First Edition Cycling News for October 4, 2004
Edited by Jeff Jones, Hedwig Kröner & John Stevenson
Strongest team wins, again
As is now customary, the Elite Men's Road Race crowned the World Championships week with a tough, tactical 265 km race ridden over 18 laps of the aesthetically stunning Verona circuit. Although the other four road races have all ended in solo or two man finishes, today's race saw nearly 20 riders come into the finish together. The strength of the Spanish and German teams was more than enough to prevent the Italians or anyone else from escaping, and Oscar Freire was perfectly led out by Alejandro Valverde to take his third rainbow jersey in five years, which was also his second in Verona. Once again, Freire relegated Erik Zabel (Germany) to second place while Luca Paolini muscled out Stuart O'Grady and Allan Davis for the bronze.
"I think my best (World's) win was still my first World Championships in Verona five years ago," said Freire post-race. "This one is the second best...it's great to race the World Championships here in Italy because all the tifosi really understand cycling. The race went really well for the Spanish team; we were always in front and I think Italy raced well too. But in the end, Spain had some luck. Bettini had that wheel change at a bad time...Our secret on the Spanish team is that we ride together. A guy like Valverde could have won today, but he rode an exceptional sprint for me. I asked him to help me in the final and I have to dedicate this win not only to the Spanish team but to Valverde too."
Freire was awarded the gold medal and his weight (64 kilograms) in Grana Padano, the local parmesan cheese and event sponsor. He said the cheese will be given to his fan club in Cantabria in the north of Spain.
O'Grady and Davis pipped
Despite being present in the final group with two riders, the Australians just missed out on the medal's in today's Elite Men's Road Race. Olympic madison champion Stuart O'Grady finished fourth while teammate Allan Davis ended up fifth in the 18 man group sprint that decided the rainbow jersey.
Afterwards, O'Grady admitted he had expended a little too much energy to get with a six man break which formed as the race went over the Torricelle for the final time. "I worked hard to get across to that group which I thought looked like the winning move, but it came back together again for the finish," said O'Grady. "So as it turned out I gave it a little too much and it told at the end."
O'Grady, fearing he may have spent his sprint power on the final climb, tried to communicate with Davis as they approached the finish to see if he could instead lead out his teammate. "I'd obviously given it a nudge to get across so I asked ‘Alby' (Davis) if he wanted to sprint," explained O'Grady. "But it was hard to communicate and I suppose we both stuffed it up a little bit. Mind you it was more of a slugfest at the end than a traditional sprint."
O'Grady paid tribute to the whole team, which was active in the latter stages of the race to close down some of the breakaways. "The team rode an absolutely fantastic race and did a great job," he said. "The boys put in 100 percent from the young guys through to the ones with more experience - they were looking after us.
"I gave it everything I could so that's probably not the right word," said O'Grady when asked whether being so close but missing a medal was a disappointment for him. "It's been pretty hard to try and stay motivated for training as I've been in top form for three or four months now and it probably would have been easy to shut down after the Olympics and call it a good year.
"But I had the form and I wanted to try and get a result here and in the Paris-Tours World Cup round," said O'Grady who is ranked fourth overall on the World Cup standings and plans to return to Australia after next Sunday's round in France. "One more race and then home to Adelaide."
It was worse for Allan Davis, whose momentum in the sprint was slowed when Freire's lead out man Alejandro Valverde drifted right, then almost stopped when Luca Paolini moved left, closing the gap that Davis had surged into in his bid for a medal and resulting and bit of pushing between Davis and the Italian.
"I think it closed out intentionally but that's racing," said an upset Davis. "More than anything I just want to say thanks to the whole team for supporting me and it's just a pity I couldn't get a result for the boys."
Australian Elite Men's Coach Neil Stephens explained, "Allan's sprint was hit hard when both Valverde and Paolini moved in but it was no-ones's fault really, which is what the officials decided as well after they looked at the replays. There was a gap and he went for it and it closed."
Davis finished 12th in last year's World's and is developing into a very handy sprinter. "I felt pretty good throughout the race," said Davis. "Even though the last two laps were very tough I was comfy enough to hold onto the breaks that were going. On the last lap Spain had more riders up front than any other nation so they had control. Their team and Freire put in an awesome performance so they deserved the win."
Stephens also acknowledged the Spanish dominance but was satisfied with the way the Australians performed. "The blokes all rode well above themselves in what we knew would be a hard race," he said. "Everyone did their job and a bit more which is what led to us having two guys with the leaders at the finish. Fourth and fifth isn't perfect but then things don't always go to plan. Hey! Two Aussies up there is great."
Two time World TT Champ Michael Rogers crashed midway through the race but came back to do his job for the team. "He hurt both wrists and lost some skin but he's tough so he got going again," said Stephens. Despite his injuries Rogers set the tempo up the climb on lap 16 after taking over the pacemaking from Matt White while Cadel Evans was also in the action at the crucial point of the race. Rogers was the only other Australian to finish the race, besides Davis and O'Grady, coming home 81st, 9'54 behind Freire.
Dede Barry ends career in Verona
Dede Barry (Boulder, Colorado), Olympic silver medallist in the time trial, has ended her racing career at the World Championships in Verona. Barry had been battling a back injury that altered her training and affected her race against the clock on Monday, but the former junior world champion rebounded to post a personally satisfying 16th place in her last race as professional cyclist.
