First Edition Cycling News for August 2, 2004
Edited by Chris Henry
Rodriguez contemplates Olympic Passover
By Mark Zalewski in New York
Fred Rodriguez is having one of his best seasons as a professional. A stage win at the Giro d'Italia and the USPRO Road Championship indicated that he is at the top of his game, and when a certain Tour de France winner decided to skip the Olympics, many, including Rodriguez, assumed he was in - Rodriguez was ready to go for the gold on a course that suited his racing style perfectly.
However, the powers that be had other ideas. With a new procedure in place, USA Cycling announced that Levi Leipheimer would fill the Armstrong vacancy. This left Rodriguez speechless. Cyclingnews' Mark Zalewski sat down with a man down but not out on the eve of the NYC Cycling Championships.
Cyclingnews: What was your reaction upon learning that you were not selected for the starting team?
Fred Rodriguez: I was amazed. I had heard before that Lance was thinking about not doing it, so I still had a big hope, and I knew that I was the most likely candidate for the event. I'm not taking anything away from my friends, because they are all my friends on the team, but they know and I know that the course is most suited to my skills and not their skills. They don't have a choice, so no one is going to give up a spot -- I don't expect them to give up the spot to allow me to race -- but I think out of all the guys that are there, that the only person that also should be there -- not excluding them -- is myself. I feel bad for myself and for the team for that. But the way the rules are set up, here in the U.S., we have to follow a more political standpoint within sports because of the USOC - while the other European teams use coaches selection more.
The only problem is that they never thought there would be so many riders qualifying through that criteria. We have guys like George [Hincapie], Bobby [Julich], Levi [Leipheimer] qualifying on hors category mountain stage races for a flat, one-day race. They never thought that would happen. They made [the criteria] really hard, hoping they would get Lance and a couple of top guys. Then the coaches would have the final selections -- that's my analogy of the whole thing.
CN: So you assumed that with Lance announcing he would not race that you would be selected?
FR: What happened when Lance dropped out is that he dropped out so early in the process of the Olympic selection, that the team had not actually given the USOC the team, so at that point he basically took himself out before the full team was selected. So, if he had waited until about now, and said he was not racing the Olympics, now there would have been five riders on the team and then the coaches would have selected first and second alternate, which would have most likely been myself. As of now, I am first alternate. If someone else gets sick, then there is no doubt I would be the next one in. Lance dropping out so early in the event, they had to think twice and sit down with lawyers and say, 'What do we do here because we haven't actually presented the team to the USOC?' And they are like, 'If you don't want to be sued...' I was told that partly it was going to upset people if they don't go back to the procedure. So they decided to go back to the procedure and that is how Levi got the spot.
CN: Were you ever told that you would be on the team?
FR: At first they sent me an email saying, 'Are you interested in racing the Olympics if we give you a spot?,' and I said yes. They said, 'You are on the high priority of getting a spot.' And I think at that point they hadn't gone back and looked at the whole procedure, and I think they jumped the gun -- they thought they had something they didn't have, so they had to back step. And I called them just asking for information about travel and 'No, you aren't getting the spot.' And I was like, 'Ohhhh, are you kidding?' I thought it was a joke. I didn't believe it at first. Did I do something wrong? Did I upset somebody? I didn't know that someone had qualified automatically. Once they told me the whole procedure then I understood.
Fred Rodriguez isn't the only American frustrated over being left off the Olympic roster for Athens. Mountain biker Susan Haywood, who found herself denied the Olympic berth she expected due to apparent clerical errors by USA Cycling, has expressed her displeasure with her own missed opportunity. Haywood counted the most UCI points this season among US mountain bike women, and as a result was due to receive the country's sole ticket to Athens. However when the 15 points she earned at Sandpoint, Idaho at a UCI event failed to be recorded, she effectively lost the points race to Mary McConneloug.
"I repeatedly received assurances from USA Cycling's Chief Operating Officer, Steve Johnson, and the National Mountain Bike Coach, Matt Cramer as far back as April that these points would count toward my points total," Haywood explained in a written statement. "I believed them and based my racing schedule around their word. If I had known those 15 points were not going to count, I could have adjusted my race schedule to make them up.
"Even though I was named to the team and had gained the most points in one year with the deadline of July 12, 2004, my nomination was denied by a very last minute arbitration which 'awarded' the spot to Mary McConneloug."
