March 30, 2004
Defending the Posties
Cyclingnews has a terrific letter from Steven Adelman of Washington, DC, defending the US Postal Service investment in cycling. With their contract up at the end of this season, there's some doubt whether US Postal's sponsorship will continue, and the watchdog group at PostalWatch have been actively fighting what they call a "$50 million boondoggle."
Adelman puts the dollar amounts in perspective, comparing the $10 million spent annually on the team with:
• $300 million: The USPS advertising budget
• $68.53 billion: Total USPS revenue for 2003
• $1.62 billion: USPS international mail revenue
• $3.87 billion: USPS profits in 2003
In Adelman's words:
For a truly minuscule 10 million dollars a year the USPS gets one of the most admired and sought after spokesman a company could hope to get and thrown in for free is a stable of charismatic athletes who are admired the world over. This is a spokesman, by the way, who at least was perceived to be worth 12.5 million dollars by one corporation for a paltry 6 ads. Coincidentally ads in which he is giving free advertising to the USPS.
Seen at LanceArmstrong.com.
March 28, 2004
Voigt wins 2 stages to take Criterium International
Jens Voigt took both the morning's uphill finish and the afternoon's time trial, and wrapped up the overall win in the Criterium International. Voigt also won here in 1999, when he rode for Credit Agricole.
Jose Ivan Gutierrez of Illes-Balears was 2nd overall, and Lance Armstrong of US Postal was 3rd. T-Mobile's Bobby Julich took (Correction) 4th overall.
March 27, 2004
Criterium International: J-P Nazon takes sprint finish
The peloton let Guillaume Auger gain more than 19 minutes on the road, then slowly reeled him in. In the end, it was almost predictable: a stage win by Jean-Patrick Nazon, who won here in 2002, and whose brother Damien won here last year. Jean-Patrick Nazon also won the final stage of the 2003 Tour, on the Champs-Elysees.
Gerolsteiner took 2nd and 3rd on the day, with Marcus Zberg placing, and Peter Wrolich showing. In a short stage race like this, every second can make a difference, so some of the big names were looking for sprint bonuses today. Jens Voigt of CSC, T-Mobile's Alexandre Vinokourov, and US Postal's Lance Armstrong all factored in intermediate sprints.
Joseba Beloki, finally back in competition after the fall in Stage 9 of last year's Tour, took another spill. Though he was able to continue, he was quickly off the back, and finished last on the day.
The GC roughly parallels the stage finish, but those bonus points shook things up a bit:
2) Zberg, 4 secs
3) Wrolich, 6 secs
4) Jens Voigt, same time
5) Alexandre Vinokourov, 8 secs
6) Alexandre Usov, 9 secs
7) Danilo di Luca, same time
8) Lance Armstrong, same time
9) Thor Hushovd, 10 secs
10) Baden Cooke, same time
Tomorrow, a very hilly 60-mile stage with 7 categorized climbs, then a 5-mile individual time trial in the afternoon.
Manzano Day 3: Cyclist's medicine cabinet
Former Kelme rider Jesus Manzano continues his series of articles in AS (en Español) on doping practices Manzano says he participated in while with Kelme. Manzano says he's now received death threats for the accusations.
Friday's revelations focus on some specific substances he says he's used:
Oxyglobin: Oxyglobin is the substance Manzano alluded to on Day 1, when he mentioned a drug that would boost hemoglobin without boosting hematocrit. Looking at the company's web page, linked above, it looks like that's exactly what it does, by circulating freefloating hemoglobin.
Actovegin: Actovegin has been in the news before, when French media claimed to have found it in the trash near the US Postal team hotel during the 2000 Tour de France.
Nandrolone and testosterone: Chemically similar compounds that promote muscle growth, Nandrolone is the substance sprinter Ben Johnson was found to have used.
Cortisone: used as an anti-inflammatory and to speed recovery.
March 26, 2004
Kelme definitively out of the 2004 Tour
Tour organizers say they will NOT offer a 22nd spot in this year's Tour to the Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme team, following accusations from Jesus Manzano that the team engaged in widespread doping.
Following the disclosures made by the Spanish rider Jesus Manzano, the organisers of the Tour de France esteem that the element of doubt hanging over the matter no longer permits the formerly contemplated presence of the Kelme – Costa Blanca team at the start of the next Tour de France.
Amaury Sport Organisation, the organizers of the Tour, also will not allow Kelme to ride in the group's other races, including this weekend's Criterium International, for which a riders list is now available.
Armstrong: 'not planning a farewell tour, but it could be'
Don't miss Samuel Abt's interview with Lance Armstrong in the International Herald Tribune today. He asks Armstrong everything you would ask, about retirement, the state of US Postal's sponsorship, Sheryl Crow, his leading rivals for this year's Tour: it's all there.
