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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

First Edition Cycling News for May 19, 2004

Edited by John Stevenson

New sponsor in the bag for US Postal

Armstrong fitter than last year says Bruyneel

Johan Bruyneel
Photo: © Beth Seliga
Click for larger image

The US Postal team will continue in 2005 with the same structure as it currently possesses but a new name, according to directeur sportif Johan Bruyneel. Quoted by Reuters at the Tour du Languedoc-Roussillon Bruyneel said, "I can tell you that we have found a sponsor for the team next season when U.S. Postal service stop their involvement."

Bruyneel made the comment in the context of denying an Italian press report that Armstrong planned to retire after the Tour de France. "The article did not quote Lance or anyone close to him. I think it's wrong. I'm even certain it is."

Bruyneel would not say who the new sponsor will be.

On the subject of his team's star rider, Lance Armstrong is in top shape, said Bruyneel. "Lance seems to me very well mentally. Physically, he's fitter than last year, which is not difficult given the problems he had."

Armstrong has recently been engaged in his customary reconnaissance of the principal stages of the Tour de France, including a dozen runs up the Alpe d'Huez, scene of an individual time trial that is expected to be crucial in this year's Tour.

"I can say Lance was very dedicated in his stage checks," Bruyneel said. "Lance also went to check the next stage to Le Grand Bornand but he still has a lot of stages to work on."

Armstrong is not targeting a victory at the Tour du Languedoc-Roussillon, according to Bruyneel. US Postal is mostly using the race to guage the form of some of Armstraong's team-mates who are potential team members for the Tour. The US Postal squad for Languedoc-Roussillon includes Jose Azevedo, Manuel Beltran, Viaceslav Ekimov, Benoit Joachim, Benjamin Noval, Pavel Padrnos and Jose-Luis Ribiera.

However, Armstrong's recent victory at the Tour de Georgia wasn't really on the team's game plan either, and "if the race dictates he might be involved in the fight for victory [at Languedoc-Roussillon]," said Bruyneel.

Giro phase two: the real battle begins

Riders took a day off from racing in the Giro yesterday, and with the race at its halfway point - and Saeco very much in control - Cyclingnews European editor Tim Maloney looks at what's in store for the next week and a half.

Il treno rosso will need to ride smart and strong
Photo ©: Sirotti

Yesterday was a rest day in Porto Sant'Elpidio for the 2004 Giro d'Italia riders and as Phase Two of the 2004 Giro d'Italia over the next week begins, the battle lines have been drawn in this year's Giro. Today's Stage 10 from Porto Sant'Elpidio to Ascoli Piceno over 146km and Thursday's long Stage 11 from Porto Sant'Elpidio to Cesena will both be tough, tactical and tricky races for the Giro d'Italia gruppo. Saeco will have to ride strong and smart to prevent an attack from upsetting their strategy to control the race action. And Friday's 210km Stage 12 from Cesena to Treviso is another perfect chance for Fassa Bortolo to put super-sprinter Ale-Jet Petacchi in position to win his 5th stage in their sponsors hometown of Treviso aboard his Pinarello bike, who also from Treviso.

Friday night, the Giro entourage will transfer to Trieste, Italy's farthest east city which is celebrating the 50th anniversary of it's return to Italy this year. Trieste is the site of the 2004's only time trial, which has become even more crucial with the closeness of the race this year. Stage 13's 52km TT from Trieste-Altopiano Carsico is similar to the Giro TT stage here won by Alex Zulle six years ago. Up and down through Prosecco and Sistiana on the limestone escarpment above Trieste to the climb at Rupingrande after 17.8km, it's then a fast run back down the carso to the city to ending in the historic Piazza dell'Unita d'Italia.

Click here for the full Giro phase two preview.

Saeco united

The history of cycling is full of instances of rivalries between talented young lieutenants and older superstars, the most famous recent example being the discord between Greg LeMond and Bernard Hinault in the 1986 Tour de France. But despite the similar situation in the Saeco team with young gun Damiano Cunego keeping the pink leader jersey warm for team leader Gilberto Simoni, Saeco's public face is of unity and harmony.

At yesterday's rest day press conference, Saeco's dynamic duo stressed that there was no rivalry between them. "I've had a great start to the Giro by winning two stages and wearing the race leader's pink jersey but, as I've always said, Simoni is the leader of the Saeco team and I'm here to help him win his third Giro," Cunego said.

