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Photo ©: Swift

News for May 3, 2002

Edited by Jeff Jones

Tour de France teams: more comments

With the announcement earlier today of the five teams to be selected for this year's Tour, the reactions have come from both those who made the cut and those who missed out (see earlier story for comments from BigMat and Jean Delatour). The five teams are as follows: Credit Agricole, Bonjour, Ag2r, Française des Jeux and Saeco-Longoni Sport.

The latter were the only non-French team to make the selection, bringing the total of Italian teams in this year's Tour to six, which is one more than France. That's not surprising, given the strength of Italian cycling at the moment, although Italy's top sprinter Mario Cipollini (Acqua e Sapone) did not get an invite.

Jean-Marie Leblanc's comments

Jean-Marie Leblanc's selections this year were not quite as controversial as last year, when he was criticised for leaving out the better performing teams in favour of more French teams. Some of those did well in the Tour, but some didn't - in particular BigMat did not get another chance this year.

Leblanc commented that the first four teams selected this year were "uncontestable". "Saeco said it would come with Simoni, third ranked in the world, and Di Luca...One cannot protest the selection of Bonjour, which as a team is irreproachable, and Credit Agricole which had two riders in yellow last year and has been reinforced by two of the best French riders (Moreau and Brard). La Française des Jeux has had an excellent start to the season and is worthy of a place. The vote was unanimous for these four teams."

The toughest choice was for the fifth team, which went to Ag2r-Prevoyance on a vote of 4 for Ag2r to 3 for Acqua e Sapone. "Of the five, this is the team that is the least convincing on paper," said Leblanc. "But it is necessary to remember that Jaan Kirsipuu has already worn the yellow jersey two years ago, that he won a stage last year, as did Christophe Agnolutto before him. This team never has a disappointing summer in the Tour de France....It has good riders, Kirsipuu evidently, but also Botcharov, Chaurreau, Turpin, who can do a good Tour de France."

On the choice to exclude Acqua e Sapone, "Italy is the best represented country with six teams out of the 21," said Leblanc, who no doubt still remembers the snub that Cipollini gave the Societe earlier last month when he decided not to ride Paris-Roubaix.

One team with a chance is Mercatone Uno, which may gain a late selection if Marco Pantani wins the Giro. "If he won the Giro, we would re-examined the possibility of a 22nd team", added Leblanc, who was not particularly convinced by Pantani's recent performances.

Finally, on the possibility that certain teams may disappear with their non-selection, Leblanc stated "The survival of a team is not our responsibility. The survival of a team is primarily based on its results. To select, is to choose. And to choose, is to dissatisfy."

Claudio Corti (Saeco)

Saeco's team manager Claudio Corti said of the decision that "Obviously we're very satisfied and thankful to the French organizers, we're certain to honour this big event with a high level participation. Gilberto Simoni and Danilo Di Luca are two international characters, and they will be able, each one in different moments, to assure important performances. They will be sustained by a sound and fighting team."

Guisseppe Martinelli (Saeco)

"We're extremely pleased to be invited, and we're sure we have a contender for the podium in Gilberto Simoni. Simoni always said that his targets this season were the Giro and the Tour de France. He hasn't changed his mind. He'll be on good form for the Tour, and if he wins the Giro first, we'll head there even more motivated."

"Gilberto will go to the Tour in any case, he really wants to compete with Lance Armstrong. Aside from Pantani in 2000, Armstrong didn't have any really dangerous rivals in the mountain stages. Gilberto can at least make Armstrong's legs hurt, and he has a chance to make the podium at the Tour."

"As he has said many times, he really wants to see what happens in the mountain stages when he comes face to face with Armstrong. And he is confident he can make the American's life difficult at the Tour."

On Di Luca opting to miss the Tour of Italy to prepare for the Tour de France: "Di Luca is going to be taking part in his very first Tour de France this season. He feels really motivated and is very excited about it. Of course, the Tour will be an enormous new experience for him."

"I know from my own experience that it is really hard to cut a good impression and get good results at your first Tour de France. But this guy Di Luca really has class, he has surprised me in many ways."

Courtesy of Darren Tulett and Alessandra Bacchetta/Bloomberg News

Vincent Lavenu (Ag2r-Prevoyance)

"We had fears, even though we had good sporting arguments, had the 19th ranked rider in the world, are the fourth ranked French team, and the fact that we have won five stages in the last four years. One could equally put forward economic arguments that we remain faithful to cycling, notably Decathlon, our choice of bicycle. But that did not prevent the stress, a big consumer of energy. Now, we are so much more relieved that Jaan Kirsipuu will come back to his full capacity after his accident in training. He has already ridden 1800 kilometres at home in Estonia."

