May 31, 2004
Ullrich 2nd at Tour of Germany prologue
Jan Ullrich showed very good form Monday, finishing second to Gerolsteiner's Michael Rich in the Tour of Germany's opening time trial. Third on the day was Gerolsteiner's Uwe Peschel.
"I don’t know why people are so worried," Ullrich told the assembled media. "All I did was not start a couple of races because they were too early in the season. I’m not worried at all. I’m here at the Tour of Germany to test myself, but not to win."
Ullrich is 30 seconds ahead of Jens Voigt, who finished 2nd to Lance Armstrong in the Tour de Georgia last month, and who must be considered the early favorite for the overall because of the strength his CSC team has shown this year.
Armstrong scouts Mortirolo in Italian Alps
Cyclingnews.com quotes from an interview between Lance Armstrong and La Gazzetta dello Sport. Apparently, Armstrong is training in the Italian Alps, and rode the Mortirolo, the hardest climb in Saturday's Stage 19 of the Giro.
"It's a terrible climb...it's perfect for a mountain bike. On the hardest parts, I was riding a 39x27 and I was hurting, really hurting. (Mortirolo) is the hardest climb I've ever ridden. My time up the climb? It's not important; I rode the Mortirolo to have some fun and ride with the 'cicloamatori'...there were a few raindrops, but it was a great day.
This year's Tour goes nowhere near the Italian Alps, leading the interviewer to ask if Armstrong is planning to ride next year's Giro:
"You never know..."
Graham Watson Giro d'Italia Stage 20 gallery updated
All the standard last-stage shots are here: the jersey winners all together, the winner's team (notably missing is Simoni), and the sprint winner, Petacchi.
Cunego crowned, Petacchi extends record at Giro
Italy's newest cycling hero had his coming-out party in Milan on Sunday, as Damiano Cunego finished off his biggest victory, in the 2004 Giro d'Italia. Cunego becomes the races youngest winner since Giuseppe Saronni in 1979.
On the stage, Alessandro Petacchi extended his modern Giro record for stage wins to 8, ahead of Marco Zannotti in 2nd.
Cunego's GC lead was attacked, by Saeco teammate Gilberto Simoni among others, on Saturday, but Sunday's flat stage was more of a coronation.
Serhiy Honchar finished in second overall, 2:02 back, while 2001 and 2003 Giro winner Simoni was 3rd.
"His future is incredible, he can win many races. He's already four or five years ahead of the others," said Saeco's sport director, Giuseppe Martinelli. "He's not your typical rider. He's a strong climber, but has a quick sprint.
Petacchi on the stage win record:
"The first win was a liberation and the last was something special, but all the victories were important," Petacchi told Reuters after leading the pack home again on Sunday.
"After three weeks of racing and all the mountain stages I was very tired, but I was pleased the way I won the sprint. I had another great lead-out from my teammates and Zanotti and the other sprinters were well behind me at the line."
VeloNews on the internecine squabble between teammates Simoni and Cunego:
Though team officials tried to play it down, the split within the Saeco team has been the major story in the Italian press.
"Cunego deserved to win this Giro," Martinelli insisted. "He proved he was the strongest and the team supported him. For him to win is incredible. No one expected it."
Following Cunego's Saturday-morning press conference, Saeco riders and staff dressed in pink to pose for a picture - except Simoni, who refused to join the love fest. One newspaper reported Simoni would try to break his final year with Saeco to join another team, possibly Quick Step or his former team Lampre.
It's certain that the two men will not ride this year's Tour de France together, whether as teammates or as rivals - Cunego says he might not tackle that grand tour until 2006. As for Simoni, he refused to talk about the upcoming Tour. Part of his plan for the 2004 season was to come into the Giro fresher with the idea to be stronger in July.
"I don't want to think about the Tour. I've been racing for 20 days, and all I want to do is go home and see my family," Simoni said. "After that I'll come up with some plan to conquer the world."
May 30, 2004
Jan showing better fitness
At the TEAG Hainleite Saturday, Jan Ullrich finished 5th, 13 seconds down on Gerolsteiner's Peter Wrolich.
Next up is the Tour of Germany, starting this week.
"I wanted to test myself, and it went well today," the 1997 Tour de France winner commented after the race Saturday.
