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Photo ©: Swift

First Edition Cycling News for March 10, 2004

Edited by John Stevenson

World champions line up for Tirreno-Adriatico

2003 winner Filippo Pozzato
Photo: © Sirotti
Click for larger image

No fewer than six current and former world champions will line up today in Sabaudia for the 39th edition of Italy's first major stage race of the season, Tirreno-Adriatico. Known as the 'race of the two seas' because it crosses southern Italy from the Mediterranean coast to San Benedetto del Tronto on the Adriatic, Tirreno-Adriatico is arguably Italy's most prestigious stage race after the Giro and an important indicator of form for Milan - San Remo (March 20), the Classic every Italian wants on his palmares.

As well as the rainbow club of Johan Museeuw (Quick.Step-Davitamon), Oskar Camenzind (Phonak), Oscar Freire (Rabobank), Romans Vainstains (Lampre), Mario Cipollini (Domina Vacanze) and Igor Astarloa (Cofidis), the race will be livened-up by some hard-fought showdowns between the contenders.

Last year's winner Filippo Pozzato (Fassa Bortolo) and and runner-up Danilo Di Luca (Saeco) will be back for a rematch. Both are in excellent shape; Pozatto has won a stage of the Giro della Liguria and the Trofeo Laigueglia while Di Luca took the difficult penultimate stage of the Vuelta a Murcia last week.

Away from the GC contest, Tirreno Adriatico will also see the next round in the battle for Italian sprint supremacy between Mario Cipollini (Domina Vacanze) and Alessandro Petacchi. Petacchi has had the stronger start to the year, winning the first two stages of the Giro della Provincia di Lucca, while Cipollini has a stage of the Tour Méditerranéen to his name.

Cipollini says his slow start to the season has been due to health problems. "I have had flu," he told Datasport, "and am not looking for victories straight away. I am planning to look after my health and build my confidence for Milan-San Remo." As for his younger rival, Cipollini said, "Petacchi? He is the strongest one for now, it's fair to admit. To beat him will be the umpteenth 'bet to win' of my career."

As well as Italian riders looking to shine on home roads, Tirreno-Adriatico will see sprinters Erik Zabel, and Oscar Friere in the mix, plus top all-rounders such as Igor Astarloa and Paolo Bettini, who will be looking to move back into the prominent roles they occupied last year, with Bettini in particular planning to repeat his World Cup series victory - Tirreno-Adriatico will provide important preparation for the first World Cup, Milan - San Remo.

Tirreno-Adriatico start list, stages & map.

Team - Down Under gets rolling is very pleased to announce that we are the sponsor of Belgian-based Division III development team, Team - Down Under. The team's aim is to provide a start in the European peloton for young riders, mostly from Australia, but the squad also includes Belgian and British riders.

Co-sponsors include Frans Hendrickx Transport, a Belgian trucking company that has provided vital support, plus Belgian companies Ridley Bikes (bicycles), Bioracer (clothing), and J-Tech (nutritional products).

Additional support in 2004 has enabled the team to expand its program, and with the addition of riders such as sprinter Hilton Clarke Jr (ex-Team Barloworld) and Eric Lievens (ex-Landbouwkredit-Colnago), team manager Gilbert de Weerdt is very positive about its prospects for 2004.

"We have a very strong team for this year. We have a good mix of sprinters, climbers and strong all-rounders who are all willing to work together," he said.

To read more about your new team click here.

Pantani Memorial June 6

GS Emilio, the organisers of the planned Marco Pantani memorial race in June, have announced that the event will take place on June 6, and not June 1 as published in some Italian papers yesterday. The race will take place as part of the Panatlhon di Cesena, but full details are yet to be decided.

U.S. National Team for Dodge Tour de Georgia

USA Cycling has announced the entry of a U.S. National Team into the 2004 Dodge Tour de Georgia, April 20-25. The eight-man roster will be sponsored by TIAA-CREF and will utilize the infrastructure of Team TIAA-CREF Presented by 5280 Magazine, the newly formed developmental squad headed up by Jonathan Vaughters.

Representing the United States in the 2004 Dodge Tour de Georgia from the TIAA CREF/5280 squad will be eleven-time junior national champion, Blake Caldwell, seven-time junior national champion Zak Grabowski, runner-up in last year's espoir national time trial championships and 2003 U.S. junior world championship team member, Timothy Duggan, the top American finisher at the 2003 junior world championships, Craig Lewis, and Dan Bowman. Colby Pearce (Boulder, Colo.), a 2004 U.S. Olympic hopeful and coach of the TIAA CREF/5280 team, will also suit up alongside his riders to contest the event. Rounding out the U.S. National Team will be Kevin Bouchard-Hall and Stuart Gillespie .

Pezzo back on the bike

Double Olympic mountain bike champion Paola Pezzo has been cleared by her doctor to return to training after her unexpected operation for appendicitis on February 27. Doctor Cevese of the Orlandi Hospital in Bussolengo gave her the all-clear to start training again after checking that her recovery was proceeding as expected, and Pezzo was back on her bike yesterday.

"I am torn between the desire to start training seriously again, and the awareness that I can't go too hard," said Pezzo. "The pain is tolerable, but as the wound is not entirely healed I have to be cautious."

Pezzo may return to racing at the Gran Fondo Paola Pezzo on April 18.

McLane Pacific kicks off US NRC

This weekend, March 13-14, sees the first round of USA Cycling's National Racing Calendar in Merced, California: the McLane Pacific. The 150-rider, two-day event comprises a technical downtown GP course on Saturday and a challenging 120 mile course through rolling hills on Sunday that typically sees very windy conditions.

One team with several decisions to make at McLane Pacific is Webcor. Webcor will use the McLane Pacific as its selection race for the upcoming California stage races of Pomona Valley, Redlands and Sea Otter. Joining Webcor's team of 16 riders, lead by 2003 McLane Pacific champion Chris Horner is a 'who's who' of US cycling. Health Net will be presenting a team of 9 riders, lead by two time McLane Pacific GP champion Gord Fraser, and including Mike Sayers and Chris Wherry. The Health Net focus will clearly be to deliver Fraser to the finish first on Saturday making him the only rider to win three McLane Pacific jerseys in the history of the event.

Colavita is fielding a team of 11 riders captained by Nathan O'Neil and Mark McCormack. Sierra Nevada will be sending a full brew of riders lead by Trent Klasna and Eric Wohlberg. Ofoto-Lombardi will be concluding a California training camp at McLane Pacific with a team lead by Eric Saunders and up and coming strongman Neiko Biskner. These teams will be joined by full squads from TIAA-CREF/5280, Team Monex, Red Edge Cycling, Jelly Belly, Endeavour and McGuire.

Metro newspapers support Wachovia

Wachovia series organisers Threshold Sports have announced that Metro Philadelphia will be the official newspaper of the 2004 and 2005 Wachovia Cycling Series. Metro will highlight the Wachovia Cycling Series with a 12-page race guide that will be distributed to their readership and along race routes during the events.

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