Telekom's Erik Zabel won the opening stage of the Tour of Germany on a day overshadowed by the death of 23-year-old French rider Fabrice

By Andrew Hood

Salanson on his way to winning the second stage of the 2002 Midi Libre
Salanson on his way to winning the second stage of the 2002 Midi Libre

Photo: AFP (file photo)

Zabel is in familiar form
Zabel is in familiar form

Photo: AFP

Telekom’s Erik Zabel won the opening stage of the Tour of Germany on a day overshadowed by the death of 23-year-old French rider Fabrice Salanson, who was found dead in his hotel room before the start (see story below).

Salanson’s Brioches la Boulangere team opted not to start Tuesday’s 184km stage, but the race continued as planned. Zabel won ahead of Stuart O’Grady (Credit Agricole) and Gerrit Glomser (Saeco) to grab the bunch sprint and take the overall lead.

Jan Ullrich finished 23rd safely in the main bunch. The German tour continues Wednesday with the 183km second stage from Altenburg to Kronach.

Tour of Germany (UCI 2.2) Stage 1, Dresden to Altenburg, 184km 1. Erik Zabel (G), Telekom, 4 hours, 43 minutes, 34 seconds; 2. Stuart O’Grady (Aus), Credit Agricole; 3. Gerrit Glomser (Aut), Saeco; 4. Enrico Poitschke (G), Wiesenhof; 5. Mark Scanlon (Irl), Ag2r – all same timeOverall standings after 1 stage
1. Zabel, 4:43:19; 2. O’Grady, at 0:08; 3. Glomser, at 0:11; 4. James Vandlandshoot (B), Vlaanderen-T Interim, at 0:13; 5. Magnus Backstedt (Swe), Team fakta, at 0:14

Salason found dead in hotel
French cyclist Fabrice Salanson died in his sleep on the eve of the Tour of Germany in Dresden, race officials said on Tuesday.

Race director Roland Hofer told a news conference that the 23-year-old Brioches La Boulangere rider was found in his hotel room and had died between 2:30 and 4 a.m. local time.

It was not known what caused his death, Hofer said. A post mortem was to be carried out at the local hospital. Police were investigating.

Team manager Jean-Rene Bernadeau said that Salanson’s roommate, Sylvain Chavanel, had found him lying at the foot of his bed when he went to wake him in the morning.

“Chavanel told me that they (the riders) had a quiet evening on Monday. He (Chavanel) only realized Fabrice was dead when he went to wake him up,” said Bernadeau.

“We can’t make any comments about the cause of the death as Fabrice was in great physical shape. We have to wait for the post-mortem. This is the kind of things which can sometimes happen but it’s a terrible tragedy.”

The team decided to withdraw from the tour and was returning to France, said Bernadeau.

German rider Udo Bolts told Reuters in Dresden: “I was in the same hotel and the other riders were in a state of complete shock. They don’t know what to say.”

Salanson joined the Brioches team this year after riding with Bonjour from 2000-2002. He won two professional events, with his most important victory on the second stage of the Midi Libre in May 2002. Salanson also had a stage win in the Tour de l’Avenir in 2000, his first year of professional cycling.

Brioches were one of six French teams named last month to ride in this year’s Tour de France.
– Reuters

Tour teams: Domina Vacanze boss speaks
While world champion Mario Cipollini has kept mum so far about his final exclusion from July’s Tour de France (See “No Tour for Cipo’“), Domina Vacanze team boss Enrico Preatori has expressed his regret.

“We are deeply disappointed that the world champion won’t be participating in the next Tour,” Preatori said in a team statement released Tuesday. “We all worked intensely to try to reverse the decision of the exclusion of the world champion, but it has unfortunately not been possible.”

Domina Vacanze was not among the final four teams selected for the Tour last month. There was growing support for adding another team among the 22 teams to allow Cipollini to start his first Tour since 1999, but Tour director Jean-Marie Leblanc shot down that notion in a statement Monday.

