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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest Cycling News for September 20, 2005

Edited by Jeff Jones, assisted by Sabine Sunderland and Susan Westemeyer

Mario Aerts: "Petacchi will never get his train organised"

Petacchi wins in Madrid
Photo ©: Unipublic
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"I'll hold my breath if it rains in the Spanish capital," Mario Aerts (Davitamon-Lotto) told the Belgian VUM newspapers. "You'll get a guaranteed spectacle. Not only I predict a super-slippery road surface, but there's so many pits and cracks in the streets. On top of that you get metal covers of the metrostations, two to three metres long, which will be dangerous when it's wet. I absolutely don't think this is a great parcours. This is a very hectic circuit: incredible number of bends and not one metre of flat. Because of all the turning it will be a very hard race and we'll get crashes as it is. It will be a very nervous race. To be in the front the whole day, that will be the task.

I haven't even mentioned the U-turn 600 metres before the line. It will be a most awkward sprint because with 500 metres to go everyone will sort of have to take off from zero. Petacchi will never get his sprint train organised there. It's impossible for the Italian to be launched in front of the corner at a speed of 65km/h. Madrid is a typical city-parcours.

"If they want to name that last turn, they don't have to look for long. Just call it the McEwen-turn," Jose De Cauwer told Het Nieuwsblad. The Belgian National Coach has been scouting the parcours thoroughly and he didn't like what he saw. "I'm already getting the chills thinking about that blasted U-turn. A kamikaze can cause a lot of misery there.

"The graphics in the official program are pretty much correct. Only that one turn I hadn't calculated to be like that," De Cauwer continued his analysis. "You can count on it that riders will come flying down there and that one will attack in the last kilometres...well, that will be a fearful moment...and a very slow sprint in any case. In the last stage of the Vuelta Zabel came only one and a half lengths short against Petacchi, where normally it is about three. And that after a ride of only 150km. This turn, which means almost a full stop and then exploding on a slightly uphill line; that's something for strong guys. McEwen can do that, but so can Boonen. I'm sure of that. I haven't gotten pessimistic about it."

But will it end up in a sprint? "The parcours will do its job," De Cauwer added. "Not that I want to exaggerate those two climbs. On the promotional video of the UCI, I saw Abraham Olano, ten kilos heavier, cruise up there on the big chainring. And in the mean time he was explaining everything. So it's not that hard. Zolder? There we saw one big train, from start to finish. An average way above 46, that I don't see happening here in Madrid. For that, this parcours is simply too hard.

"A lot of riders will last a long time and even believe that there is a chance for them. Last year in Verona the lesser climbers understood very quickly that they didn't have to act too crazy. Here, the temptation of playing an active role in a break will be a lot bigger. Till the finale, when the big boys will give it a good shake, then a lot of heads will roll easily."

Stijn Devolder: "Pure elimination"

"This is a circuit on which you'd better be alert all the time. The selection will be made via the back door on Sunday," Stijn Devolder told the Belgian press. "Those who are in the opinion that Madrid is a flat parcours will find they're wrong. This is a lot harder than expected. Last Sunday, in the closing stage of the Vuelta, we only did one of the two hills. The bump in the park is not a super-hard climb but it is good one and a half kilometres ling. In case we get a real race on this parcours, you'll surely get a serious selection. Vicioso tried it on Sunday on that, Ghesa de la Vila, on which I'll be expecting Bettini too. We won't finish with a group of sixty together. Riding towards that last turn of 180 degrees, first you have a light descent and then slightly uphill. From that U-turn onwards it will be every sprinter to himself, with still more than 500 metres to go."

Boonen rides kermis in preparation for the World Championships

Tom Boonen is not too shy to show off now and again. In Viane, close to McEwen's 'home-town' of Geraardsbergen, he was the one to get all the attention. A big star sprinter, racing laps around the church, is not a sight people get to see every day. Cycling fans stood in admiration because the Belgian QuickStep rider descended to their little town to compete in a simple kermis; but here and there, questions were raised. Wasn't he taking a lot of risks with only very few days to go to the World Championships? A bit silly maybe?

"Rather race here than train by myself" Tornado Tom laughed the public's worries away. "I was faced with a dilemma," he told HNB. "It was racing or training. Since I didn't find any candidates to go out for a long haul with me, the choice was made quickly. Today, I'll have 250km in the legs. I trained 40km this morning, raced 170 and will train another 40km after. I call this a fruitful day. It is just a matter of maintaining form right now; but it's hard to do training on your own! I can't motivate myself easily at this time of the year to race up, let's say about ten hills in training. The World Championships day is not too far off now; for that one day, I'll still be able to charge up, sure enough."

Boonen remains calm with only few days to go before his last big race of the season. "Next Thursday I'm flying out to Madrid. I'll still have enough time to scout the parcours. I've heard all sorts of stories about it. We'll see. My point of view remains unchanged: it will be all or nothing that day, a true lottery.

"I feel good. I must admit that after the Tour, I was on the edge now and then, but now I'm sharp again. I'm ready, only just in time. I raced at the front constantly today, even pulled hard a few times; I really emptied myself. I'm pretty groggy right now, but that's OK. Why I didn't keep quiet? That was my idea before the race, but I can never do that in a kermis (laughs). I didn't sprint though. I don't want to take any risks. I haven't been taking any for a while now."

Arndt questionable for World's

Defending Champion Judith Arndt of Germany is questionable for the women's road race this week in the World Championships. The 29-year-old is still suffering from a lingering viral infection which caused her to skip the World Cup race in Nürnberg and the Giro della Toscana. The decision as to whether she will ride will be made shortly before the race.

