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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

First Edition Cycling News for January 18, 2004

Edited By Chris Henry & Jeff Jones

Australian Open men's road race preview

A tale of two battered Aussies:
O'Neill back on the podium, Vogels forced to sit it out

Live coverage on Cyclingnews from 11.00 AEST, 01.00 CET, 16.00 USA West (Saturday)

While Mick Rogers and Stuart O'Grady have already been called back to Europe, this Sunday's Australian Open road championship sees almost all of Australia's top professionals battling it out for the right to wear the green-and-gold national champion's jersey for the season. However, two USA-based riders shared a disastrous 2003 season, with life-threatening crashes. Jeff Jones tells their respective tales.

Queensland comeback man Nathan O'Neill (Colavita-Bolla) will be aiming to go one better than he did two years ago when he finished second behind Robbie McEwen in the Australian Open Men's Road Race in Buninyong. The men's race today (Sunday) will be held on exactly the same course as it has been for the past two years, with 150 or so riders fighting it out over 18 laps of the testing 10 km Buninyong circuit.

For O'Neill, who broke his neck in a crash during the Tour de Toona in July last year, the distance of the Australian Open could present a problem as he has only been in serious training since November. But after winning the men's time trial on Friday, it seems as though anything is possible.

Nathan O'Neill
Photo ©: Mark Gunter

"I've been going through a lot of frustration and pain and surgery in the last months," O'Neill told Cyclingnews after his win. "It's been awful, picture this for an example. You are riding the subway in New York, trying to get to your doctor, titanium bolts sticking out from your neck and people staring at you as if you were some kind of monster. When you've broken your neck as I did, it's not just the question if you are going to end up in a wheelchair or not, I could just as well have ended up in a big, black box. When I came to the emergency, they told me that most cases like me would go straight to the morgue.

"I knew I wanted to come back though, and I set my mind to it. I've always had a strong belief in myself, and I know very well what I can do and what I cannot do. It was a big setback when Saturn announced that they wouldn't renew their sponsorship, but I was able to sign a new contract with Colavita Bolla, without them even knowing if I would be able to come back to racing level again. They did it purely because they had faith in me, and therefore I'm really happy that I can repay them a little by winning here."

While O'Neill at least has the luxury of being considered one of the favourites for the title, another "battered Aussie" isn't. West Australian Henk Vogels (Navigators) will be forced to sit out the Australian Open after breaking a couple of ribs in second round of the Be Active Cycle Instead Criterium Series in early January. Vogels was on the comeback trail after breaking several vertebra and an ankle in a serious crash in Fitchburg, USA last June. But he saw the positive side of things in a recent interview with Cyclingnews.

"If anything, it [the Perth crash] gave me another 9 or 10 days off the bike for my ankle to heal and all. But I was just getting back into the swing of things; I had just done 300k in three days and I had been training quite seriously since the 20th of December, and then this comes along, so I'm just on bloody pain killers three times a day," said Vogels, who will now target Gent-Wevelgem, Scheldeprijs Vlaanderen and the Tour of Georgia in April, by which time he hopes to be fit again.

The favourites for the race include's Europe-based contingent of Bradley McGee, Baden Cooke and Matt Wilson, while Queenslanders Robbie McEwen (Lotto) and Allan Davis (Liberty-Seguros) are also expected to be strong.

Cyclingnews will be providing live updates of today's Australian Open Men's Road Race, starting at 11:00am AEST and finishing approximately 5 hours later.

Team CSC presented in Italy

Bartoli welcomed
Photo ©: Lars Rønbøg

A newly reinforced Team CSC was presented in Lucca, Italy Saturday, where the team has been holding its first training camp of the year. The presentation, held at the Auditorium San Romano, was a chance to show off the 11 new riders in the team, headed by 1996 Tour de France winner Bjarne Riis.

Tyler Hamilton may have moved to Phonak for 2004, but even he acknowledged that CSC is an arguably stronger team this year, and praised Riis for his crafty work in the off season to secure the signatures of classics specialist Michele Bartoli and Italy's hope for the grand tours, Ivan Basso. The talented and dependable Jörg Jaksche joins CSC from ONCE, where he has been a mainstay for the Spanish team's assault on the Tour de France. Returning rider Carlos Sastre will also remain a team leader for the Tour.

Other riders joining CSC include American Bobby Julich, Kurt-Asle Arvesen, Frank Høj, Fabrizio Guidi, Max Sciandri, Vladimir Gusev, Brian Vandborg, and Jens Voigt. The depth of the team is evident, building on an immensely successful 2003 season which included victories in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Tour de Romandie, three Tour de France stages and the Tour's team competition.

