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Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

News for May 5, 2002

Edited by Jeff Jones

A case for Coast

Alex Zulle
Photo: © AFP
Click for larger image

Comment by Jeff Jones

After the announcement last Thursday of the five remaining wild cards for this year's Tour de France, it is not too late for the Tour de France organisers to consider an 22nd team for the race. At the time, Jean-Marie Leblanc left the door open for Marco Pantani and is Mercatone Uno team, should he win the Giro d'Italia. He may have been joking, as Pantani has about as much chance of winning the next Giro as he does of winning the Tour de Romandie, which he is not actually riding.

The Tour accommodated an extra team last year, increasing the number from 20 to 21 without causing any catastrophes. Perhaps they should keep that slot open for a team that has performed consistently this year, and is currently ranked in 10th place in Division I, ahead of all of the other teams that were given wild card selections. That team is the German/Spanish Team Coast, which has (amongst other riders) an in-form Alex Zülle, the Swiss rider who has finished second in the Tour de France on two occasions, and has won two stages.

Today Zülle showed strong signs of his former best, when he sprinted to victory in the snow covered mountain top finish at Leysin, in stage 4 of the Tour de Romandie. Zülle would possibly have the overall lead now, were it not for a crash in stage 1. Zülle also won the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana in February, and would surely give it his best shot if invited to the Tour de France.

Team Coast has other talented riders, including sprinter Thorsten Wilhelms, who has won several races already this year, and is back in form after breaking his shoulder blade in the Volta ao Algarve. Then there are experienced Tour campaigners Manuel Beltran and Fernando Escartin, as well as Danes Frank Hoj and Lars Michaelsen, and of course the 2001 Vuelta España winner Angel Casero.

Casero, who will miss the upcoming Giro due to a knee operation, said after the announcement that "I am disappointed at not going to the Tour, because after the operation and having to forego the Giro I really wanted to participate in the Tour. But they have thought more of the French, the patriotism, than in the spectacle."

Team director Juan Fernandez said that although he respected the decision, he did not consider it just, "...since in that race 22 teams are perfectly acceptable. The Tour reserves the right to invite whoever they want and I accept that. What we have to do is to work to gain that position without needing to depend on invitations. They had to act within their political and sporting criteria."

Fernandez proposed that there should be 25 teams of eight riders, with the option of changing one of them in the first week in case of injury (now that's novel).

It's true that the Sociètè does not select its teams on the basis of sporting performance, and there are good cases for each of the teams that were selected this year. However, Team Coast hasn't really done anything wrong this year, and would more than likely repay the organisers' faith.

Rabobank team for the Giro

Theo de Rooij has selected six Dutchmen, one Australian, Belgian and German to ride in the Giro d'Italia for Rabobank. The race starts this year in the Netherlands, with a prologue in Groningen, and Rabobank is the only Dutch team taking part. The nine riders are: Michael Boogerd, Jan Boven, Marc Lotz, Addy Engels, Steven de Jongh, Thorwald Veneberg, Geert Verheyen (Bel), Mathew Hayman (Aus) and Grischa Niermann (Ger).

Dutch not sure about broadcasting the Giro

Dutch NOS TV have not yet decided whether to broadcast the Giro d'Italia, which starts next Saturday in Groningen in the Netherlands. The reason being is that the cost of purchasing the rights from sender RAI could be too high. According to a spokeswoman for NOS (as quoted in Algemeen Dagblad), it is "not unusual" to negotiate about broadcasting an event this close to the starting date.

"Sometimes it's decided on the day that it begins," said the spokeswoman, who did not say how much it would cost to broadcast the Giro.

2001 Tour declared 'doping free'

The Conseil de Prevention et Lutte contre le Dopage (CPLD) has declared that the 2001 Tour de France was free from doping, after analysing the results of the drug tests carried out during the Tour. Last year just after the Tour, CPLD president Boyon caused a minor furore when he said that there were 43 instances of forbidden products found in rider samples. However - months after the Tour finished - it seems as though this has been discounted.

