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Tour de France News for May 9, 2004

Edited by Chris Henry

Beloki has doubts

Joseba Beloki, battling continued setbacks in training and racing since the beginning of the year, has shown tempered confidence as the Tour de France looms on the horizon. Beloki was recruited by Brioches La Boulangère to challenge for the Tour title, but has yet to return to top condition since his Tour-ending crash in 2003. This weekend he lines up at the Clásica de Alcobendas as defending champion, however thus far this season the Basque has yet to finish a race.

In a Marca interview this weekend, Beloki admitted he's not yet a contender for Tour de France, and revealed that his sights may be set later in the season at the Vuelta a España.

"I'm basically doing the same program as last year," he said of his pre-Tour preparations. "Alcobendas was the first race I did and I would like to be on top, but it's going to be tough. I hope all of my misfortunes are behind me. A crash was the worst thing that could happen to me and already this year I've had three."

As for this year's Tour, which Beloki says features a very demanding parcours, "I'm not on the list of favourites right now," he conceded. "I have to earn that. But I still have time. The other thing I need is some luck.

"The Vuelta will be an important challenge," he added. "The Vuelta for me is like the month of September for the students. It would be a disappointment not to finish on the podium. If I'm going well, I have to hope for the podium."

Vasseur to face Gaumont

Cédric Vasseur and Philippe Gaumont are expected to come face to face in the courtroom of judge Richard Pallain on May 18. Both riders have been implicated in the ongoing drug investigation in France which ostensibly centres around the Cofidis team. Gaumont, after admitting to doping throughout his career, was ultimately released from the team this spring.

Vasseur, placed under investigation in France following allegations from Gaumont that he too had used performance enhancing drugs, remains suspended from the team but continues to deny any drug use. Recent counter-analysis of hair samples taken from Vasseur, which earlier this spring revealed the presence of cocaine, however judge Pallain has let to remove Vasseur from the list of those being investigated in the ongoing affair.

Ullrich expected in Germany

Jan Ullrich, expected to compete in the Tour of Germany at the end of this month (May 31-June 6), has indeed added his name to the list of starters for his national tour. After lacklustre performances in the early season, including an early abandon at the Flèche Wallonne, Ullrich has continued to train in relative solitude in Italy and Switzerland. He has also added the Tour of Switzerland to his pre-Tour de France program.

"We have his written agreement concerning his participation," Tour of Germany race director David Pohle commented this week. Ullrich will line up alongside T-Mobile teammate and fellow Tour de France captain Alexandre Vinokourov.

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