Latest News for March 6, 2003
Edited by Chris Henry
Tour to NYC in 2005?
While the Tour de France has often made incursions on foreign soil, either for the "grand départ" or selected stages, the race has never left Europe. That could change if a plan to take the race to New York comes to fruition. The Outdoor Life Network (OLN), which broadcasts the Tour de France in the United States, has put forth a plan to take the 2005 Tour start to New York.
"We'd love it," said Roger Williams, president and chief executive officer of OLN. "It's a win for everybody," he told Darren Tulett of Bloomberg News in Paris.
The idea, which OLN noted is in its earliest phase, could feature stages through Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. before a return to France. The Société du Tour de France, which this year celebrates the 100th anniversary of the race, has welcomed the idea of expanding its global reach.
"Professional cycling is becoming ever more global, and the Tour de France is the sport's flagship,'' said Tour director Jean-Marie Leblanc. "When cities like New York show an interest, it shows how big the race has become."
Leblanc may be interested, but the logistical hurdles to transferring the world's biggest bike race across an ocean are substantial. "We have to see if all the complications would be countered by the publicity gained by going to New York," Leblanc cautioned. "Sporting interests must be put before financial interests."
So far, the mayor of New York appears interested in pursuing the idea. "We would be delighted to discuss the possibility of New York City hosting any stage of the Tour de France," said Jennifer Falk, a spokeswoman for Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
American Lance Armstrong, who will challenge for his fifth consecutive Tour win this summer, is equally enthusiastic about the idea. "Why not bring one of the world's greatest sporting events to arguably the world's greatest city?" Armstrong asked. "I hope they do it, and in a hurry, before I retire."
Armstrong pleased with Murcia debut
Lance Armstrong, pleased to be returning to competition at the Vuelta a Murcia expressed satisfaction with his early season preparation and level of fitness. "Since my return to Spain, I've had some tests which indicate that my weight, muscle mass, and body fat levels are about equal to April of last year," Armstrong told l'Equipe. "That's a good sign, even if I don't attach too much importance to it."
The Texan has said, along with his director Johan Bruyneel, that he has trained harder than ever this winter. Nonetheless, his ambitions are modest in this week's race. "I feel good on the bike, but there's no doubt I'm waiting for a butt-kicking this week," he joked. "The rhythm of racing is completely different than in training. Anyway, I'm not going to kill myself on the climbs. I've got time... I've got plenty of time."
Steinweg convicted on drug charges
By Karen Forman in Melbourne
Barcelona Olympic gold medallist and former world madison champion Stefan Steinweg has found himself out of a race, out of pocket - and possibly facing action from Australian, German and world cycling bodies - after being convicted of importing prohibited substances into Australia last month.
The 33 year old, Down Under to contest Sunday's Bendigo Madison, appeared in Victoria's Broadmeadows Court today where he was convicted on two counts under the Customs Act for bringing steroids and growth hormones into Australia.
He was formally charged after Customs officials searched him on his arrival at Melbourne International Airport on February 12 and found several types of testosterone (steroids) and six vials of growth hormones in his possession. The court today fined Steinweg $700 and ordered him to pay court costs of $661.
Sadly for him, he will not get to ride the event he came to Australia for, as organisers pulled him out after hearing of his arrest. Spokesman Rick McCaig said today that as soon as organisers had heard about the arrest, they had decided not to use him. "We told him, 'you did the wrong thing; we can't use you,'" McCaig said.
"We decided to take a stand and not be seen to supporting someone who did the wrong thing. Cycling gets enough bad publicity as it is and we wanted to make sure we did the right thing for the sport."
Steinweg's madison partner Erik Weispfenning - with whom he won the Australian Madison Championship at Melbourne's Vodafone Arena in October - will now ride Sunday night's event with Darren Young from Tasmania.