Berry Floor might step in for US Postal
cyclingnews.com quotes Berry Floor's marketing manager, Philip Harinck, speaking on Belgium's Radio 1:
"It's a bit premature right now, as we first want to know the final decision from the US Postal Service," Harinck said. "But we remain committed to cycling... The increase in brand awareness has convinced us."
Given the scrutiny that the Postal Service's sponsorship is drawing, and the likelihood that the post office will seek an increase of first-class postage to 41¢, it seems a longshot that the Postal Service will re-up.
March 25, 2004
Kelme to lose Giro spot as well as Tour place?
According to this story on Procycling.com:
Giro organisers RCS Sport stated yesterday they are following the affair closely and admitted Kelme’s participation in their event is under discussion. [Tour de France director Jean-Marie] Leblanc, meanwhile, has said Manzano’s comments are unproven for the moment and that he will only act if it is shown there has been systematic doping taking place within the Kelme team.
With Alejandro Valverde's victories already this season, it looked like the deal with Comunidad Valenciana would save the Kelme team, but missing 2 of the 3 major tours would seem to be a death blow.
Catalana: Leipheimer wins Stage 4, Rodriguez takes lead
American Levi Leipheimer of Rabobank got his first win in more than two years today in the Setmana Catalana, winning the mountaintop finish atop Port de Comte. Leipheimer and Joaquin Rodriguez of Saunier Duval caught Roberto Heras of Liberty Seguros just 150 meters from the finish.
Leipheimer took the stage win, but the higher-placed Rodriguez took over the race lead with only Friday's stage left to race. There are at least 10 riders within 4 seconds of the lead. Leipheimer is 14th, 37 seconds back. Heras, the former US Postal rider, sits 38th, 18:36 back, and Jan Ullrich, riding into shape, is 90th, 55:54 back.
Manzano circus continues
The Manzano saga continues, with more detail, with the latest chapter (en Español) in AS. Today, he details the ways riders use EPO and human growth hormone.
"It's like an open bar when it comes to growth hormones, and you get injected with EPO (erythropoietin) almost every day," said the 25-year-old Spaniard in the second part of his interview with AS.
Manzano claimed he had his red blood cell as high as 56, well above the legal limit of 50, which is itself well above the average even among elite athletes. Manzano said teams evade the tests for EPO by leaving some riders below the legal limits, and sending them first for tests when blood testers come calling. In the meantime, doctors give the riders on EPO blood plasma and glucose products, which Manzano said could quickly lower hematocrit levels by 4 points.
"If it wasnt for EPO I don't think the average speed at major tours would be 41 kph," he said.
Manzano's story continues tomorrow in AS:
"There is also cortisone, nandrolone, synthetic haemoglobin, Actovegin - there are a lot of things to explain, but I'll talk about them in the coming days."
Bizarrely, Manzano's accusations have led to a job offer from the Italian Amore e Vita team: "With us, he will find the values of a clean team."
Quoting Kelme director Vicente Belda:
"[Manzano] is talking nonsense," an irate Vicente Belda, Kelme's team manager, told French sports daily L'Equipe. "He has zero credibility. When we fired him from the team, he swore he was going to exact his revenge."
For an inside look at the effects of performance-enhancing drugs, check out the article and interview linked from this post, by a writer for Outside magazine, who used EPO, HGH, and other performance enhancers, then wrote about the experience.
US Track champion Sbeih suspended for 2 years
The US Anti-Doping Agency has suspended Adham Sbeih, the 2003 US champion in the 4,000 meter pursuit, for EPO, through August 2005. According to the documents released by the USADA, Sbeih retired from cycling in February, just before proceedings began in his hearing.
"This decision should reassure all clean athletes that USADA and science are on their side, and that we are making significant strides through research and the application of science to eliminate drug use from sport,” said Terry Madden, USADA’s Chief Executive Officer.
Sbeih tested positive at nationals in August 2003. He becomes the first US athlete suspended for EPO. The USADA has PDF files of both the press release announcing the suspension and the American Arbitration Association decision upholding the suspension.
March 24, 2004
Leblanc: 'doubts' over Manzano claims
Tour director Jean-Marie Leblanc says allegations by Jesus Manzano of doping on the Kelme squad last year don't necessarily exclude Kelme from a provisional spot in this year's Tour.
"I can't help but have some doubts over this wave of revelations," said Leblanc.
"They have to be checked and authenticated.
"If in the next few days it turns out that what Manzano said is true or false, we'll act accordingly.
