First Edition Cycling News for August 13, 2004
Edited by Chris Henry
Enter the Dutch
Big squad, big medal chances
By Jeff Jones
With a sizeable squad of 25 riders, the Dutch orange brigade should certainly figure among the medals in Athens. The Dutch are well represented across all three disciplines and there is depth on both the men's and women's sides.
The Netherlands will have strong medal chances on the track, with big, talented sprinter Theo Bos a good pick for the sprint events. Bos is the reigning World Champion in the sprint, having won that title earlier this year in Melbourne, Australia. He also won the kilometre time trial in the Moscow round of the Track World Cup, showing his versatility. On the women's side, reigning Olympic individual pursuit champion Leontien Zijlaard-Van Moorsel is a favourite for that title again in Athens, the only event that she will contest on the track. Van Moorsel has been building her final season around the Olympic Games, and the pursuit is a gold medal that is definitely within reach of the former World Record holder in this discipline.
These two riders aside, the Dutch track team has plenty of other options. In the sprint events, Teun Mulder, Tim Veldt and Jan Bos will combine with Theo in the team sprint, with Mulder also riding the sprint, keirin and 1 km time trial. The endurance riders include Levi Heimans and Jens Mouris, who will do both the team and individual pursuit; Peter Schep (team pursuit and points race), Jeroen Straathof (team pursuit) and Thomas Dekker (named for the team pursuit, although he will actually concentrate on the road time trial).
Astarloa eyes Olympic rings
Already world champion on the road, Spain's Igor Astarloa (Lampre) is hoping to add the Olympic rings to his rainbow bands with a victory in Athens Saturday. Astarloa heads a talented Spanish team featuring two-time world champion Oscar Freire, Alejandro Valverde (who finished second behind Astarloa in the 2003 World's), Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano, and José Ivan Gutierrez. The 28 year old Basque is optimistic, but also realistic about his chances.
"It would be wonderful to win here," he said in an Efe interview. "I'm capable of winning, but it will be very difficult because it's going to be a very complicated and hard race to control."
Astarloa knows that the small team size will be both a benefit and a challenge for the strong Spanish team. "Of the five of us, four have already won medals in the world championships, so we're a strong team with more options," he explained.
"I'm feeling good, but I think out of all of us, the best physically is Valverde. In any case, everything will depend on the race situation."
Evans tips Vinokourov
Cadel Evans has picked two riders as his favourites for the Olympic road race on Sunday. After racing with him at the Regio Tour last week, one of Evans' tips is his team-mate Alexandre Vinokourov. Vinokourov won the Regio Tour with no small assistance from Evans and the T-Mobile team, who found themselves chasing down a threatening break on the final day, a task that involved a frantic chase to make up a three minute deficit in the last 40km.
In his latest diary entry, Evans writes, "As for this coming Sunday, I'm interested to see how Vinokourov goes. He's certainly one of the best prepared riders for the Olympics and he's amongst my favourites from the race. Other than him, it's obvious that Stuart O'Grady is riding with the form of his life so that'll be interesting. But like any other race it all depends on how the race pans out. I'll certainly be watching and cheering like most of you."
Evans is still being cagey about his destination for 2005. He has been reliably reported as being about to sign with the new Belgian Omega Pharma-Lotto team that includes Robbie McEwen, Henk Vogels and Nick Gates, but for the moment, Evans is just saying that it's still all with the lawyers and he will be able to make an official announcement in "a matter of a few days".
Longo's adventure continues
Jeannie Longo, who has participated in every Olympics since 1984, will once more represent France on the road in Athens. Longo will contest both the women's road race and time trial, though she confessed that she is not thrilled with the Athens parcours for Sunday's road race.
"It's tough but I don't like it at all," Longo told AFP. "It's like a 13 kilometre criterium. To stay up front it's going to be a battle for three hours."
Longo spent her Olympic build up in the French Alps, testing herself on climbs such as Alpe d'Huez, le Noyer and le Granon for intense 45 minute efforts.
"Six Olympiads... That means I've lasted in the history of French sports," she said. "It's somewhat symbolic, at my age and particularly in such a tough sport."
Longo will be joined by Sonia Huguet and Edwige Pitel in the road race, while Pitel will also tackle the individual time trial.
WADA confident in tests
Anderson enquiry documents to be handed over
Two days before the start of Olympic competition, World Anti-Doping Agency president Richard Pound assured that testing would keep pace with the latest developments in performance enhancing drugs. With the recent THG steroid scandal prompting new concerns about so-called designer drugs, Pound noted that the number of tests performed at the Athens Olympics would represent a 25% increase from Sydney four years ago.
