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Latest Cycling News for June 2, 2005

Edited by Anthony Tan

Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré preview

Second-last call: Armstrong to the start line

Preview by Anthony Tan

2004 Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré winner Iban Mayo
Photo ©: AFP
Click for larger image

A Tour de France contender's final race preparations invariably consist of one of two races: the Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré or the Tour de Suisse.

It would be madness to do both, which in part explains the reason why the two are run semi-concurrently, with the last two days of the Dauphiné Libéré overlapping with the first two stages of the Tour de Suisse.

In the last six years, six-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong has participated in five editions of the Dauphiné (1999-2000, 2002-04) and just once at the Tour de Suisse (2001). During that time, he's had a 50 percent strike rate in coming out on top, beating Gilberto Simoni for the Tour de Suisse title in 2001 and winning the Dauphiné in 2002 and 2003; not a bad effort for someone who's always used the race as a warm-up for the Tour.

However, it seems that as the now 33 year-old Texan grows older, he's had to tame his voracious appetite for winning. In last year's Dauphiné, it was clear he was holding back - particularly on the fourth stage TT to Le Mont Ventoux, where he finished almost two minutes behind eventual winner Iban Mayo from Euskaltel-Euskadi. Mayo went on to a very lacklustre performance in July, eventually quitting the race, while Armstrong crushed his rivals in yet another flawless demonstration of measured strength, cunning and teamwork.

This year - his last as a professional cyclist - he's likely to do the same at Le Dauphiné: no heroics, just controlled efforts, making sure he'll be where he wants to be come the Tour. Of course, if there's an opportunity to win, don't count him out.

Needless to say, the 2005 edition is an exciting one: two time trials and six challenging road stages spread over 1,136.4 kilometres with 12,820 metres of climbing, all held in the southeast of France and all encouraging aggressive riding.

Click here to read the rest of the preview.

Illes Balears for Dauphiné

Francisco Mancebo will lead Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne at the Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré, which begins this Sunday, June 5 and ends the following Sunday on June 12.

Riders: David Arroyo, Daniel Becke, Chente Garcia, Iván Gutiérrez, Cayetano Julià, Francisco Mancebo, Mikel Pradera, Xabier Zandio
Team manager: José Luis Jaimerena

Discovery Team update

It's not all about Lance

Hey, that's not Lance!
Photo ©: Sirotti
Click for larger image

When Paolo Savoldelli crossed the line last Sunday to win his second Giro d'Italia, the victory was not only significant for him, but also for his team. It was their eighth Grand Tour victory since 1999 and their third stage race win in a row, but perhaps more importantly, it was a victory without Lance Armstrong.

"Especially this year, it's a very important start for the team. It's Lance's last season and last Tour de France, and with a new title sponsor, the expectations were very high and in our first big race, we came out with the final victory with somebody other than Lance," said team manager Johan Bruyneel in a team statement.

"I think that's proof, especially to Discovery Channel and our other sponsors, that we are doing things the right way. It's proof we can pick our riders. We brought on Savoldelli for that purpose [the Giro] and Popovych for the future, and he's already come through with a big win for us [Tour of Catalunya]."

Savoldelli's return to top form also bodes well for their Tour de France campaign, allowing Bruyneel the flexibility to run with a number of different strategies. "It's a great feeling to have a big Tour winner on your team to support the team," he said.

"And also, you can't forget it will help us in terms of tactics. It will be our advantage to have a few dangerous guys in there who can take advantage of certain strategies we plan out. It definitely will make a difference. I think most importantly, it takes the pressure off of us. Although at the Tour with Lance, we are always under a certain amount of pressure."

While the team's future looks bright for life after Armstrong, Bruyneel was keen to point out that until that day happens, it's still about Lance.

"Of course, Lance is still and always has been our most important rider and one who has given us the most over the years. Yet his performances have been so overwhelming that a lot of other guys have been in the shadows a bit. It's clear now we can definitely assemble a team and be very successful," he said.

Demol at Wachovia: "we all know Sunday is what counts"

Discovery's assistant directeur sportif Dirk Demol had plenty of praise for Health Net's performance at the Lancaster Invitational, and expects the outcome of today's race in Trenton to end in a bunch sprint - but adds Sunday's USPRO Championships in Philadelphia will be "something completely different".

