IndurainSpain's Miguel Indurain said in an Italian newspaper interview on Wednesday he would have no regrets about missing his first Tour de France for 11 years when the race starts this weekend.
``It will be a different Tour. But I won't regret the choice I made to stop competitive cycling,'' Indurain told Gazzetta dello Sport. ``Having given up competitive racing I see the Tour with different eyes. I feel less involved.''
The 32-year-old Indurain, the only cyclist to win the Tour for five consecutive years, announced his retirement from the sport in January, saying he wanted to give time to other facets of his life.
Indurain failed to win a sixth consecutive Tour last year, finishing 11th more than 14 minutes behind winner Bjarne Riis of Denmark.
The cyclist, who was also forced to pull out of the Spanish Vuelta 30 kms from the end last year, told La Gazzetta he believed a favourite for this year's 3,870-km Tour was 23-year-old Jan Ullrich of Germany.
``Riis is more than 30 years old. The future is more with Ullrich,'' Indurain said.
The Tour begins in Rouen on Saturday with a eight-km time trial and ends on July 27 in Paris after 21 stages across France.
Jack and Jones gets even clearerAs a big surprise at the presse conference concerning the new Danish Jack & Jones team which will function from 1998 with Brian Holm (now Telekom) as its first captain it was revealed that Bjarne Riis holds 50% of its shares. He offered to be part of the financial background himself. Other sponsors have been added so that the name will not be the expected Jack & Jones team but the 'Home Jack & Jones Team'. Other sponsors are involved, like Post Denmark which is also the main sponsor of the Tour of Denmark.
At the press conference was claimed that the team had great visions, the major one being a possible participation in Tour de France in three years. As to the possibility of Bjarne Riis riding for the team, it was jokingly said that 'he has a contract with Telekom for 1998 which he will fulfill, then we will see if he qualifies for our team in 1999!' It is difficult to visualize a Danish team which in just one season will be able to offer a Tour de France winner ample support even if also some foreign riders will be signed up. A possible development could be that Riis after some years will step down from the major teams and join the Danish team as a mentor or inspiration to the young, future names but any thought of him riding for the Home Jack & Jones team while his ambitions are still on top does not seem sensible.
Riis was involved in tries to create a merger between Telekom and the Danish firm Dandy ahead of this season. He has always supported the idea of a Danish cycling team and now even invisted some of the money he has made as a Tour-winner in the project. How many riders would ever dream of doing the same thing.
On July 1 1997 it was announced that Bjarne Riis is putting a lot of money into the Jack & Jones team (actually the team name is : Team Home Jack & Jones). The amount of money is unknown, but Riis should be responsible for half of the money. Rumours say that the team costs 10-11 million Danish kroners per year (about $A2 million or $US1.6 million). Other sponsors are Post Danmark, Netto, Bestseller and Peugeot Cycles.
The team is to ride its first race in spring 1998. The sport executive is Alex Pedersen.
The teams goal is to participate in Tour de France in year 2000. The team base will be Herning in Denmark (this is where Riis grew up).
The information above is taken from Danish text-tv.
ZVVZ-Giant-AIS Under 23 ReportI put detailed report and results up yesterday for this race. Today we get the Aussie report from team manager Brian Stephens. "Sorry this is a little late. I had to leave straight after the race anddidn't have time to wait around for the official result. I had to wait for it to be sent. The race was the Het Volk for Under 23 riders. Race distance 178 km
The race was a new experience for the guys. It was the style of race that Belgium is famous for held over a lot of narrow, cobbled sections with a lot of crashes and bad weather. Deane Rogers crashed on a section af cobbles at the 50km point and by the time he got going again the race wsa gone. John Pollock was caught behind a big crash which blocked the road and split the bunch. The organisers stopped his group on the finish circuit as they were too far behind the leaders. Marcel was strong all day but missed the break away group when he got too far back in the group on a section of cobbles. 200 started and 50 finished."
1. Leif Hoste 171 km in 4.32.00 (avg. 38.283km/h) 2. Gunther Stockx s.t. 3. Jurgen Vermeersch 0.07 4. Bert De Waele 0.18 5. Johan Dekkers s.t. 6. Geert Van Crombruggen 7. Bjorn Rondelez 8. Wesley Huvaere 9. Ludovic Capelle 10. Steven Tack 11. Tom Serlet 12. Karel Verveecke all s.t. 13. Marc Chanoine 0.42 14. Wilfried Cretskens s.t. 15. Chris Long (Australia) 2.22 16. Marcel Gono (Australia) ZVVZ Giant AIS s.t
Tour NewsFavourites for the forthcoming Tour de France have a common link -- they have all had health problems this year.
However diplomatic some of the recent illnesses reported among the leading riders may look, few big names in the sport have been spared.
