First Edition Cycling News for October 28, 2004
Edited by John Stevenson
How many Grand Tour teams?
By Tim Maloney, European Editor In Paris
How many teams and riders per team should take part in a Grand Tour? That's a key question raised today in Paris at a meeting of the AIGCP (International Association Of Professional Cycling Teams), which is currently examining a proposal jointly fronted several weeks ago by the organizers of the three Grand Tours, the Tour de France, Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espana. With no decision as to whether the three most important race organizers (ASO-France / RCS-Italy / Unipublic-Spain) will even participate in the UCI's ProTour in 2005, these key players were seeking a way to include more teams in their events by reducing the number of riders per team in Grand Tours. The organizers' logic is that with the UCI rules stipulating a maximum of 200 riders able to start a Grand Tour, a one-man reduction to eight riders per squad would enable up to five additional wild-card teams from the 'Continental', or non-ProTour ranks to start a Grand Tour.
Currently Grand Tours have nine-rider teams, but if the Grand Tours become part of the ProTour circuit, then all 20 ProTour teams will take part in each of the three races. That will leave only two spots for wild card teams, which will be a problem for teams such as Ag2r, Formaggio Trentino and Relax-Paternina that usually are invited to the Giro, Tour and Vuelta, respectively. These minor teams usually bring a spark of excitement to the tours, as they are highly motivated to get their sponsors' logos in front of the TV cameras. But the Pro Tour format means most of them will be forced to sit out the Grand Tours if the nine-rider structure remains. However, the AIGCP is divided on the merits of the idea with key members opposing the change and blocking progress on this issue.
Outgoing AIGCP president Manolo Saiz (Liberty Seguros) is staunchly against eight-man teams, telling L'Equipe unequivocally, "We [AIGCP] have nothing to offer [the organizers]... we're against it." However, not all Saiz' colleagues on the AIGCP share this stance. Jean-René Bernaudeau (Bouygues Telecom) said, "We also have to think of the teams that are not in the ProTour... if this [eight-man team structure] is they way these teams can get in the Tour, that's the price to pay, we have to do it. Our team has always chased an invitation [to the Tour de France] and we can't forget that experience."
Discovery Channel's Johan Bruyneel reserved judgment on the eight-man team formula, but when the 2005 Tour de France is announced today in Paris, the AIGCP may not have any choice if ASO and the other organizers chose smaller teams and more wild cards in 2005. As the UCI has not built any provision into the ProTour for teams to cycle in and out of the new top league over the four year license period, this eight-man team formula may be the only chance that smaller teams get to ride a Grand Tour.
Tour route announced today
One time trial, fewer mountain finishes
Tour de France director Jean-Marie LeBlanc will unveil the route of the 2005 Tour later today at the Palais des Congrès, Paris and already rumours are circulating about the broad shape and nature of the world's number one stage race.
According to reports in the European press, leaked details of the 2005 route include a reduction in the number of time trial stages to just one, plus a longer-than-normal 19km prologue, and only three mountaintop finishes. The 2004 Tour, which saw a dominating sixth successive victory by Lance Armstrong and the US Postal team, featured two individual time trials and four mountain finishes.
The 2005 Tour will start on the island of Noirmoutier in the Vendee region of western France on July 2 and will makes its way round the country in a clockwise direction, tackling the Alps, then the Pyrenees before arriving for the traditional finish on the Champs Elysses on July 24. The sole time trial will be on the penultimate day, in St Etienne.
Lance Armstrong is not expected to attend today's launch, but other current cycling stars will be present including Ivan Basso (3rd in 2004) and current world number 1 Damiano Cunego. Top French riders Thomas Voeckler and Christophe Moreau will also attend, and the recently retired Richard Virenque will be honoured for his seven victories in the King of the mountains contest.
Étape du Tour revealed
Cyclingnews has learned that the Tour de France's popular 'people's race,' the Étape du Tour will follow the route of one of the Pyrenean stages in 2005. The ride will start in Mourenx and finish in Pau, where the 2003 edition started.
