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Latest Cycling News for May 4, 2006

Edited by Hedwig Kröner, with additional assistance from Susan Westemeyer

An interview with Bobby Julich: A maglia rosa for two

Bobby Julich makes his Giro debut this weekend, finally riding the Tour of Italy after a long career in the peloton. He and the rest of the CSC are fully behind Ivan Basso, but the American rider tells Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes that he has one personal ambition he'd also like to achieve.

Talking to the press
Photo ©: Seng Chen
(Click for larger image)

Since its inception in 2001 when Bjarne Riis took over the former Memory Card - Jack & Jones squad, the CSC team has grown to be one of the best teams in the sport. Winner of the ProTour teams classification last year, the team scooped over 50 victories and took many more strong placings, including Ivan Basso's second consecutive podium slot in the Tour de France. Prior to that, Basso had looked on course to dominate the Tour of Italy but his challenge was derailed when he became sick during the race.

With the Italian star a year older and stronger and Lance Armstrong now retired, it seems the time may be right for him to finally win the Tour. Prior to that, though, the 28 year old is aiming to capture the Giro d'Italia title, and in order to achieve the goal of a first ever Grand Tour win for the Danish squad, Team CSC boss Bjarne Riis has taken two big measures. Firstly, he asked several of the team's strong spring riders to hold back on hitting top form until the Giro, gambling that in relinquishing the big trophies the team landed last year in races such as Paris-Nice, an even bigger prize could be won.

Time trialling at the Tour of California
Photo ©: Russ and Nancy Wright
(Click for larger image)

The second step is in putting together a very strong lineup, using some riders who are more well known for backing Basso in the Tour de France. Tour and Vuelta contender Carlos Sastre is included in the team list, as is Jens Voigt, Volodimir Gustov, Giovanni Lombardi, Iñigo Cuesta, Michael Blaudzun and Nicki Soerensen. So too Bobby Julich, who will be riding the Giro for the first time in his career and is very much looking forward to the experience.

"The plan since last November was to take the spring a lot easier than before, and then concentrate on being good at the Giro and later on the Tour," the American told Cyclingnews this week. "First things first, the Giro is the first main objective for us for the year, as far as the stage race team is concerned. We are really looking forward to it. I have definitely got over the injury and the sickness I experienced in the month of March, and now I am feeling good and looking forward to helping Ivan in the Giro."

"My form is where I wanted to be right now. I was definitely a little bit set back with the injury in Paris-Nice and then the sickness at the Criterium International, but the last few days in the Tour of Romandie I was feeling really good. I was doing some little tests here and there, and then I felt strong in the time trial. I think it is just going to come together all at the right time. Obviously you can't be at top form at the beginning of the Giro, you need to be at 90 percent and then ramp that up all the way through the three weeks."

Click here for the full interview.

Phonak ready for Giro

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Just like the other teams, Phonak has got together in southern Belgium to prepare for the Giro d’Italia, which starts on Saturday in Seraing, near Liège. UCI controls, the official team presentation, training and recovery measures are all part of the riders' schedules in the time leading up to the event. Phonak's biggest hopes for the tour are pinned on Victor Hugo Peña, but good stage results are also expected of Axel Merckx, Martin Elmiger, Gregory Rast or Fabrizio Guidi.

Guidi, the only Italian rider in Phonak's line-up for the Giro, was both lucky and unlucky when he crashed at the Tour de Romandie last Friday, April 28: He walked away with just a scare and bruises on his back, which forced him to withdraw in the subsequent stage. But his start at the Giro is not at risk. "I'm in good shape and I hope the pain will be gone by next Saturday," he said. "I intend to win a stage."

"Finding the right man at the right moment," that's what directeur sportif Adriano Baffi considers to be the biggest challenge for the Phonak team at the Giro d’Italia. Based on the results at the Tour de Romandie, Baffi is somewhat cautious in terms of expectations for Victor Hugo Peña. But Juan Fernandez, who acted as directeur sportif at the Tour de Romandie, said, "If Victor Hugo Peña is spared illness and injury at the Giro d’Italia, then I believe he's capable of a top five spot." As a Belgian, Axel Merckx is also especially motivated, and Baffi hopes that Elmiger, Rast or Guidi will also be successful if an opportunity presents itself.

Baffi has already won six Giro stages. As an active rider, the tour in his own country has always been the highlight in his season schedule. In the meantime, the Giro d’Italia has become something of a routine for Baffi, but he knows that the it is a great incentive for his riders. "On 28 May the second largest and therefore also the second most important tour of the year will be decided in Milan," he said. "The spectators will like the difficult parcours, but it will be less popular with the riders," added the Italian with a laugh.

Voigt: "I believe in Ivan"

"I believe in Ivan (Basso) and the possibility that he will win both Grand Tours," said Ivan Basso's teammate Jens Voigt of CSC. "Of course we know that it is brave of us to say we want to win both the Giro and Tour, and that with a rider who has never won even one Grand Tour."

Voigt believes that this rider will win, he told the Frankfurter Rundschau, despite the fact that this year's Tour de France "is custom made for Jan (Ullrich). There is no team time trial, but two long individual time trials. The major difficulties in the mountains come in the last week, so it looks good for Jan. But I still think that Ivan can do it. He has the privilege of youth, after all he is five years younger than Jan."

