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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for August 19, 2004

Edited by Chris Henry

Bettini vs. Rebellin in Zurich

By Jeff Jones

Daniele Nardello triumphs in Zurich in 2003
Photo: © Sirotti

For many of the classics riders, the month August is a tough one this year. With a few notable exceptions, most took part in last Saturday's Olympic road race, which has been sandwiched in between the three August World Cups. This weekend's Züri-Metzgete (Championship of Zurich) will therefore be the fourth race in a row for some, including World Cup aspirant Paolo Bettini, who looks set to challenge David Rebellin for the honours again on Sunday.

Rebellin currently leads the World Cup with 282 points, but Bettini, who is now on 238, is in great form after winning the Olympic road race and should find Zurich to his liking. Nevertheless, Rebellin may have the advantage after not doing the testing Athens race, and is definitely a hot tip for the win on Sunday. It is a sure bet that both riders will be watching each other like hawks.

As for the challengers, World Champion Igor Astarloa (Lampre) crashed out of the Olympic Road Race on the first lap, and if he's recovered enough from his injuries he should be motivated to give it his all on Sunday. Igor has been in good form in the first two World Cups in August, and may finally hit his straps to finish on the top step in Zurich.

Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) is normally a good performer in the Züri-Metzgete, but it's been apparent that he's not in his best shape at the moment. After his fourth place in the Tour and a few "nearly" rides in the World Cups and the Olympics, it looks like Ullrich's season is just about over, but maybe he can pull out a big one in Zurich. But Ullrich's teammate Daniele Nardello is the defending champion in Zurich, and T-Mobile can also count on Alexandre Vinokourov, Andreas Klöden, Paolo Savoldelli and Cadel Evans in its powerful line up.

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Cyclingnews will be covering the Championship of Zurich live, with coverage starting at 14:30 CEST (Europe)/8:30 EDT (USA East)/5:30 PDT (USA West)/22:30 AEST (Australia East).

Longo: Why stop now?

Longo keeps going
Photo ©: AFP

Admittedly disappointed having missed out on the medals in both the women's road race and time trial in Athens, Jeannie Longo knows how to remain philosophical about the experience. Longo placed 10th in the road race and 14th in the time trial, but she'll be the last person to blame the results on her age. The 45 year old remains the most accomplished female rider, and continues to accumulate victories over women half her age.

"That's very French, to make such a big deal of someone's age," she told Reuters. "You start to feel your age after 25. When you're halfway through your life, there are plenty of things to appreciate. You become more philosophical."

Changes in competition have steadily changed Longo's chances in races at the highest calibre. No longer does she aim for the double of road and track events in the Olympic Games, and after her modest performance in the Athens time trial, tests against the clock would appear less of an objective.

"For the past two years I haven't done many World Cups and no more big stage races," she explained. "I don't have the endurance anymore.

"In the time trial I didn't have much of a chance against women who have developed a lot more power than me," Longo confessed. "The winning riders: Leontien Zijlaard, Deirdre Demet-Barry, Karin Thürig... I predicted them. At least that shows that I know my opponents well... But I'm convinced I could have done something on the road. Maybe not a medal, but not far off."

As for the future, no hints of retirement are coming from the Longo camp. The 'grande dame' of French cycling expects to represent her country once more at the upcoming World Championships in Verona, Italy. Beyond that, options are open, including... The 2008 Olympics?

"I don't know. If I'm invited, and I can be useful at the Games, why not?"

Gutierrez suffered

Spain's José Ivan Gutierrez (Illes Balears-Banesto), who contested both the Olympic road and time trial events in Athens, confessed after his ride Wednesday that he was on the brink of abandoning halfway through his effort. Gutierrez crashed heavily in the opening kilometres of Saturday's road race, involved in the same pile up which eliminated teammate Igor Astarloa and began a dark day for Spain, one of the favoured nations for the Olympic title. Heavily bandaged, he rallied to start the time trial and ultimately finished 16th, nearly three minutes behind gold medal winner Tyler Hamilton.

"I was on the verge of quitting," Gutierrez confessed," but then I saw [Evgeni] Petrov ahead of me and I followed him because I'm always proud to catch someone," Gutierrez told the Spanish press.

"In the first few days after my crash, I was recovering well," he added. "But Tuesday I felt bad and Wednesday I really was in bad shape... In the second lap I was better, but I still lacked power. My legs just didn't respond."

Gutierrez will now set his sights on the World Time Trial Championships in Verona, Italy at the end of next month.

Merckx gets deep field for GP

This year marks the 25th running of the Grand Prix Eddy Merckx two-man time trial, scheduled for August 29 in Brussels, Belgium. The race organiser, the 'Cannibal' himself, has declared himself pleased with the roster expected in this year's test. Twenty-five teams of two will contest the event, including defending champions Michael Rich and Uwe Peschel (Gerolsteiner) of Germany.

"Every year it gets harder to come up with a quality start list at this point in the season, but I think this year we've done it," Merckx explained.

Notables on the start ramp will include Olympic bronze silver medallist Viatcheslav Ekimov and US Postal Service teammate George Hincapie, bronze medallist Bobby Julich and Jens Voigt of CSC, Brad McGee and Bernhard Eisel for, and the younger Merckx, Axel, along with Lotto-Domo's Peter Van Petegem, to name a few. Australian Michael Rogers, fourth in Wednesday's Olympic time trial, is expected to confirm his presence alongside Quick.Step-Davitamon teammate Laszlo Bodrogi. The Quick.Step duo finished in second place last year behind Rich/Peschel.

Merckx will no doubt hope for a smoother running of the race this year, as the 2003 edition was disrupted by an enormous fire alongside the parcours, forcing a route change mid-way through the race.

Interest in Paulinho

With his silver medal performance behind Paolo Bettini in the men's Olympic road race, Portugal's Sergio Paulinho has become a sought-after man. The reigning national time trial champion, winner of two stages in this year's Tour of Portugal, is now on the radar of several top professional teams, including Manolo Saiz's Liberty Seguros squad in Spain. Paulinho currently rides for LA-Pecol, with a contract through 2005, meaning any jump to a Pro Tour team for 2005 would likely require a buyout of his contract.

Paulinho, while not a complete unknown in the peloton, surprised many with his impressive reaction to Bettini's race-winning move in Athens. As the odds-on favourite for the Olympic title attacked on the penultimate climb, all of the likely challengers were present but only Paulinho could follow the move. He worked effectively with Bettini to make the break stick, but in the end couldn't answer the determined Italian's sprint in the closing metres.

Relax-Bodysol for Vuelta

The Spanish Relax-Bodysol team is close to finalising its line up for the upcoming Vuelta a España, the final grand tour of the season. Seven men appear certain for the Vuelta, which begins September 4, including Xavier Florencio, Josep Jufré, Alberto Martinez, Luis Pasamontos, José Luis Rebollo, Bert Roesems, and Johan van Summeren. The final two places should fall to Nacor Burgos, Moisés Dueñas, José Manuel Elias, or Oscar Laguna.

Ullrich close to Coast settlement

Jan Ullrich has moved a step closer to recovering lost wages from his time with the ill-fated Team Coast in 2003. A German civil court has recommended RSM, parent company of Coast, pay up to €900,000 in lost wages and €550,000 in damages. Ullrich's contract with the team was around 5 million euros for three years, however the team folded mid-season due to financial troubles and was ultimately taken over by Italian bicycle manufacturer Bianchi.

Lawyers for RSM argued the payment was excessive, however both they and Ullrich's lawyers have two weeks to reach a compromise before the court gives a final verdict by late September, according to a DPA report.

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