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Photo ©: Schaaf

First Edition News for June 15, 2004

Edited by Chris Henry & Jeff Jones

Tough week in store at 84th Volta a Catalunya

By Martin Hardie

2003 champion Jose Antonio Pecharroman
Photo: © AFP
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The 84th Volta a Catalunya/Tour of Catalonia starts on Monday, June 14 with what seems to be becoming a traditional team time trial over 18 kilometres. The TTT acts as a prelude and GC sorter for the week's mountainous encounter.

The Volta has been for many years one of the final encounters in which Tour de France aspirants come out and test their wares before the big one. The list of past winners is testament to its stature in this regard including as it does Heras, Beloki, Zülle, Indurain, Kelly, Moser, Lejarreta and Merckx. This year the Volta returns with its testing parcours but with many big names taking the week off or seeking to ride themselves into form in the alternative meeting of the week, the Tour de Suisse. As such, other than being a venue for some Tour domestiques or stage specialists to find their legs it should provide an opportunity to see some of the up and coming riders of the peloton.

On paper in this year's edition, the decisive stages seem to be Stages 3 and 4. Stage 3 finishes in the tiny Pyrenean state of Andorra climbing two first category climbs, the Coll de Montaup and the mountain top finish at the ski station resort of Pal. The next day's stage 4 is a time trial which climbs around 700 meters in altitude over its 12 kilometre course. It was in last year's equivalent stage that José Antonio Pecharroman, then of Paternina-Costa del Almeria, stormed to the lead and eventual victory. In doing so Pecharroman outflanked the attempt of Roberto Heras to win the Volta in consecutive years.

Neither rider has come back this year for a rematch. Another rider who isn't here this year and has become known more for his mouth than his legs since is Jesus Manzano. 2003 saw the then Kelme rider solo to victory in stage 4. However, Kelme do return for this edition and having paid the outstanding salaries, they will be led by Alejandro Valverde. Amongst the riders to watch - Valverde (the Spanish Jalabert?), anyone from Paternina, Saunier's Leonardo Piepoli, a steadily improving Aitor Gonzalez, Baque's Peio Arreitunandia, Alberto Martinez of Relax, a man with a point to prove wearing orange by the name of Laiseka, and after his Giro performance supporting Gonchar, De Nardi's Brit Charly Wegelius.

The rest of the week is sure to sap the legs of many. Stage 2 climbs up towards the Pyrenees and plateaus out for a rolling finish. Stage 5 includes a first and second category climb before descending towards a flattish finish. The penultimate and ultimate stages combine a succession of third category climbs that offer no respite on the flats.

Unlike the Dauphine or the Tour de Suisse, we may not see a prospective Tour winner on display, but we will see a tough, testing week that touches the high mountains of the Pyrenees and terminates in the splendour of down town Barcelona.

Armstrong fires back

Defending Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong has wasted no time providing a stern response to the arrival of a new book which casts doubt over the integrity of his career and specifically his five victories in the Tour de France. "LA Confidential: The Secrets of Lance Armstrong", which is due to be published this week, seeks to link Armstrong with the use of banned substances. Armstrong has threatened a costly legal battle in return, maintaining that he has never used any performance enhancing drugs.

"Lance Armstrong has reacted with concern and dismay at the false allegations made by David Walsh, Chief Sports Writer of the Sunday Times," the US Postal Service announced Monday in a written statement.

Armstrong has instructed his lawyers to immediately institute libel proceedings in London against the Sunday Times and David Walsh seeking an injunction and substantial damages, and in Paris against David Walsh, Pierre Ballester, the publishers of "LA Confidential" and the publishers of L'Express, in which excerpts of the book were published Monday.

No Tour for Vinokourov

Initial fears in the T-Mobile team that Alexandre Vinokourov's Tour de France could be in jeopardy have been confirmed. The Kazakh, a stage winner and third overall in 2003, will undergo surgery for injuries sustained in a crash Sunday in the Tour de Suisse and is now officially off the team roster for the Tour de France.

Vinokourov has been diagnosed with several torn ligaments in his right shoulder which will require surgery.

"He'll have to wait three weeks before getting back on the bike," team spokesman Olaf Ludwig commented Monday. "It's too early to say whether his second objective of the season, the Olympic Games, will be in danger. The race is in eight weeks, so it should be OK."

Vinokourov, aside from his own potential in the Tour, was to be Jan Ullrich's top teammate for the Tour. This is the second time in three years that Vinokourov has had his Tour de France derailed by a crash in the Tour de Suisse. T-Mobile's Paolo Savoldelli also remains a question mark for the Tour after a serious crash in April, though Cadel Evans, who missed last year's Tour due to injury, has returned to top form after his overall victory at the Tour of Austria last week.

McEwen: "Talk is cheap"

With a stage victory already in the bag at the Tour de Suisse, Australian sprinter Robbie McEwen (Lotto-Domo) is unconcerned about the hype surrounding top speedster Alessandro Petacchi as the heavy favourite for the upcoming Tour de France. McEwen was asked by Belgian TV1 commentator Michel Wuyts if he minded the fact that he didn't figure among the list of sprinters tipped for big success at the Tour.

