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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

First Edition Cycling News for February 29, 2004

Edited by Chris Henry

Armstrong still unsure about retirement

How much time for Armstrong?
Photo ©: AFP

His bid for a record sixth Tour de France is a given, but Lance Armstrong's plans for the future remain in doubt. Armstrong has hinted at different times within the last year that this would be his last Tour, or that he could continue for another year. In a recent interview with The Times, the American appears no closer to a definitive decision, and just as his season's preparations revolve entirely around the Tour, it seems his future will depend on the outcome of this year's race.

For Armstrong, winning a sixth Tour would put him in a class of his own, and he has often indicated a desire to exit the sport while still on top. Should victory prove elusive this year, the competitive desire could kick in once more.

"If I lost, I just don't know if I would say, 'OK, I'm past my prime, time to go', or if I'd say, 'I've got to try again'," Armstrong explained. "Knowing myself and the people who know me best, I think they'd say the guy has to try again."

Armstrong's recent victory in the time trial at Portugal's Volta ao Algarve stage race was an unexpected surprise, and a good sign for his fitness in his first race of the year.

"I wonder what Jan [Ullrich] thought when he heard I won in Portugal, that I'm winning in February, when I'm nowhere near my peak," Armstrong said. "I was thinking what would I do if I heard Ullrich had won a time-trial in February... I think I'd get straight down and do 50 sit-ups just to say to myself I was doing something. I didn't expect to win, but I did."

Armstrong and Ullrich will meet just once in competition before the Tour, at the upcoming Vuelta a Murcia (March 3-7) in Spain.

Tour just the beginning for Phonak

A team built for Hamilton
Photo ©: Cyclingnews

With one of the ten biggest budgets in professional cycling, Phonak Hearing Systems is eager to earn a UCI ranking on par with its investment. Phonak is currently ranked 26th out of the 30 Division I teams, a situation company president Andy Rihs is anxious to remedy.

"In terms of results, we have to realise this goal now, too," Rihs commented on the team's website. "The tremendous amount of money that we've invested has to pay off. Consolation prizes are nice. But world fame happens only with major wins."

Needless to say, the major win of which he speaks is victory in the Tour de France, and the team's hopes rest on the shoulders of Tyler Hamilton, wooed away from Team CSC this season to lead Phonak's first ever Tour participation. A major part of Phonak's appeal for Hamilton was the willingness to build a Tour team around the American, who finished fourth last year along with a stage win, as the unique leader. Team manager Urs Freuler confirmed this willingness after the team was announced among the wildcard selections for the Tour on Friday.

"If he repeats the same results, then that's good," Freuler said of Hamilton. "If he climbs up onto the winner's podium, that's great. Oscar Sevilla is also worthy of standing in for him. In terms of internal team support, I'm also very confident."

Among the likely lieutenants for Hamilton and Sevilla are José-Enrique Gutierrez, Santos Gonzalez, Santi Perez, Oscar Pereiro, and Bert Brabsch. The participation of Alex Zülle in this year's Tour remains uncertain, and will depend on the Swiss veteran's form as Tour time approaches.

Van Petegem at 80%

Suffering from a slight cold on the eve of Het Volk, which was cancelled Saturday due to snow, Lotto-Domo's Peter Van Petegem still considered himself ready for the Belgian season opener. His big objectives are down the road in April, namely Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders, but Van Petegem is never one to be ignored in the classics of Flanders.

"Of course getting a cold before a race is never ideal, but I know that I've prepared extremely well," Van Petegem told La Dernière Heure. "Either way, I'd say that I'm still just at 80% of my condition. But even when you're not in top form, it's always possible to win Het Volk, since it's a race that is won just as much on tactics."

Van Petegem, who went home to ride the rollers after learning of Het Volk's cancellation, will continue to build his fitness in March before the biggest classics in April.

"After Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-San Remo, I will have made up the percentage that's missing," Van Petegem added. "It's at Waregem and Harelbeke that I'll know exactly where I am."

Quick.Step keeps team for KBK

Following the cancellation of Het Volk on Saturday, Quick.Step-Davitamon has decided to field its Volk team in Sunday's Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne. Assuming, of course, the race is able to be run.

"Some riders, including [Paolo] Bettini, would have remained without any competition for about 20 days," directeur sportif Wilfried Peeters said, explaining the decision.

The team will be led by Johan Museeuw, along with Paolo Bettini, Tom Boonen, Wilfried Cretskens, Kevin Hulsmans, Luca Paolini, Bram Tankink and Stefano Zanini.

