December 31, 2003
Tonkov signs with Vini Caldirola
Russian climber Pavel Tonkov signed a new deal to race in 2004, after spending 2003 recovering from a back problem.
The 35-year-old won the Giro d'Italia in 1996, and will support Vini Caldirola leader Stefano Garzelli at the Giro.
As for Tonkov's personal ambitions, the gifted climber will ride the Giro looking for a mountain-stage win and has also been pegged for team leadership duties at the Tour of Spain and the Tour of Switzerland -- the latter of which Tonkov won in 1995.
December 28, 2003
The team that T-Mobile is building around Ullrich is certainly one to be reckoned with:
Certainly the sensation that T-Mobile have quietly been raising an army to take on Armstrong on his own terms is now unavoidable. Led by Ullrich, there are those who believe that his Kazakh team-mate Alexandre Vinokourov, third in this year's Tour, is capable of giving both the German and the American a run for their money next July.
...T-Mobile's spokesman, Luuc Eisengaa ... told The Independent: "Of course we think that Jan can win. But we believe that Lance Armstrong remains the favourite for the 2004 Tour." In a rare burst of self-analysis, Ullrich is cautiously optimistic: he now argues that "I'm my own biggest rival" - not Armstrong. But there is no doubt he can be his own worst enemy as has been proved by his past sloppy training habits and tendency to gulp down too much of his favourite food, German potato cake, rather than concentrate on his weight. This is in stark contrast to Armstrong, who weighs every gram of food he consumes, in and out of season.
Newsday.com - Armstrong Named AP Male Athlete of Year
But just when his dominance of one of world's most grueling sports events teetered near its end, Armstrong fought off Jan Ullrich of Germany by 62 seconds to put himself in position to become the first rider to win six in a row in 2004.
On Sunday, Armstrong was honored as The Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year, the second straight year he's won the award voted on by sports writers and broadcasters.
Once more, Armstrong beat out Barry Bonds, who was 2nd to Armstrong last year, and 1st in 2001 (just ahead of Armstrong).
This is a good thing for bike racing, since it's voted on by the rank-and-file sports writers throughout the United States. With Armstrong's retirement only a year or two away, it will be interesting to see whether the other Americans in the peloton can keep the sport in the public eye once Lance, who is the perfect made-for-TV cyclist, is retired.
December 23, 2003
USPS, Domina Vacanze registration mess
I hadn't posted on this, since I can't imagine that it will turn into anything, but the UCI has released a first list of Division 1 teams, and US Postal, Domina Vacanze (Cipollini's team), Fassa Bortolo (Petacchi), Kelme-Costa Blanca, Alessio-Bianchi, and Milaneza Maia aren't on the list.
Apparently, UCI has taken issue with their applications, and asked them to submit clarification of "certain points in the files" by January 8.
UCI Year in Review - Fines for Cipollini, Petacchi
The two sprinters were fined for separate incidents. Cipollini's fine of 3,000 Swiss francs was for an incident in April at Ghent-Wevelgem, when he threw water bottles at a race motorcycle.
Petacchi was fined 200 Swiss francs for his part in a dustup at the line of Stage 9 of the Giro. Petacchi and Latvia's Andris Naudusz got into a shoving match while trying to get on Cipollini's wheel for a lead-out to the finish line. Naudusz, who was disqualified from the stage, has now also been fined 3,000 Swiss francs for the altercation.
December 22, 2003
Americans in Paris?
VeloNews offers up a preview of Americans racing in the 2004 European peloton, including team leaders Lance Armstrong of US Postal, Tyler Freaking Hamilton, now with Phonak, and Levi Leipheimer of Rabobank.
Newcomers to the Euro scene include Tom Danielson and Tim Johnson, formerly of Saturn, and possibly David Clinger, who raced for Prime Alliance in 2003, after stints with Festina and US Postal.
December 18, 2003
Review: The Official Tour de France Centennial 1903-2003
This was one of my birthday presents this year, and a great gift for any Tour fan.
The book traces the Tour from its beginnings in 1903 through the 2003 edition. Commentary is from two French sporting newspapers: L'Auto, the Tour's original sponsor, and L'Equipe, its successor. Many of the early stories are bylined, and written by Tour founder Henri Desgrange, but most of the more recent staries are uncredited. It might ahve been nice to compare the biases of the writers, since the profiles go well beyond a dry summary of each year's events.
There are 2-10 pages dedicated to each year's race, with large photos, and a listing of each stage winner, each day's yellow jersey, the overall top 20, and the overall jersey winners. Key events and inspiring stories often get sidebar stories, as with Tyler Freakin' Hamilton, profiled after his "brilliant solo stage win at Bayonne" in 2003:
The stage winner yesterday and sixth in the GC, Tyler Hamilton is a strange kid. A small boy from another world who concentrates the quintessence of his strength in one small corner of his mind. Tyler is a Jedi knight, a warrior straight out of Star Wars. He bearrs a disarming tranquility within him. He never swears, whether against those who don't believe in him or against the heavens which inflict such trials on him. He always says 'Thank you.' He thinks ceaselessly of others, and feels indebted to them each morning.