"No, it doesn't bother me. Talk is cheap," he said. "The prizes are given at the finish, and then we'll see."

McEwen's recent successes have come in the Tour de Suisse and at the Giro d'Italia, where he was one of only two sprinters (along with Fred Rodriguez) to disrupt the string of victories by Petacchi and his Fassa Bortolo train. McEwen left the Giro early to recover and train specifically for the Tour, which he believes has been a wise decision.

"After the Giro I worked mainly on power and sprints; I didn't do the long hard kilometres," McEwen explained. "[Monday] I could already feel the benefit of it. I'm just lacking a bit of racing rhythm but that was already better than the day before also. It's something that comes back quickly."

McEwen has finished in the green jersey of points winner at the Tour de France in the past, but says this year he will focus first on stage wins, then worry about the jersey competition.

"The first stages of the Tour de France are ridden close to where I live (in Everbeek in the Flemish Ardennes)," he said. "I definitely want to go and scout all the cobblestone sections and the finishes. The first nine stages give plenty of opportunities for the sprinters."

Jeanson gets a warning

The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) announced Monday the decision by a three-member panel of the American Arbitration Association (AAA)/North American Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) arbitrators finding that Geneviève Jeanson (Team RONA) committed a doping violation.

Jeanson, 22, failed to appear for a UCI doping control following the Flèche Wallonne in Belgium on April 21, 2004. She was tested by UCI prior to the start of the race, and the results were negative. Her case was adjudicated by USADA because she competes with a racing license issued in the United States by USA Cycling and not her native Canadian federation.

Jeanson’s negligence in failing to report is considered a first doping offense according to UCI rules, and results in a sanction. Jeanson has received a public warning and been fined 500 Swiss francs. 

Basso hones TT form

Ivan Basso, one of Team CSC's two leaders for the general classification in the Tour de France alongside Carlos Sastre, will hone his time trial form at the Italian national time trial championships on June 22. Basso traveled to the United States for wind tunnel testing at MIT but has yet to put the results to the true test. Basso's teammate Andrea Peron, CSC's first alternate for the Tour, will also take part in the time trial.

"I very much want to test myself in this discipline ahead of the Tour, and I'm extremely determined to do well," Basso commented. "So far I've only done prologues on my time trial bike after I did the tests in the wind tunnels in Boston. I need to compete in a longer time trial in order to be prepared properly."

"It's important, that [Ivan] has the opportunity to do a long time trial ahead of the Tour, so he can get used to the bike at a longer distance," team director Bjarne Riis added. "I'm sure, Peron is also motivated to do the time trial. He's our first reserve for the Tour, and he definitely want to show that he's totally ready for this task, should it become necessary."

Irish Criterium Championships this Wednesday

By Shane Stokes,

Previous winners Paul Doyle and Stephen O'Sullivan will be amongst a strong field lining out in the Irish national criterium championships at 8 pm this Wednesday evening in Ormeau Park, Belfast. The race will take place on a fast, flat circuit 0.9 miles in length. "It features one narrow section and also a tricky turn," said race organiser Tommy Lamb.

"The favourites are going to be the former winners Paul Doyle and Stephen O'Sullivan, who have both confirmed their attendance," he continued. "Aidan Crowley is also coming, as is his Cycleways Lee Strand team-mate Phil Finegan. They should be in contention for the team medals. The big absentee will be David McCann, who had previously indicated he would take part but who is now competing in the Tour of Korea."

Home riders hoping to do well include Conor Murphy (Crannog Ireland) and Roger Aiken (Banbridge CC) who both took wins over the weekend.

The race is being sponsored by Belfast City Council Support for Sport and Paul Slane cycles. The promoting club Phoenix CC will also run a number of support races. A senior 2 event will take place beforehand, as will a women's contest which forms part of the Northern Ireland Women's Series. There will also be youth/novice races.

For more information contact race organiser Tommy Lamb at

Swedish Olympic selection

The Swedish Olympic Committee announced Monday four new names for the Swedish Olympic team. Aside from Susanne Ljungskog (Team S.A.T.S.) and Madeleine Lindberg (Equipe Nürnberger), who were already selected, Magnus Bäckstedt (Alessio-Bianchi), Thomas Lövkvist (, Marcus Ljungqvist (Alessio-Bianchi) and Maria Östergren (Södertälje CK-mountainbike) were named.

Bäckstedt, who enjoyed a brilliant spring with his win in Paris-Roubaix and a second place in Gent-Wevelgem, was the only one named for both the road race and the time trial. Aged only 20, Lövkvist has just followed up his mid-spring win in the Circuit de la Sarthe with a solid performance in Dauphiné Libéré. He will go to Athens with the primary ambition to watch and learn.

An additional nomination will be announced on July 6th.

Quick.Step for Ster Elektrotoer

The Quick.Step-Davitamon team has announced its roster for the upcoming Ster Elektrotoer stage race in the Netherlands, which runs from June 16-20. The race will once more see the team's top sprinter, Tom Boonen, in action before the Belgian national championships and Tour de France. Supporting Boonen will be Frederic Amorisson, Wilfried Cretskens, José Antonio Garrido, Kevin Hulsmans, Servais Knaven, Nick Nuyens, and Sven Vanthourenhout.

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