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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for June 23, 2004

Edited by Jeff Jones & Chris Henry

Madariaga's Tour dream

Iban Mayo (Euskaltel)
Photo ©: AFP
Click for larger image

With team leader Iban Mayo developing as a contender for victory in the Tour de France, Euskaltel-Euskadi manager Miguel Madariaga has already realized his dream of taking his modest Basque team to the Tour. Now with a budget of €6 million and well rounded group of riders, including two top-ten finishers from last year's Tour, Madariaga can realistically dream of the ultimate success in cycling. In an interview with, Madariaga stressed the importance of the entire team, not just the strength of his leader Iban Mayo, recent winner of the Dauphiné Libéré.

"The Basques have always had a special gift of teamwork, and that's been seen in the Tour by the old KAS team," Madariaga explained. "When we began with the Euskaltel-Euskadi team eleven years ago, our goal was to make it to the Tour. Honestly, we never dreamed about one day being able to win it."

This year Madariaga expects a somewhat different line up for the Tour, with a new importance placed on the team time trial. Euskaltel has traditionally been a team of climbers, but to compete with the likes of Lance Armstrong and Jan Ullrich in the Tour, the team will also have to limit its losses against the clock.

"If Armstrong, Ullrich or Hamilton take more than a minute from [Mayo] in the team time trial, where is Mayo going to get back that minute?" Madariaga asked aloud. "He'll have to attack a hundred times throughout the race, and those riders will still be there. It's for that reason that I place as much importance on the team."

Madariaga admitted that Mayo does not necessarily relish the role of leader, having had difficulty carrying the pressure in the past. This year, however, Mayo's confidence has taken big leaps, thanks in no small part to his victory against Armstrong, Hamilton and others in the Dauphiné, including his crushing time trial win on the Mont Ventoux.

"He can win the Tour because he has everything to make the difference," Madariaga said of Mayo. "He just lacks a bit of experience. If he doesn't make any mistakes, he can at least make the podium. But don't forget that he's covered by a rider who was fifth in last year's Tour, Haimar Zubeldia."

Madariaga knows who his teams rivals will be for the Tour, and will now wait to see how his close-knit Basque team rallies to support Mayo and/or Zubeldia in the collective bid to unseat five-time winner Lance Armstrong.

Pevenage on Lance vs. Jan

Jan Ullrich's personal assistant Rudy Pevenage is more confident about the prospects of his rider in the upcoming Tour de France. Before Ullrich won the Tour de Suisse on the final day by just one second, Pevenage told L'Equipe, "The Tour de Suisse wasn't really an objective, but if he can win it he'll be very happy Sunday night. It's important for the morale."

With that morale booster behind him, Ullrich will enter the Tour with his best June form for years, after a final month build up that included the Tours of Germany and Switzerland. "Jan's condition is a little better than last year," Pevenage told Belgian TV channel Sporza. He hasn't had any health problems in the last month. And if there's one thing that there is no doubt about, it's his base condition. He trained in his high pressure chamber sometimes. In the afternoon he was training on the road for six to seven hours."

Pevenage rued the absence of Alexandre Vinokourov, who was third in the Tour last year but injured his shoulder in a crash during the Tour de Suisse. "Vino is irreplaceable," said Pevenage. "Zabel will certainly do his sprints, but the other seven should ride in Jan's service."

Pevenage hopes that T-Mobile will not lose any time to US Postal in the Stage 4 team time trial, and is also keeping an eye on Stage 3 from Waterloo to Wasquehal, which contains a long stretch of cobbles near the finish [and also a small Tour de France museum near Frasnes-lez-Anvaing en route-Ed.]. "A few will lose time there," said Pevenage.

On the climbs, Pevenage still rates Armstrong as the best. "Jan cannot ride away with a blistering uphill attack," he said. "That remains the specialty of Lance. But if the condition is a little improved, he can certainly respond to such an attack, à la Indurain. As for race instinct, Lance is perhaps a bit better than Jan, but he has still reacted well in the last few years. Take Jan's attack on the Tourmalet last year. He felt good and with some luck he could have been away with someone like Mayo."

An interview with Theo De Rooij

This year, after having worked as a sports director with the team since 1996, Theo De Rooij took over the helm from Jan Raas to become manger of Rabobank. With their team for the Tour de France selected just a few days ago, Cyclingnews' Gabriella Ekström spoke with De Rooij to find out about life as a decision-maker on one of the world's best teams.

At the end of March, the team's long-time sponsor Rabobank decided to prolong its sponsorship until the end of 2008. The official announcement was made on the morning of Tour de Flanders, and the future should look bright for Theo. Does he have faith in the future?

