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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for September 8, 2005

Edited by Anthony Tan

Tour de Pologne preview

Final test before the World's or crucial race within ProTour?

By Daniel Marszalek

2004 Tour de Pologne winner Ondrej Sosenka
Photo ©: Christine Krueger
Click for larger image

In 1992 Tour de Pologne (originally called Wyscig Dookola Polski) was a moderate race of just regional importance organised for amateurs. Thirteen years later it's a fully professional event with the twenty best trade teams in the world obliged to compete in it.

Since Czeslaw Lang (first professional cyclist from Poland, member of several Italian teams: Gis Gelati, Carrera, Del Tongo and Malvor, between 1982-1989) took charge of this race, it has slowly progressed from an open race (between 1993-1995) via a professional event of fifth (1996-97), fourth (1998-99), third (2000-01) and second (since 2002) category status, before making great jump to the highest level this season when it become part of the ProTour. Such advance ranks the TdP among the ten most important week-long stage races on the international calendar.

The promotion can already be seen in the quality of the field that will compete in the 62nd edition of the Tour de Pologne. Four of the top ten men from the individual ProTour rankings will be present with competition leader Italian Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas), no. 4 Kazakh Alexandre Vinokourov (T-Mobile), no. 6 American Bobby Julich (Team CSC) and no. 8 Italian Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner). Interestingly, in the concurrently run Vuelta a España, only the last two riders from this elite top-10 list are riding. With at least 50 points at stake and "just" 48 points difference between Di Luca and Vinokourov, the TdP - and the last stage race on the ProTour calendar - might be a very important race for the final standings of this competition.

The 2005 TdP will start on Monday, September 12 in Gdansk at the Baltic Sea coast and will finish on Sunday, September 18, where it has concluded ever since 1999, in Karpacz, a ski-resort in Karkonosze mountains. Gdansk will host TdP Grand Départ on Dlugi Targ street, famous for its magnificent renaissance architecture, for the fifth consecutive time; this time, though, it will happen almost exactly 25 years after creation of the 'Solidarity' freedom movement in the very same city. The parcours, which was presented on March 15 in Warsaw's Sofitel Victoria hotel, keeps with the TdP's modern tradition: a north-south direction, about 1200 kilometres long (1246,5 to be exact - 18 less than in 2004), and divided into eight stages scheduled over seven days.

Click here to read the rest of the preview.

Dionne signs for Saunier Duval

By Anthony Tan

Charles Dionne (Webcor)
Photo ©: Joe Gross
Click for larger image

Try, try again is Charles Dionne's most likely calling card. Ten minutes before the start of the Barclay's Global Investors Grand Prix (San Francisco Grand Prix) last Sunday, the 26 year-old Canadian finally signed the dotted line to join ProTour team Saunier Duval-Prodir on a two-year contract.

"I am extremely happy with this agreement with Spanish professional team Saunier Duval-Prodir. It is an excellent team that participates in the Tour of France," said Dionne in a statement from his management, the last three words no doubt alluding to what his future ambitions might be.

Around this time last year, Dionne came awfully close to signing with Saunier Duval, but for one reason or another, the contract fell through at the eleventh hour. Down but not out, Dionne went looking again, with French team Ag2r Prévoyance promising him a ride if they made the ProTour; history now tells us that Vincent Lavenu's team was one of the last to be left off the final 20-team roster.

Rejoining Webcor for another season in 2005 wasn't a problem for Dionne; however, the two-time winner of the San Fran GP (2002, 2004) kept up the correspondence with the two teams throughout the season, sending emails, faxes and making telephone calls until Saunier Duval came back with a 'yes'. "I have a two-year contract which can be broken after the first year. Therefore, it will be necessary that I ride well and that I fulfill my role within the team. But I am ready to play any part," he told Radio-Canada on Tuesday.

The onus on the Canadian to prove himself in his first year looks to be a safeguard against another 'Tim Johnson situation' that the team experienced in 2003, where the American regularly found himself out of his depth. Chris Horner's solid performances this year, most notably his stage win and fifth overall at the Tour de Suisse, appears to have provided management with enough confidence to sign another talented North American, although Horner is leaving for Davitamon-Lotto. But like Horner, Dionne will face similar cultural barriers at Saunier Duval (Spanish being the 'team language'), along with the longer distances and a different style of racing associated with competing in Europe - beginning with a earlier than usual start to the season.

