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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

International Cycling News for November 27, 2003

Edited by Jeff Jones & John Stevenson

Cipollini thinks of the track again

Mario Cipollini at the Giro
Photo: © Sirotti
Click for larger image

Mario Cipollini, who has been absent from racing for much of 2003 after his crash in the Giro d'Italia, is once again considering riding on the track. According to Datasport, Cipollini is thinking of riding the individual pursuit in the Athens Olympics, which he calls an "important stimulus" for his 2004 season. "The other objectives will be Milan San-Remo and the Giro d'Italia," said Cipollini.

On his 2003 season, Cipollini commented that "It was one of the less fortunate of my career, but it's not true that I wasn't completely committed. Whoever things that my crash in San Dona di Piave during the Giro was not serious is wrong. And then the exclusion from the Tour de France cut into my season. For this reason I decided to take a break."

Van Moorsel to check out Olympic course

World pursuit champion and hour record holder Leontien Zijlaard-Van Moorsel will travel to Athens, Greece in mid-December to take a look at the velodrome and the road courses that will be used for the Olympic Games next year, reports ANP. The winner of three gold and one silver medals in Sydney, Van Moorsel is using the trip to help her decide which events she will compete in in 2004, which could well be her last year in cycling.

According to ANP, German cyclist Angela Brodtka will ride for Van Moorsel's Farm Frites-Hartol team next year in most of the races save for the World Cup events where she will ride for the German national team.

Ullrich and Spitz riders of the year

The German trade magazine Radsport has voted Jan Ullrich and Sabine Spitz as "cyclists of the year". It's the fifth such award for Ullrich, who won it in 1993, 1996, 1997 and 1999. The Tour de France runner up received 60 percent of the votes, pushing Erik Zabel into second place with 23 percent.

"I'm very happy with this honour," said Ullrich to SID. "After such a year, to win an award like this is not a given."

The women's winner Sabine Spitz (32) was given the award after her strong performances on the mountain bike circuit, which saw her win the World Cross Country Championships in Lugano this year.

Final teams confirmed for JCTDU

Organisers have announced the final six teams to contest the 2004 Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under from January 20th to 25th. Returning to the event are Lotto-Domo and Quick.Step-Davitamon who will be joined by two teams making their Tour debut. Dutch registered Bankgiroloterij and the Italian Domina Vacanze will complete the nine European teams competing in 2004. The final two teams will be United Water (Australian U/23) and an Australian National Team.

The riders for these teams will be released when they are confirmed. These six join AG2R-Prevoyance headed by defending champion Spain's Mikel Astarloza, Liberty Seguros (formerly ONCE), Panaria Margres,, Credit Agricole and UniSA to complete the 12 team, 96 rider roster.

Patrick Jonker heads UniSA team at JCTDU for his final race

Adelaide's Patrick Jonker, 33, will head the UniSA team of South Australian riders at the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under in what will be his final race as a professional cyclist. "This will be the last one and I really want to win it this time," said Jonker. "Three times I've raced it and three times I've finished within 15 seconds of overall victory [two sevenths and a third overall].

"I've had the opportunities to pull it off every year but it's always the fast guys with sprint legs who pip me," said the 33 year old who is focused on being in absolute top form come January. "It's the biggest race in Australia and it's in Adelaide which makes it even more important to me so I'm hoping that with good form and a little bit of luck I can end my career on the podium."

Jonker turned professional in 1993 and in 1996 raced the first of the six Tours de France he has contested. In 1996 he finished the race 12th overall, one place ahead of five time Tour winner Spaniard Miguel Indurain. In 2000 he signed with Lance Armstrong's US Postal Service team but injury ruled him out of the Tour de France. He has notched up 12 career victories including winning both the Australian and Dutch road time trial titles.

"Now you have to be in a ten million dollar team to even get in the Tour de France and the difference between racing with US Postal and racing with a lower ranked team is like 'five star' and 'happy campers'," he said. "So it's time to hang up the professional wheels."

After the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under Jonker will head back to Europe to work as a cycling guide with Bikestyle Tours. "It will be good for my self-esteem as I'm looking forward to winning on all the climbs," he joked. Jonker says the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under has evolved into one of the most hotly contested on the calendar for not only the Australian riders but for the European contingent as well.

"There are 100 UCI ranking points up for grabs and winning them is effectively money in the bank for a professional cyclist so the Europeans who come out here now come out 'flying' and ready to race," he explained. Jonker will be joined by a strong team line up of local talent in Sydney Olympic gold medalist, Brett Aitken, teams pursuit world record holder, Luke Roberts, Gene Bates, Steve Cunningham, Russell Van Hout, Adrian Laidler and James Hannam.

"We might have a bunch of individuals who all want to win themselves but somehow we have always managed to work together and look after each other," he explained. "We're pretty level headed, normal guys from Adelaide and none of us have big egos or think we're Lance Armstrong so we look at it in the right way and help out the person who's in form at the time."

