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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for May 23, 2004

Edited by Jeff Jones

Popovych keeps cool

Yaroslav Popovych (Colnago-Landbouwkrediet)
Photo ©: Sirotti

After taking the Maglia Rosa from Damiano Cunego's shoulders in the 13th stage of the Giro d'Italia, Ukrainian Yaroslav Popovych (Colnago-Landbouwkrediet) is keeping a cool head. "Of course I am very happy," he said of the win. "Nevertheless it's the proof of the condition that I felt last time. I've been good during the whole Giro, from the prologue everything's gone smoothly."

The question is now raised whether he can keep the pink tunic, to which Popovych responded, "I am still young (24) and am certainly not too sure of myself. Milan is still a week away. I came to confirm after my third place last year, to win a stage and to gain more experience. Now I have the maglia rosa, that is worth a win. I want to remain calm and try to hold my position."

Serguei Gontchar won today's time trial in Trieste, beating Brad McGee by 18 seconds and Yaroslav Popovych by 34 seconds. Tomorrow the Giro will travel between Trieste and Pola in Croatia, with a stage that should suit the fast men.

Simoni accepts the challenge

Although Gilberto Simoni lost nearly two minutes to one of his main rivals, Yaroslav Popovych (Colnago-Landbouwkrediet) in today's Trieste time trial, the two-time Giro d'Italia winner said that he's ready for the challenge in the mountains next week. With four tough mountain stages to come in the Giro, pure climbers like will have every opportunity to make up ground.

Simoni's ride was affected by a crash on one of the corners, and he finished up with cuts on his right hand and forearm and a bruise on his hip. "I definitely didn't need a crash but I think I got going again quickly and still rode well," said Simoni. "I have to congratulate Popovych even if we knew how well he can ride. It's going to be interesting in the high mountains in the final week of the Giro".

Damiano Cunego (Saeco)
Photo ©: Sirotti

Damiano Cunego lost his pink jersey to Popovych after coming in nearly 2'30 slower than the Ukrainian. "I'm not disappointed," said Cunego. "Considering my absolute lack of experience in major time trials I think I did pretty well even if it is clear I can improve.

"I'm not surprised by Popovych's ride. I know him very well after we raced against each other as amateurs and I know how strong he is. The real battle for the Giro starts now. We're ready, we've got a great team and we're all determined to help our team captain Simoni win the Giro".

Bruseghin content

Marzio Bruseghin (Fassa Bortolo)
Photo ©: Olympia

After placing fourth in the Trieste time trial, Fassa Bortolo's Marzio Bruseghin expressed his satisfaction with his result. "I'm pleased with this result because, despite the work we did yesterday, the feelings were good. Clearly I was lacking a bit of spark on the climb. When I started it wasn't raining and that was definitely to my advantage in the corners, however in the last 20 km there was a strong headwind and I think that penalised me. The the rain started, but the wind gradually dropped. I am satisfied, however, it is a fine placing, but from tomorrow I'll go back to doing the work as always."

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The contenders

Tour of Belgium stage cancelled

By Jeff Jones

Sylvain Chavanel (Brioches la Boulangère)
Photo ©: Karen Lambrecht

The fourth half stage of the Tour of Belgium was meant to be another one for the sprinters after this morning's time trial, but instead the organisers were forced to cancel it after the riders refused to race on the finishing circuits. After the peloton had captured early breakaway David Zabriskie (US Postal-Berry Floor) with 34 km to go, and subsequently Frank van Dulmen (BankGiroLoterij) on the second of four 10 km finishing circuits, it came to a sudden halt on the finish line with two laps (20 km) to go.

With the finishing crash of yesterday still fresh in their minds, the majority of the riders felt that the cobbles and corners on the finishing circuits were too dangerous to race over and there commenced a big argument between the organisers and various representatives of the peloton. Most riders were in agreement with each other to stop, even if their team directors weren't of the same mind. Most thought it was unfortunate for the public and for the Tour of Belgium, but decided to take a stand for safety reasons.