It is not known whether cycling bodies will take action against Steinweg, who is believed to be staying in Bendigo with his Australian girlfriend. McCaig said he had talked to the rider since and he had appeared to be "very remorseful, but accepting the consequences of what he did."
A senior cycling spokesman said he did not think Australian Cycling could fine him, as the charges did not relate directly to his own performance in the sport. However, it was possible he might find himself not so welcome at Australian events for a time, he said.
"Perhaps he might be cautioned, and the German cycling body may discipline him. I guess we will see what happens after today's court appearance."
Ullrich to take Swiss license
Jan Ullrich (team Coast), who will be eligible for competition on March 23 following his doping suspension, will plan to race with a Swiss racing license. Ullrich moved to Switzerland in November, and as a result is required to take out a Swiss license, although he will continue to undergo doping controls through the German federation.
However, for Ullrich to receive his new license, his contract with Team Coast must be presented to the UCI and the Swiss cycling federation. At this point, Coast has not signed its formal contract with Ullrich, though the team maintains that this is routine and not indicative of any financial troubles.
Team Coast has come under increased scrutiny from the UCI over its payment of riders, and reported non-payment of some riders last season. This week the UCI indicated that there has been no cause for serious concern. However, once Ullrich's contract is signed, Team Coast will likely be required to increase its deposit with the UCI, given the substantial value of the former Tour de France winner's salary.
Tafi confident for Flanders
Following a Tuesday training ride on the Tour of Flanders parcours, defending champion Andrea Tafi (Team CSC) has expressed confidence one month before the big event. With respect to last year's parcours, Tafi noted that "from the Oude-Kwaremont (km 177) onward, there will not be one moment to rest."
Speaking to La Gazzetta dello Sport's Mino Minoliti, Tafi predicted that changes to the parcours could produce an exceedingly tough second half of the race. "Before there were some false flats and moments to recover. Now the continual up and down will bring a lot of stress to the race, besides the physical suffering."
Tafi added that one of the three new climbs, the Foreest (km 211), could be particularly decisive. "The Foreest will be very important," he explained. "It's a pretty long climb. If you have good legs you could make an important selection. Otherwise, you might pay for it."
Tafi added that he loves the race, and is looking forward to defending his title. The Italian veteran's early season preparation has gone well, following a start at the Tour Down Under in Australia.
Status quo for Pantani
Marco Pantani continues to wait eagerly for the decision of the CAS (Court of Arbitration for Sport) regarding his suspension. The secretary general of CAS, attending the world anti-doping conference in Copenhagen, is reported to know the verdict in Pantani's case. Assuming the members of the CAS have reached their decision, the answer could be announced within the next few days. Pantani remains hopeful that even if the UCI does uphold his suspension, it will not exceed six months, and he would be able to return to competition in April.
Cipo at Festival di Sanremo
World champion Mario Cipollini was presented on stage at the famous Festival di Sanremo, alongside Pippo Baudo. The elegant Cipollini, clad in his trademark 'smoking' (tuxedo), thrilled the crowd and bantered with Baudo, explaining that he looks forward to the World Cup Opener, Milano-Sanremo. "It's always been a great race in the tradition of cycling," he said.
Cipollini will continue his preparation for defense of his Sanremo title at Tirreno-Adriatico. The world champion, along with many Italian cycling fans, is disappointed that the "corsa dei due Mari" will only be broadcast on RAI's satellite television network.
SA Cycling looks to Group B World's
South Africa’s leading young women cyclists could be on their way to the UCI Group B World Championships, to be held in Aigle,Switzerland from July 5-9. Increasing its efforts to promote interest and participation among young women at the elite road and track levels, the South African Cycling Federation (SACF) has placed added emphasis on the Group B World Championships.
"The SACF has decided to evaluate the performances of our country's up and coming elite ladies at the national track championships in Bellville next month and road races between now and the end of April before a final decision on participation at the Group B World Championships in made," explained SACF CEO Sylvia Dale.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2003)