First Edition Cycling News for October 3, 2004
Edited by Jeff Jones and Hedwig Kröner
Two more riveting races
This year's World Championships have so far lived up to all expectations, with today's Junior Men's and Elite Women's road races being very selective and coming down to the wire. In the Junior Men it was a battle between favourites Roman Kreuziger, Simon Spilak and a very strong Belgian team, with Kreuziger taking the honours after attacking with surprising Tunisian Rafaâ Chtioui on the last descent of the Torricelle. After several silver medals at major championships this year, Kreuziger was finally rewarded with gold as he beat Chtioui in a two man sprint, with Spilak taking third a few seconds back. But the other story of the day was Chtioui's presence in the winning move, which netted his country's first World Championship medal.
Chtioui has been training in Switzerland for the last two years at the UCI's World Cycling Centre, and explained that some of his motivation today was to prove that non-European riders can race bikes too. "At the start of the race I knew there were other African riders in the race," he said. "But I just wanted to be the first non-European for a while to get a medal. And to get the silver medal is like winning for me. I'm proud for my country, and for the whole of Africa. In Tunisia its difficult to do well in cycling as there are not that many races, and we don't have much material. But since my federation sent me to Switzerland two years ago I have really progressed."
The Elite Women's race was similar to the Junior Men's, although the favourites took a little longer to show themselves. But the winning move again came on the tricky descent of the Torricelle on the last lap, when German Judith Arndt powered away from the leading group, opening up an uncloseable gap to cross the line with 10 seconds to spare on a happy Italian Tatiana Guderzo, with Anita Valen (Norway) winning the sprint for third.
Arndt came up with a silver medal earlier in the week in the Elite Women's TT and after her Olympic silver, the German rider capped her greatest season ever with a rainbow jersey. After the race, a cool and collected Arndt explained that there were no bad vibes like there were in Athens, where she gave a one fingered salute aimed at the German federation which hadn't selected Petra Rossner to the team. Today in Verona, Arndt gave a two fingered V-sign for victory. "Oh, I'm not sad or angry anymore," she said. "It was a great day for German women's cycling since we haven't won a Championship for twenty years. In the final I gave it everything I had and it worked out."
Later, Arndt recounted the finale to Cyclingnews' Hedwig Kröner, saying that, "The last lap was dramatic! We had focused on the final lap from the beginning, waiting and sparing our power until then. We wanted to ride aggressively on that last lap. But it was so turbulent! I nearly lost track of what happened. The Russian and the Italian attacked on the climb, and Trixi [Worrack, who got 4th - ed.] filled the gap. We were five riders then at the top, and on the descent I didn't want to take the risk of everybody catching us again and the whole thing starting over, so I went as fast as I could."
Arndt's partner Petra Rossner, who has now retired from cycling, was delighted with her ride. "I was in the car following the race, we had car number one so I got a pretty good view of it," she told Cyclingnews. "The team's performance was great. At the end of lap eight we were the only team to still be complete, together with the Lithuanians. Being superior in number, we could easily control the final part of the race, letting attacks go as they would be caught again anyway. And in the end, the strongest won!"
Astarloa on home ground
The current World Road Champion, Igor Astarloa, is preparing to defend his title on home turf. "The World Championships take place at my home," said the Italian-based Spaniard. "I have lived for six years on Lake Garda and I know Verona very well. I spend a good part of the year training on these roads, and therefore I feel the Championships are at home."
Astarloa trained on the Torricelle climb and circuit on Thursday and today, getting familiar with the parcours by completing four laps each time. But he knows that a second victory will be very difficult. "The difficultly is winning again. Repeat the World Championship in Hamilton? I'll try, but only Gianni Bugno in recent times succeeded winning again in Benidorm after Stoccarda. When I think about the fact that champions such as Indurain, Jalabert, Bartoli, or Bettini himself have never managed to win a World Championship, I realise that my victory last year was very important, and maybe unique in the career of any athlete."
Freire wants to repeat
Spanish sprinter Oscar Freire, world champion in Verona in 1999, is hoping to repeat the feat in today's men's road race. "In any world championships you can't think about anything else [but winning]" he told As. " Finish second or third is not bad, but no longer means a great deal to me. I am seeking my third gold to equal the record. If you win three world championships, that means a lot."
Freire thinks the changes to the course make it harder than in 1999. "They have removed two kilometres of flat, have extended the section of pave and added one more lap. The circuit is more exacting. For me this is the hardest world's I have done, because there is no chance to recover, though it will all depend on the riders."
In 1999 Freire was a virtual unknown who was able to use that to his advantage to snatch an unexpected victory. This year, he won't be able to catch the selction napping. "This time I will not be able to use the element of surprise as I could then," he said.
