First Edition Cycling News for April 19, 2005
Edited by John Stevenson
Armstrong to retire: Let the countdown begin
July 24 to be The Boss's final day in the peloton
By Mark Zalewski in Augusta, Georgia
The day that every Lance Armstrong fan knew would come, but dreaded at the same time, turned out to be April 18, 2005. On the eve of the third edition of the Tour de Georgia, six-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong announced that he would retire after the 2005 Tour de France.
"After a lot of thought, considering the season - the races I was going to do this year, I decided to focus on the Tour. At the same time, I decided that the Tour de France will be my last race as a professional cyclist," said Armstrong.
Sitting alongside his directeur sportif, Johan Bruyneel, Armstrong made it absolutely clear that he will attempt to finish his time as a professional cyclist on top.
"July 24th will be the last one after more or less fourteen years in the professional peloton," Armstrong explained. "It will be the last one, win or lose. Having said that, I am fully committed to winning a seventh tour."
Armstrong listed many reasons why he has decided to move on to the next chapter in his life - among them age and his children. "I think the biggest inspiration are my children. They are the ones that make it easier to suffer but they are also the ones that have told me it is time to come home. So without them, none of this would be possible."
The other factor is the race against time. "Ultimately, athletes have to retire. I've been doing this for fourteen years, and a professional athlete for twenty years. The body doesn't just keep going and going and going. My time has come and there are many other things I need to do in life."
"I think people forget that if I were to win the Tour de France this summer, I would be the oldest winner in modern cycling. So statistics like that speak for themselves, that you can't do it forever and that while the Tour is an older mans race it's not an old man's race!"
Armstrong continued with a list of thanks, ranging from his long-time mentor Bruyneel to his partner Sheryl Crow. "Johan Bruyneel has been in my view the greatest sports director of all time, since he has directed six tours and won six - I don't know if anyone else can claim that record. This is the guy that came along and believed in me in 1998.
"Sheryl, you've been an amazing woman - someone who is the queen of rock and roll you sure have been a great cycling fan, team-mate and partner."
"Lastly my one other team is the team of ten million cancer survivors around the country, that have been very powerful. If you look at certain times of my life, I've relied on a special force, and I think the force of a team like that is incredibly powerful."
After the initial questions of why, the question of contract problems with his Discovery Channel team arose, but he quickly assured everyone that he will meet all his obligations, including one more Tour de France attempt. The Texan will continue to work with the Discovery Channel team as well as the media outlet in many capacities, including the development of younger talent. "I think the quicker we develop a young American, the better," said Armstrong. "I would like to be involved in that process and support them."
Staying away is hard to do
There have been many top athletes in various professional sports that have retired on top, only to attempt a comeback - Michael Jordan being one of the most popular examples. And Armstrong even brought up the NBA star saying he respected him as an amazing athlete. He even admitted that his new life as a cycling fan would be a difficult test.
"I've thought a lot about it - I've gone back and forth - there are many races that I think about and dream about, races that really motivate me. I was watching Milan-San Remo a few weeks ago, and I couldn't sit down the entire race. I was in front of the TV with Sheryl and she said, 'Look at you - you can't even sit down! How are you going to retire?' It's a great question. I have to tell you, I am one-hundred percent committed and the decision is final."
Lance cited his plans to continue his involvement with professional cycling through the Discovery Channel team as a way to get his cycling fix. "The outlet for me will now have to become via Johan and via the team. I think the team can move forward and develop another tour winner. I'll just be asking Johan to come along and ride in the car in the Tour de France - and I might not be able to sit down!"
Regardless of what capacity Lance continues to be involved in professional cycling, one thing is certain, he is not giving up the bike. "Five years from now, if I'm in Texas and there is a local mountain bike race, will I go down and do it? Probably. That's just simply as a fan and somebody who does cycling for fitness. I'm committed to the bike for life!"
2005 Dodge Tour de Georgia set to rock
America's premier stage race showcases America's premier cyclists
By Mark Zalewski in Augusta, Georgia and Les Clarke
In 2004 it was all Lance Armstrong at the Dodge Tour de Georgia - Big Tex showed everyone he was on song for the Tour de France where he went on to smash his way to a sixth consecutive win. Armstrong was in yellow for most of the 2004 Tour de Georgia, and in 2005 the expected one million plus spectators will be looking at him again to gauge his form for a second consecutive Georgia crown and his chances for July in France.
