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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

International Cycling News for December 5, 2003

Edited by Chris Henry & John Stevenson

Jose Azevedo
Photo: © Stephen Chang
Click for larger image

Jose Azevedo to replace Heras

Portuguese sources are reporting that former ONCE rider Jose Azevedo will join US Postal-Berry Floor to replace Roberto Heras. According to a report on the website of Portuguese sports newspaper O Jogo, Azevedo is in the process of signing a three-year contract with US Postal after an amicable separation with the Milaneza - MSS team, for whom he was due to ride in 2004.

Bruyneel named director of the year

At Belgium's Kristallen Fiets awards presentation, hosted by newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws, US Postal Service-Berry Floor's Johan Bruyneel was named directeur sportif of the year. It was the second such award for Bruyneel, who this year guided Lance Armstrong and US Postal to a fifth consecutive Tour de France victory and victory in the Vuelta a España with Roberto Heras, among other achievements.

Bruyneel won the prize ahead of Quick.Step-Davitamon director Patrick Lefevere.

"It goes without saying this is a great honour, but honestly, I had expected this to happen this year," Bruyneel said. "The US Postal-Berry Floor season was splendid, when you see we both won the Tour and the Vuelta.

"It's still up to the riders to determine the real value of a team leader," he added. "What makes me a good directeur sportif is a combination of many factors. In the first place, I must mention the riders one works with. If they can't deliver, you can be the most brilliant strategist there is, but you won't win the Tour."

Belda dispels Vinokourov notions

Kelme-Costa Blanca director Vicente Belda has insisted that reports of his interest in Telekom's Alexandre Vinokourov are not accurate. Belda explained the report, which stemmed from a broadcast on Efe Radio, was a misunderstanding.

"The only thing we need to know is what sort of budget the team will have in order to make necessary adjustments," Belda said in Thursday's Marca. "But at no time have we been in contact with Vinokourov, who is under contract with T-Mobile."

A pro contract for Wooldridge

By Karen Forman

After two years of racing solo as an amateur in the United States, talented Australian rider Steve Wooldridge has finally realised his long-held dream to turn pro. The 26 year old from Sydney, who was part of the Australian team which qualified fastest in the team pursuit at this year's World Track Championships in Stuttgart but not on the track for the gold-medal winning final, has clinched a professional contract with Division Three team Comnet for next season.

Comnet is based in Aachen, Germany and already boasts another Australian member, Wooldridge's fellow team pursuiter Luke Roberts, who will enter his third year next season. In fact, Wooldridge credits Roberts for "getting me onto the team".

"The last two years I have raced as an amateur in the US on my own, plus I did track at the last two Worlds," he says. "Luke was instrumental in getting me onto Comnet and it's great for me. It will be much better to be in Europe than the US."

He's no stranger to Germany, given that the Australian track team trains there every year (and he has been for the past five years). "I have started to pick up the language for relative day to day stuff," he says. Wooldridge expects to contest tours in France and Germany and events like the Giro del Capo in South Africa in his first year with the team.

As well, he hopes to gain Olympic selection for Australia. "The Olympics is a big goal for me and I am really happy that Comnet has given me the flexibility to be released to compete at the Olympics for Australia if I make the team," he says.

Wooldridge, world teams pursuit champion in 2002, started 2003 on a high note on the domestic scene, with a win at the Bendigo Madison with fellow NSW Institute of Sport (NSWIS) rider Rodney McGee. The pair won seven and placed in most of the rest of the 34 sprints to beat the Daikin/McCaig Air-conditioning team of Erik Weispfennig (Germany) and Darren Young (Tasmania) 65 points to 60. It was a heart breaker for Weispfennig, who after two years of finishing second, had hoped 2003 would be his year.

But Wooldridge was jubilant. "I could honestly say that if I retired now I would be happy. I mean, I'm a track rider and this is really the icing on the cake," he said on the podium. Of course he didn't retire. He went to the Worlds with the Australian team and even then had the Athens Olympics as his "big picture".

And now, with a professional contract and the promise of some European racing, it seems he is starting right down the barrel of that Olympic dream.

Bak to Bianchi Nordic

Glenn Bak
Photo: © Bianchi Nordic
Click for larger image

Team Bianchi Nordic has signed promising Dane Glenn Bak, who comes from Danish Team PH and will race his final year as an espoir in 2004. This season Bak was fifth and fifteenth in the U23 versions of Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Paris-Roubaix and also won the final stage of Doble Arequipa­Mollendo in Peru.

The team has the ambition to have riders from all Nordic nations, but with high demands on the riders Finland will have to wait another year.

Six riders are now signed: Jonas Holmkvist, Jesper Ingevaldsson, Petter Renäng, Mikael Segersäll, Martin Vestby and Glenn Bak. Negotiations with another two cyclists will be finalised within days.

Jonas Ljungblad leaves the team for a return to Amore-Vita, Tomas Lövkvist goes to, Tobias Lergård will ride for a new German team yet to be revealed, and 2002 European TT Champion Jonas Olsson is completing his first semester for an engineers degree at Chalmers Technical University in Gothenburg.

With the new signings and those to come the team will meet its fifth season with the strongest line up ever, says manager Tommy Prim.

Jufre continues with Relax

Josep Jufre has re-signed with the Relax-Bergasol-Fuenlabrada team for an additional two seasons, according to a Todociclismo report. Considered the backbone of the team, Jufre's best result was a second place in this year's Setmana Catalana.

Pontoni in training accident

Italy's two-time cyclo-cross world champion Daniele Pontoni was hit by a car while training, but did not suffer serious injury. The accident occurred in Osoppo, where Pontoni was hit from behind by a car and fell into a ditch at the side of the road. He was taken to the hospital in Udine for observation.

Penultimate Giro stage to visit Bianchi

The important second-last stage of the 2004 Giro d'Italia will pay tribute to a bicycle make that has long been associated with great Italian champions. Stage 19 from Bormio to the Pass of the Presolana will pass thorugh Treviglio and past the factory where Bianchi next year celebrates 120 years of celeste blue bikes.

The tie-in with Bianchi came at he request of former rider Felice Gimondi, one of many greats associated with Bianchi over the years, along with Fausto Coppi, Marco Pantani and Jan Ullrich.

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