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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest Cycling News for May 5, 2005

Edited by Anthony Tan

Brad Macca's back on track

McGee-NSWIS squad looking Continental

By Anthony Tan in Lausanne, Switzerland

Bradley McGee
Photo ©: Cyclingnews/Anthony Tan
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La Francaise des Jeux's Bradley McGee was naturally very psyched before the final stage of the Tour de Romandie in Lausanne last Sunday.

Up until that point, the 29 year-old had a less than ordinary performance in the Swiss ProTour event, and a good time trial would regain his confidence and motivation for what lies ahead. "I'm very disappointed with what's happened, but I know that it's not my level; there's some problems and we're looking at it now, and I'm still living off the dream that something will come off today!" said McGee to Cyclingnews an hour before his start time, a nervous chuckle following those last words.

But 26 minutes and 54 seconds after leaving the start house, the Sydneysider set the fastest time that was only bettered by a former world time trial champion and the man won the race overall, Santiago Botero, and as a consequence, his Tour dream remained intact.

With his mind and body at ease, he can now take a break as planned back at his European home in Nice, France. Unlike last year, though, McGee won't be riding the Giro d'Italia where he won the prologue and finished eighth overall in 2004; instead, he has his sights set on the big one, targeting the general classification at the Tour de France.

"It's like a new lease of life targeting general classification, which has made me sharpen my act up another level and I'm really enjoying it," said McGee. "It's the only way I want to do it... the motivation is there, the hunger is incredibly high to make good all the work I've done."

Another thing he's put plenty of effort into is his eponymously-named development squad, McGee-NSWIS. Run in conjunction with the New South Wales Institute of Sport (NSWIS) and partly funded by the La Francaise des Jeux ProTour team, the McGee-NSWIS set-up enables more riders from his home state the best opportunity and possibility of turning professional.

During the 'offy' (off-season) as he calls it, McGee realised that after talking with his brother Rod, who manages the team on a day-to-day basis back in Australia, the McGee-NSWIS coterie have been performing well beyond expectations, and believes the time is ripe to turn the team, now entering its fourth year of operation, into something bigger and better.

If anyone thought Brad's getting ahead of himself, the proof's in the pudding: former pupil Mark Renshaw is now a fully-fledged member of La Francaise des Jeux and about to take part in his first Giro d'Italia this coming Saturday (look out for an interview with him tomorrow on Cyclingnews); and only a few weeks ago, Chris 'CJ' Sutton signed a contract with another French ProTour team, Cofidis, also winning one of the biggest amateur races in Italy, the GP Liberazione, a few weekends ago.

Said an upbeat McGee: "So the push is really on now to draw on some extra sponsorship and push the team itself from a development squad to a [Professional] Continental Team, and to hold the riders together and to race in Europe and Australia together.

"It's come about through necessity, and it's just the obvious next step. We thought it would come in the next three or four years, but the need's there now," he said.

Look out for the full interview with Bradley McGee tomorrow on Cyclingnews

Discovery Team update

Bruyneel's thoughts on the Giro

"To me, there are three clear favorites with Simoni and Cunego on one side and Basso on the other side. They are the biggest favorites," said Discovery Channel's team manager Johan Bruyneel in a team statement published today.

"And you can see that both Lampre and CSC have assembled strong teams that are ready to go for it, control the race, protect their leader and work if they have to work. To me, those are the three favorites. But just behind them, I put Paolo [Savoldelli] in the first spot of the next group."

Despite an average performance at last weekend's Tour de Romandie, Bruyneel believes Savoldelli is ready to ride well in his favourite race: "I don't take Romandie has a measurement to where he is right now," he said. "For Paolo, normally he gets better during a stage race and I expect him to be better in the last week. He's already won the race [2002] and finished second [1999], and this is one of his big objectives this year. He has had a very, very good lead up to the Giro - turning in some good races and good training blocks. I think he's ready for it."

"Paolo can be on the podium if everything works out fine. He's not the clear favorite and thus we don't need a team to perform for a clear favorite. He needs guys around him to protect him and be around him in the mountains and then it's up to him to be with the best. He has great experience and knows what he needs to do to be ready. He's not the type to get nervous and crack in certain circumstances. I'm confident he can be there."