"Normally, in January, I hardly begin my preparation. But the team has a ten-day [training] camp in January, riding five to six hours per day in the mountains, so I will have to be more ready than previous years," said Dionne, although cautioning that "it will be especially necessary that I pay attention not to give 110 percent, only 100 percent, to not burn msyelf [out]. I will have to pay attention in managing my periods of rest well."

Where he will base himself is still unknown, but with a large contingent of North Americans in the southern Spanish town of Girona, one of Saunier Duval's two European bases (the other being Bergamo in Italy), it's likely Dionne will choose the former. As for his race schedule, that's also undecided, but Dionne's made it obvious where he wants to be next July.

"My main goal is to compete in the Tour de France. I will start the 2006 season competing in the important races of the ProTour circuit and I will work very hard to be on the final selection for the team for the 2006 Tour de France. There will be 28 [riders] on the team and nine are selected, so I know I have to earn my place. But I have the foot in the door now - it is up to me to prove what I can do," he said.

Along with Michael Barry and Ryder Hesjedal (both Discovery Channel), Dionne will be the third Canadian rider in the UCI ProTour.

Armstrong to rejoin team in December

Bruyneel: "He has another Tour in his legs yet"

Fuelling speculation on the 'will he or won't he?' scenario is confirmation that Lance Armstrong will rejoin his team-mates in a little over two months' time for the first of Discovery Channel's team training camps in Austin, Texas.

"Lance has obviously been there every year. Whether this occurred or not, he was most likely going to ride with our team anyway at that camp," team manager Dan Osipow told Reuters yesterday. "Perhaps now he may ride with a bit more vigour and take it a little differently than perhaps a retired athlete would."

"I think he's been very offended," added team manager Johan Bruyneel to the Associated Press on the L'Equipe allegations. "If you know him he doesn't need a lot to find some motivation. I think it woke up the competitive side of him."

If past experience is anything to go by, it's hard to see Armstrong riding around his hometown 'like a retired athlete', complaining of the heat, asking his team-mates to slow down on a training ride in front of his sponsors, or worse still, being dropped. Recent allegations questioning his merit in winning the 1999 Tour de France will have no doubt spurred the immensely proud Texan to train even harder, and if he comes out of the camp rejuvenated and remotivated, who knows?

"Does he take the camp the way he has the last handful of years or is he there just to stay fit and healthy?" asked Osipow. "Obviously it depends on where we are in December... how he takes the camp."

Added Bruyneel: "I'm sure he could win [another Tour]. "The way he won this year... everything pretty much under control and he never showed any weakness. He has another Tour in his legs yet."

Davitamon-Lotto to Poland

Davitamon Lotto has selected the following eight riders for the next ProTour race beginning Monday September 12 and finishing September 18, the Tour de Pologne.

Riders: Serge Baguet, Wim De Vocht, Cadel Evans, Bjorn Leukemans, Fred Rodriguez, Bert Roesems, Wim van Huffel, Johan van Summeren Directeur-sportif: Allan Peiper

Ladies in the spotlight at TQ Two-Day

By Tommy Campbell

The TQ International Ladies 2-Day, based in Balbriggan, Co. Dublin, will be the centrepiece of cycling in Ireland this weekend, along with the Junior road race cycling championship in Ballinrobe on Sunday. Also fitting comfortably in to the fixture list on Sunday is the Klondyke Cup.

Spokesman for the TQ Paper Ladies 2-Day Paddy Fitzsimons said: "Fortunately, we have our A-Team in place for the event. It is equally important that all the nuts and bolts are in place. The event has funding from the Irish Sports Council, along with the sponsors TQ Papers. Both look on this race as a catalyst for future races of this standing."

The 2-Day has attracted a very strong overseas presence, however, last year's winner, Louise Moriarty, is said to be very much up for defending her title. Racing gets under way on Saturday, from the Ring Sports Centre in Balbriggan at 11:00am. In the afternoon, there is the time trial, which inevitably shakes up the leaderboard. On Sunday, the TQ finishes up with a 45-mile road race.

Originally, the Junior Championships were down for July, but they were changed to suit a number of individuals who were involved with track racing in Italy. Hopefully, Western Lakes, promoters of the event, will be rewarded with a healthy turnout. It's tipped that Maurice O'Brien of the Kanturk Credit Union CC will take back-to-back championships and put himself in the record books. Hopefully, Ciaran Kelly will be home from his base in Belgium, where he has excelled this year. Sign-on will be held at the cycling centre on the Kilmaine road in Ballinrobe from 10:30-11:30am, with the race start at 12noon.

The Klondyke Cup will also go ahead on Sunday with all the categories being catered for. The scheduled start is 2:00pm in Robinstown.

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