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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for April 23, 2004

Edited by Jeff Jones

Popovych to test himself in L-B-L

Yaroslav Popovych
Photo ©: Sirotti

Ukrainian talent Yaroslav Popovych (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago) will be using Sunday's Liège-Bastogne-Liège as an important form test for the upcoming Giro di Italia, where he finished third last year. After riding well in the Amstel Gold Race and Flèche Wallonne, the 24 year old said that his condition is improving rapidly, and is looking forward to Sunday's challenge.

"My base condition is good but I lack a bit of racing time," said Popovych. "Yet to be there in the finale was a real encouragement. The Amstel was just a bit too long, La Flèche Wallonne went better [he finished 14th]. To make systematic progression always gives you hope, and I feel that now. On Sunday I want to be there in the finale, to show myself on TV and look after the team's always improving image. Again Bettini, Rebellin, Di Luca and Boogerd will control the race. I want to go to the maximum and who knows, contest for the victory."

After Liège, Popovych will spend some time riding in the mountains as preparation for the Giro. "This time on the bike because the weather conditions allow it," he said. "The most selective part of the Giro is in the final days. It will be important to control the race. Even to do as well as last year will not be easy. I'll still try and get a stage win."

As an U23 rider, Popovych won the World Championships in Lisbon in 2001, as well as the U23 Paris-Roubaix. His third place in the Giro last year was "a little bit of a surprise" but a promising indication of the future. But what will he choose to focus on? "Yes, a tour rider or more cut out for the classics, that will be a choice for the future. Or a little of both."

Landbouwkrediet-Colnago team manager Gérard Bulens called Popovych "...a pure talent. Classy as a rider and as a person. He has in the meantime gained experience and tactical knowledge. I would be happy if he stayed longer in Belgium, and we can arrange that too."

Wauters out of Liège

Marc Wauters (Rabobank) will not ride in Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday. Wauters injured his knee in a crash in Paris-Roubaix nearly two weeks ago, and is still suffering from it. His spot in the Rabobank team will be taken by Kevin De Weert.

Astarloa closer to Lampre

According to a report in Marca, Spanish World Champion Igor Astarloa will sign a contract with Lampre in the coming days. Astarloa has been given permission to leave the embattled Cofidis team, which has currently suspended itself from competition over an internal doping affair. Astarloa, who missed his chance of defending his win in Flèche Wallonne last Wednesday, will be able to ride the Giro d'Italia for Lampre once the new contract is finalised.

Phonak gunning for Tour de Romandie

With a team that includes last year's winner Tyler Hamilton along with Alex Zülle and Alexandre Moos, Phonak Hearing Systems is set to make a big impact on next week's Tour de Romandie (April 27 - May 2). Hamilton has already signified that he wants to try and win the hors categorie stage race again, and has followed a similar build up program to last year. But Alexandre Moos also has ambitions, especially after twice finishing second in the prologue in Geneva for the past two years.

"Yes, that would really be nice [to win]," he said in an interview on the team's website. "But I don't want to ride well only in the Prologue, I also want to demonstrate what I'm capable of in the other stages. After third and fourth place finishes, as well as a fifth place finish in the final rankings last year, I'd certainly like more. I have my sights set on the winner's podium for the Tour de Romandie. I'm convinced that I'm capable of such an effort."

Moos is targeting the third and fourth stages for the GC. "I intend to wrap up my chances on Friday in the mountain finish in Morgins and on Saturday in the extremely difficult stage Sitten-Sitten. On the next to last day, three big passes have to be completed."

Moos believes that there will be no conflict over the team leadership. "I don't see the slightest danger of that happening," he said. "We will form a tight unit and take the best of the opportunities present. For me, a great morale means even a half success. Hamilton is an incredible guy. He has enormous willpower. You can call him a role model in professional cycling, and that's contagious. He is constantly there for his teammates. Also, he's a joker who likes to have fun."

Phonak Hearing Systems for Tour de Romandie: Tyler Hamilton, Oscar Camenzind, Martin Elmiger, Alexandre Moos, Oscar Sevilla, Daniel Schnider, Tadej Valjavec, Alex Zülle.

Two more races for Simoni before Giro

After finding some good form on his home roads at the Giro del Trentino, Gilberto Simoni (Saeco) will complete his preparation for the Giro d'Italia in just over two weeks with the Giro dell'Appennino near Genoa on Sunday, April 25. The race includes the tough Bocchetta climb and will give a good indication of who is riding well just two weeks before the start of the corsa rosa.

Simoni will also ride the Gran Premio Industria & Artigianato race in Tuscany on May 1, but the team has still not decided if he will ride the Giro di Toscana on May 2. For these races, the rest of the team will include Damiano Cunego, Juan Fuentes, Andreas Matzbacher, Sylvester Szmyd and Andrea Tonti.

