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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest Cycling News for May 3, 2006

Edited by Jeff Jones & Les Clarke

Bruyneel: The race will be on CSC's shoulders

Paolo Savoldelli (Discovery)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Discovery Channel manager Johan Bruyneel believes that the pressure will be on CSC's shoulders during the Giro d'Italia and isn't too impressed with the state of play for stage 17 up the Plan de Corones.

In an interview on, Bruyneel said, "I think Basso is the big favourite, at least that's what his director, Riis, from day one the race will be on Basso and CSC's shoulders, and we'll see where it goes from there."

The Belgian DS won't be directing the troops for the first grand tour of 2006, and said defending champion Paolo Savoldelli is feeling good for the race - but was quick to play down his chances of overall victory. "While Paolo Savoldelli is not a specialist climber he is a very complete rider. He is also very strong in stage races and of course he has his chances. He may not have as big a chance as say Basso, Cunego, or Simoni as they are all specialist climbers, but he did well in the mountains last year - he rode his pace and did not panic - and then did very well in the time trials," he said.

In terms of the parcours, Bruyneel isn't too happy with organisers' attempts at igniting even more interest in the race. "This course is really very, very hard and you have to ask yourself - why?" he said. "The interest in the Giro was higher than ever last year; it's always an intense race right up to the second-to-last stage.

"So as a director I would prefer it to be less hard - I think the makers of this course have lost their minds a bit," he continued. "Paolo and Tom went and previewed a lot of the course recently, including Stage 17 - there's no road at the end: it's 5.5 km up a ski slope!" exclaimed Bruyneel.

"We'll be using 34x28/29 gearing - that's not cycling. We have struggled more with making sure we have the right components and equipment than at any other race in our team's history; even at the Tour de France we know that as long as you have a 39x25 you're good, but this race..."

Ullrich looking to final week

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

T-Mobile's Jan Ullrich will line up in the Giro d'Italia with dossard 219 - the last number in the field. But after successfully finishing his first race of the season in Romandie last Sunday, Ullrich is not too concerned with superstition.

"The knee has held up well, and I could feel that I was making small improvements," said Ullrich, who called finishing the Tour de Romandie "a small victory for myself."

Ullrich is now looking forward to the Giro for some more racing kilometres. It's a tour that "only starts to get really hard in the latter stages of the three weeks," according to Der Kaiser.

Ullrich's long time mentor and T-Mobile directeur sportif Rudy Pevenage believes, "The last week is really tough. There is no let-up on the program." And, it's a "further important step" on the way to Ullrich's optimal Tour form.

Pevenage has nominated two riders from T-Mobile's core Tour squad to join Ullrich at the Giro: world time trial champ Michael Rogers, and 2004 Giro runner-up Serguei Gonchar. Rounding out the nine rider roster on the 3.526 km route are the Australian Scott Davis, Czech neo-pro Frantisek Rabon, Jörg Ludewig, Matthias Kessler and the sprint duo of Olaf Pollack and André Korff.

What's in a number?

Besides Ullrich's number 219, defending champion Paolo Savoldelli will begin his Giro campaign with the number 1 dossard. And for the record, 2004 champion Damiano Cunego will start with number 111, while red-hot favourite Ivan Basso will wear the innocuous number 191.

Perez: “The Giro will be won in the Dolomites”

Caisse D’Epargne-Illes Balears' leader in the Giro, Francisco Perez, believes that José Ivan Gutiérrez will be the man to watch from the Spanish outfit during the three weeks around Belgium and Italy. Perez is happy with the team's lineup for the loop of Italy, and is confident that Gutiérrez's ability in the mountains and against the clock will see him perform well overall during the three weeks.

"Although I will be the leader, I think that José Iván Gutiérrez will be the main reference for us, because he has improved obviously in the mountain stages, and we cannot forget that he is great specialist race against the clock," said Perez, before he pointed out that the well-rounded nature of the team means it should perform well as a unit. "In [Marco] Fertonani we also have a solid performer in the mountains, apart from one of our younger riders, José Luis Carrasco. I know Vladimir Efimkin very well because he won the Tour of Portugal last year. Joan Horrach is very consistent, and I hope that he will finish well positioned in the general [classification]," he said.