Dede Barry and Christine Thorburn were in position on the last lap of the women's race, but couldn't match the pace to make the final selection. "Every time I got out of the saddle to chase, I started to cramp," explained Barry. "I just didn't have the power on the hill and couldn't take it up a notch went it went really hard. I didn't know what to expect with my injury and training, but I think I'm pretty satisfied with my ride against such a tough field under the circumstances."
Verbruggen looks on the bright side
UCI president Hein Verbruggen's dream of Grand Unified Cycling hit a wormhole last week when the three major tours announced that they didn't want to be a part of the Pro Tour next season. Even after intense discussions with the organisers of said races this week, there still hasn't been a resolution, and Verbruggen was forced to admit this in the press conference on Saturday.
The UCI president elaborated on the current state of affairs during today's broadcast of the Elite Men's Road Race on Belgian Sporza TV. "It's too soon to say we've reached an agreement," he explained. "We feel that the organisers are willing, especially the organizers of the Giro and the Vuelta. The Tour de France organisation has got a problem though with the fact that they no longer hold the monopoly and that the UCI has a grip of things. I'm still not sure what the problem really is. The French language is a very rich language and I'm not sure I understand all the nuances. I have to be honest and say I had a hard time yesterday to keep taking it all seriously.
"There's only one race which doesn't have any of the problems other organisers have to deal with, that's the Tour de France. The Vuelta and the Giro don't get the interest the Tour de France has. We are trying to lift the level of participants in those and other races. We have to push on. I don't understand the attitude of the organisations behind the Giro and the Vuelta, why are they supporting the Tour de France organisation?"
Verbruggen is adamant that the Pro Tour will be born on January 1, 2005, even if it's without a head. "The Pro-Tour will survive without the Tour de France though," he said. "If they are of good will, then ASO will only stay out of the Pro Tour with the Tour, but include Paris-Roubaix etcetera; It would only be beneficial to them.
"I actually think it wouldn't be a bad idea to form the Pro-Tour without the Tour de France. It wouldn't not bad at all. But I also think they will come around somehow. The Pro-Tour is happening, no doubt there. There's a few practical things to sort out, and people start discussing the use of certain words. We're all talking about the same thing though. It gives security to those professional teams and the sponsors which are part of the Pro Tour. Personally I don't mind going ahead without the Tour de France."
Cofidis director Francois Migraine has told news agency AFP that the top French squad will stay in cycling for 2005 - and beyond. Migraine also has some good news for the UCI, whose Pro Tour initiative has recently come under flak from the organizers of cycling's three major national tours, the Tour de France, Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espana - it's the Pro Tour that's keeping Cofidis in the peloton.
"If we're going to take part in the Pro Tour, it's not just to be in it for a year," Migraine said. "The only thing that will force us out would be revelations from the ongoing investigation that we might feel does not fit in with the direction we want to go in."
Cofidis has been at the centre of a French police investigation this year into doping by several members of the team including David Millar who confessed to using EPO to achieve his 2003 world championship time trial victory and was subsequently stripped of his title.
Migraine said the team had taken steps to prevent a recurrence, including regular tests on their hair and blood to detect banned substances. "We've established new procedures, and the riders who will join up with us for next season will be thouroughly tested," he added.
Gerrans awarded by the French federation
By JF Quenet
The French cycling federation has named Australian Simon Gerrans as the best rider in its 'élite 2' category for amateur riders ('élite 1' being the members of professional trade teams. Gerrans has ridden this year for the Team U Nantes-Atlantique squad and easily topped the rankings with 75.753 points while runner-up Yann Pivois of UC Châteauroux, who will join the new continental team of Bretagne-Jean Floc'h for 2005, has accumulated 30.202 points. Former pro Stéphane Pétilleau of VC Roubaix was third with 28.538 points.
"This result shows Simon's consistency with us all year," said his directeur sportif and former US Postal rider Pascal Déramé. "We are delighted to see him joining the pro ranks now." Gerrans will ride for the next two years for the French Ag2r team and is hoping to begin his real pro career at home with the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under in January. He is currently representing Australia at the World championship in Verona.
Veneberg stays with Rabobank
During the World Championships in Verona, Rabobank's CEO Theo de Rooij reached an agreement with Thorwald Veneberg to stay with the squad. Veneberg has signed for one more year. The 26 year-old rider who lives in Smeermaas, Belgium has been with Rabobank since 1999. At the Vuelta a España, Veneberg finished as the best rider of the Rabobank team in the overall standings.
2004 Mid-Atlantic 'Cross series
Monkey Hill Cycle Sports has announced the dates of the 2004 Verge Mid-Atlantic Cyclo-Cross Series, which will once again be supported by Honey Stinger (EN-R-G Foods, Inc).
The 2004 Verge Mid-Atlantic Cyclo-Cross Series consists of nine races
with seven of them being internationally (UCI) sanctioned. Two of the
nine events have also been included in the new Crank Brothers U.S. Gran
Prix of Cyclocross Series. The U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross series is
a new national series that offers automatic world championship selection
to the series overall winners.
2004 Verge Mid-Atlantic Cyclo-Cross Championship Series
Round 1 - October 16: Blue Diamond Cross, New Castle, DE
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2004)