Latest News for August 4, 2003
Edited by Jeff Jones
Bianchi or Telekom for Ullrich?
The question of Jan Ullrich's future is once again on the table, with rumours surfacing that Team Telekom is interested in re-signing Der Kaiser. Ullrich left Telekom last year after it suspended him without pay for a positive dope test (amphetamines taken at a night club). With him went one of Telekom's directors Rudy Pevenage, who has mentored Jan throughout his career. There were some harsh words between Pevenage and Telekom's Walter Godefroot at the time, although Godefroot has always remained interested in having Ullrich back.
"Last year I indicated that I remain charmed by Ullrich as a rider," said Godefroot in an interview with De Telegraaf. "For him, the door always stands open."
Ullrich signed a three year deal for Team Coast at the beginning of 2002, reportedly worth nearly €6 million. However Coast had bitten off more than it could chew and collapsed in May. Italian bike manufacturer Bianchi stepped in with a rescue package, which allowed the team to take part in the Tour, however all riders and staff received big pay cuts.
Next year, things will have to improve in Bianchi for Ullrich to stay. According to Ullrich's manager Wolfgang Strohband, "We'll gladly go further with Bianchi, but if that's the case, the financial plan must be clear for next season. Besides that, the team has to be strengthened."
Rabobank interested in Beloki and Mayo
In light of its ongoing lack of success in the overall classification of grand tours, the Rabobank team is looking for more options. According to De Telegraaf, team manager Jan Raas was in Spain last week to negotiate with Joseba Beloki and Iban Mayo, two riders who will be free next year. Mayo has already indicated his interest in Rabobank, and perhaps having Beloki as a teammate would seal the deal.
De Telegraaf also reported that José-Antonio Pecharroman, winner of the Bicicleta Vasca and Volta a Catalunya, will sign for Quick.Step next season. Together with Juan Miguel Mercado, Pecharroman will strengthen the team in the mountains.
Spanish professional cycling is in a little bit of a crisis at the moment, as two of its four division I teams (iBanesto and ONCE) will lose their title sponsors next year. While the top riders shouldn't have too many problems finding new employers, a number of Spanish riders will have to step down a division or two, or retire.
Finally, ONCE's Jörg Jaksche is negotiating with Team CSC.
Hushovd extends with Credit Agricole
Norwegian viking Thor Hushovd has extended his contract with Credit Agricole, turning down offers from other teams, including Rabobank. From other teams, Credit Agricole has contracted Patrice Halgand and Sébastien Joly (Delatour), Benoît Salmon (Phonak), Andrei Kashechkin (Quick.Step) and Alexandre Botcharov (Ag2r).
Room to improve for Australia at Track World's
Although Australia topped the medal count with eight medals at the track cycling World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany, National Track Coach Martin Barras says there is room to improve.
Russia claimed the world number one ranking with four gold medals and two bronze, the gold coming from two women winning two events each. France was second with two gold, two silver and two bronze and Germany third with two gold and one bronze. Australia slotted in fifth after claiming one gold and seven silver medals from a total of 15 events.
"I see it two ways," said Barras at the end of competition. "You can look at the number of medals and the array of events we medalled in to see we have a solid platform with a lot of depth and that is very satisfying and important.
"But by the same token coming into this year after last year (where Australia topped the nation rankings with four gold) it was important to see how we would go from being one of the hunters to the hunted," Barras explained. "I think it has demonstrated that we need to regain a little bit of hunger and fine tune that extra one or two percent for next year."
"We're close but not at the level of last year and you need to win more than one bike race to claim you are top of the world," he said. "Realistically we haven't done that here except for one outstanding ride."
That ride was by Australia's teams pursuit (see separate story) whose gold medal performance was the highlight of the Championships. Graham Brown, Luke Roberts, Brett Lancaster and Peter Dawson, demolished the world record set by Australia at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester to clock a blistering time of 3min57.280sec. The win earned them a standing ovation from the enthusiastic crowd at the Schleyer Halle and world wide attention.
Barras has already begun assessing what needs to be done to put the Australians back on top. "The women's sprint group generally has taken a bit of a step back and that's something we'll have to look at," said Barras. "They are young and very competitive but will need to assimilate this year's results and use them to build on for next year. We also have a great base to build on in women's track endurance."
Bathurst youngster Mark Renshaw, 19, was taken out of the teams pursuit to fill places in the points and scratch races and to team up with Brown in the Madison. He acquitted himself well against far more experienced riders but was not in the medals. In today's Madison final the pair placed eighth behind the Swiss gold medallists.