Alain Gallopin (Team Coast)

"We thought we could do well in this Tour but alas, we have received the same response as last year. We had nevertheless done all that was necessary in obtaining results. We had constructed a good team of climbers. A lot more is needed I know. In regards to the future I am reserved. Last year, with Mercury, I said that this was not dramatic. The team subsequently folded [from division I]. I cannot say that this is a globally unfair decision: I understand that you have to take the French teams. I would say it's unfair for us."

Hondo and Kessler to lead Telekom

Last year's double stage winner Danilo Hondo and Matthias Kessler will lead the Telekom team in the Giro d'Italia, which starts with a prologue in Groningen on May 11. Team manager Rudy Pevenage decided his team before the start of the Rund um den Henninger Turm yesterday. In addition to Hondo and Kessler, there will be Giuseppe Guerini, Jens Heppner, Kai Hundertmarck, Jan Schaffrath, Torsten Hiekmann, Stephan Schreck and Ralf Grabsch.

Jan Ullrich, who rode the Giro last year, will not do so this year. His preparation for the Tour de France will start closer to home, with the Bayern Rundfahrt which starts on May 22. Then he will ride the Tour of Germany (June 3-9) and the Tour de Suisse (June 17-22). He will follow that with the German road championship on June 30. One thing for sure, is that he will not be over-raced...

Lindberg to come back in GP Rotterdam

Swedish champion Madeleine Lindberg (Farm Frites-Hartoli) will make her return to racing on Sunday May 12 in the Grote Prijs Rotterdam derny race. In March this year, Lindberg suffered her third bad fall in nine months during the women's Tour de Snowy in Australia. She spent some time in her home town of Vasteras, and after a recovery period decided that she would race again. She resumed training in April.

The GP Rotterdam will start at Rotterdam's Wielerclub Ahoy complex at 12:00 on Sunday, May 12 with a race for sport riders, beginners, sponsors and juniors. There will also be the first edition of the Rotterdam's school championship, which will see riders who have participated in the cycling clinics of Rotterdam Cycling take part.

The GP Rotterdam will take place at 16:30, with a field including triple Olympic gold medallist Leontien Zijlaard-Van Moorsel, current World Road Champion Rasa Polikeviciute, world number one Mirjam Melchers, Dutch champion Sissy van Alebeek, Belgian champion Evy van Damme, European champion Mirella van Melis, Swedish champion Madeleine Lindberg, Dutch MTB champion Corine Dorland and Dutch cyclocross champion Daphny van den Brand.

Prologue cancelled in U23 Thüringen-Rundfahrt

The 27th U23 Thüringen-Rundfahrt will start on Saturday, May 4 instead of Friday, May 3 after the prologue in Waltershausen was cancelled. The organisation decided, with the consent of the UCI, the local government and the sports council of Thüringen, not to hold the stage due to extraordinary incident in the region's capital Erfurt when two pupils, 13 teachers, a school secretary and a police officer were shot to death by a recently expelled student. Instead, the race will start a day later with the first stage from Waltershausen to Bad Berka, after which the first leader's jersey will be awarded.

Mapei-Quick for upcoming races

Top team

May 4 - G.P. Industria & Artigianato, Italy

Riders : Paolo Bettini, Davide Bramati, Dario Cioni, Stefano Garzelli, Luca Scinto, Andrea Tafi, Gerhard Trampusch, Charly Wegelius. DS: Fabbri Fabrizio

May 5 - Giro Ciclistico della Toscana, Italy

Riders : Elio Aggiano, Paolo Bettini, Dario Cioni, Luca Scinto, Gerhard Trampusch, Charly Wegelius. DS: Fabrizio Fabbri


May 4 - G.P. Midtbank, Denmark
May 5 - G.P. Aarhus, Denmark

Riders : Fabian Cancellara, Allan Davis, Graziano Gasparre, Dmitriy Muravyev, Michael Rogers, Frederik Willems. DS: Piva Valerio

15 Int. Select Radclassic Gleisdorf, Austria

Riders: Aurelien Clerc, Bernhard Eisel, Evgueni Petrov, Filippo Pozzato, Patrik Sinkewitz, Pavel Zerzan. DS: Guercilena Luca

UCPC Tour of Ulster preview

By Tommy Campbell, Irish Independent, Evening Herald, Sunday Independent

The UCPC Tour of Ulster, which starts on Saturday, May 4 are rightly claiming with the exception of the FBD Milk Ras that they will have the best competitive field on the start line. Others will no doubt refute that claim, but out of a total 120 signed on, only a small minority will be non first category licensed holders. There is a good response from across the water and with virtually every club from both sides of the border represented a good event is envisaged.