The official T-Mobile restructuring plan

The T-Mobile Team has officially announced its restructuring plan for next season. With Olaf Ludwig at the helm, the German team is aiming at meeting the increased pressure of the ProTour series with a stronger line up, both in terms of riders and staff.

Sports director Mario Kummer will have a broader scope of duties next season. The 43-year-old 1988 Olympic gold medallist will in future act as sports and technical director, charged with developing and deciding team strategy and logistics, together with Ludwig. "Mario has proven over the years how important he is to the team," said Olaf Ludwig about his experienced partner. "Now he is ready to assume more responsibility."

For Kummer, the role represents a "new challenge". Jointly taking care of the interests of the entire team, is a "tough but extremely attractive task, that I am greatly looking forward tom," he said. "Being trusted with planning and implementation, is a complex responsibility, but one which also offers me more scope."

Ludwig added, "We have already pushed out our boundaries, and now it is not just about defending them, but expanding them. Today, we have to have the right structures in place to respond in the most professional way to the challenges of elite pro cycling. In Mario, I have a partner, who has the right qualities and in whom I have 100 percent trust."

Olaf Ludwig, as director of the Olaf Ludwig Cycling GmbH (OLC) management company will handle team affairs, and along with his representative role, will deal with all contractual matters. Hans Hindelang, a long time associate and former manager of Ludwig, will take care of finances. Mario Kummer will handle logistics and strategy, with Greet Verhulst acting as his assistant.

It's now been officially confirmed that the existing team of sporting directors, Giovanni Fidanza, Brian Holm, Frans van Looy and Valerio Piva, will be strengthened by the addition of Rudy Pevenage. The Belgian, until now exclusively an advisor to Jan Ullrich, will, in association with Ludwig, direct and assume responsibility for the 2006 Tour team's preparations. The roles of the other sporting directors have also been more clearly defined: Valerio Piva will primarily focus on the Spring Classics, where he will be supported by Holm, van Looy and Fidanza. The latter trio will themselves also direct team affairs at various races. Kummer/Ludwig will collaborate closely with the sporting directors on all issues.

The nucleus of the T-Mobile roster for the 2006 Tour de France (July 1 to 23) will be nominated by the end of this year already (Pevenage has already named a Tour team to Bild). "The team will train together, race together and jointly test new equipment," said Ludwig. "On top of that, we will have to put ourselves and our workflows constantly to the test." Only in this way "can we foster the right team spirit and avoid allowing errors to creep in."

Rolf Aldag, who retires as an active rider at the end of this season, will play a consulting role.

Classics specialists Andreas Klier, Steffen Wesemann, Matthias Kessler and Sergey Ivanov will also play a more prominent role in the coming season. They will be expected to get the T-Mobile Team off to winning start in the Spring Classics, and set the tone for the rest of the season.

As captain, Jan Ullrich will also take on a more responsible role, as the focus of the Tour team. The 1997 Tour winner will continue to have his say and offer his input into the on-going season planning. For that reason, he has withdrawn from the Züri Metzgete race (October 2). Lately, with such a busy calendar of discussions and meetings, Ullrich hasn't been able to dedicate himself fully to preparing for what was to be the final race in his season programme. On top of that, "it is important, to properly regenerate, in order to fully set about realising the new goals," said Ullrich.

In November of this year, the whole team will gather for a team-building session in the Austrian Alps, rather than a traditional team get-together. Additionally, the riders, support staff and management will meet in the Austrian capital Vienna. Following private training trips, the riders will regroup for the team training camp at the Club Robinson in Mallorca (January).

Ullrich planning for 2006 TdF

T-Mobile's Jan Ullrich is already laying his plans for winning the Tour de France 2006 - everything from a new Director Sportif to a new diet. In an interview with www.sport1.de, Ullrich says he sees Basso, Vinokourov and Heras as his greatest rivals for the coveted Tour victory. "It's a lot more open without Armstrong. I really have to be careful that I have everything in hand. Basso is always getting better, Heras has to bring his Vuelta performance to the Tour, and Vino has already announced his intentions."

Ullrich's personal advisor Rudy Pevenage is expected to become a Director Sportif with the team. "But Pevenage will only lead the team in stage races in which Jan is riding. No other races," says Ullrich's manager Wolfgang Strohband.

Ullrich also announced his intention to make changes in his personal life, cutting back on the disco visits and the glasses of wine. "Every day I have so many people around me - I don't need that. Plus I'm getting older and I notice that in many ways." He also hopes to conquer two of his recurring problems, overweight and frequent infections, through a diet and nutritional plan. He will be working with the Reha-Zentrum Medical Park in Bad Wiessee, Germany, which will also supervise his "active regeneration".

New Petacchi-Zabel team to be presented Friday

The new German-Italian Pro Tour team is to be presented on Friday in Madrid. The press conference was announced by the Nordmilch-Konzern, which will be the naming rights sponsor of the team with its yoghurt brand "Milraam". The Italian faction will be led by Alessandro Petacchi, along with Marco Velo and Fabio Sacchi. Erik Zabel and Jan Schaffrath are the first German riders to be announced.

The new team is to be based on the current Domina Vacanze team. It will be managed by Gian-Luigi Stanga, of Domina, and Jörg Strenger, currently manager of the German Professional Tour Team Wiesenhof, which will end as of this season.

Buitenpoort and Flexpoint continue together

The women's Buitenpoort-Flexpoint team will continue next season, the team announced. The main sponsors, Buitenpoort Catering and Flexpoint have extended their contract with Jean-Paul van Poppel's successful women's squad. Currently, Mirjam Melchers-van Poppel, Madeleine Sandig, Louise Keller, Suzanne van Veen and Loes Gunnewijk have contracts for next season, while Susanne Ljungskog, Amber Neben, Tanja Hennes and Linda Serup have all expressed a desire to remain.

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