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News for June 12, 2000
Hamilton's best performance
In winning the overall classification of the Dauphiné Libére, US Postal's Tyler Hamilton gained one of the most important wins of his career. He celebrated on the former World Championship circuit in Sallanches, after successfully negating any last minute attempts by Euskaltel's Haimar Zubeldia to take 31 seconds out of him. Hamilton paid tribute to his teammates and especially Lance Armstrong, as the two had dominated the race virtually from the beginning. Armstrong finished third, and only had one 'off' day on Mont Ventoux. An important result for the Posties with the Tour less than three weeks away.
Hamilton was very strong during the race, winning two of the hardest stages, and placing well in both time trials. He was one of Armstrong's key helpers in July last year, and this was just reward for those efforts. He said that he learnt from the 'failure' of Jonathan Vaughters (2nd) last year, and took a lot of advice from Armstrong on how to handle the pressure. Although he said the he will try to return the favour next month, his team director Johan Bruyneel gave him no choice. "It is an obligation," said Bruyneel.
The other Tour contenders finished up there, but are not quite in peak form yet. Zülle rode well for fourth, as did Vaughters and Moreau, but will they be able to challenge in the Alps and the Pyrenees in July? Olano and Jalabert didn't impress greatly, although the latter managed to win the final stage. One rider who was not a part of this race was Marco Pantani, and he is looking like one of the few main threats in the Tour, but is not his former self yet. Neither is Jan Ullrich, who will start the Tour de Suisse this week. For their part, the US Postal team will ride theRoute du Sud (June 17-20) in France and the Volta a Catalunya (June 15-22) as their final pre-Tour tours.
Although the Dauphiné Liberé is often used as a Tour build up for the stars, it is certainly an impressive race to win, and this year's parcours was quite challenging. A tough uphill prologue, two flat stages, a time trial, three mountain stages, and a hard finishing stage kept the race interesting until the end. Race director Charly Mottet done very well with this edition of the race.
What the Italians are up to
The Giro d'Italia is unquestionably Italy's main cycling event for the year. This year the Italians were rewarded with a 1-2-3 finish, although the odds were admittedly quite good. Garzelli, Casagrande and Simoni were up to the task, and Andrea Noé even finished in front of team leader Pavel Tonkov to take 4th place. Now the dust has settled, what are the champions up to now, as most won't be riding the Tour?
Gilberto Simoni, 3rd overall for the second year in a row was a little disappointed at first with his result, but accepted it realising he'd ridden a good Giro. He thought he could have won another stage - the one into Selva di Val Gardena where he was beaten by José Luis Rubiera of Kelme, but that was not to be. He attacked fiercely, perhaps too often but that was his style. In particular on the stage to Briancon where Pantani was cranking it on the Izoard, he refused to let Pantani go, responding each time to the Pirate's attacks. Perhaps if he wanted to put time into Garzelli, he may have approached that climb differently. However, it didn't turn out that way and they eventually finished in the same group.
Simoni's immediate goal is the Tour de Suisse, starting Tuesday, June 13, where his Lampre team will be doing their utmost to make up for their non participation in the Tour de France. He will then try and build up for the Vuelta, which he says he likes because of its similarity to the Giro.
Francesco Casagrande came close to taking the Giro's final pink jersey but lost it to a certain Stefano Garzelli on the penultimate stage. He had to be content with other jerseys (at the expense of Colombians) and a number one spot in the World Rankings. However, he says he will be back next year to contest the Giro blaming his misfortune this year on a pinched sciatic nerve on the time trial to Sestriere. He managed to earn some cash in a post-Giro criterium in Florence, and he too will ride the Tour de Suisse this week. He won it in 1999 and wants to do so again.
Following that, he'd like another win in the Classica San Sebastian and wants to part of the Sydney Olympic team or ride the World Championships.
Stefano Garzelli join his compatriots and will ride the Tour de Suisse, and he may have ambitions on the race that he won in 1998. Perhaps his teammate Pantani will have something to say about that though.
The less well performed riders in the Giro include Ivan Gotti and Paolo Savoldelli. The former is the only rider to have won the Giro twice, but this year was not to be his year. He has been suffering from fever and dysentery, and has dropped to 54 kilos, his lowest ever. His goals are recovery and the Vuelta. Paolo Savoldelli started quite badly in the first road stages, puncturing several times and falling coming into Terracina. The injuries he suffered in that accident meant that he couldn't get comfortable in the saddle as he had severe back muscle inflammation. On some days, he couldn't walk down to breakfast without help from his roommate, Pavel Padrnos. Savoldelli wants to recover quickly in order to ride the Italian Championships and the Tour de France.
Crunch time for Ullrich
This week's Hors Categorie Tour de Suisse (June 13-22) will form the final Tour de France build up for many riders, while others will be seeking to go all out if they haven't got Tour starts. It will be Jan Ullrich's last tour appointment before the big one, and his form is decidedly questionable at the moment. Once again, many setbacks have hampered his preparation for this year's Tour, while many of the other favourites are in solid form.
He says that he is slowly coming into tour shape, and feels better each day. The back pain that prevented him from starting the Classique des Alpes is no longer a problem, and he will ride the Tour de Suisse with training ambitions. Team director, Walter Godefroot has not yet selected the entire Telekom team for the Tour - he will wait until after the Tour de Suisse. Ullrich and Zabel will be certain, but there are several contenders for the remaining 7 spots. Rolf Aldag, Alberto Elli, Giuseppe Guerini, Jens Heppner, Georg Totschnig, Alexandre Vinokouov and Steffen Wesemann are the favourites although next week will be crucial.
Pantani for Sydney?
Although he was initially discounted from the Olympic team by Italian National coach, Antonio Fusi, Marco Pantani has bounced back, courtesy of his ride in the Giro d'Italia. In what is going to be a hard team to get into, the Squadra Azzuri preliminary team now contains 20 riders, including Pantani, Peron, Guidi, Cipollini, Fagnini, Barbero, Nardello, Zanini and Baldato. After the Italian National Championships in Trieste, June 25, Fusi will pare the squad down.
Germans out of contention
After finishing well out of the medals in this year's World Cross Country MTB Championships, Germany will now have to select two athletes for their men's and women's teams for Sydney in September. In the men's race, Lado Fumic was their best performed rider in 12th, while they did a little better in the women with Regina Marunde in 10th.
Marunde, despite being the best performed female, has not secured her spot in the women's team, as she has not met the German Federation's selection criteria this year. This involves placing in the top 15 twice, or the top 8 once in a World Cup race. Riders who have done this are Hedda zu Putlitz and Sabine Spitz who are the favourites for the team. The men's team will likely be made up of Lado Fumic and Carsten Bresser, both of whom have met the standard.
Spain was the best nation at this year's World's, winning three Gold and two Silver medals. France followed close behind with 3 Gold and one Bronze.