Cunego said the first half of the Giro had been a learning experience. " I learn something new from Gilberto everyday," he said. And Simoni for his part seems to be genuinely grateful for being relieved of the full pressure of being team number one. "Damiano is giving me a big hand by sharing the responsibility of the team leadership," he said.

Harmony and teamwork are the secrets of Saeco's success in this Giro, said Simoni. "I think that our rivals are afraid of us because they can see that we're united," he said. "And when I say that I don't just mean what we say in public but in the key moments of the Giro when our team tactics are our winning edge."

Not surprisingly, Cunego is enjoying the attention that comes with the pink jersey. "I'm enjoying the enthusiasm that my wins have created and also the affection I'm getting from the public," he said. "I know I'm young, that I've still got a lot to learn but I also know that I can still improve a lot: for example in things like the time trial. My dream is to win the Giro one day but at the moment I'm not even trying to imagine that it could happen this year, even if it is clear a change of generation has already started."

Simoni thinks Cunego deserves his moments of glory. "Damiano deserves a lot of respect and attention. Obviously I'm here to win my third Giro and there are no reasons to suggest that it won't go as planned. If Cunego drops me on the climbs I won't get upset but that doesn't mean there's rivalry between us."

Rather than Cunego, Simoni will be keeping an eye on the riders who he expects to be the biggest threat in this Giro: Stefano Garzelli (Vini Caldirola-Nobili Rubinetterie). "I'm not going to lose sight of him just as I won't lose sight of Popovych," said Simoni, "but I will be watching Garzelli a bit more closely. He's my big rival just like last year when he finished second."

Evans raring to go

After a 2003 devastated by crashes and resultant broken collarbones, and a relatively low-key return to racing at the Tour of Murcia earlier this year, Australian T-Mobile rider Cadel Evans is looking forward to his next block of racing, starting with the Tour du Languedoc-Roussillon which starts today and finishes Sunday May 23.

In diary entry about to be published on his website, Evans says, "My form is good although I can only gauge it in training. We'll see how it goes in racing. The first few days of the Tour du Languedoc-Roussillon won't really help me realise how well I'm going but when we get to the climbs I think I'll be ready -- by then I'll have had a couple of days to ride the legs in."

Evans thinks he'll be riding well by the weekend. "I'll nominate Saturday as the day that should be good for me," he says. "There's a bit of climbing in it and that's the sort of stage I'd like to focus on."

As well as his first race in four weeks, Languedoc-Roussillon will also be the first time since Murcia that Evans has lined up alongside team leader Jan Ullrich. "Things are different when he's in the team," says Evans. "The main difference is that the team has the added stress of having to arrange crowd control when he's around. It must be really hard for him because everyone wants a minute of his day for a handshake or a photo or whatever."

Evans is also upbeat about treatment he's recently had for the residual damage to his shoulder after the breaks. "In the last week I've also spent some time visiting an osteopath friend of mine who has done some great work on my shoulder," he says. "It's a complicated treatment but it's given me a good range of movement and I'm pleased to report that I'm moving a lot more freely now. It's so much more comfortable to ride than it was only a little while ago."

And lovers of Web kitsch should check out the new 'all about Cadel' feature on his site. It's totally Oz, mate.

Euskaltel ready for the Tour

The Euskaltel-Euskadi team has already decided its nine-man line-up for this year's Tour de France. Iban Mayo will lead the orange-clad team from the Basque country, along with five other riders who represented the squad in last year's tour. Haimar Zubeldia, David Etxebarria, Unai Etxebarria, Mikel Artetxe, Iker Flores, Iker Camaño, Iñigo Landaluze and Egoi Martínez.

Director sportif Julián Gorospe has attempted to construct a more balanced team than in previous years, with less emphasis on the team's traditional strength - climbers - and more on flat-country performance. Hence the omission of Roberto Laiseka from the team, despite his victory at Luz Ardiden in 2001.

Ng concussed

Malaysian Olympic track hopeful Josiah Ng had a bad crash at the UCI training centre in Switzerland earlier this week, sustaining a concussion and a broken wrist. Ng finished first overall in the World Cup keirin series last year and this year has won a bronze in the sprint and a silver in the keirin. He hopes to recover in time for the Olympics.

Team Veloworx THF auction open for bidding

The Team Veloworx auction of cycling memorabilia in aid of the Tyler Hamilton Foundation that we mentioned a couple of weeks ago is open for bidding until May 23. Items being auctioned include a Phonak jersey signed by Hamilton; a Pedal for Progress Charity Ride and VIP Dinner with Tyler himself (two trips, one to Denver and one to Napa Valley) and lots more.

