Prague Criterium without stars

Although about 18 international cycling stars such as Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile), George Hincapie (Discovery) and Gilberto Simoni (Lampre) were present in Czech capital Prague on Wednesday evening, the planned Criterium took only place aligning about 20 Czechs. The international top acts refused to take part in the 64 km-race as the organisers broke financial agreements.

"The cheques for start money aren't covered," said directeur sportif Thomas Franzl one hour before the start. "The bank won't pay out. The riders may receive their start money later." After several hours of negotiation with the organisers, nearly all of the international cyclists decided to call it off, as even the transportation costs couldn't be refunded. The event ended in a self-inflicted disaster of the organisers: Czech television cancelled its live transmission of the race soon after, and the parcours was shortened. In the end, the only famous rider to take the start was Gilberto Simoni, predictably winning the criterium in front of thousands of more or less disappointed fans.

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