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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for January 30, 2004

Edited by Chris Henry

Who will challenge the Belgian armada?

By Chris Henry
Can Wellens repeat?
Photo: © AFP
Click for larger image

The tiny town of Pontchâteau, France will host the World Cyclo-cross championships for a second time this weekend, as the best in the discipline descend for two days of frantic battle against each other, and quite possible against the elements. Nestled inland from France's Atlantic coast, northwest of Nantes, Pontchâteau offers a challenging up and down circuit of 2.65 kilometres. The town last hosted the World's in 1989, and has also hosted the cyclo-cross World Cup, as well as the French national championships.

The Coët-Roz circuit, situated close to 'downtown' Pontchâteau, a town of some 8,000 residents, features 1,440 metres of meadow, 360 metres of undergrowth, 335 metres of tarmac, and a 25 metre section of stairs to complete the package. The course begins with a technical section that promises to challenge the field with constantly changing rhythms, followed by a gradual drop and a period of recovery- such as it is in a one hour race- before climbing the stairs and heading back to the start/finish area, by way of a forest and more climbing.

Early weather forecasts for the area hint at rain on Saturday, followed by some sun and relatively mild temperatures of 11-14 degrees celsius on Sunday. The festivities begin Saturday morning with the junior men, followed by the U23 men in the afternoon. Sunday will crown the elite women's and elite men's world champions.

Elite men:

Is it more appropriate to ask who can beat the Belgians, or simply which Belgian is the best candidate for victory? Belgians have won four of the past five world titles, and have consistently dominated the top 'cross races in Europe in recent seasons. Defending champion Bart Wellens has more than honoured his 2003 jersey from Monopoli, Italy with numerous victories this season, including the Belgian national championships in January and the most recent World Cup race in Nommay, France.

Sven Nys continues to figure among the favourites, but the Rabobank rider has yet to win a world title, and this year has had to play second fiddle to Wellens on many occasions. Nonetheless, he stamped his authority in the World Cup series with three straight wins, before Ben Berden stopped the streak in Koksijde in round four.

Former world champion Erwin Vervecken showed a return to top form recently with a victory in the sixth round of the Superprestige series in Hoogstraten, Belgium. Compatriot Tom Vannoppen has also shown a steady improvement, while three-time rainbow jersey Mario De Clercq has had a somewhat quiet season, winning races but in smaller venues than his rivals Wellens and Nys.

Nys' teammate Richard Groenendaal heads the Dutch charge, alongside Gerben De Knegt and Maarten Nijland. Groenendaal has consistently figured among the leaders this season, but with fewer climbs to the top step of the podium.

The French team, competing on home soil, will count primarily on young cyclo-cross sensation John Gadret, who although still in search of his first big international victory, has shown he can challenge in the World Cup events and is not afraid of the Belgian armada. Gadret stormed to an impressive national title earlier this month, showing not only strength but also a fine tactical sense with a perfectly executed attack in the final lap.

American national champion Jonathan Page, dominant on home soil in the December nationals, is still looking for a breakout success in Europe. Hard working and a consistent top 20 finisher in Europe, Page heads a relatively young but ambitious American contingent which also includes Andy Jacques-Maynes, Jackson Stewart, and Marc Gullickson.

Elite Women:

The name to start with in the women's event is Hanka Kupfernagel from Germany. Having won two out of the last four rainbow jerseys, she has established herself as the queen of international cyclo-cross in recent years. Even this season, if World Cup success is anything to go by, Kupfernagel remains the woman to beat. She has won all but the opening World Cup events this year, beaten only by the reigning World Champion, Daphny Van Den Brand (Ned). Kupfernagel has won consistently, but her margins of victory have not been enormous. Her closest challengers have finished within seconds in the World Cup races, and the pressure will be on for what is still a relatively open race for the women.

France's Maryline Salvetat stands a strong chance of taking the rainbow jersey in front of the home crowd. Despite an early winter injury, Salvetat has surely profited from extensive training on the Pontchâteau course, and along with Laurence Leboucher will lead France's medal hopes for the weekend.

The American duo of Gina Hall and Alison Dunlap have each had strong performances in Europe this season, and Hall particularly could spoil the party for the continental riders. Americans face a yearly challenge of finding top form for the World's more than a month after the national championships in the USA.

Cyclingnews will have full coverage of the events, as well as live coverage of the Elite Men's race on Sunday, beginning at 3pm CET.

McGee sees success with development program

By Jeff Jones

Photo ©: Paul Mirtschin/Cyclingnews

As it enters its third year of existence, Australian based development team has undergone a name change to McGee-NSWIS, reflecting the level of involvement that captain Bradley McGee now has in his "baby". Naturally, the team still works closely with and the NSW Institute of Sport as part of its ambition of developing young riders into professional cyclists.

Just a few days before the team set off for the Australian Open Road Championships in Buninyong, the newly renamed McGee-NSWIS team sat down at Sydney's Dunc Gray Velodrome to outline its progress so far and field questions from the media. It's clear that this rather novel project, started just over two years ago by brothers Brad and Rod McGee with the cooperation of and the NSW Institute of Sport, is making progress towards McGee's future dream: to field an all-Australian team in the Tour de France.