Title holder Bjarne Riis of Denmark has been in pedestrian form in the past month and recently pulled out of the Tour of Switzerland with flu.
The balding Dane also withdrew from the Dauphine Libere race for unknown reasons and he suffered from sinusitis at the beginning of the year.
But there is a saying among riders that minor illnesses often affect those in their best shape, who are so sharp that they become more vulnerable to viruses.
If there is any truth to that, Briton Chris Boardman should be confident. He had to give up in the Dauphine Libere race last month because of a virus.
Unfortunately for the one-hour world record holder, it seems to be the same intestinal virus which ruined his chances in last year's Tour. The prologue on Saturday may yield some answers for the Briton, who dreams to shine at last in a big Tour.
Only three months ago, Alex Zuelle would have been rated by many as the leading contender for Riis's crown.
The bespectacled Swiss, second behind Indurain in 1995, finally won a major Tour last year -- the Tour of Spain -- and he became time trial world champion.
Iy seemed he had come of age until two hard falls in the Dauphine Libere and in the Tour of Switzerland put his Tour hopes in jeopardy.
``Zuelle has what it takes to one day sport the yellow jersey on the Champs Elysees. But who can tell whether he would not crash on the final stretch that day ?'' said respected cycling magazine Velo to sum up the long history of falls in his career.
Only Marco Pantani has a worse record than Zuelle when it comes to injuries. The Italian climber had another dreadful crash in the Giro but he quickly resumed training.
Former world champion Abraham Olano, seen by many as Miguel Indurain's successor as Spain's leading sports figure, also fell in a ravine during the Dauphine Libere when looking poised to win.
The fall cost him victory but did not apparently harm his condition too much.
Another former world champion, Luc Leblanc, fell heavily and hit a wall as he was fighting for victory in this season's Giro d'Italia. One of the best French hopes for the Tour, he will be all out to make up for that mishap in front of his home crowds.
Compatriot Richard Virenque, king of the mountains in the last three Tours, has been in his worst shape in years after undergoing dental surgery in May.
His poor form seemed to spread to the whole of his Festina team, including Swiss Laurent Dufaux, another prospect who has fared terribly of late.
Then there are those, such as Frenchman Laurent Jalabert, Swiss Tony Rominger and Russian Yevgeny Berzin, who have been so discreet this season that their condition is unknown.
Judging strictly by their medical records, only two men, German Jan Ullrich and Giro winner Ivan Gotti, will start the Tour with a clean bill of health.
GottiIvan Gotti was underrated as a Giro d'Italia contender and went on to win it. Now the Italian is determined not to be overlooked as he tackles the Tour de France.
In Rouen where they fondly recall their own Tour hero, five-times winner Jacques Anquetil, Gotti is unlikely to figure in pre-Tour gossip.
Yet he demands to be recognised. After giving Italians their first Giro triumph since 1991 this year, he said: ``The Tour will have a powerful line-up but I believe we can find our place among those big names.''
Before the Giro he was miffed at not being invited to a press conference for the contenders and when Italy's great hope Marco Pantani crashed out of the race Gotti was again upset.
Then lying third overall, he said: ``No one takes me seriously. It has been said that the Giro is over for Italy because Marco is out. I intend to show them otherwise.''
He made his move in the Dolomites, deposing last year's winner Pavel Tonkov from top spot, as he won at Breuil Cervinia with 39 seconds to spare.
Now he was beginning to justify the higher profile he sought when he moved to another Italian sponsor this year.
``I wanted a team where I could be leader. I left manager Emmanuele Bombini because with his new team I could not have such a role,'' said Gotti.
He had laboured for five years to the whim of team captains such as twice world champion Gianni Bugno and 1994 Giro winner Yevgeny Berzin.
``Working for them improved my racing but I lacked confidence. Last year I did not believe in myself and neither did anyone else.''
His professional record then offered little to inspire the pundits. His 1996 Giro stage win at Aprica was his first individual success in five years of striving.
That was the real dawn of his career and showed Gotti's climbing expertise could make him a threat.
He shook off Tonkov to win a 250-km slog through the Dolomites, toppling Spain's Abraham Olano from the leadership which passed to Tonkov.
Until that moment Gotti's only claim to any fame was the two days he spent in the yellow jersey of Tour leader in 1995 and that was more by luck than judgement.
The Italian shot into the top three after his Gewiss squad won the team time trial at Alencon, averaging 54.930 kph, a Tour record for that event.
Then next day a crash involving Tour leader Laurent Jalabert gave Gotti the No.1 colours by one second from Danish team mate Bjarne Riis.
His plan was to keep the jersey until the next time trial when he felt sure he would hand over the colours to his team leader Berzin.
However, Riis finished three seconds clear of Gotti at Dunkirk and spent 24 hours in the jersey that he was eventually to win outright the following year.
