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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Cycling News Extra for July 21, 2004

Edited by John Stevenson

Green jersey race hinges on stage 18

By John Trevorrow

Thor Hushovd
Photo: © Sirotti
Click for larger image

Stage 15 had little effect on the green jersey contest as an attack by Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) split the peloton and Robbie McEwen (Lotto-Dome) missed the move. None of the green jersey contenders made the finale, though Stuart O'Grady (Cofidis) and Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) were with the front group to share the points on offer in the intermediate sprint in St Jean-en-Royans.

Robbie McEwen was fairly circumspect after the stage. "It was quick in the beginning and we had Axel Merckx in the move," he said. "Rabobank missed the break like they do every day. Maybe they need to set their alarm clocks five minutes earlier. The break was away and then they had to chase it down. Then they put blokes in the break who are too far up in GC so everyone chases them down. Whatever. They can do whatever they want. For me it wasn't such a good thing that Stuey and Thor were in the break. But it was much better for me that Stuey took the six points and not Thor. I was glad there was a break away before the first sprint because doing a full-gas sprint in the first hour at the foot of a climb is not a good thing on a day like this."

McEwen's lead is still a handy 12 points and he will be very pleased if it is close to that on the start of the final stage on Sunday.

The biggest challenge will come in stage 18 to Lons-le-Saunier on Friday. This is a day that will suit O'Grady and Zabel, but not McEwen or Hushovd. It is the stage that could completely turn the battle for the Maillot Vert, with the category 2 Col de la Faucille likely to be crucial. If O'Grady or Zabel make it over with the front group, and McEwen and Hushovd don't, whoever crosses the line first could grab all the points and put himself into green.

Armstrong looks forward to l'Alpe

With the yellow jersey on his back and every intention of keeping it there, Lance Armstrong is looking forward to the Tour's next great challenge - Wednesday's 15.5km individual time trial from Bourg d'Oisans to Alpe d'Huez.

For Armstrong and the Tour de France Alpe d'Huez is a climb that has significance way beyond its length or elevation. Since it was first used in the Tour in 1952 - when the village itself was an almost undeveloped mountain hamlet - it has been the scene of many epic Tour battles.

Armstrong is deeply aware of the Alpe's history. "There is something exciting about riding l'Alpe d'Huez in the yellow jersey," he said. Last year Armstrong used this mountain to take the yellow jersey on a stage won by Iban Mayo, while he won on the Alpe himself in 2001. This year, he intends to secure his lead. But he knows it won't be easy to defeat the challenge presented by CSC's Ivan Basso.

"I expect him to be strong, I think he'll be tough to beat," said Armstrong. "I think he's well prepared. He has trained in l'Alpe d'Huez before. I have the good fortune of starting behind him, which is a good advantage. I'm excited to do it, to be on the Alpe."

As always, Armstrong has prepared hard for this stage. "They don't call it the 'Race of Truth' for nothing," he said. "It's the race where people who have done the most work are the ones that excel. We spent a week there and rode up and down every day."

In other Lance Armstrong news, the five-time Tour winner's bottled water sponsor Dasani (owned by the Coca-Cola Company) announced on Monday that it had renewed its association with Armstrong until 2006.

Scary days ahead for Rogers

By John Trevorrow

Michael Rogers (Quick.Step) is still hovering just back from the big hitters and looks still have a bit in the tank. "It's just getting harder and harder every day," he said. "They are just going like madmen from the start and I think it's a harder circuit than last year. At the start [in 2003], we had two weeks on the flat without a breath of wind. This year it's been wind, rain, hail… everything, and everyday has been like a world cup race.

"We had to do a lot at the front today to work for Virenque for the mountain jersey. I'll do my best in the time-trial, I'll see how I go. I'm still hoping to make it into the top 20. I would have like to be in the front today but it's just getting harder and harder. Tomorrow, Alpe d'Huez and then the next day… Everyone's shaking, they will be scary days. I know I've improved so much over the last year. I've got nothing to prove here."

Netherlands wants Tour start

Two towns in the Netherlands are working on bringing future Tour stages to the cycling-mad low countries. Valkenberg and the province of Zeeland are discussing the possibility of hosting the prologue of the 2005 Tour, while Rotterdam mayor Ivo Opstelten is currently in France to try and persuade Tour director Jean-Marie Leblanc to bring the start of the race to the port town in 2007, 2008 or 2009.

The Tour last visited the Netherlands in 1996 when the prologue and following two stages started in Hertogenbosch.

Bettini aims for Athens

Quick.Step's Paolo Bettini is using this Tour de France as the world's biggest training race, with his sights on the Athens Olympic road race.

"I'm not here to win the Tour but to work hard to peak at 110 percent in mid-August," he told Reuters. "The Tour is the biggest race in cycling but August will be the most important month of my season. Hopefully July and the Tour will be a stepping stone to a gold medal."

The 2003 World Cup champion was never a favourite for the overall classification in a three-week race, but had hoped for a stage win. With the race about enter its final phase in the Alps, he will now simply try and conserve his strength.

"In the last week of the Tour I've got to look after myself so that I come out of the three weeks in good shape ready for the Olympics," he said. "If I have a bad day I know I have to back off and finish in the pack and if things get really bad I'll even quit the Tour so that I don't push myself too far.

"The Tour's yellow jersey is Lance's thing, I'd prefer to have an Olympic gold medal."

Pre-race banter

By John Trevorrow

Before today's start a few of the guys were still in rest mode. Scott Sunderland was savouring the final moments.

"Ahh - rest day. It's a mental thing," he said. "You finish the stage and you know there's a rest day and the body shuts down. I had no energy yesterday and I just relaxed. Only did one hour easy on the bike and just recovered. Today I woke up and the body knew it had work to do and I feel fine, got work to do. Not the slightest bit lethargic."