"But my feeling is that mister Manzano is saying whatever he wants."
Manzano has made no secret that he wants revenge on the Kelme team, which released him after last year's Vuelta, allegedly for having sex with a woman in his hotel room during the race.
He also claimed that after putting 3,000 euros toward doping before the Tour, each Kelme rider made 811 euros in prize money from the 2003 Tour.
Zabel second again at Setmana Catalana
The third time wasn't the charm for Erik Zabel, who finished second in a sprint for the third time this week on Wednesday at Setmana Catalana. This time, it was Isaac Galdez of Illes Balears doing the nipping.
Martin Perdiguero of Saunier Duval finished third on the stage, and moved into the overall race lead, tied with Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland. The tie is broken by sprint points, where Perdiguero leads Cancellara, and 22 other riders all with the same time.
Zabel has decided not to race the Tour of Flanders or Paris-Roubaix this year, focusing on the Tour's green jersey, which he's already won a record six times.
"It was tough to accept the idea that I won't be at the start line for the Tour of Flanders or Paris-Roubaix, but it's a logical decision," Zabel said last week in French sports daily L'Equipe, suggesting a more selective season will best serve his season's goals.
Manzano doping allegations coming out
In an article in AS (en Español), Manzano claims doctors for the Kelme team extracted blood before last year's Tour to be used for "blood boosting" during the race (and sloppily, to boot):
"One thing that struck me as strange was that they left the bags altogether on a plastic tray without marking whose was whose," says Manzano. "The first thing you should do is mark them and put them in a blood bank because they need to be properly preserved."
Blood boosting or blood doping is the process of increasing the body's red blood supply by extracting blood, then reintroducing it after the body has replaced the lost volume, giving riders greater blood volume. Since the process (theoretically) uses the rider's own blood, and no foreign substance is introduced, it's very hard to test for.
Manzano also claims that his exit from the Tour last year during Stage 7 resulted from a substance he can't name that team doctors gave him before the stage, which caused him to lose feeling in his extremities and then to collapse:
I felt like I lost contact with my own body. I realised they had cut my jersey open in the ambulance and were giving me an injection and electrocardiagram tests.
"When I got back to the hotel the team made me do interviews [to explain things]. But I didn’t abandon for the reason that some people have said, it wasn’t because of the sun."
The allegations threaten Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme's chances to make this year's Tour. When 21 teams were announced last month, organizers left the door open for a provisional invitation to a 22nd, expected to be Kelme, based on this season's results and team financials. Tour de France director Jean-Marie Leblanc said yesterday he was waiting to hear Manzano's story, but "We would only say no to Kelme if it was shown that grave actions had been carried out."
Manzano showed the newspaper how he and other riders could test their hematocrit level, used by regulatory bodies to show possible doping, and admitted to the use of Actovegin, a compound that boost red blood cell levels.
One particularly interesting claim is that the product he took before Stage 7 keeps hematocrit low, but boosts your hemoglobin level. Does anyone know if that's even possible?
UCI trying to get top riders in more races
The Protour is a new UCI creation, and the latest stories on its creation suggest organizers are trying to find a way to compel top riders to ride more of the Protour events.
When the Protour (ProTour?) was announced last year, one aspect that got a lot of attention was the proposed requirement that each team would be required to field a team in each event.
If this new story is correct, the UCI wants to go even beyond that to force top riders to show for all ProTour events, which would drastically change the in-season training for team leaders like Lance Armstrong, Jan Ullrich, and others.
Quoting the UCI's Professional Cycling Manager, Alain Rumpf:
"The representatives of teams, riders and organisers all agree that our sport would benefit from increased participation of the top athletes in the top races."
March 23, 2004
US Postal to end sponsorship?
CyclingNews notes a recent article in Advertising Age (not available on the web) that US Postal is "poised to abandon its lead sponsorship of Lance Armstrong and the [US Postal Service] Pro Cycling Team" at contract's end in December 2004.
The story led online watchdog PostalWatch to issue a crowing press release that "Postal Service Set to Pull the Plug on $50 Million Pro-Cycling Boondoggle".
CyclingNews quotes US Postal team director Johan Bruyneel that the Postal Service has not notified the team of any intention to end its sponsorship, and that negotiations are ongoing:
"We're still talking to them about everything. We're still very positive about moving forward with them."
PostalWatch notes that, where the sponsorship was expected to increase the Postal Service's international revenue by $20 million, that USPS international revenue decreased by $12.8 million between 1999 and 2003, "despite the cycling team's outstanding performance and extremely high profile".
It's an open question whether Armstrong would want to race next year (which he has suggested would be his last) in a new team organization.
