First Edition Cycling News for May 9, 2004
Edited by Chris Henry
McGee follows Madiot's grand tour plan
Prologue win an early objective
FDJeux.com director Marc Madiot has a particular plan concerning the first two grand tours of the season. Once again this year, Madiot has sent a team to the Giro d'Italia which he describes as a combination of younger riders and those who need to find some form. Two principal riders for the Giro include Australian Brad McGee, who set the prologue time trial as his target, and young Belgian Philippe Gilbert, who will tackle his first grand tour.
"It's a grand tour and a grand tour is always difficult," Madiot said of the Giro, quoted in l'Equipe. "But it's also a race with a more human element, an intermediate step before tackling the Tour de France where the pressure is greatest since we all need results. The Giro lets the young riders discover what a grand tour is all about."
After the first day of racing, a short prologue in Genova, the team's first objective was already accomplished. McGee lived up to his role as favourite and won the prologue, taking the first leader's jersey ahead of Germany's Olaf Pollack (Gerolsteiner). McGee's early season was complicated by a number of injuries and health problems, but he returned to top form in style at the Tour de Romandie, where he won the prologue and finished second to eventual winner Tyler Hamilton in the final time trial.
"This is fantastic," McGee said after his win. "To come here to win was really great. I started my career in Italy with the AIS team and so to achieve this is something special."
For the younger riders, Madiot expects the particular style of racing in Italy to serve as a useful learning experience.
"In recent years it's become an Italian race once again, like the race I knew when I was a rider..." he explained. "Slow in the start before a brutal acceleration in the final 50 kilometres. The young riders will experience this change in rhythm, the introduction in a flat stage with a very fast finale for the bunch sprints. Italy is the kingdom for this sort of stage.
"We've come back this year (to the Giro) because we learned some interesting things last year," Madiot concluded.
Giro d'Italia coverage:
Petacchi gets his train
Alessandro Petacchi, king of the bunch sprints in 2003, enters the Giro d'Italia this year with what he considers a team superior to that which guided him to six stage wins a year ago. Petacchi will face off once more against the likes of Mario Cipollini, Robbie McEwen, Jan Svorada, and Ivan Quaranta, this time with a Giro team built entirely around him.
"Compared with last year, I have a leadout train that's much more structured for me in the sprints," he said before prologue in Genova. "[Dario] Frigo had the bad luck to be unable to ride, so the team was designed around stage wins. Four riders are to work far from the finish, then four others will lead out the sprint.
"We're missing Trenti, who is an important rider with a lot of experience," Petacchi said. Guido Trenti is out of competition following a heavy fall in training. "But last year we had a team that wasn't as strong and that didn't stop me from winner six stages."
As for his objectives for this year's Giro, topping the number of stage wins in 2003 is not a priority, or at least not one Petacchi is keen to admit. Nonetheless, he made it clear he expects to pop the cork on more than one champagne bottle over the course of the three week race.
"I'm not here to beat records," he said. "If I win three stages, I'll be very happy. The most important thing is to get the first victory. The rest will then follow. The points jersey doesn't concern me."
Cunego extends with Saeco
Saeco's rising star Damiano Cunego, winner of the recent Giro del Trentino, has signed a contract to remain in the team for an additional two seasons. Cunego inked the deal with team management on the eve of the Giro d'Italia prologue. Arriving in peak form, he is expected to play a major role in Gilberto Simoni's defense of his 2003 Giro title.
"I'm sure I've made the right choice with Saeco," Cunego said once the deal was done. "I've had a few other offers but it would be hard to find a better situation. This is an ideal team, I feel at home, and the team management really believes in me."
Saeco team manager Claudio Corti was equally pleased with the agreement, as he and team director Giuseppe Martinelli have both taken a nurturing approach to developing Cunego's talent.
"Cunego showed how serious and mature he is already and we're very pleased with the way he's developed within our team," Corti explained. "That's why we're happy to announce his new contract that will enable us to work together in the future."
Martinelli signed Cunego to his first professional contract after the rider won the 1999 junior world championship road race in Verona, near his home. Naturally Cunego has his mind on the upcoming world's this year, also in Verona, though he remains modest about his personal ambitions at the race.
