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Latest Cycling News for June 19, 2006

Edited by Hedwig Kröner, with assistance of Susan Westemeyer

Ullrich "stronger than last year"

Looking good: 2006 Tour de Suisse winner Jan Ullrich
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
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Team T-Mobile sports director Rudy Pevenage is extremely happy with Jan Ullrich's performance at the Tour de Suisse, which the German won for the second time after also doing it in 2004. "Tremendously good," was his commentary on the shape of 'Der Kaiser', whom he hopes to see on the highest step on the Champs Elysées in Paris on July 23. "If Jan hadn't encountered these bad conditions, he would have been at least half a minute faster than the rest," Pevenage added, speaking of the torrential rain that came down in Bern for the last stage of the Tour de Suisse on Sunday.

The Belgian sports director believes that Ullrich has completely overcome his form deficit of this spring, which initially came about because of a knee problem. "Yes, I think that he is now on the right track for the Tour," continued a very confident Pevenage. "He's definitely better than in the last two years; much stronger than last year."

The 1997 Tour de France winner shaped up during the Giro d'Italia, where he impressed by scoring his first season victory, his specialty, the time trial. But Ullrich's climbing, which was still on grupetto-level during the Tour of Italy, only improved in recent weeks. "At first, I was unsure of it but then I was happy that he rode the Giro," Pevenage told the Telegraaf. "There, he created the basis for the good form he has now. Two months ago, everybody said that Ivan Basso was the greatest favourite for the Tour. Now, more and more vote for Jan - that gives us confidence."

Partial route announced for 2007 Tour de Suisse

By Shane Stokes in Bern

The organisers of the Tour de Suisse have said that they were ‘very satisfied’ with the 70th edition of the race, which ended in Bern on Sunday. "This was a very good race," director general Christian Pirzer told the press prior to the start of the final stage time trial. "There was lots of suspense and a very good ending, with things going right down to the final time trial. Everybody is saying that Jan Ullrich will win the race but we don’t know that for sure, so this keeps things very interesting.

"We are very happy with the level of support we have seen. The interest from the crowds has been huge and so too from the media. We are very pleased and so too are our sponsors, who have a long-term commitment to the event."

Sport director Armin Meier, himself a former professional cyclist, echoed that satisfaction and also revealed details of next year’s route. "We have a very interesting route in store for 2007, with four to five stages for the sprinters, three mountain finishes and a time trial," Meier stated, adding that two towns have yet to officially confirm their hosting of the race but that the contracts were signed. "Everything is agreed, but we have to respect their decision to hold off for now on announcing their participation," he said.

The 2007 edition will begin near Zürich in Olten, the first stage expected to be something along the lines of this year’s opening leg in Baden. Day two takes the riders to Luzern, while the third stage will be held in the Tirol region and is expected to have a summit finish. Ditto for stage four to Malbun. Day five heads to Giubiasco in Tessin, with the French speaking part of the country the setting for stage six.

Another summit finish is included in the following day’s race to Grimselpass, then the race heads to Schwarzsee (literally, black lake) in Fribourg. As was the case this year, the race will conclude with a time trial in Bern.

"We have tried to eliminate long transfers as much as possible," said Pirzer. "Most of the locations chosen will be the venue for both finishes and starts, so that should help the riders."

More details of the 2007 Tour de Suisse will be announced in the months ahead. The race will run from June 16-24 next year, taking place one week later in order to maintain the same gap between it and the Tour de France.

Gerrans pleased with Switzerland

By Shane Stokes in Bern

Simon Gerrans (AG2R)
Photo ©: Sirotti
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Although he finished back in 80th place in Sunday’s time trial, AG2R rider Simon Gerrans said he was happy with how he fared in the Tour de Suisse. The Australian was prominent on the sixth stage to La Punt, making a bid for the win on the final climb and then finishing fifth across the line.

"The race has been really good for me," he told Cyclingnews after the final time trial. "I came into it probably just a bit underdone and I rode into it in the first few days. That was the plan. I decided to have a go on one of the mountain stages which I did, and it went pretty well. After that it was just a matter of getting the racing kilometres in for the rest of the week. That all went to plan.

"Unfortunately I got a little bit sick over the past couple of days - I came down with a head cold so I have been suffering for the past two or three days. Otherwise it went really well."

Gerrans said that the time trial was a means to an end. "It went okay, I guess. It was more a case of getting a time trial in before the Tour. That was the first one I did since the Tirreno Adriatico race, so it was just about getting back on the time trial bike, getting the routine right, warming up and all of that."

Gerrans has already been confirmed for AG2R’s Tour de France team and has a clear idea of what he expects from the race. "On an individual level, I would love to be able to get into a breakaway again and try to chase a stage win, like last year. But this year we are going to be focussed on trying to win the GC. Guys like Mancebo and Moreau are both going really well and so we will be working for them."

Rogers still improving

By Shane Stokes in Bern

When he finished his time trial in the Tour de Suisse, World Champion Michael Rogers was lying third overall in the provisional ranking and seemed pleased enough with his ride. "There are some fast guys to come but I guess it went okay," he said. "I haven’t been feeling great in this race; I am still rebuilding form after my teeth problems in the Giro. But as the race has gone on I have felt better, so hopefully I will be feeling good again for the Tour."

He ultimately finished 16th in the time trial, 1 minute and 51 seconds behind his victorious team-mate Jan Ullrich. Rogers is set to work for the German in the Tour de France, but hopes to have his own chance to lead the team in years to come.