Raisin "racing to get well"

Good news from Saul Raisin: the American cyclist who suffered cerebral edema after a crash in stage 1 of the Circuit de la Sarthe, is not only back in the United States, he has also put an entry on his personal website. "Well, no racing for me... only racing to get well," he said in a message he dictated to his mother. Raisin was flown home over the weekend and is now in a rehab hospital in the Atlanta, Georgia, area. According to his parents, "Saul is improving every day. He eats up a storm and wants to go home."

Hondo still has Tour hopes

Danilo Hondo is currently riding for the third-class team Lamonta, but he still hopes to move on up and be in France in July. "I remain optimistic and still hope to take part in the Tour de France," he said after scoring third place in Rund um den Henninger Turm on Monday.

Hondo was gratified by the reception he got in Frankfurt. "Not too long ago it was 99 percent jeers for me, this time 99 percent of the people cheered me. That was great," he said.

The reason Hondo has not been taken on by a major team is the UCI Code of Ethics. The ProTour teams agreed not to sign a rider during a doping process. Hondo's new trial will be held sometime in autumn. "But it depends on how you interpret the code," he said. Hondo's manager Toni Rominger has contacted "all the teams" but has so far been unsuccessful.

Beloki "much better"

In an interview with French velo101, Liberty Seguros' team manager Manolo Saiz was very satisfied with the progress of Joseba Beloki, and hopes that the Spaniard will improve his fitness further in view of the Tour de France. Beloki placed second on general classification at the Tour 2002, but had difficulties coming back to his peak performance since that famous crash on the Col de la Rochette in 2003.

Asked if he thought that Beloki has come back to his form of three years ago, Saiz responded, "Yes, I've seen him in Pais Vasco, then he went to Romandie. When I look at Beloki's level right now and compare it with when he placed second at the Tour, I think that he is even better now! We'll see how he develops throughout the month of May, but he will work very intensively and bring down his weight to Tour de France level. We will see how he is at the end of May, but his season start has been encouraging."

Nevertheless, Saiz ruled out that Beloki could play a part on the overall classification at this year's Tour de France again. "At the moment, our leader clearly is Vino," Saiz continued. "Everybody will have to ride for him. But for me, Beloki and Luis-Leon Sanchez are very important for Vino in the mountainous parts of the parcours."

The patron of Liberty Seguros also revealed a few names of the roster he will be using for the Grand Tour in July. "At the moment, we have 12 riders who are aiming for the Tour," he said. "I have the basis of the team, which will be put together around Jörg Jaksche, Alberto Contador, Joseba Beloki, Alexandre Vinokourov, Andrey Kashechkin and Luis-Leon Sanchez. Then, we will have to choose between riders like Angel Vicioso, Marcos Serrano and Allan Davis, but for the moment, 12 riders are on the list."

Moncoutié back on the bike

After a early season break because of a knee injury suffered at a crash in the Critérium International on March 26, Cofidis pro David Moncoutié has started training again. "At the moment, he's going at it gently because pushing things now is out of the question," Cofidis directeur sportif Francis Vanlondersele told L'Equipe. "His comeback to racing is planned for the Vuelta a Cataluña (from May 15-21), but if that's a too hard race to start out again with, we'll put him on the Circuit de Lorraine instead (May 18-21)."

Meanwhile, Moncoutié's right knee seems to be healing well after an operation. The Frenchman, who has just become a father, complained about a cracking sound in his knee two days ago, but a control IRM scan revealed that it was nothing serious.

Friedensfahrt lives again

The Friedensfahrt will live again this year after being cancelled due to financial problems in 2005. The tour was presented this week in Meerane, Germany, and will run in eight stages from Linz, Austria, to Hannover, Germany, starting May 13. Team Milram will be the only the only ProTour outfit participating in the 1274 kilometre-long event, amongst 17 other squads.

"We would have liked to have had more top teams at the start, but we didn't know until January that the Friedensfahrt would take place. The top teams like T-Mobile finish their racing plans in November," said tour director Herbert Notter. Well-known riders expected to participate include Baden Cooke (Unibet), Danilo Hondo (Lamonta) and Filippo Simeoni (Naturino).

The following teams will be at the start: Milram, Vorarlberg, Wiesenhof-Akud, Acqua & Sapone, Elk Haus-Simplon, Unibet.com, Naturino-Sapore de Mare, Miche, Barloworld, Health Net, Ceramica Flaminia, Intel Action, Dukla Prag, Sparta Prag, Lamonta, Heinz von Heiden Hannover, Whirlpool Hradec Kralove, notesbookbilliger.de

The stages of the 58th Friedensfahrt outline as follows:

Saturday, May 13 - Stage 1: Linz - Schrems, 139 km
Sunday, May 14 - Stage 2: Schrems- Ceske Budejovice, 177,3 km
Monday, May 15 - Stage 3: Beroun-Karlovy Vary, 167,1 km
Tuesday, May 16 - Stage 4: Karlovy Vary-Teplice, 176,5 km
Wednesday, May 17 - Stage 5: Bilina - Altenberg, 140,8 km
Thursday, May 18 - Stage 6: Dippoldiswalde-Meerane, 172 km
Friday, May 19 - Stage 7: Delitzsch - Thale, 192 km
Saturday, May 20 - Stage 8: Wernigerode-Hannover, 132 km

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