Jalabert's SeasonHe won't ride the Dauphine Libere this season -- he felt his heart ruled his head in taking part last year, exposing himself to a hard, high-publicity race in the run-up to the Tour de France. This year he'll prepare in the relative obscurity of the Tour of Luxembourg. His principal races will thus be the Trofeo Luis Puig (February 23), the Vuelta a la Comunidad Valenciana [Tour of Valencia] (Feb 25--March 1), Paris--Nice (Mar 9--16), Milan--San Remo (Mar 22), Criterium International de la route (Mar 29--30), Ronde van Vlaanderen (April 6), Euskal Herriko Itzulia [Tour of the Basque Country] (Apr 7--11), Liege--Bastogne--Liege (Apr 20), then a break of a month and a half picking up with the Tour de Luxembourg (June 12--16) and then perhaps the Route du Sud (Jun 21-24) before the Tour de France, starting July 5.
Tactics at ONCEManuel Saiz, sport director for Team ONCE, commented on the team tactics that he will use this year, which will not change and that's why they will come out to win in every race that they participate. "I think that our philosophy is seen clearly at el Trofeo Mallorca, since we have won already, we have been close to another one and a flat kept us from winning today", said Saiz. For the team director, the team's challenge is no other than trying to increase the number of victories achieved last season -close to fifty-. Manuel Saiz shows moderate optimism about reaching one of his dreams: the Tour de France. "I think that it is within our reach, because with Indurain's retirement, things are more open and both Jalabert and Zuelle should count as the favorite, since being number one and two in the UCI classifications should count for something". "It is too soon to speak about favorites -says Saiz- because the Tour is too far away, but we aren't changing our plans of other years. And our rivals for the Tour are no secret either: Riis, Rominger, Olano and Ullrich amongst others"
Saiz said that the team hadn't suffered any major changes, even though illustrious riders like Stephens, Rincon and Jonker are gone. "They are riders of a lot of quality that I would have liked to keep, but ONCE couldn't match the monetary offers from other teams and that's why I let them go. Something similar has happened with Indurain". "But the team -added Saiz- perfectly combines veterans with young riders. With the young riders being responsible for the first races, because even though they are in their formative years, Etxeberria, Perez, Morras, Canadas and Otxoa will have to show their face. Then it will be Jalabert, Zuelle or Mauri and they don't even like to loose at playing marbles and that's why we will have numerous victories all year long".
Manuel Saiz, when analyzing his rivals, only said that "with Indurain one, Banesto is going to have to be more aggressive and fight from the beginning, since they don't have the assurance of a Tour win, while Kelme grabs on and the others, Toscaf and Euskadi, will continue to be as competitive as they have been, since they are modest teams, they have to come out and try to win every race in which they participate without concrete objectives".
Corrections from February 11 NewsTheo kindly corrected some information that I obtained from elsewhere.
Here are the facts folks: