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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for June 7, 2004

Edited by Chris Henry

No bluffing for Mayo

Iban Mayo
Photo ©: AFP
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Second in Saturday's Classique des Alpes and victorious in the prologue of the Dauphiné Libéré, Iban Mayo (Euskaltel-Euskadi) isn't hiding any of his ambition in the mountains of France. With the Dauphiné assembling a number of Tour de France favourites, notably defending champion Lance Armstrong and Phonak leader Tyler Hamilton, Mayo is eager to compare his form against his top rivals. So far so good for the Euskaltel leader, who edged out both for the first yellow jersey of the race.

"I'm going to fight every day to win the overall," Mayo said simply after his victory.

Despite their strong rides, both Hamilton and Armstrong downplayed their plans for the final classification in a week's time. The two Americans insisted on the day of the prologue that the Dauphiné is a race of preparation for the Tour de France.

"It was a good test," Hamilton said. "The Dauphiné is not a real objective, but I'm very happy to have beaten Armstrong by one second."

No GC plans?
Photo ©: AFP
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Armstrong, who found a formidable opponent in Mayo a year ago, maintains that this year he will take a more reserved approach to the Dauphiné. "I know that I have to conserve my energy for July," he said. "Winning stages is one thing, but we want to keep something in reserve."

Armstrong's directeur sportif, Johan Bruyneel, echoed these sentiments. "(US Postal Service) has changed our strategy a little bit this year at the Dauphiné," he explained. "I think it's good that there's a few teams that are really strong and we can see what happens. This race won't be decided until we get to Grenoble."

Mayo, meanwhile, doesn't seem to buy their stories.

"I don't really believe that Armstrong and Hamilton are here without any general classification ambitions," he commented, noting their strong performances in the prologue. "But no matter what, the Dauphiné is an important test for all three of us."

Quick.Step conquers Germany

Dream come true
Photo ©: AFP
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The Quick.Step-Davitamon team stamped its authority on the Tour of Germany, defending last year's title won by Michael Rogers with another young revelation, Patrik Sinkewitz. The 23 year old took control of the race with victory in stage 3 and showed maturity beyond his years to fend off the challenges from his rivals, particularly fellow German Jens Voigt (CSC).

Sinkewitz marked Voigt on the final day of climbing Saturday, securing his overall lead as well as the polka dot jersey of king of the mountains. Voigt took second in the general classification, followed by Jan Hruska (Liberty Seguros).

"With three victories as a professional, I've lived a dream," Sinkewitz said of his big week in his home tour. "I'm happy, it's the most beautiful day of my life.

"For me it's an honour to win the biggest race in my country," he added. "Now I will rest, then I'll think about the Tour de Suisse. I would like to do well in Switzerland." 

The celebration for Quick.Step wasn't limited to Sinkewitz's yellow jersey, as Tom Boonen sprinted to victory once more on the final stage to Leipzig.

"This morning I thought about being tired," Boonen explained. "In the last two days I worked a lot to help Patrik. Kilometre by kilometre today I realised that I had good legs and that I could try to win.

Boonen added words of praise for his leadout man, Stefano Zanini, who has played a key role in the young Belgian's 11 victories so far this year.

"In this first part of the season I've won 11 races, beating so many great sprinters," Boonen said confidently. "I would now like to be able to compare myself with [Alessandro] Petacchi, the only one I haven't competed against. During the Tour de France I hope to have the opportunity to challenge him in a sprint."

US Postal successor gets Armstrong

Although he has commented to the effect on a number of occasions, Lance Armstrong continues to give good indications that a replacement sponsor for US Postal Service is all that he needs to carry on in the peloton for another year. During the winter months Armstrong remained on the fence about his eventual decision to retire and whether that would come at the end of this season, or beyond.

"If there's a team, I'll still be a professional cyclist," the five-time Tour de France winner commented in the Dauphiné Libéré newspaper on the eve of the namesake race.

"I can't imagine retiring," he added. "I'm enjoying this too much. I still feel good, even better than last year. I hope the team finds a new sponsor, and if so I'll be a part of it."

US Postal Service's contract with the team expires at the end of this year, and though no deal has been reached, team director Johan Bruyneel has expressed confidence in recent weeks concerning the prospects for a new title sponsor.

In less than one month, Armstrong and the team will embark upon a bid for an unprecedented sixth victory in the Tour de France, which remains the most important objective for both the American and his sponsors. "To see another guy climbing the podium [in Paris] would be a nightmare," Armstrong affirmed.

Rinero OK after crash

Christophe Rinero, former Tour de France king of the mountains and leader of the RAGT Semences-MG Rover team, is said to be in good condition after a potentially serious crash in Saturday's Classique des Alpes. Rinero fell alone while riding between early the breakaway and the peloton on the descent of the Col du Granier.

Rinero lost consciousness after the fall and was attended to first by his teammate Michaël Buffaz, who noticed his leader lying on the side of the road as he followed on the descent.

"I know that descent well, having raced there a lot," Buffaz told Reuters. "I knew that turn could be dangerous. As a habit, I looked behind me when I passed through, that's when I saw Christophe lying motionless off the side of the road."

Buffaz alerted the race's police escorts, who radioed for an ambulance to help Rinero, who was taken to the hospital in Chambéry.

Rinero suffered a head injury and severe bruising on his hip, plus scrapes on his elbow. Fortunately no fractures were revealed after x-rays were taken in Chambéry. Rinero's director Jean-Luc Jonrond expects him to be back in the peloton in time for the Route du Sud later this month.

La Boulangère doctor rebuffs Beloki

Following Joseba Beloki's vocal complaints concerning the prohibition of his usual asthma medicine, a type of cortisone, Brioches La Boulangère team doctor Pierre-Yves Mathé responded that in fact Beloki has not demonstrated a recognised case of asthma in the first place. The French cycling federation (FFC) lists Beloki's treatment as a banned substance, and by extension his team has prevented him from using it for fear of a positive dope test in or out of competition.

"There are rules, we can't just do whatever we want," Mathé told commented in a l'Equipe article. "To prescribe this type of product, a certain number of tests have to be performed. After these examinations, it was found that Beloki has a number of allergies, but no recognised case of asthma was confirmed. Therefore there are certain medicines I cannot prescribe."

Recent training camps in France, and the Euskal Bizikleta stage race in Beloki's native Basque region of Spain have seen the rider come into difficulty because of breathing problems caused by his allergies. Beloki has expressed his frustration that the French federation will not permit him to use the same medicine he has used since he was a child, permitted by the Spanish federation and also the UCI after his having provided documentation in recent years of his allergies.

Lavenu not amused

Vincent Lavenu, director of the Ag2r-Prévoyance team, has reacted strongly to references Joseba Beloki made in the French press to the use of cortisone in French teams. Beloki, who is prevented by his Brioches La Boulangère team from using a habitual asthma medicine (which is a banned substance in France), told French newspaper l'Equipe that he wished he could use the medicine, which contains cortisone and thus is banned, because the Cofidis and Ag2r teams use the product anyway. The insinuation did not please Lavenu, who threatened a legal response.

"I'm indignant concerning these lies and incorrect statements, which only do damage to our sponsors and our team," Lavenu said. "I reserve the right to take [Beloki] to court."

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