Hematocrit too high for Italian elite rider

An Italian elite rider, Maurizio La Sorella (Reda Mulinari), has been told to rest for two weeks after returning too high a hematocrit level before the start of the second stage of the Giro d'Abruzzo for elite/U23 riders. The FCI visited riders at 6:40am this morning, carrying out controls on 76 riders (four from each of the 19 teams).

Stages for U23 Giro d'Italia

  • Stage 1 - June 15: Marsciano - Marsciano, 144 km
  • Stage 2 - June 16: Arezzo - Arezzo, 155 km
  • Stage 3 - June 17: : Arezzo - Umbertide, 155 km
  • Stage 4 - June 18: : Umbertide - Civitanova Marche, 169 km
  • Stage 5 - June 19: Porto Sant´Elpidio - Monte San Vito, 149 km
  • Stage 6 - June 20: Monte San Vito - San Leo, 160 km
  • Stage 7a - June 21: Alonte Circuit, 76 km
  • Stage 7b - June 21: Strà - Strà, 56 km
  • Stage 8 - June 22: Camponogara - Fossy ITT, 25 km
  • Stage 9 - June 23: Mira - Mira, 137 km

Troubles for Kelme

Spanish team Kelme is reportedly having financial problems early in the season, with riders only very recently being paid their salaries for March. There have been negotiations with the city of Valencia to possibly take over the team, with no outcome so far. That might explain why the Kelme team are racing so hard in Romandie, in order to try and win some prize money.

Van der Kooij injured

BankGiroLoterij's Vincent van der Kooij has to take a few weeks off training due to a knee injury, which he aggravated during last week's Amstel Gold Race. Van der Kooij currently has his knee in plaster. Team leader Johan Capiot said that anti-inflammatories did not help last week, and he will be out for longer. "Now Pieter Vries is back from an injury we have enough room to give him the rest," said Capiot.

NORBA Nationals round 1 preview

Maybe the stars-and-stripes jersey will finally make people show some respect for Kirk Molday when he lines up for the Chevy Trucks NORBA Nationals opener at Snow Summit, Calif. on May 10.

Last year Molday delivered a stunning victory at Snow Summit. His victory, a repeat of the previous season's shocker, made many take notice, especially his team Santa Cruz/Sun Race team directors.

"Nobody figured I had a hope. Now I've won it two years in the row," said Molday, quietly confident of his abilities to pull of another good ride.

With that opening victory, Molday rode consistently throughout the season to score the overall national title, determined by the five-race Chevy Trucks NORBA National Championship Mountain Bike Series. The series has been a showcase for international stars in recent years. Indeed, Molday was the only American last season to win a pro men's cross-country race in America's national series.

"Everybody is looking at Roland Green (Trek/Volkswagen), Ryder Hesjedal (Subaru/Gary Fisher) and the Canadians," said Molday, noting Victoria, B.C., is the current factory for mountain bike stars, much the way Durango did in the early 1990s. Currently few U.S. riders can threaten the Canadians and Europeans. "There's some strong (American) riders. Jeremy (Horgan-Kobelski) and Todd (Wells) seem to be the up and comers."

Wells started the 2001 season riding for a shop sponsor, Broadway Bicycles, scored a contract with Mongoose/Hyundai. With his mountain bike fitness, he followed Gullickson on to the SuperCup cyclocross circuit initially in a supporting role. He capped off the season winning the U.S. National Cyclocross Championships in Baltimore, his greatest result ever.

So what to expect in Snow Summit? Don't count out 30-year-old Molday.

"The long climbs really suit me and the wide open downhills. The way the start is, you can out a bit slower than most races," said Molday, noting he won last year's race with a strong second half. "Somebody has the courage not to go out too hard."

It should be pointed out that Molday has dual Canadian/USA citizenship, as he grew up in Vancouver, B.C. He has represented Canada in the World Championships but now resides in Southern California.

The only mishap in his off-season was a broken wrist, suffered in his first (and last) attempt at snowboarding. "I've been preparing for this race. My sponsors are really focusing on the NORBA series," said Molday. "I feel fairly confident that I can be one of the best Americans again."