By Andrew Hood
Twenty-one Tour de France winners will be present in Paris on Thursday for the unveiling of the 2003 Tour route to mark the race’s centenary.
The Tour’s 100th birthday will be marked with pomp and circumstance leading up to July, beginning with Thursday’s race announcement. The route is expected to start and end in Paris, with ascents up such legendary cols as Izoard, Galibier, Alpe d’Huez, Tourmalet and Aubisque.
Among the former winners expected to attend include Italians Marco Pantani (1998) and Felice Gimondi (1965), German Jan Ullrich (1997), Dane Bjarne Riis (1996), Spaniards Miguel Indurain (1991 to 1995), Pedro Delgado (1988) and Federico Bahamontes (1959), Americans Greg LeMond (1986, 1989 and 1990) and four-time winner Lance Armstrong, Ireland’s Stephen Roche (1987), Frenchmen Laurent Fignon (1983 and 1984), Bernard Hinault (1978, 1979, 1981, 1982 and 1985), Bernard Thévenet (1975 and 1977), Lucien Aimar (1966) and Roger Walkowiak (1956), Dutchmen Joop Zoetemelk (1980) and Jan Janssen (1968), Belgians Lucien Van Impe (1976) and Eddy Merckx (1969 to 1972, 1974) and the Luxembourgian Charly Gaul (1958).
Gonzalez to Italy
The on-going saga on where Vuelta winner Aitor Gonzalez is going seems to be drawing to a close.
Gonzalez traveled Wednesday to Venice, Italy, where is expected to finalize a two-year deal with Fassa Bortolo. His salary is reportedly worth $750,000 per year, a nice raise from his $50,000 salary he earned with Kelme. Gonzalez zeroed in on Fassa after negotiations fell through with other teams.
The Italian team let go such veterans as Francesco Casagrande, Serguei Honchar and Wladimir Belli to sign younger up and comers as Fabian Cancellara, Filippo Pozzato and newly crowned under-23 champion Francesco Chicchi. Fassa has kept the services of sprinters and classics men Michele Bartoli and Alessandro Petacchi, leaving the door open for Gonzalez to be sole leader for the major stage races.
Simoni officially cleared
Gilberto Simoni, the 2001 Giro d’Italia champion who was forced to pull out of this year’s Giro after failing a doping test for cocaine, was officially cleared Tuesday by an Italian appeals commission.
The ruling absolves Simoni technically of any doping following two positive tests for cocaine, once in a WADA test on April 24 and another during the Giro on May 21. In late July, Simoni was cleared of doping by a disciplinary commission and the Italian was brought back into the Saeco team fold and immediately returned to racing.
Throughout the case, Simoni continually declared his innocence, insisting the first positive was the result of a trip to the dentist and the second positive the result of eating candies made in Peru that had small quantities of cocaine to treat sore throats.
See Saeco teampress release issued Wednesday