The American Arbitration Association awarded the Olympic selection to McConneloug, while at the same time recognising USA Cycling's mistake. "It is unfortunate that Ms. Haywood has to bear the burden of USA Cycling's errors," the association wrote. "While, Ms. Haywood sadly bears the brunt of this... she and all other athletes will benefit if this decision leads USA Cycling and other national governing bodies issuing clearer, more transparent procedures that allow athletes to compete on a level and open playing field."
Haywood remains critical of USA Cycling but insists she is not directing her dissatisfaction toward her fellow competitor. "This is not sour grapes towards Mary McConneloug," she said. "All the athletes involved in this year's bid for the Olympics have acted with courage and integrity. I don't feel USA Cycling has done this. I trusted them and they violated that trust."
Ullrich still in T-Mobile fold
Following his declarations that he was "very annoyed" with T-Mobile team manager Walter Godefroot's comments about his Tour de France performance, Jan Ullrich has reached enough of an understanding to remain part of the top German team. Ullrich never openly threatened to leave, but did say there would be consequences for Godefroot's remark that Tour winner Lance Armstrong lived for cycling, while Ullrich only raced to make a living. Ullrich finished off the Tour podium for the first time in his career this year, ending in fourth place more than eight minutes behind the American.
"We had a good discussion," Godefroot told the press after a meeting with Ullrich on the eve of the HEW Cyclassics World Cup race in Hamburg, Germany Sunday. "In the future, we're going to speak with each other more often. Jan will continue to ride for T-Mobile."
Statements from the Ullrich camp were not overly positive, as the German's manager said only "for the moment it appears Jan will stay with T-Mobile."
Beloki looks to Vuelta
Joseba Beloki, who raced his first event in his new Saunier Duval-Prodir colours at the Circuito de Getxo, looks forward to the Vuelta a España, even if his expectations appear tempered. Beloki has been virtually invisible this season, never finding his form since his season-ending crash in the 2003 Tour de France. An ill-fated move to the French Brioches La Boulangère team eventually led to an amicable divorce and a return to Spain with Saunier Duval.
"[Getxo] was a good race for me with the changes in rhythm," Beloki said in a Marca report. "Now the Vuelta a Burgos is coming up and I want to build up my race form. I'm not going to try everything on the first day..."
Beloki in fact finished outside the time delay at the Circuito de Getxo, 13 minutes behind race winner Gert Vanderaerden, but nonetheless said he felt "better sensations than I have in a long time."
Thanking Saunier Duval manager Matxin for the opportunity, Beloki insisted that the team "can support a leader perfectly, and can even have several in the Vuelta."
Beloki is scheduled to race the next round of the World Cup, the Clasica San Sebastian, as well as the Subida al Urkiola.
Phonak for Burgos
The Swiss Phonak team will send a fresh roster to the Vuelta a Burgos stage race in Spain (August 2-5). Sole Spaniard for the event will be Gonzalo Bayarri, joined by Cyril Dessel, Marco Fertonani, Alexandre Moos, Daniel Schnider, Johann Tschopp, Alexandre Usov, and Tadej Valjavec.
Quick.Step for Burgos and GP Camaiore
Quick.Step-Davitamon will send Aurelien Clerc, José Antonio Garrido, Pedro Horrillo, José Antonio Pecharroman, Patrik Sinkewitz, Bram Tankink, and JurgenáVan Goolen to the Vuelta a Burgos.
On August 4th, Paolo Bettini will lead the charge at the one day Italian classic, GP Camaiore. Bettini will have the help of Laszlo Bodrogi, Davide Bramati, Laurent Dufaux, Luca Paolini, and Stefano Zanini.
Tendinitis for Mercado
Tour de France stage winner Juan Miguel Mercado (Quick.Step-Davitamon) will be forced to sit out the Vuelta a Burgos due to a case of tendinitis in his right leg.
Vuelta stays with TVE
Spanish national television network TVE will broadcast the Vuelta a España live with an agreement in place for the next three years. Several months of negotiation were required for the network to reach a deal with race organiser Unipublic, which assures coverage this year but leaves room for changes in the arrangements for 2005 and 2006. TVE has enjoyed healthy viewing numbers for the Vuelta, with over two million viewers daily during the 2003 edition.
Meanwhile, American cable network Outdoor Life Network (OLN) has dropped daily coverage of the Vuelta from its programming, opting only for a short summary program after the three week event concludes.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2004)