By Andrew Hood
With Team Coast slapped with its second racing ban in two months, 1997 Tour de France champion Jan Ullrich could soon be heading to a new team.
The UCI banned Coast from racing Thursday until the team can provide money up front for team expenses through the end of the season. The team was en route to the Peace Race when the news broke Thursday evening and didn’t start Friday’s first stage.
For Ullrich, who has returned from knee surgery and a doping ban, the news could mean he’ll be looking for a few team in time to start the Tour in July.
“If the situation remains what it is, we will have no other option than having to look for another team,” Ullrich’s sports director Rudy Pevenage told L’Equipe.
Ullrich is considered the only rider capable of taking on four-time Tour champion Lance Armstrong. The German has looked strong in his comeback this spring, winning a race in Cologne last month in his first race in his home country in 18 months.
Quick Step is said to be the top suitor for Ullrich, according to reports in L’Equipe. Team CSC, run by former teammate and 1996 Tour champion Bjarne Riis, also showed interest in Ullrich earlier this season.
The Olympic champion told L’Equipe he was “very disappointed” with Guenter Dahms, the German owner of the chain of Coast clothing and the team sponsor, adding, “This situation is a pity.”
Team Coast’s problems date back to last season. The UCI said in January that it had found there were still unresolved disputes between the team and some riders due to the non-payment of wages for the 2002 season.
In March, the UCI temporarily withdrew Team Coast’s license after finding it had not paid the salaries due to their riders for January and February. Alex Zulle and Luis Perez both abandoned ship to join Phonak and Cofidis, respectively.
The team was supposed to start Friday’s stage of the Peace Race while Ullrich was scheduled to race at the Tour of Asturias (May 13-17) in Spain, the Tour of Germany (June 3-9) and the Tour de Swisse (June 16-25) to prepare for the Tour.
Peace Race: Hondo takes opener
German Danilo Hondo (Telekom) won the opening stage and took the leader’s jersey of the nine-day Peace Race across the Czech Republic, Poland and Germany. Hondo beat compatriot Enrico Poitschke (Wiesenhof) in a sprint in the 111km circuit stage around Olomouc in the Czech Republic.
The Peace Race was the Eastern Bloc’s answer to the Tour de France and has enjoyed quite a storied history over the years. Recently, the race has regained some of its stature with the arrival of several top teams and better UCI ranking (it’s now ranked 2.2).
Team Coast was penciled in to start, but Thursday’s suspension by the UCI kept the German team out of the race. The Peace Race continues Saturday with the 155km second stage from Unicov to Opava in the Czech Republic.
Dunkirk: Kirsipuu makes up for near miss
Jaan Kirsipuu (Ag2r) made up for yesterday’s loss by beating Team CSC’s Julian Dean to win Friday’s 191km third stage of the Four Days of Dunkirk. Kirsipuu lost to CSC’s Lars Michaelsen in Thursday’s stage, but came around New Zealander Dean to capture the victory.
French rider Francois Finot (Jean Delatour) retained the overall lead. The race continues Saturday with the fourth stage (not the last, as the name would suggest), 179km from Wimereux to Boulogne sur Mer.
Giro news: Helmet use optional on summit finishes
Riders will face fines, loss of UCI points and possible expulsion when the Giro d’Italia starts Saturday if they don’t wear helmets, but they will be allowed to ditch them on summit finishes longer than 5km.
The UCI required the use of hard-shell helmets since May 5 and racers at the Four Days of Dunkirk have already been racing under the new rule, imposed following the death of Andrei Kivilev, who crashed during Paris-Nice in March.
The Giro will see the first race where the helmets will be optional for summit finishes. Signs will be posted along the course when it’s appropriate to take off helmets.
