First Edition Cycling News for January 20, 2004
Edited by Chris Henry
The newly dubbed T-Mobile Team (former Team Telekom) was presented Monday in Luc Mayor on the Spanish island of Mallorca, with former Tour de France winner Jan Ullrich back in the fold after a year with Teams Coast and Bianchi. On paper the team appears one of the strongest for 2004, and Ullrich himself called the 25 man team the best he's known.
"If all of us are in top form at the start of the 2004 Tour de France, we'll be Lance Armstrong's principal rivals," Ullrich said. "When I look at my teammates, I see that they're all very motivated. Each rider knows his mission."
Alexandre Vinokourov, who on top of an enormously successful 2003 finished third overall in the Tour, with a stage win, is ostensibly ready to work for Ullrich. Nonetheless, the gritty Kazakh rider noted his own confidence to carry a leadership role.
"The best rider will be the leader, and I'm ready to assume that role," Vinokourov commented. Downplaying any sense of competition within the team, he welcomed back the man who has built his career in the Telekom ranks.
"I'm happy to have Ullrich back in the team because we're good friends," Vinokourov added.
Australian Cadel Evans, who suffered a string of repeat collarbone injuries in 2003, is no less motivated, but does not count on his own fight for the general classification in the Tour. Noting that his body is on the mend once again and "reinforced with titanium," Evans downplayed his own personal ambitions.
"I'm going to help Jan get to the first step (of the podium), then we'll look at the rest after that," Evans said modestly.
In the big tours, T-Mobile is also hoping the likes of Santiago Botero and Paolo Savoldelli find their best form and remain injury-free after the two passed through 2003 without results. The team is clearly banking on the potential of a Tour de France team including Ullrich, Vinokourov, Savoldelli, Evans, and Botero... a combination even US Postal might find hard to beat.
T-Mobile boasts a reinvigorated team for the classics, which will led primarily by Steffen Wesemann and Daniele Nardello, as Erik Zabel will race a reduced schedule in the early season. Nardello and Wesemann can count on new recruits Serguei Ivanov (ex-Fassa Bortolo) in races like Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders, while former Flèche Wallonne winner Mario Aerts will remain a man for the Ardennes classics.
Zabel himself will target Milan-San Remo, which he has won four times already, but opt out of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. The green jersey in the Tour de France, another staple of his summer wardrobe, will remain a top goal in 2004.
"I won't ride as many classics this year, because that cost me too much energy last season," Zabel said. "I'll skip Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders so that I can be in top shape for the Tour."
With a name change and reinstatement of team leader Jan Ullrich, the team also undergoes cosmetic and equipment changes for 2004. Uniforms will still feature the team's trademark magenta, but white sleeves will lighten the look. On the equipment side, longtime bicycle sponsor Pinarello has been replaced by Giant, which previously provided frames to ONCE-Eroski. Shimano also steps in as component supplier after Telekom's long run with Campagnolo.
The team will continue its pre-season training camps in Mallorca, where different factions are preparing for different starts to the season. Team management will soon decide which riders will begin the season at the Tour of Qatar on February 2 and which will remain on the island for traditional Mallorca season openers. Ullrich himself is expected to begin racing at the Vuelta a Murcia in early March.
Images by AFP
Liège on track for Tour start
Preparations are going according to plan for Liège, Belgium's role as host of the Grand Départ of the 2004 Tour de France. Belgium will host the prologue time trial (July 3) and the first three road stages, as the Tour revisits the roads celebrated each year in the spring classics such as Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Flèche Wallonne.
"We always prepare the same way for the Grand Départ," Tour director Jean-Marie Leblanc commented in La Dernière Heure. "We'll meet a second time in mid-April in Paris, then a final time at the end of May back in Liège. We've taken over Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Flèche Wallonne, and we've organised a Tour finish in 1995 (in Liège) and a time trial between Huy and Seraing, so we know how things work.
"Still, these meetings are very important, because the past has shown us that if the Grand Départ is a success, so too is the Tour," Leblanc added.
Leblanc eyes 2006 departure
While in Liège, Belgium to discuss the city's preparations for the 2004 Tour de France start, Jean-Marie Leblanc quietly mentioned his likely retirement date as head of the world's most important bike race. Initially planning to retire after the centenary Tour in 2003, or within a year after, Leblanc was offered an open-ended extension as head of the Tour by Amaury Sport Organisation president Patrice Clerc shortly before the 2003 Tour.
