By Andrew Hood
Just a week after the world championships in Zolder, Saturday’s Giro di Lombardia may turn out to be to be another celebration of the new cooperation among Italian pros.Recently crowned champion Mario Cipollini promises to be at thestart line showing off his rainbow jersey and to help compatriot Paolo Bettini(Mapei) secure the World Cup title. Lombardia wraps up the 10-round WorldCup series and Bettini holds a slim 9-point lead over Belgian Johan Museeuw(Domo).
The Lion of Flanders won two World Cup rounds (Paris-Roubaix and HEW Cyclassics)while Bettini won Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Bettini, however, has been more consistentoverall and has earned points in more races than Museeuw. The more difficultcourse at Lombardia favors the Italian who only has to finish ahead of Museeuwto win the World Cup. Meanwhile, Igor Astarloa (Saeco) stands an outsideshot of pulling an upset. With a victory and Bettini and Museeuw finishingout of the points, the Spanish rider could catapult into the overall title.
1. Paolo Bettini, 279 points
2. Johan Museeuw, 270
3. Igor Astarloa, 180.
Watch Friday for a complete start list.
Here are the teams:
Acqua & Sapone
U.S. Postal Service.
Transfer news: Brochard, Hoj, Kristensen
Former world champion Laurent Brochard, 34, has signed with the French AG2Rteam for the 2003 season. After riding with Jean Delatour, Brochard willnow share duties with sprinter Jaan Kirsipuu.
“It’s a relief, to be honest. I didn’t expect to be out on the street, butI didn’t want to have to work at any price,” Brochard told L’Equipe.
Danish rider Frank Hoj signed a deal with EDS-Fakta for the 2003 season.Hoj rode two seasons with Team Coast, but is reportedly two months in arrearsin getting paid. “I want to become a better rider and rediscover the joyin cycling,” Hoj told Procycling. “Fakta made me a good offer. Wegot to an agreement straight away, and I just feel that this is right.”
Also, 34-year-old Lennie Kristensen has signed on with CSC-Tiscali for the2003 season after racing for EDS-Fatka.
“Lennie has lots of qualities and is a type of rider that fits the team well.He will be a good card to play in one-day races and in lesser stage racesand I would not be surprised to see him featuring in one of the big stageraces as a secondary rider,” said sport director said Alex Pedersen on theteam’s web page.
Kristensen is a former European champion and Tour VTT winner on the mountainbike scene who returned to racing on the road in the late 1990s. “I am pleasedto get the opportunity to be part of a big first-division team. It can bea motivating factor to change your surroundings and I need that after a somegood years with Fakta,” Kristensen said.
Botero eyes Telekom, more troubles for Kelme
If Kelme hasn’t been battered enough, the oldest division-one team in thepeloton could lose the services of Colombian Santiago Botero. Just yesterday,Botero said he stood a 50-50 chance of leaving Kelme. Thursday, the Spanishsports daily AS reported the newly crowned world time trial championis close to signing a two-year deal with Telekom and has asked Kelme to lethim out of the one year remaining on his contract. Botero, however, has abuy-out clause worth a reported $750,000, something either he or Telekomwould have to pay for before Kelme would let him get away.
That’s not the end of Kelme’s problems. MARCA reported Thursday thatthe Kelme riders still haven’t been paid for September, bringing back memoriesof earlier this season when the Kelme riders weren’t paid for several monthsleading up to the Tour de France. 2002 Vuelta a Espana champion Aitor Gonzalezis also leaving the team, although his contract was up this year he vowednot to race again with Kelme again. The team lost star Roberto Heras afterhis 2000 Vuelta victory to U.S. Postal Service and even Oscar Sevilla ishinting he’d like to leave the team. Vicente Belda, Kelme’s sport director,says he’s “fed up with all the polemica. If the other teams want our riders,it’s because they’ve done great things with us. The good thing we have hereis that we get good results.”
Bartoli gets revenge at Milan-Turin
Italy Michele Bartoli was overlooked for the 2002 world championship team,but the Fassa Bortolo rider has no regrets. He got his revenge by winningWednesday’s 199-km Milan-Turin late-season classic.
“I don’t have any regrets and I haven’t had any in all these days,” Bartolitold La Gazzetta dello Sport after edging Lampre’s Oscar Carmenzind in asprint finish. “Not even when I watched the race on TV. I am only worriedabout being professional and the rest doesn’t interest me. I am interestedin winning bike races.”
Bartoli’s win came with some bad luck from Fabiano Fontanelli, who crashedwhile coming into the finish on the velodrome holding a slim lead over thechasing bunch. Bartoli heads into Saturday’s Giro di Lombardia as the topfavorite for victory. “I have always been strong at Lombardia, even lastyear. It’s obvious I am one of the favorites but the only thing that is importantis to win the race.”
Milan-Turin, 199 km, Oct. 16
1. Michele Bartoli (I), Fassa Bortolo, 4 hours, 37 minutes, 44 seconds (42,991kph)
2. Oscar Camenzind (Sui), same time
3. Gabriele Missaglia (I), s.t.
4. Davide Rebellin (I) s.t.
5. Marco Serpellini (I), s.t.
6. Gerhard Trampusch (Aut), s.t.
7. Fabrizio Guidi (I), s.t.
8. Peter Luttenberger (Aut), s.t.
9. Alessandro Guerra (I), s.t.
10. David Millar (GBr) s.t.