First Edition Cycling News for February 9, 2004
Edited by Chris Henry
Belda rethinks the calendar
Among the ramifications of the demotion to Division II for 2004, Belda and his Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme team have had to recreate the season's plans around new objectives. Although the team remains a contender for many big races, the Division II status puts in question selection for a number of events, particularly larger tours such as Paris-Nice, where organisers ASO typically select on first division teams.
"We had already planned the whole calendar but after the drop in division we've had to start from zero," Belda said. "I need to know if we will race Paris-Nice, Critérium International, and the Giro d'Italia, but 80% of our calendar is well defined."
For the longest running team in the pro peloton, missing the Tour is a tough pill to swallow, but Belda hopes to move on and focus on other objectives.
"In July we'll just have to turn on the television, sit in the pool, and bite our nails watching the Tour," Belda admitted in a Todociclismo interview. "It will be a strange feeling, but we have no choice but to accept it."
Kelme's focus on the Vuelta a España will be more important than ever, and Belda believes his team can win Spain's national tour.
"That has to be our race," Belda insisted. "We'll go with Angel Casero and Alejandro Valverde as team leaders. Valverde is a candidate for victory. The route suits him very well and the time trial up the Sierra Nevada will be good for him... In this Vuelta having a strong team will be essential."
Ullrich continues in Tuscany
Jan Ullrich continues his pre-season preparations in Tuscany along with faithful teammate Tobias Steinhauser and coach Rudy Pevenage. Ullrich, also joined in Italy by his partner Gaby and daughter Sarah Maria, has his eye on competition at the Vuelta a Murcia in early March as he builds toward his goal of dethroning Lance Armstrong at the Tour de France. Armstrong remains the favourite, but Ullrich doesn't discount a number of other contenders.
"Lance is the strongest of my rivals, but it would be a mistake to only think of him," Ullrich told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "Joseba Beloki and Roberto Heras shouldn't be underestimated. They both became leaders of their teams this year and they will be even more aggressive. Ivan Basso also has a shot at victory."
Pevenage offered a frank assessment of the German's preparations thus far, noting that his training is going well but there is plenty of work to be done.
"The cold January means he lost some days of training and still has a little more weight than planned for this point, but nothing too dramatic," Pevenage said.
Julich excited for Tour Med
American Bobby Julich, who joined Team CSC for 2004, has found encouragement in his early season performances at the Challenge Illes Balears last week. With the year off to a good start, Julich is now targeting the Tour Méditerranéen as a first objective.
"Tour Med has always been an important race," Julich said on the team's website. "For many riders it's the first 'real' race of the year, and on a personal note, I've previously done well in the Tour Med. I think there's a great chance we could start off with a big result for the team, especially after we really got our time-trial bikes together and practiced the technique at the training camp in Lucca."
This year the Tour Med concludes with a team trial up the slopes of the Mont Faron, providing a truly unique experience pitting the riders collectively against the clock and a tough mountain climb. Instead of standard practice of taking the team's time after the fifth rider's passage of the finish line, this Tour Med team time trial will in fact time riders individually, but allow for a team ride by starting all team members together and not penalising for drafting.
"It's going to be exciting," Julich said. "Usually when things like this come up, people tend to think it's no good. But who knows? Perhaps this is the future of racing. One thing is for sure, it's the same for everyone, and I believe a very organized team will have the best chances in this particular discipline."
Italian Davide Rebellin has decided to extend his contract with the German Gerolsteiner team through 2005. "The contract renewal with Gerolsteiner puts me in an ideal condition for a big season," Rebellin said. He will begin his season Friday, February 15 at the Giro della Liguria.
Polkanova to Nobili Rubinetterie-Guerciotti
Russian professional Valentina Polkanova has signed with the Nobili Rubinetterie-Guerciotti women's team for 2004. Polkanova rode for the Velodames-Colnago team in 2003.
Marco Polo Cycling Team 2004
In 2004 the Division III Marco Polo Cycling Team will continue to travel the world, racing around the globe. The team's European program will become increasingly important after the successful campaign in 2003. The team has had a good start to 2004, with Robin Reid and Cory Lange winning several races in New Zealand, and Masahiko Mifune from the Marco Polo amateur team winning the Hong Kong Cycle Classic.
2004 team roster:
Along with the team, the Marco Polo Cycling School (which supports talent from non-traditional cycling countries) will be expanded. Riders that are not ready for the trade team will be given the opportunity through the cycling school to train and race in Europe, under the guidance of experienced trainers. Riders from Mongolia, Hong Kong, Albania, Eritrea and China are expected to participate.
For the 1000+ members of the club, World Wide Cycling will work on offering more interesting travels, open to everyone. For more information see www.marcopolocycling.com
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2004)