First Edition Cycling News for March 31, 2005
Edited by Hedwig Kröner and Jeff Jones
Armstrong announcement hints at possible retirement
Six time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong is set to make an "important announcement" just before this year's Tour de Georgia on April 18. In an interview with French paper Le Figaro, published on Wednesday, Armstrong hinted at a possible early retirement, although he does have a two year contract with Discovery Channel.
"I won't be doing the Tour forever," he was quoted as saying. "But it's still to early to talk about it. I will announce it to you, to the world, only later...To win a seventh Tour is now my objective. But seven would be just one more whereas six was magic."
Armstrong said that he found it hard to be away from his family for long periods of time. "The long and many absences, the long distances make me want to say stop it, to return home and be near them."
After a bad start to the year, Armstrong has seemingly found his legs again, finishing in the main peloton in both the Brabantse Pijl last Sunday and Paris-Camembert yesterday. He will be part of the Discovery Channel line up in the Tour of Flanders this Sunday, which will be led by Stijn Devolder and George Hincapie. The other riders are Viatcheslav Ekimov, Leif Hoste, Roger Hammond, Benoît Joachim and Hayden Roulston
Freire in doubt for Ronde
World Champion Oscar Freire is in doubt for this Sunday's Ronde Van Vlaanderen, as he is still suffering from a saddle sore that kept him from riding in Saturday's E3 Prijs. Even though he rode and won the Brabantse Pijl on Sunday, he said he "could not even sit on a bike on Monday. On Tuesday at midday, I trained for an hour, but then it started to rain. Luckily, because I couldn't go for any longer because of the pain. If it doesn't get better in training over the next few days, I will forfeit the Ronde. To sit on a bike for 260 km with this injury is too big a risk."
T-Mobile in tight spot
The German T-Mobile-Team, known to be one of the best teams in the world, is currently experiencing its worst season start since 1992. Not one single win has been scored in the new year, and the team management as well as its riders are increasingly under pressure.
"We are not used to this," said T-Mobile manager Olaf Ludwig. "We are judged according to our success, and haven't obtained any results yet this season. Of course we are unhappy and disappointed." With Erik Zabel not achieving the top spots anymore because of a self-admitted lack of explosiveness, T-Mobile has not been able to put its fingerprint on the first ProTour races. Even in Continental events on home ground like the Rund um Köln, the best T-Mobile rider placed eighth (Rolf Aldag).
"It's plain stupid to be missing the decisive breakaways each time," Ludwig continued. "But I hope that the next races will be bring about a change. With Andreas Klier and last year's winner Steffen Wesemann, we have two riders that could win there." Klier showed some excellent form at the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen on March 26, when he stayed clear of a chase group for nearly 60 km before being outsprinted by an unbeatable Boonen. Wesemann, meanwhile, was involved in a crash in the first stage of the Driedaagse van De Panne, but is not seriously hurt.
Tour de France winner Jan Ullrich is still training in Tuscany preparing for his first race of the year, the Circuit de la Sarthe on April 5. According to his personal trainer Rudy Pevenage, Ullrich's progress is good and his weight "OK". T-Mobile's most important season goal being the Tour de France, quite a few of its riders will peak for the July event, including Andreas Klöden, Alexandre Vinokourov and Oscar Sevilla. The magenta squad is not panicking yet, but the season is moving forward.
New look for 99th Giro Di Lombardia
By Tim Maloney, European Editor
Last year's 98th edition of the Giro di Lombardia was one of the most thrilling single day races of the 2004 season, with a ding-dong battle between two emerging young Italian riders Cunego and Basso, while Bettini and Rebellin went head to head until the final meters for the last World Cup title. With its 100th birthday coming this October, there's still life in the old girl yet, as a new version of the Giro di Lombardia, known as the classicissima d'Autunno or the race of the falling leaves, was presented on Wednesday in Como, Italy.