Perez was quick to point out that this edition of the Giro will be particularly difficult, especially with the Dolomites to climb during the last week. "This Giro is especially hard, mainly because the Dolomites are during the last week, with the Pordone, San Pellegrino, Aprica...where the Giro must be decided," he said. "People like Rujano, Garate, Parra, Pérez Cuapio, Simoni have real possibilities of winning. The profile of the Alpine stages don't really suit me, and I think [a high place on] the general will be difficult for me - in this case, I prefer to obtain a stage win," he added.

As for his own form, Perez said he's pleased with how he feels going into the year's first grand tour. "At the end of February I won the Clásica de Almeria, which really signaled the beginning of my season," he said. "Since then I have been polishing the form until the Vuelta a Castilla y León, in which I finished eighth. The results of recent training are optimistic, but in my region we don't have mountains like the Alps, and that makes you start with some difficulties in this sense," he explained.

Courtesy of Antonio Salmerón Ato

Sprinters in action in the Four Days of Dunkirk

Pierrick Fedrigo (Bouygues Telecom)
Photo ©: AFP
Click for larger image

Although overshadowed by the Giro d'Italia, the 52nd Four Days of Dunkirk (rated 2.HC on the European tour) has attracted a strong field. Definitely not a climbers' race, the Four Days is actually five long road stages, and there is no time trial this year. Last year's winner was Pierrick Fedrigo (Bouygues Telecom), and the Frenchman will line up again with the support of Laurent Brochard, Didier Rous and Anthony Geslin, among others. But there are plenty of challengers.

Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole) has been in solid form early this season, winning Gent-Wevelgem and beating Alessandro Petacchi on more than one occasion. CSC has its classics squad with Stuart O'Grady coming back after an early season crash, as are Lars Bak and Brian Vandborg. Other riders in with a chance of a good showing are Jimmy Casper and Brad Wiggins (Cofidis), Frédéric Guesdon (Française des Jeux), Fred Rodriguez and Gert Steegmans (Davitamon-Lotto), Isaac Galvez (Caisse D'epargne), Niko Eeckhout (Chocolade Jacques), Steven De Jongh (Quick.Step), Jeremy Hunt ( and Gerald Ciolek (Wiesenhof).

The race takes place in the Nord-Pas de Calais region in France, and is mostly suited to the sprinters. However, the penultimate stage from Noeux-les-Mines to Parc départemental d'Olhain features several laps of a hilly finishing circuit.

The stages

Stage 1 - May 3: Dunkerque - Gravelines, 161,9 km
Stage 2 - May 4: Arques - Le Cateau-Cambrésis, 204,7 km
Stage 3 - May 5: Fontaine-au-Pire - Hénin-Beaumont, 181,1 km
Stage 4 - May 6: Noeux-les-Mines - Parc départemental d'Olhain, 190,2 km Stage 5 - May 7: Seclin - Dunkerque, 163,7 km


Bouygues Telecom, Crédit Agricole, CSC, AG2R, Française des Jeux, Cofidis, Davitamon, Caisse d'Epargne/Illes Balears, Quick.Step, Milram, Agritubel,, Tenax-Salmilano, Landbouwkrediet-Colnago, Skil-Shimano, Chocolade Jacques, Naturino-Sapore di Mare, Wiesenhof-Akud, Acqua e Sapone, Health Net, Selle Italia, Auber 93, Bretagne Jean Floc'h.

New Zealand cycling under siege

By Cyclingnews staff

An inquiry released on May 1 into an alcohol-fuelled incident during the recent Commonwealth Games in Melbourne has found two New Zealand cyclists guilty of both breaching their contract with overall umbrella body Bike New Zealand, Cycling New Zealand, and the Athlete's Disciplinary Code.

