By Andrew Hood
Domina Vacanze officials want Mario Cipollini to be at the start line in Gijón next weekend for the kick-off of the Vuelta a España whether the petulant star wants to race or not.
Team manager Vicenzo Santoni said the world champion has been “officially called” to start the race, according to reports in the Spanish press.
Cipollini hasn’t raced since crashing out of the Giro d’Italia back in May and has said he might not start the season’s final grand tour, a move that angered Vuelta organizers who said earlier this week if “Cipollini doesn’t come, Domina Vacanze shouldn’t bother to show up in Gijón.”
Cipollini and Domina Vacanze officials were scheduled to meet this weekend in Italy to discuss the Tuscan’s future. Cipollini is reportedly not in top shape, but wants to earn a spot in the Italian world championships team in part to repay the favor to his Italian teammates who sacrificed their chances last year in Zolder for Cipollini.
Cipollini and Domina Vacanze are also expected to announce a one-year contract extension for the Lion King to race through the 2004 season.
In the meantime, Vuelta officials are exploring avenues to excluding Domina Vacanze from the race if Cipollini doesn’t show. Race organizers want to avoid a repeat of last year’s embarrassment when Giro winner Paolo Savoldelli showed up unmotivated and out of shape only to abandon early in the race. His Alessio team was invited only on the condition that the Giro champion was in tow.
Ullrich may start T-Mobile
There’s growing hope that Jan Ullrich (Bianchi) will race in next month’s T-Mobile race in San Francisco.
The race will already be boasting its most international field ever, with Giro d’Italia champion Gilberto Simoni (Saeco), Paris-Nice winner and third-place Tour finisher Alexandre Vinokourov (Telekom) and Stefano Garzelli (Caldirola) expected to line up against five-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong on the mean streets of San Francisco.
Ullrich is skipping the Vuelta a España and might even pass on the world championship. Race organizer Dan Osipow told the San Francisco Chronicle there’s a 50-50 chance Ullrich might start.
“We’re still trying to work things out. We’ve got our fingers crossed,” Osipow said. “Having him here — to have the complete Tour de France podium in San Francisco — would be outstanding.”
Defending champion Charles Dionne will be back, but 2001 champion George Hincapie will be racing in the Vuelta.
Eki leads GP Merckx start list
U.S. Postal’s Viatcheslav Ekimov and Victor Hugo Peña roll into Sunday’s GP Eddy Merckx as favorites. The pair finished 1-2 in the Tour of Holland time trial last week and Ekimov held on to win the overall title of the Dutch race.
Other favorites in the two-man time trial event include Credit Agricole’s Christophe Moreau and Jens Voigt, Quick Step’s Michael Rogers and Laszlo Bodrogi and Telekom’s Bobby Julich and Alexandre Vinokourov.
CSC’s Michael Blaudzun is a last-minute replacement for Tyler Hamilton, who won’t be racing again this season after MRI scans Friday confirmed he has a fractured femur suffered in a fall in the Dutch tour.
Tentative start list for GP Eddy Merckx (UCI 1.2), Aug. 31:
Bankgiroloterij: Bart Voskamp and Remco Van der Ven (both Ned)
Cofidis: Nico Mattan (B) and Phillippe Gaumont (F)
Crédit Agricole: Christophe Moreau (F) and Jens Voigt (Ger)
Crédit Agricole: Thor Hushovd (Nor) and Stuart O’Grady (Aus)
CSC: Michael Blaudzun (Den) and Andrea Peron (I)
De Nardi-Colpack: Serhiy Honchar (Ukr) and Andrea Rossi (I)
FdJeux.com: Baden Cooke and Bradley McGee (both Aus)
Gerolsteiner: Uwe Peschel and Michael Rich (both G)
Lampre: Rubens Bertogliati (Swi) and Manuel Quinziato (I)
Landbouwkrediet-Colnago: Ludo Dierckxsens and Marc Streel (B)
Lotto-Domo: Axel Merckx and Rik Verbrugghe (B)
Lotto-Domo: Leif Hoste and Peter van Petegem (B)
Marlux-Wincor: Raivis Belohvosciks (Lat) and Dave Bruylandts (B)
Palmans-Collstrop: Bert Roesems and Andy De Smet (B)
Quick Step: Johan Museeuw (B) and Servais Knaven (Ned)
Quick Step: Laszlo Bodrogi (Hun) and Michael Rogers (Aus)
Rabobank: Erik Dekker (Ned) and Marc Wauters (B)
Telekom: Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) and Bobby Julich (USA)
US Postal: Viatcheslav Ekimov (Rus) and Victor H.Peña Grisales (Col)
Vlaanderen: Geoffrey Demeyere and Stijn Devolder (both B)
Belda says Sevilla can win Vuelta
Kelme’s Vicente Belda believes Oscar Sevilla is strong enough to win the Vuelta a España despite missing most of the 2003 season with complications from a cyst.
“This year Oscar Sevilla is going to win the Vuelta,” Belda told the Spanish sports daily AS during a team presentation Friday in Alicante. Belda introduced the 10 riders that will ride the Vuelta (one will be a substitute).
Sevilla, however, isn’t as cocksure as his sport director and said he’s not so sure what to expect.
“My performance in the Vuelta will be completely a surprise for me,” Sevilla admitted. “I was operated on in March for a cyst and I’ve been five months without being able to train. I have about 4000 kilometers while the rest of my competitors have already done 30,000. The problem will be the start, because later, little by little, I will be faster.”
Kelme for the Vuelta
Adolfo García Quesada
Albizu wins Friuli
Little-known Spanish rider Joseba Albizu (Mercatone Uno) won Saturday’s 197.5km Giro dello Friuli in Italy. Albizu edged breakaway partner Leonardi Scarselli (Colombia-Selle Italia) to win his first race of his pro career. Lampre’s Sergio Barbero was third at 5 seconds back.
Giro dello Friuli, Italy (UCI 1.3), 197.5km
1. Joseba Albizu (Sp), Mercatone Uno, 5:03:05
2. Leonardo Scarselli (I) – same time
3. Sergio Barbero (I), Lampre +0:05
4. Luca Mazzanti (I), Panaria
5. Gianni Faresin (I), Gerolsteiner – all same time