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Friday’s EuroFile: Cipo’ takes a pass; Freire leads in Lucca; VDB facing prosecution; Paris-Tours

World champion Mario Cipollini won't defend his title next weekend in Canada, he told reporters Friday in a press conference in Milan. "The course is very difficult for my characteristics," Cipollini told reporters. "I don't want to divert interest from my teammates who prepared for the Canadian race." Cipollini, 36, has hardly raced since crashing out of the Giro d'Italia in May. The popular Italian sprinter was forced into starting last month's Vuelta a España, but was clearly not in shape. His team was forced to wait for him during the opening team time trial and Cipollini didn't start

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By Andrew Hood

No Zolder repeat for Mario

No Zolder repeat for Mario

Photo: AFP (file photo)

World champion Mario Cipollini won’t defend his title next weekend in Canada, he told reporters Friday in a press conference in Milan.

“The course is very difficult for my characteristics,” Cipollini told reporters. “I don’t want to divert interest from my teammates who prepared for the Canadian race.”

Cipollini, 36, has hardly raced since crashing out of the Giro d’Italia in May. The popular Italian sprinter was forced into starting last month’s Vuelta a España, but was clearly not in shape. His team was forced to wait for him during the opening team time trial and Cipollini didn’t start the next day’s stage.

As defending world champion, Cipollini had an automatic berth in the Italian team, but there was growing pressure from within the national team for Cipollini to step aside if he wasn’t going to be strong enough to help.

“It was a difficult decision to make,” Cipollini said. “But I respect the national team too much.”

Paolo Bettini will lead the loaded Italian squad. There’s no word yet on who will take Cipollini’s place on the team.

Battle of the world champions at Lucca
Romans Vainsteins (Vini Caldirola) won Friday’s final bunch sprint of the 5th Giro della Provincia di Lucca in Italy while Oscar Freire (Rabobank) hung on to claim the overall title of the four-day race.

Vainsteins, a world champion in 2000, and Freire, world champion in 1999 and 2001, are honing their form for Sunday’s Paris-Tours and, at least in Freire’s case, the road world cycling championships. Vainsteins, a Latvian, still is awaiting a visa that will allow him to travel to Hamilton next week..

There were no border controls in Italy to slow down Vainstains, who held off Ivan Fanelli (Amore & Vita) and Frank Schleck (CSC), who came through third in the bunch sprint.

The final stage was active from the gun, with 44.5km the overage speed over the first hour. Max Sciandri and Luca Pagliarini (both Lampre) and Marco Velo (Fassa Bortolo) attacked at 40km, but Pagliarini couldn’t hold the pace over the Monte Pitoro. Rafaele Ferrara (Alessio) gave chase but Michele Bartoli (Fassa Bortolo) counter-attacked, passed Ferrara and bridged up to Sciandri and teammate Velo going up the Gombitelli climb.

At 80km, the leading trio held a 2:15 gap on the Rabobank-led main bunch. On the second climb up Pitoro, Velo was dropped and only Sciandri and Bartoli remained off the front. Andrea Peron (CSC) bridged out but the trio was reeled in to set up the sprint.

Vainsteins came through to grab the victory while Freire, a winner of two stages, finished safely in the main bunch to clinch the overall title.

5th Giro Della Provincia di Lucca (UCI 2.3)
Stage 4, Massarosa to Lido di Camaiore, 156km

1. Romans Vainsteins, Vini Caldirola 3 hours, 33 minutes, 18 seconds
2. Ivan Fanelli, Amore & Vita
3. Frank Schleck, Team CSC
4. Stefano Zanini, Saeco
5. Luis Felipe Laverde, Formaggi Pinzolo — all same time

Final overall standings
1. Oscar Freire, Rabobank 17 hours, 32 minutes, 13 seconds
2. Pietro Caucchioli, Alessio +0:08
3. Jose Ivan Gutierrrez, iBanest.com +0:14
4. Michele Bartoli, Fassa Bortolo — same time
5. Frank Shleck, Team CSC +0:18

Kessler wins Luk-Cup
German rider Matthias Kessler (Telekom) edged last year’s winner David Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) to win the one-day Luk-Cup Bühl race Friday in Germany.

Kessler, 24, won a sprint ahead of Rebellin and Spanish rider Felix Garcia Casas (Bianchi), three riders who attacked a group of 17 riders in a breakaway in the final climb of the 192km race.

Luk-Cup Bühl (UCI 1.3), Germany, 192km
1. Matthias Kessler, Telekom 4 hours, 29 minutes, 41 seconds (42.73 kph)
2. Davide Rebellin, Gerolsteiner
3. Felix Garcia Casas, Bianchi — all same time
4. Markus Zberg, Gerolsteiner +0:29
5. David Moncoutie, Cofidis — same time

VDB facing prosecution, paper reports
Troubles for Belgian racer Frank Vandenbroucke continue, as a Belgiannewspaper reported Friday that the Quick Step rider is facing prosecutionfor possessing banned hormones and performance-enhancing products.

Police found morphine, the blood-boosting drug erythropoietin (EPO)and the steroid clenbuterol in the home of the 28-year-old Belgian in araid in 2002. Vandenbroucke ended up serving a six-month ban that onlyapplied to races in his Flanders region and returned to racing March 1.

“The investigation which started against the cyclist in February 2002has been completed,” Christian Dufour, the local prosecutor in the westerntown of Dendermonde, told Het Laatste Nieuws. “Vandenbroucke will soonhave to appear before a court sitting in chambers where the public prosecutor’soffice will request his referral to a criminal court.”

