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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest Cycling News for June 22, 2005

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

Mayo "without pressure"

By Hedwig Kröner

Iban Mayo (Euskaltel)
Photo ©: Christine Grein
Click for larger image

The Basque team Euskaltel-Euskadi has been impressive in recent ProTour stage races throughout June. At the Dauphiné Libéré, 28 year-old Iñigo Landaluze would not let the overall win slip away even if he was under a lot of pressure by Phonak and Gerolsteiner; and at the Tour de Suisse, the Orange squad again produced a surprise GC winner with Aitor González taking the yellow jersey on the very last day from Quick.Step's Michael Rogers.

Although its Tour de France roster has not yet been announced, Euskaltel-Euskadi is determined to play a major part in the outcome of this year's Grand Tour in France - with one man already appointed to be leading the squad: Iban Mayo, 6th on GC in 2003 and winner in L'Alpe-d'Huez that very same year. The strength he showed two year's ago failed him in 2004, when his self-confidence was broken on the pavés of Northern France, losing almost four minutes on his major rivals, before abandoning the race after stage 14 to Nîmes.

So where does he stand this year? Although the Basque hasn't showed any of his capacities yet, placing 30 minutes down of his teammate González in the Tour de Suisse, there could still be some of that climbing firepower in him for the Alpine and Pyrenean stages of the Tour, as his team has changed its tactics. "We've changed our preparation this year," Mayo told Spanish media. "We've sacrificed a lot of things and there have been times where I've had to restrain myself, because we all like to win! I went more unnoticed, but that was the risk we took - what is important is to get to the Tour in good shape. Last year I was very strong at the start and then my form just went down..."

Although there has been no word on General Classification aspirations from the Orange team, even Mayo's climbing is currently far away from what he has shown in his best moments, for example during the Dauphiné 2004. So can Mayo's apparently mediocre performances in Switzerland last week still be switched into high class for the Tour? The Basque himself thinks so ("I think I'm in good shape, I only have to perfect it now. There are still two weeks before the Tour and three before the important stages"), and his team director Julián Gorospe as well. "In the first week, we just have to cross our fingers and hope that nothing bad happens," he said. "I just want Mayo to get to the mountains in the same condition as two years ago - then, he will be with the best."

Recent Euskaltel victories also have taken the pressure off the team's Tour leader, but Mayo himself does not see this as further indication for success. "Now, we don't need a victory at any cost; all seems more relaxed. But last year we also won a lot before the Tour and then [those victories] weren't valued," he continued. "I am more calm, with less pressure because I know that my best moments are yet to come. I like winning and being competitive, but this year I've put that aside for the Tour. It's make-or-break now, impossible to foresee if it'll work. We'll assess it soon enough."

T-Mobile announces nine

In a fancy presentation at the company's headquarters in Bonn, Germany, T-Mobile has announced its nine riders for the upcoming Tour de France. Besides the obvious Jan Ullrich, reaching out for a second Tour de France victory in his last chance to beat Lance Armstrong, the following men will engage on the 3,607 km-long loop to Paris for T-Mobile: Alexandre Vinokourov (Kazakhstan), Andreas Klöden (Germany), Stephan Schreck (Germany), Daniele Nardello (Italy), Oscar Sevilla (Spain), Matthias Kessler (Germany), Tobias Steinhauser (Germany) and Giuseppe Guerini (Italy).

Ullrich is looking forward to stage one on July 2 in Fromentine. "I have always said that a Tour victory is more valuable if Lance Armstrong is participating. I will do everything I can to beat him in his last appearance at the Tour," said the 31 year-old, for whom the American's announced retirement provides "additional motivation."

In his quest for the yellow jersey, the German has a top-class partner at his side: Alexander Vinokourov. The Kazakh was forced to skip the Tour last year after a heavy crash during the Tour de Suisse, but is now also in excellent shape: recently at the Dauphiné Libéré, he soloed to an impressive stage win atop the mythical Mont Ventoux.

"We'll be at the starting line in France with a strong, motivated team in which everyone contributes their strengths," sports director Mario Kummer said, keeping in mind Lance Armstrong and his Discovery Channel team as T-Mobile's major rivals. "It won't be any easier for the other teams. Armstrong will again be particularly motivated. Lately, his form has been improving sharply."

Watch out for a complete report of the T-Mobile roster announcement in the next edition of Cycling News.

Taberlay injured

At the MTB Marathon World Cup in Québec (Mont-Sainte-Anne) on June 18, multiple Australian champion Sid Taberlay (Specialized Factory) had an accident and injured his shoulder. The crash happened on wet soil made extremely slippery after a week on rain in Canada.

