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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Second Edition News for February 13, 2003

Edited by Chris Henry

Beloki still searching

In the final year of his contract with ONCE-Eroski, Joseba Beloki has come to realize the importance of becoming a more aggressive rider. The talented 29 year old rider has for three years in a row reached the podium in the Tour de France, yet has often been criticized for not riding aggressively enough to challenge Lance Armstrong. In an interview with Spanish daily Marca, Beloki summed up his ambitions both within his team, and for the two races he would so dearly love to win: the Tour de France and Vuelta a España.

"It's true that I'm lacking that big victory, but it's also true that 1998 was the last time somebody had managed to reach the podium in two grand tours in the same year, and in 2002 I succeeded," Beloki explained. "For that reason, I am content." While he admits some disappointment in not doing more in the 2002 Vuelta, Beloki maintains that in the Tour he did everything he could.

Although he'll race a fairly full calendar in 2003, Beloki has but two principal objectives: the Tour and the Vuelta. Contract worries don't appear to figure into his plans for the year. "I don't think (the contract renewal) will affect me because I hope to have everything settled before the Tour," he added. "I'm nearing the end of my contract, but I don't see myself leaving this team. I fought three years ago to ride for this team, and I succeeded. They've given a lot to me, and I also think I have given a lot back."

Despite his proclaimed satisfaction he did what he could in the 2002 Tour, Beloki still sees room for personal improvement. "I think I must change my attitude towards the Tour," he said simply. "I realize I have been somewhat conservative in the past, and that I must become more aggressive and have more faith in myself. I believe I can be closer to Armstrong in many situations in the Tour. And for starters, the same experience that may help me win the Tour will also serve me in September. This year is a difficult Vuelta."

Beloki's also echoed comments made by ONCE director Manolo Saiz and others prior to the 2002 Tour de France concerning the strength of the ONCE team. "Obviously, Lance Armstrong is a rider aiming to win his fifth Tour, but he is his team's only leader. We, however, have a team with Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano, Azevedo, Serrano, Llansen, etc., with whom we can cause enough damage. I think the circumstances can be right for us to win in Paris."

Followers of the Tour will recall, however, that the supposed flurry of attacks from the ONCE camp never quite materialized during the race, when Armstrong and his US Postal teammates were firmly in command during the crucial climbs. Time will tell once again when a team such as ONCE, or indeed the revamped Team Telekom, will be able to harness the power of several star riders to topple Armstrong.

Landbouwkrediet to Tirreno-Adriatico

While riders on the Landbouwkrediet-Colnago team may have been eager to race in this year's Paris-Nice, team director Gerard Bulens has opted to head to Italy instead for the Tirreno-Adriatico. "The riders have asked me if they could start, but I said no," Bulens told Gazet Van Antwerpen. "We are a first category team, but I don't want to blow up my younger riders. Our mission stays the same: we want to develop young riders in a team with a good atmosphere."

The Belgian team has already made its mark in the early season races, with victories by a rejuvenated Ludo Dierckxsens in the GP d'Ouverture, and a stage win by Tom Steels in the Etoile de Bessèges.

No rush for Botero

As is his custom, Santiago Botero will delay his return to competition until the month of May. Making his debut in Team Telekom colours this year, the world time trial champion is expected to open his season at the Vuelta Ciclista Asturias stage race in Spain (May 13-17). In the meantime, the ex-Kelme rider plans to prepare for the season in Colombia before joining his new teammates in Europe.

Botero has set his sights on the Tour de France, where he hopes he and the newly fortified lineup of Telekom can challenge four-time champion Lance Armstrong. "I don't know where or when, but one day or another someone's going to challenge him," Botero said of the American.

Team GS Mazza

The GS Mazza women's team, one of two Swiss pro teams, was presented this week in Geneva. The team carries four riders from Switzerland and four from France. With a roster including the 2002 Coupe de France champion, the French national road champion (espoirs), and the Swiss national cyclo-cross champion, GS Mazza aims to challenge in the World Cup and major races on the European calendar. The first races of the season include the Tour du Val d'Ardoux in France, the Grand Prix de Brissago in Switzerland, before heading to Italy for the Primavera Rosa World Cup event. The team is managed by Jean-Pierre Mazza.

GS Mazza
Photo: © GS Mazza

The full team roster:

Alexandra Baelher (Swi)
Aline Camboulives (Fra)
Blandine Camus (Fra)
Stéphanie Fischer (Swi)
Marika Murer (Swi)
Caroline Payot-Podevin (Fra)
Salome Reist (Swi)
Béatrice Thomas (Fra)

*Cyclingnews readers may also be interested to know that diarist Scott Sunderland (and the Zberg brothers) rode for Jean-Pierre Mazza in Geneva in his first years in Europe. Scott, who still has a good friendship with Jean-Pierre and considered him a top directeur sportif, said that they were decked out as professionals and living and training as professionals.


(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2003)