News for September 18, 2000

Nicole Reinhart killed in Arlington

By John Alsedek, correspondent

Having won the three previous events of the four-race BMC Software Grand Prix Series, Gord Fraser and Nicole Reinhart were poised to win a quarter-million dollars each, provided they emerged victorious in today's BMC Tour of Boston. Not surprisingly, given what was at stake, there were rumblings of teams being bought to help Fraser and Reinhart, of the race organizers changing the course in an effort to hinder them, and every other conceivable charge of collusion and conspiracy.

It took just a moment for all those murmerings to be rendered utterly insignificant as at 1:27 pm EST, Saturn rider Nicole Reinhart was pronounced dead at an area hospital as a result of multiple head trauma suffered in a crash near the finish. The BMC Tour of Boston, held in the suburb of Arlington, had proven to be a difficult race for Reinhart from the start - though not because of the climbing, as would have been expected, given her reputation as a sprint specialist.

Instead, she was involved in a crash during the second of twelve laps; Reinhart was unhurt, but badly shaken and over 90 seconds down on the field, which was being led by the squad. Still, Team Saturn kept its collective cool and, while Leigh Hobson (Charles Schwab) and Sue Palmer-Komar (Jane Cosmetics) were battling it out for the Queen of the Mountain prize, the entire team dropped back to bring Reinhart back to the rapidly-dwindling peloton. At that they succeeded during the seventh lap, at which point they looked to have things well in hand, covering attacks by Hobson, Palmer-Komar, and a solo move by Pam Schuster that reached a maximum lead of 20 seconds before she was reeled back in.

Going up the climb on the final lap, Reinhart was courageously hanging tough with the remaining fifteen riders in the main bunch...and then it happened: as the riders made the final twisting descent from the Park Avenue climb, there was an accident as they were setting up for the penultimate turn, and Reinhart struck a tree. As Tina Mayolo ( took the sprint win from Laura Van Gilder (Charles Schwab) and Caren Spore (Jane Cosmetics), Reinhart was receiving emergency care. As the men's race continued to be delayed, rumors of Reinhart's death began to circulate until, at 2:00 pm, the horrible truth was revealed to a suddenly dumbstruck crowd. People who hadn't even known of Nicole Reinhart's existence before today were left in tears, while her fellow racers consoled one another in a display of unity that would have been greatly welcomed under other circumstances. The men's race was cancelled, while the riders did a ceremonial lap for their fallen comrade.

BMC Software will be taking the $250,000 bonus money from the BMC Grand Prix which Nicole, by virtue of having won the three previous BMC Grand Prix races, was in line to win. They will work with USA Cycling and the Reinhart family to create a foundation in memory of Nicole.

55th Vuelta a Espańa news

Heras credits team

The 55th Vuelta a Espańa winner, Roberto Heras of course dedicated the win to his Kelme team, "the success of Kelme, my success, I must attribute to my teammates," he said. "It is hard that some of us won't be riding in the same team next year."

Kelme had no defined leader before the start of the race, but Heras fell into that role as Escartin gradually lost too much time. "The luck came on my side, and I took advantage of the situation," he said.

"I have not had it easy, because the first week of the race was quite hard due to the chaos in Albacete, and that was for me the most difficult moment of the Vuelta. In the mountains we were superior, and the performance of my teammates was excellent at any one time," he added.

Heras will now rest, in order to enjoy his success and will not think about the future at the moment. However, he said that a podium finish in the Tour is a possibility, despite there being many doubters. "At the moment, I am not worried - I am happy and very content with my team."

Gonzalez for TT?

In winning the final time trial of the Vuelta a Espańa, Santos Gonzalez (ONCE) showed the Spanish selectors that he should be the second to Abraham Olano in Sydney. Possibly even the first after he put a minute into his teammate in Madrid.

"The stage win was the prize - I gave everything I had left to finish on the podium. I liked the circuit and knew that I could ride a good race on it. My objective was the podium, but Tonkov did not fail," he said.

"I have raced with tendinitis since the Angliru, and I even considered abandoning. For that reason, I dedicate my win to the team doctors."

Regarding his late inclusion in the Spanish team at David Etxebarria's expense, he said "I have been criticised as if I am the one in charge. Those who wrote such things don't know anything about cycling," he added.

Kelme's Grand Tour

The moderately budgeted Spanish Kelme-Costa Blanca team scored a huge victory with Heras' overall win. The route was tailor made to someone of Heras' abilities, however Kelme certainly did not have it all their own way, losing precious time in the cross winds that marked the first week. It was their first Grand Tour win in their 21 year history, and team director Vicente Belda was justly proud.

"This is the work of previous years, the culmination of having wonderful riders. I am thankful to all those that believed in the team. It is wonderful. This Vuelta has been fabulous after those in the era of Perico [Delgado] because with cyclists such as Ullrich or Armstrong, the Grand Tours are different," he said.

He also added that he would like to keep the team together next year, with the exception of Jose Luis Rubiera (US Postal) and Fernando Escartin (Team Coast).

