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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

First Edition Cycling News for February 17, 2005

Edited by Jeff Jones & John Stevenson

Ullrich and Leblanc happy with Armstrong's participation

After Lance Armstrong finally ended the speculation about whether he was going to race the Tour de France this year, the reactions from his closest rival Jan Ullrich and race organiser Jean-Marie Leblanc have both been positive. With the Tour now definitely on Armstrong's agenda, Ullrich is looking forward to another tussle with the Boss. "The best should start in the Tour," said Ullrich to dpa from his training base in Tuscany. "A possible victory would therefore be even more valuable."

T-Mobile's team manager Olaf Ludwig commented, "I had counted on it anyway. Why should the sponsor leave its best horse in the stable for the most important race of the season?" Ludwig's words were echoed by T-Mobile's Andreas Klöden, who said, "I have always said: he will ride. I'm happy that he's starting."

Tour director Jean-Marie Leblanc told L'Equipe that Armstrong's decision to go for seven Tours this year showed "a certain degree of panache" as Armstrong could have waited another year before doing it.

"If Armstrong hadn't come, we would have started from zero with challengers by the name of Ullrich, Basso, Heras, Klöden, Mayo and, I hope, the new Italian pearl Cunego. One would have been incapable of designating a favourite. In this case, we come back to a situation that we already knew with Indurain and then Armstrong. One single favourite against the rest. I like both forms of the Tour de France."

An interview with Robbie Ventura

Life after Postal

Robbie Ventura, winning in 2002
Photo ©: Mike Moenning
Click for larger image

Robbie Ventura ended his career as a professional cyclist in dramatic fashion toward the end of 2004, crashing in the final turn of the USPRO Criterium Championships, held near his home town of Chicago. It was a race Ventura desperately wanted to add to his palmares, but as he tells Mark Zalewski, he is completely satisfied with his racing career and looking forward to new challenges including driving the Endeavour team car and coaching Floyd Landis.

Robbie Ventura has been a mainstay in the professional U.S. cycling scene for more than a decade - racing with all of the top teams, including Saturn, Navigators and for the last several years, US Postal. A former collegiate and minor-league hockey player, Ventura switched to cycling after an injury cut his hockey career short.

Now retired as a racer, Ventura is switching tracks to focus on his coaching business, Vision Quest, and his new role as directeur sportif of the Advantage Benefits/Endeavour Cycling Team of former Saturn head Tom Schuler. I kicked off by asking him what he'd been up to since announcing his retirement.

Robbie Ventura: You think things are going to get a little easier and simpler, but they end up getting more... it's just different, more time intensive. As a cyclist you train, go to sleep, do fun stuff, and hang out with your kids - kinda get yourself on a little bit of a schedule. But now I am out of a schedule which I don't like. I'm in the office, coaching athletes, being director-sportif-slash-manager of this new cycling team. I'm organizing training camps, doing some public speaking. There are just so many pieces and so much stuff it's just trying to get myself in a routine. Athletes like routine. It makes sense for an athlete ... - but I'm in this transition period now and I've lost my routine. Not to say it was bad, it's a little fun being scattered at times! I want to get something more regimented.

But what have I been doing? I've started this coaching business about four years ago and it's been growing. We're moving to a bigger facility in Lake Bluff, IL. It will be twice as big. We're opening up a second facility in Chicago [Bucktown] with a massive grand opening and we also have a satellite pod in Bloomington, IL. So we're starting to grow and it's been a fun process. I've hired some other coaches that are good people and great coaches. And this new venture with Tom [Schuler] and this new venture with Floyd. Taking on Floyd as an athlete is a lot of responsibility, and you want to get everything just right. There is a lot of communication there.

Click here for Part I and Part II of the interview.

A quick chat with José Antonio Pecharroman

Mikkel Christensen of caught up with Quick.Step's new talent José Antonio Pecharroman to find out what the promising Spaniard was up to for 2005.

After a fantastic 2003 season in which he won the Volta a Catalunya and Euskal Bizikleta, Pecharroman was less successful in 2004. "2003 was a terrific season!" he says. "Last year I was unlucky due to some physical problems, but this year I want to confirm my 2003 season."

With Quick.Step a part of the ProTour this year the team is expected to broaden its scope from the Classics and Tour de France stage wins, and Pecharroman will be part of that. He says he joined the team from Costa de Almeria, "Because it is an international team where I can develop and fight with the best riders of the peloton. It is exciting to ride alongside a such great riders as Bettini or Boonen."

Describing himself as "an all-round rider but I want to develop in all the specialties," Pecharroman says he will be, "free to play my cards, for example in the Spanish races," with Quick.Step.

Pecharroman will start the season with the Record-Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen, (March 3-6), before riding the Settimana Ciclistica Internazionale (March 22-26), Vuelta al Pais Vasco (April 4-8), Tour de Romandie (April 26-May 1) and the Giro d'Italia (May 7-29). He's not targeting any one of those races in particular though. He says his season goals are, "Do my best and win a race; doesn't matter what race and to do a great Vuelta Espana."

