First Edition Cycling News for March 12, 2005
Edited by Jeff Jones
Julich "confident, but not cocky"
No holidays for Voigt
By Hedwig Kröner in Toulon
Experience is what counts on irregular climbs like Mont Faron in coastal Toulon. With steep ramps up to 15% gradients following the usual 5, 7 or 9%, the hill that looks down on the port is 508 m high and can be accessed only by one circular road, about 3m wide and just at the edge into nowhere. Jens Voigt is a man of such experience, having excelled at this climb just a few weeks ago to win the Tour Méditerranéen. But today, Voigt was not the man to dominate the peloton - and maybe he had felt that this morning when he told Cyclingnews at the start, "At the only mountain finish of this race, everybody plays his cards - there is nowhere to hide, and GC will get a close-to-final cut. What's really important is that one of our team takes the jersey. Of course, I would like that to be me, but if Bobby makes it then that'd be great too."
CSC is now in a good position to win the overall classification with Bobby Julich taking the lead after an impressive effort up the narrow slopes of Faron. Although he said after the finish that this hill isn't his favourite climb, "I'm feeling confident now, but not cocky." Especially since the route of the next two stages will take him (almost) straight towards his home town, Nice. "This is my territory," he said. "And I have the best team to control the race."
Bjarne Riis, his directeur sportif, confirmed that the Danish squad has one goal now: take the American to Nice victoriously. "The biggest threat to Bobby's victory is Alejandro Valverde," Riis said.
What of Voigt? Before the stage, he told Cyclingnews that after several victories in smaller races (Tour Med, Critérium International, Bayern-Rundfahrt), winning an important event like Paris-Nice would save his season altogether. "If I win it, I could almost say 'my season is complete', and I could go on holidays immediately," he said, joking of course. The fact that it is Julich, a good friend, who took over his stage one jersey, should ease his disappointment a little bit.
Back to the key word, experience. Gilberto Simoni is also very familiar with 'Le Faron', having placed second here in 2003 against Vinokourov, raging with pain over his loss of his best friend, Andrei Kivilev. Simoni grinned at the start in Rognes this morning, and was all smiles later at the finish, when he rolled over the line straight into the arms of one of Lampre-Caffita's soigneurs. "I wanted to win this morning, but I didn't believe my legs would do it," he told Cyclingnews after the podium ceremony, still incredulous. "This victory makes me really happy," he added. "I attacked at the exact same spot where Vino attacked two years ago, when I placed second. This is a good sign for this year, which could be my last. But I seem to be lucky in France, and I want to do well at the Tour de France later this season."
Meanwhile, two riders weren't as lucky: Davitamon-Lotto's Axel Merckx and Johan Van Summeren took off their helmets on the final ascent, thinking the same rules applied as last season. But the UCI's ProTour doesn't allow for helmetless riding anymore, even on a mountain finish. This is despite what riders were told before the Genting Highlands stage at the recent Tour de Langkawi. The UCI commissaire there said that because the TdL wasn't a ProTour race, then helmets had to be worn. But in ProTour races, they could take their helmets off. The latest communiqué by the race officials in Paris-Nice was final. It stated that both riders were out of the race, saying that a simple fine would not prevent the riders from doing it again.
"I didn't know anything of the rule change," said Axel Merckx to VRT. "I'll accept the decision. The irony is that I always wear my helmet, even in training. But today the bus driver called me to give him my helmet at the start of the climb, and that I did without thinking any more of it."
Jaksche keeps his options open
After finishing 11th in today's important Mont Faron stage, Liberty Seguros' Jörg Jaksche kept his ambitions alive for the overall victory in Paris-Nice. The German is now in 5th overall on general classification, 45 seconds behind leader Bobby Julich. Jaksche rode well, but didn't quite have the same strength as he did in the previous two stages. In spite of this, he still hopes to attack in the final two legs before the race finishes on Sunday.