Beloki to start Criterium International
The long-awaited season debut for Joseba Beloki, now with the Brioches La Boulangere team, looks to be this weekend at the Criterium International.
Although Beloki was previously set to start both the GP d’Ouverture at the beginning of February and then the Tour of Valencia later the same month, tendinitis in his right knee forced the Spaniard to miss both of those rendezvous. Brioches admitted during the recent Tour of Murcia that Beloki’s knee problem was a consequence of his bad crash at the Tour last July when he broke his hip, elbow and wrist.
The story points out that Armstrong has been racing for a month, but that Semana Catalana is just the second stage race for Ullrich and the first for Roberto Heras.
PowerBar founder Brian Maxwell dead at 51
Brian Maxwell died Friday of a heart attack in the post office. With his nutritionist wife Jennifer, Maxwell founded PowerBar, since sold to Nestle SA for "a reported $375 million."
In 1977, he was the world's third-ranked marathon runner.
NYPost.com: Crow wants Armstrong's baby
The New York Post's Page Six column claims Sheryl Crow is considering fertility treatments to have a child with Lance Armstrong.
Crow is 42, Armstrong 32. Armstrong had some of his sperm frozen before undergoing treatment for cancer, and "a baby would have to be conceived via in vitro fertilization." Reps for both refused comment, but this certainly explains all the strange Google searches of late, including "Lance Armstrong pregnant", which seems, well, unlikely.
Spotted at JeffCross.net.
March 22, 2004
PezCycling: DON'T CHANGE SAN REMO!
Over at PezCycling.com, Charles Manantan has a great column on Milan-San Remo, pointing out that every year, people come out with their ideas on how to "fix" Milan-San Remo.
This year, some of the best in the business got crapped out the back. Petacchi showed us what happens to even the hottest sprinter when the legs get gassed on the climbs. Paolo Bettini showed us, just last year, that you can beat the bunch if you are special enough. And Zabel, well he’s shown us how to win it so many times that it makes sense that he also give a lesson in how to lose it…
Read it all, 'cause it's good.
Zabel the bridesmaid again at Semana Catalana
Fassa Bortolo showed they have more than one sprint threat, as Fabian Cancellara took the stage over Zabel, then Rabobank's Bram de Groot.
Alejandro Valverde, the star of Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme, was 6th on the day, and active in the day's racing. Erik Dekker of Rabobank was 9th.
Zabel remained number one in the world rankings released today, ahead of Alessandro Petacchi, Paolo Bettini (who dropped from 2nd), and Valverde.
Setmana Catalana kicks off today
Ullrich and Heras are the two biggest names racing in the 5-stage event, along with Alejandro Valverde, 2003 Setmana Catalana winner Dario Frigo, and Phonak's Alex Zulle. Most of the riders missing the event are preparing for next weekend's Criterium International, including Lance Armstrong, Tyler Freaking Hamilton, and Bobby Julich.
Teams with a squad on hand are:
• Liberty Seguros
• Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme
• Fassa Bortolo
• Vini Caldirola
• Milaneza Maia
• Cafés Baqué
• Saunier Duval-Prodir.
March 20, 2004
VeloNews on Milan-San Remo
Freire was gracious:
"Until you cross the line you can never say you've won," said Freire, "I've waited a long time for this. I've had good form in the past, but I've lost because I didn't have luck. Sometimes you have to have the luck to go with the legs to win the big races."
VeloNews also detailed a crash on the Cipressa that may have affected the outcome:
Disaster struck the animated Team CSC on the twisting descent. Michele Bartoli, riding with a bandana tucked under his helmet in honor of Marco Pantani, spun wide through a corner, clipped a guardrail and fell hard on his right hip. Crashing into him were Rebellin and Peter Van Petegem (Lotto-Domo). All three carried on, but it took Bartoli out of the hunt.
"The plan was for Bartoli to follow Bettini if he attacked on the Poggio," said Team CSC sport director Alain Gallopin. "It's too bad because he was very strong and very motivated for today's race. It's frustrating, but we are optimistic for the upcoming classics because Bartoli was clearly strong."
Postal's Van Heeswijk believed today might be the day after the peloton cleared the Poggio, the last climb of the day:
"I was right on Zabel's wheel and I never felt so strong, so good at Milan-San Remo," said the Dutch rider, who had to settle for fifth. "But I lost his wheel coming through the final two turns. I lost 10 to 12 places and I had to make my sprint from 15th position. I've never felt so good on the Cipressa and Poggio. This just gives me confidence for the classics."
VeloNews also offers a live coverage page, that details the action as it happened.
