Quick Spins: Armstrong has American company

Americans in Europe

Contrary to most cycling news, Lance Armstrong isnt the only American racing in Europe.

Two Americans, Chann McRae and Fred Rodriguez, are contributing wins and high placings to Mapei, the worlds number-one ranked team.

McRae will start the Giro d Italia as co-leader with team captain Pavel Tonkov. McRae, who grew up in Austin, Texas and raced with Lance Armstrong early in his career, recently finished fifth overall in the Tour de Romandie. He also was the top American at last years world championships, finishing fifth in breakaway group sprint.

I actually like the idea, McRae said about his plans for the Italian tour. Mapei is going to the Giro to win it... I like being on the Giro program. It's a good group of guys from the team.

Rodriguez, a sprinter, won the fifth stage of the Tour of Dunkerque and was ninth overall. Instead of racing the Giro, Rodriguez will compete in the USPRO Championships on June 4, where he will be one of the favorites for the title.

And US Postal riders Dylan Casey and Marty Jemison, often overshadowed by their illustrious teammates, finished first and third in the Tour of Dunkerque individual time-trial, sandwiched around former world champion Chris Boardman. Levy Leipheimer, also of US Postal, was seventh. Their performances bode well for the important team time trial in the Tour de France.

Justin Spinelli, formerly of the dominant US-based Mercury team, has just been signed by the Belgian division-one Farm Frites team. The 21-year old Spinelli will make his debut in the Giro d'Italia.

Giant Axes Chiotti

French mountain biker Jerome Chiotti, who revealed in an interview with French magazine Vlo Vert that he used EPO to win the 1996 world championships, was dropped by his team.

While expressing support for his candor, Giant announced that the company and Chiotti had mutually agreed to terminate their contract.

Chiotti wasnt taken by surprise by Giants decision, but was upset that French officials were considering banning him from racing, given that his admission was an attempt to come clean in the fight against drugs.

Two teams in France have already been very supportive. But that is not to say they are going to give me a contract. In the end though, if nobody wants me, then I guess that means I no longer have any business in cycling. I can live with that, Chiotti told Mountain Bike Magazine.

Armstrong on the mend

The unthinkable almost happened. While on a routine training ride in the French Pyrenees Mountains last week, Lance Armstrong crashed at high speed. Armstrongs front tire blew while he was negotiating a turn on the decent.

Early press reports were immediately alarmist, announcing among other things that Armstrong was seriously hurt and his Tour de France preparation was in jeopardy.

Although Armstrong did sustain a slight concussion he had removed his helmet after temperatures soared on Col de Soulour, a climb overlooking Lourdes, France he wasnt nearly as bad off as one would expect after crashing at 75km/hr.

In fact, days after the crash Armstrongs wife Kristin reported that he was doing well and back on his bike training.

"Lance is totally OK now. It was a scare, needless to say, Kristin Armstrong said from their home in Nice, France. But he had a scan which showed no problems. He is already back on the bike training this week. Nothing slows him down..."

The Col de Soulour is part of the 10th stage of this years Tour de France. Without a doubt, Armstrongs training crash will figure prominently in press coverage of that stage come July.

After the fall that "could have been a lot worse," according to US Postal Service team director Johan Bruyneel, Armstrong has pulled out of the Midi Libre (May 16-21) stage race.

ESPN2 to air HP Lasejet Women's Challenge

The worlds toughest womens stage race will provide coverage to an international audience for the first time.

ESPN2 officials, citing the increased interest in cycling due to Lance Armstrongs Tour de France win and the Olympics believe that over 150 million viewers will tune in for the race.

The field will include the top international stars, including the American women, who will be vying for spots on the Olympic team.

A one-hour program of the 11-day stage race will air August 5 at 12 p.m. EDT Aug. 5, and again on August 10 at 2 p.m. EDT, just prior to the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.

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