First Edition Cycling News for May 24, 2004
Edited by Chris Henry & Gerard Knapp
By winning the final stage of the Tour du Languedoc-Roussillon in southern France, Lance Armstrong achieved exactly what he said he hoped to achieve, just over a month before the start of the Tour de France. Armstrong and his US Postal Service team arrived at the tour with ambitions of testing the machinery in the final build-up to the Tour, but despite his status as defending champion of the race formerly run as the Midi Libre (Armstrong won in 2002, the race was not held in 2003), the American maintained overall victory was not important.
US Postal did indeed prove the "blue train" was on the right track, taking the race by the scruff of the neck in a windy and tactical stage 2, and the indefatigable Russian Viatcheslav Ekimov came within a bike length of victory in stage 4.
"I came to win a stage, so I'm satisfied," Armstrong said after the race. "I was disappointed with my legs on Saturday, but things went very well today."
"I'm also quite satisfied with my team, particularly my new teammate José Azevedo," he added. "Yesterday, Eki came close to winning a stage but Christophe Moreau was too strong. Today it was up to me..."
"I came to the Tour de Languedoc-Roussillon to get my head back on my shoulders," explained overall race winner Christophe Moreau (Crédit Agricole). "Winning here was more than I hoped for."
Moreau claimed his second win of the season when he muscled past US Postal Service's Viatcheslav Ekimov in the closing metres of stage 4, maintaining his advantage in the general classification on the race's final stage Sunday, won by Ekimov's team leader Lance Armstrong. For Crédit Agricole the race was a total success. Moreau's teammate Thor Hushovd won the first two stages, only losing the early race lead to Moreau on the fourth day.
"Saturday [stage 4] I only made the effort to get into the early break for the fun of it, and I went all the way," Moreau said happily. "I won, and the overall victory at the Tour du Languedoc-Roussillon, for me, was a bonus."
Moreau faced a difficult early season, sidelined as he has been in recent years by an injury, this time a knee injury sustained in one of his team's first training camps. After abandoning most of his early racing efforts this spring, the Frenchman found winning form for the first time at the Trophée des Grimpeurs at the beginning of the month.
Serge Beucherie, Moreau's directeur sportif, shared in his leader's satisfaction with this latest victory. "Coming here, I told Christophe he couldn't abandon because he needs these races to be competitive at the Tour de France," Beucherie told Reuters. "I also told him to take advantage and enjoy himself rather than worry about an unlikely final result."
Evans DQ'd from Languedoc-Roussillon
While he's described it as a "comedy of errors", there's no mistake that T-Mobile's Cadel Evans is bitterly disappointed by his disqualification from stage 4 of the Tour du Languedoc-Roussillon for what commissaires believed was excessive holding on to a team car for service to his bicycle after an accident that could have put the promising Australian on to a stretcher again.
Evans was in this French race as T-Mobile's de facto team leader - after Jan Ullrich's somewhat unexplained non-appearance - and hit the deck when he clipped wheels with USPS-Berry Floor's Pavel Padrnos on the penultimate category 1 climb of the stage while in attendance with Lance Armstrong and Laurent Brochard, who Evans believed were the main dangers for the overall classification.
Writing from his hotel in an update on his own website, Evans explained that he went down and one rider ran into his back, another over his leg and a third straight over his rear wheel. Initially relieved he fell on his right side - not his ill-fated left-shoulder that suffered three breaks of his clavicle in last year's incident-filled year, Evans had to wait for three minutes for support as T-Mobile's main support car was up the road, following team-mate Tobias Steinhauser who was in the lead group.
Evans finally received a wheel from the second support car, only to realise the rear derailleur was lunched and he needed his spare bike that was duly delivered a further 10 minutes later by a mechanic who rode it back down the road against the flow of the peloton to get Evans mobile again. When he finally got going on a working bike, the gritty Australian worked his way back through the field and finished in the same group as the then-leader, Thor Hushovd, some 13 minutes down on stage winner Christophe Moreau. Evans provides a full account of this incident in his latest diary entry.