Milan-San Remo: Zabel blows it at the line
T-Mobile's Erik Zabel, a 6-time Tour green jersey winner and 4-time Milan-San Remo winner, made a rookie mistake on Sunday to blow his chance at a first victory this season, throwing his arms up in triumph before crossing the line, and letting Rabobank's Oscar Freire, world champion in 1999 and 2001, nip him on the finish line.
“I can’t believe it,” Zabel said tonight. “I came round Petacchi and was so sure that I’d won. I raised my arms to celebrate. Then I saw Freire under my right shoulder.”
Zabel adds to a string of second-place finishes this year, with Stuart O'Grady of Cofidis third, and Italian super-sprinter Alessandro Petacchi of Fassa Bortolo relegated to fourth, the first bunch sprint he's lost this year.
Milan-San Remo's length (about 180 miles), and a couple of climbs in the last 20 miles, tend to sap the legs of the specialist sprinters. Mario Cipollini fell off the lead bunch on the penultimate climb, and never rejoined the leaders:
“Mario simply isn’t competitive at the moment,” Cipollini’s team manager Vincenzo Santoni told us. A few metres away the Lion King was keeping his own counsel in the Domina Vacanze team-bus. “At least a ‘campione’ won,” Santoni continued. “Petacchi? It’s one thing to win a sprint after 200km, another thing to do it after nearly 300.”
Other results of note: US Postal's Max van Heeswijk was 5th overall, and George Hincapie of USPS was 13th. Defending Milan-San Remo winner Paolo Bettini, who tried to repeat last year's success with a breakaway attempt on the Poggio, couldn't stay away in a stiff headwind, and finished 8th.
Bike.com quotes Petacchi:
Petacchi made his move with 100 metres to go and Zabel followed suit before overtaking the "disappointed" Italian, who admitted he may have misjudged his final sprint.
"I lost just like I did at Paris-Tours," said the Italian, who last season became the first ever rider to win at least three stages in all the Tours of Italy, France and Spain.
"I had a great team around me and I've let them down. The Cipressa and Poggio (climbs) were raced at a very fast pace and I think I paid for that in the sprint, where my legs just gave out. "I think I probably attacked too early."
On winner Freire:
Freire is now hoping to maintain his lead in the World Cup - with a view to taking the rainbow jersey from two-time defending champion Bettini.
"Last year the World Cup jersey was my main aim, but I couldn't get near it," said Freire who should compete in all ten races this season except for Paris-Roubaix on April 11.
"This time I hope to be able to maintain my run of results until the end (of the competition). I'm likely to meet Bettini a lot along the way, so it's not going to be easy."
March 19, 2004
It's official: Armstrong out at Milan-San Remo
Lance Armstrong will NOT start tomorrow's Milan-San Remo. Armstrong had originally intended to ride in support of George Hincapie and Max Van Heeswijk in the initial spring classic and initial World Cup race Saturday in Italy.
Lance Armstrong withdrew from the Milan-San Remo cycling race Friday with a mild case of bronchitis.
Armstrong, going for his record sixth Tour de France win later this summer, told the organizers of the opening World Cup event that he could not race.
Manzano: I'll provide proof of doping
In an interview with Marca (en Español), former Kelme rider Jesus Manzano says he has revealed doping techniques used by cyclists in a broadcast interview to be aired soon.
Manzano's former teammate Javier Pascual Llorente tested positive for EPO at last year's Tour, and is currently serving an 18-month ban from racing.
Manzano ... said he is "not going to do this like [Philippe] Gaumont" - the former French rider who recently described in detail a number of doping techniques used by cyclists. He said: "Instead I'm actually going to come out with solid proof."
Update: Procycling.com has a more complete and colorful translation of the interview:
The declarations, says today's issue of sports daily Marca, would "make what Philippe Gaumont said a few days ago in France seem like a children’s story".
Asked if he was motivated by thoughts of vengeance, Manzano says: "Yes, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Or, as they say in Colombia: you mess me around and I’ll mess you around… I’m not going to accuse any other rider of anything, this is purely about me, about things that have affected me."
Armstrong a possible at Milan-San Remo?
Cyclingnews.com reports that there's still a chance that Lance Armstrong will race tomorrow's Milan-San Remo, and that a decision won't be made until this afternoon.
In an interview with La Gazzetta published on Friday, Armstrong told Pier Bergonzi, "I've come to Italy to race Milan-San Remo. It's a race I've always loved, with 300 km and seven hours of racing. I'm in good shape, but I'll race to help George Hincapie and Max van Heeswijk. But my problem is that I'm not feeling that good. I've got a touch of bronchitis and the weather forecast is for possible rain. I don't want to risk anything. So I'll talk to Johan Bruyneel and my teammates and we'll figure out together what I'm going to do. But I have to be honest, right now it's more 'no' that 'yes' that I'll ride."