"Lancaster is not an easy race - it's a tough course that is always up and down. Health Net impressed me, as they had four riders in the winning breakaway and finished first and third. If I remember well, tomorrow is always very, very fast and will come down to a big sprint finish," said Demol.

"But after tomorrow's race, Sunday is something completely different, a race that favours the teams that race in Europe all the time because of the distance [250km/ 156 miles]. We were disappointed [on Tuesday], but we all know Sunday is what counts the most for us."

Continued Demol: "We have a different type of team here than in the past and have four really strong riders right now in Max [van Heeswijk], Roger Hammond, Leif Hoste and Jurgen Van den Broeck. Tony Cruz is going well but is coming off the Giro and while he won't race until Sunday. I'm confident of the group we have here that we can do something. But in a race like this in the U.S., it will be the same as it always is - everyone will look to watch our every move."

McCartney passes first Grand Tour test

"I went into the Giro pretty opened minded," said Jason McCartney about his first go at riding at Grand Tour, which he came through with flying colours.

"I knew it was super long and wanted to conserve some energy and save what I could for the last week. But the first week was insane. With 50 kilometres to go in every stage, it was curb-to-curb and everyone was nervous. This lasted for about a week and a half until it calmed down a bit. Once the GC settled in and some of the sprinters went home, things settled a bit."

McCartney added the experience of riding the world road championships and Olympic Games road race, as well as some other major events in the US, helped him get over the nerves of racing with and against the world's best cyclists - although he did receive some ill-advice from team-mate Chechu Rubiera.

"He [Rubiera] said I will love racing in Italy. It's very calm and then all you race is the final two hours. He said riders ride ahead to visit their families on the road. Well, that didn't happen at all. It was fast from the gun. Maybe it's because of the ProTour this year."

Speaking about the moment the team thought a win was possible, McCartney said it happened on Stage 11 to Zoldo Alto, when Savoldelli won his first stage, ahead of pre-race favourite Ivan Basso (Team CSC). "After Paolo won his stage, it all changed for us. We began making all the extra efforts and CSC began to burn itself out, riding so aggressively from the start. We hung back and did what we needed for the first half.

Asked what was going through his mind towards the end of the Giro, McCartney said it was the thought of lining up for the Tour de Suisse, which begins Saturday week. "I kept saying, 'Man, now I have to do that race? I've got to recover first.'"

Following that race, McCartney will return to his U.S. home in Iowa, where he will enjoy a short three weeks break. "I've got a lot of housework to catch up on," he said.

Discovery maximises Armstrong connection

US marketing publication Mediaweek reports that Discovery Networks are about to launch a major advertising campaign to highlight its sponsorship of the Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team, and in particular, Lance Armstrong.

With the significant additional investment required by the top cycling teams to join the UCI ProTour, sponsors want to see a corresponding increase in awareness of their products and brands. As a major television network, Discovery Networks already has an excellent range of media vehicles to enable marketing execs to do just that.

Beginning this Sunday, the campaign "Chasing #7" sees Armstrong line up with Discovery stars including the Crocodile Hunter's Steve Irwin and the Teutuls (American Chopper) in a number of television commercials created by Texas-based ad agency, TM Advertising. In addition, viewers' appetites will be wetted as the Tour approaches ever closer, with a series of one-minute behind-the-scenes vignettes that show part of the training and technology involved in Discovery Channel's seventh TdF bid.

The six-time Tour winner will also appear in a prime-time TV show called 'The Science of Lance Armstrong', simulcast on The Discovery Channel and The Science Channel on June 27 at 8pm. From June 15-June 30, he will also make a number of other appearances on Fit TV, Travel Channel, Discovery Health and Discovery HD Theater.

At the time Armstrong announced his retirement before the start of the Tour of Georgia, the 33 year-old indicated his "relationship with Discovery will continue for years to come", alluding to becoming actively involved in the network's programming, as well as some form of management role within the Discovery Channel cycling team.

Voigt a Dad again

CSC's Jens Voigt has just become a father for the fourth time. At seven minutes to eight on a Tuesday evening in Berlin, Voigt's wife Stefanie gave birth to daughter Kim-Helena, who measured a healthy 52 centimetres long and weighed 3,7 kilograms. Both mother and child are doing fine. The Voigts now have two sons and two daughters.

Courtesy Susan Westemeyer

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