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By Andrew Hood
Saturday’s final round of the 2002 World Cup was supposed to be a final showdown between Paolo Bettini and Johan Museeuw, but an early start list reveals the Lion of Flanders isn’t taking the start.
Bettini heads into the 96th Giro di Lombardia with a nine-point lead over Museeuw, but the Belgian isn’t starting so all the Italian has to do is finish the race and avoid a victory by Spain’s Igor Astarloa – who could bounce into first place if he wins and Bettini finishes out of the points.1. Paolo Bettini, 279 points
2. Johan Museeuw, 270
3. Igor Astarloa, 180.It isn’t clear yet why Museeuw isn’t starting, but perhaps the hilly Lombardia course that favors Bettini on paper could be one reason why. Lombardia is the finale of the “Trittico Rosa” string of classics starting with the Milan-Turin Wednesday and the Giro di Piemonte on Thursday (see report below).
Recently crowned world champion Mario Cipollini will be showing off his rainbow jersey in front of what’s sure to be a partisan crowd. Sixty Italians have won the Lombardia in the previous 95 editions and this year’s list of favorites is heavy with Italians. With the pressure off Bettini, the top favorite will be Michele Bartoli. A winner at Amstel Gold and Wednesday’s Milan-Turin, Bartoli was left off the Italian world’s team but is holding great late-season form.
Others who could be a factor include Danilo Di Luca, last year’s winner, and Dario Frigo, winner at the Zürich World Cup in August. Oscar Carmenzind, a winner here in 1998, is coming off great form and could be an outsider for victory. The up and down course features three climbs over the second half of the 258-km course, including the Colle del Gallo, Selvino and Bebenno climbs. There’s only one American among the starts – Acqua & Sapone’s Italian-American Guido Trenti, fresh off his world’s debut for the Americans.The last five winners:
1996: Andrea Tafi (Ita)
1997: Laurent Jalabert (Fra)
1998: Oscar Camenzind (Sui)
1999: Mirko Celestino (Ita)
2000: Raimondas Rumsas (Lit)
2001: Danilo Di Luca (Ita)
Lampre: Bye bye Raimondas
Italy’s Lampre squad has opted not to renew the contract of Lithuanian cyclist Raimondas Rumsas in the wake of the discovery of a range of drugs in his wife’s car, team officials in Cantu, Italy, said on Friday.
Rumsas joined Lampre on a one-year contract at the start of the year and finished third in the Tour de France on the day his wife Edita was arrested on the Franco-Italian border with a carload of banned drugs her husband said were destined for his mother-in-law. The defense, however, was greeted with skepticism, given the fact that mrs. Rumsas was carrying more than 30 different drugs, including banned substances like testosterone, Epogen and human growth hormone as well as Actovegin, a bovine hemoderivative, said to enhance the effect of Epogen. Experts said the collection of drugs would do little for an elderly woman, no matter what illnesses she might be suffering from.
Two new faces at Lampre for next season though will be the Italian duo of Francesco Casagrande and Wladimir Belli, who have been lured away from Fassa Bortolo.
Casagrande, ranked 10th in the world, won the Tour of Trentin but was disqualified from the Giro d’Italia for intentionally causing a crash during a minor sprint for climber’s points.
Other new signings for next year are Spain’s Javier Vila and another Italian, Eddy Ratti.
Pouly wins Roc d’Azur
The annual Roc d’Azur mountain bike festival is the typical finale to the European bike racing season. More than 11,000 racers started this year’s open category while Peter Pouly won’t the men’s elite competition. Two-time defending champion Thomas Dietsch couldn’t make up time on the upstart Frenchman and finished second. Christoph Sauser finished third in the all-star start list.
2002 French champion Christophe Dupouey is without a team for next year after his Giant team has pulled the plug on the elite pro team and reportedly talked to several teams about racing on the road scene for the 2003 season.1. Peter Pouly (F), MBK, 2 hours, 12 minutes, 44 seconds
2. Thomas Dietsch (F), Motorex-Bianchi, 2:15:41
3. Christoph Sauser (Swi), Volvo-Cannondale, in 2:15:51
4. Thomas Frischknecht (Swi), SwissPower, in 2:17:37
5. Bart Brentjens (Ned), Giant, in 2:18:01
6. Kashi Leuchs (NZl), Volvo-Cannndale, in 2:18:07
7. Antonio Ortiz (Sp), Team BH, in 2:18:15
8. Nicolas Filippi (F), Motorex-Bianchi, in 2:19:34
9. Ralph Naf (F), in 2:20:03
10. Jérôme Chiotti (F), Team Lapierre, in 2:20:20
Gonzalez close to signing with Fassa Bortolo
Vuelta a España champion Aitor Gonzalez seems to have finally made up his mind about where he will race next season. Following his stunning success at the Vuelta, no less than six teams came calling for his services. He’s insisted on a two-year contract and absolute leadership of the team and, according to the Spanish sports daily MARCA, he’s poised to pen a deal with Fassa Bortolo next week.
The Italian team recently lost the services of Francesco Casagrande and Wladimir Belli, who left for Lampre, so the fit seems to work for both. Gonzalez is still waiting to hear from Quick Step and Acqua & Sapone, but the deal with Fassa Bortolo looks likely. MARCA reported that Gonzalez’ agent is scheduled travel to Italy on Wednesday and the contract will be announced Friday. But this story has had so many twists and turns, so don’t hold your breath.
Paolini wins Piemonte
Italian Luca Paolini was the 89th Giro di Piemonte on Thursday, over a 193-km course between Novara and Alessandria. The Mapei rider beat Matthias Kessler (Telekom) and Gianluca Bortolami (Tacconi) in a sprint. Heavy winds kept the bunch together for a final gallop to the line. Paolini, 25, was led out nicely by his Mapei teammates to score his sixth career victory.
1. Luca Paolini (I), Mapei, 4 hours, 42 minutes, 27 seconds
2. Matthias Kessler (G), Telekom, same time
3. Gianluca Bortolami (I), Tacconi, s.t.
4. Peter Wrolich (Aut), Gerolsteiner, s.t.
5. Bram De Groot (Ned), Rabobank, s.t.
6. Gerard Trampusch (Aut), Mapei, s.t.
7. Alessandro Guerra (I), Alexia, s.t.
8. Cédric Vasseur (F), Cofidis, s.t.
9. Fabio Sacchi (I), Saeco s.t.
10. Lorenzo Bernucci (I), Landbouwkrediet, s.t