February 28, 2004
Valverde victorious in Valencia
Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme got a big win at home, as Alejandro Valverde won the Tour of Valencia Saturday:
Valverde, who dominated the race in which he won two stages, took the title with a nine-second lead on Antonio Colom with David Blanco at 22sec.
"This allows us to forget the crisis in the team. People talk more now about what's happening in offices than on the road," said Valverde, after Kelme were relegated to the second division because of financial problems.
More on Armstrong’s interview in The Times
AFP has a somewhat more indepth story on the Lance Armstrong interview in The Times (available here to Times subscribers only). Quoting Armstrong:
'This could be my last year. If I lost I don't know if I would say 'OK, I'm past my prime, time to go', or if I'd say, 'I've got to try again'. People who know me best, I think they'd say the guy has to try again
Armstrong also discussed drugs in the sport:
... he says cycling will always be dogged by the spectre of doping.
"The next thing will be genetic doping," he adds.
"I'm not the first and I won't be the last (to be suspected of taking drugs) but I know the truth and that's what matters to me.
"People want to know that the guy who worked the hardest and fought the hardest and got the best coaches and the best team-mates went out and won fair and square, and that's what I've been doing."
Armstrong pondering retirement?
"I'm open to the possibility there will be a tap on the shoulder and someone says 'time's up'.
"This could be my last year. If I lost [The Tour] I don't know if I would say 'OK, I'm past my prime, time to go.' "
Armstrong also said he’s monitoring Ullrich’s spring training:
"I was thinking what would I do if I heard Ullrich had won a time trial in February," he said. "I think I'd get straight down and do 50 sit-ups just to say to myself I was doing something.
"This time of the year is pure suffering for me. I'm not at my peak... but I'll be at my peak in July."
February 27, 2004
Graham Watson, blogger?
Graham Watson, the best photographer in cycling, has launched a column on his website. It’s not a genuine weblog, but the first edition gives a taste of what we can expect: Regular commentary from someone who gets really up-close and personal with the racers. Watson starts off with what he saw at last week’s Tour of the Algarve, where US Postal’s Floyd Landis took the win, and Lance Armstrong won the time trial:
In new-signing José Azevedo, ’Postal have a more complete, all-round talent, a man who can strengthen the team time trial squad and climb day-in, day-out without major difficulty. Such is the wealth of talent at Bruyneel's disposal this year, that Tour regulars like Viatcheslav Ekimov and Jose Luis Rubiera are not yet guaranteed a ride - it is going to be that tough!
Seen at LanceArmstrong.com.
Kelme to be Team 22 for Tour?
Cyclingnews.com says Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme “has a place waiting” in the Tour. Organizers announced only 21 teams, leaving a place available for a provisional spot.
The story quotes Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme director Vicente Belda:
“The problem is not a sporting problem, and doesn't concern the presence or absence of Alejandro Valverde,” Belda commented, alluding to the fact that Valverde wouldn't necessarily ride the Tour. “It's a bureaucratic issue, and has to do with certain of my riders' licenses with the UCI. It's possible that this could all be resolved as early as today.”
Lion King to roar at Tour, not organizers
The 2004 Tour wildcards were announced today.
In by wildcard are:
Brioches la Boulangere
Kelme, facing financial problems and demoted to Division II (along with Domina Vacanze, which got in), was excluded, although Tour organizers have occasionally allowed a provisional 22nd team.
The selection means Mario Cipollini will be contesting the sprint finishes against Alessandro Petacchi, who won four such stages in last year’s Tour, as well as Baden Cooke and Robbie McEwen, who finished the race neck and neck in the green sprinter’s jersey competition. Cipollini hasn’t raced in the Tour since 1999, when he won 4 straight stages.
The AFP story quotes Tour director Jean-Marie Leblanc:
"Mario Cipollini called me around ten days ago to tell me: 'I really want to do the Tour this year and I promise you I'll give it my all'," added Leblanc.
"The major difference from last year is that the climbing stages are much later in the race.
"So he's got a good chance to show what he can do this year. He's a rider whose brilliant sprinting has brought a lot to the Tour. Just like Petacchi last year."
