By Andrew Hood
According to German television reports, Jan Ullrich’s knee injuryis more serious than originally thought. Ullrich didn’t start at Milan-San Remo after over-training caused pain in his knee. Team Telekom officialshad hoped Ullrich would be able to return to competition in April, butGerman TV reports that the 1997 Tour de France champion still has not trainedseriously on the bicycle and has been limited to working out in a swimmingpool.
Mapei pushed to victory in the morning team time trial at the opening day of the five-day Coppi-Bartali in Italy on Tuesday. The five-man team, powered by none other than former mountain bike racers Dario Cioni and Cadel Evans, covered the 8-km course in 9 minutes, 8 seconds. Cioni took the lead but lost it to Alessandro Petacchi, an Italian on the Fassa Bortolo team, who won the afternoon stage in a sprint.
Filippo Pozzato, an Italian on the Mapei Espoirs team, won the5.6-km opening time trial of the Tour of Normandie on Tuesday.
In other news, world champion Oscar Freire said he would leaveMapei if he isn’t signed for two years or more when his contract ends thisseason. “We’ve been negotiating with the Italians for months now but wehaven’t heard a thing,”
Antonio Freire, the world champion’s brother and agent, told the SpanishEl Mundo newspaper. “I don’t know what’s going to happen but a lotwill have to improve if Oscar’s going to race with Mapei next year afterwhat happened at Milan-San Remo.”
Freire is still steaming at his Mapei teammates, who he says offeredlittle help in the sprint won by Mario Cipollini at Saturday’s World Cup opener.
“Just like what happened in 2000, the team left him alone at the decisivemoment. It seems Mapei is more interested in seeing an Italian win before Freire,” he continued, adding that teams such as Domo or U.S. Postal Service would be ideal for the two-time world champion.
On Sunday, Jimmy Casper, a French rider on Française desJeux, won the 25th Cholet-Pays de Loire, in a sprint. The race is the third round of the Coupe de France. Casper edged compatriot Franck Bouyer(Bonjour) and Belgian Wim Vansevenant (Pallmans) to earn the win.