Vandenbroucke,12th overall in the World Cup standings, was second tocompatriot Peter Van Petegem in the Tour of Flanders in April.

Paris-Tours on tap this weekend
The 97th Paris-Tours is on tap Sunday as the penultimate stop of the10-round World Cup series.

The relatively flat 257.5km course has traditionally favored sprinters,but the rolling hills toward the final half of the course can favor breakawaysthat can sneak away from the main bunch. Last year, Jakob Piil (CSC) edgedeternal attacking favorite Jacky Durand (Fdjeux.com) after holding a breakwhile in 2001 French climber Richard Virenque surprised everyone by winningthe race after a 240 km breakaway.

Paris-Tours is one of cycling’s oldest races and celebrated its 100thbirthday in 1996. The race starts at Saint Arnoult en Yvelines south ofParis and pushes down the Loire Valley before ending on the Avenue de Grammontin Tours.

Defending champion Piil isn’t expected to be at the start line, butmany of the top riders honing their form for the upcoming road world championshipswill be. Oscar Freire (Rabobank) and Cedric Vasseur (Cofidis) are amongbig names currently finding their winning legs. World Cup leader PaoloBettini (Quick Step) will be looking to secure his second consecutive overalltitle. And Igor Astarloa and Danilo Di Luca will lead Saeco at Paris-Tours before heading to world’s.

Several riders not heading to Canada will put an end to their seasonat Paris-Tours, including race favorite Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo)and Fred Rodriguez (Vini Caldirola).

Starting teams with expected favorites:
French teams
Ag2r: Kirsipuu, Brochard, Portal
Brioche la Boulangere: Beneteau, Pineau
Cofids: Vasseur, Planckaert, Tombak
Credit Agricole: Voigt, O’Grady
Fdjeux.com: Cooke, Casar, Durand
Jean Delatour: Dumoulin, KrivtsovItalian teams
Alesio: Baldato
Vini Caldirola: Rodriguez, Vainsteins
Domina Vacanze: Lombardi
Fassa Bortolo: Petacchi, Bartoli
Lampre: Serpellini, Piccoli
Saeco: Di Luca, AstarloaGerman teams
Gerolsteiner: Rebellin
Bianchi: Guidi
Telekom: Aerts, ZabelSpanish teams
Euskaltel : Martinez, D.Etxebarria
iBanesto.com: Menchov, Flecha
ONCE: Arroyo, JakscheDanish
Team CSC: Dean, Sandstod, JalabertBelgian teams
Landbouwkrediet-Colnago: Capelle
Lotto-Domo: McEwen, Van Petegem
Quick Step: Bettini, Boonen, MuseeuwDutch
Rabobank: Freire, WautersUSA
U.S. Postal Service: Ekimov, Van Heeswijk
Swiss
Phonak: Usov

Kirsipuu wins French Cup
Veteran sprinter Jaan Kirsipuu (Ag2r) sewed up his second overall titleof the French Cup following Thursday’s Paris-Bourges race. The Estonianwon the 1999 Coupe de France, a 15-race series of one-day races, and tookcontrol of the series early on. In Paris-Bourges he only had to watch outfor Nicolas Vogondy (Fdjeux.com), who finished second. Sylvain Chavanel(Brioches) took third and won the espoirs category. His Brioches la Boulangèrewon the team competition.
1. Jaan Kirsipuu, Ag2r 122 points
2. Nicolas Vogondy, Fdjeux.com 112
3. Sylvain Chavanel, Brioches la Boulangère 103
4. Franck Pineau, Brioches la Boulangère 99
5. Jens Voigt, Credit Agricole 92

French finalize world’s team
Two French riders — Christophe Rinero (MBK-Oktos) and Frédéric Bessy (Cofidis) – secured the final spots on the French world championships team thanks to their strong rides in Thursday’s Paris-Bourges one-day semi-classic.

Several French riders on the bubble were going hard, knowing that thefinal two spots of the 12-man team were up for grabs. Such riders as SandyCasar and Jean-Cyril Robin (both Fdjeux.com), Christophe Agnolutto (AG2R)and Laurent Lefèvre (Jean Delatour) were left off what should bea strong team.

The Frenchies will go to Hamilton without a clear leader, instead givingCedric Vasseur (Cofidis), Laurent Brochard (Ag2r) and Patrice Halgand (JeanDelatour) the freedom to make moves if they have the legs.

On the women’s team, racing legend Jeannie Longo will not only racethe time trial but the road race as well after Juliette Vandekerckhovefell ill.

Final French men’s road team: Laurent Brochard and Andy Flickinger (Ag2r), Sylvain Chavanel, Maryan Hary and Franck Renier (La Boulangère),David Moncoutié and Cédric Vasseur (Cofidis), Nicolas Fristch (fdjeux.com), Samuel Dumoulin and Patrice Halgand (Jean Delatour).

Balearic Island sponsor the hot ticket
It seems that several teams anxious to continue their sponsorship havecontacted the Balearic Islands tourism board now that word has leaked thatit wants to sponsor a Division I team.

José Miguel Echavarri, manager of iBanesto.com, has been in negotiationswith the government for the past several weeks and is reportedly closeto signing a deal. But according to the Spanish daily Sport, others haveapproached the potential sponsor as well.

The ONCE management team has approached the government through a thirdparty while Javier Mínguez, an ex-sport director and Spanish radioannouncer, has also volunteered his services. Domina Vacanze manager VicenzoSantoni has also come calling, offering world champion Mario Cipollinias a prize.

“The first option is to follow the proposal made by Echavvari,” saidJosep Ballester, general director of sport for the Balearic Islands. “Weare still open to other possibilities. This week we will have a meetingand take a decision.”