"I don't expect to be able to win yet [at the Tour of Germany]," Ullrich conceded nonetheless. "Unfortunately that's not within my control."
Eurosport has an excellent look at the career of Damiano Cunego, the Giro d'Italia champion-in-waiting, who's likely to take the biggest victory in his career later today in Milan.
The Eurosport article goes so far as to compare Cunego to 3 former champions: Marco Pantani, Bernard Hinault (the only Giro winner with more stage victories than Cunego's 4), and Fausto Coppi himself (one of few Giro winners younger than 22-year-old Cunego).
When during Thursday's first Dolomites stage from San Vendemiano to Falzes, it became clear that it was not Simoni's day, Cunego pounced on his date with destiny, securing the pink jersey and signing the deed the next day with the win in Bormio.
And what's next for Cunego? He won his junior world championship in Verona, his hometown in 1999, and the city plays host to the senior road worlds this year, so mark Cunego as a favorite there.
May 26, 2004
Rodriguez in or out for Athens?
cyclingnews.com has a go at handicapping the selection process for the US Olympic road race team (PDF), focusing on whether twice-US PRO champion (and recent Giro stage winner) Fred Rodriguez is likely to make the 5-man team.
Rodriguez, probably the best US sprinter, and therefore one of the best US chances on the sprinter-friendly Athens route, could easily be left on the sidelines. There are already 5 riders with automatic qualifiers, and there's very likely to be a 6th after the USA Cycling USA Cycling Olympic Trials race in Redlands, CA June 19th.
The winner of the Trials in June has highest priority to make the team. Next are Lance Armstrong and Tyler Hamilton, who finished in the Top 5 in a grand tour over the last year. Then comes Bobby Julich, based on his top-five at Paris-Nice, then George Hincapie, for being ranked in the UCI World Cup Top 25 (he's 15th), and finally Floyd Landis, for being in the top 50 of the UCI road rankings.
Cyclingnews suggests that Rodriguez still can get in as a discretionary selection, but rule I(d)(4) looks clear:
Discretionary Nomination Criteria If positions remain open after the automatic nominations are exhausted, additional athletes may be nominated to the team based on USA Cycling Principles of Discretion.
As I read it, it looks like not only Rodriguez but Floyd Landis might be out if they don't win the Olympic trials race. Of course, there's a chance that some of the higher-priority riders might choose not to race.
Posted by Frank Steele on May 26, 2004 in 2004 Olympics, Bobby Julich, Floyd Landis, Fred Rodriguez, George Hincapie, Lance Armstrong 2004, Tyler Freaking Hamilton | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Ullrich returns to racing; training hits high gear
Procycling quotes a posting on JanUllrich.de (in German) that Ullrich is exiting a 4-week period of "intensive training" in Tuscany.
Ullrich will suit up Saturday at the TEAG Hainleite, then race in the Tour of Germany, starting May 31.
In a statement clearly designed both to hit back at his critics and to reassure his supporters, Ullrich claimed: "I didn’t embark on a training blitz in May because I lacked fitness: in fact, after so many weeks of hard work early in the year I had a very good base.
"In the first few real competitive tests I just realised that I lacked a bit of race rhythm. I’ve improved that now," Ullrich concluded.
May 25, 2004
GrahamWatson.com Giro Stage 16 photo gallery posted
Graham Watson has posted his photos from today's potentially decisive stage at the Giro d'Italia. As usual, he's right in the middle of the action.
Cunego in pink jersey after Tuesday stage win
Damiano Cunego of Italy's Saeco team has taken over the lead at the Giro d'Italia. Cunego put more than a minute into all opponents with a solo breakaway with 12 kilometers to ride.
Two-time defending champion Gilberto Simoni, Cunego's teammate, lost 2:30 on the stage, and sits 4th, 2:38 back.
Cunego is one of the great young hopes of Italian cycling; he was the world junior road champion in 1999.
Cunego paid justifiable tribute to his team-mates, especially Simoni as the two-time champion had set out at the start of the race as the team leader but had confessed earlier in the event that if Cunego was stronger than him then he should go for it.
"'Gibo' (Simoni) is a great leader, a true champion" said Cunego.
"He left it to me to race my race. The situation is a little complex but he accepts it at the moment.