Liberty Seguros was one of the main players again today, sending Alberto Contador to the front to split the bunch on the last climb. Contador made the selection, with Jaksche and Voigt glued to his wheel, but the pure climbers were able to show their prowess on the climb with GHilberto Simoni ultimately winning the stage from Cadel Evans and David Moncoutié.
"Today I did not have the legs like I had in the last two stages and I could not do the race that I wanted, but there is nothing lost," said Jaksche. "I am fifth on the general classification and there are two stages to try something, though it is difficult after seeing what Julich has done."
"Jaksche has given everything, but the Mont Faron is a very explosive climb that favours the climbers," said Liberty's team manager Manolo Saiz. "We have raced to win and we could not, but the last two stages still offer us alternatives of victory. The race has not ended for us ".
Tomorrow's sixth stage between La Crau and Cannes contains six climbs, and has the perfect profile for attacks. The same goes for Sunday's closing stage, which has three first category climbs.
Paris-Nice Stage 5
Bruyneel: Armstrong still set for Ronde
After pulling out of Paris-Nice with a sore throat following Stage 3, Discovery Channel's Lance Armstrong is back home in Girona, recovering in warmer conditions and looking forward to getting his season on track. His team manager Johan Bruyneel has confirmed that Armstrong will be back in time for the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders), Tour of Georgia and Tour de France, but at the moment, they are the only races that are definites on his program.
"Lance was a bit worse this morning and was taking antibiotics," said Bruyneel in an interview with Het Nieuwsblad. "This first test was a disappointment. This was far from ideal. Lance did more kilometres in the car than in the race in the last four days. And then there was the terrible cold, as well as the hellishly short stages. Exactly all the elements that he didn't need to work on his condition. In normal circumstances, this was definitely the right race to begin with.
"When he noted in the hotel after the stage that he had a light fever, I was the first to say: 'Lance, pack your bags and fly home'. That virus was already in his body. I sent him away, just like a soigneur that also had the 'flu."
Bruyneel added that there was no point in racing when sick. "If you're not good, then it's better that you train instead of race."
Armstrong could return to competition in the Setmana Catalana, two days after Milan-San Remo. But Bruyneel will make that decision depending on how Armstrong recovers now. "I know him. With two or three weeks training he can reach acceptable form again. This is a small setback." The Discovery team manager compared this to the year 2000, when Armstrong had to forfeit the Setmana Catalana due to sickness. "His condition was also not good then. We have experience with these sorts of small setbacks. Then he restarted in Paris-Camembert."
It's still far too early in the season for Bruyneel to panic. "Ach, Ullrich, Basso, Mayo and Heras have also barely raced yet. He's at their level, so what?"
La Ruta de Los Conquistadores for 2005
The 2005 edition of the Costa Rican mountain bike race, La Ruta de Los Conquistadores, has been announced for November 11-13. The 2005 RdLC is a 520 km event covering 10,000 vertical metres of climbing, from the Pacific Ocean to the beaches of the Caribbean Sea, that retraces the historic steps of the Spanish conquistadors across Costa Rica.
Not only will the racers have to contend with each other, they will also have to pit themselves against Costa Rica's unforgiving natural environment, which includes endless hike-a-bike through mud, brutal climbs up smoldering volcanoes, long tricky descents through coffee plantations, and many climate changes.
"It's more like an adventure race than a world cup event," explained Román Urbina, creator of La Ruta de Los Conquistadores. "There are sections that can't even be navigated by 4X4s or motor-cross bikes. The riders have no access to external support and must rely on their own tenacity and the help of other competitors."
More information: www.adventurerace.com
FIAC national championships
The U.S. Federation of Independent Associations for Cycling (FIAC) has announced its National Championship roster for 2005. There will be 11 championships in total, all but one for both elite men and women, as follows.
May 22: Team Time Trial, Peoria, Oregon
The championships will be run under FIAC Racing Rules and only riders who hold an annual license from a FIAC member association are eligible for championship placings, though others may be allowed to participate. Winners will receive national champion's jerseys, the top three will receive medals, and 4th through 10th will receive certificates.
More information: www.fiac.us
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2005)