But this year's event also serves as a showcase as to how far Americans have gone in the European peloton. The four Pro Tour teams in attendance at this year's race are all led by American's - and not just because the race is on US soil. Phonak's new team leader and former US Postal rider Floyd Landis will be making the trip home to the US, along with strong Swiss rider Aurélien Clerc and talented South African Robert Hunter. Another team to look out for will be CSC, who bring three American riders to the event, led by Bobby Julich, who has enjoyed great early season form in Paris-Nice and Criterium International, winning both events. Dave Zabriskie will be looking to assert himself on home ground as will Christian Vande Velde.
A huge drawcard for the event is the participation of Levi Leipheimer, Gerolsteiner's new 2005 signing. "To be honest it wasn't always part of my plan. It wasn't until we were invited, immediately I thought it was a positive thing to come here. It's always great to come home of course, and to support cycling in the US." Levi will be bringing us insights into the event with his daily diaries, exclusive to Cyclingnews. He hasn't been that busy racing in the early season, but all reports suggest he's been training hard and keen to perform at the Tour de Georgia.
Click here for the full preview & a vox pop with contenders including Bobby Julich, Levi Leipheimer and Floyd Landis
Late Monday, April 18 the US Anti-Doping Agency handed down its decision in the Tyler Hamilton case. The majority of the three-man arbitration panel found that Hamilton had used banned homologous blood-doping methods in the Vuelta a Espana last year, and Hamilton now faces a two-year ban. Combined with the ProTour ethical code regulation that teams should not hire riders found guilty of doping offences for a further two years after their bans, that almost certainly means the end of the 34-year-old's career. Jeff Jones takes a look at the arguments Hamilton himself put forward in his defence.
Although Tyler Hamilton has been relatively quiet about his hearing up until now, his latest diary entry on his website, www.tylerhamilton.com, goes into some detail about the happenings of the last few months. He started by writing about the anomalous blood values measured by the UCI in the spring: Hamilton was warned several times by the UCI for having a high Stimulation Index (SI) or "off score", which is calculated from the rider's plasma haemoglobin and reticulocyte (immature red blood cells) levels.
The average SI score for professional cyclists is 90. At Liege-Bastogne-Liege last year, Hamilton scored 123.8. It was up to 132.9 the next week by the Tour de Romandie, and with it came a hematocrit level of 49.7% (the UCI's nominal limit is 50%) and a reticulocyte index of 0.22 (which is below normal limits).
"Health tests administered on my blood at Liege-Bastogne-Liege, the Tour of Romandie and Dauphine Libéré registered uncharacteristically low reticulocyte counts, which is the count of new red blood cells," Hamilton wrote. "Medical expert Jim Stray-Gundersen, who has conducted more than 10,000 blood tests on athletes participating in doping research programs, testified during my hearing that my reticulocyte counts from these three races were so low they 'are not to be believed'. Of the thousands he's evaluated in his career, he has only seen one test come up as low as mine - and it was an instance when he knew for a fact, the sample had been 'mishandled' during transport to the lab."
Click here for the full feature.
Fleche Wallone teams line up
T-Mobile is hoping to finally crack one of the Classics at Fleche Wallone and will have a team of mostly climbers spearheaded by Matthias Kessler and Alexander Vinokourov. Kessler was third last year and expects the repeated short sharp climbs of the Ardennes to be as big a test as ever, with the infamous hairpinned, 25 percent Mur de Huy, which the race ascends three times, as the crux.
"The Mur is nearly always the decisive point in the race," said Kessler. "That's where you really have to grit your teeth. Or you will be dropped."
Kessler's team-mate Steffen Wesemann will be riding his first Fleche Wallone and is enthusiastic about it. "I am keen to find out about what's in store for me," said Wesemann. However, his focus will be mostly on Sunday's Liège-Bastogne-Liège. "The parcours there suits me better," he says.
Vinokourov is also treating Fleche Wallone as a warm up for Liège-Bastogne-Liège, saying, "Liège-Bastogne-Liège profile is more to my liking".