Beverbeek Classic cancelled

Along with the Omloop Het Volk, Belgium's Beverbeek Classic (UCI 1.6) was also cancelled Saturday due to snow. Race organisers assessed the parcours and reached the decision Saturday morning along with UCI officials.

Webcor for 2004

Webcor Builders Cycling Team has announced its final 2004 roster. With the acquisition of top domestic racer Chris Horner and Canadian talent Charles Dionne, the Division III team has positioned itself among the best in the United States.

The team will be aiming for the podium in every National Racing Calendar (NRC) event it enters, with particular interest in defending Horner's titles at the Redlands Bicycle Classic, the Tour de Georgia, and San Francisco's T-Mobile International. Webcor Builders also expects to see its riders in competition at the Olympic Trials with the hope that the team will be represented in Athens.

The Webcor Builders Cycling Team 2004 roster:

Imanol Ayestaran
Darren Baker
Jonas Boli
Charles Dionne
Greg Drake
Justin England
Dario Falquier
Marc Hagenlocher
Ben Haldeman
Patrick Heaney
Chris Horner
Ted Huang
John Kelly
James Mattis
Chris Montague-Breakwell
John Peters
Ben Stafford
Bernard van Ulden

Team Managers: Ted Huang and Dario Falquier
Special consultant: Frank Scioscia
Directeur sportif: Jay Gump
Assistant manager: Melissa Gambol
Soigneur: Brenda Phelps
Head mechanic: Jim O'Brien

Webcor Builders, the team's title sponsor, is one of California's largest commercial contractors. The team will ride LeMond Tete de Course frames with Bontrager wheels, tires and components. Additional sponsors include Voler Team Apparel, PowerBar, Craft, Kaenon Polarized, Nike Cycling, Giro, First Endurance, DeFeet, SRAM, Zero Gravity, Look, Cat Eye, Yakima and Kreitler.

Former Tour de Toona director maintains innocence

Former director of the Tour de Toona (now known The International Tour de Toona) stage race, Kirk Leidy, maintains his innocence in light of embezzlement charges which came to light last year. Leidy was under investigation by Pennsylvania state police on suspicion of embezzling between $200,000 and $300,000 from the race over a ten-year period, according to the Altoona Mirror. The race is now run by Larry Bilotto, who took over as race director, alongside promoter Rick Geist.

"The Attorney General did a nine month investigation on me with different state agencies involved," Leidy told Cyclingnews this week, explaining his case. "There was nothing found. All my things have been returned to me and no charges were made."

Leidy has also taken his own case to court, explaining that "the different people within the Tour de Toona organisation that made public comments about me are being sued in civil court by me and I'm starting to hand over my evidence.

"This has been going on for three years now," Leidy added. "I no longer have anything to do with the Tour de Toona organisation but I am very much involved in cycling. I am on the board of USA Cycling and I am involved in many pro races across the country."

USCF Elite nationals/Olympic selection

USA Cycling has offered more information on the 2004 USCF Elite National Road Championships and the Team USA Selection Race, scheduled for June 16-19 in Redlands, California. The event holds significant implications as both national championships and nominations to the 2004 US Olympic team will be up for grabs. 

Also included on the schedule are a junior road race and time trial, which will contribute to the selection of the junior world championship team. The junior races are part of a series of events throughout the year that are used in the selection process.

Competition begins on Wed. June 16th with the Junior Men's Selection Series Road Race, a 62km event followed by the 170km USCF Elite Men's National Championship Road Race.

Thursday, June 17th begins with the 24km Junior Men's Selection Series Time Trial, followed by the Elite Women's Time Trial, the winner of which will also earn the right to wear the stars and stripes jersey as the USCF National Time Trial Champion. Following the women's event will be the 48km US Elite Men's National Time Trial Championships.

The elite women will contest a 109km road race Saturday, the winner of which will be crowned national champion and receive a nomination for the Olympics in Athens. The 181km men's race will follow. The road race course closely follows much of the Redlands Classic's Panorama Point Road Race through Redlands and surrounding Yucaipa, a route designed to mirror the Olympic course in Athens.

With the 20th edition of the Redlands Bicycle Classic scheduled for March 23-28, 2004,the peloton will have the opportunity to preview the courses selected just a few months prior to competing for the national titles and Olympic berths.

Schedule of Events:

Wednesday, June 16

Junior Men Selection Series Road Race, 62km
Elite Men Road Race, 170km

Thursday. June 17

Junior Men Selection Series ITT, 24km
Elite Women TT, 24km
Elite Men TT, 48km

Saturday, June 19

Elite Women Road Race, 109km
Men's Team Selection Road Race, 181km

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