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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

First Edition Cycling News for December 10, 2004

Edited by Hedwig Kröner and John Stevenson

"Relaxed" Armstrong to decide in May

According to Austin, Texas newspaper the Austin American-Statesman, Lance Armstrong will decide whether he will participate in the next Tour de France only two months before the season's main event, in May 2005. Armstrong, who was in Austin for a week-long training camp with his Discovery Channel/US Postal teammates, told the newspaper that he intended to pursue his cycling career for another two years before retiring.

Armstrong was relaxed at the start of the camp, telling the newspaper's Suzanne Halliburton, "I've got a clear head. I'm chilled out. I'm relaxed. I feel better than I have at other December camps."

While this camp did involve plenty of riding, it was mostly about team bonding, being held on Armstrong's home turf in Texas. "This camp usually is for the new guys to meet Lance," said Postal team manager Johan Bruyneel. "The January camp is a better standard for how much work needs to be done."

In the past, Armstrong has played down the pressure of expectations on him in 2003, when he equalled the record of five Tour de france wins, and in 2004, when he won a historic sixth victory. But he's now admitting that last january, he was feeling the strain. "Last year, I was really preoccupied with all that talk," Armstrong said. "I was going for the record, something that had never been done before. And boy, there were times when I was starting to believe the stuff people were saying."

So is Armstrong going to go for number seven? He won't decide till May, and directeur sportif Johan Bruyneel isn't saying either. "We're going to do it a little differently this season," Bruyneel said. "It's best if Lance rolls into the season and see how it goes, then see how well he's motivated. I know he's very relaxed."

After a two-week training session starting January 11, 2005 in Solvang, California, Discovery Channel team management and Armstrong will decide which Spring Classics the team captain will ride. While his participation at Amstel Gold Race and Liège-Bastogne-Liège is likely, the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) and Flèche Wallonne could also be part of his early season racing calendar. After six weeks of racing between March and April, the 32 year-old will return to the States to decide on his programme for the high season 2005.

Phonak continues as Pro Continental team

Swiss cycling team Phonak will continue to race in 2005 as a Professional Continental team (the nearest equivalent to the current Division II in the UCI's new team structure for 2005). After not being given a ProTour license by the UCI, the squad's management and staff have held a meeting in Switzerland where the continuation was announced. The team will also renounce its appeal against the decision at the International Court of Arbitration of Sport (TAS) based in Lausanne.

Phonak CEO Andy Rihs believes the team backed by his company may hope for invitations to ProTour races and maybe even to the Grand Tours. Until now, none of the squad's riders such as Floyd Landis, Robert Hunter, Santiago Botero, Oscar Pereiro and Martin Perdiguero have left the team, although their contracts would allow them to do so in case of non-inclusion in the ProTour.

The meeting is scheduled to last until Sunday, December 12. Phonak will start next season with the Tour of Qatar and Mallorca Challenge.

Tour de Suisse 2005

The stages of the 69th edition of the Tour de Suisse have been presented by the organisers of the race, which will be part of next year's ProTour calendar. The nine-day race will start in Schaffhausen in the North of the country and finish in Ulrichen after having passed several mountains. Nine stages will lead the winner to the finish line, detailed as follows:

Stage 1 (Friday, June 11): Schaffhouse-Weinfelden (170 km)
Stage 2 (Saturday, June 12): Weinfelden-Weinfelden (36 km)
Stage 3 (Sunday, June 13): Abtswil-St. Anton (160 km)
Stage 4 (Monday, June 14): Vaduz-Bad Zurzach (205 km)
Stage 5 (Tuesday, June 15): Bad Zurzach-Altdorf (176 km)
Stage 6 (Wednesday, June 16): Bürglen-Arosa (155,7 km)
Stage 7 (Thursday, June 17): Lac de Zurich-Lenk (182 km)
Stage 8 (Friday, June 18): Lenk-Verbier (165 km)
Stage 9 (Saturday, June 19): Ulrichen-Ulrichen (100,4 km)

"Kristallen Fiets" to Boonen

The Belgian "Kristallen Fiets" award, organised by Belgian daily newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws, was given to Tom Boonen (Quick Step-Davitamon) in Kuurne, Belgium, on Wednesday, December 8. The 24 year-old was selected by a jury of 71 cycling specialists as the most successful Belgian rider in 2004, after winning two stages of this year's Tour de France, which was his first, and 22 other victories including Gent-Wevelgem. Other favourites for the award included Axel Merckx (bronze medalist at the Athens Olympics), Bart Wellens (cyclo-cross World Champion) and Roel Paulissen (UCI cross country rankings leader).

Junior cyclo-cross world champion Niels Albert was elected best Youngster of the Year in front of Dominique Cornu and Pieter Jacobs. Johan Bruyneel (US Postal-Berry Floor) was beaten by a hair by Patrick Lefévère (Quick Step-Davitamon), who was awarded the title of best directeur sportif. The jury's decision was made by points and the candidates scored thus:

1 Tom Boonen       142
2 Axel Merckx       69
3 Bart Wellens      47
4 Nick Nuyens       34
5 Roel Paulissen    22
6 Philippe Gilbert  10
7 Tom Steels         6

Manzano criticises Spanish legal authorities

Nine months after ex-pro Jésus Manzano made sweeping allegations of doping practices in the Kelme-Costa Blanca team to Spanish newspaper AS, Manzano has told French daily sports newspaper L'Equipe about his dissatisfaction with Spanish authorities, as the investigation of his case has stalled.