The full T-Mobile roster for Fleche Wallone is: Rolf Aldag (36), Giuseppe Guerini (35/Italy), Andreas Klöden (29), Matthias Kessler, (25), Oscar Sevilla (28/Spain), Alexander Vinokourov (31/Kazakhstan), Christian Werner (25), Steffen Wesemann (34).
The Rabobank team has announced its line-up for tomorrow's Fleche Wallone. Hoping no doubt to avenge Sunday's Amstel Gold disaster, the team will field Erik Dekker, Thomas Dekker, Theo Eltink, Oscar Freire, Gerben Löwik, Michael Rasmussen, Rory Sutherland, and Remmert Wielinga with reserves Ronald Mutsaars, and Niels Scheuneman.
Team Illes Balears - Caisse D'Epargne will field José Luis Arrieta, Chente García, Cayetano Julià, Francisco Mancebo, Vicente Reynés, Alejandro Valverde, Xabier Zandio, and Aitor Osa.
Glenn D'Hollander to retire
Landbouwkrediet - Colnago rider Glenn D'Hollander has announced that he will retire at the end of this season. "I have seen it all," the 30-year-old told Het Nieuwsblad after the Amstel Gold race. "This circus doesn't grab me any more," he said.
Gilbert to skip Fleche
After a punishing early season, Belgian Philippe Gilbert (La Française des Jeux) will give tomorrow's Fleche Wallone a miss. "I have to rest for four days, and am allowed to ride my bike again on Wednesday," he told Belgian newspapers. "I hope to be there for Liege, but without any ambition."
"He's not to overexert himself," said Gilbert's directeur sportif Marc Madiot. "We want him at the start of the Giro, and if not there, perhaps at the Tour."
Hondo's attorney optimistic
By Susan Westemeyer
Despite his client being fired by his Gerolsteiner team for testing positive to carphedon and facing a probably career-ending two-year suspension, Danilo Hondo's lawyer Michael Lehner is still hopeful.
"There are good chances to reduce the sentence, and we will try to take advantage of them," said Lehner. "That particularly applies to the level of the athlete's personal guilt."
With an eye on the upcoming hearing before the Swiss cycling federation (expected to be the end of May), Lehner said that everything depends on whether it is found that the drug was intentionally taken or not. "Hondo will have to explain and prove whether he deliberately took the drug or not. The question of intent is crucial to the possibility of reducing the sentence."
Scanlon to lead Ireland team at FBD Insurance Rás
By Shane Stokes
Concerns over the non-availability of defending champion David McCann, past winner Ciarán Power plus riders such as David O'Loughlin and Philip Deignan due to commitments with their professional teams have been lessened with the news that Mark Scanlon, arguably Ireland's strongest pro rider, will lead the Irish team in this year's FBD Insurance Rás.
Cycling Ireland selectors today confirmed that Scanlon will be released by his Ag2R-Prévoyance team for the eight day event. The Sligoman showed he is on his way back from injury with a fine stage win in the recent Circuit des Ardennes, and will be in the thick of the hunt for stage victories in this year's Rás.
The 24 year old has only competed once before, taking a stage win in the 2001 edition of the race. Last year the former world junior champion became the first Irishman in over a decade to ride the Tour de France, completing sport's most gruelling event.
Scanlon will be joined on the Team Ireland squad by experienced Kerry rider Paul Griffin, who has been released by his Giant Asia pro team for the event. Promising young riders Brian Keane, Paudi O'Brien and Conor Murphy complete the five-man team.
'We are absolutely delighted with the news,' said Cycling Ireland selector Martin O'Loughlin. 'It has been on the cards since a doubt arose whether AG2R-Prévoyance would get a wild card entry to the Tour de France. Mark is returning to his best form after injury, and we are expecting a star performance from him in the FBD Insurance RÁS.'
This year's 2.2 ranked race runs from May 22 to 29.
Arizona University Ride to Remember
On April 25, riders from Arizona State University Cycling Team will begin a 24-hour roller and stationary trainer ride to commemorate Northern Arizona University graduate student Matt Kelly who was hit and killed by a drunk driver on April 5 in Flagstaff Arizona. The event is a fund-raiser for Kelly's wife and unborn child.
For more information see www.asucycling.com.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2005)