Bayern hat trick for Voigt
Back in his home country after an extended stay in the United States, Germany's Jens Voigt (Team CSC) claimed a deserved- but unexpected- overall victory in the Bayern Rundfahrt. It was Voigt's third win in the German stage race, coming on the heels of a second place overall at last month's Tour de Georgia and some low-key training at altitude with teammate Bobby Julich. The victory was Voigt's fifth this year, and the 12th so far for Team CSC.
"Bayern Rundfahrt was just meant as a step on the way towards the Tour of Germany, but I'm of course very happy to have won it again," Voigt commented on the team's website (team-csc.com). "We've won this race by having the best tactics, and on the day where I really had to fight to stay up front, the team gave me the perfect support.
"I think I'm in better shape than I first thought," he added. "For sure my training in the States has given me a boost. This means that I'm very optimistic regarding the Tour of Germany, which is an important goal for us."
Petacchi equals record
To few people's surprise, Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) succeeded in equalling the record for number of stage wins in a single Giro d'Italia. Petacchi took his seventh of this year's tour, putting himself alongside Roger De Vlaeminck (1975), Freddy Maertens (1977), and Giuseppe Saronni (1980) in the record books. Petacchi still has the opportunity to set a new record before the end of this year's Giro.
"Today's task, which I've achieved with the help of my teammates, marks a little piece of cycling history," Petacchi said after his win. "I've won 22 stages in less than a year and seven alone in this Giro, like Saronni did 24 years ago."
Petacchi has shown himself to be the master of the grand tour sprints in the past two seasons, but the talented Italian is still dreaming of his first victory in a major classic.
"The goal now is definitely to win a great race," he said. "We've been close, with a fourth place at Milan-San Remo this year and last year at Paris-Tours, where only Zabel beat me. Clearly I'm a fast sprinter and there's a certain kind of race I can win."
Fellow record-holder Saronni had words for Petacchi on Italian television after being joined in the history books by his younger compatriot. "Now that you've achieved this record, you have to look for new challenges, more quality in your wins," he said. "This shouldn't be enough for you."
Gerolsteiner's best-placed rider in the general classification, Sven Montgomery, saw his Giro d'Italia come crashing to an end in Saturday's individual time trial. Montgomery crashed heavily as afternoon rains made the Trieste parcours slick, and suffered a broken shoulder as a result. The Swiss rider managed to complete his ride, but limped home 9'29 behind stage winner Serguei Gontchar (De Nardi). He was unable to take the start in Sunday's stage 14.
Cyclingnews Giro d'Italia coverage
When the boss has got to go...
FDJeux.com's Matt Wilson provides an amusing account of the weight-saving achieved by his team leader, Brad McGee, during stage 7 of this year's Giro d'Italia. It seems the slight reduction in weight, not to mention an increase in comfort levels, helped the Australian take out second place in the stage and also helps to resolve one of those mysteries of professional cycling.
In his latest entry on his web site, Wilson explains how McGee needed to stop for "number 2", and after what seemed an inordinate amount of time, McGee emerged from behind a tree looking once again the classy rider, but without his gloves - "I'll let you guess why", says Wilson - and then rejoined the race.
As McGee's call of nature occurred when Saeco were on the front and forcing the pace, the FDJ trio had to chase hard, so hard in fact that they overcooked a corner and crashed. Nonetheless, they continued on and McGee rejoined the leaders, finishing second behind Saeco's Damiano Cunego. Wilson tells it in completely open style in his latest diary entry, and given McGee's untimely withdrawal from this year's Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under, it is perhaps understandable why he just had to go.
Valverde: No decisions
Spanish star Alejandro Valverde has yet to make a decision on his future, following reports that his contract may be for sale by the troubled Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme team. The Spanish team is once more said to be facing financial difficulties, continuing a difficult season already complicated by sweeping allegations of doping by former rider Jesus Manzano. Valverde, Kelme's hottest talent, has not yet made plans to join another team. Nor has he denied any intention to do so.
"Things are very ugly," Valverde said in a Marca interview, referring to the state of the Kelme team. "Last year we were in a similar situation, but [Kelme owner] Pepe Quiles was at least trying to keep us calm. Now we don't know what to expect."
Valverde's name has already been tied to rival Spanish team Liberty Seguros, run by former ONCE manager Manolo Saiz. Although the rider would prefer to stay in Spain, he has declared himself open to offers from a variety of teams, both domestic and international.