Contador: We have to keep training

By Shane Stokes in Bern

Alberto Contador (Würth)
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Tour de Suisse stage 8 winner Alberto Contador has spoken of the uncertainty over the Würth team’s participation in the Tour de France, saying that he has chosen to focus entirely on reaching the start in the best possible shape rather than mulling over the possibility that the team could be excluded.

"For sure I think about it," he said, when asked about the subject at Saturday’s press conference. "But it doesn’t help if I think about it or not, I can’t change anything anyway. My responsibility is to be in the best shape possible on the first of July, that is all I can do. The decision is nothing to do with me, I can’t control it."

Contador said that he and the rest of the team are focused 100 percent on helping leader Alexandre Vinokourov, rather than chasing any additional goals such as the white jersey for best young rider. "Everything is for Vinokourov," he continued. "My job and my objective is going to be to help Vinokourov to get the best possible position in the ranking. I am only 23, I have a lot to learn and I still have plenty of time in the future to show myself. For now everything is for Vinokourov."

"As regards the white jersey, I think it is a consequence of riding well. If you go well then you are in the running for that. But that is not an objective which is laid out for me. My only objective is to help Vinokourov. If I am in very good shape and the white jersey comes along, that is fine, but it is not my goal," Contador added.

The team was thrown into turmoil when on May 23rd directeur sportif Manolo Saiz was arrested by police in Madrid on suspicion of purchasing doping products from controversial doctor Eufemiano Fuentes. Their chief sponsor Liberty Seguros promptly withdrew, but more recently Astana - a conglomeration of sponsors from Vinokourov’s Kazakhstan - has said it will take over. The UCI are yet to rule on this change and also to decide it the team’s ProTour licence should be suspended, this preventing the riders from competing in this year’s Tour.

The team has won two stages in the Tour de Suisse and the first of these victors, Angel Vicioso, also led the race for two days. In addition, Jörg Jaksche finished third overall.

Contador was asked how he was able to keep performing well despite the pressure. "Well, as I said before, I am a professional cyclist," he stated. "My objective is to keep concentrated on that, to train and race as best as I can. I have found that when everything goes well, everybody is happy with you. When things go bad, nobody likes you any more. I have learned that I have to listen to my friends and not rely on what is happening around me, just to focus on my job."

CSC, Liquigas announce Tour line-ups

Team CSC's Tour de France line-up 2006 has been officially announced. Led by team director Bjarne Riis, the Danish squad will be composed of the following riders: Ivan Basso, Carlos Sastre, Fränk Schleck, Jens Voigt, Giovanni Lombardi, Stuart O'Grady, Bobby Julich, David Zabriskie and Christian Vande Velde.

"As so often before it has been a difficult task to select the remaining riders for this team, because we have so many who are in great shape and who have the motivation to do well in Tour de France," said the 1996 Tour de France winner. "But it is a luxury for us to have this problem, and I'm proud our team has reached a point where we have so many strong riders at such a high level.

"We are bringing a fantastic team to Tour de France this year. When you look at the names, you cannot help but notice that this is a team to be reckoned with - a team which has the foundation to be one of the dominating ones in the 2006 edition of the Tour. We go to France this year with one ambition: To win with Ivan Basso. After his victory in the Giro, and with the training he has done in the period since then, I have no doubt he is ready for this next big challenge. He has the class, the willpower and also the team behind him to be one of the favourites," Riis added.

Italian outfit Liquigas has also communicated its team roster for the greatest of Grand Tours. With Stefano Garzelli as a leader for the General Classification, the team will also include Danilo Di Luca, who may go for stage victories at will. The full Liquigas line-up will be: Stefano Garzelli, Danilo Di Luca, Luca Paolini, Manuel Quinziato, Michael Albasini, Patrick Calcagni, Magnus Bäckstedt, Kjell Carlström and Matej Mugerli.

Gerolsteiner at altitude

Gerolsteiner is concentrating on the mountains in the upcoming Tour de France, and is therefore sending Tour riders Georg Totschnig, Peter Wrolich, Ronny Scholz and Fabian Wegmann to altitude training in St. Moritz, Switzerland. The four are starting their training camp in the Swiss ski resort on Monday, June 19 and will remain there for nine days, thereby missing the German and Austrian national championships.

"I don't want to leave anything to chance," said Totschnig, who won a mountain stage in last year's Tour. "I want to prepare for the Tour as perfectly as possible." After the camp, the Gerolsteiner riders will travel directly to the start of the Grand Tour in Strasbourg.

Haselbacher disappointed

Gerolsteiner's René Haselbacher is disappointed not to have been nominated to ride the Tour de France for the second year in a row. "It went just like last year, but with the little difference that this year I presented myself well," he wrote on his personal website.

"Besides winning the Rheinland-Pfalz Rundfahrt, where I also won a stage, I had two placings at the Bayern Rundfahrt and the Vuelta a Catalunya, as well as a third place in the Pfalz. All together I've had thirteen Top Ten finishes from the Tour of Qatar to the Tour de Suisse. That's not really a bad balance."

But 'Hasi' knows that the General Classification is too great a goal for his team this year. "I have shown that I can do it, but the team tactic is totally concentrated on Leipheimer and Totschnig," he continued.

What's next for the Austrian sprinter? First of all, a short rest period before starting the second half of the season. "It's clear to me that I will fully concentrate on the World Championships in Salzburg in the middle of September," Haselbacher added. "And it looks like I will ride the Vuelta as preparation, that worked out well last year."

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