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Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

Latest News for September 24, 2003

Edited by Chris Henry

Nozal increasingly confident

Nozal won't let go
Photo: © Unipublic
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Vuelta a España leader Isidro Nozal is growing increasingly comfortable and confident in his role as both team and race leader as the Vuelta draws closer to Madrid. While he lost an additional 53 seconds to his closest rival Roberto Heras, Nozal once more maintained his composure in the face of Heras' attacks on the interminable Sierra Nevada climb.

"When I climbed the Pandera, I think I lacked a little cold-bloodedness," Nozal explained after Stage 16. "[Yesterday] with that error of inexperience in my mind I did what I had to do not to give up."

There were no surprises in Stage 16, as Nozal and Heras had just one mountain on which to go head to head, and Nozal knew that Heras had to attack. Fortunately for Nozal, who did not appear to be at his best on the 30km climb, Heras waited until the closing kilometres to make his move, on roads that were not steep enough to make a big difference in the finale.

"Once I saw Heras go I knew he wouldn't take too much time out of me," Nozal explained. "I had a four minute advantage before the stage and I still have three [today]. Frankly I think it will be enough. I think I've done 80% of the race and it should be enough to defend on the Navacerrada. Plus, nothing tells me that Heras will take back any time in the time trial at Abantos."

With five stages remaining, Nozal has slowly been transformed from surprise leader to man to beat. Heras and US Postal have raced according to plan, but have been unable to dislodge the formidable ONCE squad, who still have Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano in second place overall.

Differences in the Kelme camp

Sevilla attacks
Photo: © AFP
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Yesterday's Stage 16 of the Vuelta a España saw the Kelme team searching for two objectives, but potentially missing out on both. Alejandro Valverde has become the team's leader for the general classification following strong performances and the time losses suffered by Oscar Sevilla following his crash in the first days of racing. Sevilla was quick to put himself in the service of his young teammate, but remains intent on challenging for stage victories before the Vuelta concludes in Madrid.

Stage 16 and the 30km climb to Sierra Nevada was, for Sevilla, the perfect opportunity. Clearly in perhaps his best condition since the Vuelta began, Sevilla attacked repeatedly on the middle slopes of the climb to both break clear and reduce the numbers in the peloton of race leader Isidro Nozal. Sevilla's attacks, however, did not fit in with the plans of directeur sportif Vicente Belda, who was thinking more of Valverde's position in the general classification.

"I thought my first attack was good and I had a chance to win, but then we had to sacrifice the stage for the general classification," Sevilla told Spanish paper AS. "Sometimes when you try to do two things, it falls apart."

Belda, not convinced of Sevilla's ability to go the distance with his attacks, preferred to look after Valverde. "Sevilla's attack was pulling the group along, and I told him to stop because he wasn't that much faster than the rest," Belda explained. "I had to change the plans and I told Valverde to attack and go after the classification. He was the better bet, because there were many riders in the group who could have won the stage. I understand how Sevilla could think I hurt his chances, but I thought this was better."

Sevilla and Valverde crossed the line together in third and fourth place, and while Sevilla may have missed out on a stage victory, Valverde was able to jump ahead of US Postal's Manuel Beltran in the general classification. Valverde now sits in fourth place overall, 5'00 behind Isidro Nozal.

Belgian World's teams announced

Belgian national selector José de Cauwer has announced his selections for the men's elite races at the world championships in Hamilton. The Belgian team will be headed by Peter Van Petegem, winner of the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix this spring. Axel Merckx, long motivated by the prospect of racing in his wife's native Canada, will also be looking for a strong performance. Young talen Philippe Gilbert ( will also make his first appearance in an elite world's event.

The full Belgian selection for the road race is as follows: Peter Van Petegem, Axel Merckx, Wim Vansevenant, Christophe Brandt, Serge Baguet (all Lotto-Domo), Tom Boonen and Jurgen Van Goolen (Quick.Step-Davitamon), Dave Bruylandts (Marlux), Philippe Gilbert (, Nico Sijmens (Vlaanderen-T Interim), Marc Wauters (Rabobank), Mario Aerts (Telekom).

The elite men's time trial will be contested by Bert Roesems (Palmans-Collstrop) and Marc Wauters (Rabobank). Roesems was second (by just one second) in last Sunday's Grand Prix des Nations time trial behind German specialist Michael Rich.

Notable absentees from the Belgian team are former world champion Johan Museeuw and Frank Vandenbroucke (both Quick.Step-Davitamon).

Museeuw not selected

Johan Museeuw will not take part in the world championships in Hamilton next month. Although no specific reasons were cited, Museeuw's implication in the Landuyt affair has undoubtedly complicated the 1996 world champion's late season plans. As recently as last week, Museeuw had left the door open to a possible participation, but now seems to have come to a different conclusion.

Museeuw reached a decision not to ride with Belgian national selector José de Cauwer at a meeting Tuesday evening. De Cauwer did not allude to the Landuyt affair as reason for not selecting Museeuw. Rather, as national selector, he insisted that the recent race results were the factor.

"Johan is heavily marked for the moment," De Cauwer explained, "and based on what I saw on the climbs at the Grand Prix de Wallonie, it would seem very difficult to select him."

French TT teams set

With the exception of one event, France has confirmed its riders for the world time trial championships in Hamilton. National time trial champion Eddy Seigneur (Jean Delatour) will be joined by Sylvain Chavanel (Brioches La Boulangère) on the start ramp, while the eternal Jeannie Longo will contest the elite women's race along with Edwige Pitel.

In the U23 men's event, Emilien Berges and Damien Monier have been selected, and Rémy Di Gregario and Julien Loubet will represent for the junior men. Two out of the following three junior women will get a ticket to Hamilton: Alna Burato, Emmanuelle Merlot, and Angélique Saldana.

Laurent Jalabert is the only French rider to have brought home the gold medal in the world time trial championships, in 1997. The elite men's road team is expected to be finalised following on October 2 following Paris-Bourges.

Van Moorsel's target dates

Leontien Zijlaard-Van Moorsel's scheduled second attempt on the women's World Hour Record in Mexico City will soon come to pass, but continued work being done at the track have delayed the attempt slightly. The current plan is to make her attempt between October 1st and 3rd.

Zijlaard-Van Moorsel, 33, has set the hour record as her major objective of the season, hoping to beat Jeannie Longo's distance of 45.094 kilometres set on the same track in Mexico City in 2000. Zijlaard-Van Moorsel's first unsuccessful attempt to beat the record was in Manchester in September 2002, where she could manage only 43.475 kilometres.

White to Cofidis

Australian Matthew White has signed with the French Cofidis team for 2004, according to a l'Equipe report. White has spent the past three seasons with US Postal Service and is currently racing in the Vuelta a España. In a recent interview with Cyclingnews, White acknowledged that his contract with US Postal would finish at the end of this season, but hedged his bets concerning his next destination.

Cofidis has undertaken a fairly significant overhaul of its roster, which for 2004 will also be bolstered by the likes of Spanish classics specialist Igor Astarloa (Saeco) and French sprinter Jimmy Casper, among others.

Carrara to Lampre

Italian Matteo Carrara will join Lampre for 2004. An emerging classics rider, the 24 year old Carrara turned professional in 2001 and currently rides for De Nardi-Colpack.

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