News for May 6, 2000

Death of a legend

Gino Bartali & Fausto Coppi
Photo: © AFP

Cycling legend Gino Bartali (85) died of a heart attack at his home today in Ponte a Ema, near Florence. The dual Tour de France (1938 and 1948) and triple Giro d'Italia winner (1936, 1937 and 1946) was at his best in the 30's in 40's, finishing his career in 1954 after a fall. Amongst his 186 career victories, he won 12 stages in the Tour de France, four Milan-San Remos (1939, 1940, 1947, and 1950) and three Tours of Lombardy (1936, 1939, 1940). However, he never managed to win the World Championships, despite contesting it seven times.

Bartali was born in 1914, turning professional at age 21 with the Aquila team after he won the Italian championships in 1935. Success in the Giro came a year later when he won it for the first time, but his greatest race was arguably in 1949 when he came second to Fausto Coppi after an epic battle in the mountains and on the flats. Although not built like a mountain goat, Bartali was still up to the task in the hills and was able to make up for any lost time later using his great strength and sprinting abilities.

He died peacefully according to his family, after being quite ill for the past few months.

The organisation of the Giro d'Italia immediately decided to dedicate one of this year's stages to the memory of Bartali. The Tuscan stage from Prato to Abetone (May 22) will be also known as the Gino Bartali memorial stage.

Spinelli-Farm Frites update

Yesterday it was reported that Dutch team Farm Frites has signed young US rider, Justin Spinelli, possibly as a reserve for the Giro. However, Spinelli is currently part of the Mercury U23 team and they have not let him go just yet. Negotiations are still underway, and Farm Frites are very interested in obtaining him on the proviso that Mercury sign a release.

The team has also made a change to their Giro starting lineup, with team manager Teun van Vliet withdrawing Jans Koerts to put him in the Peace Race. Koerts wanted to start in the Giro, but Van Vliet was adamant: "I prefer that Koerts starts in the Peace Race, because he has more chances for stage victories in that tour".

Indeed, Koerts was on the attack for much of stage one today, although he didn't manage the win.

The Farm Frites selection for the Giro is: Robbie McEwen, Koos Moerenhout, Miquel van Kessel, Pieter Vries, Martin van Steen, Remco van der Ven, Wim Vansevenant and Michel Lafis.

Their Peace Race team is: Sergei Ivanov, Gerben Lowik, Bram Schmitz, Steven Kleynen, Jans Koerts and Guennadi Mikhailov.

Freire, Pucinskaite head best ever First Union field

By John Alsedek, correspondent

Reigning World Road Champions Oscar Freire (Mapei) and Edita Pucinskaite (Acca Due O) are just two of the featured riders in what look to be the deepest and most balanced fields to compete in the First Union Cycling Series. The series, which began with the CoreStates U.S. Professional Championship in Philadelphia back in 1985, has grown into the largest and most important racing event in the United States, and has drawn the likes of Johan Museeuw, Laurent Jalabert, and Jeannie Longo to race in North America.

While the actual rosters are still being decided, the men's field of 18 teams includes a record five Division 1 entries: Freire's Mapei squad, plus Saeco-Valli&Valli (with Italian Champion and '99 Tour stage winner Salvatore Commesso), Festina, Memory Card-Jack&Jones, and the U.S. Postal Service team. The field is rounded out by eight other domestic teams, including up-and-comer Mercury, plus Alexia Alluminio (Italy), Jet Fuel Coffee (Canada), and Poland's Mroz and Mat-Ceresit. There is one more foreign entry that is currently being negotiated.

If the men's field looks good, that of the women looks even better, as Pucinskaite is only one of a bevy of top female competitors. Besides her and '98 World Road Champion Diana Ziliute, both of whom ride for the Acca Due O squad, there are the likes of women's World Cup winner Anna Wilson (Saturn), her teammate and defending Liberty Cup winner, Petra Rossner, and current U.S. Road Champion Mari Holden (Timex).

In addition, there are national team entries from Canada, Germany, Great Britain, the Netherlands, and the U.S.. Seven other U.S. squads, including and Charles Schwab; the Italian Gas Sports Jeans and Molteni teams; Canada's Team Elita; and, in their first-ever visit to North America, the Farm Frites-Hartol squad of reigning World Time Trial Champion Leontien Zijlaard-Van Moorsel.

The First Union Cycling Series begins with the First Union Invitational in Lancaster, PA, on May 30th, and concludes on June 4th with the First Union U.S. Professional Championship and Liberty Classic in Philadelphia, PA.

Bergslagstouren cancelled

The Swedish stage race, Bergslagstouren will be cancelled for security reasons. The police authorities in the area can not agree on who is going to escort the race when it passes a county border on the last stage.

The police authorities informed the organisers last Tuesday that it had no resources to escort the race on the final stage to Västerås. Last year the police from the neighbouring county Örebro followed the race all the way to the finish in Västerås. This year the Örebro police demand that the Västerås police should take over from the county border, the last 150 kms to the town of Västerås. But the police force here says it cannot match the safety standards required for the race.

"We had everything ready: sponsors, foreign teams, organisation, food and lodging for 250 persons. It's unbelievable that it should fall on the fact that the police cannot guide the race," said the organizing committee chairman Sten Erik Zetterwall.

"This is also a threat against our sport in Sweden. If the police don't have the resources to ensure safety on our arenas, and the roads are our arena, we cannot organise any races at all. Then we might as well quit cycling as a sport in Sweden. We will now contact the Swedish Cycling Federation and the federal police authorities," he said.

"The project Bergslagstouren ("Tour of the Mining District") has had a very good response from the municipalities in our county. But we feel that we cannot lower the security level, and we hope that our good relations with all partners won't be affected. We have plans do arrange the race for a five year period and we hope that we can come back already next year in some form," said Stig Thybelius, chairman of the Örebro County Cycling Federation.

The race, planned for May 25-June 4, was held for the first time last year and was an instant success. It was an important opportunity for the Swedish riders to show that they were qualified for the national teams in the Tour of Sweden later in June. The race is not on the international calendar but 20 teams, five of them foreign, were contracted for the 680 km five day race.

Courtesy of Patrick Serra

Dekker Doppelgänger

Astute readers may have noticed that Rabobank's Erik Dekker is exhibiting some strange quantum effects by appearing in two races at once, namely the Four Days of Dunkirk and the Tour de Romandie. Apparently, the organisers of Dunkirk were not informed that he was in Switzerland and they kept his name on the start and results lists. However, Dekker is not string material yet and he is just competing in Romandy where he came 79th in today's time trial and is running 105th overall.

So who is number 148 in Dunkirk? None other than Australia's Mathew Hayman who is performing a little better, coming in the top 30 today and lying 32nd overall. A win could have been embarrassing perhaps.

Thanks to cycling Leon and Cycling4all for this info