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Latest Cycling News for August 10, 2004

Edited by Chris Henry

Athens promises unique festival of cycling

By John Stevenson & Cyclingnews staff

Jan Ullrich leads Andreas Klöden and Alexandre Vinokourov in 2000
Photo: © AFP
Click for larger image

All three of cycling's major disciplines are represented at the Olympics, making the Games a unique event from a cycling point of view: the only time that elite-level competition brings together the very best road, track and mountain bike riders.

As always, cycling will be a big part of the Games - 480 of the event's 10,500 athletes are cyclists, comprising 212 road cyclists (145 men and 67 women); 188 track riders (153 men and 35 women) and 80 mountain bikers (50 men and 30 women). Cycling's history at the modern Olympics dates back to the very first Olympiad in Athens in 1896, which included an 87km road race - won by a Greek, Aristides Konstantinidis - and track races. There were no cycling events at the ancient Games, of course, because of the disappointing failure of the ancient Greeks to invent the bicycle.

The cycling program is spread through the 16 days of the Games, with the first event, the men's road race, on the opening day and the men's mountain bike race closing the cycling schedule on the second-last day of the Games.

Athens in August is expected to be hot and humid, which will no doubt affect all the cycling events. Warm-weather specialists will come to the fore in the road race, and the humidity will increase the chances of records being broken on the track.

Road to gold

Paolo Bettini will have a strong Italian squad in support
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The heat will certainly play a part, making favourites of riders such as Stuart O'Grady and reigning Olympic champion Jan Ullrich, while the powerful Italian squad headed by Paolo Bettini can never be discounted, provided team manager Franco Ballerini can crack the whip and get the Italians to work together.

Officially opened on August 11, the road race course is a 13.2km loop which the men will cover 17 times and the women 9, for total race distances of 224.4km and 118.8km respectively. Riders who have ridden it say it's hilly enough that the finale is unlikely to be a bunch sprint - this will be a hard, selective race that favours tough all-rounders.

The individual road race was part of the first modern Games, and has been continuously included since 1912 but there has been some variation along with way. From 1912 to 1956 a team event was included, with team positions determined by simply adding up the placings or times of the riders in the individual road race. In 1960 the team road race was replaced with a 100km team time trial, and this in turn was replaced with the individual time trial in 1992.

Turn left in Athens

Korean cyclist Hong Suk-Hwan
Photo ©: AFP
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The track programme is expected to include some awesome showdowns as riders who have been working toward these games for the last four years finally get to face off. Will Australia's world record-holding team pursuit squad repeat its recent world championships successes or will defending champions Germany and upstart Britain cause an upset? Can Sarah Ulmer repeat her stunning world record ride in the 3000 pursuit at Melbourne, or will Leontien Van Moorsel defend her Olympic title? Is there a next generation of sprinters to take the podium top spot occupied by Marty Nothstein in 2000? Theo Bos of the Netherlands perhaps?

Track cycling's long Olympic history is littered with events we'd now consider, well quirky, to say the least. The 1896 Games included a 12-hour race, won by Austria's Adolf Schmal, and tandem races were part of the track program until 1972. The program continues to evolve, with the Madison making a thrilling debut in 2000.

Dirt number three

Miguel Martinez in 2000
Photo: © AFP
Click for larger image

The baby of Olympic cycling events, cross-country mountain bike racing made its debut at Atlanta in 1996 and was an extremely popular event in Sydney in 2000.

For 2004, the mountain bike race will be held at Parnitha, close to the Olympic Village and just a few kilometres north of central Athens, on a course that has room for some 14,500 spectators to cheer on the riders.

2004 Olympics section
Full schedule
Road race map & profile
Time trial map & profile
MTB Course profile

Live coverage on Cyclingnews

Cyclingnews will be presenting live coverage of the men's and women's road races and time trials, plus up-to-the-minute results and reports from the track and mountain bike races. Full schedule coming soon.

Vai Azzuri: Ballerini's boys ready to rock Saturday in Athens

By Tim Maloney, European Editor in Ancona

Gli Azzuri, ready to rock
Photo: © Cyclingnews
Click for larger image

Cyclingnews was invited to the pre-Olympic press conference of the Italian Olympic Men's Road Cycling team in Ancona, Italy and CT Franco Ballerini was pleased to tell the assembled media that "It's a good team; I like it very much. There are so many good riders to chose from in Italy but I am confident that this is the best squad we could assemble for Athens."

The captain of the Italian team is Paolo Bettini, and Ballerini is happy to put his faith in his talented fellow Tuscan. "Bettini has shown how strong he is lately and without a doubt, he's our captain in Athens," Ballerini said. "But the other riders are also very dangerous, especially if they are in a break. So we have a lot of chances."

Although Michele Bartoli had to give up his Olympic place due to hamstring injury problems last week, Ballerini's selection of Bettini's most loyal teammate Luca Paolini will further reinforce Italy's chances in Athens. "I'm sorry Bartoli had to give up his place, but I'm confident that Paolini will be an excellent replacement."

