First Edition Cycling News for February 27, 2004
Edited by Jeff Jones & Chris Henry
Demol happy with USPS-Berry Floor classics team
By Jeff Jones in Kortrijk
The U.S. Postal team was indeed "presented by Berry Floor" at a function in Kortrijk, West Flanders, on Thursday evening. Being a Belgian company with a €2 million investment in the team, Berry Floor is keen for plenty of publicity in the Belgian classics, which start this weekend. And if last year's TV time and large sales increases is anything to go on, expect a bigger involvement from Berry Floor as a cycling sponsor in future. Interestingly, the laminated flooring company is also a rival of Quick.Step (part of Unilin), and battles between the two have been fought outside of cycling.
In 2003, the USPS classics team had some solid results, including Max van Heeswijk's 2nd place in Omloop Het Volk and third in Dwars door Vlaanderen, and Viatcheslav Ekimov's 8th place in the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) followed by a fine 3rd in Paris-Roubaix. Ekimov's win in the Ronde van Nederland later in the year capped off a great season for the team which won the Tour de France with Lance Armstrong and the Vuelta España with Roberto Heras. The team missed George Hincapie in the classics due to sinus problems, but this year - despite suffering from a bacterial infection in his stomach - big George expects to be in top form for April.
U.S. Postal-Berry Floor Team director Dirk Demol spoke to Cyclingnews about the team's chances in the classics, as well as his ambitions for the new signings Stijn Devolder and Jurgen Van Den Broeck. Demol believes that his squad will be a little stronger than last season. "It's almost the same team as last year but the problem last year is that George was sick and missed the whole spring campaign, and also Eki was sick at the start of the season and came in late. But Eki did Flanders (8th) and Paris-Roubaix (3rd) and was very good. And we have a guy like Van Heeswijk in the team. He was very good last year but he didn't have the confidence that he has now. If we can get these guys together as a team - George, Eki and Max - then around the other guys, Benoît Joachim, Stijn Devolder, Guennadi Mikhailov and Tony Cruz, I think we have a very solid team."
Demol said that the team will target the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. "You have to be good in Flanders to be good in Roubaix," he added. "Het Volk and Kuurne are the first two races in Belgium and we have a Belgian co-sponsor in Berry Floor, so if luck is with us and we get first, it's like gold. Again George has got some stomach problems and he's not 100 percent, and Eki crashed badly [in the Ruta del Sol] and he's not 100 percent but I'm very confident - we have a month to go before the real classics and we'll be there."
Ex-Vlaanderen-T Interim rider Stijn Devolder appears to be ready for the challenge of riding for US Postal-Berry Floor. After notching up a third place in the Tour du Haut Var, a hilly French one dayer, Devolder is now entering more familiar territory. Demol and Devolder go back a long way, "Because he lives in the same village as I so I've known him since he was a little kid," Demol explained. "That's not the reason he's with us - I know almost every Belgian rider! I worked with young guys for four years and he was one of the young guys in my team in the past and he did great things.
"His first year as a pro was difficult for him, but last year he made a big progression. He worked a lot harder in the winter and it showed immediately, not just because of good results - he got third in Harelbeke for example - but for me he did an awesome race in Flanders. Also he was very good in Waregem, Four Days of Dunkirk, Tour of Belgium...That gave me the reason to take him in the team to give him a chance with us. He deserved it."
Jurgen Van Den Broeck won the junior men's time trial at the 2001 World Championships and at 21 years old, he is the youngest member of the USPS team. "He'll get the chance to taste the big races this year," said Demol. "So he'll start in Kuurne and then do the Tour of Murcia, Redlands, come back and probably do the Basque Country tour. He hopes to show something in Flèche Wallonne and Liege. He's maybe too young to go deep in the final, but anyway he's very motivated to prepare himself for those races.
"Jurgen goes better uphill than Stijn, who's one for the northern races. Jurgen is also a big talent in the time trial. For him, it's maybe more the small stage races that you can expect from him. This year is a year for him to learn. It's not up to him to make the results. Even Stijn has some credit. We have other guys who take the pressure, so these guys can still make a lot of progression in the shadow of the others. We don't put them under stress."
