will be held on the Saturday night before the event.

The Urban Polaris is one of the events making up the 2002/2003 Strong Butt League, a series of endurance mountain bike events which also includes the Polaris MTB Challenge, Mont 24 Hour and Lab Gear 12 Hour races.

For further information or photographs please contact Huw Kingston on 02 4883 6509, Email Also see

(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2002)