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Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

Latest News for September 26, 2003

Edited by Jeff Jones

O'Grady to ride for Cofidis

Vuelta 2004 a possibility

By Jeff Jones

New colours for O'Grady
Photo: © Jeff Tse
Click for larger image

Australian champion Stuart O'Grady has signed a contract with the top French team Cofidis for two years, bringing an end to a long period with the Gan/Credit Agricole outfit directed by Roger Legeay. O'Grady closed the deal on Thursday night, and is looking forward to a new start.

Why the change? "I think there's a few reasons," O'Grady told Cyclingnews. "After nine years with Roger Legeay and the team I've had a brilliant time and it's been a huge adventure, but it's time to move on and try different things. Cofidis can offer more support in the classics which I want to do well in, and the same for the Tour, where things didn't work out as I'd have liked this year."

During this year's Tour, O'Grady was not impressed with Credit Agricole's plan to have two sprinters (O'Grady and Thor Hushovd) going for the green jersey. "That's pretty much it," said O'Grady. "It's hard enough trying to win on your own. You can't be a hundred percent focussed on trying to win a major classification in the Tour without a hundred percent team support."

In Cofidis, O'Grady will find himself alongside fellow Aussie Matt White, who is transferring from US Postal next season. "I think it's going to be fantastic. Whitey's a really great friend of mine, and I'll be riding alongside a another great friend in David Millar. Cofidis is a big team and very well structured. They focus on the main objectives and go for them."

As for his program in 2004, "I haven't had the chance to go over the race program for next year. But I think it will be fairly similar to the last few years: I'll be aiming for the classics, then a bit of a break, then a hundred percent for the Tour. Next year maybe the Vuelta too - it's a race I've never ridden and I'd like to have a go at it."

One thing that is not certain is O'Grady's participation in the Jacobs' Creek Tour Down Under, an event that he has won twice and in which he is a perennial favourite. "We're not sure yet," he said. "I'm rally hoping it does come off because I'd be really disappointed if I couldn't race in my home town and defend my national title. But it's something that I'll discuss with the team."

In other Cofidis news, Belgian Peter Farazijn, who broke his collarbone in the Vuelta, has extended his contract with the team for 2004.

Ullrich in Spanish team? "Not yet" say directors

Whiter Jan Ullrich?
Photo: © CN
Click for larger image

Spanish press reports on the future of two of Spain's biggest teams (iBanesto and ONCE) have linked the name 'Jan Ullrich' with the plans of iBanesto director, Eusebio Unz˙e. A recent article in Marca reported that Unz˙e has a big Italian sponsor lined up...on the proviso that he can sign Ullrich to his team. Also the tourist oriented community of Illes Balears has been named as one of the sponsors. However, Unz˙e was not forthcoming about any details when we spoke to him in Las Rozas yesterday.

"I don't want to say anything until it is arranged. It's not useful to say things that are not confirmed, it's not worth it".

Ullrich has not decided yet whether to remain with Bianchi next season. Much depends on the team attracting new sponsors, and Bianchi's director Rudy Pevenage is still working on that. "I think that next week the final decision will be made," said Pevenage in an interview with Munich daily TZ.

Pevenage also hasn't ruled out going back to Telekom. "I have no problem to work with Telekom," he said. "I am trying other possibilities that have not yet been made public. There are still other choices next to Telekom."

Bicycle manufacturer Specialized confirmed that there are some discussions about the sponsorship of Ullrich's team in 2004. Specialized's press agent Simone Toccafondi told Cyclingnews, "Every bike company would love to have Ullrich like Bianchi do right now, but there's nothing arranged, nothing signed."

Leipheimer stays with Rabobank

American rider Levi Leipheimer will stay with the Rabobank team for next season, signing a one year agreement with the team leaders on Thursday night. After a poor year in terms of results, Leipheimer will have to take a pay cut, however the team is happy with his riding in the Vuelta where he has been helping Michael Rasmussen keep his top 10 position.

Leipheimer was contracted by Rabobank in 2002 to be its grand tour leader, and started well with an eighth place finish in the Tour de France. However this year things didn't go according to plan after Leipheimer crashed out of the Tour in the first stage and broke one of his sit bones. His preparation for the Vuelta was insufficient for him to compete for the top positions, but he has ridden himself into form during the three week race.

"Normally a rider would have at least another month's preparation, but after such an injury Levi didn't have that," said team boss Jaan Raas. "If he stays injury free, than we'll see the real qualities of Leipheimer."

Another year for Lotz

Rabobank has also extended the contract of Mark Lotz for another season. The 29 year old will thus ride his sixth professional season with Rabobank in 2004. Lotz also crashed during stage 1 of the Tour, badly injuring his eyelid. However he is determined to bounce back in 2004.

"I realise that I must work hard in the coming season to hold my place in the team, but I like being under pressure. That keeps me sharp," said Lotz.

Raas is still looking for another rider to fill out the team, and wants a lieutenant to help Leipheimer in the big tours. "We are in negotiations with two candidates," said Raas. "Beloki is not one of them."

