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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest News for February 5, 2003

Edited by Jeff Jones

Tour of Qatar stakes its claim

The second edition of the Tour of Qatar concluded on Tuesday with an exciting final stage won by Servais Knaven (Quick Step), with Alberto Loddo (Lampre) just managing to win the overall classification. The race for the overall the came down to the wire as Olaf Pollack (Gerolsteiner) finished second on the stage and gained enough time to put him equal with Loddo, however the Italian won by virtue of his higher combined stage placings.

The five stage event organised by the A.S.O. is now rapidly entrenching itself into the early season calendar, alongside the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under (Australia), Tour de Langkawi (Malaysia) and the already well established Challenge Illes Balears (Spain). The Tour of Qatar is yet another oasis for riders who are looking for some racing kilometres in January/February, without having to face the rigours of the tail end of a European winter.

Tour of Qatar race organiser Jean-Marie Leblanc knows a thing or two about organising stage races, having directed the Tour de France for many years. "I've found that things have very rapidly fallen into place," he told La Dernière Heure. "Our partners in Qatar have quickly learned how to run this type of event, one which they were not accustomed to doing."

"We've tried to do these things in Portugal, we favoured the creation of the Tour of Malaysia [which has now come to pass] and one in South Africa in the near future, to welcome cycling events to other countries," continued Leblanc. "It's not easy to organise races sunder the sun, at this time of the year. Malaysia and Qatar have proven that it's possible to export cycling a long way. The advantage of the emirate is that it is only six hours flight from Europe, and only two hours time difference from France, Italy and Belgium, and offers a climate in February that is not too hot or too humid."

Slow start for Dekker

Dutch one day specialist Erik Dekker started his season in Mallorca's Challenge Illes Balears, but so far has only competed in one of the three races. The 32 year old Rabobank rider finished the first race in 180th position at 1'12 behind the winner, but opted not to start the next day due to a pain in his right knee, according to a report in Het Nieuwsblad today.

Dekker's 2003 began inauspiciously when he hit his left knee against a door on New Year's Day. That prevented him from training during Rabobank's pre-season camp in Javea, Spain, and he has since been playing catch up.

Dekker wants to be fully fit in time for the World Cup classics season, where he will ride alongside Michael Boogerd and new signing Oscar Freire. The Spaniard is Rabobank's big hope for the World Cups, having demonstrated in the past that he's a capable rider on any terrain, and possesses a very fast finish.

Dekker was quoted in the Spanish press as saying that he'll help Freire in the classics. "I'll try to pass on all my experience of the classics to him, and I'll help him as much as I'm able," he said. "Oscar is already prepared to triumph in the World Cup, in this campaign or the next one."

Etoile des Bessèges starts today

The 33rd edition of the Etoile de Bessèges (UCI 2.3) starts today (February 5) in Saint-Cannat. The race will feature the same teams that contested the GP d'Ouverture La Marseillaise, including Landbouwkrediet's Ludo Dierckxsens, who won the first race of the French season yesterday. The five stage event will conclude on Sunday in Brannoux-les-Taillades.

The stages

Stage 1 - February 5: Saint-Cannat - Sainte-Tulie, 153.5 km
Stage 2 - February 6: Marseilles - Marseilles, 154 km
Stage 3 - February 7: Nimes - Les Fumades, 160 km
Stage 4 - February 8: Alès - La Grand'Combe, 150.5 km
Stage 5 - February 9: Brannoux-les-Taillades, 148 km

Holm becomes Telekom director

Danish ex-professional cyclist Brian Holm has been appointed as a new director sportif of the Telekom team, working alongside Olaf Ludwig and Frans van Looy, with Mario Kummer remaining the top director. Holm, who rode for Telekom between 1993 and 1997, is currently running a café in Copenhagen, although he has had experience working as a coach for the Danish cycling federation.

Telekom had to rearrange its directors after Rudy Pevenage left for Team Coast.

Fiedler to miss first World Cup

German sprinter Jens Fiedler will miss the first round of the Track World Cup, which takes place in Moscow between February 14-16. The two time Olympic sprint champion and seven time World Champion tore a muscle in his leg, and has to rest for a week.

The German team for the World Cup will consist of Stefan Nimke, René Wolff, Katrin Meinke, Susan Panzer, Charlotte Becker and Christina Becker. The four rounds of the World Cup will be held in Moscow, Mexico, Kapstadt and Sydney, followed by the World Championships in Shenzhen, China in July.

Eeckhout back in March

Nico Eeckhout (Lotto-Domo) will have to remain off the bike for another month following an operation on his achilles tendon two weeks ago. That means the Belgian will miss his favourite northern classics in March and April, while he regains full fitness.

Cycling Ireland prepares for 2003

By Gerry McManus

Kelly and Campbell
Photo: © Gerry McManus
Click for larger image

Whilst snow and poor weather conditions were gripping England, Cycling Ireland's training weekend in Carlingford, County Louth was enjoying bright sunshine on February 1-2.

120 riders from all categories including under 16's took part in the second training event of the year, organised by Frank Campbell on behalf of Cycling Ireland.

"It's the first weekend we have opened to all our members including underage and mountain bike," said Campbell. "We have already run a Junior and Under 23 day just to make them aware of what our plans were for the year, so that we could get a look at some of the guys and make them aware of this weekend. We normally have another one for our juniors in June because that's when they finish school, and we are also planning to use the Belgian base for juniors too if we think we have four or five riders up to the standard."

The picturesque backdrop of Carlingford Bay provided a base for riders from all over Ireland for road training rides with Sean Kelly in the morning, followed by afternoon lectures including the topics of hygiene, recovery, supplements and feeding. Kelly recalled his many experiences riding the major tours to answer many of the questions raised. The participants included new Endura professional Stephen Gallagher and rising under-23 star Philip Deignan.

Training in the sun
Photo: © Gerry McManus
Click for larger image

Cycling Ireland has some clear goals in 2003 including some top results in the 'B' World Championships in Switzerland in July. Good places in the 'B' World's event would gain Ireland automatic entries for the Olympic games in Athens in 2004. The recent appointment of ex-Credit Agricole professional and hour world record holder Chris Boardman is to specifically help the preparation of the track team.

The squad selection for Switzerland and for other Irish squad duties will be dependent on results and a number of domestic races have been highlighted as part of the selection criteria. This list includes the Des Hanlon memorial on March 30th, which means that it is unlikely that an Irish team will now travel to the UCI 1.5 Archer GP in the UK on the same day.

Most of the Team Ireland teams for the year will be focused on Under 23's and 25's but with the support of older and more experienced riders.

The early season races include Zelik Galmaarden (Belgium) in April and the U23 Liège-Bastogne-Liège in May. A new Belgian base has now been established much closer to the Brussels capital and will be open all year round.


Images by Gerry McManus

(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2003)