Turning to other matters, Cyclingnews asked Demol his opinion on the UCI's Pro Tour, which will have ramifications for every cycling team and has already been the subject of considerable debate. So far, Demol isn't convinced. "I don't know if cycling is ready for that," he said. "It's a big change. For sure it has good parts. But if you take the three big tours, the World Cups, all the Hors Categorie races, you can only work with the big riders. If you have four or five neo-professionals, where can you go with these guys? There's also the budget for example. It will have to be a big, big budget and I don't know how many teams can have a budget like that of 10 million euros or more."
The US Postal Service's sponsorship of the team is due to expire in 2004, but with an option of continuing on through 2005. Presumably much (but not all) depends on Lance Armstrong's desire to continue as well, as he remains the number one drawcard for the team. "We are confident that we can continue," was all that Demol would reveal. "We don't know yet, it's very early in the season, but we are confident."
US Postal presented by Berry Floor classics roster: George Hincapie, Max van Heeswijk, Viatcheslav Ekimov, Benoît Joachim, Guennadi Mikhailov, Antonio Cruz, Jurgen Van Den Broeck and Stijn Devolder. Directeurs sportifs: Dirk Demol and Laurenzo Lapage.
Look for more coverage of the US Postal-Berry Floor classics team presentation coming up on Cyclingnews.
Images by Jeff Jones/Cyclingnews.com
Saeco ready for Belgium and Switzerland
The Saeco team will be racing on two fronts this weekend in Belgium and Switzerland, with Het Volk, Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, GP Chiasso and GP Lugano all on the program. Het Volk will be an important race for Dario Pieri, who is one of the favourites for the cobbled classics in April after his second place behind Peter Van Petegem in Paris-Roubaix last year. Pieri will have with him Gabriele Balducci, Giosuè Bonomi, Jörg Ludewig, Salvatore Commesso, Antonio Bucciero and Stefano Casagranda in Belgium.
In Switzerland, Saeco will field a team with Gilberto Simoni, Mirko Celestino, Damiano Cunego, Gerrit Glomser, Leonardo Bertagnolli, David Loosli Andreas Matzbacher and Evgeni Petrov. The eighth rider will be Sylvester Szmyd at the GP Chiasso and Nicola Gavazzi at the GP Lugano.
Steels decides for Kuurne
Tom Steels (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago) has decided against riding the Omloop Het Volk on Saturday, but will start in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne on Sunday. His place will be taken by Lithuanian Thomas Vaitkus. "I'm of the opinion that Tom has more chance on Sunday and also has another day to recover from his crash in Moscow," said team manager Gérard Bulens.
Yaroslav Popovych, who was on the team roster for Het Volk, is not able to make it due to visa problems.
Het Volk roster: Jacky Durand, Lorenzo Bernucci , Geert Van Bondt, Tony Bracke, Ludo Dierckxsens ,Ludovic Capelle, Marc Streel, Thomas Vaitkus
Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne: Tom Steels Yuri Metlushenko, Nico Sijmens, Bert De Waele, Lorenzo Bernucci, Marc Streel, Geert Van Bondt, Ludovic Capelle
Servais Knaven (Quick.Step-Davitamon) will not take part to the Omloop Het Volk on Saturday. The Dutchman has been suffering from the flu and a sore throat for the last few days. "I can't take part in Het Volk and probably I won't be at the start of Kuurne- Brussels-Kuurne on Sunday," said Knaven. "Last year too, I got sick on the eve of the Het Volk. In the next days I hope to recover well for next big races."
Bram Tankink will replace Knaven in the Quick.Step team.
Cycling sponsorship doubles Quick.Step
Thanks to its sponsorship of cycling for the past five years, Belgian flooring company Quick.Step has more than doubled its market value from €321 million in 1999 to €680 million currently, according to an article in Het Laatste Nieuws. Quick.Step started as the co-sponsor of Mapei in 1999 and when that team finished at the end of 2002, Quick.Step moved into a role as a top sponsor along with Davitamon. During that time it has gained enormous exposure through sponsoring some of the biggest teams in the world.
"Our whole publicity campaign is based on it," said Quick.Step spokesman Philiep Caryn to HLN. "We score thanks to our figureheads. Soon we'll take Museeuw, Boonen and co. to Batibouw at the Heizel [in Brussels] and do the same with Virenque in Paris, Bettini in Bologna and Mercado in Madrid. Next week on Monday, Mercado and Virenque will be in Brussels for another commercial."
