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Photo ©: Schaaf

First Edition News for September 16, 2003

Edited by Chris Henry

An interview with Michael Rasmussen

Vuelta blond ambition

By Hernán Alvarez Macías

Built for going up
Photo: © Unipublic
Click for larger image

Nicknamed "chicken" because of his very thin legs, Danish rider Michael Rasmussen won the first Pyrenean stage of the Vuelta España last Friday. He didn't relax for the whole weekend and finished up as perhaps the best in the Pyrenees with his first place in Cauterets, ninth in Plá de Beret and tenth in Andorra. He seemed the most combative rider in the mountains although Félix Cárdenas has the mountain leader's jersey.

After his extraordinary career as a mountain biker where he was world champion in 1999, Rasmussen decided to move to road cycling with some very good results. This is his first grand tour as team leader (after making his grand tour debut last year in the Giro in support of Tyler Hamilton), and he has made a sensational start. Nevertheless, he is struggling for a better position than ninth on the general classification. He wants to be on the podium in Madrid.

Click here for the full interview.

Casero carries on

Despite losing nearly an hour and a half through the Vuelta a España's first weekend in the mountains, Team Bianchi leader Angel Casero is not planning on an early exit from the race. Suffering from an inflammation in his knee which has wiped away his hopes of winning a second Vuelta title, Casero remains determined to carry on.

"When it's not possible to do what you initially planned, it's important to try to recover and find the morale because there are many days left to race," Casero told Europa Press.

Casero is no doubt frustrated by the pain in his knee, having arrived at the Vuelta start in what he considered to be very good condition. "When it comes to an injury, all you can do is hold on and try to recover," he said.

At the Vuelta's first rest day, Casero sits in 89th place overall, 1 hour 29 minutes behind race leader Isidro Nozal of ONCE-Eroski.

Zülle's Vuelta swan song

After abandoning the Vuelta a España on Sunday's Stage 9, Phonak's Alex Zülle declared that he will no longer be seen in the grand tours. The Swiss veteran, twice a winner of the Vuelta, had indicated prior to the race start that this year's edition would be an important test to determine whether or not he would continue riding in 2004. Based on his comments it appears retirement is not yet the route he will take, but his focus will shift for the next season.

"I couldn't follow the rhythm," he explained on Spanish radio. "This was my last grand tour. I'm going to take another look at my schedule for next year, and I'll only race the smaller tours and the classics."

Zülle remains under contract with Phonak for the 2004 season.

Kirchen steps up

At last a classic
Photo: © AFP
Click for larger image

Luxembourg's Kim Kirchen (Fassa Bortolo) continued his progression in the professional ranks with an important first win in a classic at Saturday's Paris-Brussels. Kirchen won the fall classic ahead of Quick.Step-Davitamon's Laszlo Bodrogi and Maryan Hary of Brioches La Boulangère, taking his fourth victory as a pro and perhaps more importantly gaining the confidence necessary to race as a leader.

Kirchen figured in a final three man break, and when Bodrogi put in a last ditch effort, the Fassa Bortolo rider forced Hary to close the gap, following and then pouncing for the race win in a display of both strength and a nose for tactics.

"At 25 years old, I've finally taken a big win in a one day classic," Kirchen said happily. "With Pozzato and Cancellara, I'm becoming one of the leaders of the future for Fassa Bortolo.

Kirchen came close to success in the Tour of Switzerland this year, raising his arms in premature victory celebration and losing to Sandy Casar. In Paris-Bruxelles that mistake would not be made again.

"This time, I took a good look around me before making the same gesture," he told La Dernière Heure. "In the two or three years to come, I hope to play a big role in all of the World Cup races, with the possible exception of Paris-Roubaix."

Martinez stays calm

Winner of the Tour de l'Avenir stage race, Euskaltel-Euskadi's Egoi Martinez has declared his victory the most important of his career. Nonetheless, success in one of the biggest races for riders under 25 years of age has not gone to his head, and Martinez knows to temper his enthusiasm with a long career ahead of him.

"It's my most important victory, but if there's one thing I've learned in this sport it's that one day you're on top and the next day you're back down," he said in a Marca report. "Today everybody remembers you, but tomorrow you could be on the street."

Understanding the importance of consistency in cycling, Martinez is looking forward to the coming seasons with a level head.

"It's important to stay balanced and know how to enjoy victories," he added. "I am doing well now, although that could change and it's important to know how to be strong when things are not going well. This sport has many variables and to succeed you have to be good year after year, not rest on what you have done before."

Jean Delatour's future looking brighter

An announcement is expected Tuesday concerning the future of the Jean Delatour team. The title sponsor, jeweler Jean Delatour, announced its planned withdrawal from sponsorship this summer, but cosponsor MG-Rover remains committed and a new title sponsor has reportedly given the go ahead to continue the team for 2004. The team structure will remain effectively the same, though with a reduced roster, as many members of the team have already taken advantage of other offers.

Riders remaining in the team include Jérôme Bernard, Pierre Bourquenoud, Gilles Bouvard, Mickaël Buffaz, Frédéric Finot, Christophe Laurent, David Lefèvre, Ludovic Martin, Bruno Thiboult, and Eddy Seigneur.

The team's budget is anticipated to be similar to that of 2003, thus the team will have the resources to hire a number of new riders to replace the departed.

Durand eager to continue

Jacky Durand, 36, is eager to continue in the professional peloton despite being denied a contract renewal with for 2004. Victim of a crash in the Dauphiné Libéré, Durand was back in competition at the ENECO Ronde van Nederland (Tour of Holland), and remains motivated and unphased by the search for a new team.

"I don't want to stop my career because of a crash," Durand told l'Equipe. "I'm feel like a kid. I want to have a big season in 2004."

Durand, always one to be counted on to launch the early breakaway, is looking to teams outside of France for possible employment, noting that he doesn't feel he holds much interest in the eyes of the French teams.

"By nature I'm not particularly worried," he added. "If it comes together, you'll be surprised by the name of my new team."

Den Bakker injured

Rabobank's Maarten Den Bakker is uncertain for the remainder of the season following a crash in the GP Jef Scherens on September 7. Den Bakker suffered a fractured clavicle, and is unlikely to represent the Netherlands at the world championships in Hamilton, Canada.

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