Tour de France News for June 30, 2004
Edited by John Stevenson
Jörg Jaksche out of CSC Tour team after crash
Photo: © Russell Standring
Team CSC has had to make a last-minute change to its Tour
de France roster after German rider Jörg Jaksche crashed and broke
his elbow during a training ride yesterday. The winner of this
year's Paris-Nice back in March, Jaksche will be replaced in the Tour
line-up by Italian Andrea Peron.
While the loss of Jaksche is a blow for CSC, the Denmark-based team run
by 1996 Tour winner Bjarne Riis still has plenty of strong riders. Ivan
Basso is a potential top five place-getter if he continues to build on
his 2002 performance as best young rider in the Tour, while Carlos Sastre,
2003 stage winner Jakob Piil, and the revitalised Bobby Julich are all
expected to be in the thick of the action.
"It's seriously bad luck for Jörg and for the team," said team manager
Bjarne Riis in a statement announcing the change. "Luckily we have had
Peron ready and on hold the whole time, in case an accident like this
should occur. I really feel for Jörg, because I know how well prepared
he was for this year's Tour de France. He had a very important role to
play on the team, and obviously he will be sorely missed. You can never
be sure to escape such bad luck, but it's of course a big shame to have
to replace him. This was not part of the plan, but I still believe, we
will do a great Tour de France."
Nevertheless, Riis believes Peron is ready for the challenge. "He was
close to getting selected in the first place, and this is why, I'm sure,
we have the best possible replacement for Jörg," said Riis. "In Andrea
we have a strong and very experienced all-round rider, who is also a good
team player, which remains a top priority for us. Last year he was an
extremely valuable rider on the Tour team, and undoubtedly he will be
again this year."
Jaksche is disappointed but philosophical. "It can't be helped," he said.
"My elbow is broken, and I have a strong pain in my back. I crashed in
a turn during training and landed precisely the same way as when I crashed
the day before Amstel Gold Race. Only this time the fracture is more serious,
and I'm unable to ride with it."
Related story: March
2004 interview with Jörg Jaksche
Ullrich: "I have been second often enough"
Jan Ullrich is convinced that this year he can finally add another Tour
de France victory to his palmares. "I have been second often enough; this
year I have put everything on getting back to the top," he told Yahoo
Sport Germany. "Everything else has been subordinate to this. I am
convinced I can beat [Lance Armstrong.]"
Ullrich is confident that not only is he ready, but so is the T-Mobile
team that he returned to after a year on the team that started 2003 as
Coast and ended as Bianchi. "If we have the yellow jersey, this team is
capable of defending it," said Ullrich. But he knows the ultimate responsibility
lies with the team leader. "Without strong helpers you cannot win, but
in the end you have to prove yourself to be the strongest rider."
Despite some pundits concerns about his weight in the first half of the
season, Ullrich says he has never prepared so thoroughly as for this Tour,
starting training last November. He thinks he nevertheless returned to
racing too early with March's Tour of Murcia. "I should have waited two
weeks for my first race," he said.
His somewhat ignominious DNF at the Flèche
Wallonne and non-start at Liège-Bastogne-Liège
followed. "It would have been unreasonable to fully attack those races,"
he said, "I wasn't in the zone yet."
But Ullrich surprised even himself with his return to form and victory
for the Tour of
Switzerland. "I knew I was on the right track, but I didn't think
I was capable of winning," he said. And with the mountains coming late
in this year's Tour Ullrich expects his climbing form to be honed by the
time they arrive. "I know my body and believe that the final few percent
for the mountains is still to come."
With seven mountain stages in the second half of the race and a moderately
hilly penultimate stage time trial, Ullrich believes the Alps is where
the 2004 Tour will be won, and that's what he has been preparing for.
He spent some of May with adviser Rudy Pevenage reconnoitering the Alpine
stages and especially the time trial up l'Alpe d'Huez. "I've prepared
myself well and last week went over the highlights of that stage again.
It's very clear that is where victory will come," he said.
Lamour's tempered expectations
French minister of sport Jean-François Lamour has declared himself
neither "naively optimistic nor fundamentally pessimistic" concerning
the doping the problems of doping facing cycling on the eve of the Tour
de France. Lamour has been outspoken on the subject and has been the driving
force behind legislation in France aimed at fighting doping. He was also
the impetus behind recent decisions on the part of the Tour de France
and French cycling federation to ban athletes under police investigation.
"My frustration is not with cycling," he insisted in a l'Equipe
interview Wednesday. "I like this sport and I appreciate it. But it's
defining itself through a succession of [doping] affairs: Cofidis in France,
others in Spain and in Italy. This doesn't help the sport's progression
and it doesn't help the ambiance that pervades cycling in France and elsewhere."
As for Lamour's sentiment as the Tour prepares to kick off in Liège,
Belgium, "It's not serenity, that's the last I can say," he commented.
Tour director Jean-Marie Leblanc has already accepted that police raids
on the Tour may be all but inevitable, while Lamour seems to fear more
for the future of the sport, still popular on the roadside but facing
a crisis in the form of ongoing doping scandals.
"I think this feeling is changing," he said, referring to the notion
of the sport's enduring popularity among fans. "I think we're seeing a
fracture in the sport, a sport that's inherently popular and free. We're
asking ourselves if this could all come to an end one day."
Leblanc confident in Armstrong
Tour de France director Jean-Marie Leblanc remains an admirer of five-time
winner Lance Armstrong, who this year embarks on a bid for an unprecedented
sixth win in Paris. Leblanc, who declares himself 'skeptical' concerning
allegations of doping revealed in the recent book "L.A. Confidential",
prefers to offer his confidence to the majority of riders, Armstrong included.
"He works hard and leaves nothing to chance," Leblanc said of the US
Postal Service leader in a recent AFP interview. "He's the one
who started systematically testing the crucial stages, something now done
by all of his rivals. Perhaps he's not as physically gifted as Jan Ullrich,
who people call a real motor. But Armstrong has won five Tours de France
thanks to his mental strength, his character, and his preparation.
Leblanc, a former rider-turned journalist, will direct the Tour for the
sixteenth time this year. During his tenure he has seen two five-time
winners, Miguel Indurain and Lance Armstrong. This year he could see the
five win record broken, but Leblanc prefers not to make comparisons between
Tour champions from different eras.
"Comparisons can't be made only with their palmarès," he said.
"There are other factors: the quality of competition, whether or not they
were present all year long... Specialisation. I think cycling has changed.
It's a different era."
Liberty Seguros completes its lineup
With Roberto Heras in the Tour de France leader's role for the first
time since he left Kelme, Liberty Seguros' nine man Tour team looks to
be very strong. With Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano, Marcos Serrano and Isidro
Nozal as henchman for the hard mountain stages, the team also boasts sprinters
Allan Davis and Angel Vicioso. Time triallists Jan Hruska, Dariusz Baranowski
and Christian Vandevelde complete the lineup, which will be favoured for
the team time trial.
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(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2004)