First Edition News for June 27, 2003
Edited by Chris Henry
The eternal Jeannie Longo claimed her 47th French national title Thursday, winning the time trial championships in Plumelec. Longo won her first national title in Neufchâtel, in the women's road race, in 1979. Now, at the age of 44, she has claimed yet another national jersey, although her objectives in the sport have changed with the times.
"I'm 44 years old, and I don't want a season like I've had before," Longo said, quoted in Reuters. "In the past, I was driven by victories, titles, and records. Now only the pleasure (of racing) guides me. I don't touch the bike when it's not nice outside."
Longo also used the occasion of her latest victory to express her discontent with the French Cycling Federation, which she feels has not appreciated her contributions to the sport. "They still expect me to prove myself," she exclaimed. "I think they've wanted me to believe that my wrinkles upset the peloton, that I should wear a mask so that a fifth place by Longo wouldn't be so noticeable."
"Last year at the world championships in Zolder, I didn't appreciate the fact that the directors of the French national team put me aside, leaving my participation in the road race in question until three days before the start," Longo added.
Perhaps what makes Longo's latest victory all the more impressive is her new outlook on the sport, focusing on her own enjoyment rather than training incessantly as in years past. "Jeannie no longer has the drive to ride thousands of kilometres," her husband and coach Patrice Ciprelli told l'Equipe on the eve of the time trial. "She trains in the winter on the track, and heads to the mountains when the snow melts from the roads."
Norwegian TT troubles
It wasn't all smooth sailing for riders in the individual time trial events of the Norwegian national championships, poor road marshaling and insufficient course markings led to confusion and safety concerns for a number of riders. The junior men's TT event was eventually canceled, and will likely be rescheduled for August.
Many riders took wrong turns on the course, meaning that for a 20km parcours, some rode 10km while others rode 30km. The elite women's champion Anita Valen was forced to stop two times during her ride to avoid collisions with wayward cars entering the race route. Despite the interruptions, however, Valen still won 3'04" over second place Linn Torp.
US Postal's Steffen Kjaergaard narrowly beat Team fakta's Kurt Asle Arvesen to take the men's title.
Beloki heads ONCE Tour assault
Joseba Beloki has declared himself ready to lead the ONCE assault against Lance Armstrong and US Postal during the centenary Tour de France. Beloki has finished on the podium in the last three Tours, third behind Armstrong and Jan Ullrich in 2000 and 2001, and second behind the American in 2002. In an interview with Spanish paper AS, Beloki underlined his desire to shine in the Tour, and his hopes that one day Armstrong will one day become vulnerable.
"I'm in better shape than in years past," Beloki commented. "I'm going to the Tour to win. I think the time has come."
Beloki added that he thinks Armstrong's US Postal Service team is weaker than in previous years, and he and ONCE will be ready to pounce. ONCE will be without Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano, who wore the yellow jersey in 2002 for several stages, but Beloki himself is counting on a big performance. "I'll continue to concentrate on the Tour de France," he added, highlighting his desire to succeed in the world's biggest race.
Armstrong still tips Ullrich
Reiterating sentiments he expressed on the eve of the Dauphiné Libéré, defending Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong spoke of the deep field of would-be challengers for his Tour crown with just over a week until the opening prologue in Paris.
"The competition is very strong this year," Armstrong told Eurosport television. "Jan Ullrich is a big favourite, Beloki is riding well, and the Telekom team is coming up. There are also several outsiders, including Tyler Hamilton. The time gaps will be small."
Armstrong expects a fight from Ullrich, despite the German's claims that he is not yet ready to challenge for the Tour title. "Ullrich lives for the race, and he knows what it takes. I expect a lot from him; he has a big engine, and as a former winner he knows exactly what's needed. His situation hasn't been simple, but he's going well and will be a threat."
Armstrong has always tipped Ullrich as the biggest threat to his Tour successes, and in years past had praised the German as the biggest talent in cycling. Ullrich has said that he would be very satisfied with a stage win this year, thinking ahead to resuming the duel with Armstrong in 2004. Armstrong, however, seems unwilling to write off the 1997 Tour winner, regardless of the complications Ullrich has faced in the past two years.
Ferretti's Fassa Bortolo outlook
Fassa Bortolo team manager Giancarlo Ferretti is ready for his team to tackle the Tour, headed by the top sprinter of the Giro, Alessandro Petacchi, 2002 Vuelta a España winner Aitor Gonzalez, and last year's best young rider of the Tour, Ivan Basso. Ferretti spoke plainly about his expectations for the Tour in an interview with Datasport,
"We're counting on Gonzalez," Ferretti said of his team leader. "He won the Vuelta last year and he's ready for the Tour."
Ferretti admits there are no other favourites besides Lance Armstrong, but he nonetheless has hopes for his young charge Ivan Basso, who claimed the white jersey in 2002. "It's not going to be a picnic," he said of the experience for his riders. "In France it's hard, even for riders who are more mature. In the Tour, [Basso] will be going for the general classification."
Fassa Bortolo's full roster for the Tour includes: Ivan Basso, Marzio Bruseghin, Dario Cioni, Aitor Gonzalez, Volodimir Gustov, Sven Montgomery, Nicola Loda, Alessandro Petacchi, and Marco Velo.
Lefevere takes note
Quick.Step-Davitamon manager Patrick Lefevere has expressed his discontent with Richard Virenque, who has had an exceedingly quiet season in the first half of 2003. According to a VRT report, Lefevere expects a big performance from Virenque in the Tour de France for the Frenchman to earn a contract for 2004. Other riders, including David Canada, Kurt Van De Wouwer, and Piotr Wadecki, have failed to impress the Quick.Step boss.
Lefevere does intend to encourage rising star Michael Rogers to stay within the fold for 2004, after the Australian's string of successes including overall wins in the Tour of Belgium, Tour of Germany, and Route du Sud. Patrik Sinkewitz and Jurgen Van Goolen, who raced aggressively throughout the Tour de Suisse, appear likely to receive contract offers for the coming season.
Pantani seeks solitude
Marco Pantani, who has confirmed that he is undergoing treatment for depression at a clinic in Italy, has issued an open letter pleading for privacy as he faces personal struggles. "In order to silence once and for all the rumours about my health, I want to let it be known that I am at the clinic Parco dei Tigli, in accordance with a medical staff in whom I have complete confidence," Pantani said in a written statement. "I would also like to request an end to the visits and the continuous requests for information out of respect for my private life."
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2003)