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Photo ©: Swift

First Edition Cycling News for June 26, 2005

Edited by Jeff Jones

Euskaltel-Euskadi for the Tour

Iban Mayo, Haimar Zubeldia and Ińigo Landaluze will headline Euskaltel-Euskadi's squad for the Tour de France. Mayo and Zubeldia finished fifth and sixth overall in the 2003 Centenary Tour, while Landaluze rode extremely well to win the Dauphine Libéré this year. On his day, Mayo is a great climber, and will hope to erase the bad memories of last year's Tour where he had to drop out in the Pyrenees as a result of mononucleosis. But his racing program this year has been light, to say the least, and his form in the Tour de Suisse was anything but convincing.

The full Euskaltel-Euskadi squad is: Iban Mayo, Haimar Zubeldia, Ińigo Landaluze, Unai Etxebarria, Egoi Martinez, David Herrero, Iker Camano, Mikel Artetxe, Iker Flores.

Vandenbroucke reacts to big fine

Frank Vandenbroucke has reacted angrily to the €250,000 fine dealt out to him by the Gent Court of Appeal on Thursday. The MrBookmaker cyclist, who was found guilty of having illegal drugs in his possession in February 2002, told Het Laatste Nieuws that he thought the fine was out of proportion to his crime. "Did I harm society? I had doping at home, yes. And I injected myself with it. But the biggest drug trafficker has to spend a month in jail and gets a maximum fine of €25,000. They are worse criminals than I? Apparently, they found that I am a junkie. Well, they send a junkie to therapy. But no, Vandenbroucke, he gets a huge fine."

Vandenbroucke was asked whether he could pay the fine, as otherwise he risks a three month jail sentence. "It's true that I have lost a lot of money," he said. "But I shouldn't have to sell my house or my car. It doesn't mean that I'll pay. Marc Lotz must be shitting his pants now. And Museeuw, and Planckaert. Soon the prisons will be full of riders."

But VDB says he won't be beaten. "I will not become a second Pantani," he vowed. "Because that's what they want, apparently: that I put a bullet through my head."

MrBookmaker's team manager Hilaire Van der Schueren believes that three months in jail might be the best for Vandenbroucke, telling HLN, "In three months he can earn €250,000. Even more, because he will live there free of charge. And it's probably a good way to get through the winter. Then no-one can tell him to hang around in discos and not look after himself."

Merckx out of Belgian Championships

Davitamon-Lotto will be slightly weakened in tomorrow's Belgian National Championships in Saint-Hubert with the decision of Axel Merckx to withdraw. Merckx's wife Jody is expecting a baby very soon, and Axel is choosing to be with her. Nevertheless, Davitamon-Lotto will still be the team to beat on Sunday in Belgium.

CSC has three new National Champions

On Friday, June 24, Team CSC riders won three national time trial championships between them: Michael Blaudzun led home a CSC whitewash in Denmark (four CSC starters took the top four places), Vladimir Gussev in Russia, and Andy Schleck in Luxembourg. Jens Voigt took the bronze medal at the German championships, while Kurt-Asle Arvesen earlier this week won a silver medal at the Norwegian time trial championships.

Blaudzun described himself as "relieved and happy" with his win in Denmark, telling team website team-csc.com, "I didn't really feel like things were working out for me, but I managed to win after all. The form from the Giro hasn't failed me, and this victory comes after a season, which up until now has been really great for me. I've felt on top all spring, and it's been like I've had an extra gear the whole time. And of course it's always nice, when it pays off - even on a day where you don't feel like it's going to."

"As expected we dominated the time trial, and Michael deserved his win," said team manager Bjarne Riis. "He's made a huge effort for the team throughout the season and has really impressed this year. It's great to see, how he's been able to stay in shape after Giro d'Italia, where he did well also. He made perfect use of his strength today and made a big difference on that last stretch, where the race was decided."

Sprinters expected to reign in Germany

Sunday's German Championships in Mannheim are expected to suit the sprinters, with a fairly flat circuit of 12 km to be ridden 17 times by the men and 9 by the women. In fact, circuit is almost too kind a word, as the course is basically out and back, including a section along the autobahn. But, it's the riders that make the race, and German national coach Peter Weibel believes that it might be harder than it looks on paper. "If, as forecasted, the conditions are windy then the riders can brace themselves for serious crosswinds. That will split the field to pieces," said Weibel on t-mobile-team.com.

Telekom/T-Mobile have held an iron-like grip on the German Champion's jersey since 1993, and the team's 15 riders are confident that they can keep the German stripes in the magenta camp, with sprinter Erik Zabel likely to be their top man.