"Nothing is concrete, not with Liberty or anyone else," Valverde commented. "When I become free, if that is what will happen, that will be the moment to evaluate the options and make a decision. It wouldn't make sense to do that now."
Whatever happens this year, changes to the UCI regulations- notably the introduction of the Pro Tour- already mean that Valverde is thinking ahead. The Spaniard acknowledged that Kelme's demotion to Division II this year did not affect his planned racing schedule, but the team would not be a viable option next year as he will hope to participate in the biggest events of the season, those included in the UCI's new Pro Tour.
Trackies arrive in Melbourne
Australian sprinters struck by 'flu
Riders in the 2004 Track Cycling World Championships have begun to arrive in Melbourne, Australia, in preparation for competition which starts this Wednesday, May 26.
The Australian men's sprint squad has been hit by a bout of the 'flu, with Sean Eadie only making sporadic hit-outs in today's training and Shane Kelly and Jobie Dajka also affected. However, Eadie is causing the greatest concern to team management.
Meanwhile, the queen of track cycling, Leontien Zijlaard-Van Moorsel of the Netherlands, joined her team-mates for a hit-out on the 250-metre Vodafone Arena track, sitting some two metres behind the Netherlands' men's pursuit team. As the men wound it up, Van Moorsel stayed in contact for several laps in an impressive show of strength.
Her pet event, the women's individual pursuit, is shaping up to be the event of this year's worlds, with Van Moorsel facing strong competition from New Zealand's Sarah Ulmer and Australia's Katie Mactier, while France's Marion Clignet is also capable of an upset.
Cyclingnews.com will be providing extensive coverage of this year's Track Cycling World Championships.
Clain tests negative
Médéric Clain, dropped from the Cofidis team following his implication in the drug investigation led by French judge Richard Pallain, has been declared negative after drug tests performed as part of the investigation. Clain, 27, was implicated by former teammate Philippe Gaumont, along with Cédric Vasseur, and the two remain under formal investigation. He was fired from the team in early May, while Vasseur remains suspended until his name is cleared.
For Clain, who hopes to return to ride for another French team, the test provided some consolation. In only his second year with Cofidis, Clain admitted to procuring several banned substances but maintains he has never used them, in competition or out. Drug tests performed as part of Pallain's investigation were negative for cocaine, steroids and corticoids. Clain turned professional in 2000.
"This confirms what I've always said: I've never doped; I've never taken a [banned] substance," Clain said, quoted in l'Equipe.
Marc Collard crowned US Collegiate road champion
Lucky 13 - Todd Yezefski joins Vaughters' TIAA-CREF development squad
After days of torrential rain that saw surrounding farmlands flooded, UC-Davis' Marc Collard took the men's NCCA Division 1 road race by its horns on an atypically dry Saturday afternoon in Madison, Wisconsin, outsprinting breakaway companion Chris Montague-Breakwell (Stanford) to become US Collegiate road champion for 2004.
"I was away my myself for most of the first lap, so I wasn't sure how this final attack would go, but it's the National Championships and I had to try," said a jubilant Collard to Cyclingnews post-race.
After his initial display of strength, Collard placed himself in the winning move with 12 miles remaining in the 75 mile event with Don Autore (Virginia Tech) and Chris Montague-Breakwell (Stanford). When Autore was dropped, Collard and Montague-Breakwell pressed on until the final climb before a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse almost cost the duo victory, the pair finishing just one second ahead of Indiana University's Rahsaan Bahati who took the final podium place.
"At the end I really wasn't sure if he [Montague-Breakwell] was saving himself or not," said Collard. "It was really nerve-racking. We had quite a bit of time at the climb, but we wasted it all in the finishing straight."
However, Collard is too old to claim teh berth on Jon Vaughter's TIAA-CREF/5280 under-23 development squad that was up for grabs for the overall winner of the collegiate nationals. Instead, that place will go to Dartmouth College's Todd Yezefski.
Yezefski will join team riders including Blake Caldwell, Zak Grabowski, Timothy Duggan and Craig Lewis under the direction of the highly experienced Vaughters, and will be coached by US Olympic team hopeful Colby Pearce. Today, riders line up for the team time trial to finish off the weekend's racing.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2004)