O'Grady and White relive their rollercoaster ride
However, the 'real' truth is still out there
By Anthony Tan in Sydney
At the Kent Brewery in Sydney last night, Cofidis team-mates Stuart O'Grady and Matthew White engaged a 400-strong audience of cycling aficionados, reliving their rollercoaster ride of a season in a forum that was titled, "Cycling - The Truth".
While many were eagerly anticipating gory tales of what really goes on behind closed doors, specifically in relation to doping in cycling, no such truths eventuated. Rather, the point of the evening was to highlight the pair's resilience in the face of adversity and what was undoubtedly O'Grady's finest season to date, which included a Tour de France stage win, a World Cup classic and an Olympic gold medal.
A prologue of beer, party pies, sausage rolls and chicken wings relaxed the crowd that gathered expectantly outside Carlton & United Breweries, situated a few kilometres west of Sydney's CBD, before being ushered to their seats by the rent-a-shepherds for the night.
What followed was a nine-stage course of verbal toing and froing between moderator Mick Gilliam, White and O'Grady, who was often at his larrikin best, giving the easy-to-please crowd exactly what they wanted.
The Cofidis drug scandal was briefly touched upon but with no real doozies, deftly skipped over; after all, it was disgraced cyclist David Millar who was largely responsible for getting O'Grady on the team in the first place. And it may just be that these two guys simply just don't know and from these two at least, it's something we're unlikely to ever find out.
Without sounding like a typically cynical cycling journalist, honesty was forthcoming.
It was refreshing to hear O'Grady say he "needed a kick up the arse" when talking about how his move from Credit Agricole to Cofidis provided the impetus to bring him to the next level, and that "Robbie's probably the fastest sprinter on the planet", reflecting on his agonisingly close battles for the green jersey at the Tour de France with his Aussie counterpart Robbie McEwen.
Asked about his emphatic win at the HEW Cyclassics World Cup in Germany, O'Grady spoke of how he "felt like shit all week" leading up to the event, telling his directeur-sportif on the morning of the race: "I'm probably going to pull out after 150k... I don't want to buckle myself before the Olympics." This was after O'Grady was told he was their only hope!
The audience also witnessed a wonderfully gracious remark by Stuey, who added: "I wouldn't have won the race if Matt wasn't there," drawing an 'awww', followed by a round of applause.
O'Grady then described what he unequivocally rates as "the greatest day ever on my bike" - his gold medal in the Madison at the Athens Olympic Games, which firmly positions him as one of Australia's finest-ever modern-day athletes.
Speaking of the future, O'Grady's looks bright. At present, Cofidis has already enlisted the services of Jans Koerts, Thierry Marichal and Sylvain Chavanel (ex-Chocolade Jacques, Lotto-Domo and Brioches La Boulangère respectively) to help the freckly-faced South Australian in his pursuit to be the top one-day rider in the world, and if 2004 is anything to go by, this objective is by no means unreachable.
Finally, with the audience given a chance to fire a few questions, the boys were asked if there's a potential Tour de France winner-in-waiting from Down Under. O'Grady tipped Michael Rogers (Quick.Step) to be the only rider that could possibly win the Tour in the next five years, placing the world time trial champion's potential to win La Grand Boucle over Cadel Evans.
Mayo: No offers, but open ears
Euskaltel-Euskadi rider Iban Mayo has clarified his position regarding his 2005 team, telling Europa Press that he has no offers from teams other than his current one, but is willing to listen. "If there were offers we would listen to them," said Mayo. "If there are other teams willing to negotiate we will see what happens. But listening does not mean anything."
Mayo denied he was talking to Manolo Saiz' Liberty Seguros team about a transfer. "The only thing I know [about that] is what I have read in the newspapers," he said.
Nevertheless, Mayo is reported to be reluctant to continue at Euskaltel-Euskadi after the departure of David Etxebarria. For another team to acquire him would involve the payment of the cancellation clause in Mayo's two-year contract with Euskaltel-Euskadi, reported to be some €900,000.
