First Edition News for June 30, 2003
Edited by Chris Henry
Hincapie 100 per cent
One of the strongmen of the US Postal Service squad and a key member of Lance's Armstrong's team for the Tour de France, George Hincapie, has expressed he is feeling "100 per cent and ready to go".
In an interview with Cyclingnews, Hincapie revealed the respiratory problems that plagued him earlier in the year and the disappointment of missing the spring classics are now behind him, and the US Postal line-up for the Tour is stronger than ever:
"I felt like I had broken out of this cocoon. What people were telling me throughout - which is hard to see when you're in this illness - is that you're still the same person; you're not going to lose the last ten years of being a professional cyclist," said Hincapie about his road to recovery.
The New York-born rider said he felt his Tour spot was 'earned' after his solid performance at the Volta a Catalunya, where Hincapie almost won the final stage and finished 24th on general classification.
"The team was riding so strongly and they were so many guys riding well. There were no guarantees, but I had confidence in myself; I felt that if I reached the level I was at before, I deserved that spot, and I definitely think that I deserved a spot on the Tour team," he said.
Hincapie also turns 30 years old today, however, the celebrations will most likely be postponed until after the Tour de France ends on July 27. Following the Tour, he plans to ride the remaining races on the World Cup, the Vuelta a Espaņa and the World Championships in Canada on October 11.
(See also: Cyclingnews interview with George Hincapie)
With the Tour de France fast approaching, the only man to win five consecutive Tours, Miguel Indurain, offered his thoughts on two of the biggest riders in the race. Lance Armstrong will this year challenge for his fifth consecutive Tour, and if successful will join Indurain as holder of that unique distinction. At the same time, 1997 winner Jan Ullrich will make a return to the route du Tour after having missed the 2002 edition due to injury. Indurain, in an interview with German paper Welt am Sonntag, commented on the two men and how they compare on the eve of the centenary Tour.
"Even as a young rider [Armstrong] had incredible self-confidence," Indurain said. "He only lacked consistency. I believe the cancer changed everything. Today he races with a completely different attitude, and is a better rider. He has a mentality which forces others to their knees. He can't have a bad day and crack."
As for Ullrich, Indurain believes the German has matured since his first Tour win, and subsequent difficulties, and is capable of beating the American. "Physically he's a giant," Indurain said of Ullrich. "If he starts to believe more in his own racing ability, then he can win."
"Jan began winning very early, whereas I won my first Tour at 27. Perhaps it was too early for him, because when the first problems began to emerge, he lost sight of his objectives. Instead of riding his own races, he probably thought too much about being beaten by Lance."
While Armstrong appears ready and confident for a successful defence of his title, Ullrich has insisted that this year will be one with modest ambitions, and he will be content with a stage win. Observers of his steady progression since returning to racing in April, however, still tip the German as perhaps the only man who can truly challenge the American.
Bölts ready to retire
German veteran Udo Bölts has decided to finally hang up his cleats at the end of the 2003 season. Bölts, 37, turned pro in 1989 with Team Stuttgart, joining the Telekom team where he spent 10 years as a hard working domestique. This season Bölts joined rival German team Gerolsteiner after Telekom decided his services were no longer needed.
Bölts' career highlights include three national championship titles, the 1997 Dauphiné Libéré, and the 1996 Classica San Sebastian. The Gerolsteiner rider, who has also dabbled in competition with the Ironman triathlon, will race this year's Tour de France before deciding on a program for the remainder of the season. He expects to finish his career in October.
Caucchioli coming back, thinking ahead
Pietro Caucchioli (Alessio) is on the way back to top form following surgery for a herniated disc. The 27 year old Italian, who finished 3rd in the 2002 Giro d'Italia, was looking forward to the national championships Sunday and a re-entry into top level competition.
"The Italian championships will be my first real race of the season," Caucchioli told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "I'm trying to make up for lost time, trying to reach good form in time for the Tour. I don't expect to ride for the general classification, but I hope to at least win a stage."
Caucchioli showed good form in the final mountain stage of the Route de Sud, where he finished second on the stage and claimed second overall in the four stage race, won by Michael Rogers (Quick.Step). Aside from Tour ambitions, Caucchioli is also looking ahead to the second half of the season, and selection for the Italian team at the world championships in Canada. Even more than Canada, however, the 2004 World's in Verona, Italy are what inspires the Alessio rider.
"What's after the Tour? Selection for the World's in Hamilton, first of all," he commented. "Next year will be run in Verona, near my house. I would want to be a protagonist, so in Canada I would put myself at the disposition of Bettini and Bartoli, in order to gain the confidence of [Italian national selector Franco] Ballerini."
Italian nationals to Pisa
The province of Pisa will host the 2004 Italian national championships. The professional road race will be held in Santa Croce sull'Arno, and the U23 test will run between San Miniato and Montopoli Valdarno. Junior events will be held in Lari. The location for time trial events has not yet been finalised.
Post-Tour criterium booking begins
Lance Armstrong has begun his scheduling of criterium appearances after the Tour de France. According to an AP report, Armstrong is due to appear in the Altstadt-Kriterium in Graz, Austria on July 29, two days after the Tour finish in Paris. Like most criteriums, the short course (60km) provides an opportunity for local fans to see their heroes of the Tour up close, and for riders is often a lucrative endeavour as organisers pay generous start fees.
French Elite 2 riders injured
Two riders were were injured in Saturday's Elite 2 national championships. Said by witnesses to have been hit by a race vehicle, Ludovic Vanhée (CC Etupes) was knocked unconscious from the crash, following which he was taken to the hospital in Vannes, where initial tests revealed head trauma. Renaud Dion (EC St. Etienne-Loire) went down in a separate incident, breaking his collarbone. He will miss much of the second half of the season as a result.
Following the wheel tracks of Armstrong
By Shane Stokes, Irishcycling.com
Next week Lance Armstrong will begin his attempt to win a fifth Tour de France, continuing a sporting campaign which has inspired countless numbers of cancer sufferers around the world. The Texan suffered testicular cancer several years ago but shocked the sporting world by coming back and winning cycling's toughest race four times.
The Special Olympics has its own version of Armstrong, namely Kylee Ogden from Craig in Colorado. The Team USA rider came into the sport after years of doing downhill snowboarding, cross-country skiing and swimming. She began qualified for the games last year but also had to contend with cancer, being diagnosed with the disease about a year ago.
"It was a tough time," said the friendly, articulate seventeen year old after the medal presentation yesterday. "I had surgery and had to take a load of pills for a few months. I couldn't train on the bike... I could only lift some weights with my legs as I couldn't use my arms."
Now back to full health, her determination has led to some fine performances this week. Kylee took second in the five kilometre time trial, fourth in the fifteen kilometre road race and fourth again in the ten kilometre time trial. But the biggest reward is what the Special Olympics has done for her ever since she became involved with it.
"For me the Special Olympics has done so much. In the past I was not able to talk to people" she said. "I was very shy, very depressed but it has brought me out a lot. My mother used to have a hard time getting me to go to school... She can't believe the difference now."
"What helped me was being around people who understood me and who were very positive," she continued. "That was really important."
Kylee is a Global Messenger for the Special Olympics. She is planning on going on to college once she finishes high school. "I am going to do a course in the local college - it combines three subjects. I learn how to be a masseuse, a cosmetologist and do photography too."
Kylee is now finished her cycling events and has five days before returning home. "I am going to talk my coach into letting me go to watch the basketball. I have had a really great time here at the Games! Ireland is really nice and I have enjoyed it a lot."
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2003)