"There has been a fair amount of discussion amongst the coaches about what to do with these three events and we're looking at several things," said Barras. "I'd be lying if I said the teams pursuit is not the main focus of the men's endurance program for 2004 because we are number one and have the world record time."
"Also the gap to the other teams and the consistency of performance means we will base things around that event for Athens," he said. "We'll look to bring in one specialist for the other two events [points and Madison are Olympic events but not scratch race] and I won't circulate names now but there are a few riders we'd like to talk to."
The withdrawal of 2002 world sprint champion Sean Eadie due to injury also impacted on the men's sprint group especially in the team sprint event. In 2002 Australia claimed silver but today had to settle for fourth after the ride of for the bronze medal against defending world champions, Great Britain, who were dethroned by Germany.
"It impacted a bit in that we had to take Jobie (Dajka) out of his natural position at second wheel and put him at first wheel," said Barras. "Also Mark French was pulled straight from juniors into second wheel as senior world level with Ryan Bayley in his usual place bringing home the final lap.
"Despite the changes they both did the job but the lack of a dedicated specialist starter told on us," he explained. "It is a difficult position to fill and to replace so we suffered a bit and we will have to look at preparing two or three riders for the starting position in the future."
Barras, though was confident his team will continue to improve as they head towards the Melbourne 2004 World Championships (May 26-30), the final qualifying event for the Athens Olympic Games.
"Although I have to say the factor of age is more important for beyond 2004 because if I'm perfectly honest then once we come to Olympic level that is a very special animal," he explained. "It takes someone with an enormous amount of experience and composure to handle the event and you see heads fall at every Olympics."
"I think it's a bit much to expect our young riders to be able to step up to that level so soon, some might, but it is more likely our mature riders who will shine," Barras said. "But for Commonwealth Games in 2006 and Beijing 2008 we are right on track."
Australian rider Nathan O'Neill (Saturn) is in better shape than was first thought after his crash in the Tour de 'Toona last week. O'Neill broke his C2 vertebrae in the crash, as well as injuring his teeth and forehead. However according to Saturn's Assistant General Manager Giana Roberge, he did not have to undergo intensive surgery, and may be released from Pittsburgh hospital as early as tomorrow. If everything goes well, then O'Neill is looking at a rehabilitation time of two months.
Starchyk positive for EPO
Ukrainian rider Volodymyr Starchyk has been suspended by the Italian cycling federation after testing positive for the banned blood booster, EPO. Starchyk previously signed a contract with Andrei Tchmil to ride for either Marlux or Noël Demeulenaere's new team.
Sweet Paradise to pull out
One of the top sponsors of Patrick Lefevere's junior team, Quick.Step-Sweet Paradise, will stop its sponsorship at the end of the season. Sweet Paradise will also no longer sponsor Lefevere's Division III team in future.
New Zealand MTB World's team named
New Zealand is sending a strong team of 15 to compete in the World Mountain Bike Championships to be held in Lugano, Switzerland between September 3 - 8.
In the downhill squad, there will be the 2003 NZ National Series Winner, 24 year old Nathan Rankin (Levin) who secured a place on the team with his consistent racing earlier in the year and the 2003 NZ National DH Champion, 18 year old Justin Leov (Blenheim), who has confirmed his eligibility over the last two months with a 9th place finish at the second World DH Cup race in Alpe d'Huez, France in May. Other team members Tim Mackersy (Dunedin) and Glenn Haden (Wanganui) have also had consistent results through the French and Swiss season. Craig Pattle (Rotorua), the current NZ Junior Champ, will also be attending the World Championships. NORBA Champ for 2001 and 2002, John Kirkcaldie (Wellington) was unavailable for selection.
Vanessa Quin (Taranaki) and Scarlett Hagen (Queenstown) are representing the women in the Senior and Junior DH respectively and both are expected to finish in the top 20.
In the Cross Country, NZ's top three male riders, Kashi Leuchs (Dunedin), Stuart Houltham (Taupo) and Tim Vincent (Nelson) have been selected. All three riders are currently based in Europe and will meet up with the team once in Lugano. Jason Clement (Levin) and Matthew Dewes (Taupo) have earned their positions through top U23 and Junior placings over the last 12 months.
For the Women's XC race, Sadie Parker-Wynyard (Auckland), Robyn Wong (Wellington) and the current National Series Winner Susy Pryde (Auckland) are the New Zealand favourites, with USA based Jenny Smith expected to finish well too.
In addition to the formal World Championships program, a World Marathon Championships is scheduled for 31 August, one week prior. Tim Vincent (Nelson), who has competed in the two other XC races in the 2003 marathon series, will be looking for his third top ten finish.
Senior Men XC
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