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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest News for March 3, 2003

Edited by Jeff Jones

A weekend of falls and injuries

The two opening Belgian races on the weekend certainly took their toll on the peloton. Saturday's Het Volk was run in fairly dry conditions, however there were numerous falls in the peloton due to the nervousness of the riders. Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne was raced in very wet weather, but the falls were less frequent due to the fact that the peloton wasn't really racing.

Chris Peers (Cofidis) was one of those unlucky riders in KBK, falling on the descent of La Houppe and finishing up with two broken ribs and many bruises. He will undergo scans on Monday to assess possible damage to his liver and kidneys. His teammate Peter Farazijn, who was so good in Het Volk, also crashed on La Houppe, breaking a bone in his wrist.

Sébastien Hinault (Credit Agricole) slipped at the sign-in before KBK and opted not to start. He is getting x-rays on his coccyx today in Saint-Brieuc, France. His teammate Stuart O'Grady crashed at kilometre 96 yesterday, sustaining cuts and bruises on knees and right hand/thumb. He will undergo more examination today if pain persists.

Johan Museeuw and Paolo Bettini were also involved in falls in KBK, but escaped with minor injuries.

In Saturday's race, the injury count was higher. Telekom's Andreas Klier, Daniele Nardello and Steffen Wesemann crashed out of the race before the Muur van Geraardsbergen, with Klier spraining his ankle and having to take a few days off riding.

George Hincapie (US Postal) also crashed at the foot of the Muur, requiring six stitches to his face. He did show up and ride Sunday's Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, where he finished 22nd.

Bram Schmitz (BankGiroLoterij) broke his hand, and will be out of competition for several weeks. Also Johan Verstrepen (Landbouwkrediet) fell and broke his finger on Saturday.

Boonen and Van Heeswijk comfortable in new teams

Boonen leads the train
Photo: © Sirotti
Click for larger image

Rising Belgian star Tom Boonen says he has no regrets about breaking his contract with US Postal to ride for Quick Step. He was a key member of the Quick Step team time trial that broke the field in Het Volk, and eventually finished 5th behind teammates Museeuw, Bettini and Vandenbroucke. Ironically the rider who finished second, Max van Heeswijk, was a former Lefevere rider who transferred to US Postal/Berry Floor.

"I have made the right choice, that I know for sure now," Boonen was quoted in Monday's Belgian papers. "There is no better team for a one day classic. Today [in Het Volk] I again took a big step forward. It showed that my podium place from last year's Paris-Roubaix was not just a stroke of luck."

For Van Heeswijk, his new team means a new attitude, as he did not feel comfortable with Lefevere. "Not to be critical, but the whole of Lefevere's system did not fit me," he said. "With him you have to compete in the first training camp of the year for your position in the selections for the big races. That is too hard for me. The Americans do it completely differently. With them there is a balance between work and rest."

Van Heeswijk also claimed that because he had an achilles injury in 2001, Domo-Farm Frites owes him three months salary. Patrick Lefevere reacted angrily at this, saying that it was more like he gave Max a two year paid holiday while he was with the team.

"Bullshit. He was depressed," said Lefevere to HNB. "I did more for him than any other. This year his achilles will certainly not give him any pain, and he won't sit on his lazy behind, just like Fred Rodriguez, another bastard who thought he would get offers after a second place in Milan-San Remo and Gent-Wevelgem. This is an unfair tackle."

More complaints raised against Team Coast


Not only have a number of professional cyclists not been paid by Team Coast, now the home of Jan Ullrich, mechanics, hotels and travel agencies have unpaid Coast bills. More details of the story that was reported earlier on Cyclingnews follow.

On February 12, Team Coast's chance to appeal against the judgment in the case versus former sports director Jorgen Marcussen expired. Marcussen claimed that he had not been paid according to his contract. "I will receive about half of what I asked, and Coast has to pay all the costs regarding the trial, which amounts to approximately. 30,000 Euro. So they will in fact have to pay more than my initial demand," Marcussen told Danish website

Team Coast has until March 12 before they have to actually pay the money, so Marcussen and his lawyer do not think that the final word in this case has been said, as the German team is known for its ability to drag out the process. "Gunther Dahms (main sponsor and manager) has no moral concerns whatsoever. I know at least 15 people or companies, who have been cheated by Dahms within the last couple of years," Marcussen says.

No salary for 9 months

Lars Rasmussen is one of those people. In a short period in 2001, he worked as a mechanic for Team Coast. "I simply can't understand why they are allowed to go on like this. They owe me about 1,500 Euro, but obviously that is not enough to press charges against them. But all the mechanics I have known, who have worked for them, have unpaid bills. At one stage they had a mechanic called Vincenzo, he was not paid for 9 months," Rasmussen explained.

However it's not only within the team that Team Coast are finding it difficult to pay its bills. "I am aware of at least one hotel in Denmark, which has not received its money from Team Coast," added Rasmussen. "And I would be very surprised if Denmark was the only country where they have left the hotel bill behind like that."