More on Ekimov

Reacting to the loss Viatcheslav Ekimov, who crashed badly while out training with Lance Armstrong last week in Austin, Texas, Bruyneel simply said: "Losing a guy like Eki is a big loss.

"It will difficult or even impossible to replace him because of his qualities, his experience and his position on the team and the way he knows the race and knows the team. He's been our captain on the road. We won't be able to find a substitute for him."

Asked if Eki immediately knew the extent of his injuries, Bruyneel said: "I think when he saw the x-rays, he knew," Bruyneel said. "He said the pain is almost gone but that he still needs to wear the corset for an undetermined period of time. In one month, he will have more x-rays done and they will then decide how long he needs to wear it."

Will he return to racing this year? "No doubt," said Bruyneel. "He said to put him down for the races in August and September."

And then there were 11...

With the loss of Ekimov, the inclusion of Belgian Leif Hoste in the final 11 riders that have a chance of making the nine-man Discovery team for the Tour de France came as a bit of a surprise to some. Said Bruyneel: "He's [Hoste] never been a real candidate as we expected him to turn in a real heavy schedule of spring races, but he's had to back off a bit following his crash [in Roubaix], and now he's in the picture. He will start again at the Tour of Catalunya and will be pretty fresh."

Hammond update

Although valiantly finishing Paris-Roubaix back on April 10 with a broken thumb, Roger Hammond finished outside the time limit and was therefore unclassified. Then to make matters worse, he found out later he had damaged this thumb even further.

Involved in the same crash that took down Peter Van Petegem, Hammond said "everything then shut down" after that point. "I could hardly ride my bike. I went from being in the front and feeling strong to suffering more and more, it was painful. Two or three sectors later, I had to ride with one hand in the zones, with just my fingers," he said. "In hindsight, I probably should have stopped, but I didn't want to climb off. I was hoping something would get better but I did think it was pretty ridiculous, what I was doing."

Hammond added that while his thumb is now healing properly, damage to the tendons and ligaments are causing him pain. "The pain is a lot less but I still have some problems, even holding a coffee cup."

Despite the injury, Hammond said he is still on the program that was set up for him at the beginning of the year. Next up will be the Tour of Catalunya in 12 days, followed by the three-race Wachovia Series in the U.S. [May 31 in Trenton, NJ, June 2 in Lancaster, PA, and June 5 in Philadelphia] and the Tour of Switzerland [June 11-19].

Creed update

Having raced only once this season at the Tour de Langkawi, Creed started noticing his fitness and energy levels drop alarmingly after the race and after months of searching, he believes he is close to figuring out what has been wrong.

"Unlike George's, mine is viral," Creed said when asked if he is suffering from the same condition George Hincapie had two years ago. "The virus flared up and the racing and training seemed to compound it."

Seeing the same Seattle-based doctor Hincapie saw when he was trying to diagnose his illness, which turned out to be a parasite, Creed's goal is to gain back fitness and race in Philadelphia. "I won't set the house on fire but want to be part of the race and be a valuable team member, not just make the start line," he said.

12 Aussies line up for a lap of Italy

Aussie MTB riders celebrate early success

Twelve Australians will line up this coming Saturday in Reggio Calabria to take part in the 88th edition of the Giro d'Italia. Featuring 20 days of racing with two rest days in between, the first Grand Tour of the year ends on May 29 in Milan, some 3,496 kilometres later.

The Australian contingent is made up of Stuart O'Grady and Matt White (Cofidis), Robbie McEwen, Nick Gates and Henk Vogels (Davitamon-Lotto), Baden Cooke, Matthew Wilson and Mark Renshaw (Francaise Des Jeux), Brett Lancaster (Ceramiche Panaria), Trent Wilson and Russell Van Hout (Colombia Selle Italia) and Rory Sutherland (Rabobank).