Peter Van Petegem told Belgian TV 1 that, "There aren't many stage races that finish with such dangerous local laps. It's always in Belgium. They want to make a kermis out of it."

Organiser Rob Discart was quoted on Radio 1 as saying, "They have overreacted. It was especially hurtful for the tour itself. The riders are playing with their fortune and that of the tour. That the riders didn't want to ride on the cobbles is their decision. This parcours had everything for a good finale.

"The expectations of the riders have evolved. I want to talk with ex-riders, who have recently retired, in order to better understand their wishes."

Eventually, the riders were convinced to re-start, but simply rode the last 20 km at a moderate speed with no-one attacking. With 200m to go, a few riders sprinted and it was Samuele Marzoli (Lampre) who crossed the line first in front of Francesco Planckaert (Chocolade Jacques), but the result didn't stand as the jury determined there hadn't been any real racing.

The Tour of Belgium will (hopefully) finish tomorrow with the toughest stage between Ans and Eupen, featuring many of the climbs used in Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Sylvain Chavanel (Brioches la Boulangère) remains the overall leader, with Bart Voskamp (Chocolade Jacques) and Max Van Heeswijk (USPS-Berry Floor) in second and third.

More from the stage 3 crash

Friday's massive crash in the last kilometre of the third stage of the Tour of Belgium resulted in three riders not taking the start in Saturday morning's time trial. Stefan van Dijk (Lotto-Domo) was one of them, taking doctors advice to rest as a result of light concussion. Niels Scheuneman (Relax-Bodysol) also didn't start, as there are still fears that he has a broken bone in his hand. X-rays on Friday evening could not determine whether this was the case, however Scheuneman opted for the cautious approach. Tommy Van de Gehuchte (Jong Vlaanderen 2016) was the third rider not to start.

Somewhat surprisingly, given that he was taken away in an ambulance with his left arm heavily bandaged yesterday, Colombian Victor Hugo Peña (US Postal-Berry Floor) was able to start and rode a good time, finishing seventh and moving himself into fifth on GC.

USA team for Track World's

USA Cycling has announced its roster for the 2004 UCI Track World Championships that will be held between May 26-30 at the Vodafone arena in Melbourne, Australia. The USA will be fielding 15 riders, with Giddeon Massie, Adam Duvendeck and Christian Stahl to contest the team sprint with Andy Lakatosh as a reserve. Stahl will also ride in the kilometre time trial and Lakatosh will fill one of the two start positions in the keirin. The second start position in the keirin goes to 2000 Olympic Gold Medalist, Marty Nothstein. Colby Pearce will focus on the points race while Jame Carney will ride the scratch race.

In the women's events, Tanya Lindenmuth and Jennie Reed will both contest the sprint while Lindenmuth will double up in the 500m time trial and Reed will also compete in the keirin. Erin Mirabella will ride both the individual pursuit and the points race and Becky Quinn has been nominated for the scratch race.

The World Championships are the primary selection event in which a country can qualify start positions for the 2004 Olympic Games late this summer. Riders and teams who place accordingly at the World Championships will qualify a start position for their country in Athens.

The Irish contenders for the FBD Milk Rás

By Shane Stokes

The FBD Milk Rás (May 23-30) has for a long, long time been the most important of events for Irish riders. Since graduating to the international calendar three years ago the race has become a bigger target. Now, its place in the Olympic campaign of several Irish internationals has upped the stakes even more. Success in the race will not guarantee a place, but riding well on home roads in front of the selectors will certainly carry some weight.

The UCI points on offer have attracted an intimidating foreign entry. Yet, despite the strong competition, there are several Irish riders with realistic chances of overall success. A handful of others will also be capable of aiming for a stage win during the eight days of racing.

