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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for May 20, 2005

Edited by Jeff Jones & Anthony Tan

Ullrich inside his limits

Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile)
Photo ©: AFP
Click for larger image

T-Mobile's Jan Ullrich continues to improve in the Volta a Catalunya, where he finished 17th in the 237.7km queen stage from Perafort to the Pal ski station in Arinsal (Andorra), which was won by Leonardo Piepoli (Saunier Duval). "It was a perfect training ride for me over the ideal distance. I wasn't riding at my limit on the climbs - but my form still has room for improvement," said a satisfied Ullrich post-stage on his team's website.

Piepoli crossed the line ahead of Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery Channel) and Aitor Osa (Illes Balears), with Popovych taking over the general classification. Ullrich came home 1'19 down on Piepoli and now lies 13th overall, 1'33 adrift of Popovych. For T-Mobile, Paco Lara also had a good day, placing 12th at 49 seconds and moving up to sixth on GC.

"They worked hard together for most of the climb. I am very happy with the outcome of today's stage," said T-Mobile Team sports director Mario Kummer of Ullrich and Lara.

Back at the team bus, Jan Ullrich also declared himself pleased with his climbing legs on the Pyrenean slopes: "I am currently in better shape than I have ever been at this time of the year."

The climbing continues on Friday with stage 5, a gruelling 17 km mountain time trial from Sornas to the Ordino ski station at Arcalís, rising from 1300m to 2220m. Ullrich has fond memories of this stretch of road, as it was on the climb to Arcalís at the 1997 Tour that he landed the famous yellow jersey for the first time in his career.

"It is of course always nice to come back here," said Ullrich, who nevertheless ruled himself out as a contender for the stage win.

The Plan Mayo

By Martin Hardie in Spain

Iban Mayo seems to think he learned a lesson last year, and unlike 2004 to date, we have seen nothing of him at the front of the peloton. In Catalunya's fourth stage to Andorra's ski station at Pal, he finished inconspicuously by himself, 3'27 behind stage winner Leonardo Piepoli. Mayo's May of 2005 has nothing to compare with that of 2004. There is no impressive string of victories and one is left wondering if he has lost it, or is simply biding his time.

The watchword of Mayo 2005 is "easy", as in take it easy in preparing himself for July's French Tour. "I have been training a lot, base miles, with rides of six or more hours. I am happy with the work I have done to date," he says.

Mayo insists that last year he "obtained some great results in May and June, but maybe I went a little over the top and then later in the Tour what happened, happened, the fall, the virus. This year we have a plan that sees me peaking in July, right for the Tour."

Catalunya marks "the final phase of my preparation, and I am very relaxed, much more so than last year. It is not important to me this year if I get to the Tour without a victory to my name. Last year, my pre-Tour wins cost me a fair bit. I didn't want to approach this season like that. On top of that, I had problems with my knee and the flu I caught. So this year, my program is to peak later than I did last year."

So can we read anything into Mayo's climb to Andorra this week? "No way, you won't see me at the front in the Volta. For me, it is another race to use as training. I have been doing foundation work, lots of base miles in the saddle and I haven't been doing a lot of intensity work. I will do this in June."

"I am still working on getting myself down to race weight, I put more than normal on last winter, probably because my season ended in July. At the moment, I am still a few of kilos above what I am usually when I have form [61 kg]."

Will we see Mayo out and about competitively between now and July? "Maybe I will do the Tour of Switzerland, the GP Llodio and the Euskal Bizikleta. Let's see what happens."

A large part of the Plan Mayo is not to expose himself to the excessive pressure he was subjected to before last year's Tour. Pressure that saw him close himself off from the press, train solo with his Walkman and being mobbed at the local supermarket by screaming girls. "I am going much easier, much more relaxed, because the objective is the Tour, not Switzerland or Catalunya. Last year, generated an excessive amount of pressure. And things went bad. This is why I am not obsessing about winning before the Tour. It's just not important to me to win prior to the Tour; I just want to get their relaxed and in full form."

Thanks to Unai Larrea of DEIA for assistance with this story.

The zombie rule in Japan

By Miwako Sasaki

If you check the complete results of the Tour of Japan, you may think that Cyclingnews is mistaken. For example, in Wednesday's Stage 3, 71 riders finished and 16 riders abandoned the race. But there are 85 riders on the general classification after stage 3. It's a mystery, but it's true, because there is a special rule in the Tour of Japan.

For stage 3, there was a 12 lap circuit race, and normally if a rider drops out from the peloton and is lapped, he has to leave the race and is listed as DNF (Did Not Finish). But under the special rule in the Tour of Japan, if a rider is lapped by the peloton or abandons the race before eight laps, he will really be out of the race. If it happens after nine laps, he will be listed as DNF in the stage result, and is given the last rider's finishing time and an additional 20 minutes for the purposes of the general classification. Of course, he can continue to race the next day.

The Japanese call this the "Zombie rule". The rule saves many local riders and keeps a respectable number in the peloton. If the race is run under normal rules, the crowds will see only a very small peloton in the final stage in Tokyo. Therefore, many Japanese riders continue racing, even though they are suffering badly, like the living dead every day.

On the other hand, the zombie rule is also comfortable for the domestiques. They can stop racing early after a working hard for their team leaders in front of the peloton. They don't need to finish a race in the gruppetto, and can even watch the finish. Moreover, they can keep their energy for the next stage, ready to do their masters' bidding.

Maastricht Six returns

The Six Day season is making a comeback in The Netherlands with the return of the Maastricht Six to the calendar in September 2006, according to an ANP report. The organising committee has conducted a feasibility study and considers it to be a financially viable event. It will be sponsored by the local government and businesses, and held in the MECC complex.

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