By Andrew Hood
Just a week after Mapei shocked the cycling world by announcing itsdeparture from the sport, two of Belgium’s biggest teams have announcedthey will merge for the 2003 season.Domo and Lotto announced Monday and will race under the name of Lotto-Domo,with each sponsor paying a reported $2.5 million to the team’s budget givingit the wallet to chase the sport’s biggest names.”With the creation of a powerful Belgian team, the merger will stimulatean already strong interest in cycling in Beglium,” said Rik Daems, presidentof Lotto, Belgium’s national lottery. “With the joined finanicial forces,it will give the team more freedom to sign riders.”Both teams will lose their co-sponsors, Domo with Farm Frites and Lottowith Adecco, but Eddy Merckx, who helped pull together the merger, said”all cycling fans will love this merger.”Lotto and Domo are the only Division I Belgian teams and both are rankedin the top-10, which give them both automatic berth into the grand tours.Domo already has Richard Virenque and former world champions suchas Johan Museeuw and Romans Vainsteins and former U.S. championFred Rodriguez while Lotto has such popular Belgian riders as PeterVan Petegem, Rik Verbrugghe, Mario Aerts and Australian Robbie McEwen.There was no news on who would be directing the team or which ridersmight be released from contracts as current UCI rules limit the size ofDivision I teams.Given that Eddy was behind the merger effort, we can guess that thosewon’t be Litespeeds the team will be riding next year.New Peace Race winner declared
Poland’s Piotr Przydzial has been stripped of his 2002 PeaceRace title after his “b-Sample” confirmed an earlier positive for bannedendurance booster EPO (erythropoietin), according to the Czech agency CTK.A second analysis by a laboratory in Lausanne, Switzerland, confirmedthe positive result of the Polsat team rider on May 13 after the finalstage of the race.Under UCI rules, Przydzial, 28, could face a ban of up to two years.The UCI is set to announce their verdict on July 9, three days after thestart of the Tour de France.The Peace Race title will now be handed to Przydzial’s team-mate OndrejSosenk, who finished seven seconds behind in second spot.Williams to get front-row view
Actor Robin Williams will be back to the Tour de France thismonth to watch buddy Lance Armstrong.Williams lit up the 2000 Tour when he showed up at the finish line inParis with Monty Python actor Eric Idle and Michael J. Fox and returnedlast year to watch the stage at Alpe d’Huez.According to People magazine, Williams will show up for the 14thstage to Mont Ventoux on July 21, also Williams’ 51st birthday. He willtravel in the team car of directeur sportif Johan Bruyneel.”It’s like being on the field in a football game,” Williams said. Theactor, who’s been friends with Armstrong since the pair worked togetherat a cancer fund-raiser in the late 1990s, is an avid cyclist and reportedlyhas more than 50 bikes. Williams rides up to 100 miles a day – when he’snot making movies.