First Edition Cycling News for December 16, 2003
Edited by Chris Henry
Tim Johnson signs with Saunier Duval
By Anthony Tan
One of the last riders added to the roster of the Spanish-based Saunier Duval team in 2004 is recent winner of the Herald Sun Tour in Australia, 26 year-old American Tim Johnson.
When Cyclingnews spoke with Johnson at his family home in Boston, Massachusetts, he was ecstatic with the opportunity to ride for Saunier Duval for the next two years, remarking the idea of racing in Europe has long been a dream for him. "It's always been a dream of mine to race in Europe and get a ride in some of the biggest races, just to even ride in one of the Grand Tours... but 2003 has been the year that has shown me that I can definitely ride at a higher level, and I'm going to pursue that," he said.
Johnson is a former multiple national cyclocross champion, winning junior, espoir and elite level titles before switching disciplines to concentrate on the road with Saturn in 2001. This year, he showed his colours as a super-domestique, riding in the service of Chris Horner, Nathan O'Neill and Tom Danielson, who, between them, won almost every race they competed in on the US national calendar.
"I was kind of like a latecomer to the sport and latecomer to being a pro road rider, but three years on Saturn has really done a lot for me and growing and being ready for that next step," added Johnson. "Hopefully, by getting rides in some of the bigger races, I'll be able to grow as a rider and it'll all pay off."
Asked whether his gutsy win at the Herald Sun Tour sealed the deal with the Spanish team - whose Division 1 status is yet to be confirmed - Johnson confesses his victory in the UCI 2.3 race allowed him to "be in control" when it came down to finding a new contract with the demise of Team Saturn. "I couldn't really get a solid answer from anybody before the Sun Tour, but after the race it [my win] definitely made it easier to actually meet with somebody and be in control and really look for a yes or no or even a maybe, let's talk some more.
"So it really did help, but it'd be pretty funny to say that the phone was ringing off the hook!" he mused. "But I definitely had a little better time of talking to people."
Johnson joins a solid line-up of riders, who team director Joxean "Matxin" Fernández has said is aiming to compete at the top level alongside established squads Kelme, Euskaltel, Liberty Seguros (previously ONCE) and Illes Baleares (previously iBanesto). "We know our limits but we aspire to be at the top level," Matxin said to Spanish newspaper AS.
Joining the American are foreign riders Javier González (Col, Orbitel), Leonardo Piepoli (Ita, iBanesto), Rubens Bertogliati (Swi, Lampre), Fabian Jeker (Swi, Milaneza), Alberto Loddo (Ita, Lampre), Massimo Strazzer (Ita, Phonak) and neo-pro Oliver Zaugg (Swi, Zalf). Nine Spanish riders have so far been contracted, including David Cañada (Quick Step), Rafael Casero (Paternina), David de la Fuente (Caldirola), Juan Carlos Domínguez (Phonak), Juan Gomis (LA Pecol), Rubén Lobato, Martín Perdiguero (Domina Vacanze) and neo-pros Juanjo Cobo and Francisco Ventoso.
Look out for the interview with Tim Johnson on Cyclingnews later this week.
Cadel Evans back on the bike - and hungry
By John Stevenson
After a 2003 season marred by three broken collarbones, Cadel Evans is looking forward to getting back into competition in 2004 - so much so, that he's already started racing again, turning up to a local mountain bike race in Victoria on Sunday.
He wasn't taking it very seriously though. "The race was near home and I was just happy to be there. And whoever finished in front of me was pretty happy about it too. But mountain biking is hard when you're not fit!" he says with a laugh.
After racing, Evans hopped on his road bike and went for a training ride. "The Tour's a bit longer than a mountain bike race, so you have to get some more training in," he jokes.
Evans' build-up for the 2004 Tour will start in February with the Tour of Mallorca, though he'll miss a favourite event the Tour Down Under. "I sorry I won't be riding the Tour Down Under," he says, "but it clashes with a T-Mobile training camp."