Since the Vuelta Freire has been training in Cantabria and believes he is in good shape. But s are his main rivals. "If Bettini is in the same shape as in the Games, there will not be a lot you can do. He will be the main threat because he does not have a world's and will want to win in his home country. I also see Vinokourov as very dangerous, he can take advantage of the fight between Italy and Spain. I am sure there will be more than Vinokourov; O'Grady for example.
Asked who would win if he arrived at the finish with Bettini, Freire said, "I am sure neither of us would be pleased to arrive together in a sprint finish, but I can take my chances with him more than he can with me."
So who had the strongest team, Italy or Spain? "Spain has the strongest selection, but that you does not make it certain you'll win."
Pro Tour Stalemate: 2005 changes up in the air
By Tim Maloney, European Editor in Verona
UCI President Hein Verbruggen is known as a man who never loses, but this time the dynamic Dutchman is currently locked in the fight of his life to bring forward his vision for the Pro Tour for 2005. Completely convinced of his ideas, Verbruggen now is facing entrenched opposition from the organizers of the foundation events of the sport of cycling, the Grand Tours. All three private companies that organize the Tour de France (ASO), Giro d'Italia (RCS) and Vuelta a Espańa (Unipublic), as well as related races like Paris-Roubaix and Giro di Lombardia, have informed Verbruggen that they are opposed to the current structure of the Pro Tour, although they are not opposed to the overall concept of this major reform for cycling.
This revolt by the major organizers is a recent development, as TdF boss Jean-Marie LeBlanc granted the Pro Tour his imprimatur at a press conference before Liege-Bastogne-Liege in April, and as recently as late August, everything looked rosy for the new circuit. But when new Giro d'Italia chief Angelo Zomegnan officially assumed the reins at RCS Sports in September, he had a chance to closely evaluate the terms and conditions of entering the Pro Tour and found some serious flaws.
"We can't just give away control of our events to the UCI", Zomegnan explained to Cyclingnews earlier this week. "The Tour de France has been organizing their race for a century; we have done the Giro for almost as long and we know what we are doing."
Zomegnan, a former journalist with the RCS-owned Gazzetta dello Sport, got together with the other two organisers of the Tour and Vuelta and found common ground to confront Verbruggen over key issues such as event rights, and the fundamental structure of the Pro Tour itself. A common criticism has been that the closed architecture of the Pro Tour, modeled on American sports leagues, doesn't allow sufficient flexibility to accommodate the dynamics of cycling.
In a conversation with Evert de Rooy, the highly experienced editor of Dutch cycling magazine Wieler Revue made the point to Cyclingnews that, "What if a big sponsor decides to come into cycling and is told they have to wait... they'll go elsewhere. You need more freedom." Others, like Saunier Duval team director Matteo Algeri have pointed out that, "Once a team is in the Pro Tour, they can't go out, even if they aren't any good... or if a non-Pro Tour team has a fantastic season, they are still out." Algeri argued that the static situation makes for low incentive for teams and riders to change the status quo.
Traditionally the World Championships are where the next year's calendar is distributed. Friday in the World's Race HQ, teams and media were greeted by the strange sight of a race calendar without names like the Tour, Giro, Vuelta, Roubaix, Lombardia and other monuments of the two-wheeled sport. Rumours have circulated at the World's that should the big tours decide to remain outside the Pro Tour for the 2005 season, one strategy the UCI could adopt would be to move the Deutschland Tour to July and expand it into central Europe for a long stage race - a "Tour of Europe" - that would be held at the same period as the Tour de France.
With the current situation destabilising the top level of professional cycling, the same major sponsors that the UCI is trying to attract to the Pro Tour must be wondering what is going on with the sport. One thing that makes U.S. NASCAR racing so dynamic is that every year, new sponsors and teams come and go at the top level of the sport, and this has been cycling's model. If the Pro Tour does go ahead regardless, cycling could see scission between sanctioning bodies as in U.S. auto racing, when USAC had to deal with the exit of team owners and racetrack operators who split off and founded CART.
Two fundamental changes that were agreed on today regarding the Pro Tour were that there would now be 20 teams granted licenses, and that these teams had agreed to develop and adhere to a code of ethics that would govern their conduct within the Pro Tour.
Although Verbruggen, the UCI and the organisers met Saturday for four hours to try and iron out their differences, they were unable to do so at this point. At an extensive press conference held Saturday evening in Verona, Verbruggen was forced to explain that ASO, RCS and Unipublic had not yet agreed to be part of the Pro Tour, but that the UCI would continue discussions with the most important organisers. At this point, a Pro Tour calendar is unlikely to be issued at the Verona World Championships and may appear in two weeks time at the conclusion of the 2004 World Cup after the Giro di Lombardia on October 16.
Despite the turmoil, UCI boss Verbruggen was adamant that the Pro Tour would start with 20 licensed teams in January 1, 2005. and that whether the three Grand Tour Organizers would participate was still to be determined.
