Latest News for June 16, 2003
Edited by Jeff Jones
Armstrong cautious, despite Dauphiné win
After winning the Dauphiné Libéré for the second time in a row, US Postal-Berry Floor leader Lance Armstrong remained cautious as to his chances in the upcoming Tour de France. "Call me a favourite, but don't say it's as if I've already won the Tour," he was quoted in Het Nieuwsblad. "It's not that simple. It will be three really hard weeks."
"This race was much harder than last year. The parcours, the heat, the competitors, and of course the crash. Maybe it was my hardest Dauphiné ever."
After eight days of racing, His final winning margin over Euskaltel's Iban Mayo was 1'12, with David Millar (Cofidis) finishing third in 2'47. In last year's Dauphiné, Armstrong's winning margin was 2'03 (over teammate Floyd Landis), and he went onto win the Tour de France by 7'17.
That could be taken as a sign that Armstrong is slowing down, or his rivals are catching up, but in stage races the main objective is to win, with the time difference being secondary. What was interesting about the Dauphiné was that Iban Mayo looked to be as good as, or better than Armstrong on all the major climbs, however he lost 1'26 in the third stage time trial and that was more than enough to lose the race. Armstrong has two strengths: his time trialling and his climbing, and it's difficult to find any riders at the moment who a) possess both qualities in abundance and b) are in form.
Armstrong's crash in Stage 5 was certainly the biggest scare he's had for some time. "The crash was really frightening," he said. "But also a lesson for my teammates. I immediately got back on my bike again and defended my jersey, instead of staying on the side of the road and groaning of pain. It's good that my teammates have seen that their leader is ready."
The crash certainly did not help him against Mayo on the Galibier on Stage 6, and he had to descend to the best of his abilities to catch the Basque before the finish in Briançon. "When I rode from the hotel to the start on Saturday, I felt like an old guy: Stiff and sore. For that reason I didn't climb the best on the Galibier," he explained.
His team director Johan Bruyneel added, "Armstrong did not really have to panic after the crash on Friday. He knew that he had to remain vigilant. It was necessary for him to hold back a little on Saturday to recover his rhythm again."
Apart from that, Armstrong's time trial performances in the Dauphiné were comparatively better than last year, and that is just as important for the Tour. His US Postal team also showed itself to be ready, and come Tour time, Armstrong should be able to count on riders like Roberto Heras and George Hincapie, who are riding the Volta a Catalunya this week.
As for his rivals, "Mayo was very aggressive, he has surprised me a lot. I expect him again in the Tour. Maybe he was the one who made it much more difficult for me this year than in earlier years. But don't worry, I'm as strong as last year." Bruyneel also pointed out that "The main rivals of Armstrong weren't there. Beloki is in form and we'll see Ullrich in the Tour de Suisse. Simoni? He is a customer, but he's never proved anything in the Tour."
With no more racing to come before the Tour, recovery and training are foremost on Armstrong's mind. "Now I'm going home as soon as possible," Armstrong said. "One week with the family and in particular recovering from the crash. I've never felt so strange. since Saturday I've been taking antibiotics. I have to be careful not to get an infection in the elbow."
Wielinga may ride Tour
Rabobank has added Remmert Wielinga to its pre-Tour de France selection, after he performed very well (8th in the final stage and 12th overall) in the Dauphiné Libéré. Team manager Theo De Rooij told journalists at the start of Stage 7 that Wielinga will now prepare for a possible start in the Tour, which means he will skip the Route du Sud next week. Wielinga is thus part of Rabobank's 13 man long team, which will be reduced to nine come Tour time.
"I knew that I could climb but it is unbelievable when you're suddenly riding on the wheel of Lance Armstrong in a mountain stage," the 25 year old was quoted as saying by ANP.
Steels happy with third win
Tom Steels (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago) was very satisfied with his performance in the Tour of Austria, in which he won the final stage in Vienna in a bunch sprint. It was his third win of the season, and is very timely with Steels having to defend his title at the Belgian Championships at the end of this month.
"The Tour of Austria was pretty hard, especially with the steep hills every time in the finishing circuits," he told Het Laatste Nieuws. "It was ideal to improve your condition. The last stage was in my mind since Friday, because a victory in Vienna sounds good. It was, because of the bunch and the tram tracks, a dangerous, nerve racking sprint. But once led out, it was an easy task. I attacked from 200 m from the finish and I had still enough power in the legs."
Steels is now more confident for the National Championships in Vilvoorde on June 29. "This success gives me a good feeling: I survived a hard week. But the Belgian Championship is different kettle of fish. It'll depend on the condition of the day, but I have every reason to believe I'll manage. I'm in optimal shape, only bad luck can hinder my plans to perform."
Steels will ride a kermesse in Ruddervoorde (June 24) and Brussels-Ingooigem (June 25) before the Belgian Championships.
Vuelta a Colombia preview
The 52nd running of the Vuelta a Colombia takes place between June 16 and 30 over 15 stages (including a prologue) and 2,200 km. It's one of the longest running national tours and is highly rated by the Colombians, who will naturally be the dominant force in this year's event.
Last year's race was won by José Castelblanco (Colombia Selle Italia), who well again be on the start line with a very strong team, containing the likes of Hernán Darío Muñoz, Rubert Albeiro Marín and John Freddy García. The main competition is likely to come from the 05 Orbitel team, with Hernán Buenahora, Carlos Contreras, Félix Cárdenas and Marlón Pérez to name but a few riders.
The race starts with a 6.6 km prologue time trial between El Rodadero and Santa Marta, and finishes with a 99 km circuit race in Cali. Along the way, the riders will have to tackle 40 intermediate sprints, 33 mountain sprints, including five Cat. 1 and one of Special Category, and one fairly long individual time trial, measuring 47.2 km. 12 teams will take part, mainly Colombian, although there are squads from Ecuador and Venezuela taking part.
Aguardiente Antioqueño Lotería de Medellín
Prologue - June 16: El Rodadero-Santa Marta ITT, 6.6 km
Coast-to-Coast Against Cancer sets off
The six man Coast-to-Coast Against Cancer Team left Vancouver, B.C. on Saturday, June 14 at 7:00 a.m on a journey that will end in Halifax, N.S. on June 24. During the trip they will cover 7,200 km, riding in rotating shifts in teams of three, with each cyclist pedaling 12-15 hours across 360 km per day. Their goal is to raise awareness and funding for charities intent on supporting individuals and families dealing with cancer.
The team is headed by Jeff Rushton and Kevin Wallace and includes Fredrik Carlberg, Scott Graham, Hamish Gordon and Jamie Layfield with Mitch Kennedy and Erik Jensen as alternate riders. To date, Coast-to-Coast against Cancer has raised over $335,000 in pledges and has set a goal of $500,000. In January 2002, Jeff Rushton and his friend Kevin Wallace each rode 3200 miles (5100 km), coast to coast from California to Florida in 24 days, raising over $175,000 for two cancer charities.
To celebrate their journey this year, Hamilton 2003 and the Canadian Cycling Association have invited The Coast-to-Coast Against Cancer Team to take a victory lap at the Tim Hortons Road National Championships Road Race on Sunday, June 29, prior to the start of the Elite Men Road Race at 12:00 p.m.
For more information on how to make a donation and to follow the team's progress visit the official web site at www.coasttocoastride.com.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2003)