By Andrew Hood
Dario Frigo, plagued by a viral infection since Paris-Nice, won’t start next month’s Giro d’Italia. Instead, Fassa Bortolo has tapped the in-form Frank Vandenbroucke to take his place as team captain.
Frigo became sick during Paris-Nice and has been unable to effectively train since then. Frigo — kicked out of the 2001 Giro by his team after being found with banned substances during the San Remo raids — scored victories last year at Paris-Nice and won a Giro stage, but has yet to win this year.
Vandenbroucke, meanwhile, has been riding strong throughout the spring despite not scoring a major victory. But he’s earned the team’s confidence and will lead the “Silver Train” in the hunt for the overall while ace Alessandro Petacchi will take on Mario Cipollini (Domina Vacanze) in the sprints.
The addition of Vandenbroucke is a boon for Tom Danielson, who will be racing this week in the Tour de Romandie (SWI 2.HC) in Switzerland. The American told VeloNews last week he was worried that if Frigo was left off the team, Fassa Bortolo might build the entire squad around Petacchi.
Danielson said he wants a strong performance in Romandie to prove his worth to the team to earn a spot on the Giro team.
Latest UCI world rankings
The UCI released its latest world rankings on Monday, including points acquired over the past weekend of racing.
1. Erik Zabel (GER), 2271 pts
2. Paolo Bettini (ITA), 2235
3. Alessandro Petacchi (ITA), 2132
4. Davide Rebellin (ITA), 2074
5. Alejandro Valverde (SPA), 1773
6. Lance Armstrong (USA), 1752
7. Gilberto Simoni (ITA), 1412
8. Alexandre Vinokourov (KAZ), 1381
9. Michael Boogerd (NED), 1329
10. Oscar Freire (SPA), 1196
11. Jan Ullrich (GER), 1167
12. Jens Voigt (GER), 1155
13. Robbie McEwen (AUS), 1153
14. Isidro Nozal (SPA), 1150
15. Danilo Di Luca (ITA), 1133
16. Stefano Garzelli (ITA), 1121
17. Francisco Mancebo (SPA), 1070
18. Iban Mayo (SPA), 1046
19. Baden Cooke (AUS), 1036
. David Millar (GBR), 1036
21. Mirko Celestino (ITA), 1032
22. Francesco Casagrande (ITA), 1019
23. Denis Menchov (RUS), 1006
24. Tom Boonen (BEL), 987
25. Roberto Heras (SPA), 978
UCI threatens to suspend Kelme
The UCI is threatening to suspend Communidad Valenciana-Kelme from all racing if the team’s title sponsor doesn’t finalize its contract, according to a report Monday by the Spanish daily MARCA.
Communidad Valenciana, the regional government of Valencia, came on board as title sponsor when shoe-maker Kelme couldn’t afford to carry the team on its own, but has yet to fulfill contract obligations required by the UCI, MARCA reported.
Several riders, including 2001 Vuelta a España champion Angel Casero, have been unable to race this season due to legal wrangling. Now the UCI is threatening to pull the racing license for the entire team.
The team has had plenty of bad news following the controversial declarations of alleged doping within the team by former rider Jesus Manzano, which led to the team losing a possible start in the Tour de France.
The team’s start in the Giro d’Italia is also in question and team officials are scheduled to travel to Milan on Wednesday to meet again with Giro officials to assuage worries about the team’s practices.
Ullrich defends weight
Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) is once again under fire from critics for being overweight and out of shape heading into the 2004 Tour de France.
The 1997 Tour champion abandoned the Flèche Wallone race Wednesday and did not start Liège-Bastogne- Liège on Sunday, further fueling speculation the 29-year-old German is behind in his Tour preparation.
But Ullrich, a four-time Tour runner-up, defended himself in an interview in the German paper Bild am Sonntag.
“This thing about my weight is rubbish. I trained a lot in the winter and built up muscle mass,” Ullrich was quoted by BBC. “This additional strength will help me to cope with the demands of the Tour and overcome them.”
Ullrich isn’t expected to race again until May and still has yet to set his final schedule for his Tour lead-up.
Five-time defending Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong, meanwhile, sewed up overall victory Sunday in the Tour de Georgia (USA 2.3).
Racing this week
The 58th Tour de Romandie (SWI 2.HC) dominates the week of racing in Europe. The 628km race, April 27-May 2, includes a prologue and five stages, and a total of 7,762m of climbing. A final start-list is not yet complete, but defending champion Tyler Hamilton (Phonak), Tom Danielson and Frank Vandenbroucke (Fassa Bortolo), Jorg Jaksche and Carlos Sastre (CSC), Brad McGee (FDJeux.com), Leonardo Piepoli (Saunier Duval) and Stefano Garzelli (Vini Caldirola) are among the top names confirmed. … The five-day Vuelta al Castilla y Leon (SPA 2.3) begins Wednesday and features such teams as Vini Caldirola, Credit Agricole and Milaneza as well as all the major Spanish teams. The route pushes east to west, shadowing the “Camino de Santiago” pilgrim’s route across northern Spain, and is highlighted by a 32km team time trial in stage 2 and a difficult mountain day in stage 4.