The full list:
Brioches la Boulangère (France)
Crédit Agricole (France)
Team CSC (Denmark)
Domina Vacanze (Italy)
Fassa Bortolo (Italy)
Illes BalearsBanesto (Spain)
Phonak Hearing Systems (Switzerland)
RAGT Semences-MG Rover (France)
US Postal Service-Berry Floor (USA)
Who's on the bubble?
The Tour de France organization will announce the teams invited to this year’s Tour later today. VeloNews suggests that Tyler Hamilton’s Phonak team and Joseba Beloki’s Boulangeres team are on the bubble.
Last year, the biggest selection controversy was the exclusion of Mario Cipollini’s Domina Vacanze team, which led to the earlier team announcements this year.
VeloNews handicaps the squads:
Teams already qualified:
- Quick Step
- Illes Balears
- Liberty Seguros
- U.S. Postal Service
- Fassa Bortolo
Teams expected to get in:
- Credit Agricole
Teams with outside chance:
- Chocolat Jacques
- Mr Bookmaker
- De Nardi
- Kelme(Division II)
- Domina Vacanze (Division II)
February 26, 2004
UCI compiling a blacklist of possible dopers
Reuters quotes the UCI’s lead doctor, Mario Zorzoli:
Zorzoli said the UCI would intensify random out-of-competition testing on suspect riders. The UCI will also use the medical records of riders gathered since 1999 and could ban riders with abnormal results from competing.
Predictable response from coaches:
Most team chiefs welcomed the new plan, saying it was time for the sport to clean up its act.
"It's going in the right direction. It was ridiculous that riders who had been not been racing should return stronger than others who had kept racing," said FDJeux.com team chief Marc Madiot.
Zorzoli also points out that anti-doping countermeasures are available much more quickly than they once were:
"Thanks to chemists and pharmacists, we have been able to detect some products like RSR13, Nesp or Aranesp even before they were on the market," he said.
Circus at Lucca: 18 riders remain
Thursday’s stage of the Tour of Lucca was a wild one, as race organizers disqualified all but 18 of the racers, when the main field came into the finishing circuit about 20 miles behind the leaders, soft-pedaling through atrocious weather.
Among those eliminated was Alessandro Petacchi, who had won both previous stages of the race.
February 25, 2004
Ho-hum: Petacchi again in Lucca
Yahoo! Sport | Petacchi maintains control of Tour of Lucca
The 30-year-old Fassa Bortolo rider crossed the finish line of the 173km second stage ahead of compatriots Fabrizio Guidi and Mario Cipollini.
More complete results are available at DailyPeloton.com.
Armstrong battling distractions?
Dale Robertson details all the changes Lance Armstrong will have to work through to win Tour Number Six: New high-profile girlfriend in Sheryl Crow, new race calendar, new Iberian lieutenant, another year closer to death ... Robertson doesn’t give José Azevedo much credibility, and actually writes that Armstrong “failed to win the Tour of the Algarve,” when it was perfectly clear that Armstrong wasn’t contesting the overall title.
He quotes Armstrong questioning whether the all-star team at T-Mobile (with Jan Ullrich, Alexandre Vinoukourov, and Santiago Botero) can hang together through the tour:
"In order to win the Tour," Armstrong said, "you need every guy riding for you. And you have to have people who can do it all. Jan is good, the best one out there. (But) will the other guys work for him? That's the question. Part of me says it's good he's back there, because that system never worked for him before."
Seen at JeffCross.net.
February 24, 2004
Gaumont speaks on Cofidis firing, retirementEurosport.com | Gaumont comes clean
Eurosport has excerpts from an interview Philippe Gaumont gave French sports daily L’Equipe, where he admits drug use and backs off his earlier accusations that “90 percent of riders are guilty:”
I was perhaps too hasty. I think doping still exists -- and quite a bit of it. But the riders who came after 1998 [and the Festina-stained Tour de France] had the chance to be free of it. I sincerely think that there are clean riders. They just need to stay strong in their heads and not give in.
With the many drug charges in his career, I had begun to see Gaumont as the Hal Chase of cycling, but there’s a remorse in his comments uncharacteristic of Chase:
I understand that my sporting career has been a failure. When I think back to the first maximum-effort tests I did, I know that my natural abilities were capable of a better race resume than what I've been left with today.