Angelo Zomegnan, Director of Events of RCS Sport, the race organizer for sponsor La Gazzetta dello Sport was on hand, as well as Sig. Croci, Mayor of Mendrisio, Switzerland, just over the border from Como in the Swiss canton of Ticino. On October 15, the Giro di Lombardia will have a new percorso with a surprising start in Ticino. The historic race will begin in Mendrisio, where Eddy Merckx won the World Championship in 1971. Starting in the centro storico of the Swiss city, Giro di Lombardia will then head east via the Maslianico valley and will leave Switzerland and return to Italy via Bizzarrone. Eventually, the race will wind it's way through the mountains around Lago di Como and finish in the attractive lakeside city of Como.
2005 will be the 99th edition of the Giro di Lombardia because two editions were cancelled during WW2 (1943-44). The first winner of the Giro di Lombardia was 20 year-old Giovanni Gerbi in 1905, who won again two years later but was disqualified and Gustave Garrigou, 1911 Tour De France champion, became the first French winner.
Verbrugghe and Gilbert injured
Rik Verbrugghe (Quick.Step) and Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux) were involved in an accident with a car while training in the Belgian Ardennes region in the south of the country on Wednesday. Verbrugghe broke the middle finger of his left hand, while Gilbert is reported to have injuries to his face.
"Normally there shouldn't be a problem at the Wallonian Classics for Rik," Quick.Step manager Patrick Lefevere said, although the rider also suffered a torn ligament. "Of course he will still feel some pain."
Illes Balears for GP Indurain
The Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne has been announced for the GP Indurain this weekend: Jose Luis Arrieta, Toni Colom, Jonathan González, Iván Gutiérrez, Joan Horrach, Vladimir Karpets, Francisco Mancebo, Aitor Osa, Alejandro Valverde and Xabier Zandio.
Kodak Gallery/Sierra Nevada ready for Redlands
The Kodak EasyShare Gallery/Sierra Nevada Professional Cycling Team has finalized its eight-man roster for the PoolGel Redlands Bicycle Classic, taking place from March 31-April 3, 2005. The team will be Hayden Godfrey, Russell Hamby, Ben Jacques-Maynes, Tim Larkin, Glen Mitchell, Dominique Perras, Jackson Stewart, and Scott Zwizanski.
Kodak Gallery/Sierra Nevada's top threats for the overall classification will be former Canadian national champion Perras, all-arounders Mitchell and Jacques-Maynes, and Larkin, who showed early-season fitness by winning the difficult Copperopolis road race in Northern California last weekend. New Zealander Godfrey, motivated for his first road race of the season after preparing for and racing at the UCI World Track Cycling Championships last week, and Stewart, who already has three top-ten results in National Racing Calendar events this season, will look for sprinting success in Saturday's criterium.
"We have a really balanced team for Redlands, and all our guys are motivated," Kodak Gallery/Sierra Nevada's Racing Manager, Robin Zellner commented. "Keep an eye out for Tim Larkin - he's racing with a lot of confidence and he's got the legs to back it up."
Big Junior showdown in SA
This year's junior cycling season is set for a major confrontation at the upcoming four day, five stage, South Africa Junior Tour which starts in Ermelo on Friday, April 1. The Barloworld SG juniors have dominated the early part of the 2005 season, but they now face a thoroughly motivated Finish Line Gauteng North team, eager to demonstrate that "the boys in blue" aren't the only exciting new kids on the SA cycling block.
A quick look at the respective team line-ups reveals the remarkable strength of the current SA junior scene. Barloworld SG will send the following riders to Eastern Transvaal: Jacques Janse van Rensburg, Jaco Venter, Johan Nothnagel, Herman Fouche, Johan Rabie, and Marc Degenaar the race. Finish Line's contingent consists of Duncan Viljoen, Michael Robinson, Kobus Els, Pieter Henning, Jaco Muller, and Frank Janse van Vuuren. Another 19 top teams from all over Southern Africa, including one from as far way as Namibia, will be doing as much they can to put a spoke in the wheels of the more fancied squads.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2005)