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Latest News for March 17, 2003

Edited by Jeff Jones & Chris Henry

Vinokourov reflects

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Alexandre Vinokourov fulfilled his mission on Sunday of winning Paris-Nice, in memory of his departed friend Andrei Kivilev. Since the news of Kivilev's death, Vinokourov vowed to win the race for Andrei, the best tribute he could pay. In an interview with l'Equipe, the leader of the peloton's Kazakh contingent reflected on how much the race meant to him.

"Andrei wanted to win this race," Vinokourov said, "So the least I could do for him was win a stage. At the time I wasn't thinking about the overall. Last year he was so happy when I won Paris-Nice, even if he had also set it as an objective. That night, we celebrated together."

Vinokourov had spoken to Kivilev during the stage to Saint Etienne, and had noticed that Kivilev was not having a good day. "He didn't stop telling me that there was a good chance he would abandon and wouldn't leave Saint Etienne," Vinokourov said. "I tried to boost his morale, telling him he had to make it all the way to Nice, at a minimum for his appointment [with a banker for a loan] the next day...He wanted to build a house near Nice, and he was move at the end of the year. He was the last of the Kazakhs who wasn't living on the Côte d'Azur. We were supposed to all be together. But, since Wednesday, that's all that's been in my head, what Andrei said about stopping in Saint Etienne."

Vinokourov now accepts the responsibility of keeping the Kazakh family together in France. "I can no longer return to Kazakhstan permanently, as I had planned," he explained. "His wife and son are here, they're going to live in France. I have to take care of them, it's my role."

Vinokourov has little doubt that the tragic events of the week gave him the force required to win the race. Describing the critical stage to the summit of Mont Faron, Vinokourov acknowledged that he had more strength than he might have had otherwise.

"I've never been as motivated as during that stage," he said. "Plus, his force was with me. I spoke to him throughout the entire climb. Since Wednesday I've spoken to him non-stop. I never stopped saying, 'Kivi, I'm going to win this race! I'm going to win for you! And Monday I'm going to bring you this yellow jersey to lay by your side in your coffin.' This yellow jersey will make him very happy."

Hamilton satisfied with season debut

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American Tyler Hamilton (Team CSC) came away from Paris-Nice with the polka dotted mountains jersey, two top three stage placings, and a 101 kilometre solo breakaway in one of the toughest stages. It was his first race in seven months, and he declared himself to be satisfied with the result.

"The mountain jersey was a nice souvenir to bring home," said Hamilton on CSC's website. "The team put up a great fight to pave the way for me at Col d'Eze. In the finish, my legs felt too heavy for me to compete up front but that does not surprise me with yesterday's breakaway in mind. After the problems on the first mountain stage, I have made progress every day we have been on the road. Looking at it from that perspective, I am quite happy."

Team director Bjarne Riis added that, "The race has been a mixed experience but overall we can be satisfied. We aspired for more but Tyler had an off day in Saint-Etienne and that ruined our chances in the overall competition. But we made ourselves noticed on several stages and finished in good positions on a few occasions."

Vandenbroucke as well

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Frank Vandenbroucke (Quick.Step-Davitamon) was another rider who acquitted himself well in Paris-Nice. He obtained a fourth place in the stage 4 time trial and a managed a few other long breakaway rides, although he stopped halfway through the last stage.

"This is better than I had expected," he told Het Nieuwsblad. "I have gained a lot of self confidence. I am ten percent better than in the Omloop [Het Volk], where I was at eighty percent. The fourth place in the time trial was a new benchmark. It's been a long time since I could do that."

"I'm a bit tired, but I will leave Nice with confidence for the classics. I have gained power for the typical climbs that we will soon see. I will be super for the one day races."

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Outrage at Kivilev autopsy

The riders in Paris-Nice were outraged at the news that an autopsy was performed on the body of Andrei Kivilev, who died last week as a result of an accident during the race. According to an official statement, the autopsy had to be carried out because the accident occurred on a public road, but some believed that it was because the French justice department was looking for forbidden products.