All I can say is that I missed my chance. I arrived in this sport at the wrong place and at the wrong time.
Petacchi tames lion king in LuccaYahoo! Sport | Petacchi strikes first blow in Tour of Lucca
Alessandro Petacchi started his season much as he finished last year. Petacchi, the world’s best sprinter, beat Mario Cipollini at the line to take the first stage of the Tour of Lucca (Cipollini is actually ahead in the picture at left, taken after the riders crossed the line).
Petacchi had 24 victories last year, including 15 in the three major tours (of Spain, Italy and of France), and became the first man to win 3 stages in each of the tours.
Lance Armstrong on the ropes in new Nike campaign
The New York Times (free registration required) reports that Nike is kicking off a new ad campaign tomorrow, showing their big name endorsers crossing over into different sports: Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick joins Chicago Bear Brian Urlacher in the hockey rink, and Andre Agassi plays a little baseball.
Lance Armstrong is a boxer in the campaign, whose tagline is “What if?” Nike’s Nancy Monserrat says:
The inspiration was some bemused discussion, so typical among sports fans, along the lines of “what if Tiger Woods's father had handed him a baseball bat” rather than a golf club or what if “when Lance Armstrong was 3 years old his mother handed him a pair of boxing gloves instead of a bike.”
Ad agency creative director Mike Byrne said Armstrong looked good in the ring:
“... he and a boxing trainer from Los Angeles went off for an hour and he comes back throwing jabs and hooks and uppercuts.”
The six-week campaign begins with a 90-second spot that will run through Saturday, then be replaced by shorter versions. Other switchers include Marion Jones as a gymnast, Lurch stand-in Randy Johnson as a pro bowler, and Serena Williams playing beach volleyball.
February 23, 2004
FFC President: “Stop before it's too late”
Jean Pitallier, president of the French Cycling Federation:
"The noose is tightening on those who are causing enormous damage to our sport. We have to show ourselves to be merciless towards them," he said.
"We have to continue to clean up our act and rid cycling of certain individuals who have nothing to do in the sport. I also hope that the justice system imposes sanctions which serve as an example because they remain the best deterrent."
Murcia Tour to honor Pantani
Following the recent renaming of two Italian mountains in memory of Marco Pantani, the organisers of next week’s Tour of Murcia have announced that the biggest climb of that event will be dubbed the ‘Cima Marco Pantani’ (Marco Pantani summit).
The climb in question is one Pantani won to decide the race in 1999.
The Tour of Murcia is the next major early-season race, and is expected to include Jan Ullrich, Lance Armstrong, Joseba Beloki, and other Tour hopefuls.
New Graham Watson Algarve photos
Graham Watson has updated his website with photos from yesterday’s stage of the Tour of the Algarve.
US Postal rider diary: Algarve
Michael Barry is one of the few riders still actively maintaining their online diary, and he's updated after the Posties’ win yesterday in the Tour of the Algarve:
Our plan was to set Floyd up for both the stage win and the overall victory. With a strong team and so many riders in the top spots on general classification, controlling the race was fairly straight forward - let a break go near the start that wasn't too big to control (no more than 12 or so riders) and then put a few riders on the front from the team to ride a hard tempo to keep the break at a manageable distance. From the start, Benjamin Noval and George rode on the front and then with 60 km to go I gave them a hand. The final climb to the finish was with 3 km to go and it went straight up.
UCI will closely monitor riders with ‘irregularities’procycling.com | UCI increases scrutiny on suspected dopers
Apparently, the UCI won't wait for a positive drug test, but will take high but not illegal readings as probable cause for greater scrutiny on future tests.
According to L’Equipe, the UCI is set to put together a list of riders who gave irregular blood test results last season and will monitor these riders more closely than usual in the coming months to assess any possible indications of doping. In the letter the UCI says: "By being able to assess the amount of haemoglobin and reticulocytes (immature red blood cells), we can obtain information which, although it might not be formal proof of doping, is highly indicative of use of forbidden products, whether that be EPO, NESP or blood transfusion."