Pantani death ruled a cocaine overdose
"The death of Marco Pantani was caused by acute cocaine intoxication," the report carried out by doctor Giuseppe Fortuni for prosecutor Paolo Gengarelli stated, the Ansa news agency reported Friday.
Pantani was found dead in a Rimini hotel room on February 14 and several packets of half-empty sedatives were found beside the 34-year-old who was also known to have a cocaine habit.
March 18, 2004
Armstrong to skip Milan-San Remo
AFP reports that Lance Armstrong will skip Saturday's Milan-San Remo, which he was previously expected to race.
According Dick Demol, assistant team leader of Armstrong's US Postal team, the Milan-San Remo does not fit in to the Texan's build-up for his attempt at a record sixth straight win in cycling's premier prize.
Armstrong's next scheduled race is the Criterium International in the Ardennes region of Belgium at the end of the month.
Armstrong USOC's Sportsman of the Year
Armstrong is the first 4-time winner of the award from the US Olympic Committee. He also won in 1999, 2001, and 2002.
This year's Sportswoman of the Year is Michelle Kwan, and Team of the Year was the US women's gymnastics team.
March 17, 2004
Armstrong's Tour offroad detour commemorated
Also from LanceArmstrong.com comes a snapshot of the hillside made famous by Joseba Beloki's spill and Armstrong's hair's-breadth escape during Stage 9 of last year's Tour, and a handmade sign that lets you know that "You Are There."
Armstrong to race T-Mobile International in SF
LanceArmstrong.com says that Armstrong will race in the T-Mobile International in San Francisco September 12.
Information on the race is available at http://www.sanfrancycling.com.
Indurain says Armstrong highly motivated
Five-time Tour de France winner Miguel Indurain told a Spanish newspaper (en Español) he likes Lance Armstrong's chances at a 6th Tour victory in July:
"As we see him going now, and looking at his rivals, I see him with the capacity to win a sixth Tour," Indurain said. "I see him with the same motivation as other years and his results so far this year indicate he took care of himself over the winter."
"Physically, he looked good even though the last Tour there were a lot of problems," Indurain said. "It's obvious that the passing years don't count in your favor, because you lose your explosiveness and this has always been his strength. But you gain experience at the same time and that's important, too. Every year it's harder to find the form and it takes longer to recover during the races. It's essential to arrive in good form at the start."
In another Spanish daily, Roberto Heras, Armstrong's former teammate, said he's shooting for nothing less than a Tour victory:
"My time has come," Heras told the Spanish daily AS. "I'm giving everything for the Tour."
"The Tour was already my goal for the 2005 season and by joining Liberty, I have moved it up by one year," said the two-time Vuelta a España champion. "I see Armstrong has begun his season on a good rhythm and he looks good. Ullrich is not as strong, but we all know from other seasons that it's not until May or June that we begin to see his true level."
Heras said he's been riding 600 miles per week and working out 5-6 hours weekly on his upper body.
Who's who at La Primavera
There's a provisional start list for Milan-San Remo up at cyclingnews.com.
The race is considered a classic for the sprinters, but two climbs late in the race, the Cipressa and the Poggio, sometimes select out riders who are strong all-arounders over the pure sprinters. If that happens, look for a rider like Erik Zabel, Alexandre Vinokourov, or Paolo Bettini.
If the pack stays together to the end, you've got to tip Petacchi.
Handicapping Milan-San Remo
Procycling.com points out Tirreno-Adriatico's stars, overall winner Paolo Bettini (defending Milan-San Remo champion) and 3-stage winner Alessandro Petacchi, as the two most likely to win at Milan-San Remo on Saturday, ahead of Erik Zabel, who has won three times at Milan-San Remo:
Zabel was second in his German champion’s jersey in San Benedetto yesterday but must surely realise that the odds are against him winning a fourth Milan-San Remo on Saturday. Petacchi’s sprinting in the first month of the 2004 season has been simply peerless. He is so far unbeaten in five bunch finishes since February.
"I hope that I don’t lose my first one on Saturday," the 30-year-old Fassa Bortolo speed king remarked wryly yesterday. "I’d just like to go a bit better uphill: that’s the goal I’ve worked towards and the reason I’ve finished the Tirreno, despite the pain in my legs. To compare with 2003 I’d say that I’m stronger this year. Last year I was ill when I came back from Paris-Nice."
For his part, Bettini will try to avoid a bunch sprint if possible:
"Everyone has seen how Petacchi is riding so I don’t have too many options: I either go clear with a group and back myself to beat them or, if it ends in a bunch sprint, I just try to earn as many World Cup points as possible."
