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Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

Latest Cycling News for June 3, 2004

Edited by Chris Henry

David Etxebarria: Not the end of the world

David Etxebarria (Euskaltel-Euskadi) is disgusted, his pride is hurt, but his 'take life as it comes' attitude is weathering the storm he currently finds himself in. This week's Euskal Bizikleta was a race on which he had placed a lot of hope. He counted himself as one who could do something. With teammate Haimar Zubeldia content with a podium position and maybe a stage win, David was amongst those hoping for victory in the five day race. But as he said Thursday in his habitual race day column in Bilbao's DEIA newspaper, it was solely because he placed so much hope in doing well this week, still knowing that he was ill, that he "risked it and decided to race."

"I say I risked it because for two days I have been sick, like other teammates, with dehydration and stomach problems," Etxebarria explained. "And in these conditions, it is known that your haematocrit level rises, and this is what happened to me. My level was 0.8 percent higher than normal. On Tuesday my director and doctor advised me not to race. They were worried about what might happen, but the Euskal is the Euskal and I took the decision to race. This has been my only sin.

"Like many other cyclists I have a certificate from the UCI that recognises that I have a haematocrit much higher than normal, up to 52%," he explained. "My grandfather, for example, has a level of 54%. The fact is that Cunego, winner of the Giro, also has his limit fixed at 52%. I obtained this certificate a few years back in Lisbon; I think it was the year that the blood controls came into being.

"Why then yesterday was the level higher and I haven't been on other occasions?" Etxebarria asked. "Well it is very simple - never before have I raced in the situation I was in, and what's more never have I been sick when I had to have a haematocrit test."

"It hurts a bit that I could not win the Euskal as people thought I could," he added. "I am aware that some people might try to take advantage of this test to call into question the results I have obtained in my ten years as a a professional, during which time I have passed over 200 anti-doping controls without a problem. But it doesn't worry me what they might say because I do not have anything to be ashamed of. There is the certificate from the UCI.

"What's more, to be over by 0.8 percent is nothing like a 'positive', and they will not sanction me. My mind is calm. I know who my friends are. They know me and only their opinion matters. It is a problem, yes, and a big one, but it is not the end of the world."

Courtesy of Martin Hardie

Beloki still unknown

Despite steady training and a consistent face of optimism concerning his preparation, Joseba Beloki (Brioches La Boulangère) remains perhaps the biggest unknown among Tour de France contenders. Struggling throughout the spring as he returned to racing after crashing out of last year's Tour, Beloki has yet to find his top racing form, or it would seem anything even close. Eager to test himself in this week's Euskal Bizikleta in his home Basque region of Spain, Beloki finished the first difficult stage in 79th place, 7'17 behind race winner Miguel Martin Perdiguero.

"I'm glad to be back in competition so I can see where I am," Beloki commented before the first stage. "This race is excellent preparation for the Tour."

Since joining the French La Boulangère team as unique leader for the Tour de France, Beloki has faced a variety of setbacks including tendinitis and lingering complications from his season-ending crash last year. Though he still speaks of the 2004 Tour, he acknowledges that his role as a favourite is no longer justified.

"I'm optimistic (for the Tour), but I don't have any illusions," Beloki told Marca. "If I'm not back for the Tour, I will be for the Vuelta. Of that I have no doubt."

Gilbert looks ahead

Behind the success of Brad McGee in the Giro d'Italia, teammate Philippe Gilbert emerged from a promising Giro himself, finishing his first grand tour and recovering well to tell the tale. Gilbert, who hails from Belgium, is one of's hopes for the immediate future in the spring classics, but also showed signs of potential for the major tours in years to come with his solid ride in the Giro.

"I think overall my Giro was a success. I was very consistent and I had a few good results," Gilbert commented on his website. "I think my time trial was encouraging, because at this level I've never done that well. My recovery is also still very good after three weeks."

While McGee had an inspiring ride to crack the top ten, Gilbert finished a very respectable 32nd overall, just under an hour behind race winner Damiano Cunego. Often on the attack, Gilbert also provided support for McGee in a number of stage finishes.

"Everyone at was satisfied since the team had a lot of good moments in the Giro and in particular we had the maglia rosa," Gilbert added. "I'm satisfied with my level in the mountains, though it's clear I still have a lot of work to do. But I'm on the right track."

Gilbert is thinking first of a full-tilt effort at the spring classics in 2005, but has his mind on future tours as well after his encouraging Giro. director Marc Madiot has begun to use the Giro as an opportunity to give his younger riders experience in a grand tour before the big pressure of the Tour de France, and Gilbert himself does not appear overly anxious to race the Tour, knowing his chance will come in due time.

"I think I'm capable of getting through the mountains pretty well and in the time trials I can take back time on the climbers, though I'll need to keep working very hard," he said. "In this Giro I approached it like any other race, that is without any specific training. I hadn't done any major mountains this year so that's reassuring."

The next stop for Gilbert will be the Ster Elektro Tour (June 16-20), a replacement for the Route du Sud in France. While he'll sit out this year's Tour de France, Gilbert does have his heart set on selection for Belgium's Olympic team for Athens.

"The Olympic Games are a goal of mine, and it would be an honour to be invited so I am really going to work hard to make the selection," he said. "I think I've shown a lot of promise."

Deignan to Ag2r-Prévoyance

Irish national champion Mark Scanlon will have a new compatriot by his side in the Ag2r-Prévoyance team. Recent winner of the Ronde de l'Isard, Philip Deignan has signed with the French team for 2005-2006. Deignan currently rides as an amateur for the French VC La Pomme team in Marseille.

CSC for Dauphiné

Team CSC has announced its roster for the upcoming Dauphiné Libéré stage race which begins Sunday in Megeve, France. The team for the Dauphiné will feature three key men for the Tour de France: Ivan Basso, Carlos Sastre, and Jörg Jaksche. Joining the GC men will be Michele Bartoli, Manuel Calvente, Andrea Peron, and Nicki Sørensen.

New French track championships

The French cycling federation (FFC) has decided to create a new winter national championship event for track racing, to debut in January 2005. The move is designed to satisfy the UCI's goals of stretching track racing throughout the calendar, and the new winter championships would not replace the regular nationals held in July, according to a l'Equipe report. This new competition would be open to elite and U23 racers would likely fall between the first and second rounds of the World Cup, and serve as a selection race for France's team for the Track World Championships in Los Angeles (March 23-27).

Finot's back

Frédéric Finot (RAGT Semences-MG Rover) will return to competition at Saturday's Classique des Alpes. Finot has been out of action due to a back injury.


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