Latest Cycling News for August 24, 2006
Edited by Hedwig Kröner, with assistance from Susan Westemeyer
Rasmussen motivated for Vuelta
Most of the expectations for this season have been met by Michael Rasmussen during this year’s Tour de France, where he scored a stage victory in La Toussuire as well as the polkadot jersey of the mountains classification. Yet he is motivated to do well in the Vuelta a España starting August 26, too. "I believe that I can find some of the form from the Tour," he told Danish feltet.dk. "I made it quite OK through the Tour and I am not as tired as last year. I would say that I am motivated and looking forward to the task. Of course I am not as motivated as before the Tour, which was the top priority of the season, but I hope that I can get into the race in a good way, and then we will have to see how far it goes."
The lean climber nevertheless expects to suffer in the last week of the race. "During the last week of the Vuelta I will probably have to pay for what I did in July, but I will start out hard," he continued. "During the first week there are three stages that finish uphill, and in fact that is the time where the classification will be set, so, who knows what it will look like after that," he speculated.
The Dutch Rabobank team lines up with a strong line of riders, including last year’s winner Denis Menchov. Yet Rasmussen expects to be given the freedom to seek his own chance during the Spanish stage race. "I believe that we are given free reins," he explained. "Both of us more or less met the expectations for the Tour, and everything that comes after that is just a bonus. We also have Freire, and he will be motivated - after all we are approaching WC-time. I definitely think we can expect something from him during the Vuelta. He has Horrillo to back him up, and hopefully he will ride fast too. And then we have to get Ardila back on track, and we hope that he will do better that during the Giro. So, at least we have a few cards to play."
After the Vuelta, the last major highlight of the season are the World Championships for Rasmussen, who decided unlike last year not to cancel his attendance, at least not for the time being. "I will not cancel my participation in advance," he declared. "But first of all we will have to see a preliminary squad. Once that has been appointed I will have a closer look at my possibilities. Nothing is certain in advance. I have not spoken to anyone from the DCU (Danish Cycling Union), and they haven’t contacted me."
However, Rasmussen feels that his effort during the Vuelta will decide the outcome of his participation in the World Championships. "If I am not on top during the final week of the Vuelta, I might say ‘no thanks’, but as a starting point I am interested in riding," he added.
On a personal level, the Rabobank rider is currently busy with moving into a new house together with his wife and baby. "I am quite busy, because I am in the middle of a move to our new house, and at the same time I am tired after the Tour," he concluded. "So, time is spent between training and packing things in boxes. We are living in between houses at the moment. It is difficult to ride 150 km each day and manage to move in a single day as well. It doesn’t go that fast."
Jury decided over victory
In the aftermath of Wednesday's final stage of the Eneco Tour of Benelux, which determined the overall winner in a particular way, Stefan Schumacher and George Hincapie have maintained their versions of what had happened. The Gerolsteiner rider insisted that he had not swerved during the sprint on purpose, but was forced to deviate because of a spectator, while the angry Discovery rider blamed the race jury for not taking the right decision.
"I was in Schumacher's wheel to get second," Hincapie told Belgian media. "I can't believe I'm not winning the race. Stefan told me that he didn't want to win this way. They (Gerolsteiner) should have told that to the jury. It's not right."
Schumacher, who took four tiny bonus seconds in the sprint and therefore the overall classification by just one second, insisted he was not at fault that Hincapie crashed. "I couldn't do anything about it!," he said. "If I hadn't deviated to the right, I would have gone down. With 200 metres to go, I started my sprint on the left side of the road, then I was hit by a spectator. I lost my balance completely and couldn't sprint through, that's why Manuele Mori passed me. After the finish line, I didn't think of the overall victory - all I could think of was not to crash."
Discovery Channel's directeur sportif Dirk Demol said it would have been the responsibility of the jury to attribute victory differently - not only because of Hincapie's crash, but also because of events that occurred one week ago. "George was robbed twice this week," the Belgian insisted when speaking to the Telegraaf. "On the TV images of the prologue you can clearly see that Schumacher started at least one second too soon. If it hadn't been for that second, George would surely have won. Member of the jury Martin Bruin confirmed this to Hincapie last Sunday during the doping control. This one second is now very precious... In this case, the jury should have called all the concerned parties together to decide what to do. We will complain to the UCI about this."
