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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

Cycling News Extra for September 7, 2005

Edited by John Stevenson, Les Clarke

A quick chat with Bjarne Riis

CSC's man with a plan

By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor in San Francisco

CSC manager Bjarne Riis at the Giro
Photo ©: Tim Maloney
Click for larger image

Bjarne Riis is one of the European peloton's most recognizable team directors. He has grown the CSC team into a major Pro Tour powerhouse that can place well at any race it enters, and is credited for developing some of the brightest young talent like Ivan Basso as well as re-igniting older ones like Bobby Julich. Cyclingnews sat down briefly with Riis along San Francisco's Embarcadero while he signed autographs with his CSC team.

Cyclingnews: What new riders are you most anticipating for next year?

Bjarne Riis: We will have some very good new riders -- Cancellara is a good one.

CN: Are there any types of races where you would like to see your team improve next season?

BR: We have been pretty good in all types of racing this year. Maybe we could improve in the classics. We wanted to prove we could be good where we wanted to and we proved that this year, all over.

CN: Do you foresee changing Basso's racing plans next year to focus more on winning the Tour de France?

BR: He is not a rider who wants to race only six races. He wants to be competitive all year. That's the way he wants it.

CN: What are your thoughts on the Pro Tour? What needs to be changed and what are some of the positive results so far?

BR: There are many good things about it, but too many teams were not ready. The changes were too quick. Even I pushed hard in the beginning for the quick changes but a lot of teams could not handle it. The UCI did not recognize this and made mistakes. If I was the UCI I would learn to take a step backwards. Maybe have only fourteen teams in the Pro Tour and have more World Cups. But it would be a hard decision.

The good thing about the Pro Tour is that teams are obligated to race more. However some teams should cut down on their national racing and remember their obligation to the Pro Tour races -- or make their programs bigger!

CN: Along those lines, what is your reaction to the new team limits for countries in the World Championships?

BR: We have the Olympics already where you can do that. It is bad for the European countries that have so many riders -- like Norway is only allowed one rider!

There there is the problem of less experienced riders crashing more often. Petacchi could be next to a guy and get crashed!

CN: What advice would you give the major U.S. teams to help them become more competitive at these major races?

BR: They should certainly race more in Europe. That's where it is happening. And then maybe there could be more UCI races here.

CN: What is Bobby Julich up to right now since he is not racing San Francisco?

BR: Julich is focusing on the time trial at the world championships. It's too bad about David [Zabriskie] because the U.S. could have had a good showing there with both. I might go help Bobby at the world championships.

With that, Bjarne had to head back to the autograph table and a line of fans snaking around the entire expo area.

Armstrong: will he, won't he?

Seven-time Tour winner doesn't quite rule out comeback

By Tim Maloney, European Editor

Although he officially retired on July 24, Lance Armstrong may still be considering a shot at an eighth straight Tour de France next summer. On Monday, Armstrong told the Austin American-Statesman's Suzanne Halliburton, "I'm thinking it's the best way to piss (the French) off." However, on Tuesday Lance's spokesman Mark Higgins told the AP that Armstrong was "100 percent retired," despite the usually cagey Discovery Channel directeur sportif Johan Bruyneel's comment that it was "not impossible" Armstrong would come out of retirement.

Then, late on Tuesday, a feisty, defiant Armstrong issued another statement, saying, "While I'm absolutely enjoying my time as a retired athlete with Sheryl and the kids, the recent smear campaign out of France has awoken my competitive side. I'm not willing to put a percentage on the chances but I will no longer rule it out..."

Discovery Channel team manager Dan Osipow was reported by AP as being caught off-guard by Armstrong's hints of a comeback, but said, "That to me sounds very Lance-like. It leaves things open and the motivation seems pretty clear. He is immensely proud of his reputation."

"Lance was pretty definitive when he announced his plans for retirement," Osipow said, "But circumstances change. Who knows? I leave that to him. We all know he planned on staying fit."

Osipow added that he expected Armstrong would be a favourite to win yet another tour, and the team would find a spot for him if necessary. "He owns part of the team," Osipow said. "If there's a certain rider from Texas who wants to join the team, we'll have space."

To be continued.

