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Photo ©: Swift

Latest Cycling News for September 2, 2004

Edited by Chris Henry

Cunego ready for Vuelta

Two weeks en route to 'home' World's

Damiano Cunego (Saeco)
Photo ©: Sirotti

Giro d'Italia sensation Damiano Cunego (Saeco) will line up for his second grand tour of the season on Saturday when the Vuelta a España kicks off in León, Spain. The young Cunego expects to play a protagonist's role in the Vuelta, but makes no secret that an anticipated early exit is planned as he prepares for the World Championships in Verona, Italy. Cunego won the Junior World's in Verona in 1999 and is eager to go for another rainbow jersey in his home region.

"I'm probably only going to ride the first two weeks of the Vuelta," Cunego explained. "It's a prestigious and important race but my big objective for the end of the season is the World Championships in Verona close to my home in Italy. A rider rarely gets a chance to race for a world title on home roads and it's even on the same course where I won the junior world title in 1999. That's too big of an opportunity to miss and so I have to do everything I can to be at my best for then."

Nonetheless, Cunego feels his form is coming back to his best level and hopes to fully test himself in the Vuelta, even if final victory in Madrid is not necessarily in the cards.

"I'm going pretty well and I'm starting to find a good racing rhythm after working hard on my climbing," he said. "I've also been working on my stamina and I'm sure I'll soon be at the same level I was when I won the Giro.

"I'm very curious to see how my rivals perform in the Vuelta," Cunego added. "I'm sure they'll be very strong... Riders like Valverde and Beloki didn't even ride the Tour and so will be determined to get a result this year."

Cunego will be supported by several riders who helped him in the Giro, including Eddy Mazzoleni, Paolo Fornaciari, Alessandro Spezialetti, and Sylvester Szmyd. Former Vuelta stage winner Danilo Di Luca will also be on hand, having been kept out of the Tour de France.

Gorospe hopes for Vuelta redemption

After a disastrous Tour de France, the Euskaltel-Euskadi team is hoping for some end of season redemption in the Vuelta a España. Euskaltel and team leader Iban Mayo- who will not start the Vuelta due to lingering illness- were present at all stages of the build-up to the Tour, but the wheels fell off early in France. Directeur sportif Julian Gorospe hopes to make amends in September.

"We hope to do in the Vuelta what we couldn't do in the Tour," Gorospe told Marca. "Before then we had some big races, like our win in the Dauphiné Libéré, and we were a reference point. We went to the Tour with some big ideas, but things didn't go our way.

"Now we're in the final part of the season and we want to be present," he added.

Haimar Zubeldia, fifth overall in last year's Tour de France but forced to abandon this year, will serve as the team leader for Euskaltel in the Vuelta. Gorospe noted that he has recovered his morale after a disappointing Tour, but Zubeldia's physical condition remains something of an unknown.

Other mainstays of the team will share the responsibility with Zubeldia, including veteran Roberto Laiseka and early season stand-out Samuel Sanchez.

Pro Tour doubts for Euskaltel

As Euskaltel-Euskadi prepares to tackle the Vuelta a España in September, without leader Iban Mayo, team management is facing an arguably bigger concern that the team's entry into the UCI's Pro Tour for 2005 looks unlikely. Thirteen of the expected 18 teams have been granted provisional entry to the Pro Tour, and the UCI announced seven more applications submitted by the August 15 deadline for consideration.

According to a report in El Diario Vasco, the UCI has informed Euskaltel management of problems with its application, notably in the context of anti-doping policies and results of blood tests which prompted the exclusion of team member Gorka Gonzalez on the eve of the Tour de France. David Etxebarria was also kept from racing earlier in the season, though neither his case nor that of Gonzalez was a question of doping, according to team manager Miguel Madariaga, who was expected in Lausanne, Switzerland Wednesday to meet with UCI officials.

"I am going to Lausanne (sic) to inquire on the criteria of team selection and soon, or we will request explanations," Madariaga said earlier this week, quoted in Madariaga believes his team has met the necessary financial requirements and notes that the title sponsor is secured through 2006 and possibly through 2010.

Madariaga called the list of 13 teams provisionally accepted 'a joke', saying "it includes some teams which have been around for only eight months. We've been around 11 years, and Euskaltel is well known in the world of cycling."

Euskaltel faces competition for the final five berths awarded, and while Madariaga evoked the possibility of the UCI accepting 20 teams instead of 18, he insisted "our entry need not be conditional on the addition of more teams."

Jean Floc'h goes pro

The renowned French amateur team Jean Floc'h has decided to join forces with a new sponsor, the Bretagne region, to establish itself as a professional team for 2005. The team will be called Bretagne-Jean Floc'h and will count 11 riders. It will rank as a Continental team in context of the UCI's new reorganisation of the sport, competing in most major European events just below the Pro Tour level.

Two to Cofidis

Two riders from Crédit Agricole will make the jump to Cofidis for 2005: Stéphane Augé and Hervé Duclos-Lassalle. Both men have signed two year contracts with Cofidis.

Hinault stays

Frenchman Sébastien Hinault has opted to stay with Crédit Agricole, extending his contract another two years.

Mainguenaud to Bouygues

French amateur Frédéric Mainguenaud will join the Bouygues Telecom team of Jean-René Bernaudeau for 2005. The move marks a return to the fold for Mainguenaud, who turned professional with Bernaudeau at Bonjour in 2000, but left the team in 2003 in a drop back to the Elite 2 amateur ranks. Mainguenaud was expected to sign with Agritubel for 2005 but a last-minute invitation from Bernaudeau, and a chance to race at the Pro Tour level, changed the plan.

Courtesy: Velomania

Surgery for Totschnig

After initial examination, Georg Totschnig's injuries from a fall in the GP Kanton Aargau/Gippingen were more serious than originally thought. The Gerolsteiner rider, seventh overall in this year's Tour de France, broke his collarbone in the fall. The bone splintered, however, and surgery was required to insert a plate to stabilize Totschnig's shoulder. A date for his return to training has not yet been set.

Encore for Zülle?

Swiss veteran Alex Zülle marked his retirement with a final race appearance on home turf in Sunday's GP Kanton Aargau/Gippingen. With teammate Alexandre Moos out of action with a broken collarbone after a fall in training, Zülle is now scheduled to play an encore at the T-Mobile International in San Francisco on September 12.

Brandt back to Lotto

Lotto-Domo has reinstated Christophe Brandt following his exoneration by the Belgian cycling federation for charges of doping after a positive test for methadone during the Tour de France. Brandt was sacked by Lotto-Domo, per team rules, but has been accepted back in the fold now that his name has been cleared.

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