"We will carry on racing alongside each other, without annoying one another."
Former race leader Yaroslav Popovych lost more than 4 minutes Tuesday, with more climbing to come.
Cunego isn't counting his chickens just yet:
"The pink jersey in Milan? There is still a long way to go," said Cunego.
Simoni played along with Saeco's team tactics, perhaps at his own expense. The two-time Giro champion could only watch as Cunego rode to victory in the 217km stage from San Vendemiano to Falzes.
"Damiano was the strongest today and the team supported him," said Simoni, who fell to fourth at 2:38 back of his young protégé. "It puts us in good position to win the Giro once again, which is the top goal for the team."
McEwen exits Giro
Robbie McEwen has abandoned the Giro d'Italia, avoiding the last week of mountain climbing to focus on the green jersey competition at the Tour de France.
"I've already had a lot of racing this season and I've got to think of the Tour de France," said McEwen, second in Monday's 15th stage behind Italian Alessandro Petacchi, before he flew home to Belgium.
May 24, 2004
Abt with Beloki update
It's not the best of news for Beloki fans, but Samuel Abt chimes in with the latest on Beloki's progress: while most of the other Tour contenders have been competing in major events, Joseba is off training in the Pyrenees with his younger brother Gorka, with no result better than a 42nd at the Clasica Alcobendas. Nevertheless, that result apparently cheered his Brioches La Boulangere manager, Jean-Rene Bernaudeau:
"He's very professional, and he has an obsession about the Tour de France," he said of his rider after the Clasica Alcobendas. "He's sure of himself, and he's passing every test he puts himself through. He's not that far behind where he ought to be."
Few would agree with that assessment.
Coming Soon? Tour of California endorsed by state
The new event is expected to be part of the Pro Cycling Tour, along with the T-Mobile International in San Francisco, the BMC New York City Championship, and the Wachovia Cycling Series in Philadelphia, and will be run by Threshold Sports LLC and California Pro Cycling.
Former LA mayor (and state Secretary of Education) Richard Riordan will oversee the project for the state and serve on its advisory board.
California Pro Cycling, the company that will organize the event was formed and funded by business executives with a passion for cycling. According to their president, Ken Bishop, the company has been planning the event for nearly two years: “The United States needs a high profile international stage race and California has the terrain, scenic beauty and major media markets that will make this one of the biggest annual sporting events in the world in California’s tradition of hosting world class events like the Olympic Games, World Cup Soccer, Breeder’s Cup and more, ” Bishop said.
It seems this is bad news for the increasingly successful Tour de Georgia, since there's never been room on the US schedule for more than one big-name stage race.
State endorsement and seed financing from California Pro Cycling will help launch the effort to secure interested corporate sponsors and media partners, an effort that will continue until the $5 million required to stage the event is raised. “The interest level from sponsors is quite high”, said Bishop. “We are optimistic about securing funding to launch the event in 2005 or, at the latest, Spring 2006.”
Sheryl Crow in France promoting film and foundation
Update on Sheryl Crow, who performed in Cannes Saturday, to support an MGM movie, "De-Lovely", about Cole Porter, in which she stars with Kevin Kline, Ashley Judd and Jonathan Pryce.
She laughed off rumours that she's moving to Europe and building a villa with boyfriend Lance Armstrong.
"That's just one of many, many things that I've heard about Lance and me," she said. "He's here training and I'm here with him and then when he finishes the Tour de France -- wait, when he finishes winning the Tour de France -- we'll be going back to America."
Petacchi wins his eighth!
Alessandro Petacchi surprised no one today when he set the modern record for stage wins in a single Giro d'Italia. Petacchi edged Australia's Robbie McEwen and Germany's Olaf Pollack for the stage win.
Four riders were as much as 10 minutes ahead of the field early, but the Fassas brought them back to give Petacchi a shot at the record.
Yaroslav Popovych of Landbouwkrediet-Colnago retains the overall lead, but it's pretty much time for the climbers to take over, which Popovych thinks could happen as soon as tomorrow:
"It is the stage that I fear the most," said the 24-year-old, who holds a lead of 1:27 over defending Giro champion Gilberto Simoni. "I know I am going to be attacked and it is feasible that I will lose the maglia rosa. After that I will just take each stage as it comes."