Freire takes Trofeo Luis PrigPezCycling News | Solo Win For Oscar Freire
Spain’s Oscar Freire won Sunday's Trofeo Luis Prig, and it wasn’t in a field sprint. Twice world champion, Freire is known for his sprinting, but got away with a break and held off a strong field for a win Sunday.
Welcome to TDFBlog.com
I’ve had enough visitors here on TDF2004 that I decided to buy a new domain for the site. I’m sure I was partly inspired by the new domain mapping wizard from TypePad, which hosts this weblog.
I made some design changes, as well, so if anything looks off, or doesn’t work, please e-mail me.
February 22, 2004
Beloki season start delayed againcyclingnews.com | Beloki delays again
Cyclingnews.com reports that Joseba Beloki, who crashed out of last year's Tour de France during Stage 9 and finished 2nd in the 2002 Tour, has delayed the beginning of his 2004 campaign again.
After a bout of tendinitis prevented him from taking part in the French season openers in the colours of his new Brioches La Boulangère team, Joseba Beloki has once more delayed his season start. Beloki was to have begun racing at Sunday's Trofeo Luis Puig, but has again heeded caution and decided to wait until the moment is right.
"We preferred to wait a little longer," Beloki told Spanish newspaper AS. "Even though I already feel good physically, it's not worth the risk of aggravating the tendinitis. Perhaps it's a bit premature."
It appears Beloki may also sit out the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana next week. No new re-entry date has been set.
Tendinitis is typically an overuse injury; it may be that Beloki tried to rush his recovery by ramping up his miles too quickly.
Postal’s Landis takes Algarve, Armstrong 5th
US Postal rider Floyd Landis won the final stage of the Tour of the Algarve Sunday. Combined with his 2nd place in Saturday's time trial, the stage win gave Landis the overall victory. US Postal also had Victor Hugo Peña in 2nd, and Lance Armstrong in 5th overall.
"We have a strong team," said Landis. "Lance is generous, so he said I could go for the win if I was feeling well. Everybody worked together.
"It's good for the team to start the year with a win, so everybody's happy."
dailypeleton.com | 30th Volta ao Algarve - Stage 5 Updated (with full stage and overall results)
Armstrong leads in Algarve after 1-2-3 Postal finish in TT
Lance Armstrong won the time trial stage of the Tour of the Algarve on Saturday, ahead of teammates Floyd Landis and Victor Hugo Peña. With the sprint finishes so far, the standings in the TT are the overall standings. Team director Johan Bruyneel said Postal will ride for the overall win, but didn't say which rider the team would support. Armstrong suggested it would be the young American Floyd Landis:
Armstrong said Landis will be the man for the team.
"Floyd is mad at me," Armstrong joked. "But I think Floyd is probably the leader for tomorrow because he's in much better condition for the climbs. I don't know the climb, but he's climbing much better than I am and I suspect we'll work for him."
Armstrong added the race to his schedule after organizers added Saturday's stage to the route. Armstrong and Postal's coaches are working on his time-trialing, and today was the first competitive ride on a new time trial frame, that has Armstrong lower than before. Also in attendance at the race was Armtrong's current girlfriend, singer Sheryl Crow.
February 18, 2004
Armstrong's season kicks off in Algarve
“It went well, it was a good training ride,” said the five-time Tour de France winner, for whom race organisers have included a time trial in the five-day stage race.
Thousands pay respects to Pantani in CesenaticoBBC Sport | Italy mourns cycling star Pantani
During the service Pantani's friend and former manager Manuela Ronchi read out a note in which the cyclist expressed his anger, frustration and sadness at the way he was treated by sporting and judicial authorities.Also: Pantani funeral photo gallery
The note was found scribbled on nine pages of Pantani's passport.
"The world understands that all my colleagues have been humiliated in their hotel rooms with hidden TV cameras... that tried to ruin many families," the note read.
"After that how can you not hurt yourself? I don't know why I stopped myself in these moments of anger. If I made mistakes I'd like to know that there is proof but when my sporting life and above all my private life was violated I lost a lot," it said.
"For four years I was in every court. I lost my desire to be like every other sportsman. But cycling paid and many youngsters have lost faith in justice."
