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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

First Edition Cycling News for March 22, 2004

Edited by Chris Henry

Contenders for Critérium International

After Paris-Nice in early March, the next major rendez-vous for the international peloton in France is the Critérium International (March 27-28). The three stage 'mini Tour de France' held on the final weekend of March will attract a number of top contenders for the Tour title in July, notably five-time winner Lance Armstrong, who will make his first appearance in France this season.

Other star attractions include fellow American Tyler Hamilton, Paris-Nice winner Jörg Jaksche, and Alexandre Vinokourov. Joseba Beloki was scheduled to race the Critérium, but his repeated delays due to nagging tendinitis have put his participation in question. Defending champion Laurent Brochard (Ag2r-Prévoyance) will line up in a bid for a yellow jersey repeat.

Teams and principal entries:

Ag2r-Prévoyance (Brochard, Nazon)
Brioches La Boulangère (Chavanel)
Chocolade Jacques-Wincor-Nixdorf (Brard)
Cofidis (Astarloa, Millar)
Crédit Agricole (Hushovd, Halgand)
Euskaltel-Euskadi (Zubeldia)
FDJeux.com (McGee, Cooke)
Gerolsteiner (Rebellin)
Illes Balears-Banesto (Menchov)
Liberty Seguros (Gonzalez de Galdeano)
Lotto-Domo (Verbrugghe)
Phonak (Hamilton)
Quick.Step-Davitamon (Rogers, Dufaux)
RAGT Semences-MG Rover (Rinero)
Relax-Bodysol (Mayoz)
Saeco (Di Luca)
Saunier Duval-Prodir (Dominguez)
T-Mobile (Vinokourov, Botero)
Team CSC (Jaksche, Julich, Voigt)
US Postal Service (Armstrong)

Da Cruz to France Monday

Carlos Da Cruz (FDJeux.com) will return to France Monday after being hospitalised following a crash in the opening kilometres of Milan-San Remo Saturday. Da Cruz was diagnosed with a fracture of the D12 vertebrae at the hospital in Pavia, as well as a possible fractured wrist. The Frenchman will be forced off the bike for a minimum of four weeks.

Piil OK

Denmark's Jakob Piil (Team CSC) will not be out of action too long following a knee injury sustained at Paris-Nice. Piil was forced to miss Milan-San Remo, but after five days of complete rest for inflammation of ligaments in his right knee, he should be ready to return.

Rebellin injured

Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner), another rider injured in a crash in Milan-San Remo, could see his bid for the Ardennes classics compromised if problems persist. Rebellin injured his knees and buttocks in the fall, aggravating a shoulder injury from 2003 at the same time. Rebellin will visit his doctor Monday for further examination.

41st Setmana Catalana

Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) and Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros) will be among the top Tour de France contenders lining up at the Setmana Catalana stage race in Spain (UCI 2.1, March 22-26), along with defending champion Dario Frigo (Fassa Bortolo), rising Spanish star Alejandro Valverde (Kelme) and former Giro d'Italia winner Stefano Garzelli (Vini Caldirola).

The five stage race provides another warm-up for the grand tour contenders and a major objective for the Spanish and Portuguese teams as the classics season draws more attention in the north. The decisive day will likely come on stage 4 as the race finishes atop the Port del Comte, which the peloton will tackle twice in the final 35 kilometres of racing.

Stages:

Stage 1 - March 22: Lloret de Mar-Lloret de Mar, 165.5
Stage 2 - March 23: Lloret de Mar-Empuriabrava, 160.8 km
Stage 3 - March 24: Castello d'Empuries-Motcada-Reixac, 159.5 km
Stage 4 - March 25: Palau Solita i Plegamans-El Port del Comte, 179.5 km
Stage 5 - March 26: Solsona-Parets de Vallés, 168 km

Teams:

Cafés Baqué
Cofidis
Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme
Team CSC
Euskaltel-Euskadi
Fassa Bortolo
Gerolsteiner
Illes Balears-Banesto
Liberty Seguros
Milaneza-Maia
Paternina-Costa de Almeria Phonak
Rabobank
Relax-Bodysol
Saunier Duval-Prodir
T-Mobile
Vini Caldirola-Nobili Rubinetterie

Millar looks forward to Manchester

Making his debut in a Track World Cup event, David Millar (Cofidis) looks forward to testing his mettle on the boards with the British team pursuit squad. Millar hopes to compete on both the road and track at the Athens Olympics in August, and the Manchester World Cup event (April 9-11) will provide a critical indication of his chances. For his first effort in the team pursuit, Millar will ride with fellow Britons Chris Newton, Rob Hayles, Bryan Steel, and Paul Manning.

"I'm looking forward to it, it will be a great experience," Millar commented on his website. "I'll have just under a week to prepare with the team so hopefully I'll be OK. I've tested for the individual pursuit so this will help me gain more experience on the track and see if riding in Athens is a viable option. It will also be good riding with Rob again."

Meirhaege doesn't count on De Clercq

Belgian mountain biker Filip Meirhaege has declared himself 'skeptical' concerning the possibility of cyclo-cross veteran Mario De Clercq's possible bid to represent Belgium off-road at the Athens Olympics. "I'm afraid he'll make a fool of himself," Meirhaege said in an interview with sportwereld.be.

"I have a lot of respect for Mario, and I will support him," Meirhaege added. "At the first World Cup round in Madrid he'll have to show himself immediately and have a good finish in order to have a good start position at Houffalize. A top-eight finish would be fantastic, but I don't expect that. I don't even expect him to make the top 20."

Union Velo masters

The Union Velo Club has announced the formation of a masters men's road team to compete in USCF 35+ road and criterium events in 2004. The team includes 16 riders, categories 1 through 4, who will compete in a 12-race schedule in New England. Begun in 1986, The Union Velo Club (UVC) is comprised of 50 members (men, women and juniors) participating in road and mountain biking events. The club organises two training race series, The East Bay Training Series and Lincoln Cyclocross Series, both in Lincoln, Rhode Island, as well as the Attleboro Criterium.

Freshman rides for LAF

Yale University freshman Peter Chiu will try to make his contribution to the cancer community on May 1, 2004 when he embarks on a 500 mile non-stop ride from Hanover, New Hampshire to Washington, DC. Chiu, who lose a grandmother and grandfather to cancer, hopes to raise $10,000 for the Lance Armstrong Foundation. Chiu is a track sprinter and has recently turned to triathlons. For more information see www.ridetoendure.org.

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