A funny man, out of time, out of fashion. When he moves, his gestures are slow, very slow. His eyelids are always half closed and his barely delineated lips scarcely move. He speaks like a ventriloquist, although his smile, rare, always opens with real purpose. He is just and good, beccause the Tour de France admits no lies -- it reveals you as you are. Since his fall on the first Sunday of the month, analysed from every angle in the world's media, and destiny dictated that he ride the centenary Tour with a fractured collarbone, Tyler Hamilton has been divulging his truth despite himself, although he is as secretive as a tomb.
At the end of the book, there's a recap of the podium and jersey winners, and of all-time record holders (Merckx with 34 stage wins and 111 days in yellow, Erik Zabel with 6 green jerseys, etc.)
It's fun to track the development of riders through their career, and the book is careful to tip future winners in photos or by pointing out where they first made a stir in the Tour. Well covered, for instance, are Lance Armstrong's sad and triumphant roles in the 1993 Tour, where teammate Fabio Casartelli died on the course, and Armstrong won a stage in tribute. There's also a foreshadowing shot of Armstrong climbing into the broom wagon in 1996, a few months before his cancer was diagnosed. All the Five-Timers are covered in depth.
The scandals of the Tour aren't whitewashed: There's coverage of Tom Simpson's death on Ventoux and the Festina affair of 1998. The strange corners of Tour history are here, too: I think my favorite is Joop Zoetemelk finally winning the Tour at 33 in 1980 after finishing 2nd five times (he would again in 1982). This is a perfect coffee-table book for bicycle racing fans.
December 17, 2003
Vuelta '04 route announced
- From VeloNews:
"The climbing time trial is more like a mountain stage than a time trial," said U.S. Postal Service director Johan Bruyneel. "It equals things out for the climbing specialists against the time-trial riders. At first glance, this Vuelta is definitely one for climbers." ... The big question, however, was which of the major Spanish stars will be focusing solely on the Vuelta? With Lance Armstrong looking more vulnerable than ever, riders like Mayo, Beloki and 2002 Vuelta champion Aitor Gonzalez were all looking ahead to July, not September, as the most important date on the calendar.
- From Yahoo! Sport:
- From cyclingnews.com Wednesday and Thursday:
[Defending Vuelta winner] Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros in 2004) -- "With this parcours, which includes seven mountaintop finishes and four time trials, nobody will be able to relax. The climbers will have an advantage with the time trial up the Sierra Nevada, but overall it will be a hard Vuelta and very demanding."
- Very detailed rundown by The Daily Peloton
But for whom?
Speaking to the National Press Club in Washington, Lance Armstrong said he would likely ride the 2004 and 2005 Tours before closing out his career. There had been speculation that he might race only this season, since the US Postal Service team sponsorship expires after the 2004 campaign.
December 12, 2003
Armstrong: THG "will not be a problem"
American Lance Armstrong, winner of the last five Tour de France races, said he doubted steroid THG would be found among cyclists ... "THG will not be a problem because I think the tests are effective," said Armstrong. "From what I have read, it concerns certain athletes who were dealing closely with certain laboratories in the USA. I don't think that would involve any of us (cyclists).
Armstrong to chase yellow AND gold in 2004
Armstrong said he was motivated by his unconvincing performance in winning a fifth consecutive Tour last season.
"I feel I have a point to prove. I was just not happy with my performance in 2003," the American said.
About the Olympics, he added: "I want gold, specifically in the time-trial. If they select me, of course."
I think he has a pretty good chance of making the team.
The Texan acknowledged that at 32 he is "exiting" his peak, while arch-rival Jan Ullrich, who pushed him all the way in 2003, is arguably at the height of his powers at 29.
"Jan's got a good chance of winning because he's got a great team, he has got the motivation again and at 30 is entering best years of his career," Armstrong said.
"Some people are saying I'm leaving my best years and so he'll be tough to beat. It will be a close race next year, perhaps I think we should start calling him the favourite."
Also, from the Yahoo! Sport version of the same story:
"I typically leave the States in February and return in September but now I can't stay away for so long I'm going to do two month blocks racing and training in Europe and then go back," he said.
"I'd rather lose the Tour de France rather than spend six or seven months away from my kids."
December 11, 2003
New link -- Americans at the 2004 TdF
If you're thinking about traveling to France for the 2004 Tour, this site will help with planning, lodging and viewing.
December 10, 2003
What was your reaction to the news that Roberto Heras wanted to leave USPS? Was that a surprise to you, or had it been in the works for a while behind the scenes and it all just came together quickly?
I have to say that I wasn't terribly surprised. Roberto's a leader and had the opportunity to go and do that, plus get a longer term deal. I wish him well.
