First Edition Cycling News for December 3, 2003
Edited by John Stevenson & Chris Henry
Millar sets his sights on Olympic treble
World time trial champion and Tour de France stage winner David Millar is aiming for not one, not two, but three gold medals at next year's Olympic games in Athens, Greece. And the Games - not the Tour de France - will be the time trial specialist's main priority in 2004.
Selectors yesterday named Millar and former junior multiple world champion Nicole Cooke as members of Britain's 2004 Olympic cycling team. Millar immediately announced that he will ride both the road race and the time trial, then switch to the boards the 4000m individual pursuit. While he wants to add the 2004 Tour prologue to his palmares - after narrowly missing it in 2003 thanks to a mechanical problem - the Tour de France will otherwise be a training race.
"For me, the Olympics are number one," said Millar, "the Tour de France is number two and the World Championships number three. And I am proud to say it."
Millar says he has the total support of his Cofidis team for his Olympic goals. "My intention is to try and win the prologue to the Tour for the team, and then use the rest of the Tour to get ready for Athens. I will still have three and a half weeks before my event at the Olympics."
The time trial is his main goal, says Millar, and after the world championship that has contributed to his early selection for the UK team, he's confident of Olympic gold. "I know I can do it; I've got the experience of setting goals and achieving my aims," Millar told Darren Tullet of Bloomberg News. "An Olympic gold would be worth more than anything to me next year, more even than a top-three place at the Tour de France."
Millar doesn't think that the dominant time trialist of the last few Tours de France will be a factor at the Olympics. "If Lance [Armstrong] wins the Tour, there's no way he's going to Athens afterwards," said Millar. "And if he doesn't win, I think he'll probably quit."
Millar is a relatively inexperienced track rider, but made his mark at the weekend in the first of the UK's Revolution track series in Manchester. He has been working with coach Peter Keen, who helped Chris Boardman prepare for his gold medal ride at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
Heras to leave US Postal?
Spanish newspaper Marca is reporting that 2003 Vuelta a Espana winner Roberto Heras is negotiating to end his contract with US Postal-Berry Floor in order to join Manolo Saiz' new Liberty Seguros team.
Liberty Seguros team manager Pablo Antón recently said that the squad hoped to complete its line-up with "the acquisition of a very important rider" before the end of the year. That rider was originally world championship silver medalist Alejandro Valverde, but attention has now turned to Heras as a rider who might bring with him a chance of victory in the Tour de France.
Heras is unlikely to be a cheap acquisition for Liberty Seguros. When Heras moved from Kelme to US Postal after winning the 2000 Vuelta, the buy-out penalty was rumoured to be on the order of US$750,000; terminating Heras' contract with US Postal is likely to be even more expensive, and Heras' salary won't be small either. However, the Liberty Seguros team is believed to have a budget agreement with the sponsor that is dependent on the personnel the team can attract. Directeur sportif Manolo Saiz therefore needs a high-profile rider such as Heras, and would be able to afford him.
Liberty Seguros is yet to announce other sponsors such as a bike supplier, though Cyclingnews sources say Saiz is in talks with several Italian bike manufacturers.
Salanson's family wants answers
The family of Fabrice Salanson, who died of heart failure on the eve of the Tour of Germany, has taken legal action to seize the rider's medical files in an effort to determine a possible case of negligence. Saddened by the death of their son and angered by lingering suspicions of doping as a cause of death, Salanson's parents have expressed their concern that 'abnormal' test results presented to the Brioches La Boulangère team in May should have been more closely pursued.
"We're not trying to start a new debate," Hughes Salanson told the French press. "We're not blaming any one person, and certainly not the directors of the Brioches La Boulangère team. They have supported and helped us through difficult moments, but today they need to put themselves in our place. We want to know what happened."
At issue is the revelation that during stress tests in April, Salanson's electrocardiogram showed an interruption in his heartbeat. Team doctors insisted that nothing had prompted a determination that Salanson was not fit to race professionally, but more questions are now being asked.
"We've asked for the opinions of three specialists," the Salanson family's lawyer Didier Domat explained. "For them, the tests taken April 1st and sent to Fabrice Salanson May 12th required further analysis."
According to Domat, other circumstances prompted concern with the Salanson family.
"They discovered that the management of La Boulangère appealed the decision of CPAM (the team's medical insurance company) to label Salanson's death as a work accident in order to prevent the team's insurance premiums from going up next season," Domat said in l'Equipe. "The family found this attitude bizarre, if not inappropriate."
