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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for March 2, 2004

Edited by Chris Henry

Problems persist for Beloki

Although his Brioches La Boulangère team is quick to downplay the significance, something is clearly amiss for Tour de France contender Joseba Beloki. After pushing back his re-entry in competition several times already, due largely to a bout of tendinitis, the former ONCE leader remains sidelined. Beloki insists that the problems are not a result of his season-ending crash in last year's Tour de France.

"As soon as he does several long rides in a row, the pain comes back," explained Beloki's team manager Jean-René Bernaudeau.

"We're only in March, and the Tour is a long way off," added directeur sportif Theirry Bricaud.

"Of course, we'll be relieved when he can finally race," he added with a hint of frustration. Beloki is scheduled for the Critérium International at the end of the month, but it seems nothing is certain this spring.

Voigt targets Critérium International

Germany's Jens Voigt (Team CSC) is once again looking forward to the two day, three stage Critérium International (March 27-28), a so-called mini Tour de France in one weekend. Voigt has found success at the Critérium before, winning the event in 1999 and since finishing fourth, third, and second overall.

"Critérium International is simply the perfect race for me," Voigt explained. "You have the flat stage on Saturday, then a hilly stage and a time trial on Sunday. This makes it possible for me to burn all my energy in one weekend."

Last year Voigt won the final time trial, sealing his second place overall behind Frenchman Laurent Brochard of Ag2r-Prévoyance. With Paris-Nice beginning on Sunday, Voigt's teammate and compatriot Jörg Jaksche has set the season's first hors catégorie (HC) race as a major objective, but Voigt himself knows that the race suits him too.

"We had a fabulous start in Tour Méditerranéen, which obviously gives us high expectations ahead of Paris-Nice, where I hope to get a good start in the 13 kilometre time trial," Voigt said. "It should suit riders like Bobby Julich and myself, and the time trial could create some big time differences as it's not just a short prologue."

In between Paris-Nice and Critérium International, Voigt will race the World Cup opener, Milan-San Remo.

Wiggins suffers

Bradley Wiggins (Crédit Agricole), normally a favourite for races against the clock such as the opening 13km time trial in Paris-Nice this Sunday, has been sidelined by early season injury and a recent virus. Wiggins, reigning individual pursuit world champion, crashed in the Tour of Qatar, and picked up a virus on his return to France. Wiggins managed to race the Tour Méditerranéen, but since then things have not gone according to plan.

"I was looking forward to doing a good ride in the first stage time trial but I haven't been able to prepare properly," he explained. "Having this bug is very frustrating as I was looking for a great result. But you never know, sometimes an enforced rest can leave you in better condition than you think. I am still going to give it my best shot, so I will just have to see."

Lavenu looks for rally

Despite season-opening victories by Laurent Brochard and Jaan Kirsipuu in Etoile de Bessèges, Ag2r-Prévoyance director Vincent Lavenu has declared himself a bit disappointed with the team's recent performances. With Paris-Nice fast approaching, Lavenu doesn't expect to compete for the general classification, but he is expecting a stage victory.

"Everybody needs to refocus to get some results," Lavenu commented in l'Equipe. "It takes motivation. Victories don't come by themselves, and I'm trying to make my riders understand this, to raise the bar."

Lavenu will count primarily on Brochard, along with sprinter Jean-Patrick Nazon, who joined the team this season.

Belda careful with Valverde

Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme director Vicente Belda is as eager as anyone to exploit the talent of young star Alejandro Valverde, but for Belda patience is also a virtue, as he prefers not to enter Valverde in the 2004 Tour de France. Assuming that Kelme is offered the final berth in the Tour (organisers are currently holding the place in reserve, awaiting more financial assurances from the team), Belda won't risk burning out his young star, who at age 23 has his sights set this season on the Olympic Games, the Vuelta a España, and the World Championships.

"He's a jewel, and because of his age we have to be careful, designing a schedule that's reasonable," Belda told Marca. "He'll have a chance to ride next year, when Armstrong won't be around any longer."

Given five-time Tour winner Armstrong's recent thoughts on retirement, Valverde may have to face the American yet...

Bozzi plans hour record attempt

Thirty-four year old French rider Dominique Bozzi has announced his intentions to challenge Chris Boardman's hour record, which has stood at 49.441 kilometres since 2000. Bozzi rode professionally from 1995-1997 for the ill-fated Le Groupement team, Force-Sud, and Casino. He has continued to race in the amateur ranks since, and has enlisted the help Yvon Sanquer, his former director at the US Creteil club, to help him prepare.

"I've rarely seen as big a potential as Dominique's against the clock," Sanquer told l'Equipe. "Now we have to analyse all the factors for the attempt, particularly his ability to adapt to riding on the track."

Bozzi's plan is to make his bid for the hour record in the second half of the season at the Bordeaux, France velodrome. "I don't know if I can beat the record, but I'm going to get as close as possible," Bozzi said.

23rd Hessen-Rundfahrt

Organisers have announced the parcours for the 23rd edition of the Internationale Hessen-Rundfahrt stage race in Germany. Scheduled for September 1-5, the 2004 race will total 850 kilometres over five stages. Sixteen teams are expected to attend, including top German teams T-Mobile and Gerolsteiner, with €450,000 on offer.


Stage 1 - September 1: Kassel-Bad Arolsen
Stage 2 - September 2: Giessen-Wiesbaden
Stage 3 - September 3: Wiesbaden-Lich
Stage 4 - September 4: Einzelzeitfahren Dieburg-Darmstadt-Dieburg
Stage 5 - September 5: Dieburg-Frankfurt am Main

Two questioned in France

Two former members of the CC Etupes amateur team have been called for questioning for suspected drug trafficking after mailing a package containing five ampoules of EPO, according to French newspaper l'Est Republicain. The judge Christian Kulyk has called Emmanuel Granat and Rémy Mellano, as the two are suspected of sending the EPO to Olivier Marceau, a former triathlon world champion.

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