No reaction

During the 2001 Danish National Championships, the Danish Team Coast riders lived at the Hotel Hindsgavl Castle. The bill was 2,500 Euro, money that the hotel has not yet been paid. "Coast did not react when we tried to get in touch with them, so on November 29, 2001 we went to court in Germany to get our money. The last time I checked up on this case was in December 2002, but really nothing has happened yet," the key account manager of the hotel told

Also the travel agency "Net Travel Service" has had a matter of unpaid bills before the courts in Germany, as they are still owed 7,000 Euro. "Through a German lawyer we pressed charges against Team Coast, and as they never showed up to the final court meeting last week, their chance to appeal against the judgment at the "Landgericht" in Duisburg expired," said account manager Kristian Blume.

Team Coast is using a time honoured tactic to drag out the process for as long as possible. "They are not exactly speeding up the process," said Blume. "They kept finding matters that needed to be investigated, but they have actually never protested our claims. However, our German is still very concerned about whether we actually get our money, when the deadline expires in two weeks time."

Gianetti paid with bouncing checks

Like the two Danish riders Lars Michaelsen and Frank Høj, the former Swiss Team Coast rider, Mauro Gianetti, has gone to court in Germany in order to get his full salary. "They keep saying that I am not entitled to have the rest of my money as my contract was based on a certain amount of UCI points - but that is simply not true," Gianetti told

Gianetti has obviously pressed charges in order to get the rest of his salary, but for the Swiss rider it is also a matter of not being treated with respect by Gunther Dahms and Team Coast.

"I helped the team in so many ways. Besides being a rider, I negotiated the contract with bike-sponsor Bianchi, and every time Dahms had a problem he called me on the phone - even though it was in the middle of the night," Gianetti says, and reveals that on numerous occasions he was paid with a bouncing check.

Mauro Gianetti's countrymen Alex Zülle and Niki Aebersold have been riding for Team Coast since the beginning of 2001. They both have the former top rider Tony Rominger as their agent. "Alex and Niki still have not received their full 2002 salary, as Team Coast claims they have to pay 16% VAT from their salary," says Rominger. "This is not normal procedure, but I will have a meeting with Coast sports director Rudy Pevenage and Alain Rumpf of the UCI on March 5, where we hopefully will clear the situation."

Michaelsen waiting for Team Coast

Danish rider Lars Michaelsen also received word from the court in Essen that Team Coast has to pay him. "The last court meeting was on January 24, where the judge gave Team Coast two months to make a deal with my lawyer on how to pay the rest of my 2002 salary. So now we are just waiting for them to contact us."

Leblanc says the Tour must remain big

For better or worse, the Tour de France is the major event in cycling, and one of the biggest sporting events in the world. The cost of TV rights can be a good indication of the popularity of the event, which is bigger than most of its rivals in other sports.

In France alone, the TV rights of the 2003 Tour were bought by the public broadcaster Francetélévisions for €20 million, 66 percent more than it paid for the 2003 Formula 1 world championship and for the rugby Six Nations tournament. The 2003 Roland Garros tennis tournament, another key event in Francetélévisions sporting agenda, was acquired for €10 million.

Jean-Marie Leblanc, previously a journalist for French sports daily L'Équipe and CEO of the Tour de France since 1988, is well placed to evaluate the popularity, strength and influence of the race. "The Tour is amazingly popular within or outside France," Leblanc told Belgian newspaper Le Soir, "What happened in Belgium and Luxembourg these last few years is clear evidence of that."

The passion that people have for this race has seen numerous foreign countries bid to host a Tour stage. "We've been approached recently by Scotland, Denmark, Tenerife (Spain) and Quebec (Canada), and all of them sent us very good proposals," added Leblanc.

The first centenary of the Tour is an opportunity for a big marketing operation that could help to widen the race's fan base. "On July 27 after the final stage of the 2003 Tour, we'll have a great parade all down the Champs Elysées," said Leblanc. "All the winners of the various classifications will take part in it."

While the winners' parade will no doubt be glamorous, the preparations for the event are certainly no less so. The first hundred years of the Tour will see the issue of medals, stamps and books. TV documentaries will be broadcast until July along with several expositions. In addition, "The poster of the 2003 Tour glorifies the history of the race by gathering early and contemporary winners in the same peloton of Tour heroes," explained Leblanc. "Our new logo opens windows to the future of the race."

For Jean-Marie Leblanc, the doping problem must be considered on its relative importance and nothing more. "We can't put too many rules in sport or we take the risk of killing it," says Leblanc defensively. "The Tour would not be the same any more if we imposed a rest day after every three stages, and we can't have shorter stages either. The Tour must remain an epic."

"Sport cannot be perfect, there are always problems, and it is necessary to learn to live with these," concluded Leblanc.

Courtesy of João Cravo

Vodafone to take over Vuelta sponsorship?

Mobile phone giant Vodafone may well be the successor to Telefonica as the main sponsor of the Vuelta España, according to Het Nieuwsblad. It's already certain that Telefonica will stop its €3 million sponsorship, and race organisers Unipublic are expected to announce the next main sponsor sometime this week.

Verizon Wireless-Cervélo Women's team

The Verizon Wireless-Cervélo Women's Cycling Team has announced its roster for 2003, its fourth season as a women's team. The returning members this year include Julia Farell, who placed 5th at the 2002 Canadian Nationals, as well as Paula McNamara, 9th at the 2001 Liberty Classic. A new addition to the team this year is Sarah Foulkes. Sarah joined at the end of 2002 and immediately showed her promise, riding aggressively in both the San Rafael and Miami PCT events.

Team roster

(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2003)