This year, Leblanc welcomes a new second in command, Christian Prudhomme, a lifelong cycling devotee who joins ASO from France Télévisions. Prudhomme replaces Daniel Baal, who announced his retirement from the Tour, which stemmed largely from Leblanc's decision to stay on longer than planned. Although it was an amicable divorce, Baal's frustration at not knowing if and when he might move into Leblanc's position was evident.
"We came to realise that Daniel, whose experience and competence are well known, did not come completely to terms with our way of working, which sometimes veers towards the reactionary and irrational," Baal explained in La Dernière Heure. "Being the organised and methodical man that he is, it no longer seemed possible for him to stay on this course."
Although not set in stone, Leblanc did hint at his new planned retirement, when Prudhomme will almost certainly assume the position of director of the Tour de France.
"My objective is to continue until the end of 2006, to allow [Prudhomme] to get up to speed," Leblanc said, "and for me to begin to taste a retirement which I believe I have earned."
Morel out of cyclo-cross World's
One of France's top cyclo-crossers, Christophe Morel, has been forced to cede his place in the national team for the cyclo-cross world championships in Pontchâteau February 1. Morel finished third in the recent French national championships but suffered a wrist injury in a fall at Sunday's World Cup race in Nommay (France).
Morel will be replaced by FDJeux.com's 'cross specialist David Derepas. The remainder of the French team for the world's consists of national champion John Gadret, Arnaud Labbe, Emmanuel Magnien, and Francis Mourey.
Barbot/Gaia for 2004
Portuguese Division III team Barbot/Gaia was presented Sunday in unique fashion, as part of a 700 rider organised ride. Team members and technical staff joined local cyclists for 30 leisurely kilometres around Vila Nova de Gaia, alongside several other notables from the professional ranks, including former ONCE rider and new addition to US Postal Service, José Azevedo.
Directeur sportif: Carlos Pereira
The Eastside Cycles/Marin team has presented a much younger roster for 2004, making a number of major changes after 2003. The team will focus on northern California racing, aiming to provide an environment for its younger riders to learn and mature in the right environment.
"Northern California has excellent junior programs and a solid Pro/Elite scene, but no intermediate step." says team manager Sabrina Heydorn. "Thanks to the continuing support of Eastside Cycles and the return of Marin to road sponsorship, we have been able to provide a place for younger riders to mature and learn."
2004 Team roster:
Sponsors: Eastside Cycles, Marin, Yakima, Serfas Racing, Smith, Chunky's Tacqueria
Cricket ace Hookes honoured at TDU
South Australian Premier Mike Rann will help honour former South Australia cricket captain David Hookes with a minute of silence before the start of the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under Tuesday. Hookes died Monday from head injuries sustained in an altercation outside a Melbourne hotel Sunday night. Hookes was a star cricket player who later went on to coach the Victorian team as well as provide game commentary.
"It is fitting that we give the people of SA the chance to pay tribute to one of our best known sportsmen at this major sporting event," Rann said. "David made his name in cricket, loved all sports and went on to be a leading member of the sport media. His death has come as a terrible shock to all who knew him.
"Many thousands of people, who were entertained by David at the cricket or over the airwaves, will be in the East End tomorrow night to watch the opening stage of the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under," Rann added. "It is fitting then that we stop for a minute to think of David and the loved-ones he has left behind."
2004 Nature Valley Grand Prix
Receiving an unsolicited upgrade in the National Racing Calendar (NRC) from USA Cycling, the Nature Valley Grand Prix- part of the larger Great River Energy Bicycle Festival will debut a new road course in 2004. Red Wing, Minnesota will host the fourth stage of the grand prix, set to include four major climbs up the bluffs around the Mississippi River valley town.
Red Wing joins other Minnesota cities including Virginia in the north, Minneapolis, and Stillwater on the St. Croix River hosting stages of the grand prix. Now in its sixth year, the Nature Valley Grand Prix also becomes one of the top four stage races in the United States, now with a 2.2 ranking on the NRC.
The Nature Valley Grand Prix again will feature both men's and women's racing, starting with a 5.5-mile time trial on the Mesabi Trail for the women on Wednesday, June 9, and finishing in Stillwater, Minnesota, with a circuit race featuring Chilkoot Hill, an 18-percent grade climb in the middle of the 1.25 mile course. The schedule includes:
Wednesday, June 9: Mesabi Trail Time Trial (women) in Virginia
Visit www.MinnBikeFestival.com for more information on the Nature Valley Grand Prix.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2004)