First Edition News for June 13, 2004
Edited by Chris Henry
First victory for Ullrich
Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) is using the Tour de Suisse as his final racing build up for the Tour de France, coming on the heels of a solid performance at the Tour of Germany. Ullrich has often made dramatic improvement in the immediate run-up to the Tour after months of unspectacular racing in the early season, and looks on course to do the same this year. With a stage one victory at the Tour de Suisse, Ullrich assumes the early lead in the nine stage race and gains another confidence boost before his Tour bid in July.
"For the overall victory at the Tour de Suisse, our team has enough good riders that we could keep the jersey until Lugano, but not necessarily on my shoulders," Ullrich said after his win, taking the popular approach of modesty among Tour favourites in the preparation races.
Ullrich beat former Tour de Suisse winner Oscar Camenzind (Phonak) in a five man sprint Saturday to take the first jersey of the race, putting his knowledge of the stage finish to good use even if the shape the race took caused more than a bit of surprise.
"We had already gone over the roads at the finish twice, so I knew what I had to do," he explained. "If I was first around the last corner, then I knew I would win.
"I was leading so I had the right to choose my line," Ullrich added, responding to a complaint from Camenzind that he made an unsafe manoeuvre in the technical finale.
More than 100 riders finished the stage over 18 minutes behind the lead group, though the majority of GC contenders were safely in the front positions. Italy's Stefano Garzelli (Vini Caldirola) was on the wrong end of the split, as was former winner Alex Zülle (Phonak).
"We had planned for a flat stage, but in the end it was the reverse," Ullrich noted. "There were small hills throughout the stage, making it very tough."
Cyclingnews diarist Scott Sunderland (Alessio-Bianchi) finished 23rd in the stage and in his diary described Ullrich's form as "outstanding", especially at the beginning of the stage where Ullrich was doing some big turns. Then with approximately 25 km to go, "We came up to the finish line for the second time and Ullrich's just gone kerbang from about fourth position with Camenzind on his wheel! I thought 'Oh yeah, it's a Telekom guy, so these guys had better react. There were four Fassas, three Lottos, four Milanezas, three Phonaks etc. I couldn't chase everything - it wasn't really my job. But they just didn't react. They waited 5-6 km before Ullrich got up to the leaders.
"Now, at the beginning of the stage he was pulling some big turns. Vinokourov looked to be the protected one because he was doing less. So once Ullrich got to them they went out further."
Read the rest of Scott Sunderland's entry here.
Rasmussen according to plan
Denmark's Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank) used a tried and true tactic to help him on his way to his stage 6 victory in the Dauphiné Libéré. Sitting in ninth place overall after Thursday's time trial up Mont Ventoux, Rasmussen decided to take it easy on Friday and let himself slide down the general classification, already thinking ahead to a revenge ride of sorts, given his disappointment after stomach troubles intervened on the Ventoux.
Mission accomplished, Rasmussen started Saturday's tough stage from Gap to Grenoble in 35th overall, no longer a threat to any top ten honours in the general classification. Free to roam, he set off immediately on an attack with Italy's Ivan Basso (Team CSC) for company, and after a powerful display all day long, soloed to victory in Grenoble.
"For sure I could have kept the ninth place, but then it would have been difficult for me to win one of the last two stages," Rasmussen explained in his diary on feltet.dk/michaelrasmussen. "My plan is that I will attack until I get in the right break and then we'll have to see how far it can go. I have to defend what I did [Friday]. I have big expectations for the last two days."
Rasmussen did indeed defend his planned GC tumble, but even so his director Erik Breukink told Cyclingnews after the victory, "yes, you can plan it, but to do it is another thing."
With his teammate Levi Leipheimer still in the top ten, Rasmussen's ninth place after Mont Ventoux was not of great importance. Ironically, after his drop to 35th, the time gap he built during his stage 6 attack (which hit a maximum of nine minutes) sent him back up to 7th on GC, two places ahead of Leipheimer.
Rasmussen also shared his impression of race leader Iban Mayo, calling the Euskaltel-Euskadi leader a contender for the Tour but wondering if he has hit peak form too soon.
"It's to early to be riding this fast," Rasmussen told feltet.dk. "I think it was the same last year. He was riding extremely fast in the Dauphiné and the first week in the Alps at the Tour de France. But in the last week in the Pyrénées he was 'only' able to follow the pace. He didn't have the same form as in the beginning."
Mayo still guarded
Although full of confidence after his impressive victory atop the Mont Ventoux in stage 4 of the Dauphiné Libéré, race leader Iban Mayo is still wary of US Postal Service's leader Lance Armstrong. The American finished fifth behind Mayo in the time trial, and although surprised by the time gap of nearly two minutes, remained calm in the face of defeat, noting that he would prefer to be a bit short of form prior to the Tour than too strong.
Armstrong entered the race as defending champion but insisted from the beginning that he would not seek to repeat his title, for fear of spending too much energy against motivated rivals such as Mayo prior to the Tour de France. Mayo, who among the Tour contenders present at the Dauphiné is the only one to have spoken openly of a desire to actually win the race, remained skeptical of Armstrong's modest ambitions.
"Lance stayed completely calm and didn't put in the slightest attack," Mayo commented after Saturday's stage 6. "That was odd, and it makes me even more vigilant going into Sunday's [final] stage."
Mayo has shown exceptional form during the race, and his stage win and control of the leader's jersey has only given him additional motivation.
"My victory on Mont Ventoux has given me more reason to believe that I can win the Tour," he said.
Who is Paul Crake?
One of the surprises of this year's Wiesbauer Tour/Tour of Austria is Australian Paul Crake, who is riding for the Austrian division III Corratec Graz team. Currently lying in 6th overall on the general classification, Crake finished well in both of the hard mountain stages (4th in Stage 2 and 5th Stage 4), but lost 32 seconds in Stage 5 when he was caught in the second part of the peloton.
Relatively unknown in cycling, 27 year old Crake from Canberra, Australia, has made a name for himself as a stair and mountain runner, winning the Empire State Building Run five times. Formerly an accountant, Crake is now a professional cyclist after taking up cycling three years ago. Last year he raced as an amateur for a Belgian team (Maxims), regularly placing well in the kermis races. This year, he is based in Innsbruck, Tirol with his team.
Clearly a good climber, Crake is searching for a full professional contract next year, although he envisions riding for another year in Austria.
Courtesy of Martin Rosender/www.wiesbauertour.at
More surgery for Pichon
Mickaël Pichon, who suffered severe injuries after a 15 metre plunge into a ravine during the third stage of the Dauphiné Libéré, underwent more surgery Saturday morning in a Grenoble, France hospital. Pichon, who rides for Brioches La Boulangère, is listed in stable but serious condition, though his life is no longer considered to be in danger. He suffered head and facial injuries, a complex fracture of his left shoulder, and a broken right lower leg. Pichon was in a medically-induced coma from Wednesday until Saturday to stabilise his condition and facilitate surgery.
Team CSC's Vladimir Gusev returned to racing Saturday for the first stage of the Tour de Suisse. Gusev was out of action following a broken collarbone sustained in a crash at the Grand Prix S.A.T.S. in early May.
Maurizio Camerini, a board member of the Italian cycling federation, has been suspended after his arrest in Thursday's sweeping police raids throughout the country, part of ongoing doping investigations. Italian police executed 138 search warrants Thursday on cyclists, doctors, soigneurs, and others associated with the sport.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2004)