By Andrew Hood
Domina Vacanze team owner Ernesto Preatori says he’s trying to convince Tour de France organizer Jean-Marie Leblanc to include Mario Cipollini in July’s race by adding a 23rd team to the peloton.
“I think we’ve got less than a 50 percent chance of getting a place but I’m optimistic and think our chances are increasing,” he told Eurosport. “I’m doing everything I can.”
UCI president Hein Verbruggen and Leblanc are reportedly set to meet to Friday to discuss several issues, including the international outcry at Domina Vacanze’s exclusion from four wild-card bids that were announced Monday.
“I called Hein Verbruggen and he told me that 23 teams had taken part in the Tour of Spain last September and so he would give permission for 23 teams in the Tour, with Domina Vacanze as the 23rd team,” Preatori said. “I immediately called Tour organizer Jean Marie Leblanc. He said there would be a problem of hotels and cars but I reassured him that Domina Vacanze is an expert when it comes to hotels. We agreed to talk again when Leblanc comes to Italy on Friday and we’ll see what happens in the next 48 hours.”
Armstrong says Cipo’ exclusion wrong
Four-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong said he thinks Mario Cipollini should be in the Tour.
“I don’t understand this decision,” Armstrong said in an interview in La Gazzetta dello Sport. “I have asked for an explanation and I get no reply. There are three good reasons to consider it completely wrong. One — Cipollini is the world champion and would only have added to the Tour. Two — Cipollini is the best sprinter in the world, so it is a mistake on a technical level as well, something that demeans the race. Three — Cipollini is a great popular personality in our sport, he knows his responsibilities, and the Tour should have welcomed him back.”
Steels wins Belgian opener
Tom Steels (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago) won the opening stage of the Tour of Belgium on Wednesday and took the overall lead. Steels took the 176km circuit course in Oostende ahead of Stefan Van Dijk (Lotto-Domo). The race saw the returns of U.S. Postal’s George Hincapie and the first European start of the season for Floyd Landis and both riders finished safely in the main bunch as it came in for a mass gallop.
Tour of Belgium (UCI 2.3), Stage 1, Oostende-Oostende, 176km
1 Tom Steels (B), Landbouwkrediet-Colnago, 4 hours, 12 minutes, 28 seconds
2. Stefan Van Dijck (Ned), Lotto-Domo
3. Rik Reinerink (Ned), BankGiroLoterij – all same time
26. George Hincapie, s.t.
42. Floyd Landis, s.t.
Evans, Salvodelli return at Tour of Bavaria
Telekom’s Cadel Evans and Paolo Savoldelli both returned to action in Wednesaday’s opening stage of the Tour of Bavaria, which continues through Sunday. Evans cracked his shoulder in a spill during the spring classics while Savoldelli is recovering from a crash during training over the winter. Thomas Liese of the German national team edged out the top pros to take the opener and the overall lead.Tour of Bavaria (UCI 2.3)
Overall standings after stage 1, Grassau to Reit im Winkl, 114km
1. Thomas Liese (G), German national team, 2 hours, 42 minutes, 38 seconds
2. Olaf Pollack (G), Gerolsteiner at 1 second
3. Stefan Kupfernagel (G), Phonak, at 6 seconds
Banesto wins Castilla team time trial, Karpets takes lead
Spanish team iBanesto.com was fastest in Wednesday’s second stage of the Tour of Castilla y Leon in the 22.5km team time trial in Venta de Banos. Vladimir Karpets was first across the line for the Banestos and jumps into the overall lead.
Sevilla hopes bad luck is over
Kelme’s Oscar Sevilla is back in action in this week’s Vuelta a Castilla y Leon after being sidelined yet again for problems with a cyst he had removed two months ago.
The popular Spanish rider said he’s hoping his health problems are behind him and he can use the coming weeks to make up for lost time.
“I’ve missed several weeks of training and I am obviously behind where I wanted to be at this time,” Sevilla told VeloNews before Tuesday’s start. “I think there’s enough time to be ready for the Tour. It’s frustrating for all the health problems I’ve had, but there’s not much I can do about it.”
