First Edition Cycling News for April 25, 2004
Edited by Jeff Jones
Italians the favourites for Liege
After strong performances in the past week, the Italian riders are once again favoured to dominate Sunday's 90th Liege-Bastogne-Liege, the final classic of the spring. After back to back wins in Amstel Gold and Flèche Wallonne, Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) has emerged as the top favourite, although he will once again have to ride a very smart race to not waste any energy for the finale. Equally, Danilo Di Luca (Saeco), Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step-Davitamon), Stefano Garzelli (Vini Caldirola) and Michele Bartoli (CSC) can all be numbered among the favourites.
"I compare myself with the best striker of AC Milan," Rebellin was quoted in Het Nieuwsblad. "Every time he takes the field, he knows that he will be marked by the best player in the opposition. It won't be any different for me in Liege-Bastogne-Liege. But La Doyenne is for me certainly the main goal of the season."
The Italians won't have it all their own way, with the likes of defending champ Tyler Hamilton (Phonak), Alexandre Vinokourov and Matthias Kessler (T-Mobile), Michael Boogerd, Oscar Freire and Erik Dekker (Rabobank), Belgians Frank Vandenbroucke (Fassa Bortolo), Peter van Petegem and Axel Merckx (Lotto-Domo) and perhaps Yaroslav Popovych (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago) and Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel).
With such a strong field, La Doyenne looks wide open this year, and there will certainly be some fireworks on the final climb of the Côte de Saint-Nicolas with 5km to go.
Rabobank's Theo De Rooij on Liège-Bastogne-Liège
The day after La Flèche Wallonne, Cyclingnews' Gabriella Ekström spoke to Rabobank manager Theo de Rooij about the performance of his team in the last week, and about his expectations for the last spring classic, Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
"As far as the team is concerned, we did a good race at Amstel," De Rooij explains. "Everyone was focused on us, and we carried the weight of the race from the start to the finish."
Despite having controlled most of the race, Boogerd had to see himself passed by Rebellin in the last metres when it all came down to a two man sprint. "Of course, there are always speculations," De Rooij adds without regret in his voice. "It has been said that Boogerd started the sprint too early, but in his defence I have to say that Rebellin was very good, and we saw another confirmation of that during Flèche Wallonne."
No longer on home ground, Rabobank is still hold some of the biggest favourites for La Doyenne on Sunday. However, De Rooij considers Liège to be a whole different story than Amstel. "At Liège, we will not have to take on the large task of controlling the whole race. There are more teams who can share that task. In Amstel, we did have the advantage of local knowledge, something that we might lack in Liège, but in my opinion, Liège is the most honest race of the classics. It has the most honest selection, and you know that it is the best riders who will be found at the front in the end."
Jaksche is ready
Team CSC will line up with Jörg Jaksche in Liége-Bastogne-Liége on Sunday, despite the fact that the German rider broke his elbow a week ago. The team's website (team-csc.com) reports that Jaksche passed his final medical check up on Saturday, having received treatment from Ole Kåre Føli during the last seven days.
Jaksche has no high expectations in Liége-Bastogne-Liége, where Team CSC hopes for Ivan Basso, Michele Bartoli or Nicki Sørensen to perform well.
Nico Sijmens (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago) will not start in Liege-Bastogne-Liege, according to his team. He is still suffering from an injured wrist after a crash in La Flèche Wallonne last Wednesday. The Lanbouwkrediet-Colnago team will thus be: Yaroslav Popovych, Bert de Waele, Vladimir Duma, Christian Gasperoni, Maxime Monfort, Volodimir Bileka, Marc Streel and Johan Verstrepen.
Contre la montre pour le coeur
By Miwako Sasaki, Cycle Sports Japan
The first "Contre la montre pour le coeur" (Time trial for the heart) was held in Liege on Friday, April 23, as a charity event for the Centre de recherche en cardiologie pediatrique, a medical institution that researches child heart problems. The event was a two rider time trial held over 1600 metres around Place Saint-Lambert, with a number of pro riders forming pairs with journalists and amateur riders.
Rik Verbrugghe, Thierry Marichal, Christophe Brandt and Piotr Wadecki (all Lotto-Domo), Frank Vandenbroucke (Fassa Bortolo), Philippe Gilbert (FDjeux.com), Pablo Lastras (Illes Balears-Banesto), Maxime Monfort (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago) were all present, but the most popular pair were father and son team Eddy and Axel Merckx (Lotto-Domo).
As the race was held in the same place as the start of Sunday's Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the race director of ASO, Jean-Francois Pescheux, also started with Jean-Marie Leblanc following him in the official car, tooting the horn for fun.
About 40 pairs rode the race, and the pairing of Thierry Marichal and Patrice Hemroulle finished first in a time of 2:25.61.
Images by Miwako Sasaki/Cycle Sports Japan
Weather for L-B-L
Sunday's weather forecast for the Ardennes looks like Liege-Bastogne-Liege will be contested under ideal conditions. After some morning mist, Sunday is expected to be a fine, sunny day with temperatures reaching 15 degrees. The wind will be from the Northeast, which will be against the riders on the return leg from Bastogne, however it's not expected to be blowing too strongly.
