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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

First Edition News for May 10, 2003

Edited by Chris Henry

Coast/Ullrich saga continues

Ullrich disappointed

Not out of the woods yet
Photo: © AFP
Click for larger image

Following the latest suspension of Team Coast, Jan Ullrich and his directeur sportif Rudy Pevenage have each expressed their discontent with the situation. "I'm very disappointed with [Coast owner] Mr. Dahms," Ullrich commented. Pevenage, who indicated already that he would seek offers from other teams, including Quick.Step-Davitamon, added that "Ullrich's career will go on; we won't sit by and do nothing."

Italian bicycle maker Bianchi, which stepped in to help secure Ullrich's contract on the eve of his return to racing at the Circuit de la Sarthe, remains a possible source of salvation for the team. Bianchi appears prepared to take over the team if Coast were to step aside (or be forced aside), or almost certainly assume a greater role as co-sponsor.

"Whilst striving to find a settlement to all the problems, [Tony Grimaldi, President of Cycleurope, and Davide Brambilla, Vice-president of Bianchi International] are looking for a project securing the participation in the forthcoming events of the season for Jan Ullrich and Team Coast," said Bianchi marketing manager Stefano Vigano Friday in a written statement.

The situation is once again quite serious for Coast, which even before the initial suspension was considered to be on shaky ground. "We're asking Team Coast to provide bank guarantees for the whole year, and not simply for the current month," said the UCI's Alain Rumpf. "If Dahms can't provide them, the team will remain suspended. It has not yet been decided whether Coast will lose its right to participate in the Tour de France. We'll wait to see what they present to us."

Questions for the Tour

Tour de France director Jean-Marie Leblanc remains supportive of the riders of Team Coast, particularly former Tour de France winner Jan Ullrich. "It's unfortunate for Ullrich," Leblanc told l'Equipe. "He has done his part to get back on track, and it's the team structure that is crashing down around him."

With the UCI already hinting that Coast's participation in the Tour de France is not a sure bet, the Tour organisers have begun to contemplate the ramifications, and an additional berth that might become available on the eve of the final four team selections.

"This will complicate matters for the organisers of the Tour," Leblanc said in the Spanish daily Marca, referring to a possible situation in which Coast could either be prohibited from competing by the UCI, or the Tour de France could take its own actions. "Technically, Coast earned its spot in the Tour without Ullrich. We'll have to follow the recommendations of the UCI."

Among the teams interested in signing Ullrich is the Swiss Phonak formation, which is also anxiously awaiting the verdict on the final wild card selections for the Tour. If Phonak were to sign Ullrich, the team's place in the Tour would be virtually assured, although the fact that the team is interested only in Ullrich, and not his entourage (including Pevenage and Tobias Steinhauser), could complicate the bid. To date, Ullrich's support group has been an integral component of all contract discussions.

Cofidis back in the fray

In the latter stages of Ullrich's initial search for a new contract this year, the French Cofidis team made some indication of its interest in the German. Now that Ullrich may be back on the market, the team is once again throwing its hat in the ring of potential suitors, although as with most teams, the question of the necessary finances remains.

"This morning Cofidis owner François Migraine asked me to see if it would be possible to sign Jan Ullrich," Bondue said Friday in an interview with Reuters. "I'm still asking questions. Does Jan Ullrich want to leave Coast to join Cofidis?"

Cofidis appears to be in a similar frame of mind as Phonak: interested in Ullrich but less so in his companions. "Who does he really want at his side?" Cofidis manager Alain Bondue wondered, "knowing that we already have who we need concerning directors and team members."

Team Telekom is also reported to have 'left the door open' for Ullrich, although the same cannot be said of directeur sportif Pevenage. The Quick.Step, CSC, and teams round out the list of potential options for Ullrich, although no deals appear to be imminent.

Tossatto will start Giro

Despite his injuries, Italian Matteo Tosatto will start the Giro d'Italia Saturday in Lecce. Tosatto crashed heavily in training this week, but has decided along with his team doctor that he will not miss the occasion to start the Giro. The Fassa Bortolo rider is a key component of Alessandro Petacchi's leadout train in the bunch sprints, and himself wore the maglia rosa in the 2000 Giro.

Klemencic is out

Tenax sprinter Zoran Klemencic will be forced to withdraw from the Giro, having fractured his hand in a training accident. Klemencic underwent surgery, and will be out of racing until August, according to Tenax directeur sportif Mario Chiesa. The Slovenian sprinter will be replaced by 24 year old Crescenzo d'Amore, himself a promising finisher.