His program will continue with the Tour of Valencia, Tour of Murcia, and Setmana Catalana, and he hopes to be coming into form by April, in time for hilly races such as Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Tour of the Basque Country. "I'm hoping to get some decent results around then," he says.
And then there's the big one, his long-awaited debut in the Tour de France. "I'm hoping to be towing the yellow jersey up the hills in July," says Evans. The T-Mobile team plan, of course, is for that yellow jersey to be on the shoulders of Jan Ullrich. Although Evans himself has been tipped as a future Tour winner, this time he says he will be happy to play the role of lieutenant to Ullrich.
"If Jan can get the yellow jersey, I'll be happy to help him keep it," he says. "He's a guy who's ridden six Tours and never come worse than second. I'm looking forward to riding alongside him!"
Does Ullrich's focus on yellow leave any room for subsidiary goals within the team, such as, say, Cadel Evans in the King of the Mountains jersey? "At this point the team's priority is the yellow jersey," he says. "For me, helping Jan is number one. It's hard to say how I'll go because people forget this will be my first Tour. It's going to be a big experience. But the best position for a guy in his first Tour is to be helping someone like Jan."
Beyond the Tour, every top rider is looking forward to the 2004 Olympic games in Athens, Greece, and Evans is no exception. "Of course I'm keen to ride for Australia," he says. "I hear the course is hilly and suited for a climber, but we'll have to see how I come out of the Tour."
McGee grazed but otherwise okay
By Gerard Knapp
FDjeux.com's Bradley McGee was a casualty from the pile-up during yesterday's Surfers Paradise round of the Queensland Grand Prix Cycling Series, held on a street circuit of the popular tourist destination on the Australian Gold Coast.
McGee was flung head-over-handlebars after a rider well in front of him crashed exiting a sharp corner on the tight street circuit. "He was only two wheels (riders) in front of me and slid out. When you do that, you hit the barricades and tend to bounce back and I had nowhere to go but over," he said. "About four, maybe six of us went down and the rider (who caused the crash) was very apologetic, but he wasn't being reckless, he just went into it (the corner) and lost it. We've all done it."
McGee's elbow took the brunt of fall and required stitches, as well as "the standard stuff", such as grazing and bruises. "I told the guy I wouldn't start these races (street criteriums) if I wasn't expecting something like this could happen," McGee added.
While taking yesterday's potentially serious tumble in his stride, McGee will spend a day off the bike and then visit a doctor "to see if anything is out of whack".
Now back into training full time, McGee will also be testing track bikes at the Dunc Grey Velodrome in Sydney this week, as he is keen to compare a pursuit bike made by FDjeux.com's bike sponsor, Lapierre, with the carbon fibre BT models supplied to the Australian track team and ridden to countless victories.
Armstrong wins BBC award
Lance Armstrong has been recognised for his achievements in cycling - notably his fifth consecutive Tour de France victory this year - and awarded the BBC Overseas Sports Personality of the Year award. Armstrong's award, one of several categories offered by the BBC, put him in the company of British sports hero Jonny Wilkinson of the World Cup winning England rugby team. Armstrong edged out Formula 1 driver Michael Schumacher of Germany for the 2003 overseas award.
See also: Armstrong's press conference in Brussels
Team Rona for 2004
With only three members of the 2003 team continuing on 2004, Team Rona (which loses co-sponsor Esker at the end of this year) is rebuilding and ready for another season. Team leader Geneviève Jeanson remains at the head of the roster, along with returning members Andrea Hannos and Erinne Willock.
New recruits include Shani Bloch (Richard Sachs), Kathryn Curi and Anna Milkowski (Gearworks/Spinarts), Katrina Grove (T-Mobile), Helen Kelly (Team S.A.T.S./Team TDS), along with neo-pro Émilie Roy.
"We've got many new faces on the team for 2004," directeur sportif André Aubut commented. "But I think we'll have more depth in 2004 than in 2003, even though with Karen Bockel's retirement we're losing a first-rank cyclist. Some of the others couldn't accept our offers due to their own Olympic training program this year.