Baden Cooke only had one thing to say about the rest day. "Need another one."

Matthew Wilson obviously enjoyed the day off and was one of the first on the start line this morning. "It was very relaxing and I took full advantage of a day off in the sun in Provence," he said.

Florit makes Athens

Argentinean mountain biker Jimena Florit is on her way to Athens. The ever-cheerful 2002 NORBA series champion announced her selection in a brief email this morning. "I want to share with all of you the good news I got just an hour ago," wrote Florit. "I am going to the Olympics! Thanks to all of you for keeping the hope and your support."

Sponsors back on board for Australia's premier one-day race

Women to tackle range in new course from Grafton to Glen Innes

The 44th Grafton to Inverell is launched
Photo: © Inverell Times
Click for larger image

Organisers of this year's 44th Grafton to Inverell Classic, arguably Australia's hardest one-day race, have announced the major sponsors who are helping to make this year's race on Saturday September 18 a reality.

Major sponsor from 2003, Eastmon Camera House, is back for a third year. Eastmon Camera House's Mr Hugh Eastwood said he was very satisfied with his company's involvement with last year's race; the company has increased its support for the 2004 edition.

The 228km Grafton to Inverell Classic, featuring a major climb up the Gibraltar Range (see course profile), will once again offer a prize pool of AUS$20,000, and there's a AUS$2,000 special prize on offer for any rider who breaks the record of 6.00.49 for the 228km set by Englishman Paul Curran in 1985.

The men's event will be accompanied by a women's race again this year, which will be a category 1 event in the National Women's Road Series. The women will start in Grafton and tackle the tough 18km Gibraltar Range climb - traditionally the selective section of the race - on their way to a finish in Glen Innes.

Organisers expect team-based entries to get a boost from the race's inclusion in the three-race Trek Series co-ordinated by Cycling NSW. Up to ten teams will be able to compete in teams category of the A Grade race and teams are expected from the NSW Institute of Sport, Victorian Institute of Sport, the Queensland Academy and trade sponsors.

Race director for 2004 is Peter Sunderland, brother of Cyclingnews' diarist and Alessio-Bianchi rider, Scott. Last year's event was won by Uruguay's Hector Morales in a thrilling finale that saw a select group of four riders battle it out for the win. Sunderland believes the teams being entered in the A grade event could see an even faster race unfold.

Australian Olympic Committee selects Eadie and Kersten

In the aftermath of Sean Eadie's successful defence Monday against allegations that he had attempted to import anterior pituitary peptide in 1999, the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) yesterday named both Eadie and his fellow sprinter Ben Kersten to the team for the Athens Olympics.

Kersten was selected for the team last week after Eadie was suspended pending the hearing at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) into the importing allegations. With Eadie cleared, an AOC spokesman had said that his return to the team would be "a formality", but when the full Australian Olympic team was announced yesterday, Eadie and Kersten were bracketed together for the final place in the track squad.

Explaining the inclusion of both riders, AOC president John Coates said, "In the team we have distributed today you will note that we put 'Sean Eadie or Ben Kersten'. We haven't considered Ben Kersten's nomination. We've noted his nomination is subject to the outcome of Sean Eadie's appeal before CAS. If that matter is not concluded by the IOC deadline ... we will select Ben Kersten subject to Sean Eadie's appeal. We then would have up until the technical meeting of the sport two days before the competition commences to replace him pursuant to the award of the court."

Eadie faces a futher legal process before he can be sure he's going to Athens. Last week he formally appealed to Cycling Australia to be reinstated to the team, pending the result of Monday's hearing. A Cycling Australia (CA) representative told Cyclingnews that there were no grounds for Eadie's selection not to be restored, according to CA selection procedures.

At a directions hearing at the CAS today, the arbitrator, the Hon. Jerrold Cripps will decide how the case should proceed. If Eadie is restored to the team he then faces a challenge from the man who currently has the spot, Ben Kersten. Kersten says he plans to appeal Eadie's inclusion on their respective results.

Eadie's initial selection over Kersten was on the basis of their performances in time trials at Sydney's Dunc Grey Velodrome. On June 15 Kersten rode 17.986 seconds for a 250m standing start, meeting the qualifying criterion of 18 seconds. Two weeks later, June 29, Eadie edged into the team by riding 17.970 seconds.

Cycling Australia believes its performance-based selection criteria have been followed, but Kersten said yesterday that he thought he had a strong case, but wasn't getting his hopes up. "It is going to be lawyers versus lawyers, not results versus results, or athlete versus athlete," he said.

Under IOC rules the final selection must be made by August 19.

Cyclingnews' coverage of the Australian doping allegations

E."J" Rogut dies

Elliot "J" Rogut (E."J") passed away July 16, 2004 at home after a long battle with cancer. E."J" was born April 18, 1928 in Brooklyn, NY. He began a military career in the Navy during W.W.II, completing his career in the Air Force in 1964. E."J" was an accomplished jeweller with golden hands (for which the jewellery he made can attest). A "Jack of all trades", E."J" was also an avid cyclist. He was a USCF official for over 25 years, as well as the District Representative for the state of Florida. E."J" was well loved by cycling communities all over the United States, to whom he donated much of his time, talent and wisdom.

E."J" is survived by his wife, Linda; son James and his wife Heidi; his daughter Angela; son Nathan and his wife Erin; son Allen and his wife Nancy; and two grandchildren, Brenden and Hanna. He will be dearly missed by all. A memorial service is planned for 2:00, July 24 at MacDonald Funeral Home 10520 North Florida Ave. (813) 933-4950 in lieu of flowers make donations on the behalf of Mr. Rogut to Lifepath Hospice (3010 W. Azeele Street, Tampa, FL 33609;

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