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First Edition TdF Cycling News for June 20, 2005

Edited by Jeff Jones & Hedwig Kröner

Valverde on track for Tour

Although he missed out on the last stages of the Tour de Suisse after abandoning because of a throat infection, Illes Balears' Alejandro Valverde has "good feelings about the Tour" according to Spanish newspaper AS. After stage four of the Swiss pre-Tour de France test, Valverde had a light fever. "It wasn't very important," he said, "but my team director Eusebio Unzué decided that it was better to take me out of the race. With my body working to fight off the infection, it was better not to make efforts that I might have paid for afterwards," Valverde explained.

The Spanish Tour de France hope has been getting back to training yesterday, and is hopeful his form will be satisfactory for July. "During the race, I felt better than I had actually hoped for. Of course, I still have to increase my level of fitness before the Tour de France," Valverde conveyed. "I thought that I would lack the rhythm of competition in Switzerland [season's break - ed.] but on Monday I found myself with the seven or eight best riders going flat out in front. I could have tried to win that stage, but there was a descent before the finish and I didn't want to risk anything. But being right inside the fight gave my the confidence that I'm doing well."

The young Spaniard would have liked to continue the race. "There were some stages with very hard stretches that would have been a good training for the mountains of the Tour. And people to measure up with, like Ullrich, who's already very lean. There will be great fight in France!", Valverde reckoned. In the meantime, besides training, the 25 year-old will compete in the Spanish Championships taking place in his home region of Murcia. "It is my dream to win it on home ground," Valverde continued. "Then, at the Tour, my intention is to get to know the race, gain experience, help our team leader Mancebo and try for a stage win."

Zabel contemplates his future

By Susan Westemeyer

T-Mobile star sprinter Erik Zabel is contemplating his future, ranging from which races he will take part in next to which team he will be with next year. According to an interview in Sunday's edition of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the 34 year-old confirmed that he has contract offers for next year not only from T-Mobile but also from other teams, including Gerolsteiner. He plans to make his decision no later than the HEW-Cyclassics race on July 31.

It took him a while to accept the team's decision not to name him to the Tour de France team, Zabel admitted. "In the first two or three days I had to force myself to get on my bike again, for the first time in my career. I was already getting ready for the Tour. It was hard to screw my emotions back down. I had to come to terms with it and then find a new sporting challenge. Now I've found it," he said. His new season's goal is now winning the World Championship in Madrid in September.

Vino to leave Germany?

According to German news agency dpa, Alexandre Vinokourov is considering leaving the T-Mobile squad after this season. The winner of this year's Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Dauphiné Libéré's stage to Mont Ventoux is reported to have "serious contacts" with a French team, and a previous report had him linked with Discovery Channel.

Vino's teammate Matthias Kessler may also change squads, as the 26 year-old has been linked with the other German ProTour team, Gerolsteiner. Meanwhile, T-Mobile has also acknowledged the strong rumour that Michael Rogers will join the team next year. "The Bonn-based team confirmed its interest in the 24-year-old from Barham. Both parties have reached an agreement, although no contact has been signed yet," said a news article on T-Mobile's website.

CSC confirms eight for the Tour

Team CSC's manager Bjarne Riis has now selected eight of the nine riders that will race for the team in the upcoming Tour de France. The squad will be led by Ivan Basso, and contain several good time trialists in the form of Bobby Julich, Jens Voigt, and David Zabriskie, with Kurt-Asle Arvesen, Giovanni Lombardi, Carlos Sastre, and Nicki Sørensen able to provide further support for Basso. The final spot will go to either Jakob Piil or Luke Roberts.

Eight riders for Rabobank's Tour squad

Rabobank has also confirmed eight of its nine riders for the Tour de France, as chosen by Erik Breukink and Frans Maassen. The eight are: Dutchmen Michael Boogerd, Erik Dekker, Karsten Kroon, Gerben Löwik, Joost Posthuma and Pieter Weening, Denis Menchov from Russia and Michael Rasmussen from Denmark. The ninth spot will be decided after the national championships this coming weekend. Löwik, Posthuma and Weening will make their debut in the Tour de France for the Rabobank team. Erik Dekker is the most experienced rider. The 2005 Tour de France will be his eleventh mission. For Michael Boogerd it will be his tenth Tour de France.

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