Alvaro Gonzalez de Galdeano crashes out

On the final stage, Vitalicio's Alvaro Gonzalez de Galdeano was forced into retiring after he crashed into a motorbike and fell. The older brother of Igor, and winner of one stage this year injured his hip and back after the accident.

His team director, Javier Mínguez blamed the motorcycle drivers for not knowing how fast to go, as Alvaro was going faster. He tried to overtake, but the motorcycle got in the way and he crashed. "He tried to continue on, but once he had that misfortune, he did not have the incentive," explained Minguez.

Full race wrap up

By Gabriella Ekström, correspondent

This year's Vuelta a Espańa has indeed been a different event. It was run earlier in the year because of the Olympics, and the stages were remarkably short. This was in order to give the riders better preparation for the Olympics, and maybe as a step in the right direction to stop the use of banned recovery products. The route was also novel in the fact that the three week tour really offered the true climbers a chance to fight for the G.C. The riders with better time trial abilities weren't amused by this, but when you look back at the Tour de France and the Vuelta a Espańa in particular, it has been designed for time triallists rather than climbers many, many times. By changing the way of racing, new stars will certainly rise in the cycling skies.

The nervousness experienced by the riders in the first flat stages, could easily match a Tour de France week one. The horrendous side winds blew the peloton apart time after time, and the stressed and tired riders crashed repeatedly, and often close to the head so that the whole bunch came down with them. The first stage winner was an old friend, the master of will he, wont he?

Alex Zülle from Banesto won the time trial in Malaga, and got to wear the "Maillot Oro" (golden jersey). Zülle has failed to deliver anything of importance this year save for the Volta ao Algarve in Portugal, and a Grand Tour win would certainly have shown his team his true value. Alex Zülle held on to his jersey during the first week, a week that was filled with interesting stage winners and happenings.

Spain's rising star, and one of the country's more popular riders since Miguel Indurain, Oscar Freire, won both the second and the fourth stage, but was forced to withdraw during the eight stage due to his back pains. The rider who was expected to win more than that, Mario Cipollini made a fool of himself at the start of stage five, when he punched Vitalicio Seguros' Francisco Cerezo in the face during an argument. Cipollini was thrown off the race, and also suspended by his team, although everything seem to be forgiven now, except for Cerezo, who might throw him a lawsuit for the offense.

Many riders suffered from the strong side winds, and pre-race favourites such as Virenque, Beltran and Gotti lost a lot of time during these stages. Although this Vuelta did seem lot of stars failing to deliver or live up to their reputation, it has also shown us a new generation of climbers, like Banesto's Eladio Jimenez who took over the mountain jersey in the first mountainous stage. More surprises would follow. Two of the lesser known Italian sprinters, the soft spoken Alessandro Petacchi of Fassa Bortolo, and the not so humble Paolo Bossoni of Cantina Tollo got the chance to show their colours in the absence of the more famous sprinters.

Bossoni took the sixth stage, finishing in Valencia, while Petacchi won the eight stage and then moved on to win also the 12th stage. Although Zülle was still wearing the leader's jersey at this point, a new name had lifted the hearts of the Spanish cycling fans. Roberto Heras' victory in front of Patrice Halgand (Jean Delatour) and Jan Ullrich (Telekom) on the seventh stage that finished on the top of the Alto Morella climb, gave a good hint of what was to come.

The golden jersey was to change shoulders during the ninth stage, but it wouldn't land on Heras yet. ONCE's Abraham Olano, the big Spanish pre favourite of the race, won the time trial in Tarragona, just 13 seconds in front of his teammate Santos Gonzales. Only seventh overall at this point, behind a bunch of time trallists like Ullrich, Zülle and Olano, Heras waited patiently. This tour was after all designed for a climber and not a tempo rider.

Santos Gonzales took over the golden jersey after the mountain finish at Supermolina, a stage won by first year pro Rafael Felix Cardenas (Kelme). He was only able to keep it for a day, and when Angel Casero took over it on the stage to Andorra, it seemed likely that it would stay there. The classic stage was won by Roberto Laiseka (Euskaltel). Of the three days that were to follow after the Andorra stage, only one would be used for racing, while the other two were used for transfers. Not the riders ideal picture of a rest day, and it was also after the twelfth stage that Jan Ullrich choose to abandon in order to better prepare for the Olympics, where he is a big favourite for the Time Trial.

The last week of racing would see a lovely mix of great climbers and original sprinters win, and the golden jersey was to change shoulders again. Casero kept it over the thirteenth stage, won by Mariano Piccoli of Lampre, but when the riders had to fight the climb up to Lagos de Covadonga, Casero could no longer match Roberto Heras who took the jersey by fractions of a second. Multiple stage winner from 98, Andrei Zintchenko who has shown little or no form during the year surprisingly won the stage. Spanish Champion Alvaro Gonzales de Galdeano saved his rather poor performance at the Vuelta by winning the stage to Gijón, a stage that also saw Heras increase his lead over Casero.