Enter the Cyclingnews Fantasy Giro game
More prizes added
The Cyclingnews Giro d'Italia 2004 fantasy cycling game is now officially open at fantasy.cyclingnews.com. The grand prize for this year's Giro game is a Specialized 04 S-Works E5 Road Frameset (Domina Vacanze team replica), featuring Columbus Aerotec tubing, S-Works carbon fork with carbon steerer, Pavé advanced composite seatpost and Mindset headset (1 1/8").
Additional prizes added include a CycleOps Power Tap, five pairs of sunglasses and two helmets from Rudy Project, road shoes from Pearl Izumi, and a Mavic Wintech computer. More great prizes are expected.
The rider list is available now so you can pick your teams for the Giro d'Italia 2004 game. You can try out as many teams as you like for stages 1-5. You only need to pay for the teams you want to enter in the competition by the beginning of stage 6 (May 14). Thus, there is no disadvantage to entering a team once the Tour is under way.
For more information on joining, see the rules section.
Beloki has doubts
Joseba Beloki, battling continued setbacks in training and racing since the beginning of the year, has shown tempered confidence as the Tour de France looms on the horizon. Beloki was recruited by Brioches La Boulangère to challenge for the Tour title, but has yet to return to top condition since his Tour-ending crash in 2003. This weekend he lines up at the Clásica de Alcobendas as defending champion, however thus far this season the Basque has yet to finish a race.
In a Marca interview this weekend, Beloki admitted he's not yet a contender for Tour de France, and revealed that his sights may be set later in the season at the Vuelta a España.
"I'm basically doing the same program as last year," he said of his pre-Tour preparations. "Alcobendas was the first race I did and I would like to be on top, but it's going to be tough. I hope all of my misfortunes are behind me. A crash was the worst thing that could happen to me and already this year I've had three."
As for this year's Tour, which Beloki says features a very demanding parcours, "I'm not on the list of favourites right now," he conceded. "I have to earn that. But I still have time. The other thing I need is some luck.
"The Vuelta will be an important challenge," he added. "The Vuelta for me is like the month of September for the students. It would be a disappointment not to finish on the podium. If I'm going well, I have to hope for the podium."
Vasseur to face Gaumont
Cédric Vasseur and Philippe Gaumont are expected to come face to face in the courtroom of judge Richard Pallain on May 18. Both riders have been implicated in the ongoing drug investigation in France which ostensibly centres around the Cofidis team. Gaumont, after admitting to doping throughout his career, was ultimately released from the team this spring.
Vasseur, placed under investigation in France following allegations from Gaumont that he too had used performance enhancing drugs, remains suspended from the team but continues to deny any drug use. Recent counter-analysis of hair samples taken from Vasseur, which earlier this spring revealed the presence of cocaine, however judge Pallain has let to remove Vasseur from the list of those being investigated in the ongoing affair.
Foot pain for Sandstød
Team CSC has had a rough time at the Four Days of Dunkirk, losing all but three of its riders in the opening stages. After stage 1 abandons by Jakob Piil and Brian Vandborg, an in-form Michael Sandstød was forced to pull out during Thursday's second stage.
"I had to abandon the race because of a pain in my foot," Sandstød explained on the team's website (team-csc.com). "The cause of the pain has yet to be determined, but it's probably an insect bite or a nerve. The pain made it impossible for me to keep my shoe on, so I didn't have much choice."
Sandstød, a previous winner of the race, remains optimistic for upcoming events and a quick return.
"I would of course have loved to prove myself in this race, because I know the form is finally there," he said. "Now I'm counting on the pain to disappear as quickly as it came. Hopefully I'll be ready again for next weekend's Tour de Picardie."
Ullrich expected in Germany
Jan Ullrich, expected to compete in the Tour of Germany at the end of this month (May 31-June 6), has indeed added his name to the list of starters for his national tour. After lacklustre performances in the early season, including an early abandon at the Flèche Wallonne, Ullrich has continued to train in relative solitude in Italy and Switzerland. He has also added the Tour of Switzerland to his pre-Tour de France program.
"We have his written agreement concerning his participation," Tour of Germany race director David Pohle commented this week. Ullrich will line up alongside T-Mobile teammate and fellow Tour de France captain Alexandre Vinokourov.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2004)