March 16, 2004
Tirreno-Adriatico full results
Roadcycling.com has full stage and final standings for Tirreno-Adriatico. Bettini's final margin of victory in the GC was only five seconds over Rabobank's Oscar Freire, with T-Mobile's Erik Zabel 3rd at 11 seconds and two Cofidis riders, Igor Astarloa and Stuart O'Grady rounding out the top five at 18 and 21 seconds.
Zabel was second to Petacchi in the Stage 7 sprint finish, with Saeco's Gabriele Balducci third.
Tirreno-Adriatico: Petacchi the last stage, Bettini the overall
Fassa Bortolo Alessandro Petacchi took the final stage at Tirreno-Adriatico today, and QuickStep-Davitamon's Paolo Bettini took overall honors.
You would have to be nuts to bet against Petacchi at Saturday's Milan-San Remo.
March 15, 2004
That's a photo finish
(Click through for photos)
Paolo Bettini won an incredibly close sprint at Tirreno-Adriatico today to hold on to the race leader's jersey with one stage to race. With the win, Bettini leads Oscar Freire in the GC, but by only 7 seconds. Considering the winner's time bonus for tomorrow's stage, Freire could win the overall by taking the stage and keeping Bettini out of the top three.
Bettini, of the QuickStep-Davitamon team, also won Saturday's Stage 4. He's the defending champ at Milan-San Remo, scheduled for Saturday, and clearly has the early-season conditioning to place well there.
Gaumont dishing drug details
In an interview with Le Monde (in French) published this morning, Philippe Gaumont detailed how he and other riders subverted drug controls while racing.
The 31-year-old Frenchman says that certain products he claims are used in the pro peloton, such as human growth hormone and testosterone, are not detectable in doping controls and that "riders use them as and when they want to." According to Gaumont, blood transfusions are also undetectable, "but blood transfusions are limited to the top riders because you have to pay for the services of a doctor to carry them out."
Gaumont also claims many riders use Nasacort, an allergy-fighting nasal spray, because it can mask the use of cortisone. Gaumont played down random testing, as well: "[T]hey are not that random...it is easy to prepare yourself and be sure of not being positive."
The former Cofidis pro says he hopes his comments will allow the French Cycling Federation to "try to understand how doping takes place."
Italy's Pistol Petacchi
Eurosport has a fairly lengthy interview with Alessandro Petacchi, “eyeing the top prize at the Milan-San Remo super classic.”
In a sprint there is no more fearsome competitor than Petacchi. Fluid and powerful, Petacchi's sprint jumps are colossal, humiliating the rest of cycling's best into a race for second place.
But unlike the dangerous bumper-car tactics of many sprint demons - where thrown elbows and sketchy sprint trajectories are the norm - Petacchi is squeaky clean, earning the 30-year-old the nickname of 'The Gentleman.'
"I have no idea where the name comes from," he says.
"Maybe some journalist created it. I can't remember who used it for me for the first time, but it corresponds to me. I am a correct person, and this nickname fits me well."
Vande Velde: Where's your green card?
Former US Postal rider Christian Vande Velde sat out Paris-Nice after discovering he lacked appropriate documentation to work for a European team.
Vande Velde's status wasn't a problem last year, when he rode for a US team, but since joining Liberty Seguros, Vande Velde has learned of the documentation requirements.
"I'm in limbo right now," he said Monday. "I hope I'm not making a bigger deal about this than it is, but it makes me nervous. It might take a couple of weeks and I need to be racing as soon as possible. I can't afford to be sitting on the couch."
Vande Velde may have to return to the U.S. to apply for Spanish residency, since many countries don't allow conversion between types of visas.
"Hopefully that's not going to happen," he said. "We're meeting with some people on Wednesday and hopefully put me on a fast track. I'm going to be very, very, very upfront with them - I need to be racing my bike as soon as possible."
USPS announces Milan-San Remo squad
Lance Armstrong had suggested early this season that he would probably race at Milan-San Remo, the traditional kickoff race for the spring classics, which is Saturday.
US Postal has announced its Milan-San Remo team, and it's one that could make some noise:
George Hincapie, 5th at Paris-Nice
Floyd Landis, overall winner in Murcia
Max van Heeswijk, coming off 4 stage wins in the Tour of Murcia and the Ruta del Sol
Graham Watson Paris-Nice Stage 8 photo gallery
Looks like Watson got to spend some time on the race motos on Sunday; the photo gallery for the stage tells the day's story without wasting a thousand words.