Sevilla’s been plagued with bad luck since his breakthrough Tour performance in 2001 when he won the best young rider competition. Flat tires kept him from winning the 2001 Vuelta while Sevilla struggled through the 2002 Tour de France sick and in poor form. He bounced back for the Vuelta, but suffered an “enemy within” in the form of Aitor Gonzalez, who went on to win.
After the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon, Sevilla will race at the Tour of Cataluyna in June to see where his true form lies before the Tour.
“Sure, I am worried that I won’t have that many days of racing or that many training miles. I wanted to do all I could this year, but with the problems I have had, there’s not much I can do about that,” he said. “I will work hard, suffer and go as hard as I can.”
LA takes top sports “Oscar”
Lance Armstrong can make more on his trophy room after he pulled in some fairly prestigious hardware Tuesday when he won the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year award in Monte Carlo. The Laureus awards are nicknamed the “Oscars” of the sports world. In 2000, he won the Laureus World Comeback of the Year award.
Five-time Tour champion Miguel Indurain presented Armstrong with the award. Armstrong won the men’s award ahead of Brazilian soccer star Ronaldo, Germany’s Formula One champion Michael Schumacher and Armstrong’s compatriot, golfer Tiger Woods.
It is a second Laureus accolade for the Texan, who won the World Comeback of the Year award three years ago following his return to the top after beating cancer.
Serena Williams currently won the women’s award while Ronaldo, who attended the awards ceremony in Monaco, claimed the World Comeback award and World Team award on behalf of World Cup winners Brazil.
Newcomer of the Year went to China’s Yao Ming, the Houston Rockets basketball star. South African golf legend Gary Player was given the Lifetime Achievement Award.
The Laureus Academy includes more than 40 famous sportsmen and women, including Boris Becker, Bobby Charlton, Martina Navratilova, Nadia Comaneci, Emerson Fittipaldi and John McEnroe.
Luttenberger signs with CSC
Austrian Peter Luttenberger has signed with Team CSC for the remainder of the 2003 season, Radsport news agency reported Wednesday. Luttenberger, 30, will making his debut in CSC colors at the Tour of Luxembourg at the end of this month. A solid climber who finished fifth in the 1996 Tour de France, Luttenberger will provide extra fire-power to back up Tyler Hamilton and Carlos Sastre in the mountains. Luttenberger will then race at the Classiques des Alpes and Dauphine Libere to warm up for the Tour. “I think after two or three races I’ll find my rhythm again. I’ve trained hard enough and my form reminds myself of my strong season in 1996,” he said.
Hincapie, Landis back for Tour of Belgium
U.S. Postal’s George Hincapie and Floyd Landis are both penciled to start Wednesday’s opening stage of the five-day Tour of Belgium. It’s the first race back in Europe for Landis, who broke his hip back in January, and the return to racing for Hincapie, who saw his classics season sidelined with a lung parasite and sinus problems. Victor Hugo Pena had visa problems and couldn’t make the start. Rounding out the Posites lineup includes Roberto Heras, David Zabriskie, Guennado Mikhailov, Pavel Padrnos, Max Van Heeswijk and Matthew White. Check back later today for race results.
Hushovd takes Castilla opener
Tuesday was the day of the Viking bike racer. In the Giro d’Italia, national champion … (Team fakta) won the 10th stage while in the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon, Credit Agricole’s Thor Hushovd outlasted a late charge from Carlos Torrent (Paternina) in a bunch sprint into Vallodolid.
The five-day stage race continues Wednesday with a 22km team time trial, representing one of the few chances teams will get the chance to practice the discipline before going to the Tour de France.
Tour of Castilla y Leon (UCI 2.3), Stage 1, San Andres del Rabanedo to Valladolid, 165 km
1. Thor Hushovd (N), Credit Agricole, 3 hours, 46 minutes, 57 seconds
2. Carlos Torrent (Sp), Paternina
3. Andrej Hauptman (Slo), Phonak
4. Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero (Sp), Domina Vacanze
5. Nacor Burgos (Sp), Relax-Fuenlabrada – all same time