First Edition Cycling News for September 26, 2004
Edited by Jeff Jones and Hedwig Kröner
Vuelta tightens up
As expected in the penultimate stage from La Vega de Alcobendas to Puerto de Navacerrada, the fight for the Vuelta's gold jersey intensified with Roberto Heras and Santiago Perez fighting it out on the upper slopes. Once again, as he has done for the entire second half of the Vuelta, Perez proved himself to be the better climber and got rid of Heras with 2 km to go, putting another 30 seconds into the Vuelta leader by the finish. With tomorrow's final showdown in Madrid - a 28 km time trial - the GC favourites are separated by just 43 seconds with Perez on the ascendancy and threatening to upset Heras like Aitor Gonzalez did in 2002.
The battle for third place will be interesting as well, with Francisco Mancebo (Illes Balears) leading Alejandro Valverde (Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme) by just 7 seconds. It's doubtful whether either of these two riders can close the gap to Heras or Perez, but this is the Vuelta, and anything can happen on the final day.
The battle for the stage also went to a Phonak rider: the hard working Jose Enrique Gutierrez, who made the 12 man break of the day after 10 km and attacked with 7 km to go to solo to victory. "I am very happy. To win a stage in such a difficult race, and in Navacerrada, is fantastic," said Gutierrez after the stage. "Furthermore, Santi was able to pull back time on the leader. I am absolutely exhausted, the last three kilometres seemed never to finish. I felt strong and I knew that Eladio was some way behind, but even so it was hard. My parents, who are the most important people in the world for me, came to watch today and saw my win."
Pino says it will be tough
Alvaro Pino, director of Phonak said at the end of the stage that it will be hard for Santi Perez to win the Vuelta in the final Madrid time trial. "It will be very difficult to dethrone Roberto Heras in Madrid as he has demonstrated that he is a great rider," said Pino. "Santi was in great form during the stage to Navacerrada and did his work very well, meanwhile the team also achieved its plans. But neither of the two riders that are in the game tomorrow, Roberto Heras or Santi Perez, are specialists, but I believe that what will be most important is the strength they have at the moment in their own speciality. It isn't a very long time trial and this itself could provoke critical situations.
"Roberto is making a great finish, he has confidence and we are facing the person who has been from day one the favourite and he knows how to manage the situation, that he has clear. In the beginning we had the objective of working for Hamilton, for whatever reason I don't know but things have happened and we have had to adopt another strategy."
Cardenas wins the mountains jersey
By Martin Hardie in Navacerrada
With the end of the 20th stage of La Vuelta, Cafes Baque's Felix Cardenas continued the long and proud tradition of great Colombian climbers when he obtained his second consecutive mountains jersey. Cardenas, riding for the small Basque-based team, set off as soon as La Vuelta's roads pointed upwards on the road to the Alto de Aitana two weeks ago, and started accumulating points. For the most part, Cardenas adopted the adventurer's tactic of getting himself in the breaks and going out on a day long journey of racking up the points over the climbs. For a while, whilst the race travelled through its Andulacian intermezzo, Baque's Plan Colombia was under threat. But once the race entered its final week Cardenas was off again. He won solo at the ski station high on the mountain of Covatilla and continued from there to look for points.
During the last mountain stage of the race to Navacerrada, young Basque rider Aitor Perez put himself in the break in order to protect the lead of Cardenas. And with their spirits high, the team controlled the front of the peloton for the best part of the 20th stage, not to run down the break but in order to make sure no threat to Cardenas arose, and to wave their combined Colombian-Basque colours. Baque hardly missed a break or a trick during the whole three weeks, not bad for a tiny outfit with a tiny budget and a bus as big as some of the bigger team's showers.
Cyclingnews spoke to Felix Cardenas at the finish in Navacerrada after he stepped down from the podium where he was given the mountains jersey. Felix was his usual friendly and approachable self and told us simply that, "Thanks to God that for the second year in a row I have won the mountains competition in the Vuelta a España...without a doubt we can go on to do better than in the Vuelta than we did this year, I wasn't in great condition before the race but we have won this victory and it is a great victory for Cafes Baque and for Colombian cycling.
"We started out a little downhearted, my injury, the worries about the future of the team, but the last week has been an excellent week for us and we are now hopeful that Baque can continue next year."
Blood tests continue
Over the last two days, 45 riders have been blood tested in the Vuelta, as part of the UCI's stepped up plan to combat doping. Blood tests have been carried out on riders at least every few days, and so far everyone has been declared healthy to continue the race (Tyler Hamilton's had already pulled out when his positive test was made public).
Before stage 19, 26 riders from Fassa Bortolo, Illes Balears-Banesto, Cofidis, Alessio-Bianchi and Liberty Seguros were tested. Before this morning's 20th stage, 19 riders from Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme, Phonak Hearing Systems, Costa De Almeria-Paternina and Team CSC were tested.
W(h)ither the Pro Tour?
By Martin Hardie in Navacerrada
The UCI Pro Tour has been touted by its promoters as the logical and necessary future of cycling, allowing sponsors to be certain of their investment and providing a super league of 18 squads that would be ready to fight out the season's main races. For some teams, there has been an almighty rush to gain entry to the Tour, to meet its daunting financial and team roster commitments, but although teams have been under pressure to comply with the bureaucracy of the entry requirements, other than a calendar, the UCI and the Pro Tours proponents have given very little in return.
For those - whether teams or races - that haven't made the "private hunting club," as Kelme's long-standing director Vicente Belda described it, there has been nothing to give them any feeling of security as to their lives after the Pro Tour. At best, some of them have become mere open paddocks for those within the club to plunder with the promise of being within the club and the fear of being left out.
