What's Cool In Road Cycling

Eurotrash – Midweek Snack

All the Latest news from Europe, as Verbruggen calls for a Tour of the Benelux: Beloki delays season debut again: Skoda is new Tour sponsor: Phonak get three wild cards: Santoni Suspended And Fined By UCI: and quite a bit more.

Verbruggen Would Like To See A Tour Of The Benelux
UCI President Hein Verbruggen says that he wants to create a Tour of the Benelux next season. The UCI Pro Tour series of races starts next year and there are only four Belgian races included (Tour of Flanders, Ghent-Wevelgem, Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the Fleche Wallone) and many people say that this not enough. Verbruggen’s idea would be to run the Benelux Tour at the end of August, he stated, “The Tours of Luxembourg, Belgium and Holland give three weeks of racing altogether but are of limited interest at the international level, I would like to see them joined together to make a bigger race which would be part of the Pro Tour. Two or three stages could be run in Holland, including a team time trial which would look good on television, stages could be run in the Flanders area of Belgium taking in many of the climbs of Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the race could conclude with one of two stages in Luxembourg”.

Beloki Delays Season Debut Yet Again
Brioches La Boulangиre team leader Joseba Beloki is still being troubled by tendonitis. He hoped to start his season in today’s (Wednesday) Vuelta a Murcia but the Spaniard has been forced now to admit that he will not be ready until the Criterium International at the end of March.. Beloki is unable to ride for long without feeling pain in his achilles tendon, the injury is not related to his fall in last years Tour de France.

Skoda Becomes New Tour de France Sponsor
Czech car manufacturer Skoda has become a new sponsor of the Tour de France replacing Fiat as the supplier of the vehicles used during the race. The Skoda enterprise which is now part of the Volkswagen group announced on Tuesday that it reached a four year deal with Tour organisers worth 3.5 million euros. Skoda becomes one of the four main sponsors of the Tour de France, joining Crйdit Lyonnais (yellow jersey sponsors), Champion (polka dot jersey) and Nestle Aquarel (stage winner). The Skoda name will also appear on the white jersey of the best young rider.

Phonak Gets Three “Wild Cards”
The growth of the Swiss Phonak team has ensured that the team has received a wild card invitation to all three of this years major Tours. The arrival at the team of Tyler Hamilton and Oscar Sevilla during the winter has caught the imagination of the major Tour organisers. The Phonak team was founded in 2000 as a second division squad and has grown and strengthened each year. The team made the Tour de France it’s main objective for 2004 and Tyler Hamilton will lead a strong squad which probably include Santos Gonzalez, Bert Grabsch, Josй-Enrique Gutierrez, Oscar Pereiro, Santiago Perez, Oscar Sevilla and possibly Alex Zьlle. Sevilla will almost certainly lead the team at the Vuelta a Espana in September while Oscar Camenzind may be team leader for the Giro.

Zubeldia Kicks Off Season In Murcia
Haimar Zubeldia (Euskaltel-Euskadi) who finished fifth overall in last years Tour de France began his season in today’s (Wednesday) Vuelta a Murcia. Zubeldia arrived at Murcia with 8,000 kilometres of training in his legs, however he goes into the race in less than perfect condition because he is still suffering from influenza which forced him to miss the Clasica de Almeria last Sunday. “I did not start the Clasica as a precaution I did not want any problems at this early stage of the season”. Zubeldia’s main aim for the season is to have a high overall placing in the Tour de France and the build up to that starts in Murcia.

Santoni Suspended And Fined By UCI
The UCI has suspended Domina Vacanze team manager Vincenzo Santoni for one month and given him a 1.000 Swiss franc fine for incorrect behaviour towards Vuelta a Espana organisers Unipublic at the start of last years race. The Disciplinary Commission of the UCI explained it’s decision by saying, “In order to gain a wild card for last years Vuelta a Espana, Santoni guaranteed the presence of Mario Cipollini in the team without gaining the consent of the rider, Cipollini was forced to participate in the Prologue but had to quit straight after due to his poor form”. The one month suspension will start on April 8th and will finish on the 7th of May.

Team LPR Unhappy at Giro d’Italia omission
The management of the Italian division two squad Team LPR were dismayed at their omission from the starting line up of this years Giro d’Italia. The newly formed team voiced their anger at the organisers who they say have admitted foreign squads at their expense and this is a different attitude to the organisers of the Tour de France and the Vuelta a Espana who seem to protect the home teams and cyclists. The statement from the LPR team stressed that the team have met with some success in races throughout February, with Elio Aggiano, Daniel Masolino and Mauro Santambrogio doing well in early season Italian races such as the GP Costa degli Etruschi and the Giro della Provincia di Lucca.

UCI Plans More Surprise Dope Tests
The UCI has sent a letter to all first and second division team in which it requests that the teams should always know the location of it’s riders so that the UCI can carry out surprise out of competition doping tests. From now on the UCI not only wants to know which races the riders are competing in but where they are training and where they are on holiday. The UCI is alarmed that some riders are disappearing to prepare for certain races and come back to have very good results.

Ljungskog remains Women’s World Number One
The UCI published the new Women’s World rankings on Monday. Sweden’s 2003 World RR champion Susanne Ljungskog remains in the leading position.

1. Susanne Ljungskog (Sweden) 723 pts
2. Mirjam Melchers (Holland) 696 pts
3. Judith Arndt (Germany) 650 pts
4. Nicole Cooke (Great Britain) 571 pts
5. Edita Pucinskaite (Lithuania) 473 pts
6. Anita Valen (Norway) 405 pts
7. Joane Somarriba (Spain) 404 pts
8. Regina Schleicher (Germany) 339 pts
9. Zoulfia Zabirova (Russia) 312 pts
10. Nicole Brandli (Switzerland) 297 pts

In other women’s cycling news, Italian Fabiana Luperini, who has won the Giro d’Italia four times and the Tour de France on three occasions, has signed for a new Scandinavian team called “Team Lets Go Finland” for 2004. The team has strong ties to the Finnish Cycling Federation and will also feature Russian star Zulfia Zabirova, team manager will be ex men’s pro Felice Puttini. The full team line up will be:

Teija Alaviiri (Finland)
Martina Corazza (Italy)
Eneritz Iturriaga (Spain)
Rosalisa Lapomarda (Italy)
Fabiana Luperini (Italy)
Ketty Manfrin (Italy)
Rebecca Mc Connel (Australia)
Sari Saarelainen (Finland)
Zulfia Zabirova (Russia)

Trouble With Olympic Velodrome ?
Officials of the International Cycling Union have expressed their concerns that construction of the velodrome for the 2004 Athens Olympics will not be ready by the target date. The bike track at the Hellenic complex is scheduled to be completed by the 15th of May.

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