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Photo ©: Swift

First Edition Cycling News for September 1, 2004

Edited by Chris Henry

Strong lineup for 2004 Tour of Britain

By Shane Stokes

Tom Boonen (Quick.Step-Davitamon) wins the 66th Gent-Wevelgem
Photo ©: Fotoreporter Sirotti

Five years after the last edition of the Prutour was held, top class pro racing returns to the roads of the UK with the 2004 Tour of Britain taking place this week. Although this represents the first running of the race's current incarnation, an impressive field has been gathered for the five stage, 2.3 ranked Tour, with some of the sport's biggest teams signed up to take part.

Leading the charge will be the T-Mobile squad of Andreas Klöden, the German rider who finished a surprise second in this year's Tour de France but, if on form, certainly has the class to win this race. Klöden will be backed by a strong team with Rolf Aldag, Sergi Ivanov, Mario Aerts and Daniele Nardello each proven winners in their own right.

Lance Armstrong may have all but hung up his racing wheels for this season but his US Postal team will be squaring up against T-Mobile as it did in the Tour de France in July. The boys in blue will take on the men in magenta once again, with Jose Azevedo - an excellent fifth in the Tour, despite his strength-sapping work for Armstrong - one of the strongmen on the squad. Benjamin Noval, Pavel Padrnos and Jose Luis Rubiera were also on that Tour-winning team and they too will be lining out at the race start in Manchester on Wednesday.

Fresh from his two stage wins in the Tour, Belgian wunderkind Tom Boonen will lead the Quick.Step-Davitamon charge. He's been in fine form this season, taking Gent-Wevelgem, the Grote Scheldeprijs and the Tour of Picardie plus those successes in July, and will be aiming to add to his palmarès this week. Also sure to be sprinting well is Ceramiche Panaria's Graeme Brown, who will be psyched after his gold medal in the Olympic Madison.

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Different Vuelta for US Postal

With defending Vuelta a España champion Roberto Heras out of the US Postal Service ranks this season, the American team will enter the Spanish tour with a different approach than usual. On paper, Manuel Beltran and Floyd Landis will ride as co-leaders for the general classification, but with a bigger focus on stage wins than usual, directeur sportif Johan Bruyneel expects his riders to keep their options open until the mountains begin to shape the overall standings.

"This year will be very different because we have no guarantee that we will have a guy on the podium or somebody very close," Bruyneel commented. "We will definitely look after [Landis and Beltran] but we have some other riders going for stages, so the guys going for the overall are going to have to wait until the first mountain stages to see where they are.

"It is completely different; everyone has a big opportunity to go for it this year," he added.

In the Tour de France, the US Postal team operates entirely for six-time winner Lance Armstrong. Even in the Vuelta in recent years, the focus on Heras for the general classification has kept the lid on individual aspirations. This year, with sprinter Max van Heeswijk in excellent condition, this will change. Van Heeswijk has 11 victories to his name this season, won two stages in last week's Ronde van Nederland and was a consistent performer in the Spanish stage races earlier this year.

American Antonio Cruz was a last minute replacement for Daniel Rincon after showing good form in the Netherlands. Cruz also took his first European victory in the Tour de l'Ain in August.

"I chose Cruz over Rincon, making Daniel our first reserve," Bruyneel explained. "At first, I thought Rincon would be good for the team and its effort in the hills, but then at the Tour of Holland I saw Antonio was doing a really good job for Max in the sprints, and Max will be our biggest card to play for stage wins.

"Too bad for Rincon- it was a tough decision to make and I had initially told him he would be part of the team but seeing what happened in Holland changed my mind."

Bruyneel also expects big things from Canadian Michael Barry, indicating that a successful Vuelta could earn him a ride in France next year.

"I expect him to do a good Tour of Spain and get more experience in his legs during a three week stage race," Bruyneel said. "I hope he can do three weeks on a good level so I can consider him for next year's Tour de France."

Closed door hearing for Belgians

A closed door hearing was convened by the disciplinary commission of the Belgian cycling federation Tuesday, calling Jo Planckaert, Chris Peers, amateur Chris Penney and retired professional Johan Museeuw. These riders have all figured in the ongoing case against Jose Landuyt, a Belgian veterinarian suspected of selling performance enhancing drugs to cyclists. The Belgian federation would not comment on the specifics of the meeting. Spokesman Tom van Damme told Reuters, "the wish of everybody was to have a secret session and so it will be. The association will communicate later on it."

According the news agency Belga, the federation recommended four year suspensions for Planckaert and Peers, however this was neither confirmed nor denied following the hearing. Museeuw, Peers and Planckaert were each called as witnesses in the Landuyt case in late 2003 but to date no charges had been filed against the riders.

Police searches were conducted in the homes of more than 20 cyclists, including the men in question Tuesday. Certain banned substances were found in some riders' homes, however all blood and urine tests later carried out were returned negative.

Caucchioli to Crédit Agricole

In the trade team cross-pollenization prompted by the UCI's new Pro Tour for 2005, Crédit Agricole has signed Italian stage race rider Pietro Caucchioli for two seasons. Caucchioli has been Alessio-Bianchi's GC rider in the grand tours.

Fellow Italian Francesco Bellotti (Barloworld) will also join the team on a one year contract. adds has added a number of new riders to its roster for 2005. The multinational mix includes Frenchmen Ludovic Auger (Auber 93), Lilian Jégou (Crédit Agricole) and Cyrille Monnerais (Jean Floc'h), South African Ian McLeod (HSBC), Belgian Christophe Detilloux (Lotto-Domo), and Finland's Jussi Veikkanen (VC Roubaix).

Kessler returns

German Matthias Kessler (T-Mobile) will make his return to racing at the Internationale Hessen-Rundfahrt stage race (September 1-5). Kessler broke a rib and suffered a collapsed lung in a serious crash in stage 10 of the Tour de France. The 25 year old endured a long transfer by ambulance to a German hospital as his injuries prevented him from being airlifted home.

Joining Kessler for the Hessen-Rundfahrt are Serguei Jakovlev, Giuseppe Guerini, Jan Schaffrath, Bram Schmitz, Tobias Steinhauser and Christian Werner.

LIVE! Cyclingnews Vuelta a España 2004 fantasy game

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All you need to do is pick your team of 15 riders to race and select 9 riders each day during the Vuelta. It's a great way to follow the tour.

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