It s not a state secret that many people, both those within and those left out of the club of 18 have their misgivings about the Tour, the lack of details and the type of cycling word it will create. But even given the fairly public dissent of many, it was still a shock when at the start of the Vuelta's 20th stage in Alcobendas that the news spread that the three Grand Tours have decided not to be a part of the Pro Tour. Their decision was communicated in a joint letter sent to UCI chief Hein Verbruggen last week.
It s understood that along with the despair caused by months of the UCI failing to provide any firm details as to how the Tour will be run, the three Grand Tours made a number of specific points in their letter. Amongst them were four main points which can be summarised as follows:
Without the three Grand Tours it would seem that the Pro Tour has been stillborn, dead before it even got off the ground. But the UCI doesn't accept that. In a statement issued by the UCI late on Saturday the governing body has made it clear that in its view the Pro Tour will begin in 2005 as planned. "The UCI ProTour will start in 2005 with or without the Tour de France," said UCI spokesman Enrico Carpani. He continued that "We are obviously worried about the consequences of a disagreement within the sport of cycling but confirm the Pro Tour will definitely start in 2005 as planned."
It is expected that negotiations between the race organisers and the UCI will continue before and at next week's World Championships and UCI Congress in Verona, Italy. But with the depth of feeling to the effect that the Pro Tour and its affects just haven't been thought out and the hard line statements of the UCI, the question has to be asked could we see a situation similar to that which occurred in the 1970's with Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket?
Could cycling split to see two parallel competing competitions - one touted as the super league but without the Tour, Giro and the Vuelta? Whether or not things get to this point, what is clear is that there are many that think the UCI Pro Tour cannot proceed without a fully thought out plan. One that has to be placed on the table to enable open discussion to take place and that will cater for all levels of cycling. To date the appearance has been that the UCI has played catch up and patch up when questioned with its talk of continental, national and parallel amateur competitions, but without providing any details of how these competitions might operate.
Basso wins in Italy
Team CSC's Ivan Basso won the Giro dell'Emilia today in Italy beating Francesco Casagrande in the final sprint. Basso escaped with Francesco Casagrande (Vini Caldirola) on the 18% San Luca climb, which had to be crossed another three times before the finish. The two led until the finish, and with 250 meters to go, Basso attacked and celebrated his second major victory this season.
"I felt totally on top of things today, and it's a very important victory for both myself and the team," said Basso. "Giro dell'Emilia has been a big goal all along, and I'm happy to be able to live up to the expectations. Now I have the perfect starting point for the World Championships and Tour of Lombardy, and I'm looking forward to the oncoming races."
Expectations are now higher for the 27 year old Italian at next weekend's World Championships in Verona. Bjarne Riis, CSC's directeur sportif, said, "He was definitely the strongest rider in this race, and he didn't have any problems beating Casagrande at the end. This is by far the toughest one-day race in Italy, and naturally the victory creates high expectations for the World Championships. It has been the plan all along that Ivan was to excel in this part of the season."
Don't cry for me, Italia
While training near Buenos Aires, waiting for his identity document to be delivered that will for the first time see World Cup leader and Verona favourite Davide Rebellin competing under the Argentinean flag, Cyclingnews' Hernan Alvarez Macias met with a man determined to turn tragedy into triumph.
He also prevailed in two stages in the Sachsen-Tour International, with his most recent win at the Trofeo Melinda. Yet despite these outstanding performances, Italy's national coach Franco Ballerini didn't select him for the Athens Olympic Games nor the World Championships in Verona, which some consider a tragedy. It just so happens the scene of another tragedy, Romeo and Juliet, is very near the town where he was born, in San Bonifacio.
However, Davide Rebellin didn't give up. There was a slim chance he could ride in his beloved Veneto, though not under the Italian tricolore, but the colours of Argentina. Rebellin didn't hesitate a second - and flew straight to South America.
Look out for the full interview on Cyclingnews later today.
Virenque PR representative
After quitting his career as a professional cyclist, France's most popular rider Richard Virenque will become a PR representative for the Pro Tour team Davitamon-Lotto next season. He will be present at French races, but mainly wants to spend time with his family, as he had stated during the press conference where he announced his retirement from the sport.
"I wanted to retire at my best. I've achieved everything I wanted. What else could I have expected at the Tour de France?" Virenque asked. "I managed to come back after the Festina scandal, that was a big challenge. Today, I'm proud that I made it. I've always loved my job."
Virenque still organises a cyclosportif race in the south of France, on Sunday October 3, the day of the World Championships road race, and will use this event to say goodbye to his fans.
10,000 mile charity bike challenge starts in October
UK cyclist Jamie Bird will be leaving the UK in October for a 10,000 mile bike challenge to raise money for international children's Charity Plan. He will be starting in New Zealand and finishing in South America, crossing seven Latin American countries. The 25 year old will have a little help along some of the way from local friends Mark Easton, Tom Elms and Dave Lewis.
Jamie and Mark will be cycling 3,500 miles following the coastline of both New Zealand’s islands, including the rugged mountains of the South Island. Then Jamie will move onto South America, where Tom and David will join him to cycle part of the 6,500 miles Jamie intends to cover. The route across this huge continent will take in seven countries: Chile, Patagonia, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, then through the high altitudes of Bolivia and Peru, taking on the Andes for a second time, and finishing in Ecuador.
Plan International works in 45 of the world’s poorest countries enabling families and communities to make lasting and measurable improvements to their children's lives. All money raised will go to support projects in South America.
For further information and donations, please visit www.bikeforplan.com.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2004)