Cycling New Zealand's judicial panel told Marc Ryan and Tim Gudsell to receive counselling within three months or face further sanctions. The duo have not been ruled out for national team selection, prompting outbursts from Liz Williams, who was also involved in the incident, and her mother Patricia.

Liz Williams told talkback Radio Live, "We want to put a stop to this behaviour so any girl coming through now can go away with that team and have no problems at all." Patricia Williams told New Zealand's Radio Sport, "It's a very destructive culture, and very unsafe for all the girls who go away with the NZ cycling team."

However, exactly what the 'incident' was and how deep such a 'destructive culture' reaches is still to be revealed, and is the cause of much debate amongst New Zealand's cyclists and press.

On March 23 Melbourne's Herald Sun reported an incident that took place between 3 and 5am on March 20 involving three members of the New Zealand cycling team. The paper reported a female team member had made a complaint that two males had tried to strip her and urinate on her at the Games' village following a night of drinking after the last night of Commonwealth track cycling competition.

The two males, later confirmed to be Gudsell and Ryan, had already left the Games village in accordance with prior travel arrangements, and the police had not been involved.

Dave Currie, New Zealand's Chef de Mission, said at the time that, "there hasn't been an incident." The next day however, Currie said, "I want to confirm there was an incident that happened a couple of days ago involving three members of our cycle team arriving home in the village in the early hours of the morning."

Further reports amongst the Australian and New Zealand press focused on a suspected binge drinking culture within kiwi cycling.

On March 24, the three cyclists had been named, but Williams, 25, had had a statement read out by the New Zealand psychologist Gary Hermansson playing down the incident saying it was a "non-event." No further details were revealed, only causing further speculation and allegations of a cover-up.

Following the May 1 publication, which vindicated Williams of any wrongdoing, BikeNZ's handling of the incident has again been brought into the spotlight. Cycling NZ president Wayne Hudson, questioned after the May 1 report's release, said Cycling NZ would not reveal what happened and disagreed that the incident should be fully disclosed.

"Transparency doesn't actually mean going back over the incident and looking at the dirty, grubby details of it all which everybody has been reporting."

David Leggat, writing in The New Zealand Herald has said that by keeping quiet, "Cycling NZ has done (Ryan and Gudsell) no favours with its decision...if Ryan and Gudsell's behaviour was truly blown out of proportion, why not reveal it?" Hudson fuelled arguments of a drinking culture within the team by admitting he had dealt with 15 disciplinary and doping complaints over the past three years.

Williams, meanwhile said, "We want to put a stop to this behaviour so any girl coming through now can go away with that team and have no problems at all."

"I've long said there should be a chaperone going with the girls," mother Patricia Williams said, "because they have been unsafe for a very long time."

A review of the Commonwealth Games campaign will be conducted by BikeNZ chief executive Rodger Thompson as promised, and will include an investigation of the team's culture. Unfortunately for cycling in New Zealand it may be too little too late. The team has already been under fire for failing to bring home the expected bags of medals from Melbourne's Games.

In the lead up to the Beijing Olympics, BikeNZ now faces more pressure with the government's sports funding body SPARC analysing Commonwealth Games' performances, and the Williams saga set to continue.

Frans Assez dies

Frans Assez, the manager of the Belgian continental team Flanders, has died suddenly, just a few days before his 59th birthday. Assez became ill at home after a ride on Tuesday, and passed out. He was unable to be revived.

Besides managing his team and the Flanders bike shop in Oudenaarde, Assez was also a professional rider between 1974 and 1981. He won just one race as a pro: in Sint-Martens-Lierde in 1974. His death came as a shock to many, and the team managers in the Four Days of Dunkirk held a minute's silence before their pre-race meeting yesterday evening.

Unibet for Tour of Luxembourg

The team has been named for the Tour of Luxembourg (May 31-June 4): Baden Cooke, Johan Coenen, Jeremy Hunt, Jonas Ljungblad, Luis Pasamontes, Marco Serpellini, Erwin Thijs and Matt Wilson. Directeur sportif for the race will be Lucien Van Impe.

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