Here are the following Giro stages where helmets will be allowed to be taken off:
Stage 7, Avezzano to Terminillo, 14.8km of climbing
Stage 12, Santa De Piave to Zoncolan, 13km
Stage 14, Marostica to Alpe de Pampeago, 9km
Stage 18, Santuario de Vicoforte to Valle Varaita, 11.3km
Stage 19, Canelli to Formazza Cascata del Toce, 18km
Giro news: Corti says Simoni ready
Saeco team manager Claudio Corti says his boys in red are ready to bring Gilberto Simoni to Milan in the maglia rosa. Here are excerpts from an interview released by the team Friday.
Q: Team Saeco has been one of the most competitive teams in the first part of the season and especially in the spring classics. Did you think you’d start the Giro having done so well?
CC: “The results are thanks to hard work and organization which we always knew would pay off. We had some difficult moments last year when everything seemed to be going against us but we refused to give up and all the team continued to work hard with an impressive enthusiasm and determination. Now we’re getting back what we sowed.”
Q: None of the successful riders of the spring will be in the Giro team, why?
CC: “I don’t think that’s a problem. In fact it’s important to understand that we’ll be riding all three major stage races and so we have to share out the races and the riders. Of the group of riders which was baptised the “rote garde” – the red guard – in Belgium and was so successful in the spring, Fabio Sacchi and Dario Pieri, will ride the Giro. Sacchi is an important team player who has an impressive level of fitness that lasts most of the season. Pieri almost won Paris-Roubaix and will certainly win in the next few years. Now he just has build on that ride with a good Giro. If he continues to trust his own ability, he’ll do really well.”
Q: At the Giro, Saeco will be picking up where they left off last year?
CC: “We’ve managed to get over the problems of last year’s Giro. Simoni has bounced back and has shown it with his wins at the Giro del Trentino and the Giro dell’Appennino. He’s got a lot of experience and is very consistent and is one of the big favorites for the Giro.”
Q: So it’s, ‘all for one and one for all’ more than ever?
CC: “Of course. Gilberto will have team mates who can give the best possible help both on the flat and in the mountains. The team management and staff have a lot of faith in this group of riders and our high morale helps everybody get over all of the small problems we’re bound to find along the way.”
Q: Who are your biggest rivals?
CC: “I can only repeat the names everybody is saying: Casagrande, Garzelli and Aitor Gonzalez. But I have to say that I think Simoni is capable of beating all of them.”
Q: What reasons do you give for the decision to leave Ivan Quaranta out of the team? Is it right to sacrifice a sprinter to focus entirely on the pink jersey?
CC: “We’ve got a priority and that forces us to make what are sometimes difficult choices. We’ve got some regrets about not having Quaranta at the Giro but we’re also convinced of our decision. We’ve got to focus our resources to help the rider who can win us the pink jersey. It’s also important to note that Quaranta hasn’t yet reached a satisfactory level of form or results. He needs more time to get used to our way of doing things. However, Ivan will have a chance at the Tour de France.”
Q: After the Giro, there’s the Tour de France, after all the problems of last year.
CC: “Yes but we were proved right in the end. I think the organizer of the Tour de France made a big mistake leaving us out of the race and I think they’ve realized it, too. We’ve put it behind us and we’re looking forward to the Tour. If everything goes right we’ll have Simoni at the start in great form and a brilliant team for stage wins.”
Q: With such high objectives, Saeco is clearly one of the best teams in the world?
CC: “I thought we already were in certain aspects. Experience shows that it is impossible to improvise success in cycling at a world level. Only serious planning and organisation backed up with solid financial support can get results. I’ve never believed that improvising can get good results.”
Stuttgart gets ’07 track world’s
Stuttgart has been awarded the 2007 world track championships, just a day after the German city was named as a replacement host for this year’s event, because fears of a SARS outbreak canceled plans to hold the July 30-August 3 event in China. “Following positive negotiations with the German Federation and municipal authorities the UCI has also awarded Stuttgart the 2007 championships,” a statement issued from the Union Cycliste Internationale read.
This year’s road championships will take place in Hamilton, Canada, with Verona, Italy, staging the 2004 edition and Madrid the 2005 event.
The 2006 hosts will be chosen in October.
AFP contributed to this report.