"This is a well-balanced team and we can promise an exciting show for the folks who come to watch us race," he added. "Geneviève Jeanson will get strong support in climbing. We also have what it takes to come out ahead on the flat and in the criteriums."
Sierra Nevada TT for Vuelta
In an announcement by the City Council of Granada, Spain, preliminary plans were unveiled for a mountain time trial to be held on the famed Sierra Nevada climb in the 2004 Vuelta a España. Granada confirmed it will host two stages, including the uphill time trial, on September 18 and 19. A rest day is likely to follow the test against the clock, according to a report in Spanish paper AS.
The Sierra Nevada stage could be up to 35 kilometres long, a new record for an uphill time trial in the Vuelta. The route would not follow the typical lower ascent used in road stages, instead adding some distance on a smaller road and challenging riders with an average gradient of 10%, including portions of 14%. The finish line is likely to be placed in Pradollano, some 5km before the climb's actual summit.
2004 Women's Giro
Early details are emerging for the 2004 edition of the women's Tour of Italy, the Giro d'Italia donne. Scheduled for July 2-11, the race is expected to begin in Pordenone and wrap up in Milan. The race will open with a prologue time trial, pass through the Lombardia region, tackle the mountains to the north and include a foray into Switzerland with a stage in Brig. The final stages have yet to be finalised, but could pass near Venice.
Sevilla confident with Phonak
Oscar Sevilla, who made his debut in the colours of the Phonak Hearing Systems team at the I Memorial Manuel Beltran criterium in Jaén, Spain, declared himself confident in the team's chances for success in 2004. Sevilla left Kelme-Costa Blanca to join Phonak, providing the team with another capable leader alongside new headliner Tyler Hamilton (ex-CSC).
"We're counting on a good team and the goal is to increase the number of victories obtained this past year," Sevilla said.
"The season is looking good thanks to the reinforcements added in the team," he added. Sevilla will aim for strong rides in the Tour de France and Vuelta a España, noting that "Lance Armstrong will not have an easy time winning a sixth consecutive Tour de France, since the competition has become a lot stronger."
Vogondy, Laurent regional 'cross champs
Keeping busy in the off-season, a number of French road professionals have been taking to the dirt and mud of winter cyclo-cross, often with good results. Last weekend both Nicolas Vogondy (FDJeux.com) and Christophe Laurent (Jean Delatour) claimed 'cross titles as regional championships were held around France. Vogondy took top honours in Orléans, while Laurent won the Languedoc-Roussillon regionals.
Other pro's in action included the brothers Chavanel, Sylvain and Sébastien of Brioches La Boulangère, who took third and fifth place respectively in Poitou. Vogondy's FDJeux.com teammate Sandy Casar finished top five in the Ile de France championships outside of Paris.
Tenax signs Bosisio
The Italian Tenax team has signed 23 year old amateur Gabriele Bosisio for 2004, his first professional contract.
CSU Rams USAC's collegiate team of the year
Colorado State University's (CSU) Rams cycling team has been named Collegiate Team of the Year by USA Cycling. Over the past two years CSU has worked hard to build a nationally competitive program. This fall Hana Fiserova won the Women's Omnium title at the Collegiate National Championships and strong results from other team members put CSU in 5th overall for Team Omnium.
This month CSU began an aggressive fundraising campaign to build the Rams Cycling Endowment Fund. This fund will support annual collegiate cycling scholarships to be given at Colorado State University beginning in the Fall of 2004. The program is also bolstered by Ram Wheels, a community pilot program to encourage bicycle use as means of transportation. Launching in May of 2004, Ram Wheels will put hundreds of bicycles on the campus of CSU for students to use freely.
"Overall divisions were determined by how well-rounded and active a club was in proportion with its number of club members," explained Lydia Bosch of USA Cycling. "Judges based their decision on the number of cycling events a club held, outstanding competitive results, clinics and seminars held for member education, and activities that helped the club and the community."
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2003)