Roberts is another who is aiming for good form in January as he heads into perhaps his most important sporting year. A member of the victorious pursuit team that smashed the world record to claim gold at this year's World Championships in Stuttgart, Roberts returned to Australia to race the Victorian Herald Sun Tour and was leading the race into the final stage before victory was snatched by American Tim Johnson.

"It was disappointing to come so close and get pipped on the post but my performance in the race far exceeded my expectations going in," explained Roberts who has just enjoyed a one month break from cycling. "2004 is the Olympic year and I know what I need to do to be in 110 percent top condition for Athens. In January I'm aiming for a top ten overall but I won a stage of this race in 2001 into Strathalbyn and since then I've been wanting to do it again."

Also keen to impress is Aitken who is aiming for selection in the Australian team for Athens in the hope of defending his Madison gold medal of 2000. This year he claimed outright honours in the National Road Series by a margin of more than 300 points and has marked the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under as his next major goal. "This is definitely the year for UniSA because we've got a lot of motivation," said Aitken. "It's my hometown race and I've never won it before. "I'm not saying I will this time but I know I'm capable of doing it and in the end it doesn't matter who wins so long as it's a UniSA rider."

UniSA team for 2004 Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under: Patrick Jonker (Aus/Ned), Brett Aitken (Aus), Luke Roberts (Aus), Gene Bates (Aus), Steve Cunningham (Aus), Russell Van Hout (Aus), Adrian Laidler (Aus), James Hannam (Aus).

Zubeldia honoured

Haimar Zubeldia (Euskaltel-Euskadi) will be honoured in Zizurkil this Friday as the top Basque rider in the 2003 Tour de France, where he finished fifth. The ceremony will be organsed by Urka Mendi, a Basque outfit that has held similar events for the last 18 years. Zubeldia will be accompanied by his brother Joseba, along with Joseba and Gorka Beloki, Igor and Iker Flores, Eneritz Iturriaga and ex-professionals Marino Lejarreta and Txomin Perurena.

US Postal adds young talent

The US Postal-Berry Floor cycling team will add several young riders to its roster for 2004, according to an article on the team's website. As well as the previously-announced addition of top US under-23 rider Patrick McCarthy, Belgians Jurgen Vandenbroeck (20), and Stijn Devolder (25), Spaniard Benjamin Noval, and Canadian Ryder Hesjedal - better known as a mountain bike racer - will all join the team.

One further young rider is also scheduled to climb aboard Postal's big blue bus, a Colombian who directeur sportif Johan Bruyneel declined to name, but who is reported by to be Daniel Rincon Quintana.

Max Sciandri to Team CSC

Anglo-Italian cyclist Max Sciandri (Lampre) will join Team CSC next year as the 25th and final rider on its roster. Sciandri, 36, will be one of the most experienced riders on the team, and 2004 will be his 16th season. The contract is for one year.

"Next year may be my last season as a professional rider and I am very happy to be able to end my career at Team CSC," said Sciandri on the team's website. "Bjarne [Riis] and I have had a good discussion about my role on the team and I am happy to be riding for him next year. I know many of the riders and I can see that I will be part of a very ambitious squad."

Team manager Bjarne Riis added, "Sciandri has lots of experience and he is still competitive in the classics. He has a very pleasant personality and he will fit perfectly into our squad. The team is now complete and I am very proud to have signed 25 contracts with such good riders. Our team will be very strong and versatile and I am confident that we will be able to make results throughout the entire season."

Xavier Florencio to Relax

24 year old Spanish cyclist Xavier Florencio will ride for Relax-Fuenlabrada next season. Florencio, who made his professional debut with ONCE in 2001, will leave Manolo Saiz's team after three years, signing a one year deal with Relax. Florencio was one of the riders who was to accompany Joseba Beloki to Stayer, however that deal completely fell through when Stayer couldn't pay its UCI bank guarantee in time.

Ballester to turn pro with Kelme

23 year old Spanish rider Vicente Ballester will turn professional with the Kelme-Comunidad Valenciana team in 2004. Ballester has ridden for the Kelme Amateur team for the past four years, and turned down a number of offers from Spain and Italy to stay with Vicente Belda's squad. At first he was due to turn pro in 2005, but after discussions with the team management it was decided that he make the step up to the pro ranks in 2004.

Ballester, who is 1.75 m tall and weighs only 60 kg, is considered an all round rider who can climb quite well. In 2003, he won the Vuelta al Maestrazgo and the one day races Tamarite De Litera and Memorial Bernardo Gonzalez, as well as a stage in the Vuelta A La Montaña Central. In total he finished on the podium 18 times in 2003.

Rabobank to ride Paris-Nice again

After a four year absence from the "race to the sun", the Rabobank team will ride in Paris-Nice next year. The team usually competes in the Vuelta a Murcia (and Tirreno-Adriatico) at that time of year, but has chosen to skip Murcia in favour of Paris-Nice. The last time Rabobank rode it was in 1999 when Michael Boogerd won.

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