"Starting out on the road for the first 15 km, we turned onto the dirt, straight up a greasy hill. I wasn't prepared for the turn off and found myself about 10 riders back," Taberlay told Cyclingnews. "By the top of the climb I was in a group of three with a gap back on the rest of the field. The gap was shortly closed by half a dozen riders, which stayed together for the next hour, until we all missed an unmarked turn off. Two kilometres down the fire road and with no markings we knew there was a problem. Heading back we found the course and saw a number of riders ahead of us. The pace lifted, knowing we where some time behind the front guys. The group split with Liam [Killeen, the later winner and teammate of Taberlay], two Italian riders and I leading the chase."

That's when the accident happened. "Liam went on to win and I came pretty close to coming home early. On a muddy descent I slipped into a rut, being spat out of it into a tree. I had to be carried out and off to the hospital with a suspected broken collar bone. The x-rays denied me my first broken bone, although they did nothing for the discomfort I was in..." Taberlay is now back in training on road, but "only in the saddle. I can't get out of the saddle with my right shoulder not being able to hold my weight. It's improving each day and hopefully will be OK for Saturday's World Cup."

Horses get in Lara's way

At the Vuelta a Asturias on Tuesday, T-Mobile rider Paco Lara' chances of a stage win were ruined by straying horses colliding with the team car. "The vehicle caravan excited the horses, causing them to jump out of their paddock and into our car," reported directeur sportif Brian Holm, who suffered no more than a fright in the accident. The team car, on the other hand, suffered a worse fate. "The car is a totally ruined. The lights and windscreen were smashed," the Dane said.

However, just as this happened, T-Mobile rider Paco Lara punctured in front, which made the wheel-changing task unexpectedly more difficult, as the spare wheels on top of the vehicle were also destroyed. "By the time our other team car made it to where Paco was, he had completely lost touch with the bunch," said Holm. Lara had been riding at the front of the leading group when the incident happened, "but there was of course no way back for him after that", added Holm. In the end, Lara crossed the line in 22nd position, 3.41 down on the Ukrainian stage winner Mikhaylo Khalilov.

Brian Holm, however, was able to see the funny side of things. "Fortunately it wasn't the Tour of Malaysia. There, it would have been two elephants colliding with me!," he concluded.

Mangel undergoes surgery

Laurent Mangel (Ag2r) has had an operation on his collarbone, which he broke in an accident on the last day of the Boucles de la Mayenne. The surgery was performed in the hospital of Besançon. Mangel will rest for two weeks, according to his team management, before taking up training on a home trainer and possibly racing again in late August.

The French Professional Continental team also announced the signing of Julien Loubet (GSC Blagnac), who will join the pro ranks as of July 1, 2005, in the colours of Ag2r. His first race will be the Tour du Doubs on July 3.

Another fatal hit and run on Australian cyclists

Opinion by John Stevenson

A cyclist was killed yesterday in western Sydney and another is in hospital in a serious condition after a hit and run incident on Richmond Road at Londonderry, near Penrith. According to news.com.au, a police spokesman said the two men in their twenties were hit by a vehicle. One died at the scene while the other was taken to Nepean Hospital in a serious but stable condition. Police have urged anyone with information about the crash to contact Windsor Police Station.

Meanwhile, a tabloid newspaper in the same city, Sydney's Daily Telegraph, has published an article attacking cyclists. The Telegraph spent three hours compiling "a series of more than a dozen photographs showing cyclists endangering themselves and others." The newspaper describes cyclists as "idiots on two wheels", "two-wheel maniacs" and "dangerous".

However, the report doesn't provide any evidence of a bike rider harming anyone during its three-hour vigil. The on-line version of the story is illustrated with a photo of a cyclist riding along an almost-empty pavement on Parramatta Road, an overcrowded urban artery where cyclists face a choice of squeezing into narrow lanes between parked cars and lane-filling trucks, or hopping on the pavement.

Sydney's road system shows little consideration for cyclists and combined with a car culture, conditions are hardly ideal for commuting. The Telegraph's article, headlined "Hell on wheels", pointed to an increase in bicycle sales, but the last two censuses showed a decrease in the number of commuting cyclists.

Cyclingnews' Sydney office is close to a busy intersection and it would take three minutes, rather than three hours, to record more than a dozen examples of motorists breaking the law. Red lights are regularly run and drivers talking on mobile phones is routine.

As the latest hit-and-run tragedy demonstrates - and the light sentence handed down recently to Eugene McGee after the death of Ian Humphrey - Australia is developing a problem with motorists and cyclists sharing the road. But the Telegraph's singling out cyclists for a cheap shot does nothing to alleviate the problem and demonstrates appalling timing, given the tragedy in the same city on the previous day.

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