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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

First Edition Cycling News for December 15, 2003

Edited by Chris Henry

Pont-Château prepares for World's

The small town of Pont-Château in the Loire-Atlantique region of France is gearing up to host the cyclo-cross world championships in January, 2004. The town has hosted the World's once before, in 1989, and the this year's course will be similar to the previous edition. The cyclo-cross World's have not been back to France since the 1996 race in Montreuil.

"The parcours will use 80% of the 1989 course," French national trainer Jean-Yves Plaisance commented in l'Equipe. "It's a very fast circuit, but one that's very demanding and likely to create an unpredictable race. I wouldn't be surprised to see a finishing sprint among ten riders, depending on the weather conditions."

Twenty three international delegations are expected at the World's, all descending upon a town of some 8,000 residents.

Salvetat mends her wounds

Top French female cyclo-crosser Maryline Salvetat suffered a minor setback when she crashed in training while scouting out the world championships course in Pont-Château. Salvetat, who also works in the medical profession, knew just what to do when she fell and dislocated her shoulder. She faced the pain and reset the shoulder herself before heading to the hospital for x-rays.

A short break from riding isn't expected to pose too great of a problem for her World's preparations. Salvetat currently leads the Challenge National standings in France and is considered one of the country's top medal hopes in January.

Lademann finds form down under

By Karen Forman

German Christian Lademann, a former world teams pursuit champion, has found a great new early season training destination for his World's and Olympics gold medal bids: Australia.   The 28 year old from Berlin, who was part of the gold medal-winning German pursuit team in 1999, has come down under to get into form for an assault on the 2004 world title and the Athens Olympics - and he says it's a much better training ground than the European "usual" of Spain.  

"I am having a little holiday with my family," he said at the start of the Surfers Paradise round of the Queensland Grand Prix Cycling Series on Sunday, in which he finished fifth.  "It's the warmest place in the world at the moment, better than the usual (European) winter training in Spain."  

He has been in Australia for six weeks, keeping a fairly low profile, racing in small club events in Victoria and Queensland.   "I wanted to start my training early because there are some important races in February for me... including the qualification for the track teams pursuit. I am using the racing here to form my sprint quality."   He raced with pro Czech road team eD'system-ZVVZ this year but said he won't rejoin next year as it's "pretty hard for me to climb the hills".  

"When I come here and do little criteriums I am getting back to my old (pre-road-season) form," he said. "I am a track rider, not a road rider. I know that now."   He told Cyclingnews he had found the racing in Australia to be very interesting and quite different to Europe.

"Here everybody is chasing everybody else, even when they are in the same teams," he said.   The Melbourne Cup on Wheels at Melbourne's Vodafone Arena earlier in the month had been his first ever handicap event and proved to be an unexpected challenge.   "It depends so much on strength. You have to choose to start early but we didn't."   He was more at home on the tight criterium circuit at Surfers Paradise on Sunday and showed improved form after his weeks of Australian competition, finishing fifth.   He said the Australians would be the team to fear next year.

Flecha aims for classics

Classics in his sights
Photo: © Olympia

Juan Antonio Flecha, winner of stage 11 of the 2003 Tour de France, will set his sights on the classics in 2004. Flecha has joined the Fassa Bortolo team for the coming season and has set a strong performance in the World Cup as a major objective, along with major races such as Het Volk. The 2004 Tour de France is less of a certainty, though the Spaniard is no doubt eager to repeat his performance of this year.

"I will contest the World Cup races and the northern classics, include Het Volk and the Three Days of De Panne," Flecha said in a Todociclismo report. "I am going to race a calendar typical of a classics rider, but I would also like to return to the Tour, although that is less clear."

The World Cup races are Flecha's goal, although the overall classification in the season-long series is of less importance than victory in the individual events. "There are people who ride conservatively to finish in a good position and gain points, but that mentality doesn't suit me," he explained. "I would rather take the risk of waiting for the last 300 metres than worry about getting tenth."

Spanish riders do not normally make a name for themselves in the classics, but Flecha is eager to prove himself in the one day races. While noting that he can still improve in his race tactics, becoming a more calculating rider, but expressed appreciation for the team and the opportunities he had to test himself in the classics. At Fassa Bortolo he will line up with another classics specialist, Frank Vandenbroucke, looking for glory on the cold, wet cobbles of Belgium and France.

Gonzalez wants a better 2004

Aitor Gonzalez, winner of the 2002 Vuelta a España, found himself on the defensive and performing below expectations in 2003. A move to the Fassa Bortolo team from Kelme was met with much hype, particularly given the legal battle over his signature between Domina Vacanze and Fassa Bortolo. A less than impressive Giro d'Italia was followed by abandon in the Tour de France this year, but Gonzalez has owned up to his disappointment and hopes to regain his best form in the coming year.

Gonzalez has fixed the Tour de France and the Vuelta as his two major goals, but leaves the door open for a possible ride at the Olympic Games in Athens as well.

"I haven't spoken yet with the selector Paco Antequera about this, but I would like to participate in Athens in the time trial and the road race," Gonzalez said in an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport. "The Games are a unique opportunity for all athletes."

Gonzalez admitted that despite his confidence heading into the event, he did not meet expectations in this year's Giro. He also considered his difficulties in the Tour to be a result of the poor Giro. For 2004 the Tour and Vuelta will take precedence, but the World's are less of a target.

VDB to Qatar

Frank Vandenbroucke will make his 2004 debut in Fassa Bortolo colours at the Tour of Qatar in late January. The Belgian's ambitions will once more be focused on the northern classics, and Vandenbroucke is expected to race a somewhat lighter schedule in the very early season so as to arrive at Het Volk, the traditional classics opener, in top form. Warm weather racing in Qatar will be followed by racing in Italy, possibly the GP Laigeuglia, but Vandenbroucke will skip the Tour Méditerranéen in France.

Salanson case officially opened

The family of deceased French professional Fabrice Salanson, who rode for Brioches La Boulangère, has formerly opened legal proceedings to investigate the circumstances surrounding the rider's death. Salanson died in his sleep on the eve of this year's Tour of Germany. An autopsy revealed heart failure as the cause of death.

While the cause of death is not disputed, Salanson's family has become concerned over revelations that medical examinations in the spring indicated some abnormalities in Fabrice's heartbeat. At issue is whether or not problems should have been brought to light that could have prevented his death.

Last week, the Salanson family formerly took action to take possession of Fabrice's medical records. The decision to pursue further legal action stemming from any possible negligence will be made after a review of all available material.

Plaza to Antarte

Team Bianchi's David Plaza will join the Portuguese Antarte-Rota dos Moveis team for 2004. Plaza was among the last of Bianchi's members facing the search for a new employer after the title sponsor decided not to continue with the team next season. Plaza will also be joined at Antarte by Paulo De Moura Ferreira of Cantanhede-Marques de Marialva.

Hernandez to Liberty Seguros

Spanish neo-pro Jesus Hernandez has signed with Manolo Saiz's new Liberty Seguros team for 2004.

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