"It's fantastic to see the depth of Australian riders in the professional peloton and not just in one or two teams but spread across Europe," said Athens Olympic Games gold medallist, O'Grady. "It will make for some good storytelling for the first 100km of the stages."

Colombia Selle Italia's Trent Wilson will be lining up for his second Giro and is also looking forward to the increased Australian presence, as he wrote in his latest diary on Cyclingnews: "We are going to run amuck in the tour village in the morning with those short blacks and drive the Italians crazy with the Aussie lingo and slang in the bunch in the quiet periods when we're not biting the handle bars," he said.

For O'Grady, lining up in the Giro signals a different approach to his previous Tour de France preparation.

"The Giro suits me a little better than the Four Days of Dunkirk, which has been on my program for the last 11 years," said O'Grady, who lines up after a three week mid-season break. "The new system of ProTour points makes these big races much more important, and I'd prefer to be going up against Petacchi in the sun than racing four days in the cold.

"Our team is hoping for some decent results in the first 10 days, but I have no major objectives for the Giro," said O'Grady. "Petacchi is going 100 percent and not doing the Tour de France - I'm the opposite and this is part of my build up for Le Tour."

McEwen, who scored one stage win and three second placings in Italy last year, is also using the Giro to prepare for France. "I'm aiming for a stage win," said McEwen, although adding he's keen to notch up more stage wins if the opportunity presents itself. "You've got to start with one because you can't get two in one go, and if I get one, I can then work on getting another one.

"Also I want to ride myself into 100 percent health and build up my condition because I've been battling illness," said McEwen, who since February has suffered fever, bronchitis and severe sinusitis, forcing him to take an unscheduled rest from racing. "I've been back racing for three weeks and only back on the bike for a month."

In fat-tyre news, Australians filled the top three places in the mountain bike category of the Sea Otter Classic in California, USA, last month. The opening event for the international downhill calendar was raced from April 14 to 17 in Monterey and saw Jared Graves, Bryn Atkinson and Mick Hannah secure a podium clean sweep for Australia in the overall results (combined slalom, 4X and downhill).

The riders then headed to Spain for the first round of the UCI World Cup DH/4X last weekend. Sam Hill (Iron Horse Mad Catz), Mick Hannah (Haro Bikes) and Nathan Rennie (Santa Cruz Syndicate) filled third to fifth place respectively in the elite men's downhill. Bryn Atkinson (GT Hyundai) and Justin Havukainen finished 10th and 15th.

First Malaysian to ride for Liberty Seguros

In a welcome first for Malaysian cycling, 19 year-old rider Ng Yong Li has been offered a position on the under 23 development team at Liberty Seguros-Würth, according to a report published in Malaysia's New Straits Times, fulfilling his dream to compete at the epicentre of cycling in Europe.

"Well, this is what I've always wanted to do. I always believed that to achieve anything in cycling, I will have to go to Europe. And to do it with one of the greatest teams, is a dream come true," said Yong Li. "I am going there to learn as much as I can and try to make the grade as a pro in Europe. It will be hard, but I have to try this."

The Batu Pahat-born youngster won gold in the individual time trial at last year's Malaysia Games and also is considered a good climber. He is set to leave for Spain by the middle of this month, but will depart with his current team today to compete in the Heritage Tour of Thailand, which he hopes will provide solid preparation for his time in Europe.

A spokesperson for Liberty Seguros confirmed Yong Li will receive a bike, other equipment and technical assistance to enable him to compete with the team in a hectic race program that goes right until October, and will race roughly one to two times each week. However, the Putrajaya Cycling Association (PjCA) will have to raise initial funding for his initial expenses in Spain; PjCA secretary Sakeri Abdullah said Yong Li's family have agreed to partially support him, while efforts are underway to raise further funding, including living expenses and his airline ticket.

"Now, I have to keep my head down, because I will be riding for the under-23 squad, not the ProTour team, which includes greats like Joseba Beloki and Roberto Heras," he said.

Yong Li's performance will be evaluated at the end of the season with a view to a longer term contract in 2006.

Olympia's Tour route announced

The 53rd edition of the Olympia's Tour, a UCI 2.2-ranked stage race in the Netherlands aimed at up-and-coming riders, has been announced, and will run from May 14-22, 2005.

