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Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

First Edition Cycling News for May 31, 2006

Edited by John Stevenson

Ullrich: 2006 Tour will be as hard as ever

By Susan Westemeyer

Jan Ullrich
Photo ©: Susan Westemeyer
(Click for larger image)

The absence of long-time rival Lance Armstrong will not make the Tour de France any easier for Jan Ullrich this year. "It will be just as hard as ever," Ullrich said at a press conference in Bad Saulgau, Germany yesterday. "This year it won't be Armstrong-Ullrich, but Basso-Ullrich."

Ullrich's nominal task was to present the new line of bike frames that carries his name, but of course talk was all of the recent Giro d'Italia, where he demonstrated that his time trialing is as strong as ever by winning the 50km stage 11 race against the clock, and July's Tour de France.

But first Ullrich had to actually get there. It's to be hoped we won't see the headline "Ullrich loses 20 minutes to flat tire" in the Tour, but that was the announcement the German cyclist would arrive late at his own press conference. Without his T-Mobile Team mechanics (including brother Stefan), it seems to just take a bit longer to change tires!

Ullrich's fitness and condition is the obvious issue with just five weeks to go before the Tour rolls out of Strasbourg on July 1. He admitted that he still has the back problems that forced him out of the Giro. "The back problems set me back a little," he said, but added but they are being worked on.

Nevertheless, "I'm going full into the Tour de France," he said. After some recovery time at home in Switzerland this week, Ullrich will scout the Alpine Tour stages before deciding what races to ride next -- the Vuelta Ciclista Asturias or "maybe the Tour de Suisse, maybe something else."

The final line up of T-Mobile's team for the Tour is not yet decided, but Ullrich said his good friend Andreas Klöden, "would definitely be a factor." As for the rest of the team, Ullrich said that of course the team needs not only climbing specialists but also riders capable of making tempo or riding many kilometres in the wind, in case Ullrich should claim the leader's jersey. "It's also important to have a pair of oxen on the team, you can't take just Guerinis," he said.

Jan Ullrich
Photo ©: Susan Westemeyer
(Click for larger image)

Looking back at the Giro, Ullrich said that he was still tired from the very hard final week. He praised winner Ivan Basso, who he said he has already personally congratulated, but noted that. "You can't compare the Tour with the Giro, it's much, much harder."

T-Mobile was arguably more successful at the Giro than anyone expected. The team entered the Italian grand tour saying it would just be a training outing for Ullrich, and then held the maglia rosa for three days; finished behind CSC in the team time trial by only one second; and won the individual time trial.

"We rode well, but had some bad luck with crashes and riders having to drop out," said Ullrich. Sergei Honchar, who took the leader jersey on stage 5, who had to drop out after hurting his back in a crash. "I saw his back, and it wasn't a pretty sight," said Ullrich.

Ullrich had no further comment on the Spanish doping scandal. "I've already said everything I'm going to on that subject," he said. "I can only say that I have nothing to do with it."

At 32, Ullrich may well be thinking about retirement, and certainly launching your own range of bike frames looks like an insurance policy for a post-racing career. But he said he couldn't answer the question of how long he planned to continue riding. "It's still fun," he said. I still have some things I want to accomplish, so we'll see."

Look out for more on Ullrich's new bikes line in a tech update later today on Cyclingnews.

Spanish federation rebuffs criticism

By Antonio J. Salmerón

The director general of the Spanish cycling federation (RFEC), José Griñán, has replied to criticism of the organisation over its efforts against doping. "We always are arranged to collaborate," with legal and anti-doping authorities, he said, but added that he was "disturbed and disappointed" with the passivity that has greeted the revelations that have arisen from the Operación Puerto investigation into doping in Spanish cycling.

In response to media criticism of the RFEC, Griñán said that, "the Spanish Federation does not have competence in judicial and civil legal matters." He added that in the case of Jesus Manzano's allegations in 2004, "We interviewed Manzano and reached the limit of our specific competence. We compiled a report for the judge who was to investigate the case."

Griñán pointed to the most high-profile recent Spanish doping case as a success. "In the case of Roberto Heras there was a positive result in competition, and he was suspended for two years."

Griñan said that he believed that there should be more out-of-competition anti-doing tests than in-competition, "because in this way they will be more effective."

Phonak issues statement

The Phonak team has reacted to further allegations arising from Operation Puerto with a statement regarding its riders whose names have come up in connection with the alleged doping practices of former Kelme team doctor Eufemiano Fuentes.

"The Phonak Cycling Team acknowledges the appearance in the Spanish media of the names of certain team members in connection with Dr Fuentes," the team said. "The team management takes these reports seriously, although it has not yet been possible to establish the truth of the allegations. The team management is examining the issue internally. Following this, further information will be communicated."

Cyclingnews' recent coverage of 'Operación Puerto'

May 18, 2009 - Valverde to start Catalunya
May 15, 2009 - Valverde not welcome in Denmark
May 14, 2009 - Spanish federation wants proof in Valverde case
May 13, 2009 - Spanish Olympic Committee defends Valverde
May 12, 2009 - Valverde responds to sanction
May 11, 2009 - Italian tribunal delivers Valverde two-year suspension
May 8, 2009 - Valverde case: Italian Olympic Committee defends Torri
May 7, 2009 - Valverde to take legal action against CONI prosecutor
May 5, 2009 - WADA and Spanish federation join CONI and UCI on Valverde
May 1, 2009 - International Cycling Union joins in on Valverde's hearing in Italy

Cyclingnews' complete coverage of Operación Puerto

Sáiz's team to ride Euskal Bizikleta in white

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Manolo Sáiz's Würth team - formerly known as Liberty-Seguros - Würth -- will wear white team strip for the Euskal Bizikleta stage race, which starts today. Joseba Beloki will lead the troubled squad, which lost its main sponsor last week after Sáiz was arrested in the Spanish 'Operation Puerto' doping investigation.