Heras was now looking forward to the stage to Alto l'Angliru, a fearsome climb where he would certainly put minutes between himself and Casero who looked to be the only major threat for the G.C. Casero fought like a bull and managed to limit the damages to three and a half minute, but Heras was starting to look like the certain winner. Gilberto Simoni from Lampre won the prestigious stage, that also took its toll and forced riders like Davide Etxebarria (ONCE) and last year's second overall Igor Gonzales de Galdeano (Vitalicio) to withdraw.

The last stages in the Vuelta also gave something in reward to those who had been fighting and struggling every day. Dedicated team worker Davide Bramati (Mapei) got the victory in Salamanca, while Telekom's Alexander Vinokourov, who never hesitates when it comes to attacking, caught Roberto Laiseka (Euskaltel) and Chente Garcia Acosta (Banesto) pretty much on the line in Ciudad Rodrigo. Mariano Piccoli, who last year was the only rider to finish all the three big tours, scored his second stage win in Avila

On the final mountain stage of the race, on the penultimate day, Roberto Heras saw his chance to put even more time between him and Casero, and while doing so, he suddenly found himself within reach of the stage victory. With a little help from Gilberto Simoni, who kept improving in the climbs, Heras managed to fight Laiseka off in a head to head sprint in Alto de Abantos.

Only a large degree of misfortune in the final time trial in Madrid could stop Roberto Heras from taking Kelme's first grand tour win ever! The stage was won by ONCE's Santos Gonzales, who punished his team mate Olano with over a minute. Gonzales is now looking forward to an eventual spot in the Olympic time trial team, earlier given to Olano and Juan Carlos Dominguez (Vitalicio). Roberto Heras lost only 1.58 to Santos Gonzales and was never threatened by Angel Casero who finished second on the stage, six seconds after Gonzales. Pavel Tonkov defended himself well, and kept his podium spot, a minute ahead of Santos Gonzales who finished fourth on the G.C.


Team news

Another Team Coast sensation

Fernando Escartin has signed for two years and joins Alex Zülle, Niki Aebersold and Armin Meier in this German Cinderella team, rising from the bottom of second division. The 32 year old Spaniard from Aragon had already signed for next year with Kelme but he had an important clause in the contract: If he got a better offer from a non-Spanish team he would be allowed to go.

Coast has also signed fresh Olympic Gold medallist Robert Bartko who, according to plan, will transform from track to road after this season. He offered team Telekom his services earlier but there was no interest in the 24 year old pursuiter. Last night at the Dunc Gray velodrome, Bartko clocked 4:18.515, a new Olympic record and the fastest time recorded in a "conventional" position.

Danish daily Politiken writes in its Sunday issue that the two Danes in Francaise des Jeux, Lars Michaelsen and Frank Hřj, might also be on their way to Team Coast. Michaelsen says to Politiken that they also have offers from Lotto and Collstrop/Palmans and that Memorycard could be an alternative.

Sunderland undecided

Scott Sunderland has yet to sign a contract for next year, although his meeting with Hilaire van der Schuren reportedly went well last week. However, there are still a few details that need to be sorted out, and there are other options to consider. To be leader of a strong Belgian second division team would mean that although the Belgian classics would be high on the agenda, racing abroad would not. Hence, less UCI points. However, all of the team respect him and have expressed their desire about riding with him as road captain for next year.

"It is not because you ride with a first category team that you ride a nice program. With Palmans the guys will ride a program which quite a few teams envy," said Sunderland.

Scott came into Palmans in 1998 and lifted the team considerably, as they rode well in the classics. However they were lost after his accident in Amstel Gold. He knows he can "upgrade" the team again. Mr De Meulenaere, ASS manager and Belgian 'cycling mecenas', seem to respect Scott's 11 years as pro in the European peloton.

He has been approached and asked about a spot as team director, but Sunderland wants to race for another four years. He still enjoys racing so much and he is really keen to do well in the northern classics in April next season. His crash in Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne early this year meant that missed out on those and he is determined not to let that happen again. Now, Sunderland wants to concentrate on the World Championships and is not really in the mood to talk money, desiring to wrap things up this week.

Virenque looks around

Richard Virenque is discussing a contract with another Italian team: Alexia Alluminio. Team Polti will close to next season and Virenque is also trying to bring his more or less personal domestique Pascal Hervé along.

Festina builds

With Christophe Moreau signing again for four more years, this means that the team now has three very good stage race contenders: Moreau, Joseba Beloki, who recently signed for five years and Angel Casero who came to the team this season.

Didier Rous is also on his way to sign for Festina where he has ridden before.

Sřrensen to Memorycard

Nicki Sřrensen goes from Team Fakta to Memorycard. The Danish first division team has bought him out from a recently signed contract with Linda McCartney. Team Fakta also will get Norwegian Kurt Asle Arvesen, Espoirs World Champion 1997, from Amica Chips. Arvesen is a good sprinter. There his one hitch though: If Arvesen wins the Olympics he is free to go somewhere else.

Kivilev leaves

Kazakhstan climber, Andrei Kivilev will leave Ag2R-Prevoyance to join Cofidis for one year.