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Phonak for Spain
By Anita van Crey
Date: 9/5/2003
Phonak for Spain
-By Sven Martin (a.k.a. xxginesxx from )-

The upcoming Tour of Spain offers the last possibility for the Swiss Phonak Team, to arrange the disappointing season so far in 2003 still bearable. The non-participation at the Tour de France, which was the main goal of the season ,was a hard blow for the Equipe. Team manager Urs Freuler even cancelled a participation in the Giro d'Italia this year, in order to bundle all forces for july.

Afterwards an error, as turned out. Thus is the Tour of Spain the only "Grand Tour" for one of the most expensive crews in the professional cycling circus. Whether improvement is in view for the three weeks in Spain, may be questioned nevertheless very much, because the performance was quiet poor so far.
At the head of the team leading stands the Spaniard Alvaro Pino, a man with a large experience both as a racing cyclist, and in responsible position for a team as a director. Long years he was director of the Kelme team and brought out such great riders as Heras, Botero, Rubiera or Sevilla.
The nine riders for Phonak Hearing Systems in the 2003 Vuelta a Espana: Captain of the team ist the two times Vuelta winner of the years 1996 and 1997, Alex Zülle. Whether he can tie to his old successes, may be doubted with the meanwhile 35-year old Swiss. The season passed everything else than satisfying, after Zülle was joining Phonak due to the Coast financial disaster in spring. The sympathic Swiss rider could not bring one victory home to his new team and even missed sometimes the time limit in some races, among these was the GP Villafranca de Ordizia in Spain at the end of july. It would be a big surprise, if Zülle can reach some good results in the upcoming stages at the Vuelta.

Just like Zülle, Niki Aebersold joined the team in the spring as a result of the uncertain future of Team Coast. Unfortunately Aebersold stayed far behind expectations, too. But his form curve showed already in the last years constantly downward, after he changed from Rabobank to Team Coast in 2001. Former Swiss champion could not already fulfill the expectations in the Coast-Team. If his preparation for the Vuelta was well and he can show some good form, it might be possible getting out for a stage win.

The Spaniard Gonzalo Bayarri changed during the past season from the Spanish Fuenlabrada-Team to Phonak, after he could obtain outstanding results such as his great performance in the Vuelta a Catanluya. This year he only made exclusively attentive by placing in the "grupetto" in many races. Outstanding results were rare things.

Cyril Dessel from France changed at the beginning of the year of the French Jean Delatour-Equipe into Switzerland. He will be an important team assistant to catch water or waiting for the captain, but he is not a winning rider. The same applies to the German Bert Grabsch.

With Juan Carlos Dominguez from Spain an experienced man and excellent time trialist stands in the team. In the past Dominguez celebrated many victories during smaller stage races (among other things the Bicicleta Vasca) owing to his abilities in the "contre-la-montre". He won the prologue in the Giro d'Italia 2001 and is primarily support for the team time-trial.

Oscar Pereiro is one of the few riders, who fulfilled expectations set into him. He won one mountain-stage in the Tour der Suisse and occupied in the final general classification an outstanding third total rank. Furthermore he has reached top-20-results in big races like Flèche Wallone, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Paris-Nice. Therefore the 26-year old Spaniard is considered as the biggest hope in the fight for front placing.

With Santiago Perez Urs Freuler engaged a newcomer of the past year. Still in the Kelme-jersey Perez celebrated an impressing stage-win at the Giro d'Italia, where he defeated some of the big Italian names as Gilberto Simoni, Stefano Garzelli and Francesco Casagrande. However in this season diseases and injuries threw him far back, so that he could not tie so far to his successes of the previous year.

The Belo-Russian rider Alexander Usov won in this season two races: First he won in february the Trofeo Cala Millor on the isle of Mallorca. Afterwards he was a winner in the first stage of the Clasica Alcobendas in the month of may. He is known as a good sprinter, but it remains to be waiting, how good his chances are in the competition against such great sprinters as Alessandro Petacchi or Erik Zabel.

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