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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for December 28, 2003

Edited by Chris Henry

Cyclingnews reader poll: Best Photo and Most Improved Rider

Another day, another set of year-end awards. Today we highlight your choice for Best Photograph from the 2003 season, and the result is an image that will be burned in many of our minds for some time to come. At the same time, in a year filled with many breakout performances by both new and already established riders, we reveal the readers' pick for the year's Most Improved Rider.

Each day a new category and its winner will be announced, culminating in the Rider of the Year award on January 1, 2004, just in time for a new year to begin and new favourites to emerge. Votes have been tallied for best riders in cycling's various disciplines, the best new products, best bikes, favourite moments of the 2003 season, legends of cycling, and more.

Spanish coaches plan for Olympics

As the new year approaches, thoughts center more and more on the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. The majority of top professionals have listed the Olympics as a major objective for the season, and team selections will no doubt be competitive for many nations.

Spain's national selector, Paco Antequera, has begun to think about his team's chances for the games, and will count on a number of established and emerging talents from the Spanish peloton.

"Unless something strange happens, Igor Astarloa, Alejandro Valverde, and Oscar Freire will be in Athens," Antequera told META 2MIL this week. "I've spoken with those three and they have indicated that the Games will be a big objective next season. Less clear are likely choices for the time trial event at the Olympics, but Antequera has until July to finalise his picks.

More names have been floated for the women's team selection, which will include the country's top rider, Joane Somarriba. Women's coach Juan Carlos Martín expects that the national championships will prove decisive with the selection, although the early contenders include Rosa Bravo, Mercedes Cagigas, Eneritz Iturriaga, Maribel Moreno, and Dori Ruano.

Steels thinking of Athens track

Former Belgian national champion Tom Steels is considering a run at the Athens Olympics. Steels, whose career has been defined largely by success in the spring classics and bunch sprints in the Tour de France, has been inspired to target track racing at the Olympics after recent training on the boards with Matthew Gilmore. He will discuss plans this week with Landbouwkrediet-Colnago team manager Gerard Bulens, along with Belgian national coach José De Cauwer and track coach Michel Vaarten.

"I was already at Barcelona and Atlanta, and it was unforgettable," Steels commented in the Belgian press. "The road race in Athens won't be for me, but the track could provide a good alternative. If I didn't have a chance of success, I wouldn't consider it."

Garmendia retires

Spanish veteran Aitor Garmendia, unable to secure a contract for 2004, has announced his retirement from the peloton. Garmendia most recently rode for the ill-fated Team Coast and Team Bianchi formations, after spending much of his early career in the service of five-time Tour de France winner Miguel Indurain at Banesto. Garmendia, 35, earned 20 professional victories of his own in addition to his support of Indurain in four out of five of Big Mig's victories.

Stevens with Chocolade Jacques

Christophe Stevens of Belgium has in effect signed a contract extension, joining the Chocolade Jacques-Wincor-Nixdorf team for 2004. Stevens, 29, spent the past season in Marlux colours, and represents the 25th rider to join the new Chocolade Jacques team.

Cassani to Vini Caldirola

Thirty one year old Italian Enrico Cassani will move from Alessio to Vini Caldirola for 2004. Cassani, winner of a Giro d'Italia stage in 2000 in Polti colours, is currently serving a doping suspension and will not wear his new team's uniform in competition until July, 2004.

Bank of America to sponsor criterium

Bank of America has been officially named as the title sponsor for perhaps the world's richest criterium, The Bank of America Invitational Criterium. The race will be held in Charlotte, North Carolina on Saturday, August 7, 2004. The event is part of the USA Cycling's National Racing Calendar (NRC).

The new event will boast a $125,000 prize list for the 50 mile Pro/Cat. 1 twilight criterium to be held on the streets of uptown Charlotte. The event will benefit the Brain Tumor Fund for the Carolinas.

For event information, see or email for entry information. Those interested in supporting the Brain Tumor Fund for the Carolinas are invited to email

MTB Chick Racing adds sponsor

Strata-G Communications, a Cincinnati, Ohio-based marketing and communications firm, announced plans to sponsor the MTB Chick Racing Team for the 2004 season. The sponsorship will consist primarily of in-kind public relations support for the team and its advocacy programs nationwide.

Based in Longmont, Colorado, MTB Chick Racing is a team of professional and expert-class female cross-country mountain bike racers led by nationally ranked pro racer Tonya Laffey. The team was established by Laffey in 2000 to encourage women's participation in mountain biking, and MTB Chick produces an annual series of women's mountain biking clinics.

For more information on the MTB Chick Racing Team or to inquire about booking women's mountain bike skills clinics or athlete appearances, visit or e-mail Tonya Laffey at

Intermountain Color Cycling Team recruits

The Boulder, Colorado-based Intermountain Color Cycling Team (IMC) is expanding for 2004. This grass roots team is looking to expand its current men's Pro/Cat. 1 team to include a women's team and a Cat. 3/4 team.

Category 1/2 men or women who reside in Boulder County are invited to submit racing resumes to Category 3/4 men who have five wins or more may also apply. The sponsorship includes all entry fees, clothing, a health club membership, pro deal on bikes and more.

IMC scored over 20 top 15 finishes last year in the pro ranks and took 3rd overall in the Invesco Criterium Series. Returning Cat. 1 riders include Brent Jenkins and Robert Hicken. All resumes must be received by January 30; team races will start in mid-April. For more information see

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