"The 33"-Road Bike Racing - Tour Wild Cards announced
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05-19-03, 08:06 AM
Cipollini, Ullrich and Phonak miss out
The Amaury Sports Organisation has announced the names of the final four teams that will participate in this year's Centenary Tour de France. At a press conference in Paris today, the ASO named French teams Ag2r-Prevoyance, Brioches La Boulangère and Jean Delatour and Spanish squad Euskaltel-Euskadi to fill the remaining places.
After the semi-collapse of Team Coast last week, 1997 Tour winner Jan Ullrich did not get an invitation, despite relaunching the team as Bianchi in the near future. In addition, Alex Zülle's Phonak squad also missed out on Tour selection. The biggest shock was that World Champion Mario Cipollini's Domina Vacanze team didn't get an invite, despite Cipo's immense popularity and status as one of the world's best sprinters.
The ASO's director of cycling Daniel Baal indicated that there was a fair chance that a 22nd team would be selected, provided that the suspension of Team Coast by the UCI was not lifted. "Team Coast still exists," said Baal. "The situation has yet to be clarified by the UCI."
The 21 teams that will ride the Centenary Tour are as follows:
Brioches La Boulangère
US Postal - Berry Floor
05-19-03, 08:14 AM
Shame on Leblanc !
It´s an insolence not to invite Cipo and his team.
If others (but the French) would do so, the UCI surely would veto.
05-19-03, 08:16 AM
Tour selection leaves Cipollini in the cold
Domina Vacanze's reaction: "Difficult to understand"
By Jeff Jones and Tim Maloney
The non-selection of Mario Cipollini's Domina Vacanze team for the Centenary Tour de France has amazed cycling fans, who are wondering why one of the world's most popular riders and the current World Champion deserves to be left out of the world's biggest race. Three out of the four wild cards were given to French teams: Ag2r, Brioches la Boulangère and Jean Delatour, while the fourth went to popular Spanish squad Euskaltel-Euskadi.
Jean Delatour scraped in after a poor start to the season, and lamented before the wild cards were announced that not being selected for the Tour could mean the end of the team. They were given a reprieve, after good performances in the Tour of Romandie and the Four Days of Dunkirk. In addition, Patrice Halgand won a stage in last year's Tour.
For Domina Vacanze, the decision came as a disappointment, especially after the high of Mario Cipollini's Binda-equalling stage win yesterday in the Giro. The last time that Cipollini raced the Tour was in 1999, when he won four stages. Since then he has been overlooked by the Tour de France, more due to his performances off the bike than on it and the Tour's dislike of his seeming lack of respect for the race.
When informed of the decision, Domina Vacanze's team director Giuseppe Petito told Cyclingnews, "Well we're stunned. It's really difficult to understand the decision. We think you want to put the best riders in the race and Cipollini is the World Champion, the best rider in the world. It's kind of an embarrassment for us but also for the people who made the decision. But we hope there still might be a chance because there's a team that has a spot that may not be able to ride. We're still hopeful."
Mario Cipollini couldn't believe it either. "This is completely absurd," he said in an interview with Bloomberg News. "This piece of news leaves us completely puzzled. I don't understand this unrelenting attack on my reputation, considering I am wearing an important jersey. They will be remembered for being the first ones not to invite the World Champion to their race. At this point, we're absolutely speechless."
In further comments to La Gazzetta dello Sport, the World Champion added, "I feel like being sick, but I have to be diplomatic and controlled."
For his part, Tour de France race director Jean-Marie Leblanc repeated the same reason that he has used in the past to rule out Cipollini, namely that the Italian star has never finished the three week race. "Cipollini is a great champion, a great sprinter and a real star, but we weren't convinced he deserved our total confidence for a Tour de France that will hit the mountains after just one week," said Leblanc to Bloomberg. "I have of lot admiration for Mario but we weren't convinced. The Tour de France is a competition not a show."
Past history not good
Although Leblanc cited Cipo's inability to finish the race as the primary reason for leaving him out, it must be noted that Cipollini is certainly capable of riding over the mountains - he has shown that in the Giro on a number of occasions by finishing in Milan. Also, it's difficult for him to finish the Tour when he doesn't get invited to the start.