Preatori blamed the lack of imagination of from the French cycling institutions to allow the popular Italian into the Tour.

Simoni moves up UCI rankings
Saeco’s Gilberto Simoni shot to second in the latest UCI rankings thanks to three stage victories and the overall title at the 86th Giro d’Italia.

German sprinting ace Erik Zabel (Telekom) retained the overall top ranking while Lance Armstrong (USPS) dipped from second to sixth as the Texan hasn’t been racing since Liege-Bastogne-Liege in late April.

Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) also shot upwards, thanks to his six Giro stage victories, moving from 29th to ninth in the rolling points system. Tyler Hamilton (CSC) dipped from sixth to 17th after he lost the points he earned from winning a stage and finishing second overall in last year’s Giro. Fred Rodriguez (Caldirola-Sidermec) at 118th and Levi Leipheimer (Rabobank) at 151st are the only other Americans in the top-200.

Simoni is ranked No. 1 in the 2003 season rankings so far, while Hamilton slipped from first to fourth behind Petacchi and Stefano Garzelli (Caldirola-Sidermec) after not racing since his victory at Tour de Romandie.

Saeco continued its hold on the top spot in the team rankings while Fassa Bortolo, thanks to eight stage victories in the Giro, moved from fourth to second while Quick Step dipped to third. U.S. Postal Service sunk to 26 in the team rankings, but will certainly rise if Armstrong can hit his stride during the upcoming Dauphine Libere and Tour de France.

UCI rankings, released June 2 (previous position)
1. (1) Erik Zabel, Telekom, 2,152 points
2. (23) Gilberto Simoni, Saeco, 1,997
3. (4) Paolo Bettini, Quick Step, 1,871
4. (3) Davide Rebellin, Gerolsteiner, 1,840
5. (5) Dario Frigo, Fassa Bortolo, 1,823
6. (2) Lance Armstrong, USPS, 1,744
7. (7) Robbie McEwen, Lotto-Domo, 1,530
8. (10) Roberto Heras, USPS, 1,419
9. (29) Alessandro Petacchi, Fassa Bortolo, 1,402
10. (11) Joseba Beloki, ONCE, 1,360OTHERS
17. (6) Tyler Hamilton, CSC, 1,130
118. (122) Fred Rodriguez, Caldirola-Sidermec, 406
151. (132) Levi Leipheimer, Rabobank, 352Top 10 so far in 2003
1. Simoni, 1,630 points
2. Petacchi, 955
3. Stefano Garzelli, Caldirola-Sidermec, 955
4. Hamilton, 924
5. Frigo, 892
6. Bettini, 764
7. Rebellin, 701
8. Zabel, 670
9. Laurent Brochard, Ag2r, 667
10. Michael Boogerd, Rabobank, 662Teams so far in 2003 (previous ranking)
1. (1) Saeco, 4,618 points
2. (4) Fassa Bortolo, 4,446
3. (2) Quick Step, 3,548
4. (3) Telekom, 3,222
5. (5) Rabobank, 3,020
6. (8) Alessio, 2,846
7. (10) Gerolsteiner, 2,678
8. (19) Calidrola-Sidermec, 2.672
9. (15) Lampre, 2.632
10. (6) CSC, 2,482
11. (7) Milaneza-MSS, 2.375
12. (11) Brioches La Boulange, 2,230
13. (18) Fdeux.com, 2,199
14. (14) Cofidis, 2,182
15. (9) ONCE, 2,106
16. (12) Ag2r, 2,102
17. (17) iBanesto.com, 2,020
18. (23) Domina Vacanze, 1,972
19. (16) Kelme, 1,961
20 (13) Euskaltel, 1,920
21. (20) Lotto-Domo, 1.851
22. (21) Phonak, 1,678
23. (27) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago, 1.453
24. (22) Credit Agricole, 1,423
25. (25) Team fakta, 1.350
26. (24) USPS, 1.274
27. (26) Jean Delatour, 1,134
28. (30) CCC Polsat, 699
29. (29) Palmans-Collstrop, 598

Alles in Ordnung for Jan
Jan Ullrich had his second team presentation in six months Monday after his new Team Bianchi was officially unveiled on the eve of the Tour of Germany.