Two more MrBookmakers laid low

The run of bad luck of the team is continuing with the news that two more riders have broken bones during the Ruta del Sol. Kurt Van de Wouwer will be out for five weeks after breaking his collarbone and left wrist in a crash, while Frédéric Gabriel, who crashed at the start of stage 4, has a double fracture of his right tibia and will be out of action for several weeks.

The team has already lost Julien Laidoun (broken big toe), Stefan van Dijk (salmonella poisoning), David Boucher (bad crash) since the start of the season, and the performance of neo-pro Camille Bouquet in the Ruta del Sol (6th on GC) has done little to alleviate the gloom.

In related news, Italian rider Dario Frigo has apparently asked MrBookmaker for a spot on the team, as he is unhappy with things at Fassa Bortolo. "I don't understand that," said MrBookmaker's team manager Hilaire Van der Schueren in Het Nieuwsblad. "We have just one place left in our team, but do we have the money to sign Frigo? Let's wait and see about that."

Calzati sick

Sylvain Calzati (Ag2r) will have to rest for a few days after contracting toxoplasmosis, a parasitic infection that is typically caused by ingesting contaminated meat or water. Calzati is being monitored by Ag2r's team doctor Eric Bouvat, who will reassess his condition in 10 days. He does expect to be able to train by the end of the week, however.

Olympic podium on show in Geelong

The top four finishers from the Athens Olympic Games women's road race will line up in Geelong for the opening round of the UCI's Road World Cup on Sunday, February 27 and the preceding Geelong Tour being raced from February 22-24. The World Cup will feature 92 riders from 16 countries in what's expected to be a hard fought race over 119.2km (8 laps x 14.9km). The World Cup start/finish line is in Brougham Street, Geelong and the race will start at 10.00am.

Athens Olympic road race champion Sara Carrigan (Tom van Bemmelen), Olympic silver medallist and reigning world champion, Judith Arndt (Nürnberger), Olympic points race gold medallist and road race bronze medallist, Olga Slyusareva (Nobili Rubinetterie), and the defending World Cup Series champion and Australian time trial champion, Oenone Wood (Nürnberger) who placed fourth in the road race in Athens will all be present in Geelong.

Wood claimed line honours in Geelong last year and performed consistently throughout the season to clinch the Series crown but Carrigan, the 2003 Geelong World Cup winner, is fired up for success. "Wow!," said Carrigan. "It's pretty cool to have such top riders out here for the race and I'm really looking forward to it."

The Athens golden girl, who recently tried her hand on the track and took silver in the individual pursuit at the Australian Championships, says she has had no trouble refocusing after her year of Olympic success.

"I haven't had any motivation problems because I had a huge break of two and a half months after the Olympics and I was really keen to get back into it by then," she explained. "Mentally and physically that was the right thing to do after such an emotional experience."

The stars of the Geelong World Cup will attend a launch at Westfield Bay City Plaza on Friday February 25th from 5.30 to 7.00pm. Carrigan, Wood, Arndt, Bates and other top riders will be there to sign autographs and meet their fans.

Geelong Tour

The Geelong Tour also returns in 2005 with the world's top women in the saddle in this important lead-in event for the first round of the World Cup. The 2005 Geelong Tour will be raced over three days and will kick off with an individual time trial at Portarlington where the women race against the clock to try and claim the stage and the early overall race lead. Stage Two will be a criterium at Portarlington later the same day. The race will head to Barwon Heads for Stage 3, eight laps of a ten kilometre circuit. The final stage will again begin and end in Lara with the field again facing the tough climb up Mt Wallace. Riders will battle for stage, overall, points and best young rider honours.

The stages

Stage 1 - February 22: Portarlington ITT, 8km
Stage 2 - February 22: Portarlington criterium, 30km (30 laps x 1km)
Stage 3 - February 23: Barwon Heads road race, 77.4km (5 laps x 15km)
Stage 4 - February 24: Lara road race, 112.9km

More information:

Title sponsor for Tour of the Gila

The Tour of the Gila, to be held in New Mexico, USA between April 27-May 2, has acquired Outside magazine as the title sponsor for the 19th edition of the race. The sponsorship combined with the input from the New Mexico Tourism Department has increased the prize money of the race, which is expected to boost the local community with well over 500 riders due to participate.

The Tour of the Gila includes divisions for all skill levels, as well as spectator activities for all ages and abilities. The top men's and women's divisions will race for five consecutive days, covering 340 and 258 miles respectively.

More information:

Fiordifrutta 2005

Fiordifrutta, an Italian producer of organic jams and honeys, has announced the roster of one of the highest ranked US amateur cycling teams. The team has spent the last five years near the top of the National Racing Calendar points classification and held the #1 amateur team ranking in July of 2004. The squad consists entirely of riders from New England and it racked up 27 wins in 2004.

The team will start its season with a training camp in Tucson, AZ from February 15-28th. The schedule for 2005 includes NRC and National Championship events as well as regional races on the East coast.

Click here for the full roster

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