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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

First Edition Cycling News for March 19, 2004

Edited by Chris Henry

Armstrong out of San Remo

US Postal Service directeur sportif Dirk Demol, quoted in an AFP report, announced Thursday that Lance Armstrong would not take part in Saturday's Milan-San Remo. After originally including the World Cup opener in his program, Armstrong decided that the nearly 300 kilometre classic would not serve as ideal preparation for the Tour de France in July. Max Van Heeswijk and George Hincapie will ride as leaders for US Postal in La Primavera, while Armstrong's next race will come in just over a week's time at the Critérium International in France.

Armstrong USOC Sportsman of the Year

Five-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong (US Postal Service) has been named 2003 Sportsman of the Year by the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), becoming the first athlete ever to be awarded four times. Armstrong won in 1999, 2001, 2002, and 2003. The 2003 USOC Sportswoman of the Year award was given to figure skater Michelle Kwan, while the women's gymnastics team took the team award. Armstrong edged out swimmer Michael Phelps for the men's award.

Bettini and team salute Il Pirata

Cryptic message from Pantani surfaces in Cuba

By Tim Maloney, European Editor

Two days after his powerful performance to win Tirreno-Adriatico, Paolo Bettini and four Quick.Step-Davitamon teammates (Luca Paolini, Davide Bramati, Stefano Zanini and Nick Nuyens) stopped by Marco Pantani's grave site Thursday morning in Cesenatico to pay their respects to the fallen champion. After Bettini & Co's salute, the quintet rode another three hours north in the warm spring sunshine to Imola for the last day of training before Milan-San Remo.

Meanwhile, Bologna's Il Resto del Carlino newspaper reported Thursday that prior to departing Cuba at the end of 2003, Marco Pantani had left a depressing note and a few snapshots for a woman named Lidia, who owned the guest house where he stayed in Havana. "What counts in life is money to buy a house, but what the hell can I do in life... my life is dead," said Pantani's note to the Cuban woman he became friends with while in Havana.

Saeco duo hungry for victory

Saeco's lead duo of Mirko Celestino and Danilo Di Luca is primed for Milan-San Remo Saturday, hoping to improve upon Celestino's second place of a year ago behind compatriot Paolo Bettini. Although Saeco did not win a World Cup race last year, a number of strong performances including Celestino's ride to San Remo and Dario Pieri's second place in Paris-Roubaix offered Italians the team prize at the end of the series.

"It'll be hard to get the same result [as last year] but we're all determined to do well and I'm sure we'll be in the thick of the action," Celestino commented Thursday.

For Di Luca, the pressure is on for a major victory in a World Cup classic, something he has not achieved since the Giro di Lombardia in 2001.

"After an unlucky 2003 I'm naturally determined to get revenge," Di Luca said. "The team and the tifosi are waiting for a big win and I think I can be competitive with the best. Of course this doesn't mean I'm going to win San Remo on Saturday... I know this race suits me even if some of my rivals are going better than I am. However, it is widely known that he who starts a race as the big favourite often takes too many risks, so I'm optimistic of my chances."

Ljungskog ready for Primavera Rosa

Aims for mid-season peak

Although the Primavera Rosa does not represent a specific objective for reigning world champion Susanne Ljungskog (Team SATS), the talented Swede is nonetheless ready for Saturday's next round of the women's World Cup. Ljungskog won the race in 2001 in a solo move, and she has shown herself equally strong in the event of a group sprint.

"My ideal race would be to come in solo like I did when I won three years ago, but now I'm wearing the rainbow jersey and a lot of riders will be watching me," Ljungskog told Cyclingnews. "I'll have to see how the race develops. Perhaps if I'm feeling good it's more likely that I can be up for the sprint if it comes down to such an ending."  

"I haven't trained specifically for this race, but I've had a good training period in Nice leading up to the start of my season," she added. "We have a lot of good riders in the team, and we'll be there for whoever gets the chance. It could be me or Anita Valen or Rochelle Gilmore who was third in this race last year."