Jury president Bruno Valcic did not agree. "Then they should have sent out a complaint at that time," the Croatian said. "And not one week later. We can't change anything about the prologue now. But I can assure you that nobody started too early."
The final winner, Stefan Schumacher, meanwhile understood Discovery Channel's anger. "It's not pleasant to win this way," he said. "I understand that it must be more painful for Hincapie." Yet on the arguments forwarded by Demol, he added, "Let's remain serious. That was one week ago. It's ridiculous to go on about that now."
Still no Ullrich hearing in Switzerland
"Probably nothing will happen before September," said Lorenz Schläfli, head of the Swiss cycling union, in answer to the question as to when Jan Ullrich will be heard in front of its disciplinary commission. "We have turned to the UCI and they will provide us with certified documents from the Guardia Civil," he told Radsport-aktiv.de.
Ullrich's manager Wolfgang Strohband is taking things easy at the moment. "As long as there are no certified copies, we won't worry about it. We don't have them either," he said. Strohband nevertheless reported that Ullrich continues to train in the hopes of racing again immediately after having charges dismissed. "We are already in contact with other teams," he stated.
Merida team demands to see Operacion Puerto files
After mountain biker José Hermida has been ordered back from the world championships in New Zealand by his national federation prematurely, his team Multivan-Merida demands a comprehensive look into the Operacion Puerto files that allegedly relate to the rider. "So far, neither sufficient reasons nor any proof has been given for José Hermida’s suspension," the team management said in a statement. "Neither the team nor the UCI have received any informations on this matter. For this reason, legal measures have been taken to ensure a look in the files."
José Hermida himself "has demanded this look from the start and moreover has been asked by his team’s management emphatically to do his utmost to participate actively in the clearing up of this matter." Moreover, the team stated that it does not see the need to take any action against Hermida at this point. "As long as the Multivan Merida Biking Team has no additional informations on José Hermida’s suspension at hand, the team sees no need to act at the moment. Still, the team’s management stresses its zero-tolerance strategy regarding doping offences," the statement concluded.
Cyclingnews' recent coverage of 'Operación Puerto'
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Knaven to T-Mobile
Quickstep rider Servais Knaven has announced that he has signed a two-year deal with German T-Mobile for next season. "Sometime ago Rolf Aldag [who will be a new directeur sportif at T-Mobile - ed.] contacted me," the 35 year-old Dutchman told AD. "I know him well from the years at TVM, when he came with us to winter training camps. He knows what my capabilities are, and how much I can work for a team. Yet the financial situation wasn't clear, but when I heard that Tristan Hoffman from CSC is also moving to T-Mobile [as directeur sportif - ed.], I had real hope. This week, we agreed. They sent me a confirmation fax. I'm really happy. Even if it is a new team to me, it already feels familiar."
The main reason for Knaven to leave Quickstep was that he felt he could still be competitive in the spring classics, but that the team understandably focused on World Champion Tom Boonen. "I let the management know that I negotiated with two other teams," he continued. "I hadn't been nominated to participate in the Ronde van Vlaanderen in the spring, and I felt personally attacked by that. I was suddenly too old, and missed explosiveness, but to me the situation was different. At Quickstep, you are up against a towering favourite especially for the Flemish classics. Everybody focuses on Tom Boonen - that is logical, but it is also the reason why others slowly move out of the picture."
Knaven then spoke to team manager Lefévère about it. "I had the impression that he really valued our conversation. In this way, our cooperation of six years ends in a worthy manner."
T-Mobile, meanwhile, has not yet commented or confirmed the announcement.
Wrolich ready and waiting
Peter Wrolich can hardly wait - in about 26 days, the World Championships open in his homeland of Austria, and he is more than ready. "In the last 14 days I have trained well and frequently, most of the time with Bernhard Eisel," he said. "The excitement is slowly growing, the countdown for the World's is running now for all of us."
The Gerolsteiner rider took a break from racing after the Tour de France. Training has brought him back to top form, and he is now looking at the following schedule to bring him up to the World's: "Next Sunday I'll ride the GP Ouest Plouay, where I was fifth last year. This year the route has been changed a little, but I still hope for a good result. After France, I will probably ride just one more race before the World's: either the Tour of Poland (September 4-10) or Rund um die Nürnberger Altstadt on September 10. The decision will be made the middle of next week, but I am tending more toward to Nürnberg."
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2006)