Zabel's new team to be presented at world's

Erik Zabel's new German-based professional team will be unveiled at the world championships in Madrid, according to the spokesman for one of its sponsors. Harald Schomacker of dairy company Nordmilch told radsport-news.com, "The contracts are almost finalised. We will show ourselves in the ProTour with Zabel as figurehead." The team will be based on the current Domina Vacanze team, with the addition of Alessandro Petacchi as Petacchi's current Fassa Bortolo team disbands at the end of this year.

News of the team's creation leaked during the Tour of Germany, after Erik Zabel had announced he was leaving T-Mobile. Zabel had been deeply upset by his exclusion from this year's Tour de France and the new outfit is believed to offer the 35-year-old a three-year contract with a guaranteed start in the Tour. "We wanted to go public a bit later," said Schomacker. "First everything should be wrapped up. Zabel's announcement at the end of July that he was going to join a new team came somewhat early. He was certainly under a bit of pressure." Schomacker added that more details of the new team would be announced in Madrid.

MTB world champ Absalon aims for 2006 World Cup

Julien Absalon (France)
Photo ©: Marek Lazarski
Click for larger image

For Olympic cross-country mountain bike champion Julien Absalon (Bianchi-Agos), his second consecutive world championship victory in Livigno on Sunday was no walkover. "At first, I tried to keep the strongest opponents under control," Absalon said, recounting his race in a team statement. "In the second lap, I did my best to stay in the front."

But then the Olympic champion hit difficulties. "I noticed my wheel looked a bit flat at the first filling-up point, but I didn't realise I had had a puncture. When I got to the big climb, the wheel was almost completely flat. I lost time: on that occasion I was 'helped' by [Christoph] Sauser's puncture. For a while, I was afraid I might lose, especially when I fell in the stream."

But the French rider held it together with the help of some pre-race reconnaissance. "Fortunately, I tested the route before the race and got used to the altitude," he said. That experience helped him stay away for the rest of the race, to take his second rainbow jersey.

Absalon now has his sights set on next year's World Cup title. "Last year I wanted to win the Olympic Games and I got also the World Championships. This year I was aiming at the World jersey and I got it. Next year I could fight for winning the World Cup."

Univest Cyclosportif ride to benefit local charities

The 8th Annual Univest Grand Prix will once again host a Cyclosportif recreational ride to benefit the Indian Creek Foundation for the developmentally disabled. For the second year, Tour de France veteran Jonathan Vaughters will lead recreational cyclists on a pre-race ride that travels the same route as the official Univest Grand Prix race course. Vaughters will be joined on the course this year by Brian Walton, Olympic Silver Medalist at the Atlanta Games in 1996 and current director of performance at Cadence Performance Cycling Centre in Philadelphia.

Leaving at 8:00am from the start/finish line on Main Street in Souderton, cycling enthusiasts can choose to ride either 40 or 60 miles of the course and experience the same challenges that await the Elite Men later that morning. Open to the public, registration is available online at www.univestgrandprix.com, or on race day beginning at 6:00am in Univest Plaza.

Riders finishing within the five-hour time limit will be eligible for thousands of dollars in prizes including a custom fit Bianchi FG Lite bike frame. "Like the race itself, the Cyclosportif is one of the great European cycling traditions the Univest Grand Prix brings to the United States," said race director John Eustice, "Modelled after famous public cycling events like L'Etape du Tour and geared toward getting more people on bikes, the Univest Cyclosportif is the first event of its kind in the Unites States."

The Cyclosportif is the centrepiece of a day of community events, including children's sprints and games, a volunteer fair and more. Children's races will be held on Main Street from 12:30-1:00pm. Registration will begin at 11:30am near the start/finish line and will be open until 12:30pm.

For more information see: www.univestgrandprix.com

Young rider programmes at Forest City Velodrome

After a busy summer season of racing at the Forest City Velodrome in London, ON, winter and autumn racing will commence in the coming weeks, with the start of the Saturday Noon hour programmes (beginning this Saturday, Sep 10) for young riders. This aims to give them even more track experience before their racing debut in the London Track League Velo-kids series this Saturday night.

All riders must have been through the Track Skills clinic (see www.ForestCityVelodrome.ca for details) to participate. To register, email Rob Good (rob.good@ypg.com). The velodrome is also aiming to expand the Recreational and Grand Master sessions in mid September, to further broaden the opportunities for track cyclists in the area to race

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