Irrespective of who is on the start line, Eugene Moriarty from that famous town associated with John B. Keane, Listowel will be rarin' to obliterate that memory of a rare defeat last year. Eugene was race leader and on the outskirts of Newry after three days of intense racing and with less than five miles to go an inconspicuous break so I thought made their good escape. Looking ahead and with the outskirts of the town looming, Eugene, and members of his team were of the opinion that all the angles were covered. Unfortunately, within that quintet was Timmy Barry who was just off the lead-time held by the Cycleways competitor. The break pulled off a masterstroke, which assured Barry of his biggest success to date.

Twelve months on, Eugene intends with his team Cycleways and their co-sponsor, Lee Strand rectifying matters. Last Sunday was a telling factor for those with aspirations of FBD Milk Ras success and Eugene on his showing can look forward to this weekend in a positive vain.

The team leader Philip Cassidy has been in excellent form since that start of the season and only last week in the Shay Elliott Memorial, which got good reviews for the overall event, it was evident that the team was beginning to fire on all cylinders.

The defending champion Barry has moved on to the Cidona Carrick team this season and the move has been a lease of life to the Corkonian. Timmy only returned to competitive competition last year after a number of years away from the sport. A number of is teammates were on international duty in the Circuit des Mines in France, were due back yesterday. Reports from that quarter suggest that the race was very hard. Hopefully the few days rest will have re-charged the batteries and the task of defending will be that much easier.

The presence of Andy Roche and Rob Holden from the Isle of Man looks ominous as the pair performed very well in the Elliott. Surely also on his performance, Ritchie Cahill from Banteer and who denied the Compensation Group RT; Mark Lovatt, Kevin Dawson and John Tanner taking over the podium will now come into the reckoning. Last year Ritchie finished high up and after his third placing in a very tough Elliott he may just be the one who will upset the applecart. The only problem Cahill faces is lack of team support.

This event is the last true test before the Ras, so evidently if one doesn't perform over the May holiday weekend, questions might arise of their fitness.

The local teams are headed by selections from both the UCF and NICF who field the only junior in the field, Ryan Connor, who has been given permission by his Federation to take part following a string of wins this season.

Apollo's Davy Gardiner won three stages of the race in the 80's before a racing accident ended a brilliant career. Now on the verge of turning veteran he is racing again and putting younger riders to shame, notable in the tough Wallace Caldwell Memorial at Ballymena recently when he rode away from the field. He is sure to be in at the finish.

Timetable: Start Saturday, May 4 Craigavon Water Sports Centre 12.00, Portadown, Armagh, Keady, Newtownhamilton, Newry, Rathfriland, Finnis, Dromara.

The stage finishes in Lisburn's Island Civic Centre around 3 p.m. (77 miles). Modern Tyres Vredstein KOH primes at Fews Forest and Newtownhamilton.

Sunday start Lisburn (Lagan Valley Leisure Plex)11.00, Dromara (KOH), Rathfriland (KOH), Castlewellan (KOH), Killough KOH, Ardglass, Strangford, Downpatrick. Finish at Down County Museum gates, 1.45 p.m. approx. (71 miles).

Sunday afternoon 3.6 miles TT at Abbey Lodge Hotel. First rider off at 5 p.m.

Monday's start Downpatrick Leisure Centre at 11.00, Castlewellan (KOH), Hilltown (KOH), Newry, Crankey (KOH), Markethill, Deadman's Hill (KOH), Newtownhamilton, Fews Forest (KOH), Keady, Portadown. Finish Lakeview Road, beside Craigavon Civic Centre around 2 p.m. (80 miles).

MTB Tour of Ulser

Not only are the road cyclists being catered for this weekend, north of the border, but the mountainbikers are in for a treat also.

The road fraternity will be competing in the Tour of Ulster for three days. Tomorrow (Sunday) the campaign in the National Points Series gets under way for the off road lads and lassies. The venue is the: Big Wood: on the Warrenpoint dual carriageway. According to a spokesperson for the promoting club Apollo CT, "this new course should be fast and mud free with a brand new mile of fresh, fast single track." ,p> The mountainbikers tend to get a large following because the racing is in a confined area and also the supporters are well catered for with various food stalls that keep the hunger at bay. Local radio will be on site to relay live updates of the action.

For those wishing to participate or for spectators who would like to catch the action on a Bank Holiday Sunday then you must go into the City of Newry, (yes a City now) and follow the signs for Warrenpoint. Follow the estuary on your right hand side. Three miles out of the City signage on the left will indicate 'Big Wood' forest park. Action is scheduled for mid-day.