The three other Spanish ProTour teams, Illes Balears-Caisse, Saunier Duval-Prodir and Euskaltel Euskadi will also start the Euskal Bizikleta, along with the full complement of Spanish Professional Continental teams: 3 Molinos Resort Murcia Turística, Relax-Gam, Orbea, Spiuk and Andalucia Paul Versan, plus the Nicolás Mateos continental team.

However, the Nicolás Mateos squad will be without its star rider, 2004 individual pursuit world champion Sergi Escobar. Escobar was hit by a motorbike while training on May 22 and is not sufficiently recovered to be able to race.

Other European teams lined up for Euskal Bizikleta include France's Agritubel, which will be led by Alberto Martínez; the Italian Acqua & Sapone and 3C Casalinghi Jet Androni Giocattoli teams; the Swiss LPR and the British-registered, Italian-managed Team Barloworld which will feature Peio Arreitunandia and Félix Cárdenas.

The first stage starts today in Eibar and finishes in Arrigorriaga, after 165.5 km, with three classified climbs at Urkiola, Areitio and Zaratamo. The second stage, between Arrigorriaga and Ispaster (174 km), includes seven cols: one category two, the Sollube; and six third-category climbs, the Garate, Humaran, Santo Domingo, Ere Natxitua and Ere. The third day finishes at the top of the second-category Gatzaga after 190.9 km, and takes in the climbs of Itziar, Meagas, Aizarnazabal, Mandubia, Gatzaga and Uncilla.

Stage four is split into two, with an 84.1 km morning stage between Gatzaga and Agurain, and a flat afternoon time trial in Agurain, of 21.2 km The final stage ends at the summit of the Sanctuary of Arrate.

Stages

Stage 1 - May 31: Eibar - Arrigorriaga 165.5 km
Stage 2 - June 1: Arrigorriaga - Ispaster, 174 km
Stage 3 - June 2: Ispaster - Gatzaga, 190.9 km
Stage 4a - June 3: Leintz Gatzaga - Agurain, 84.1 km
Stage 4b - June 3: Agurain - Agurain ITT, 21.2 km
Stage 5 - June 4: ETB (Iurreta) - Arrate (Eibar), 157.5 km

Dean battles injury to aim for the Tour

New Zealand sprinter Julian Dean is struggling to recover from injury in time to land a berth with his Credit Agricole team at the Tour de France. Dean, who will work as a lead-out rider for last year's green jersey winner Thor Hushovd if he makes the Tour, will line up for the Tour of Luxembourg today after being out of competition for six weeks with tendonitis in his knee.

Struggling with injury in the run-up to July is not a new experience for Dean. He missed last year's Tour after breaking his elbow in the Giro d'Italia and in 2004 he broke both arms in a crash at the Four Days of Dunkirk and battled successfully to regain fitness in time for the Tour by spending lots of time on a wind trainer.

Dean skipped Paris-Roubaix in order to rest his knee, and also missed the Tour de Romandie and the Giro d'Italia. Now he is back on the bike. "Today I was able, for the first time [in six weeks], to do more than six hours on the bike. Not hard or with a lot of intensity but the fact that I can get through it, was a good feeling," Dean wrote on his website yesterday.

As for the Tour, "I'm not really sure at the moment if I'm going to be back in time," he wrote. "The first objective is to get through the Tour of Luxembourg and then try and prove to the team that I'm good enough in the Tour of Switzerland. So for now it's one step at a time and the next step is to make the start line at the Tour of Luxembourg with no problems."

Nevertheless, it's been a hard few weeks for Dean, who has been stuck in what he calls, "the infinite injury cycle."

"I think that I've finally broken out of it and am now close to returning to proper training," he wrote. "The injury cycle is a really dangerous trap for athletes. More so for professional athletes who are under pressure to return to competition. After all, management are running a business.

"The injury cycle is synonymous with a broken record; -> rest -> treatment -> start training again -> oops, too much too soon -> injury... then the cycle starts again. The problem is getting the right diagnosis at the time of the injury and an appropriate active treatment programme that breaks the cycle."

Dean said that he had broken the cycle with the aid of a physiotherapist who had devised an appropriate treatment plan, but, "even now I'm not sure that I'm 100% in the clear. I'm still treading carefully."

Health Net riders on the mend

The US-based Health Net presented by Maxxis Continental team has had more than its fair share of injury and illness so far this season, and is probably counting itself very fortunate to have a health insurance company as its major sponsor.

Fortunately, according to team spokesman Jeff Sobel, the squad's sick list is expected to get shorter as injured riders recover and plan their return to racing. New Zealander Greg Henderson is set to be the first to come back when he starts the Mt. Hood Classic in Oregon today after taking time off to recover from a fractured hip sustained in a crash during the McLane Pacific Foothills Road Race in March.

Garrett Peltonen is expected to be back on the bike some time in June. Peltonen returned from the team's recent trip to Europe, that included him finishing tenth in the Trophee des Grimpeurs, with a nasty saddle sore and the after-effects of a cold.

Doug Ollerenshaw is also recovering from a hip injury after sustaining an acetabulum, or hip socket fracture at the Trophee des Grimpeurs. The team had hoped he might return for Mt Hood, but he is expected to need another three weeks off and should return at the Tour de Nez in Reno, Nevada, June 22-24.

Alberto Tiberio is at home in Switzerland recovering from a broken wrist sustained in a crash in the Peace Race. The team expects him to return at the Nature Valley Grand Prix in Minnesota, June 14-18.

Hayden Roulston picked up a viral infection after taking the silver medal in the points race at the Commonwealth Games in Australia in March and is still recovering in his native New Zealand.

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