Worried race organizers ponder Pro Tour turmoil
Prior to this evening's UCI press conference, the international association of bicycle race organizers (AIOCC) was worried enough about recent developments in the fate of the Pro Tour to issue a communique at the World Championships that outlined several key points that it wants addressed, vis a vis the proposed new race circuit. Although AIOCC President Jean-Marie Leblanc couldn't attend due to a previous engagement in Milano with the Fabio Casartelli Foundation, AIOCC vice-president Carmine Castellano assured the assembled media that the AIOCC supported the Pro Tour despite the communique, and that it was endeavouring to address the key issues with the UCI, which are as follows:
1) A system that isn't closed or blocked for four consecutive years. AIOCC believes that the closed system of 20 teams needs to be revisited to allow eventual changes; so that a team can have their Pro Tour license renewed or revoked every year depending on the circumstances and with a clear explanation.
2) The necessary implementation of sporting and ethical guidelines that are clear and correspond with the rules used to organize races and are obligatory for Pro Tour team and event license holders.
3) An ethical guide that will go along with the launch of the Pro Tour that will be developed together with race organizers and team management under the guidance of the Professional Cycling Council. AIOCC believes that these sporting and sporting and ethical guidelines are indispensable for the Pro Tour "reforms" to have any credibility.
AIOCC also has requested that the UCI look carefully at the gap between which events make up the Pro Tour and which events are part of the UCI's Continental calendar. Another key concern of both the AIOCC and team managers is the oversight of the Pro Tour, especially on a financial basis. With the potential for the UCI's income from Pro Tour event and team licenses, as well as from TV rights, questions are also being asked as to who will oversee the UCI to ensure that the money is spent in an appropriate manner.
Emergency landing for Dutch riders
The Dutch riders participating at the World Championship Road Race in Verona on Sunday departed on a flight yesterday to Frankfurt, where their plane had to make an emergency landing. The plane's landing gear was blocked, and due to the delay caused by this, the riders missed their connecting flight to Verona.
"It was frightening", said Erik Dekker. "We were almost landing as the pilot overshot. Later we did land, but because it had taken us so much time, we missed the next flight." The eleven riders - Michael Boogerd is already in Italy - then had to take another plane to Milan.
Gerolsteiner on Specialized
The Gerolsteiner Team will be riding on Specialized bikes for the 2005 season and beyond, the company has confirmed. It will guarantee the American manufacturer a spot in the (increasingly uncertain) Pro Tour, with Davide Rebellin and Levi Leipheimer both riding on Specialized bikes.
Crank Brothers U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross
Italian national champion Daniele Pontoni is planning to race all six events in the inaugural Crank Brothers U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross, which kicks off on Saturday, October 9 with the Cannondale Stumptown Cyclocross Classic, in Portland, Oregon, USA. Pontoni, who finished fourth in the World Championship last February, will compete against a strong American line-up including Clif Bar-Colvita Olive Oil rider Mark McCormack and GT-Hyundai's Todd Wells, both former National champions. Other favourites are Marc Gullickson (Redline), Team Kona's Dale Knapp and Eric Tonkin, Ryan Trebon and the Team Maxxis-Giant trio of Geoff Kabush, Adam Craig and Jonny Sundt.
Kabush's Maxxis-Giant team has already been identified as perhaps the force to be reckoned with in the series. Kabush and Craig - six time national cyclocross champion - have posted sterling seasons on the mountain bike circuit and come into the cross season with great legs. Sundt, meanwhile, has already won several early season events this year and seems out for more.
The Crank Brothers U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross Series schedule for 2004 is as follows:
Race 1: October 9 - Cannondale Stumptown Cyclocross Classic, Portland, OR. Race 2: October 10 - Clif Bar Grand Prix, Ft. Steilacoom Park, Tacoma, WA. Race 3: October 30 - Michelob Ultra Gran Prix of Gloucester #1, Stage Fort Park, Gloucester, MA. Race 4: October 31 - Michelob Ultra Gran Prix of Gloucester #2, Stage Fort Park, Gloucester, MA. Race 5: November 20 - Beacon CX, Bridgeton, NJ. Race 6: November 21 - Highland Park Cyclocross, Donaldson Park, Highland Park, NJ.
All six races will be held under UCI category and competition regulations. U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross Series leaders will be recognized at the conclusion of each event. Overall winners in the Elite Men, Elite Women, U-23, and Junior Men categories will receive automatic selection to the World Cyclocross Championships in St. Wendel, Germany in February, 2005. Master 35+ Men will also be ranked. Races in Massachusetts and New Jersey are part of the Verge NECCS and Verge MACCS.
For complete U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross details, go to www.usgpcyclocross.com.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2004)