No pain, no gain for Gané
Double world champion (sprint, keirin) Laurent Gané, recently returned to France from an extended stay in his native New Caledonia, is well under way with his training for the two biggest objectives of the year, the World Championships in Australia and the Olympic Games in Greece. Gané stayed in New Caledonia after competing in the Six Days of Nuoméa, and was joined in January by his cousin Hervé and Mickaël Bourgain, along with coach Daniel Morelon.
"I'm tired. This [training session] wore me out," Gané told l'Equipe upon his return. "I've never worked so hard this early on strength training."
According to Morelon, the trio undertook 25 sessions on the track, 15 days of weight-lifting, and put in 1,000 kilometres on the road within the span of a month. Hard work, but an effort Gané and Morelon both expect to pay off this season.
"All I can say is, I've made progress," Gané said, preferring not to offer too many details on his performances. "I don't want to give any indication of my time splits or weight results to my rivals."
Gané will head to the second round of the Track World Cup in Aguascalientes, Mexico (March 12-14), with an eye on the Olympic and world titles later in the season. In the meantime, the training continues in France.
"I'm a bit run down, physically, that's for sure," he admitted. "But I'm not going to use the next few months to recover. I came back to work, work, work."
Irish season openers
By Tommy Campbell, Irish Independent, Evening Herald, Sunday Independent
The Irish domestic cycling scene gets into full swing on Sunday with the Cycleways Cup at noon in Navan and the Matt Lacey Cup in Tralee at 12:30pm. Both courses that are being used have significant interest for the tourists who visit the respective areas. Jocelin de Angulo, to whom Hugh I de Lacey granted Navan and the lands of Ardbraccan, built a moat which is to be seen on the west side of the town. Francis Beaufort (1774-1857) inventor of the wind-scale which bears his name, was a native of Navan. Tralee boasts the graveyard of the Dominican Friary founded in 1243 where 13 Earls were buried but little remains, save, carved stones preserved in the new Priory.
Both sets of promoters are expecting big entries. It is anticipated that the most hype will be in Navan where the Hibernian Team Ireland members who competed in the Tour de Langkawi are expected in town.
The organisers of the Navan event have made significant alterations in the interest of safety and introduced a new 30 mile course which will avoid a new installation of traffic lights and a traffic island at Kilcairn Bridge on the Dublin Road. The new course is expected to provide competitive racing. Organisers who are running separate races for the various categories will also be able to monitor these events which are being organised in tandem with the Cycleways Cup.
The odds-on favourite to open his account for the year will be David McCann, who showed exceptional form in Malaysia, but he can expect a strong challenge from Eugene Moriarty who was equally good in Asia. "I know I was sprinting well in Langkawi, but it is another matter when the locals take you head on," said Eugene.
In Tralee the Matt Lacey Trophy will be run for the 51st occasion. Last year, Timmy Barry came close to victory. Providing he has recovered from his exploits abroad in recent weeks, he clock up his first win of the season.
Junior Omnium in Florida
The Southeastern LAJORS Junior Championship Omnium is being held in Central Florida, USA between March 19-21. The race format will consist of an individual time trial on March 19, the 3rd Annual Rocket City Road Race on March 20, and the Lake Mary Criterium (FPS) presented by FISERV on March 21. The junior riders will be competing across four categories for a prize purse of $2,525. Although the Omnium is only for juniors, all women and men USCF racing categories will be racing on Saturday and Sunday with the Omnium as the centrepiece of the event.
This race is hosted by the Orlando Road Club, home to one of the largest junior development programs in the USA, and recently selected by the USA Cycling Development Foundation (USACDF) as a Center of Excellence (COE) for cycling development in 2003 and 2004. The long term vision of the club is to build this new event into a top national level race.
RBM Mercedes/eBike Warehouse Women's Team
RBM Mercedes/eBike Warehouse Women's squad is based out of Atlanta, Georgia, USA. The team intends to be a strong force in the Southeast and plans on contesting several NRC regional events. Sponsors include RBM Mercedes Dealership, eBike Warehouse.com, Mike the Mechanic (Towne Lake, GA), Catlike, Sugoi, Jeanne's Body Tech, Jagermeister, Mike N' Angelos, Echo Visualization.
Cathy Connell, Cat 2
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2004)