GrahamWatson.com Languedoc photo galleries updated
(Click through for galleries)
Graham Watson has posted his gallery from Armstrong's stage win on Sunday at the Tour du Languedoc-Roussillon.
Armstrong wins final stage at Languedoc
Lance Armstrong showed his Tour de France preparation is right on schedule with a mountaintop win in Sunday's final stage of the Tour du Languedoc-Roussillon. Christophe Moreau of Credit Agricole won the overall, 46 seconds ahead of US Postal's Viatcheslav Ekimov.
"At this time of the year, I know where my fitness level should be -- I think I'm there," said Armstrong, confirming that he will race the June 6-13 Dauphine-Libere, his last major racing test before the Tour de France kicks off in Liege, Belgium on July 3.
Petacchi looks to set Giro stage recordYahoo! Sport | Petacchi in seventh heaven after equalling Giro record
If he wants to win, nobody is stopping Alessandro Petacchi. He's won half the stages in this year's Giro d'Italia, with a week still to ride. That equals the modern record of 7 stage wins shared by Freddy Maertens, Roger De Vlaeminck, and Beppe Saronni. Back in the stone age, Alfredo Binda won 12 stages in 1927. Asked how many stages in total he thought he could win, Petacchi said he likes the profile of two more stages:
"There are still two stages left where sprints are possible, this Monday and next Sunday. But the next stage is long and the team is starting to feel the effects of working for me so much.Yaroslav Popovych of the Ukraine will spend at least today in the pink jersey, as he holds the overall lead by 3 seconds over Serhiy Honchar, with Bradley McGee of Australia 1:02 back, and 2-time defending Giro champion Gilberto Simoni looming 1:27 back. The last week is mostly one for the climbers, where Simoni has traditionally excelled. Also: VeloNews | Seven
"Plus, the mountains are just around the corner and we have to think about saving some energy."
Petacchi added: "Seven victories - it hasn't quite sunk in. To equal Saronni is just unbelievable. He was on[e] of my idols."
May 23, 2004
Abt on Cipollini 'retirement'
Samuel Abt has a story on Mario Cipollini's latest retirement in today's New York Times (free registration required). He goes into the posturing and grandiosity that have made Cipo's career, but even Abt seems uncertain whether Cipollini really means it this time:
"I'm leaving with a sense of incompleteness," Cipollini said. "After all that I've done, it's strange, at 37, to leave with that feeling."
That's Mario, his teammates responded. All he needs to set him right is a victory.
Quoting Cipollini's manager, Vincenzo Santoni:
Cipollini's lifestyle ... was no longer compatible with the team's regimen because he wants to sleep in suites while his teammates share rooms and "fly in business class when the rest of us are in economy."
Santoni said, "We wanted to have a training stage in Sicily, but he insisted on South Africa." (That cost about $82,000.)
"Et cetera," Santoni added, leaving that offense unexplained.
I suppose we'll know between now and July 3rd.
May 20, 2004
Euskaltel names Tour squad
Procycling quotes a story on the Spanish site todociclismo.com that Euskaltel has chosen its Tour team, opting for a team stronger than last year's on the flats, but not quite as strong in the mountains.
The biggest name to miss out is 2001 Tour?s stage-winner at Luz Ardiden, Roberto Laiseka, who is named as first reserve for the team. Samuel Sanchez and Alberto Lopez de Munain are also overlooked.
I can't find the original story on the web site in question, but if correct, the Euskaltel team would be: Iban Mayo, Haimar Zubeldia, David Etxebarria, Unai Etxtebarria, Mikel Artetxe, Iñigo Landaluze, Igor Camaño, Iker Flores, and Egoi Martinez. Martinez has shown the potential to be a grand tour winner, winning last year's Tour de l'Avenir, a Tour limited to riders under 25.
Zubeldia was 5th overall at last year's Tour, and Mayo was 6th.
May 19, 2004
How many Giro stages will Petacchi win?
Alessandro Petacchi is just unbeatable at this stage of his career. I can't remember anther sprinter who just took stages by the fistful like he is right now.
Today he took his fifth stage (of 10 so far) in the Giro d'Italia.