Coming in 2005: The United Texas Tour
The 9-stage race will raise funds for the Lance Armstrong Foundation and feature a $175,000 purse.
The race director said he wasn't sure whether Armstrong would compete or not. It's interesting to speculate whether Armstrong might ride this race as his swan song: He's said before he plans to ride for two more seasons, and this race is scheduled late in the second season.
"This brings back some of the memories I have of taking Lance to races in Texas," said Armstrong's mother, Linda Armstrong, who attended Tuesday's news conference announcing the race. "These are the types of races I enjoyed taking him to. It wasn't uncommon for us to get up in the morning and drive to Lubbock or Wichita Falls or Tyler. Lance would race and we'd come home."
February 14, 2004
Pantani death reactionPantani loss is cycling's tragedy, says procycling editor
Jeremy Whittle, who edits procycling magazine:
Tonight, it is over — definitively. Tragically, he died a bitter and seemingly lonely death — his youthful talents a distant memory, at only 34. Former professional Paul Kimmage, now a journalist, used to maintain that the riders were victims of a system — in Pantani's case it seems that tragically, he was right.
Like Icarus, Pantani flew too close to the sun, but he — and his friends and family — have paid too high a price for his misdemeanours, both real and imagined. He deserved far better than this.
Addio, PirataMarco Pantani, whose attacking style won both the Tour de France and the Giro d'Italia in 1998, was found dead in an Italian hotel Saturday night. No cause of death was immediately established.
According to VeloNews:
Staff at the hotel said Pantani checked in alone several days ago, and had appeared "strange and not quite there." The hotel porter raised the alarm at around 9.30 p.m. local time on Saturday after the 34-year-old Italian failed to appear. Hotel staff knocked on his door, which was locked. When they finally entered the room, Pantani was found dead, lying on his back, ANSA reported.
Pantani was kicked out of the 1999 Giro two days short of a likely victory for a hematocrit level above the legal limit, then was suspended in 2002, and didn't ride a full schedule in either 2002 or 2003. Pantani had spent time last year in a clinic that treated drug use and depression.
Italian cycling star Mario Cipollini said Pantani's death was a great tragedy.
"I am devastated," he said. "It's a tragedy of enormous proportions for everyone involved in cycling. I'm lost for words."
Franco Ballerini, coach of the Italian national cycling team, was quoted as saying: "It's something that is so huge, it doesn't seem true."
- BBC Sport | Pantani found dead
- Procycling.com | Pantani found dead in Rimini — Italy in shock
- cyclingnews.com | Pantani dead at 34: Includes an obit by Tim Maloney that outlines some of Pantani's race record (or palmares).
- BBC Sport | End of a troubled ride
February 05, 2004
Bobby Julich: Fresh start at 32?sacbee.com -- Sports -- Old pro rides on
In the dark days after Lance Armstrong was diagnosed with testicular cancer, America's hope in European cycling was Bobby Julich, who made the podium with a third-place finish in the Tour in 1998.
Julich, who raced for Telekom, but wasn't selected for the Tour in 2003, joins CSC, Tyler Hamilton's former squad, where he'll ride for Bjarne Riis. Like Armstrong, Julich is 32. Like Armstrong, he'll be competing in the Tour de Georgia in April.
Tour de Georgia route set
I've driven from Athens to Young Harris (Stage 6) a few times, and it bites even as a drive, and I didn't have to drive up Brasstown Bald, Georgia's highest point, at the end.
I'm creating a Tour de Georgia category that should eventually include some first-hand pictures and stories.
February 03, 2004
Armstrong confirms Tour de Georgia appearance
It’s official — where Lance Armstrong had left the door open to ride either the Tour de Georgia or the Tour of the Gila, Armstrong has confirmed that he will indeed ride the Tour de Georgia, as race officials announced two weeks ago:
Here's the news that many folks have been waiting to hear: Lance Armstrong and Team USPS presented by Berry Floor will be racing at the Tour de Georgia to be held April 20-25, 2004. While the final course decisions are still being finalized, Mark Higgins of Capital Sports & Entertainment said, "We know one of the stages will feature a challenging route in the morning, then a short rest period followed by an Individual Time Trial in the afternoon. There are also some good climbing opportunities on the route as well."