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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for September 6, 2004

Edited by Jeff Jones and Hedwig Kröner

Good morale at T-Mobile

After Erik Zabel's second place in yesterday's stage 2 of the Vuelta, from Leon to Burgos, the German sprinter said he was "quite satisfied". On T-Mobile's website, Zabel commented on the last few hundred metres to the finish line saying "I tried to stay as focused as possible and stick to Petacchi's wheel. Unfortunately, I got pushed to the side a bit just before the finish and lost some speed because of that."

Although it is Zabel's twelfth second place this season, the team's spirit seems good enough. T-Mobile Sports director Mario Kummer is quite pleased at this year's Vuelta start: "Of course we want to win stages. But two second places right at the beginning of the race - including second place in the team time trial - that's good for the team's morale. They fought well, and all of them are in good shape. During the next stages, we should be able to race for a stage win."

Maybe as soon as on Monday, as the 157 km long stage 3 will be relatively flat. "It's hard to take the leader's jersey here today because I am 25 seconds behind and a win will give me only 20," Zabel told Cyclingnews before the stage start in Burgos. "I will just take it as it comes...it's a nice race and we are all relaxed."

In the fight for the sprinters' jersey Petacchi shouldn't be too much of a rival for Zabel - with 37 mountains ahead, one could doubt the Italian's finish in Madrid. And then there's GC contender Alexandre Vinokourov, who should be showing himself more during the mountain stages.

Landis, Peña, Botero, Hunter and more to Phonak

The Phonak Cycling Team containing Olympic time trial champion Tyler Hamilton has brought in some strong reinforcements for next season, the team confirmed today. US Postal's Floyd Landis and Victor Hugo Peña, both with a lot of experience helping Lance Armstrong win the Tour de France, will join the team, together with Santiago Botero (T-Mobile) and Robert Hunter (Rabobank).

"We boosted our team with a purpose," said Phonak's team manager Urs Freuler in a statement. "With this team we should be in the position to compete successfully in races throughout the entire year."

Three Swiss riders, Steve Zampieri (Vini Caldirola), Sascha Urweider (Saeco - Romer's - Wetzikon) and sprinter Aurélien Clerc (Quick.Step-Davitamon), have also signed contracts with the Phonak Team for the next season. Other new members to the team include Ignacio Gutierrez, younger brother of Phonak's top domestique José Enrique Gutierrez, Bielorussian rider Viktor Rapinski (Navigators), Slovenian rider Tomasz Nose and Miguel Angel Perdiguero (Saunier Duval).

Freuler expects the team roster will be finalised by the end of September.

Boonen looking forward to World's

Tom Boonen (Quick.Step-Davitamon)
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
Click for larger image

After his 16th success of the season, the third stage of the Tour of Britain from Bakewell to Nottingham 192 Km, Tom Boonen is getting ready for the World Championships in Verona, Italy.

For the young Belgian rider, away from races since the beginning of August with the Hew Cyclassics Hamburg, this is his 16th success of the season, got after only a three-day's competition.

"I'm very pleased to have won this stage," said Boonen."In England, the team has been very united. After Zanini's victory in the first stage and the yesterday's second place by Nuyens, this stage was a nice reward for the team. Today, all my teammates, especially Bramati, Amorison and Kemps, worked a lot to finish in a sprint."

After the Tour of Britain, on next Wednesday Boonen will be present at the G.P. Van Steenbergen, while during the weekend he will take part in Paris-Brussels. But he's hoping for a bigger opportunity at the end of the season:

"I wish I could take part in the World Championships. I would like to be there. Anyway, the most important goal is Paris-Tours, planned the week following the World Championships. In Verona I could be in good condition to do a good race".

As he explained to Belgian daily Het Nieuwsblad, "The parcours is definitely not a walk in the park, but I'm going uphill so much better than I did a year ago. And one never knows, there might be a group of thirty sprinting for the title. I don't see five who are able to accelerate better uphill!"

Belgian National coach, José De Cauwer supports Tom in his quest for gold. "I'm not going to say no to Tom, even though it won't be a small task for him as a sprinter. But hey, he did it again, won on his own, even from what looked to be a bad position. And he has only just started racing again. I'm not going to take Boonen to carry bidons. If he feels that the race is over for him, he might still be able to help out a teammate."

Project Argentina getting close for Rebellin

Davide Rebellin's bid to become an Argentinean for the purposes of being selected for the World Championships in Verona has almost succeeded. The Argentineans are willing to accept him on the basis of "sporting merits" according to AFP. "He can play a role in the development of cycling in our country," explained Argentinean minister for sport Claudio Morresi.

Rebellin is happy that he will get to ride in a major championship again, after being overlooked by the Italians for last year's World's and the Olympics. "I haven't got the passport in my hands yet, but I have full confidence that everything will be done in time.

Eeckhout wins, but he's not happy

An irritated Nico Eeckhout (Lotto-Domo) winner of the Delta Profronde van Midden Zeeland, spoke some harsh words about his current employer after the race. The rider, who typically performs well in the Belgian and Dutch one day races isn't happy about having to look for another team for next season, vowing that he would win more races before the season is done.

"How many riders in Lotto-Domo can say that they won two races this year?" Eeckhout told Het Nieuwsblad. "But no, for me there's no room anymore in the new team. I do understand that to a certain extend. I'm not a Pro Tour rider, not the way that thing is organised now. But how many riders really are? I've got contact with Mr Bookmaker, Landbouwkrediet-Colnago. But I can't do more than win, can I?"

Blue skies ahead for Vandenbroucke?

After the mental stress became too much for the former golden boy of Belgian cycling, Frank Vandenbroucke, a domestic incident led him to withdraw from competition yet again. But the skies are clearing again and the Belgian newspapers and press are supportive in their comments. This morning there was another buzz in the air with plenty of interest in what "Franky Boy" has to say. "I had to fight once again to get on top, and I've made things pretty hard on my wife Sarah," said VDB. "She has always stood close by me and she has been the one to cop the worst. I think she was more exhausted than I was. She's been through a very bad time with me.

"For now, she's moved back to Italy. It mustn't be easy for her; to live by herself and raise our child. I accept it. That's a start to better days I think. I'm going to see them this week and I'm so looking forward to it. I can feel happy again."

Vandenbroucke is back on the bike, but taking it steady. "I'm training again, but I won't ride any big races for the rest of this season. For this year, all my ambitions are gone, I'm just happy to have found renewed happiness. When my knee played up again, I was hugely disappointed. Everything in me exploded, I had been working at it too fanatically, put too much pressure on myself."

As for the future, VDB clearly wants to be under less pressure. Having ridden for some of the top teams in cycling over the past five years, he is looking to go down a level. "I think it will be better for me not to ride for a big team any more, a smaller team will suit me better."

Axelsson in Tour of Poland

Swedish rider Niklas Axelsson is making his return to competition today in the Tour of Poland, which takes place between September 6-12. After serving a reduced suspension of two years and eight months for testing positive to EPO at the 2001 World Championships, Axelsson signed a contract with Italian division II team Formaggi Pinzolo Fiavé. Although it was reported earlier that he would return at the start of 2005, he is definitely on the team's roster for the Tour of Poland.

Menchov to Rabobank

26 year old Denis Menchov (Illes Balears-Banesto) will ride for Rabobank for the next two years, according to De Telegraaf. Menchov finished as the best young rider in the 2003 Tour de France, and is expected to strengthen Rabobank's grand tour line up.

Rabobank is still interested in signing Spanish talent Alejandro Valverde, but isn't sure whether it can afford him.

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