The jersey had fallen too soon on Gotti's shoulders. He admitted his tenancy of cycling's favourite colours had been a burden.
``I am sure he will be ready for the yellow jersey this time,'' said team mate Mario Cipollini. ``He has 'grown' a lot since I first knew him. He gave a lot to Italy with his Giro victory and I am sure it will not be the only success.''
Back in his home town of San Pellegrino, near Bergamo, the Gotti family will suffer along with their boy as they did in those last nine days of the Giro.
Papa Gino went off his food and lost weight, mamma Alma spent a week lighting candles and offering prayers, while brother Ugo rehearsed clarinet with the town band in anticipation of a great day in Milan.
If many were emotional about Gotti's Giro triumph there were the doubters.
The Giro had failed to attract anyone from the world's top 20 and falls and sickness left Gotti with only Tonkov as a serious rival.
Then the Russian injured a knee ligament, ending any fears that the leader's pink jersey would leave the Italian's shoulders.
Gotti allowed Tonkov to win the final mountainous stage into Edolo, just as Tonkov had presented him with that 1996 win at Aprica.
Tour FavouritesBJARNE RIIS (Denmark) Age: 33 Team: Telekom
Tour de France record: Won in 1996, third in 1995.
Strengths: A strong time trial specialist, capable of overpowering the best climbers in the mountains, the 1996 winner is surrounded by an impressive Telekom team and has considerable experience of the Tour.
Weaknesses: Very few on paper. Unimpressive in recent weeks but may have been fooling his rivals.
ALEX ZUELLE (Switzerland) 28, ONCE
Tour de France record: Second in 1995.
Strengths: His long but relatively light frame (1.84m, 69kg) allows him to be equally strong in time-trials as in high climbs. A remarkable rider who finally fulfilled his promise when he finished second to Indurain in 1995 and when he won the Tour of Spain last year.
Weaknesses: Would have started the Tour on the same footing as Riis had he not again fallen heavily twice in the Dauphine Libere and in the Tour of Switzerland. May also find it hard to share his team's lead with Laurent Jalabert.
ABRAHAM OLANO (Spain) 27, Banesto
Tour de France record: ninth in 1996.
Strengths: Often compared to Indurain, the former world champion has the same qualities. He is strong against the clock, keeps his cool under pressure and shows superior mental strength when it matters. Is the same age as Indurain when he won his first Tour in 1991.
Weaknesses: He has been unlucky in the past and often injured. Crashed again recently in the Dauphine Libere.
JAN ULLRICH (Germany) 23, Telekom
Tour de France record: Second in 1996
Strengths: Considered to have the qualities to become the leading Tour rider of the future. One of the strongest time trial specialists, he proved he is now among the best in the mountains in the recent Tour of Switzerland. The German road champion is currently in the form of his life.
Weaknesses: His youth. May also be forced to sacrifice his chances to help Riis win a second time.
IVAN GOTTI (Italy) 28, Saeco
Tour de France record: fifth in 1995.
Strengths: Probably the best climber in the world now since compatriot Marco Pantani again crashed in the recent Giro. His confidence will be at an all-time high after his Giro victory.
Weaknesses: The diminutive Italian is not a time trial specialist.
LAURENT JALABERT (France) 28, ONCE
Tour de France record: Points winner (green jersey) in 1992 and 1995, fourth overall in 1995
Strengths: By winning the Tour of Spain in 1995 after a remarkable season, Jalabert showed he had the means to win a big Tour. One of the best all-rounders in the bunch, also a gifted sprinter, he is supported by one of the strongest teams in the world. Prepared in secret to avoid pressure at home.
Weaknesses: Forced to give up in last year's Tour because of a virus, he has had an average season by his standards despite winning Paris-Nice for the third year running and the Fleche Wallonne classic. Will never be a leading force in time trials.
RICHARD VIRENQUE (France) 27, Festina
Tour de France record: King of the mountains in 1994, 1995 and 1996, third overall in 1996.
Strengths: One of the bravest riders in the bunch, he is at his best in the mountains and has replaced Claudio Chiappucci as the most agressive climber in the Tour. Also at ease on flat sections, he can rely on a very consistent team.
Weaknesses: Had dental surgery in May and appeared off form lately. Too much of a lightweight to shine in time trials.
CHRIS BOARDMAN (Britain) 28, Gan
Tour de France record: retired from 1994 and 1995 races, 39th in 1996.
Strengths: The world hour record holder is undoubtedly one of the best track riders in the world. Will be favourite to win the prologue and to do well in time trials.
Weaknesses: Has little experience of the Tour, having retired after wearing the yellow jersey in 1994 and fallen in 1995 before the first stage. Slumped again last year. His abilities in the mountains are unknown and he has been suffering from an intestinal virus.