Vail pro race for September canceled
The previously announced Rocky Mountain Classic at Vail is dead before it began, as organizers gave up the hunt for sponsorship:
"It's really a shame. We just couldn't land that big sponsor," said Rick Chastain of Legacy Sports Marketing, a local firm working on the event with national promoter Threshold Sports.
Organizers had an agreement with Lance Armstrong, who is also scheduled to race in San Francisco in September, to appear for the inaugural event. There's apparently a small chance the race will resurface next year, but even some organizers express their doubts in the news story. Update 6/10/04: The Boulder newspaper published an article on the cancellation and chances for a 2005 race.
Giro rest day update: Fast Freddy stage win; which Saeco?Tuesday was a rest day in the Giro d'Italia, so the riders take stock and look forward to the more tactical stages over the next 2 weeks. One of the big surprises of the Giro so far was Monday's victory by Fred Rodriguez of the United States, riding for Acqua e Sapone, who took Alessandro Petacchi straight up in a sprint, something almost no one has been able to do this year. “Fast Freddy” has his account of the victory online at VeloNews. Rodriguez timed his sprint masterfully, out-thinking Petacchi to the line:
“Usually right before the sprint, there's a little let-down. It comes just as the lead out guy finally starts to die, but before, say Petacchi, surges to the line. So I really just tried to anticipate that surge and, at that point, I jumped on the left side into the headwind, put it in my 54x11 and put my head down. Somewhere along there - maybe 100 meters from the line - I saw Petacchi come along side me, but he didn't have the legs to come around.”VeloNews handicaps the current standings, and suggest keeping an eye on Australia's Bradley McGee, who's 1:49 back. There are two Saecos atop the standings, but the team minimizes any friction between Damiano Cunego and 2-time Giro d'Italia winner Gilberto Simoni. From The Daily Peloton:
“I learn something new from Gilberto everyday,” Damiano Cunego says. “Damiano is giving me a big hand by sharing the responsibilty of the team leadership,” explains Gilberto Simoni.Simoni says he's marking Stefano Garzelli as a rival for the overall race victory. The Daily Peloton also has three pages of photos from the Giro prologue, back on May 8th. Friday is a key stage for Alessandro Petacchi, whose team sponsor, Fassa Bortolo, and bike sponsor, Pinarello, both hail from Treviso, where the stage ends.
Bruyneel: New sponsor found, Armstrong in great shape
Johan Bruyneel has tipped off the future of the team currently known as US Postal. The team has found a new sponsor (Subaru? Nike?) and, as a result, Bruyneel said Lance Armstrong will not retire no matter the outcome of the 2005 Tour, as had been suggested in an Italian press report. Bruyneel said Armstrong is in great shape, and has started his final preparations for the Tour:
"Lance seems to me very well mentally. Physically, he's fitter than last year, which is not difficult given the problems he had."
Next up is the Tour du Languedoc-Roussillon, where Postal will be trying to work out the final makeup of its Tour squad.
May 16, 2004
Petacchi takes 4th stage win at Giro
Alessandro Petacchi's 2004 is looking a lot like his 2003: If he shows up, and there's a sprint, he's going to take it.
Sunday, he took the Giro's eighth stage, for his 4th stage win so far.
Robbie McEwen took 2nd, and Lithuania's Tomas Vaitkus was 3rd. McEwen is the only man not named Alessandro to win a sprint stage so far this year, when he took Thursday's stage.
Damiano Cunego of Saeco continues in the pink leader's jersey, after his masterful stage win on Saturday.
Cipollini: 'I think that my career ends here'
Mario Cipollini dropped out of the Giro on Saturday. The Lion King holds the record for Giro stage wins, but hadn't won a stage in this year's Tour of Italy, the first time he's come away empty-handed.
Add in an injury suffered during Wednesday's stage, and 3 stage wins so far by Cipo's heir apparent, Alessandro Petacchi, and it was a little more than Italian cycling's prima ballerina could handle:
"It is possible that my career will stop here. It is difficult to find stimulation. For now, I don't want to think about the Tour de France," Cipollini told reporters.
Of course, Cipo announces retirements like J-Lo announces engagements; this is at least the third I remember.
Procycling.com also has a very good wrap-up of Cipollini's Giro, and his current state.