Paris-Nice: Vino wins a 3rd stage; Jaksche takes the overall
Paris-Nice wrapped Sunday, with the CSC team controlling the action for Jorg Jaksche, who won wire-to-wire. CSC also placed Bobby Julich 3rd and Jens Voigt 4th, while David Rebellin of Gerolsteiner was 2nd, and US Postal's George Hincapie rounded out the top 5.
VeloNews reports the dominance of the CSC team has led to doping rumors, which have seemingly become the norm if a team or rider puts in a strong performance. Team director Bjarne Riis, a former Tour winner:
"I think we simply rode well in the first few days, and came up with some good tactics. We spent a lot of time working as a collective. I don't see a lot of teams riding like us. There are some journalists who say anything without actually looking at our performances."
Vinokourov again showed the power that put him on the podium at last year's Tour, breaking away from a leading group shadowed only by Denis Menchov, who took second on the stage. Vinokourov also won on Saturday, and on Thursday, in the stage race that last year saw the death of his close friend Andrei Kivilev, and which Vinokourov has won the last two years.
"The race started badly for me, so that's why I wanted to win stages more than anything," said Vinokourov, who lives in nearby Monte Carlo. "With three wins in such a big race like this, it looks like my form is pretty good at the moment. It augurs well for Milan-San Remo (the first World Cup race of the season on March 20)."
March 13, 2004
Graham Watson Paris-Nice Stage 6 photo gallery
Tirreno-Adriatico: Freire takes stage and lead
Oscar Freire of Rabobank took Stage 3 at Tirreno-Adriatico Friday in a bunch sprint at the end of a stage hard enough to separate the overall contenders from the pure sprinters.
Freire beat Vladimir Duma of Landbouwkrediet to the line, just ahead of fellow Rabobank rider Michael Boogerd. Danilo Hondo of Gerolsteiner and T-Mobile's Erik Zabel rounded out the day's top 5.
The win gives Freire, twice world champion, the overall lead, replacing Alessandro Petacchi, who won the race's first two stages.
Paris-Nice: Menchov a smart victory, Jaksche holds overall
After three riders gapped the field with about 6 miles to go, 2003 Tour white jersey winner Denis Menchov crossed over to the three — Floyd Landis of US Postal, Samuel Sanchez of Euskaltel-Euskadi, and Dave Bruylandts of Chocolade Jacques — then took the 4-man sprint at the line, aided when Landis threw a chain in the final hundred meters.
"One of the things that helped me achieve this was the fact that I hadn't really worked that hard for most of the day," the 26-year-old Russian said afterward. "I quietly stayed in the peloton so that I could approach the end of the stage in a relatively fresh state. As I felt good, and I remembered the course a bit from the Tour de France last year, I thought I'd try my luck."
Friday's stage was considered the hardest of the race, which ends Sunday. CSC's Jorg Jaksche, the overall leader, said he's still not comfortable with 14 seconds on Davide Rebellin:
"It's not over even if I think that today was the most difficult," said the German. "I fear above all Sunday's stage, the last day. Vandenbroucke is getting stronger and stronger, and I would have liked to have a bit more of a lead on Rebellin."
CSC remains bunched atop the standings, with Jaksche first, Bobby Julich 3rd at 42 seconds, and Jens Voigt 4th at 46 seconds. Among the non-CSC riders, Gerolsteiner's Rebellin is 2nd at 14 seconds, US Postal's George Hincapie is 5th at 48 seconds, then Frank Vandenbroucke is 6th at 58 seconds.
March 12, 2004
That's not exactly sunflowers
Petacchi: unbeatable at Tirreno-Adriatico
For the second time this season, Alessandro Petacchi has scored back-to-back stage wins, and he's beaten Mario Cipollini in all four of those stages. Naturally, Petacchi leads the overall (since he's won both stages so far). That's likely to change tomorrow, as the race heads into the mountains.
Cipollini still says he'll beat Petacchi, pointing to Milan-San Remo March 20th.
March 11, 2004
Leipheimer: Still Rabobank's GC man
VeloNews has an interview with Levi Leipheimer, 8th in the 2002 Tour before crashing out in the big Stage 1 pileup last year.
"I'm still the sole GC rider, but we have numerous stage winners, Dekker, Boogerd, Rasmussen, Hunter, Freire, we've got a very good team. Every person can get a result, win a stage and we've always done well in the team time trial."
Leipheimer likes his chances in the uphill time trial, and echoes Lance Armstrong's criticism of the Tour's new rule limiting rider time losses in the team time trial (TTT):
"That rule is kind of stupid. If you can lose six minutes riding at 90 percent, you might as well go 90 percent. It's a big difference riding a time trial at 100 percent. Then they just shouldn't have a TTT if they're discerning in that way."