Also, the Saeco team will ride the Tour de Romandie with Gabriele Balducci, Stefano Casagranda, Gerrit Glomser, David Loosli, Andreas Matzbacher, Marius Sabaliauskas, Gorazd Stangelj and Sylvester Szmyd.

Team Illes Balears-Banesto for Tour de Romandie

Spanish team Illes Balears-Banesto will contest the Tour de Romandie (April 27-May 2) with the following riders: Toni Colom, Joan Horrach, Pablo Lastras, Francisco Mancebo, Vicente Reynés, Steffen Radochla, Xavier Zandio.

Lewis stable after Georgia crash

USA U23 national team rider Craig Lewis is in a stable condition after being hit by an SUV during the fourth stage time trial in the Tour de Georgia. Lewis sustained concussion and broken ribs in the crash, according to the race medical communiqué, and was taken to the Intensive Care Unit at Rome's Floyd Medical Center. A spokesperson for the Center told Cyclingnews that Lewis' condition was stable.

According to the Rome News-Tribune, police said the driver of the SUV, Edgar Bishop, 65, was trying to turn into the American Legion parking lot when he hit Lewis. Bishop was charged with failing to yield right of way.

Lotto will continue, but not as top sponsor

The Belgian national lottery will continue to sponsor the Lotto cycling team for the next four years, however it will limit its involvement to €2.5 million annually, equivalent to its current input into the team. With increased budget requirements for the Pro Tour, Lotto is looking for another sponsor to put in €3.5 million. It is undecided yet whether the team's current co-sponsor Domo will continue with its cycling sponsorship.

Griffin for Tours of Crete and Greece

By Shane Stokes,

Irish international Paul Griffin will miss this Sunday's Shay Elliott Memorial after being invited to take part in two big stage races with the XPower team. Griffin left Ireland today in advance of tomorrow's start of the three-day Tour of Crete, a 2.6 ranked event. He will then take part in the 2.5 Tour of Greece, which runs from Tuesday until next Sunday.

"I was due to be part of the Life Repair team but that fell through," said Griffin. "Phil Leigh, who was to be the manager of Life Repair set up the new team. It doesn't have the same budget as the other would have had, but hopefully next year it will get bigger. Phil rang and asked me if I could guest with the team for these two races, the Tour of Crete and the Tour of Greece. I'm very happy to get the chance to do them and might also be doing more races with the team during the summer."

47th Tour of Ulster

By Tommy Lamb

The 47th edition of the Tour of Ulster (Ireland) will take place from May 1-3 over the May bank holiday weekend. The race consists of four stages held over three days. Day one will see the 100 riders tackle a road race of almost 70 miles from Emyvale to Enniskillen with 3 King of the Hill primes - one at Mount Sion Finn outside Fivemiletown and two at Garvary on the outskirts of Enniskillen. There will be two stages on Sunday - a 75 mile road race from Enniskillen to Omagh taking in the climbs of Glenasheevar and Scraghey Mountain plus a time trial in the afternoon along the picturesque Gortin Glen. The final stage on Monday consists of a 76 mile road race from Omagh to Emyvale via the Glenelly Valley, Cookstown and Aughnacloy with KOH primes at Gortin, Sperrin and Loug Fea.

Last year's winner Timmy Barry from Cork will lead a very strong Carrick-Cidona team comprising Brian Kenneally, John Dempsey, Pat Kenneally and Rory Wylie who recently won the Des Hanlon Irish Classic road race in Carlow. This year Barry will be aiming for a third victory, having also won the race in 2001.

Ulster riders will be out to end the domination of their southern counterparts in recent years. Tommy Evans was the last Ulster winner back in 1998 and he will be lead a strong Total Cycling - Litespeed outfit which also includes former professional David O'Loughlin. Evans was most unfortunate during the Tour of the North stage race at Easter, having to retire on the final day with a broken chain whilst lying in second position overall.

Belfast's Paul Slane who won the Tour of Ulster in back in 1993 will also be on the start line and can't be discounted for the overall honours. Slane was the youngest ever Irish National Road Race champion at the age of eighteen. Now aged 33 he has made a remarkable comeback this season and has been prominent in all the races this year.

Other Cycling Ulster teams entered include East Antrim-Audi, North Monaghan-Crannog Ireland and Phoenix C.C. Belfast. Connor Murphy from the Crannog Ireland squad will start as favourite for the Under 23 category prize which has been introduced for the first time this year.

Thanks to the sponsorship of Omagh Sports Trust, Enniskillen District Council, Modern Tyre Services and Cookstown Credit Union the prize fund will be the largest ever - approaching € 5,000.

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