Two new team directors have also arrived: Kim Andersen (ex-Fakta) and Alain Gallopin (ex-Bianchi). The team will make its 2004 racing debut January 31 at the Doha International Grand Prix in Qatar, followed by the Tour of Qatar.

"We will use the races in Qatar as a warm up for the bigger events in the spring season, so our first priority is not the results," Gallopin explained on the team's website. "The riders need to get to know each other and be motivated to work together as a group."

Images by Lars Rønbøg/

Team CSC 2004 roster

Kelme back on track

With confirmation of its place, the Spanish Kelme team is looking more stable for 2004 after several weeks of uncertainty. The team suffered a considerable setback when it was not granted Division I status by the UCI, compounding concerns about its future and financial viability. The Valencian Community of Spain stood willing to step in as a financial backer if the title sponsor pulled the plug, but with a place assured in Division II, Kelme looks set to continue.

Next on the list of concerns was the possible departure of rising talent Alejandro Valverde, who was open in his dissatisfaction of the team's Division II status. Nonetheless, Kelme's Vicente Belda appears confident that Valverde is there to stay, relying on a €2.5 million buyout clause to cool his heels. The team made additional efforts to sweeten Valverde's contract to ensure a positive relationship in 2004, according to a Marca report. Belda also expects new team leader Angel Casero to sign his contract within the coming days.

Ireland earns fourth Olympic spot

By Shane Stokes,

Cycling's world governing body, the UCI, has confirmed that Ireland has met the qualification criteria necessary to secure a fourth cycling place for the Olympic Games in Athens in August.

Cycling Ireland has learned that the expected method of calculating the countries which will get a place has been changed, meaning that the country finishes fourteenth out of the eighteen countries who will take up slots in the women's cross-country event this summer.

The selection process was based on the combined points total of the three best riders in the top 60 of the UCI world rankings on December 31, 2003. Although Ireland had just two riders inside the top sixty, the accumulated total of 993 points gained by Jenny McCauley and Tarja Owens last season see the country comfortably through. In addition, a number of the countries qualified will not take up their full quota of places, enabling nations further down the scale to send a rider.

Irish men's cross-country champion Robin Seymour had already secured his place for Athens last Autumn when he ended the season well inside the world's top 50. Like Owens, he took part in the last Olympic Games. In addition to the two mountain bike slots, Ireland will also have two riders in the men's road race.

McCauley and Owens will fight it out for the right to represent Ireland's Olympic hopes in the first three World Cup races this season, the first of which begins in Madrid on May 23rd. Whichever of the two riders gains the most UCI points in the races will join the 29 other female contestants at the start line in Athens.

Both riders rode courageously last season in their bids to secure the Olympic slot. McCauley suffered from blood poisoning earlier in the year but regained her form, while Owens recovered from a broken collarbone to also post a strong end of season.

Cross-country manager Geoff Seymour was delighted with the news. "I am really happy for the girls, they both worked extremely hard last season to gain the place" he said. "We had thought that the Olympic spot wouldn't be confirmed until later in the year and so to find out now is a real bonus."

"The input from the Irish Sports Council was absolutely invaluable in making our campaign possible as without their backing, we simply couldn't have gone to all the races necessary to gather points," Seymour added. "We told them that if we received funding that we should be able to qualify two mountain bike riders. I am delighted that it has all worked out well and would like to thank the Sports Council and Shane Keane for their invaluable support."

Malaysian roster for Tour de Langkawi

Seasoned rider and former Commonwealth Games silver medallist Nor Effandy Rosli will guide the Malaysian team at the upcoming Tour de Langkawi (February 6-15). The 36 year old Effandy will put his climbing talents to use, helping to provide experience to his team and looking ahead to a better 2004 after a somewhat disappointing ride in the 2003 tour.

The team will include three climbers, three sprinters, and one support rider, and will place its overall classification hopes on Shahrulneeza Razali. The rest of the roster is as follows: Mohd Mahazir Hammad, Musairi Musa, Suhardi Hassan, Mohd Sayuti Zahid and Mohd Sazlee Ismail.

"I have never thought that I'd been given another chance [to wear the national colours]." Effandy explained. "After a dull season last year, I've found new inspiration to do well in the tour."

Bragazzi suspended

The Disciplinary Commission of the Italian cycling federation has suspended Davide Bragazzi for 16 months for a positive doping control. The 22 year old rides for Podenzano-Italfine.

Saeco adds sponsor

The Italian Saeco team has secured an additional sponsor, the Casse Rurali Trentine bank from Trentino. The bank was eager to get involved with the team, whose leader Gilberto Simoni hails from the Trentino region, along with Leonardo Bertagnolli and Stefano Casagranda.

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