Bourgain fights World's nod

Cofidis track professional Mickaël Bourgain fired an early warning shot to his rivals, claiming a hat trick at the opening round of the Track World Cup in Aguascalientes, Mexico. Bourgain emerged on top of the podium in the keirin, sprint, and team sprint (along with Laurent Gané and Arnaud Tournant). For Bourgain, an early display of strength was critical as his qualification for the Track World Championships is not yet confirmed.

In the sprint, "the top step of the podium played out between me and Laurent," Bourgain explained in an interview on the team's website. "He's not at 100% yet since he's already qualified for the Track World's, whereas my qualification isn't final. I have to take advantage of the World Cup meets to earn it."

For Bourgain and his Cofidis teammates Gané and Tournant, the team sprint was a satisfying display of collective talent.

"Laurent Gané starts, I take the next pull, then Arnaud Tournant finishes," he noted. "The racing was hard because there was a strong wind. What pleased me was our cohesiveness. Our technique was right on."

Bourgain credits his strong early season form to intensive training in New Caledonia, along with Gané and coach Daniel Morélon. "This was the first time I trained there, and the results have been very positive."

There's no mystery as to Bourgain's objective later in the season. The World Championships in Melbourne, Australia will be a major focus, particularly given the fact that Olympic team members will be named largely based on results from that event.

Gerrans in a waiting room in France

By Jean-François Quénet

Simon Gerrans
Photo ©: J.F. Quénet

Former U23 Australian road champion Simon Gerrans is now racing in France in the elite 2 category with Team U Nantes-Atlantique after being close to join RAGT Semences-MG Rover last month. The French Division I team, which is still chasing its first UCI point this year, eventually chose local cyclists Nicolas Reynaud and Renaud Dion as replacements for Marek Rutkiewicz and David Lefèvre.

Winner of seven races last year, including Melbourne to Warrnambol, Gerrans is currently 410th on the UCI ranking with 132 points. He came 4th at the Australian national championships in January but still didn't secure a contract. "I was about to go back to an Italian amateur team but my good friend Baden Cooke told me that my future was in France," the Victorian said. Gerrans decided to rejoin his former teammate from Team Ringerike, Jonathan Dayus, now back in France with one of the 19 division 1 clubs. His team is called Team U Nantes-Atlantique since Nantes 44 Cyclisme and UC Nantes have decided to merge under the guidance of Pascal Déramé.

Déramé was one of Lance Armstrong's domestiques for his first Tour de France win in 1999. He finished his pro career with Bonjour in 2002. Gerrans, 23, will get plenty of good advice with the team, although he's known as Phil Anderson's protégé and has already learned a lot.

Gerrans finished 4th in the Souvenir Louison-Bobet last week and will compete Friday with the professionals at the Classic Loire-Atlantique (UCI 1.5), with main contenders including Christophe Moreau, back racing for the first time this year after a ligament injury, Jaan Kirsipuu, Jean-Cyril Robin and Nicolas Vogondy. Gerrans and Dayus are also scheduled to take part in the Archer GP (1.5) in England on April 4th.

Cafés Baqué junior team

In addition to its Division II professional team, Cafés Baqué has taken up sponsorship of a Spanish junior development team, Cafés Baqué-Lafuente. The ten rider team is managed by Publtour, a sport and cultural organisation. The team is led by Arkaitz Duran, who already emerged victorious at the first race, the Trofeo 13 Villas stage race.

Team roster:

Eduardo del Río Gutiérrez
Eduardo Barrio Martínez
Eduardo Expósito Castillo
Arkaitz Duran Aroca
Valentin Santamaría Hormaechea
José Alberto Pérez Arroyo
Alberto morras Fernández
Oliver Rivero González
David Gutiérrez Palacios
José Ignacio Blanco Arregui

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