As usual those on the Irish national team will lead the charge. David O'Loughlin, David McCann, Tommy Evans, Denis Lynch and Eugene Moriarty are all highly experienced internationals. Their selection to the Thorntons Recycling Team Ireland squad ensures that there should be a green jersey in the final shakeup each day and, hopefully, in the battle for the overall prize.

O'Loughlin is certainly one to watch, having shown excellent form in the final run-up to the race. On April 25th he soloed to a dominant win in the Shay Elliott Memorial in Wicklow. The following week he took the King of the Mountains title in the Tour of Ulster, and then scooped his second 1.5 ranking race win in three weekends when he proved best in the Lincoln Grand Prix.

That run of success should by rights mark him out as a clear favourite. Yet it is not quite as straightforward as that, as the Mayo rider has a somewhat chequered history in the FBD Milk Rás. In 2000 the then 22 year old led the race for two days and finished fifth overall. He was eighth in 2001, but then withdrew in 2002 and once again in 2003 because of illness.

Two years of disappointment is difficult to take. For this reason O'Loughlin said during an interview in December that he was considering a different approach for 2004.

"Maybe I will approach the FBD Milk Rás a bit differently," he said. "The past two years I went into it with the attitude that I had to win it. I put huge pressure on myself and got sick. I don't know if the two were linked, but next year I might take it a bit more easily for the Rás. There are a lot of 1.5 and 2.5 races out there and hopefully I can get a good programme, between racing in Belgium, the Premier Calendars, Ireland and whatever Team Ireland come up with too."

That good programme of racing has taken the pressure off slightly, with regards to having to do a good ride in the FBD Milk Rás. But although O'Loughlin may have wished for a low-key approach, his sparkling run of form does nevertheless thrust him back into the limelight. Delivering on his status as one of the pre-race favourites would be applauded by many, especially after his previous frustrations. He would certainly prove a popular winner, but much will depend on how he handles the pressure during the week.

Another Thortons Recycling Team Ireland member set to be in the running is former national champion David McCann. The Belfast rider has won stages in the past, worn the yellow jersey and finished as high as second overall back in 1996, but he has yet to deliver on his full promise. McCann is, like O'Loughlin, a very complete rider with a strong ability in time trials and on climbs. There may be no race against the clock in this year's race but there is plenty of uphill terrain for him to wreak havoc if he is on his best form.

McCann is keen to take part in his third Olympic Games this summer and has been in good shape this season. He rode well against the professionals in the Tour de Langkawi back in February, climbing well in the mountains and finishing fourteenth overall. More recently he was fourth in both the Shay Elliott Memorial and the following week's Gooik Kermesse in Belgium, and then placed sixth in the Lincoln Grand Prix. Finally, he dominated the Barry Murphy and the Coombes/Connor Memorial races in Ireland last weekend, showing he is certainly in good form.

Speaking after the Shay Elliott race, McCann was confident that he had it in him to do a good ride. "If all goes well I think I can really challenge in the Rás; it depends on how my form is then and how well the Irish team works together. I'm hoping the course works out good and tough; a couple of years ago they were saying it was the hilliest Rás ever, but I didn't take it out of the big chainring all week. I'd like some real hills in it this time round!"

McCann will certainly be happy with the summit finish at Seskin Hill on day six. He will also have ample opportunity on the other first category slopes during the race to get a gap. Could this be the year he finally wins the FBD Milk Rás?

Twelve months ago Evans was arguably the most impressive Irish rider in the race. He won the first stage and held the yellow jersey for three days, but above all it was his stubborn, fighting spirit which really shone through. The Northern rider had a knee operation at the end of last year and so started this season below strength; a number of victories in recent weeks - such as his a fine win in the Tour of Ulster at the start of the month - does suggest he is coming back into form. And while the overall win may be beyond him because of his hampered preparation, he should be a big factor nonetheless.