For now, the team remains purely a development squad, where talented young riders have the opportunity to learn all the nuances of becoming a professional without being pressured to produce results. And as Brad McGee says, he's very happy with what the team has achieved in its first two years.

"It's been a bit of a learning curve for Rod and myself," McGee admitted. "The best thing that's happened is that Mark [Renshaw] has made the big step into the pro ranks and it's really paid off. The ultimate goal of setting up this team was to get riders into the pro ranks."

The 2004 line up is similar to last year, with Rod McGee at the helm as manager/rider and Chris Sutton, David Tanner, Richard Moffat, Keiran Cameron and Ashley Humbert comprising the rest of the squad. Keiran Cameron will also have a place with an amateur team in Dijon in France, as Renshaw did this year. As its name implies, all riders hail from the Australian state of New South Wales.

Click here for the full story

Illes Balears presentation

The newly created Illes Balears-Banesto team was presented Thursday in Madrid, Spain. The team is the new incarnation of, sponsored by the Balearic Islands of Spain as a promotional vehicle for the tourism industry on the islands. The team was formally introduced by Jaume Matas, the president of the Illes Balears.

With a number of changes in the team roster from last year, team director Eusebio Unzué declared his ambitions for the coming season.

"The jersey has changed and 40% of the riders are new, but above all, I would say that our ambitions are on the rise," Unzué said. "This year we want to concentrate on the World Cup, and of course shine in the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España.

"I don't know if we can win the Tour, but I think we can figure among those fighting for the win," he added.

Unzué will have Francisco Mancebo as a leader for the grand tours, along with Denis Menchov. Mancebo showed his desire to ride for a podium place in the Tour, and counts himself among the growing legion of riders who envision a succession to Lance Armstrong's reign in France. Mancebo noted that he hopes 2004 will be "my year".

"Armstrong won't always be superior," Mancebo said. "Last year we saw that he was a little weaker than before, and this year I think he'll have to work even harder to win the Tour. Of course he still has the motivation of someone who has won the most Tours, but this year will be the most difficult for him."

Unzué echoed the ambitions to perform in the Tour, but made no point of focusing his energies on Armstrong.

"We're going to do everything to win," Unzué explained. "Not to keep Armstrong from becoming the first to win six times... Simply because our ambition is to ride like a team capable of winning the Tour."

Pablo Lastras will head the Illes Balears team for the World Cup classics, along with Ivan Gutierrez and sprinter Isaac Galvez, who left rival Spanish team Kelme to join the iBanesto successor.

Illes Balears-Banesto 2004 roster

UCI Closes Division II registration

The UCI announced Thursday afternoon the final two teams registered with Division II status for the 2004 season. Formaggi Pinzolo-Fiavè from Italy the South African Barloworld team will complete the list. The Professional Cycling Council (PCC) and the UCI did not accept the registrations of Atlas Hoop-Polsat and Flanders Afincom.

Semi-professional arrested in France

Daniel Majewski, a Polish semi-professional in France, was arrested Wednesday in Limoux at his apartment. Police carried out a search in the complex, a residence hall for cyclists, and seized a number of substances from Majewski's room, according to an AFP report.

Presumed to have a connection to Cofidis' Polish soigneur Bogdan Madejak, Majewski was held for questioning Wednesday night and Thursday in Montpellier. This latest arrest stems from the continuing investigation into the trafficking of prohibited substances by various members, past and present, of the Cofidis team.

Konyshev arrested in Italy

Russian professional Dimitri Konyshev and three of his Team LPR teammates (Yuriy Ivanov, Andrey Karpachev, Ruslan Pidgornyy) were arrested in Italy, accused of assaulting and robbing a prostitute near Emilia, Italy. According to a report in La Gazzetta dello Sport, the quartet remains in custody after a woman told police that the four tried to pull her into their car, and when unsuccessful robbed her of €150.

TDS-Schwalbe enters sophomore year

After enjoying a successful first season, the TDS-Schwalbe High Speed Team returns in 2004 with several new members and a full program of domestic racing in the United States. The team will have four returning riders from 2003; Anne Samplonius, Joan Davies, Shawn Heidgen, and Emily Gloeckner.

Joining the team in 2004 will be Erin Carter, Megan Monroe, Andrea Ratkovic, and Karen Bockel. Carter rode for TDS as a guest rider in 2003 at select events. She will continue to race on the Canadian National team at Track events with a goal of making the summer Olympics. One of the younger members of the team, her International-level experience makes her a strong addition to the team.

The TDS-Schwalbe team travels Spain in late January for a training camp and early season racing before returning to the USA to start the National Racing Calendar (NRC).

TDS-Schwalbe for 2004:

Karen Bockel
Erin Carter
Joan Davies
Emily Gloeckner
Shawn Heidgen
Megan Monroe
Andrea Ratkovic
Anne Samplonius

Team sponsors include TDS Telecom, Schwalbe North America, Salsa Cycles, Gensan Nutritional, Tifosi Eyewear, Kinesys Performance Sunscreen, Cateye Computers, Soles Custom footbeds, Racin Jason Lubricants, Saris bike racks, Cyclops fluid trainers, Northwave shoes, Limar helmets, Biemme clothing, and Sockguy.

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(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2004)