Corti confident

Saeco team manager Claudio Corti is brimming with confidence on the eve of the Giro d'Italia. With team leader and 2001 Giro winner Gilberto Simoni in good form, and a highly motivated team coming off of several successes in the spring classics, Corti rates his chances fairly high.

"The [early season] results are thanks to hard work and organisation which we always knew would pay off," Corti explained. "We had some difficult moments last year when everything seemed to be going against us but we refused to give up and all the team continued to work hard with an impressive enthusiasm and determination."

Simoni is a heavy favourite going into the first grand tour of the season, and the team is aligned completely behind a single leader. As a result, former Giro stage winner Ivan Quaranta has been left off the team. Corti defends his decision to focus on Simoni's GC chances, at the expense of possible stage victories with Quaranta.

"We've got a priority and that forces us to make what are sometimes difficult choices," he said. "We've got some regrets about not having Quaranta at the Giro but we're also convinced of our decision. It's also important to note that Quaranta hasn't yet reached a satisfactory level of form or results. He needs more time to get used to our way of doing things. However Ivan will have a chance at the Tour de France."

Saeco is scheduled to ride all three grand tours this season, something Corti notes with pride, but also with the explanation that he must use his riders wisely and sparingly. For his part, Gilberto Simoni remains confident that the Giro/Tour double will not pose an undue burden.

"I'm so motivated I could race the Giro and the Tour for three consecutive seasons," he boasted. "Last year we were unjustly left our of the Tour de France. When we go back this year, we're determined to leave our mark. Armstrong is obviously the big favourite but as I've already said, I've got a lot of respect for him but I'm ready to take him on without being frightened of him, especially if I'm as strong and as fit as I am now."

A sign for helmet removal

Riders who await any opportunity to remove their helmets in competition will be looking for a new sign at the side of the road in this year's Giro d'Italia. Per UCI regulations, riders may remove their helmets in races which finish at the summit of a climb of at least 5km, a concession offered to those who opposed mandatory helmet use of helmets, particularly in the heat of a mountaintop finish.

As the new rules have gone into effect, riders can now look for a sign featuring a crossed out helmet, which will denote the point after which helmets may be removed without sanction. In the Giro, these signs will be seen on the final climbs of stages 7, 12, 14, 18, and 19.

Team Ringerike adds Joachim Bøhler

By Jean-François Quénet

Photo: © Jean-François Quénet
Click for larger image

Known in the past for his mountain-bikes abilities, Joachim Bøhler, 23, will make his debut as a professional road rider this month for Team Ringerike. He was sent by the Norwegian pro team in his French reserve Nantes 44 for the first part of the season and showed that he was afraid of nothing in the bunch sprints, coming 6th in the Tour de St-Ciers and 5th in a stage of the Tour de Loir-et-Cher. He was also very aggressive during the recent Ringerike Grand Prix at home.

That's where he definitely proved to directeur sportif Øyvind Lillehagen that he could earn his place in the pro squad. There was a need for one more rider to the roster since Christopher Myhre was hit by a truck one day before the Ringerike Grand Prix. He's recovering well but will have to wait for another five weeks until being able to go back on his bike. Gabriel Rasch was also injured during the race and still has a painful knee and the foreigners in the team, Jonathan Dayus from England, winner of the queen stage of RGP, Simon Gerrans from Australia and Mattias Carlsson from Sweden are all sick. A situation that forced Team Ringerike to pull out of Tour de la Manche this week.

Their next race, with Bøhler on the start line, will be the Estonian cycling week-end that includes two 1.3 races in May 23rd-25th. Therefore, Bøhler will race against his former room-mate in Nantes Tarmo Raudsepp who is leading the new generation of Estonian riders inspired by their master Jaan Kirsipuu.

Bear Mountain Spring Classic

A fixture on the New York racing scene, the Bear Mountain Spring Classic on Sunday, May 11 features one of its best fields ever on the classic course at Harriman State Park. Participants in the 98 mile men's race include past race winners Nat Faulkner and Bill Innes of LeMond Fitness/Captain Cra-Z Soap and the Navigators Cycling Team, with Russian Olympian Vassili Davidenko and multiple Canadian national champion Mark Walters.

Also racing are two recent winners of the Univest Grand Prix: Alex Lavallée of Canada's Équipe Volkswagen Trek and Todd Herriott of the Health Net Pro Cycling Team. The 56 mile women's race features former winner Lori Hewig of the Capital Bicycle Racing Club.

The event is promoted the Century Road Club Association (CRCA), which was established in 1898 and is one of the largest bike racing clubs in the United States. Race details are available at

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