No changes for Lotto-Domo in 2004

The Belgian Lotto-Domo team will remain essentially the same squad in 2004 as in 2003. The team has 22 riders under contract this year, and all but six of those have contracts for 2004 as well. In any case those remaining six (Vansevenant, Hoste, Moerenhout, Van Dijk, Van Impe and Steegmans) will sign contracts next week with Lotto-Domo.

There is a possibility that the squad will add more riders to its roster, but that is not a certainty yet.

Australian track event threatened by sponsor's withdrawal

By Gerard Knapp

Kelly and Dajka
Photo: © Mal Sawford
Click for larger image

The Forges Wheelrace, one of the mainstays of Victoria's summer track cycling program in Australia, is under threat following the withdrawal of the title sponsor.

The race was sponsored by Dimmeys-Forges Stores, a retail chain based in Melbourne, the Victorian capital. But a change of management and marketing direction for the retailer has led to it advising the race organizer, Cyclists International, that it will not be sponsoring the race in the future.

Barry Langley, the managing director of Cyclists International, said, "we certainly aim to replace it with something else, as the race has seen many great champions and been a big part of the track season".

"We hope it will continue, but it can't be called the Forges Wheelrace, because they're not sponsoring it," he said. It's understood that the retailer's association with cycling is largely due to the efforts of Australian track cycling commentator, Stewart Doyle, a former executive of the company. Doyle is well known for his knowledge of the sport and has since retired from the company, as has a former director who was also very supportive of track cycling.

Cyclists International is a non-profit organisation that has worked tirelessly to promote track cycling in Victoria. For the past three years it has staged its events at the Vodafone Arena, the 250 metre timber velodrome in the centre of Melbourne. Vodafone is a world-class track designed by legendary velodrome designer Ron Webb and will be the location for next year's World Track Cycling championships.

Previous winners of the Forges Wheelrace include Olympic medallists Gary Neiwand and Scott McGrory

The race has a 25 year history and Forges-Dimmey had been a continuous sponsor of the event since 1979. The 2003 Wheelrace was won by young Victorian rider Shane Perkins and the evening also featured current and former world track champions Jobie Dajka and Shane Kelly.

Shane Kelly okay after training crash

Four time world champion, Shane Kelly (31), is recovering at home after being involved in an accident with a car on Friday morning while out training in Adelaide. Kelly was training with fellow Victorian Mark French when a car pulled out from a shopping centre car park. He suffered a torn ligament and severe sprain of the right AC joint (right shoulder) and has lost some skin from the back of his right shoulder, but is otherwise relatively unscathed.

"I was in the bike lane and this goose stuck his nose out a bit far and I went over the bonnet," said Kelly. "He was pulling out of a shopping centre at Torrensville to turn onto Henley Beach Rd travelling the same way as me. There was a car turning the other way so he stuck his nose out to see what was coming and I was coming. I swerved but I had nowhere to go and clipped the front of his car."

Kelly agrees he was lucky to not be more badly injured. "I'm just glad there wasn't a car coming up behind me or I would have been under its wheels," he explained. "I have to say I've been cruising the streets of Adelaide and the world since 1989 and this is the first time something like this has happened."

It's the third time Kelly's right shoulder has been injured. At the 2002 Australian Championships he dislocated it when he crashed in the sprint quarter finals and in 1997 he both dislocated and broke the same shoulder in a crash in the keirin series in Japan.

"Yep it's the same shoulder again but at least it's not a break this time," said Kelly who used some quick thinking to administer his own first aid on the scene. "I sent Frenchie (Mark French) across the road to the 'bottle-o' to grab a bag of ice to whack on it and we were under control. I thought about asking him to get a few coldies while he was there but we didn't have any cash on us."

Police attended and are investigating the accident.

Kelly expects to be back on his bike in a few days time and is determined to continue with his training program. "I can still ride so no drama there and I'll be back in the gym tomorrow 'cause I can at least do the leg work if not the arms," said Kelly admitting he might feel different tomorrow. "I'll cruise in a have a go and see how I pull up."

Italian U23 World's candidate "unsuitable"

20 year old Italian rider Riccardo Ricc˛ (Simec Raimondi Tosi G.B.Cicli), a candidate for the World Championships in Hamilton, will not be allowed to compete after he failed a health check carried out by the Italian Cycling Federation. The FCI has suspended Ricc˛ for 45 days according to its rules.

Cox takes Hunter's spot in SA World's team

Barloworld's Ryan Cox will replace Robert Hunter in South Africa's World Championships team, after the latter was not considered in good enough form to compete in Hamilton. Cox will join his teammate David George in the two man squad, and is feeling confident about the race.

"As far as I am concerned the world championship is just another race and I feel, especially after this year's European results with Barloworld, that I have reached a new level," Cox said. "Before, it was as though we weren't in the race, but now I feel I can mix it with the Europeans, so that makes me all the more confident about our chances in Hamilton.

Cox will focus on working for David George during the race. "We gelled very well this year in Europe, and I was always there for him, especially on the climbs - I really feel I'm a team player."

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