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2001 Vuelta

Recently on Cyclingnews.com

Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

An interview with Team Phonak

Talking in the Phonakular

Happy crew
Photo: © Sirotti

While Phonak may not be the highest profile Division I team in the peloton, Switzerland's only professional cycling team has some ambitious yet realistic plans for the Vuelta. Cyclingnews' Chief Editor, Jeff Jones, went on the hunt - searching for answers from a team that has been quietly racking up some great results - and discovers aggression, among other things, has been key to Phonak's success.

1. About the season

Cyclingnews: This is the team's first year in division one. How do you think it has gone?

Team Phonak: The first half of the season we were not so lucky because our leaders, [Benoît] Salmon and [Oscar] Camenzind were sick. But fortunately we had other riders who have took over the leaders positions.

Our highlights of the season so far were Massimo Strazzer who won seven races, Juan Carlos Dominguez who won the Giro Prologue, and Alexandre Moos winning one stage of the Tour de Suisse and of course the Swiss Championship. And last but not least Camenzind, who won the Sachsen Tour.

2. About the Vuelta

CN: This is the team's first participation in the Vuelta Espaņa. What are your expectations and ambitions for the race?

TP: We expect to win at least two stages and obtain a good ranking for Camenzind and Pereiro in the final classification.

CN: Is the Vuelta as important as the Giro d'Italia for Phonak?

TP: The Vuelta is very important for the Phonak Team because of our main sponsor Phonak Hearing Systems who has a big interest in the Spanish market.

CN: How balanced will the team be - is it weighted towards climbers/sprinters?

TP: We have four climbers, two sprinters and three all rounders.

CN: Can you give the specific names of the riders yet and their individual goals?

TP: Oscar Camenzind (GC), Juan Carlos Dominguez (stages), Oscar Pereiro (GC), Benoît Salmon (stages), Gonzalo Bayarri (stages), Sven Teutenberg (stages sprint), Bert Grabsch (stages sprint), Daniel Schnider and Reto Bergmann are support for Camenzind.

More of this please!
Photo: © Sirotti

CN: Will you be using any special equipment during the race? For example, a particular climbing bike etc; can you provide the details of this equipment, if any?

TP: Camenzind and Dominguez will ride a prototype of the 2003 bike made by BMC but we are not able to give you more information yet.

CN: Who do you think are the likely general classification candidates for this year's race?

TP: In my opinion the favourites are Casero and Beloki; Camenzind and Pereiro are outsiders.

CN: Do you have an opinion on the organiser's plans - to split the race into two pelotons in the first week to have some sort of "qualification round" - that have now been postponed? Do you think it would detract from or enhance the race, which is one of only three week Tours on the calendar?

TP: I'm pretty sure it would detract the Vuelta Espaņa. Behind this race is such a big organisation and logistically it would be too complicated and confusing to change everything. I'm sure it would end in chaos.

CN: Other than that, what do you think of the overall style of the race i.e. shorter, faster stages. Is this better for everyone?

TP: Yes, absolutely. The race will be much more interesting and spectacular with shorter and faster stages especially for the audience and sponsors.

3. After the Vuelta

CN: There are just two World Cups (Paris-Tours, Giro di Lombardia) and the World Championships after the end of the Vuelta Espaņa. Do you think Phonak can play an important role in those?

TP: We hope so! It is the end of the season and most of the riders are becoming tired but Salmon and Camenzind didn't ride so many races this year and are hungry for a win.

CN: The Swiss men's road race team for the World's will have up to 12 riders. Do you think Phonak will form a big part of the team?

TP: Yes, I'm sure. The Phonak Cycling Team is the only professional team in Switzerland and we expect to make up about 30% of the Swiss National team at the World championships.

4. Next year

CN: Will you keep to a similar program, with the World Cups and two Grand Tours, or will you make a big attempt to gain selection for the Tour de France?

TP: Without any doubt, the Tour the France will be our main goal for next year and to be in the top ten teams by end of the 2003.

All the way to Le Tour next year
Photo: © AFP

CN: Will the team be any smaller/bigger next year?

TP: No, we will not have changes in the number of riders but we'll have two or three more experienced and young riders.

CN: What are the team's off-season plans? Where will you hold your training camps?

TP: The first week of December we'll have a training camp in Aigle, where the UCI has its cycling centre, with all the staff including our new riders. In February we will split the team in two parts. One group will have a training camp in Mallorca and the other group will go to Qatar.

CN: What have you learned from this year? Will you change things for 2003?

TP: We have learned a lot, our riders are much more aggressive. Earlier we used to be somewhere in the peloton but now we are leaders in certain races. I believe we are on the right path, and will keep on going with our "system".

More Vuelta a Espaņa features