The Week That Was...
Ian Melvin comments on the happenings in the world of cycling
Love him or hate him there is only really one person to discuss here this week. Step forward Mario Cipollini. This is the story of two stage wins, a rejection and a wheel chair! For the first seven stages of this years Giro, try as he may, the lion king just wasn?t roaring his usual tune. This was all to change as the bunch sped into the closing stages of stage eight in the town of <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" /?>
Meanwhile just over the border in France, the stage was set to bring Mario back down to earth with a bang as the four wild card selections for this years Tour de France were announced ? Ag2r-Prevoyance, Brioches La Boulangerie, Jean Delatour and Euskaltel-Euskadi. No Cipo, no Ullrich and no Team Phonak. Reactions to the news came thick and fast: ?we?re stunned. It?s really difficult to understand the decision,? stated Domina-Vacanze?s Director Giuseppe Petito. ?This is completely absurd?, added Mario. ?This piece of news leaves us completely puzzled?. He later told the Gazzetta dello Sport that ?I feel sick, but have to be diplomatic and controlled? ? did I really just consider writing the words Mario and ?tranquilo? in the same sentence?
The news at this point from the Societe du Tour de France was that a vacant 22nd spot was being held for a further team to come into this year?s centenary race but that it was being lined up for what was Team Coast but whilst this had still to be confirmed opposition for Armstrong was looking decidedly weak as there was to be no Ullrich, Gonzalez de Galdeano and Ramondas Rumsas. Now it seemed that everybody wanted their say on Cipo and the Tour and Mr. TdF himself, Lance, was there at the head of the queue. ?The tour is the biggest race. It?s a world-class race and you can?t keep the best people out. I don?t understand the decision. I?ve asked for an answer but haven?t gotten a response?. However UCI President, Hein Verbruggen said ?it?s evident that Jean-Marie Leblanc followed all the rules. And it?s not the first time that the Italians have complained. Last year it was Simoni and before that Pantani?. Just what are you trying to say Hein?
Several days of increasing pressure and criticism followed. Were the Societe going to create a 23rd spot? Why were Domina-Vacanze excluded? (No and ?logistical problems because there were no hotels?). Finally on Saturday all the questions were answered, as the new Team Bianchi was unveiled following the double suspension of