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Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

First Edition News for March 9, 2003

Edited by Chris Henry

Milaneza pushing for Tour wild-card

By João Cravo

On the eve of Paris-Nice, the Portuguese team Milaneza-MSS is gearing up for its big push for selection to the 2003 Tour de France. Paris-Nice, which is in its second year of ownership by Tour organiser Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), is an important race for teams seeking a wild-card selection. For Milaneza, beyond the obvious sporting importance of the Tour, the fact that Portuguese represent one of the largest foreign communities in France places additional importance on team exposure in the race.

Speaking to Cyclingnews from the team's hotel in Paris, Milaneza's manager Manuel Zeferino offered a clear vision on the subject. "The centennial Tour is a goal we pursue, that's a fact," he said. For the first time, Manuel Zeferino was not guarded in his optimism regarding the Tour. "We are ready to ride the 2003 Tour," he said confidently. "As a team we fear nobody, as we recently gave once again proof of in the Volta ao Algarve and in the Vuelta a Valencia."

Although Jean-Marie Leblanc is not yet entertaining substitutes for Team Coast (see below), Milaneza could conceivably benefit from greater selection odds if Coast's suspension is not lifted by the UCI. "I think that the situation of Coast is difficult and I don't know how could they solve it. " Zeferino noted. "If they are forced to disband, we believe that one of the then five invitations to the 2003 Tour could well be addressed to us."

Milaneza has not been listed frequently among the candidates for a wild-card selection, but Zeferino is undeterred. "That means what it means," he said simply. "Our invitation- if it comes- would be the result of our work on the roads of France (Paris-Nice, Critérium International), Spain (Vuelta a Valencia, Vuelta al Pais Vasco, Vuelta Ciclista a Aragón, Vuelta a Asturias), Switzerland (Tour de Romandie) and Portugal (Volta ao Algarve, GP Mosqueteiros, GP Mitsubishi). We'll work hard to achieve our objectives."

The team's recent victory by Claus-Michael Möller in the Volta ao Algarve, along with a second place by new recruit David Bernabeu in the Vuelta a Valencia, gave a good indication of Milaneza's preparation for the 2003 season. Following these early season successes, Manuel Zeferino is confident for Paris-Nice.

"Our goal is to be top ranked there at the individual and team level," Zeferino said. "We want to ride on the front row like we always do. This is a hard Paris-Nice. With the finish on the mythical Mont Faron and the five climbs of the last stage, this is a race for climbers, and climbers are all we've brought, even if we had to sacrifice Angel Edo."

Zeferino knows the importance of a strong showing this week. "We are fully aware that a good participation in this Paris-Nice can help our cause, although it will not automatically give us a wild-card to the Tour," he acknowledged. "On the other hand, a bad job there can represent the end for us. Möller and Bernabeu are in a really good form, you'll see, and the return of Fabian Jeker gives us more power."

Tour de France waiting on Coast decision

Tour de France director Jean-Marie Leblanc has indicated that he will not make any decisions in the immediate future regarding Team Coast and its participation in the Tour. Currently suspended from competition by the UCI, Team Coast should be able to keep its invitation to the Tour so long as all issues are resolved with the UCI.

"The subject is not of immediate concern for the Tour de France," Leblanc told l'Equipe. "I think the UCI is being vigilant, which protects the riders and assures an equal opportunity among teams."

Ekimov out of Paris-Nice

Viatcheslav Ekimov has decided to sit out Paris-Nice, suffering from a fever on the eve of the prologue. Replacing the Russian will be Max van Heeswijk, second in last weekend's Het Volk behind Johan Museeuw. US Postal's George Hincapie, currently racing in Murcia, was also originally scheduled to ride Paris-Nice, but sinus troubles and a lower than usual early season fitness level prompted a switch to the more relaxed conditions in Spain.

Paris-Nice start list

Surgery for Jo Planckaert

Jo Planckaert (Cofidis) joins the list of riders unable to contest Paris-Nice. Planckaert will undergo surgery following an intestinal virus and stomach problems which warrant an operation. This setback will likely affect the Belgian's participation in the spring classics.

Gonzalez back in winning form

Aitor Gonzalez has wasted little time in securing his first victory in Fassa Bortolo colours. Gonzalez was granted permission to race for the Italian team on February 28, following a lengthy dispute between Fassa Bortolo and Domina Vacanze-Elitron. Gonzalez had reportedly signed a contract with Domina Vacanze manager Vincenzo Santoni prior to his Vuelta a España win, while later signing an agreement with Fassa Bortolo's Giancarlo Ferretti. A UCI arbitrator ultimately concluded that the contract with Fassa Bortolo was valid and permitted Gonzalez to begin racing in his new team colours at the end of February.

Gonzalez claimed his first win of the new season Saturday at the 58th Giro della Provincia di Reggio Calabria. The Spaniard won the 198km race after an escape with Paolo Tiralongo (Ceramiche Panaria - Fiordo) launched with 20km to go. Tiralongo was swept up by the chase group at the finish, but Gonzalez managed to hold the chasers at bay. Gonzalez's Fassa Bortolo teammate Filippo Pozzato took the bunch sprint for second.

Steels picks his battles

Belgian Tom Steels has decided not to race the World Cup events Milan-San Remo and the Tour of Flanders. Steels, who moved from Mapei to Landbouwkrediet-Colnago this season, considers the events too long and difficult, and will focus on shorter events such as Gent-Wevelgem. Though he won the Belgian national championships, Steels was out of the action for much of 2002, suffering from a persistent virus and fatigue.


Olympic cyclist killed in Vuelta de las Americas

The 13th stage of the Vuelta de las Americas in Mexico was cancelled after the death of one of the workers. César Muciño Arvizu (31), a past member of the Mexican Olympic team, died when he was struck by a bus while working to prepare the finish line for the arrival of the race. His father Luis Muciño and two other workers were also hit, however none of them were seriously injured.

A spokesman for the race, Luis Escobar, said that "The vehicle was traveling too fast, according to the information that we have been able to collect."

César Muciño Arvizu rode for Mexico in the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain. A mass was held in his honour on Friday evening in Mexico City.

The Vuelta de las Americas peloton rode the distance of the 13th stage, but did not contest any of the intermediate sprints or the finish.

U.S. Proposes additional supplement standards

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed Friday new standards for the production of vitamins and dietary supplements. Increasing cases of impurities and inconsistencies have prompted additional scrutiny over the supplement industry, according to a Reuters report. The goal is to move away from the 'buyer beware' mentality that currently pervades in the industry.

The FDA is to begin inspecting companies to ensure accurate labeling of their products and eliminate contamination. New rules on the production of these products are expected to be finalised next year. Currently, the FDA does not require supplement manufacturers to provide proof that their products are safe before they hit the market.

According to some critics, the new rules will not assure the safety of supplements either, "only that they do not contain dangerous impurities and the dosage amounts promised on the label," said Bruce Silverglade, legal affairs director for the consumer group Center for Science in the Public Interest.

The FDA will take public comment on its new rules for 90 days. Once the rules are finalised, some companies would have up to three years to comply with the new regulations.

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