Tim Johnson to Jittery Joe's
Former Saturn and Saunier Duval rider Tim Johnson will return to the US for 2005 to ride for the Jittery Joe's-Kalahari Pro Cycling Team, the team announced yesterday. Johnson was considered one of the most promising young US riders in 2003, winning Australia's Herald Sun Tour and heading for Spain with high hopes. However, Johnson eventually rode few significant races for Saunier Duval and is hoping that things will change at his new outfit.
"This gives me a chance to lead a team that is really stepping it up for 2005," said Johnson in the team's announcement. "This team is going to surprise some people next year - I am really looking forward to getting some good results and having fun on the bike."
According team manager Micah Rice, Johnson will replace climbing specialist Cesar Grajales who is moving to the Navigators team.
Jittery Joe's-Kalahari has also re-signed Australian sprinter Jeff Hopkins who was out for most of 2004 with a wrist injury. Mid-year addition Evan Elken is back as well as Jonny Sundt. Also new for 2005 is former Colavita rider Thad Dulin.
Record field for Tour of Southland
By Alan Messenger
A record field of 95 will line up at Invercargill in the far south of New Zealand on Monday for the start of the PowerNet Tour of Southland. As well as attracting most of New Zealand's USA and Euro based riders the field for the UCI 2.5 Category race contains thirty overseas riders. "The inclusion of the overseas riders is most welcome and it continues to lift the profile of the event" Tour Manager Bruce Ross told Cyclingnews.
In the 47 year history of the Tour it has only been won once by a rider from outside Australasia and that rider, American John Lieswyn is back this year in a strong Southland Times team. His team-mates are last year's winner Scott Guyton, 2000 Winner Glen Mitchell, New Zealand track squad rider Tim Gudsell and world track champion Greg Henderson. Mitchell finished sixth and Guyton tenth in the recent Australian Herald Sun Tour so they will bring good form into the Southland race.
Heath Blackgrove won the road race and time trial double at the New Zealand national championships last week and he is teamed with European-based pro Hayden Roulston, New Zealand track squad rider Marc Ryan, Craig Thomsom and Logan Hutchings in a strong Zookeepers Café team.
The New Zealand chances don't stop there. New Zealand under 23 road champion and track Olympian Peter Latham heads a strong Rabobank lineup with 2000 Southland winner Karl Moore, Ryan Russell, Geoff Burndred and Ross Simmons.
Australians have always made an impact here and this year's lineup includes the Sycamore Print team of Steve Harcourt, Hilton McMurdo, Jason Rigg, Paul Millar and Mark Petterson. Harcourt is an expat Kiwi and is the son of race photographer and colourful cycling personality Barry Harcourt. Other Aussies in the field are Richard England, Joel Pearson, Michael McGee, Chris Carson and Josh Akarsn.
Three Germans from the Marin team Herspersdorf, Fabian Mathes, Hans Fischer and Christian Brockhoff will certainly add interest to the Tour as will the powerful Swiss rider Pascal Hugerbuhler and French regional champion Olivier Fesqnet.
The Tour gets under way on Monday with a team time trial at Invercargill but more significant will be the afternoon stage from Invercargill which finishes at the summit of the notorious Bluff Hill, the southernmost point of New Zealand's South Island. The stage will provide the race with a worthy leader. Other notable stages are Wednesday's 130km ride which finishes at the top of the Crown mountain range near Queenstown and Friday's gruelling 182km ride from Winton to the tourist spot, Te Anau.
The Tour finishes back at Invercargill on Saturday November 6 .
Stage 1 - November 1: Team time trial, Invercargill, 8.3km
Stive Vermaut ride raises US$5000
The first Annual Steve Vermaut Memorial Bike Ride was held on Saturday October 23 in High Point North Carolina and raised US$5000 to benefit the Heart Strides Cardiac & Pulmonary Rehabilitation program and Vermaut's wife Vanessa and two children. "120 people participated in perfect Belgium weather to overcast skies and a temperature of 52 degrees F," said organizer Rodney Simpson.
Stive Vermaut was a Belgian professional cyclist who died on June 30, 2004 from complications of a heart abnormality at the young age of 27. He had the opportunity to visit Carolina Regional Heart Center and see all the efforts that Heart Strides Cardiac & Pulmonary Rehabilitation makes to improve the heart health of those who participate.
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