Kivilev's teammate Nico Mattan was furious, saying that "Maybe they can also search the offices of Cofidis!". The French riders responded with an open letter: "Why does a cyclist get treated differently to other people after death?"

Whatever the reason, everyone was certain that the autopsy would not unveil any new facts as to Andrei Kivilev's death, which was due to head injuries sustained when he struck the pavement. Kivilev will be buried today at 14:30 in Sorbiers.

Mori expelled from T-A

Italian rider Massimiliano Mori (Formaggi Pinzolo Fiave) has been thrown out of Tirreno-Adriatico today after trying to avoid an anti-doping control on Sunday night. The UCI carried out health checks on several teams, including Formaggi Pinzolo Fiave, on Sunday morning, with all riders being cleared to race. Later that day, the UCI's anti-doping inspectors wanted to test Mori again, but he tried to mislead them, an offence according to the rules.

Formaggi Pinzolo Fiave assistant directeur sportif Gabriele Di Francesco was also expelled from the race, and it's likely he and Mori will received heavier sanctions.

Peloton still not talking to RAI TV

The riders taking part in Tirreno-Adriatico are still not willing to give interviews with RAI TV, in protest of the fact that RAI is not broadcasting the race live on free-to-air television. The protest has been in effect during the entire race, and the representatives from Italian Rider's Association will meet later this week to discuss further action.

In the meantime, RAI has been restricted to filming the post-race press conference, with popular field reporter Alessandra Di Stefano, looking a little nonplussed as she does the introductions.

Quick.Step still interested in Ullrich

Quick.Step-Davitamon is one of several teams interested in signing Jan Ullrich, who may leave Team Coast if its financial problems are not sorted out soon. Team director Patrick Lefevere told Het Nieuwsblad that he spoke with his sponsors, Frans Decock (Quick.Step), Marc Coucke (Davitamon) and Luc Maes (Latexco) on Saturday, and they will decide by tomorrow how much extra money they could afford to sign a potentially free Ullrich. "By the end of this week, I want to have some definites," he said.

Ullrich's contract with Coast was reported to be around €6 million for three years, including his entourage.

Lotto-Domo for Milan-San Remo

The Lotto-Domo team has named its likely team for this Saturday's Milan-San Remo, the first round of the World Cup. Led by Robbie McEwen and Peter Van Petegem, the team includes Rik Verbrugghe, Christophe Brandt, Hans De Clercq, Wim Vansevenant, Koos Moerenhout, Leon van Bon and probably Aart Vierhouten.

Quick.Step-Davitamon for Milan-San Remo

There is no secret about the fact that Paolo Bettini will be the Quick.Step-Davitamon leader for Milan-San Remo. He will be supported by Davide Bramati, Frank Vandenbroucke, Richard Virenque, Luca Paolini, Tom Boonen and Johan Museeuw, who has been persuaded to ride. The remaining spots will be decided from Wilfried Cretskens, Michael Rogers, Andrei Kashechkin, David Caña and Servais Knaven.

De Backer extends as Belgian cycling chairman

Laurent De Backer has been re-elected as the chairman of the Belgian cycling federation (KBWB) for the next four years. The decision was made at the federation's annual general meeting in Vilvoorde last Saturday. The federation also reported a surplus of approximately €345,000 for the 2002 financial year.

Fränk Hofer elected Swiss cycling president

The new president of the Swiss Cycling Federation is 37 year old Fränk Hofer, who was elected last Saturday at a delegate's meeting in Emmenbrücke. Hofer received 136 votes in the final ballot, 25 more than the other candidate, Kurt Küng. Hofer will serve a three year term, succeeding Andreas Wild, who did not make it past the first ballot. Wild took over from the previous president Fritz Bösch last August.

The Swiss Cycling Federation is not in the same financial shape as the Belgian federation, recording a SFR93,000 (€63,000) deficit in the last financial year. The association is now in debt to the tune of SFR1.24 million (€840,000), despite a SFR250,000 donation from Fritz Bösch and a loan for a similar amount from Swiss Olympic.

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