McEwen aims for Olympic selection
Australia's Robbie McEwen has set his sights on claiming as many points as possible towards his world ranking in a bid to secure selection for the 2004 Athens Olympic Games and will use the 2004 Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under to kick off his campaign. If successful, it would be the third time McEwen has represented Australia at Olympic level.
"To ensure I am in with a good chance of selection I need to keep my world ranking up and post some impressive performances in the lead up to the selection date," said McEwen who is currently the highest placed Australian on the world rankings in 27th place but is only 11 points ahead of fellow Australian sprinter Baden Cooke. "This year some injury problems meant I couldn't get as many early season points as I would have liked but next year that should change."
In the 2003 Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under McEwen was forced to pull out of the race during Stage 5 and relinquish his lead in the SA Lotteries Sprint competition because of left knee injury concerns. But he says the problem hasn't affected him since and he's optimistic of being in top form for January where he's aiming for an early stage win.
"I always say if you can win one stage you can win two and if two why not three," he explained. "So as it's only a six day event I want to get in early."
McEwen will head a strong Lotto-Domo team, which will include Belgian Axel Merckx, the son of cycling legend Eddy, and Polish rider Piotr Wadecki.
"Axel has wanted to do this race for several years but this is the first time it's been possible," said McEwen. "Both Axel and Piotr are definitely candidates for overall honours and I'm sure both of them will be looking to have good form when they come down."
Based on last year's sprint finish McEwen is expected to face stiff opposition from Cooke (FDJeux.com) and Sydney's Graeme Brown (Panaria Margres). Brown was relegated to last place on the opening stage of this year's event after officials ruled he interfered with McEwen's sprint. "You don't go into a race expecting that sort of thing to happen and I don't expect it to happen again next month," said McEwen.
Cooke and McEwen battled it out for green jersey honours right up until the last sprint in the final stage of the Tour de France with Cooke snatching the jersey from McEwen and denying him back-to-back sprint crowns.
The rest of the Lotto-Domo team will be made up of Belgians Hans De Clerq, Wim Vansevenant, Glenn D'Hollander, Gert Steegmans and Australian Nick Gates.
Lotto-Domo team for 2004 Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under
The UCI has cleared Charly Wegelius (De Nardi-Colpack) after the British rider was prevented from riding the Giro di Lombardia in October due to an elevated haematocrit level. He was suspended from competition for two weeks, per UCI rules, however any such suspension is considered a preventative measure for health reasons, not an automatic implication of doping. Subsequent blood tests were negative for EPO and confirmed the absence of any other doping substances.
Wegelius' De Nardi Colpack team issued a statement at the time explaining that Wegelius's haematocrit value fluctuates naturally, the result of the removal of his spleen following a 1998 motorcycle accident. Wegelius will travel Monday to UCI headquarters in Switzerland to undergo a series of tests.
Etoile and Ouverture to open French season
The 2004 French racing season will start as usual with the GP d'Ouverture La Marseillaise on February 3. The 150km race from Gardanne to Aubagne was won this year by Ludo Dierckxsens in a race that saw only nine official finishers as the main peloton pootled in over 30 minutes behind.
The following day sees the start of the first stage race of the year, the Etoile de Bessèges. Eighteen teams are scheduled to start the five day race, which was won this year by Fabio Baldato.
Etoile de Bessèges 2004 stages
Stage 1 - February 4: Marseille-Marseille, 144 km
Rabobank to start at Tirreno
With Paris-Nice a goal for next season, the Rabobank team will start its 2004 campaign at Tirreno-Adriatico and not the Vuelta a Murcia. Rabobank's preparation for the Tour de France will include the Dauphiné Libéré, Tour de Suisse and Ster Elektrotoer.
Rabobank's Michael Boogerd will ride the Tour of Switzerland. Boogerd and wife Nerena are expecting a child on June 9, during the Dauphiné.
Quick.Step - Davitamon gets together
The Quick.Step - Davitamon cycling team will hold its first pre-season training camp at Cecina Mare, Italy from December 10 to 15 2003. the camp will be used to define specific training and competitive programs for each rider.
Australian Quick.Step - Davitamon rider Michael Rogers won't be at the camp as he is spending the winter break in the warmer climes of his home country.
Giro stage 2 route
The second stage of the 2004 Giro d'Italia, which starts May 10 in Novi Ligure, will finish in Pontremoli, Lunigiana, organisers RCS Sport have announced.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2003)