Ullrich and Co. actually raced over the weekend in Germany, but the team took the chance to give the press a chance to take a few photos of the team’s new jerseys.

“Finally, everything is in order and I can concentrate entirely on my cycling,” the 1997 Tour champion said during the presentation.

Team Bianchi rose from the ashes of Coast, which collapsed under late payments of riders’ salaries, growing debt and two UCI racing bans. The UCI finally pulled the plug on Team Coast last month and sport director Rudy Pevenage scrambled to build a team in time for 29-year-old Ullrich to start July’s Tour de France.

Ullrich will race the Tour of Germany and then the Tour de Suisse before the Tour. Ullrich missed last year’s Tour with knee problems and then tested positive for amphetamines in an out-of-competition test in June. He signed a three-year contract with Team Coast in January, but the team folded under pressure and several riders, including Tour runner-up Alex Zulle, left for other teams.

Team Bianchi: Jan Ullrich, Daniel Becke, Andre Korff, Thomas Liese, Steffen Radochla, Thorsten Rund, Raphael Schweda, Tobias Steinhauser, Sven Teutenberg, Malte Urban, Christoph von Kleinsorgen and Thorsten Wilhelms (all Germans), Angel Casero, Aitor Garmendia, Jaime Hernandez, Francisco Lara and David Plaza (all Spanish), Fabrizio Guidi (Italian) and Stefan Adamsson (Swedish).

Ferretti says Aitor G needs to toughen up
Fassa Bortolo team manager Giancarlo Ferretti says his young Spanish charge Aitor Gonzalez needs to learn to suffer through the difficult moments in cycling. Gonzalez didn’t meet expectations during the 86th Giro d’Italia, although he won a time trial stage.

“Things didn’t go as well as we had hoped. Gonzalez finished OK, but he arrived to the Giro short of preparation and this was the cause of his poor classification despite starting the race as one of the favorites for the podium after winning the last Vuelta,” Ferretti told the Spanish daily Marca.

The veteran director said Gonzalez “has class, even if he’s a bit fragile. He has a hard time finding the motivation when things are going bad.”

“It’s true that the principal goal was to be on the podium, but I just don’t have luck in this race. I always have two or three riders with possibilities, but we never come through,” he said. “Fortunately, we won eight stages. The Giro is already history so it’s not worth talking about the errors we committed. We have to start thinking about our new objectives, above all else the Tour de France. I hope Aitor and (Dario) Frigo can make things difficult for Lance Armstrong.”

Sevilla on the mend, but Tour still doubtful
Troubled Spanish star Oscar Sevilla hit the velodrome in Zaragoza on Monday to test his form after weeks of inactivity following minor surgery to remove a cyst in his groin. Sevilla says he’s feeling better but said he’ll likely be at “95 percent” if he decides to start the Tour de France.

“Nobody knows what I’ve suffered this season, only my family and myself. I’ve been forced to spend so many days lying on the sofa with nothing to do. Now, in the past few weeks, I’ve recaptured some of my motivation,” Sevilla said.

Sevilla said if he continues to have problems, he’ll forget about the Tour and focus completely on the Vuelta a Espana. Sevilla is scheduled to race the Tour of Cataluyna in late June and will make the call then on whether he starts the Tour.

Sevilla had surgery on March 12 and was forced to go back under the knife again in April. He returned to racing at the Tour of Castilla y Leon in May, but says he won’t be in top form for the Tour if he decides to race.

“To go to the Tour, you have to be 100 percent or more. I believe I’ll be about 95 percent and on the climbs, I will be able to be in the group of the front 20 to 25 riders,” Sevilla said. “I’ve never arrived at these important parts of the season in this situation and it’s rare because now I feel like my physical fitness is like that of February.”

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