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Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

First Edition Cycling News for December 30, 2003

Edited by Chris Henry

Cyclingnews reader poll: Male and Female Track Riders

Today's installment of the Cyclingnews reader poll turns back to the men and women of the peloton, with your choice of Male Track Rider and Female Track Rider of 2003. The winners in each category were clear victors after their respective accomplishments on track cycling's world stage this year.

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.

Brown targets Giro for Olympic preparation

By John Stevenson

Blazing on the boards
Photo: © Shane Goss
Click for larger image

Australian sprinter Graeme Brown is clearly enjoying himself in Tasmania, where he's been almost unbeatable in the scratch races at the Tasmanian carnival series. Nonetheless, he's already thinking about the year to come. Set on notching "as many race wins as possible," Brown's two long-term goals are the Giro d'Italia on the road and track racing at the Olympics, but not before the short-term task of a very full January.

"The main focus will be the Tour of Italy," Brown told Cyclingnews after a long day of racing in Launceston. "For my team it is, for me personally it's the Olympic Games. Those are the main goals of the year. I want to win a stage or two [at the Giro] and etch my name in with the sprinters."

Unlike some sprinters who shine in the early days of three-week tours then drop out once the race hits the mountains, Brown intends to finish the Giro. "I [intended to finish] last year and I just prepared for it wrong," he explained. "If all goes to plan, hopefully I can win stages and finish the Giro. This year I had a few injuries. I hit a pothole at 50km/h and that put me back a month. If I can not do that, hopefully everything goes according to plan. I just seemed to have a bad luck-filled year."

Juggling the twin demands of trade team and Australian national squad doesn't seem to be a problem for Brown - a balance that is vital to get right in an Olympic year.

"[Ceramiche Panaria] is generally quite happy with me doing it because it's also good publicity for the team. As long as it doesn't clash with any of the main races, they don't have any problems. It's the Olympic Games, and [the Australian pursuit squad] is probably classed as the favourites to win Olympic gold. That's gotta be good for the team, so I think they'd be silly not to let myself and [teammate Brett Lancaster] go."

See Cyclingnews' full interview with Graeme Brown here.

Armstrong wins AP award

The awards keep coming for five-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong. The American was named Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year on Sunday, the second year in a row he's been given the honour, once again ahead of baseball player Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants. The award is based on votes by sports writers and broadcasters.

"It was a tough year and hard Tour," Armstrong said. "Professionally, it was as successful as any year. Personally, it was a very tough year, for more than just myself. I tried to work through it the best I could. The personal stuff is behind now."

Armstrong's desire to claim a record sixth Tour victory is no secret, and he admits to this year's close finish as one of his primary motivators. "I was just not happy with my performance in 2003, and that's a big motivating factor," he admitted, before affirming once more his love for the sport. "A day without a bike ride is still an empty day for me. That's the secret."

Power turns it on

By Shane Stokes,

Ireland's Ciarán Power (Navigators) showed he is on course for his target of a strong early season campaign in Australia and Europe when he dominated the Rás an Turcaí held in Carraroe, Co. Galway Sunday. Run off in cold, wet conditions, the six-lap event nevertheless attracted a field of 89 riders plus 56 underage competitors, a fine achievement for a midwinter contest.

Power's compatriot and Ag2R-Prévoyance professional, Mark Scanlon, had been expected to make the trip from Sligo for the race but is currently sidelined with a rib injury. He, like Power, is due to get his 2004 season underway in next month's Tour Down Under in Australia and so it is hoped that he will recover quickly from the problem.

"I was very happy with how I was going yesterday, it was a good indicator," said Power. "I had only done one day of training since coming back from the Olympic training camp in Spain as I was starting to get sick. I had thought it was wisest to back off for a few days and recover rather than to keep training away and risk being ill for longer. I went yesterday not knowing what to expect but I was very surprised. I felt fantastic, really good.

"I think I am going much better than last year," he added. "It is a pity Mark wasn't able to race, it would have been good to see how the two of us would compare, although I know his goals are for later in the season."

Power had plenty of praise for the directors of the recent training camp in Spain, Martin O'Loughlin and Padraig Marrey. "The training camp in Spain was brilliant, really well organised," he said. "I have three weeks before I start racing so I will use that time to sharpen up a bit. I have loads of power and endurance but haven't done any speed work yet. Australia should bring me on and hopefully I will be going really well in February and March."

Brochard young at heart

Brochard's not done yet
Photo: © Cyclingnews
Click for larger image

Laurent Brochard, who after the retirement of Laurent Jalabert assumed the mantle of [active] French professional with the most victories, remains motivated for another season. The former world champion, who joined Ag2R-Prévoyance in 2003, will turn 36 before the 2004 Tour de France, which figures among his major objectives for the season. Brochard has ridden 10 Tours, and this year won the Critérium International, Vuelta a Castilla y Leon, and the Paris-Camembert classic.

"Physically and mentally I feel good," Brochard commented in the French paper Dimanche Ouest-France, which named him cyclist of the year in France. "I am still motivated to do well; I don't plan on changing anything in my preparation."

Fire claims Ag2R bikes

A large fire swept through the building housing the Ag2R-Prévoyance team's bicycles, claiming some 70 bikes in the blaze. The cause of the fire remains unknown, but it spread through several buildings near the team's headquarters in Chambéry, France.

"The fire hit us at a particularly bad time," team manager Vincent Lavenu explained, "because it destroyed the new time trial bikes we planned to use for the first time in Australia [at the Tour Down Under]. We could save a few wheels, but we've called all of our suppliers and sponsors in an effort to get replacements as quickly as possible."

De Clercq finds easy going in France

Multiple cyclo-cross world champion Mario De Clercq found the racing easy and the stresses lifted after a weekend in France. De Clercq dominated the Eymouthiers Cyclo-cross in Charentes, France Sunday, a lone Belgian ahead of a varied field of Frenchmen. As De Clercq's compatriots battled in the Koksijde World Cup, he enjoyed the calmer atmosphere in France as he continued his winter build up in hopes of another World's selection.

"The solitude doesn't bother me," De Clercq said in Het Laatste Nieuws, referring to his solo representation of Belgium at Eymouthiers. "The parcours was set up three days in advance, and it was closed three hours before the race," he added. "Here you can escape the stress. The race wasn't much more than hard training, but I really enjoyed it.

"Plus, there's good start money and the expenses are covered."

Italian junior back on track

Three-time junior world champion Elisa Frisoni of Italy will return to the track in January after spending much of 2003 off the bike. Frisoni will join the Italian Cycling Federation for a training session in Aigle, Switzerland from January 5-8, with a goal of returning to competition for the European U23 championships and World Cup events.

"I was tired of being told how much I was losing by not riding more," Frisoni commented in La Gazzetta dello Sport, referring to her year away from competition. "The problem is that I have always ridden because someone wanted me to or because I had to."

National team director Edoardo Savoldi recognises Frisoni's concerns, and hopes to see her return to her top condition on better terms. "Elisa has enormous talent," he said. "She has to mature in peace and without too much pressure. The first goal is to get back to her levels before she stopped riding."

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