As for Ballerini's look at the lay of the land in the Olympic road race Saturday, his frank opinion is that the race will be a "Bingo"; in other words, a crap shoot, pure and simple.

"To win the race in Athens, a rider has to ride well and be smart," he explained. "Plus you need good luck, without any mechanicals or crashes. With only five riders, the goal is to manage the situation as well as possible in real time under the circumstances."

Regarding the competition, Ballerini nominated Spain as having probably the strongest team in the race. "They will be the reference, with three riders (Valverde, Astarloa, Freire) who can win the race. Germany has a strong team as well with Ullrich, Klöden and Zabel, then there are the individual riders who can do well, like Van Petegem, a guy you can never underestimate. Plus the Australians are very good too. In any case, (the Olympics) will be a wide-open race."

Paolo Bettini: Quick.Step-Davitamon
Age: 30
Hometown: Cecina
Career Pro Wins: 41, including six World Cup races
Olympic Record: 1 Participation: Sydney (9th)

Cristian Moreni: Alessio-Bianchi
Age: 31
Hometown: Asola
Career Pro Wins: 7, including '04 Italian pro championship
Olympic Record: none

Daniele Nardello: T-Mobile
Age: 32
Hometown: Varese
Career Pro Wins: 29, including one World Cup race (Zurich '03)
Olympic Record: none

Luca Paolini: Quick.Step-Davitamon
Age: 27
Hometown: Milano
Career Pro Wins: 8
Olympic Record: none

Filippo Pozzato: Fassa Bortolo
Age: 22
Hometown: Sandrigo
Career Pro Wins: 22
Olympic Record: none

Camenzind ends career

Following his positive test for EPO, subsequent removal from the Swiss Olympic team and terminated contract with Phonak Hearing Systems, former world champion Oscar Camenzind announced Tuesday morning that his career as a professional cyclist has come to a close. Camenzind, 32, made the announcement at a press conference in Luzern, Switzerland a day after his team announced his termination.

Camenzind was tested on July 22 by the Swiss Olympic Committee's anti-doping commission and traces of EPO were found in his urine A sample.

Camenzind turned professional in 1996 with the Italian Panaria team, later riding for Mapei, Lampre, and Phonak. Among his notable victories were the 1998 world championships, 1998 Giro di Lombardia, 2001 Liège-Bastogne-Liège, 2000 Tour de Suisse, and 1997 Swiss national road title.

Verbrugghe to decide on team

Resurgent Belgian Rik Verbrugghe (Lotto-Domo), 8th in last weekend's Clasica San Sebastian, will decide on his future following this week's Tour de l'Ain stage race in France. Verbrugghe expressed discontent with a lack of support from his Lotto-Domo team during tough times in recent seasons, and appears set to make a change for next year.

"It's true that I've had sometimes had a big case of the blues," Verbrugghe told La Dernière Heure. "That's only normal when your own team doesn't support you. Last year, when I was having a truly hard time due to crashes and health problems, they made me feel like I didn't deserve the money I was making. But in cycling, you're always paid according to your results from previous years."

Verbrugghe noted that three teams have made offers, including one French formation, and all three are candidates for the UCI's Pro Tour in 2005. "I'm going to race the Tour de l'Ain, then I'll decide," he said. "A contract will be ready for me."

Youngest Schleck to CSC

Andy Schleck will join Team CSC this fall as a stagiaire, joining his older brother Frank who already rides for the Danish team. Schleck the younger won more than 50 races as an amateur, including the Flèche du Sud, won by his father 41 years ago. Andy will begin racing professionally on September 1st.

"Andy Schleck is a very big talent and it'll be very interesting to follow him during the fall," manager Bjarne Riis said on the team's website (team-csc.com). "Mostly he has to ride some of the one day races in France and Italy, and then we'll have to see if he's ready to become a full-time professional. He's rated as one of the biggest talents of his generation, and I'm looking forward to see if he's got as big a potential as his brother, who got his international break through at our team."

Tour de l'Ain

Four days of racing and five stages await the riders who begin the Tour de l'Ain today in southeast France. The UCI 2.3 event routinely assembles a number of top teams to contest the five road stages in the Rhône Alpes region. Among the names assembled are Tour de France performers José Azevedo (US Postal Service, 5th overall), Jean-Patrick Nazon (Ag2r-Prévoyance, stage winner), and David Moncoutié (Cofidis, stage winner).

Stages:

Stage 1 - August 10: Miribel - Bourg en Bresse, 154 km
Stage 2 - August 11: Lagnieu - Oyonnax, 142 km
Stage 3a - August 12: Izernore - Saint Genis Pouilly, 84 km
Stage 3b - August 12: Saint Genis Pouilly - Lelex Monts Jura, 67 km
Stage 4 - August 13: Culoz - Belley, 137 km

Teams:

Ag2r-Prévoyance
Auber 93
Brioches La Boulangère
Cofidis
Crédit Agricole
HSBC Cycling Team
Illes Balears-Banesto
Kazakhstan National Team
Lotto-Domo
Oktos-Saint Quentin
Quick.Step-Davitamon
RAGT Semences-MG Rover
Rabobank
US Postal Service-Berry Floor

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