Perhaps the ASO haven't forgotten what happened before Paris-Roubaix last year, when Cipollini, as the wearer of the World Cup jersey, announced that he would like to take part in the race. The organisers obtained special dispensation from the UCI to allow a 26th team to start, but then Cipollini decided he didn't want to race after all.
Cipollini went on to have one of his best ever seasons, starting with his victory in Milan-San Remo and following that with Gent-Wevelgem, six stages in the Giro, three stages in the Vuelta, and then the World Championships in Zolder. Despite this, his team didn't gain status as a "Top 10 Club", thereby not being guaranteed starts in all the major tours in 2003.
Once again, Cipollini had to rely on being given a wild card in order to be selected for the Tour, and earlier this year there seemed to be a reconciliation of sorts between the champion Italian and the Société du Tour de France. Race director Jean-Marie Leblanc said in January this year that "We are favourably prejudiced towards Cipollini. But it is necessary to see how his team, which has not raced yet, performs. If this is the Cipollini of past season, he has a good chance to be invited back."
Now that seems highly improbable, although there is a vacant 22nd team spot which is currently being held for Jan Ullrich's Team Coast, which is being reorganised as Team Bianchi. In a statement today, the ASO said "The Coast team is currently suspended; the organisers of the Tour de France will decide upon its eventual replacement once the International Cycling Union (UCI) has definitely taken its stand on the question."
Where is the competition?
The Tour de France will remain as the biggest bicycle race in the world, but it risks losing its status if it continually ignores the best riders. This year's Centenary Tour is looking more and more like a cakewalk for Lance Armstrong, who would be the first to admit that competition is good for the race. With the absence of Jan Ullrich, Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano and Raimondas Rumsas, Armstrong will not face three of his biggest rivals. Someone may step in to fill those shoes, but there are no guarantees at the moment.
The sprinting competition should still be strong, but the absence of Mario Cipollini once again will take away some of the spectacle of the race, which is seen by many as much more than a competition on two wheels.
I replied to something similar on the Giro thread. I think it's a terrible decision regarding Cipo and largely agree with the article you've posted.
I'm pretty sure Ullrich will get in. Bianchi will get the former Coast team straightened out and there has to be someone who Lance at least has to consider dangerous.
I'd cerainly like to see Lance win #5 but I want to see a race not a walk through/
Man, no Cipo in the Tour plain sucks.
Apparently Specialized is upset also, here's an article I found at BRAIN.
Specialized Requests Industry's Support In Lobbying Tour Organizer
MAY 29, 2003 -- MORGAN HILL, CA (BRAIN)--Despite winning the world championship road race, a handful of major European races and a record 42 Giro d'Italia stages, Mario Cipollini and his team have not been invited to the Tour de France. Mike Sinyard, Specialized's founder and president, requested the industry join the many pro riders, companies and individuals protesting the decision of the Tour organizers to exclude Cipollini's Specialized-sponsored Domina Vacanze team.
"In coordination with Mario's team and with sponsor Domina Vacanze, we also encourage the rest of the cycling community to make its feelings known, forcefully yet respectfully, through more letters, faxes and posts to online polls and discussion groups," Sinyard wrote in an open letter to the bike industry.
Sinyard quoted four-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong who gave three reasons for Cipollini's inclusion in the three-week stage race.
"First, Cipollini is the world champion," Armstrong said in Sinyard's letter. "Second, Cipollini is the best sprinter in the world, so even on a technical level it's a mistake not to invite him. Third, Cipollini is a really big personality and he's very popular in cycling. The more champions there are, the better, and the more difficult the race is, the more passionate the fans are."
Jean-Marie Leblanc, the Tour's organizer, said there is a ten percent chance Domina Vacanze could still be invited.
05-29-03, 09:01 AM
i can't even begin to understand olde european attitudes or actions. do they want this race to become a media monster or be relegaded to 1/2 hr on OLN with a streaming account of lance on ESPN2. once again, europeans are thinking small here and severely underplaying perhaps their biggest trump card in europe over the last decade. can they be so blind as to put all their eggs in one basket? what if something happens to lance?! the name recognition alone is valuable when marketing a product to the masses.
05-29-03, 11:00 AM
The French stereotypes are supported by this type of behavior.
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