The fourth member of the team, Denis Lynch, should also figure prominently. He has raced for much of the season with the VC La Pomme team in Marseille, riding well in big French events. The Irish Under 23 champion is a strong climber and good all-round rider, and so will be in the running for stage wins and a high overall placing. Lynch won the Kelly Pharmacy GP in Dungarvan last Sunday.

The Thorntons Recycling Team Ireland squad is completed by Eugene Moriarty, who impressed at the start of the season when he sprinted to several top ten finishes in the 2.2 ranked Tour de Langkawi in Malaysia. Moriarty's spirited ride against the professionals echoed his strong performance in last year's FBD Milk Rás, where he was the best county rider for six consecutive days. He took stage placings of 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th during the race. If the Kerryman succeeds in recapturing that kind of form, he should have a chance of taking a stage win in this year's race.

Outside the Irish team, there are several other riders to watch. Paul Griffin rode well alongside O'Loughlin, McCann, Lynch and Moriarty in the Tour de Langkawi, getting in some useful early-season preparation. More recently he impressed in the colours of the XPower team, guesting with them in the Tours of Crete and Hellas last month.

Griffin showed good form in the 2.6 ranked Crete event, breaking away during a mountain stage with two other riders and then dropping them before the line to take a fine win. He also finished third on the final stage and fourth overall.

The Tour of Hellas also brought success, the Kerryman putting in a number of strong rides in the Greek hills to take the King of the Mountains jersey. He crashed heavily two days before the end of the 2.5 ranked race but still managed to win the best climber classification.

Griffin also went close to winning the last stage, breaking away on a steep drag with five kilometres remaining and driving hard all the way to the line in Olympia. "I looked under my arm with one kilometre to go and could see the Dutch team trying to bring me back," he said. "I had the 53 x 12 going and thought I was going to make it, but was caught with 200 metres to go."

As expected, Griffin was very pleased with his condition. "I'm climbing really strongly, I haven't ridden as well since taking the King of the Mountains title in the Tour of Hokkaido in 2001," he said. Factor in the freedom he will enjoy as leader of the Kerry team, and it seems like he will be a rider who will relish the mountains in this year's FBD Milk Rás.

A late addition to the starting list is the Paternina-Costa de Almeria professional Dermot Nally. The Spanish-based Corkman will line out as part of the Galway team for the race and is another who should be in the running for the overall classification. The 2002 Irish Under 23 champion has been taking part in many big one day events and tours since turning pro last season. He seldom returns home to race in Ireland but given the level he has been competing at, should be in a position to really make his trip worthwhile.

Another Corkman back from abroad is Paídi O'Brien, who competes in France with the VC La Pomme Marseille team. O'Brien, second last year in the Under 23 championships, has been riding well this season on the French amateur circuit. The second year senior will be hoping to place highly in the final overall classification and should be one of the contenders for the best under 23 award.

A number of other riders will set out with hopes of taking a stage. Those going well so far this season on home soil include Ritchie Cahill (Kerry) plus the Tipperary Dan Morrissey duo of Tim Barry and Rory Wyley. Both squads will be in the running for the best country team award, along with others such as Meath Martin Donnelly, Dublin Usher IRC, Cork Kanturk Credit Union and last year's winners Meath Lee Strand.

The latter has a particularly interesting angle, given that double FBD Milk Rás winner Philip Cassidy and his son Mark will both line out in the new green and yellow strip. They were first and third in the recent Noel Hammond Memorial and are coming into form at just the right time. According to race director Dermot Dignam this represents a historic moment for the race. ‘As far as I know a father and son have never ridden in the FBD Milk Rás, let alone on the same team,' he said.

Two years ago Cassidy announced that the 2002 contest would mark his last participation in the race, the veteran bowing out on a high when he added another stage win to his list of victories. However the opportunity to guide his son through his first FBD Milk Rás appears to have been too good to miss, adding another unique dimension to what promises to be a fascinating edition of the Irish tour.

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