The Stages:

Saturday, May 14 - Prologue: Veendam
Sunday, May 15 - Stage 1: Veendam - Veendam
Monday, May 16 - Stage 2: Veendam - Hardenberg
Tuesday, May 17 - Stage 3: Hardenberg - Tiel
Wednesday, May 18 - Stage 4: Tiel - Nunspeet
Wednesday, May 18 - Stage 5: Individual Time Trial, Nunspeet
Thursday, May 19 - Stage 6: Nunspeet - Rhenoy
Friday, May 20 - Stage 7: Geleen - Buchten
Saturday, May 21 - Stage 8: Buchten - Ossendrecht
Sunday, May 22 - Stage 9: Hoogerheide - Ossendrecht

Protest ride extended to Brisbane

The unnecessary death of South Australian cyclist Ian Humphrey and subsequent lenient sentencing of Eugene McGee, the driver of the 4WD (SUV) who struck and killed him in a hit and run incident in November 2003, who was fined AU$3100 and disqualified from driving for 12 months [see yesterday's news], has now sparked protests from rider groups in four capital cities, with Brisbane the latest city to become involved.

South Australian Premier Mike Rann has announced a Royal Commission to investigate the case, which has sweeping powers and aims to uncover issues such as the miscarriage of justice or corruption at the highest level. The protest rides start at 9.30am this Saturday, May 7, at: Victoria Square, Adelaide; Federation Square, Melbourne; Hyde Park Fountain, Sydney; and King George Square, Brisbane.

ECV for Liberty Classic

East Coast Velo has announced its roster for the upcoming Wachovia Liberty Classic, to be held on June 5, 2005. The team will consist of: Lynn Gaggioli, Kristin Sanders, Alison Fischer, Diana Sasnowski, Rosy Mccall, Sarah Bickerstaff, Marielle Aunave and Amanda Leigh Cox.

Bicycle the best invention

In a nation-wide online survey conducted by BBC Radio 4's You and Yours programme, looking at the most significant innovations since 1800, the humble bicycle has won its second title as the people's favourite invention. But all of you knew that already, right...

Fantasy Giro 2005 game has begun!

Wilier Le Roi
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Campagnolo Record
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Brought to you by Wilier Triestina, this year's Fantasy Giro d'Italia game marks the third year of fantasy games at Cyclingnews. Wilier Triestina are offering a team Cofidis Le Roi bike for this year's grand prize. A bike company with a long and noble tradition of Italian craftsmanship, Wilier is also bang up to date with the carbon fiber Le Roi, the bike of the Cofidis team. With a frame weight of just 950g and 7.2kg all up, the fully Campagnolo Record equipped Le Roi is ready for everything from the rigours of the Spring Classics to the mountains of the Giro - and beyond.

The Le Roi comes with a suite of high-quality finishing components to complement its frame and group, including ITM carbon bar and stem, Mavic Ksyrium wheels, Selcof carbon seat post, Selle Italia SLR saddle and Look Keo pedals.

Campagnolo is also offering its record component group to the first runner-up. Campagnolo's Record component group is the ultimate in light weight and pro quality durability, with carbon and titanium parts and sub-components to shave weight, and Campagnolo's famous reliability to keep you roiling down the road however tough the going gets.

High-performance features of the Record group include carbon fiber crank arms; carbon fiber brake/shift levers; titanium rear derailleur bolts and carbon cage; carbon fiber front derailleur cage; carbon fiber seatpost; aluminium hub axles and much, much more. It adds up to a group that's still the most successful racing component ensemble of all time.

Join for free!

You can begin creating your team/s now. We will be adding additions to the startlist on a daily basis. The Tour games are easy to play, all you need to do to manage your own team is select 15 riders from the live start list then select 9 of these riders to race each day throughout the Giro. You score points according to how well each of the riders place each day in the Giro. You can play the first 5 stages for FREE! So try your team today and see if it's for you. It's a great way to follow the Giro. Create your teams now at fantasy.cyclingnews.com.

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