"I'm disappointed at the world of cycling," the 26 year-old said. "The truth is: I don't know if my accusations have served anything. Spain is a third world country in terms of justice. For the Spanish federation I've gone from being a witness to being the accused. It's shameful. I envy France or Italy where doping is fought with courage," he added.

Asked about his opinion on Phonak's recent blood doping cases, Manzano said, "These practices are taking place now. It's as easy as buying a pair of socks in the supermarket." After signing with Italian team Amore & Vita, Manzano wasn't able to continue cycling because of a damaged knee which he claims was caused by too much injected cortisone at Kelme. The ex-pro rider says he may to his former work as a stone mason.

Luke Harrop Memorial Circuit open for racing

Loretta Harrop at the launch of the new circuit named in her brother's memory
Photo ©:
Click for larger image

Australia's Gold Coast got a new cycling facility yesterday when the Luke Harrop High Performance Cycle Circuit was officially opened by deputy premier Terry Mackenroth, Mayor Ron Clarke and Loretta Harrop, with top Australian cyclists including Tour de France green jersey Robbie McEwen and Olympic gold medalist Sara Carrigan in attendance.

The 1.9km circuit commemorates Australian triathlete Luke Harrop who was killed by a car driver while training in January 2002. The track will be available as a training facility for use by cyclists, runners and inline skaters, said Mr Mackenroth. "Queensland Academy of Sport athletes in the triathlon program will also use the facility as well as other elite triathletes during the Australian Summer series," he said. "In addition, national and international cycling and triathlon squads have expressed interest in using the circuit for training."

The circuit will get its first competition use this weekend when it hosts the cycling events of the Pan Pacific Masters Games, currently being run on the Gold Coast.


Images by Michael Finder/David Magahy/

US cyclocross nationals starts today

The US domestic cyclocross season will reach its peak this weekend at the USA Cycling National Cyclocross Championships in Portland, Oregon, where racers will fight for 23 stars and stripes jerseys.

Leading the elite men's category will be Jonathan Page, who is after a third consecutive title. The two-time national champion will be challenged by riders like Ryan Trebon who spent his 2004 season working his way to the top of the Crank Brothers U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross Series to earn a nomination to the U.S. World Cyclocross Championships Team. 2003 USPRO Champion Mark McCormack has also had a remarkable season and leads Americans in the UCI rankings just ahead of Trebon and Page.

Although the women's field will lack defending champion Alison Dunlap, the race will most likely be characterized by a heated rivalry between U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross winner Ann Knapp and a very close second place finisher Gina Hall. Knapp gained a nomination to the U.S. World's team after a season long battle with Hall in which she finally clinched the win in the final race of the series. Hall is coming off a successful weekend having just swept the final UCI races on the west coast in the Bay Area Super Prestige Series doubleheader.

Racing kicks off at the Portland International Raceway this morning with the collegiate women's competition and culminates Sunday afternoon with the elite men's and women's races.

Following the conclusion of the National Championships, nominations will be made to the U.S. team for the World Cyclocross Championships to be held in St. Wendel, Germany in February.

Rabobank renews contract

The Dutch Rabobank financial group will continue to be the main sponsor of the Rabobank cycling teams until 2008, under a renewed sponsorship contract signed on Wednesday, December 8. The current professional Division I team will hold a ProTour license for next season while the Division III amateur team includes U23 road talents as well as the cyclo-crossers Sven Nys and Richard Groenendaal.

First training camp for Palazzago Vellutex

Italian Elite and U23 team Palazzago Vellutex have left on their first training camp for next season on Thursday, December 9. The team directed by Olivano Locatelli will be getting into shape with some mountain biking, track cycling and cross country skiing in the Alpine resort of Livigno until December 19. Participating in the camp are 13 riders: Rivera, Sestili, Zanasca, Michelini, Pantò, Di Luca, Moi, Bernucci and Formentelli. The team counts another 12 riders to its roster, including the Belarusians Kunitski, Samoilau and Daubniuk.

A climber for Spiuk

Spanish Continental team Spiuk has announced the signing of another rider: Sergio Domínguez, a 25 year-old climber. Domínguez won the Vuelta a Extremadura in 2002, the Vuelta a Alicante and the Volta a Coruña in 2003. With his new team, he will be participating in most of Spain's Continental races, such as Vuelta a Andalucía, Setmana Catalana, Circuito Montañés, Euskal Bizikleta, Vuelta a Castilla y León and Vuelta a Burgos.

After signing a climber, team Spiuk sports director Alfonso Rodríguez indicated he was now looking for a sprinter. "A professional sprinter would exceed our possibilities, but there are a lot of youngsters who can win over a small peloton," he explained.

Shimano gets Schumacher

Continental team Shimano-Van Keulen-Imabo Van Buren managed by Dutchman Arend Scheppink has signed the German Stefan Schumacher for next season. Riding for Div. III team Lamonta, the 23 year-old won a stage at the Bayern-Rundfahrt (Tour of Bavaria) in Germany this season, before getting second behind Andreas Klöden (T-Mobile) at the German National Championships. The gifted time-trialist and climber also placed second at the Hessen-Rundfahrt. Team Shimano now counts 17 riders on its roster.

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