Jan Ullrich is skipping the race to focus on staying healthy and injury free for the Tour. "At the Tour de Suisse it was clear that despite his current good form there are still some weaknesses that need to be ironed out," said team boss Olaf Ludwig. "That demands tailored intensive training and that's what he will be doing at the weekend."

Tour runner-up and reigning German Champion Andreas Klöden will be in Mannheim for a final fling with the jersey he won in some style over a lumpy course in Freiburg last year. But 'Klödi' is ruling out any chance of back-to-back victories in the event: "The profile is simply too flat for a slightly-built rider like me," he said. "I won't be able to defend it on Sunday. But I will be working hard to make sure that the jersey stays in our team circle."

It looks like Gerolsteiner will battle T-Mobile right down to the wire, as the light blue boys have 12 riders in the men's race. Gerolsteiner will be banking on their rising star and top sprinter Robert Förster to take the national honours. "The national Championships are the perfect test for him before he makes his Tour debut," said Gerolsteiner team director Christian Henn.

Although Stefan Schumacher has had to forfeit because of injury, look for Jens Voigt to play an attacking role on Sunday, seeking to benefit from the rivalry of the two big German blocks.

Heat a factor in Mont Sainte-Anne World Cup

By Rob Jones in Mont Sainte-Anne

The weather has gone through a substantial change from yesterday's cool temperatures and cloud. Friday morning's rain was the leading edge of hot, hot air that has been hanging around the Great Lakes. Saturday's expected high is 31°C with the humidex bringing it to over 40°C. It is likely to become a significant factor on this difficult course. Even at 9am this morning it is hot and sticky.

With the heat in mind, the officials have decided the number of laps: 6 for the Pro Men and 5 for the Pro Women, plus a start loop for each.

With the following exceptions: Alison Sydor (Can), Marga Fullana (Spain), Annabella Stropparo (Italy) and Maja Wloszczowska (Poland), most of the top women have made the trip here from Europe. A notable absence is Alison Sydor (Rocky Mountain Business Objects) who apparently has decided to stay home. She is never at her best in the extreme heat and after the National's two weeks ago where she finished 2nd to Marie-Hélčne Prémont, she appears to be focussing on training for the upcoming Road National's in Kamloops. The favourites for the women are the trio of hometown hero Marie-Hélčne Prémont (Rocky Mountain Business Objects), Olympic and World Champion Gunn-Rita Dahle (Multivan Merida), who is currently leading the World Cup, and Olympic Bronze medallist Sabine Spitz (Specialized) - second to Dahle at the last World Cup in Willingen, Germany.

The most notable absence in the men's field is Olympic and World Champion Julien Absalon (France). Absalon had stated in advance that his focus this year would be the World Championships and that he would not be attending the World Cup races outside of Europe. Other notable absences include regular podium finishers Jean-Christophe Peraud (Lapierre), Bart Brentjens (Giant), Thomas Frischknecht (Swisspower) and Houffalize round winner Marco Bui (Full Dynamix).

This is going to be the first chance for all of the Canadian men, except Max Plaxton (Maxxis-MSC), to race against the Europeans. The obvious Canadians to watch are National Champion Geoff Kabush (Maxxis), who won on a similar course here two weeks ago, and has been consistently the strongest rider on the North American circuit. Kabush's team mate Matt Toulouse has also performed well on this course. Roland Green (Kona Les Gets - 2nd to Kabush at the Nationals) is also here. This will be his first World Cup since Calgary in 2004, almost exactly one year ago

The women's race starts at 11h and the men at 14h.

Results: Women's XC, Men's XC.

Latest Continental rankings

The UCI has updated its Continental rider and team rankings on June 24 to take into account the points scored over the last month. There have been no changes to the individual leaders in the five Continental Tours, with Tiaan Kannemeyer (Barloworld-Valsir, Africa), Edgardo Simon (America), Graeme Brown (Panaria, Asia), Stefan Schumacher (Shimano-Memory Corp, Europe), and Robert McLachlan (MG Xpower p/b Bigpond, Oceania) being awarded the leaders jerseys for the next month.

In the teams rankings, Barloworld-Valsir continues to hold sway in Africa, while Health Net presented by Maxxis has a huge lead over Navigators in America, Giant Asia leads Barloworld in Asia, Comunidad Valenciana is on top in Europe, and MG Xpower Presented By Bigpond has the top spot in Australia. The nations rankings have South Africa on top in Africa, Argentina in America, Kazakhstan in Asia, Spain in Europe, and Australia in Oceania.

Full rankings: Continental Tours, Teams, and Nations.

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