Cyclingnews will be covering the 90th Liège - Bastogne - Liège from start to finish. Coverage begins at 10:30 CEST/04:30 EDT, 01:30 PDT, 18:30 AEST). In addition, from 15:00 CEST onwards, we will be welcoming our special guest commentator Scott Sunderland (Alessio-Bianchi), who is sure to provide some additional insight into the race that he's ridden several times.
Bruyneel looks towards life after USPS
By Tim Maloney in Athens, Georgia
Prior to the Dodge Tour de Georgia's Stage 6 in Athens, US Postal Service-Berry Floor team director Johan Bruyneel spoke to Cyclingnews concerning the now official announcement that the American postal service would not renew its title sponsorship of the cycling squad.
Bruyneel explained that, "We knew that the non-renewal of our team sponsorship by the US Postal Service was going to happen, which was probably good. I think that it's really too bad. USPS was a good sponsor for us and during the nine years we worked together, we had a lot of good moments together. But the USPS made a decision that after that time, they needed to change. I think they had the maximum they could get from this sponsoring as well, as we delivered five consecutive Tour De France wins. USPS was a very good sponsor because they gave every possibility to do our job. And we always gave back good things in return."
Bruyneel continued by looking forward, saying "As for the future, I'm just not in a position to say but the team with the structure we have now will continue to exist. We have other good prospects but I can't say more than that."
Although Bruyneel wouldn't reveal anything more specific, he did tell Cyclingnews that Lance would probably start the Tour De France in July with the new team sponsor announced for 2005.
Driver who hit Craig Lewis ignored officials
By Mark Zalewski in Athens, Georgia
During the early part of the Dodge Tour de Georgia's stage four time trial, a vehicle waiting to cross the race course ignored police and race officials and attempted to cross the course. Instead, the driver struck Craig Lewis of the USA National and TIAA-CREF development team, sending the 19 year old to hospital with numerous injuries. Although the driver, Edgar Bishop, maintained that he was waved through, witnesses confirmed that no command to cross the course was given.
Lewis was taken to Rome's Floyd Medical Center and is in a stable condition, with numerous broken bones, concussion and collapsed lungs due to broken rib bones. Although his injuries are serious, team director Jonathan Vaughters remarked that his helmet prevented even worse head damage.
A native of Sparanburg, S.C., Lewis is currently in good spirits and is expected to remain in the hospital for the next few days.
Lampre confirms Astarloa signing
The Lampre team has officially announced that it has signed World Champion Igor Astarloa for the remainder of the season. Astarloa will sign his new contract next Tuesday, April 27, which means he will be able to ride the Giro d'Italia if he and his team wish. He was forced to leave his new team Cofidis after it suspended itself from racing two weeks ago.
Cyclingnews talks to Scott Sunderland
After a solid block of racing in the early part of the season, Cyclingnews diarist Scott Sunderland (Alessio-Bianchi) has earned himself a three week break from racing. Our Chief Online Editor Jeff Jones caught up with the Belgian-based Aussie pro just before he flew off to Spain for some time away from it all.
CN:You had a solid start to the season and did a great job for the team in the early classics. Why didn't you start in Amstel?
SS: After the high of the team winning Paris-Roubaix, it was kind of weird entering a three week period without competition. My heart wanted to keep racing, as my form was still on a high, but my head told me it made sense to have a rest. My team director Bruno Cenghialta confirmed that thought and said, "If you don't have a break now, you won't get one any more this season!"
Besides that, my wife Sabine was very anxious until the decision not to ride was made. She said the way I have been going reminds her of my strong start of the '98 season. Somehow I think Sabine hasn't forgotten it all as well as I have myself. Well, I guess, I'm not the one who saw my "eyes poking out of my head" because of the pressure the hematomas put on my brain.
Also, having been in hospital with my teammate Michael Skelde after his serious crash in Three Days of de Panne brought back those memories too vividly, Sabine was quite edgy after that. She was happy when his wife and parents arrived - Michael was doing a lot better already at that moment - but the time spent in intensive care with Michael really got to her. She was sort of happy to hear I wasn't starting in the race in which she saw me "fall on my head", as we refer to the crash nowadays.
CN: So does the crash still affect you mentally?
SS: Well actually, I don't like to talk about it any more. It's been six years now. I would like to be known in cycling because of my performances, not as "the guy who survived a serious accident".
But I realize that this will be connected to my resumé for good, and don't get me wrong: I am happy to receive mails and letters from people to whom I've been an inspiration, who have told me that my fight was also theirs to get back to a normal life. It's been my Prozac for the days I was down. It helped me as much as what my story helped them, I never needed other means to lift my spirit than their support.
Journo's keep asking me about it too, but I'd rather avoid the conversation about the "comeback" now, it sort of bores me to be honest.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2004)