"I sure have. I have always been an optimistic person and we have a great sponsor with Rabobank. We'll celebrate 10 years engagement with Rabobank next year. This year has felt a bit like a fresh start, with Erik Breukink taking over from me as sports director and giving new impulses to the team. I think things have evolved in a smooth way. Erik is always calm, experienced in cycling and manages to keep a good overview of the team in race situations, despite the fact that he was relatively inexperienced in this new field at the start of the year. On top of this, there's no doubt that our future rests with our young talented riders, both those in our top performing TT3, as well as those in our TT1. They are very important for the teams, our sponsor and for Dutch cycling in general."

Despite a new contract with the sponsor, and good colleagues, it can sometimes be hard to hold your head up if things are not going as planned, but once again, De Rooij turns to his co-workers: "All teams experience some hard times, but we have very good people on board and we have been working together for many years. This gives the team a good balance and when the results are lacking, the confidence in our line of work stays," he says.

"My way of handling stress is by moving and discussing, I have always been someone who 'moves around'. I feel my job is sometimes extremely exciting but I have always stood behind my decisions, even though some few million people may have seen and thought something else about it."

Earlier this year, De Rooij spoke about the keystones in the team, and the breathing space allowed between the spring classics and the Tour. In June, we should find ourselves just in that gap. "Naturally the Tour de France is the most important race for us so we are creating a 'gap', a possibility for the riders to recuperate from the Spring Classics. 'Doing' the Spring Classics might be even harder than finishing a three week stage race. The preliminary Tour selection was made in the beginning of May, with some eleven riders for nine places. The key riders are Rasmussen, Boogerd, Leipheimer, Dekker and Freire. [note: the final selection was announced on June 22, with Freire excluded due to injury-Ed.]

Click here for the full interview with Theo de Rooij.

Zberg out, Wegmann in?

Team Gerolsteiner has announced that Markus Zberg will not be taking part in the Tour de France, due to injuries suffered in a crash in the Tour de Suisse last week. Zberg fell in the fourth stage and badly injured his right thumb, which required an operation. "There's simply no point," said Zberg. "I can't even hold a drink bottle yet."

Zberg will now concentrate on recovering in time for the second half of the season. His replacement will be named after the national championships this Sunday, although team manager Hans-Michael Holczer told DPA that there is a "90 percent chance" that Fabian Wegmann will go. "He has recovered well from the Giro and should try something in the first six to eight days of the Tour. There won't be any particular tasks for him...Perhaps he'll make it to the finish in Paris."

The rest of the Gerolsteiner Tour team is: René Haselbacher (Aut), Danilo Hondo (Ger), Sebastian Lang (Ger), Sven Montgomery (Swi), Uwe Peschel (Ger), Ronny Scholz (Ger), Georg Totschnig (Aut) and Peter Wrolich (Aut).

No Maier in Tour prologue

Austrian ski star Hermann Maier will not take part in the Tour de France prologue this year, despite expressing a strong desire to do it again after his debut last year. Maier cited a lack of training and a cold for his no show, as he wanted to have a better result than in 2003. Last year he lost 1'19 to prologue winner Brad McGee over the 6.5 km course, and finished a mere 13 seconds slower than the slowest rider on the day.

Hunter leads South African Olympic team South Africa has announced its four member Olympic road cycling team for the Games in Athens, which will take place in August this year. The team includes three men and one woman, Anriette Schoeman, whose fast sprint gained her selection over Anke Erlank and Dianne Emery.

The men's team will be led by Rabobank's Robert Hunter, who will be joined by Barloworld-Androni riders Ryan Cox and Tiaan Kannemeyer. Hunter has put a lot of emphasis on the Olympics this year, and is in good form at the moment after winning two stages of the Tour de Suisse.

Ryan Cox's year started with an impressive second place in the Tour de Langkawi in Malaysia, and he helped teammate Tiaan Kannemeyer to a 14th spot overall in the Giro del Trentino, one of Italy's hardest tours.

2005 Italian nationals

The 2005 Settimana tricolore, the Italian national championships, will be held in Pescara, Italy. Italian cycling federation president Giancarlo Ceruti made the announcement while in Pescara Monday to present the upcoming Trofeo Matteotti on July 4.

German 24 hour record broken

The German 24 hour cycling record has been broken by Stefan Lau from Mainz, who rode 1,836 laps of the 400m velodrome in Darmstadt for a total of 734 km, an average of 30.6 km/h. Lau broke the previous record of Mark Herb by 28 km, riding a standard bike without aero-bars, according to UCI rules. For the first six hours, Lau rode in partially wet conditions at an average speed of 35 km/h, and his average was still 32.5 km/h at the halfway point. He then suffered a slump but bounded back to ride 344 km in the last 12 hours to convincingly break the record.


Mentheour sings

Former French professional Erwann Mentheour has reinvented himself as a rock star after ending his racing career in 1997. Mentheour was the first rider to be suspended for an excessive red blood cell count after the UCI introduced the test to help detect EPO use. He rode professionally for 12 years and following his retirement wrote a tell-all book on doping entitled "Secret Defense".

Now Mentheour is back in the French public eye as a singer with his first album "Un ange, un frère, une soeur" released this month on the Universal Music label.

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