See www.veloworxracing.com/thfauction.htm for a complete list and full description of auction items.

Murphy & Gunn sponsors powerful team for FBD Milk Rás

By Tommy Campbell, Irish Independent, Evening Herald, Sunday Independent

Satisfied if not delighted with their sponsorship of the recent Shay Elliott Memorial race, Dublin motor dealership Murphy and Gunn has decided to support a team in the FBD Milk Rás 8 Day International Cycle Race which starts from the GPO on next Sunday.

The composition of the five man team came about after Stephen Murphy, the Murphy and Gunn Sales Director was approached by officials from two teams in Britain - Pinarello RT and Planet X - to back a combined squad for the highly rated multi-stage FBD Milk Ras, consisting of Malcolm Elliott, Julian Winn, John Tanner, Mark Lovett and Kevin Dawson.

"With previous Ras winner Seamus Kennedy as team manager, we expect the Murphy and Gunn riders to be top contenders. The prestigious FBD Milk Rás deserves quality international bikemen because it is an excellent well run and tough event," said Stephen Murphy who manages both Toyota and BMW dealerships in South County Dublin.

All five members of the Team Yorkshire Murphy and Gunn have already ridden the FBD Milk Rás, with Welshman Julian Winn winning outright in 2001. The other four over the past few years have either won stages and or important jerseys on this important and grueling Irish cycling classic. All four are currently showing top form with Elliott finishing second to Ireland's Dave O'Loughlin on the Murphy and Gunn Shay Elliott race.

"We will have to be disciplined on the Ras if we are to bring home the team award," said team king-pin Seamus Kennedy. "It is a long and arduous event, calling for team-work, particularly in the mountains. Weather can also play an important role."

Of the five riders Malcolm Elliott is the most senior. Having been a top British professional in the eighties and nineties he returned to racing last year after a six-year layoff and rode for the London-Irish team in the FBD Milk Rás in which he was handicapped by a heavy cold. "I hope for better weather this year, and my current form is excellent," he said. He has already won two major races in 2004 - the Girvan Three-Day and the Stan Jones Road Race.

Julian Winn knows the FBD Milk Rás well having won outright three years ago. This season he is showing improved form having won the Archer GP as well as being the points jersey winner on the Tour of the Emirates. He also took four stages in that same race. "I look forward to the Ras and I feel my lay off over the last few weeks will hopefully put in good form," said Winn.

John Tanner is a tough and consistent performer and has been ranked first or second in Britain over the past ten years. This previous FBD Milk Rás stage winner is known for his sprint, finishing second to Julian Winn at the end of the Archer Grand Prix.

Mark Lovett is famous for some futile lone breakaways and his self deprecating comments. A Ras regular and previous podium finisher Mark is the reigning premier calendar champion in the UK and has scored six consecutive victories in Britain's oldest and toughest one-day race the classic Tour of the Peaks. He says his recent third on the Shay Elliott one-day shows that he is coming into form right on time.

Kevin Dawson is a time-trial specialist but he can mix it with the best as we know from the 2003 FBD Milk Rás when he took a deserved stage win. He's the ideal rider to lead a breakaway.

The FBD Milk Rás starts in Dublin on Sunday May 23 with the first stage to Trim. It finishes back in Dublin on Sunday May 30.

Third Yoplait Women's Cycling Summit Conference

The Yoplait Women's Cycling Summit Conference will takeplace at the Great River Energy Bicycle Festival on Friday, June 11. Participants will include riders and managers competing in the Nature Valley Grand Prix and cycling luminaries from across the country. The mission of the conference's task force is to build women's cycling at both the grassroots and elite level in North America. The conference is open to anyone who is interested in building women's cycling.

Goals of previous conferences have included the creation of a website that can be used to share information between women cyclists and their supporters. The site - http://www.WomenCyclists.com - went up in January and continues to be developed.

Another goal was the creation of the Women's Prestige Cycling Series. This women-only series includes the Redlands Bicycle Classic (March 24-28), the Nature Valley Grand Prix (June 9-13), the Tour de 'Toona/International (July 26-Aug 1) and the Bermuda Grand Prix (Sept 23-26).

Topics at the Yoplait Summit in June will include a mid-series review of the Women's Prestige Cycling Series, getting media coverage for women's racing and grassroots development programs.

For more information see http://www.MinnBikeFestival.com or contact David LaPorte at director@naturevalleygrandprix.com.

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