Of particular interest is WADA's claim that a test exists and is in place to detect the use of human growth hormone (HGH), thus far undetectable in doping controls.
"If there are people using it, we should be able to find them," Pound said. "We're keeping the parameters of the test to ourselves for the moment because I see no advantage in giving anyone who is cheating any indication about the likelihood of the reach back period."
Pound also said that Australia's Minister for Sport Rod Kemp has agreed to hand over to WADA all documents relating to the recent Anderson enquiry into the Mark French affair.
"Mr Kemp has undertaken to make available all material to [WADA]," said Pound. Referring to perceptions that due process had not been followed in the inquiry, Pound added, "There were some privacy concerns, but even with those he has agreed to make the documents available to us and we can put this speculation to bed."
Dajka loses final bid to join Australian team
By John Salvado, AAP
Australian cyclist Jobie Dajka has failed in his last-ditch bid to be reinstated to the Australian Olympic team because the decision to omit him was not biased or irrational, it has been found.
Australian team chef de mission John Coates dumped Dajka from the Games squad last month after he denied that he had ever self-injected in the room of disgraced teammate Mark French. This was later found to be untrue when his DNA was found on nine articles in the sharps bucket taken from the room at the AIS cycling facility in Adelaide. Dajka was replaced in the Australian team by Ben Kersten.
"I'm probably the first sportsman in history to be ejected from an Olympics for taking a vitamin, it's absolutely a joke," Dajka said on Monday after the Court of Arbitration (CAS) handed down its finding.
The reasons for the decision were published in Sydney. The three-man CAS panel found that Coates' decision was not affected by actual bias. Coates had sent AOC sports director Craig Phillips to interview Dajka at the Australian team camp in Germany, where the cyclist admitted lying to the Anderson inquiry when he originally denied self-injecting vitamins.
"Instead of receiving an innocent explanation, Mr Coates received an admission that the appellant had lied ... bout self-injecting," said the CAS finding. e acted on that admission but that does not indicate any pre-judgment."
The CAS panel also found that it could not be proved that the decision to dump Dajka from the team "was obviously or self-evidently so unreasonable or perverse that it could be said to be irrational".
All Australian Olympians must sign an agreement pledging not act in a way that would bring themselves, their sport, the Australian Olympic Committee or the team into public disrepute or censure. Coates ruled that Dajka had breached that agreement.
Unilin Flooring, owner of the Quick.Step brand, announced this week that it will not continue its sponsorship collaboration with Davitamon beyond the current season. Davitamon is part of the same company as Omega Pharma, which will sponsor a new Pro Tour team in 2005 (Omega Pharma-Lotto). The divorce between Quick.Step and Davitamon will remove the possibility of any conflict of interest between two teams sponsored by the same company.
Unilin Flooring has yet to decide whether it will begin working with a new cosponsor for the team or begin 2005 as sole team sponsor with Quick.Step.
Two more teams for Pro Tour
The UCI announced Thursday that two more teams have been granted entry into the new Pro Tour for 2005. With 11 teams already given provisional acceptance in late June, the total is now up to 13 with the addition of Team CSC and Saunier Duval-Prodir. The two teams were accepted following a meeting of the UCI's Licenses Commission in Bern, Switzerland Thursday.
Five places remain for the targeted 18 team 'league' created with the new Pro Tour, which will restructure the highest level of the sport by assembling the top teams and making participation in each event of a 24 race calendar mandatory.
Merckx still deciding
Axel Merckx (Lotto-Domo) has still not made up his mind about which team to ride for next season, although it's certain that he won't be riding for Omega Pharma-Lotto. In an interview with Gazet van Antwerpen, Merckx acknowledged that he had an offer from Discovery Channel. "But there are also other teams ready. More and more are coming along. But I'm carefully weighing everything up. If it's Discovery, it depends on Lance whether I ride the Tour. He has so many outstanding tour riders. But there are still other races of course."
Dutchman Roy Sentjens has extended his contract with the Rabobank team through 2006. Sentjens joined the team in 1997. His biggest career win was last year's Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne classic.
Jittery Joe's signs Elken
American Division III team Jittery Joe's announced Thursday that it has signed Evan Elken for the remainder of the 2004 season. Elken took 8th place this year at the U.S. Olympic Trials, 3rd place at the Elite National Road Race Championships, and a stage win at the Cascade Classic.
"Evan adds a bit of power to the middle of our team," said team director Micah Rice. "We already have one of the best climbers and one of the best sprinters, but we need riders like Evan to get these guys to the finish. He has proven that he is a strong rider in any situation."
Jittery Joe's also inked a sponsorship deal with Kalahari, the number one brand of red tea in the United States, which will market its Kalahari FruitTrekker dried fruit bar.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2004)