The addition of Jose Acevedo looks on paper to be a very nice fit... there would seem to still be some funds left for another rider as well - is that in the plan?
The "Ace" does fit in well. He can climb, time trial, and is strong in the TTT. He'll fit nicely. We may take another young American rider yet to be decided on...
Of local interest for me:
What's the latest on you doing the Tour of Georgia? Is it seeming more or less probable?
Unfortunately, I think it's dead. So not good at all..
Update: Chris Aronhalt of the Tour de Georgia says preparations for the race are proceeding and to "look for big news and positive announcements in early/mid January."
Update January 23, 2004: Looks like Armstrong will be riding in the Tour de Georgia.
Heras signs with Liberty
Liberty will pay US Postal £1.1 million to buy out the contract of Heras, one of the peloton's strongests climbers:
Heras played a key role in shepherding the American through the mountains on his way to a fifth straight victory earlier this year.
He confirmed his status as one of the world's best climbers with a brilliant performance on his way to victory in this year's Vuelta.
Some believe he is one of the few riders capable of challenging Armstrong in the Tour.
December 09, 2003
VeloNews | Raas out at Rabobank
Jan Raas has quit as director of Rabobank and will be replaced by fellow Dutchman Theo de Rooij, the team announced on Tuesday.
Jimenez buried in El Barraco
"He was one of the old-style riders," said five-time Tour de France winner Indurain. "He appeared just when you least expected it and fans loved him because he was devastating when he was at his best. He never rode to finish second."
Born in the province of Avila close to the Gredos mountain range, Jimenez became a favorite with the cycle-mad Spanish public for his spectacular performances in the hills, particularly in the Vuelta a Espana.
December 08, 2003
Robert Millar profile
Millar rode for Peugeot, Team Z, and Le Groupement, among others, and won the King of the Mountains in 1984, when he finished 4th in the Tour.
He was inducted into the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame Friday night.
If this is December, must be time for "The Year in Review"
The Godot Award for Waiting: After reviewing the films hundreds of times and (extremely) hefty discussion as to Who Waited and Who Didn't and Why and Why Not and Who Really Cares Anyway, the surprise winner is: Iban Mayo! When Armstrong crashed, he crashed too, in order to wait. And when Armstrong attacked later in the stage, Mayo waited for Ullrich! What a sportsman!
December 07, 2003
Spain's Jose-Maria Jimenez dead at 32
Jimenez, who retired in 2002, won 9 stages of the Vuelta, and finished 8th in the 1997 Tour, Jan Ullrich's victory. He was for a time a teammate of Miguel Indurain, who said of Jimenez:
"When things were going well, they went really well but when things went bad, they went very bad," said the five-time Tour de France winner.
"His cycling had suffered due to outside reasons and having to retire suddenly led to problems."
Manuel Perez of the Spanish national cycling federation:
"He was a cyclist who was popular with everyone. He was a great champion who has now gone and I'm sad for that."
- Yahoo! Sport | Cycling mourns popular Jimenez, dead at 32
- cyclingnews.com | José María 'Chaba' Jeménez - A Tribute
December 06, 2003
Reuters : Ullrich wants three more Tour wins
"I am convinced that my time is coming," the 30-year-old German told Saturday's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. "I have three more chances to win the Tour and I certainly don't want to waste them. I want to take them all."
Ullrich became the only German to win the Tour in 1997 and is still regarded as the rider most capable of challenging five-times winner Armstrong's supremacy.
US Postal have signed up Portuguese cyclist Jose Azevedo to help Lance Armstrong's bid for a sixth straight Tour de France victory next year.
The 30-year-old will replace Roberto Heras, who has moved to Liberty.
"Lance is going to be trying for his sixth consecutive victory in the Tour and they've hired me to help him achieve that objective," said Azevedo.
Azevedo was 26th in the 2003 Tour, racing for ONCE-Eroski.
ABC Sport - Tour star Rogers named Australian Cyclist of the Year
The 23-year-old from Canberra made his Tour de France debut this year and finished the gruelling three-week event as the highest placed Australian in 42nd overall.
His support in the mountains played a major role in ensuring his Quick Step team-mate Richard Virenque snared the climber's polka dot jersey.
In 2003 Rogers became the first Australian to claim a medal in the elite men's road time trial when he rode home for silver at the World Championships in Hamilton, Canada.
December 03, 2003
BBC Sport: Heras to leave USPS?
Tour of Spain winner Roberto Heras wants to leave US Postal and head a new team in next year's Tour de France, according to reports.
Heras is said to have been sounded out by the manager of the new Spanish-based Liberty Seguros outfit, Manolo Saiz.
US Postal director Johan Bruyneel told Spanish sports daily Marca that Heras had begun moves to negotiate his exit from the American team.
The 29-year-old Spaniard has a year left on his current contract.
Heras's exit would make Armstrong's run at a 6th Tour much more difficult...