First Edition Cycling News for May 10, 2004
Edited by Chris Henry
Bruyneel: No reason to worry
After a successful outing at the Tour de Georgia in the United States last Month, US Postal Service-Berry Floor director Johan Bruyneel is confident as usual as the Tour de France comes into view this season. Team leader and five-time Tour winner Lance Armstrong walked away from Georgia with two stage wins and the overall title, and will return to Europe for two more stage race appearances before his quest for an unprecedented sixth Tour title in July.
In a Marca interview, Bruyneel commented on Armstrong's current condition, and that of his rivals, including the American's closest rival to date, Jan Ullrich. To many critics, Ullrich appears far from his best form after a quiet spring at the back of the peloton. Bruyneel and Armstrong aren't likely to underestimate the T-Mobile leader, however, given his track record of never finishing below second place at the Tour.
"What we see now doesn't mean much," Bruyneel said of Ullrich's poor spring results. "We don't doubt that he'll be good at the Tour. Everyone is going to arrive in peak form for the Tour, though Beloki is a bit more of an unknown since his crash last year.
"Lance's form is good, though not super, and the team too, so we don't have any reason to be worried," he added.
Bruyneel expressed his satisfaction with the team's performance in Georgia, and the race in general, which offered a rare opportunity for US Postal to field its top riders on home soil.
"I found that race to be a very pleasant surprise, first because of the difficulty, but also because of the level of competition," he said. "Lance needed to race there, because he hadn't done a stage race in his own country since 1998. Now, leading up to the Tour, we'll do the Tour du Languedoc-Roussillon (formerly Midi Libre) and then the Dauphiné Libéré."
Also included in the final Tour preparations will be continued inspections of the key mountain stages in France, though some of the reconnaissance may come after the Dauphiné in June. Armstrong himself has commented recently that he hopes to climb the Alpe d'Huez at least ten times in preparation for the crucial uphill time trial on the Alpe in this year's Tour.
Cipollini fined but not fazed
As has become customary throughout his career, the ever-flamboyant Mario Cipollini was hit with an arguably trivial fine of 200 Swiss francs Saturday after the prologue of the Giro d'Italia. Cipollini wore a full skinsuit featuring a stylised lion motif, which bore no resemblance to his normal Domina Vacanze team colours. Cipo has in recent years turned up at the Giro prologue with a skeletal skinsuit, full zebra stripes, and the colours of the papacy. The UCI's fine for improper attire has never fazed the Lion King, who continues to use the grand tours as an outlet for his creative expression.
Bradley McGee (FDJeux.com), a staunch critic of doping in the sport, let his legs do the talking by winning the prologue of the Giro d'Italia and taking the first maglia rosa. McGee also offered a statement on his own performance, insisting on the virtues of a clean sport.
"Those who think that cycling can't exist without doping, I say look at what I did here today," he said after his win Saturday. "It's possible to win in spectacular fashion. I think without doping cycling would only benefit. Riders would be in better health and more professional as a result.
"To win would require total perfection," McGee added. "People would see a human's performance. I've done this today. The people close to me know how I approach the sport, and they're proud of this."
Huguet aims huge
Sonia Huguet's audacious move in the final kilometres of the women's Flèche Wallonne earned the Frenchwoman the biggest victory of her career to date. But the reigning national road champion is aiming huge, and also has the Olympics and World Championships on her agenda. Fellow compatriot Marion Clignet spoke to her after the Trophée des Grimpeurs , where she finished fifth behind Jeannie Longo.
"That was an amazing day," Huguet told Cyclingnews. "The team was fantastic and another one of the girls could have won as well, as we had attacked one after the other; it just so happened that mine worked."
Huguet won the French national championships in June of 2003, which propelled her to the top of the sport in her country, and brought with it a new set of challenges and responsibilities.
"It was a bit stressful actually, because I felt obligated to go everywhere I was asked to do everything," she admitted. "I ended up tiring myself out a bit."
Now with a major win under her belt, France's first in the women's World Cup, Huguet has her sights set on the rest of the season with her confidence bolstered. It's not only cycling on her mind, however, as she reveals plans on a more domestic front on the not too distant horizon.
"My main objectives are to keep the French road title and to earn my spot for the Olympics and World Championships," she said. "After that, I'd like to stop in 2005 to have a baby and continue my work with the police, perhaps in their sports league to keep my foot in the door of the sports community."
Click here for the full interview.
Mayo on target
Popular Basque rider Iban Mayo, leader of the Euskaltel-Euskadi team for the Tour de France, took his turn to show that his condition is improving steadily in the months before July's big test. Mayo won the first two stages and the overall title at the Clásica Alcobendas, Spain's answer to the mini-stage race format of the Critérium International.
"I found myself going well in each stage and I felt strong, so I decided to attack," Mayo told Marca. "I don't think it's much of a threat to my rivals because there's still a lot of time before the Tour. The important thing for me is not to have any problems and to keep improving for the biggest objective of my year, which is France."
Although he expressed some reservation after his stage 1 win, noting the short but demanding time trial to come the next day, Mayo still managed to place second in the test against the clock behind Liberty Seguros' Luis Sanchez. He took the final victory by a margin of two minutes ahead of Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme's Eladio Jimenez and Cofidis' David Moncoutié.
Mayo adds himself to the list of likely Tour protagonists steadily riding into top form, alongside Tour de Romandie winner Tyler Hamilton (Phonak) and Alexandre Vinokourov (T-Mobile), who has had a less spectacular season thus far than in 2003 but nonetheless has taken several victories and finished with the leaders in the major spring outings.
Cooke to Saint Quentin criterium
While his friend and teammate Brad McGee tackles the opening stages of the Giro d'Italia, Australian Baden Cooke (FDJeux.com) will add some star power to a Monday night criterium in Saint Quentin, France. Falling between the Four Days of Dunkirk, the Villers-Cotterêts round of the Coupe de France and next weekend's Tour de Picardie, the criterium will assemble the likes of Jaan Kirsipuu (winner last year), Nico Mattan, Dunkirk stage winner Jimmy Casper, and Great Britain's Roger Hammond.
Popular ex-pros from varied generations will also be on hand, including Cooke's directeur sportif Marc Madiot, Jean Stablinski, Francis Moreau, Laurent Desbiens, Laurent Pillon, François Lemarchand, Thierry Gouvenou, and others.
Racing begins at 17:30, with the elite riders taking off for 55 laps of the Saint-Quentin circuit at 19:00.
Fantasy Giro predictions
Looking for some insight from the winners of last year's Cyclingnews Fantasy Giro d'Italia? The "Faster Bordello" team, reigning champions in the discipline, have offered a few thoughts on this year's race and the likely contenders.
"I'm picking Garzelli for the win, this time, though he and Simoni will likely keep us guessing until those final mountain stages, the almost absurdly difficult stages 18 and 19," explained half of the winning fantasy duo. "I will be interested to see how Simoni's young teammate Damiano Cunego handles these, for sure."
Top ten picks for the general classification? Guys like Noe', Pellizotti, Belli, perhaps Mazzoleni, Valjavec, Totschnig, Gonchar, and Juan Carlos Dominguez. Dario David Cioni stands out as a dark horse pick.
No team would be complete without the sprinters, and Faster B picks Alessandro Petacchi as the top man for the bunch sprints, though Angel Furlan provides "the most bang for the buck."
Having already picked Brad McGee for a prologue win, it seems the Faster B team has a handle on the predictions for the first week of this year's Giro.
Click here to sign up and pick your team. 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.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2004)