Euskaltel Euskadi – the futures bright team presentation and Mayo feature, Georgia on Armstrong's mind, Bruyneel's Reactions and Parcours latest
The Future's Bright – the future's orange
24 riders were presented at the Palacio Euskalduna in Bilbao today and the team is geared to improving on its sucess in 2003.
The team, which has grown from a co-operative organisation to a major force in cycling, has a clear goal for 2004 – a podium place in the Tour de France 2004. Once again the team has two Aces in its pack, the climber Iban Mayo, for whom the parcours of the Tour de France in 2004 seems ideal, and also the time trialist Haimar Zubeldia, who provded to have the talent to stay with the best climbers in the last race.
The sport director of the Euskaltel, Julián Gorospe, wants "to improve" upon the fifth and sixth positions his riders reached last year, and with both riders being just 26 years old that is surely not a Director's fantasy, in 2004 they should be stronger and more importantly more experianced to move up the placings.
But while Mayo and Zubeldia will be thinking about French highways, the team have many other targets, amongst them the Vuelta a España, la Vuelta al País Vasco, la Bicicleta Vasca and certain Classics. The responsibility to shine in these races is down to the likes of the Etxebarria boys, Unai and David, both very strong day races and certain stages in the great Tours, and Samuel Sanchez, a young rider who did not get the success he deserved in 2003.
Roberto Laiseka is always a pleasure to watch in the mountains of the grand Tours; Gorka González had an excellent Vuelta a España, while riders like Iñigo Landaluze, Mikel Artetxe, Iker Flores and Alberto López de Munai, are not only excellent team riders but also have the talent to take victories when the opportunity arises.
Egoi Martinez, winner of the last Tour de l'Avenir, is another exciting prospect to watch while less responsibility will be placed on Iker Camaño, who arrives from Phonak with two year's experience, and Joseba Albizu, if indeed he can sort out his contactual problems with Mercatone Uno to join the team. The other five new arrivals are Koldo Fernández de Larrea, Markel Irizar, Antton Luengo, Aketza Peña and Gorka Verdugo, all who will take time to become established in the team.
Hold the Mayo
Talking to the Deia publication Iban Mayo revealed much about his personality. Although he admits to being very driven... "I am ambitious, and I hope to get a stage win and a podium in the Tour", his feet are clearly on the ground. Asked wether he had indulged in luxuries after his sucessful 2003 season, he replied “I do not know if it is a luxury, but have refurnished the floor and I have cancelled out my credit. I wanted to buy a car, a BMW M3, but by misfortune it was sold to someone else. Now I am hoping to that they bring another one to me. Meanwhile I am still in my Astra”.
Now 7 kilos over racing weight, Mayo started training in January and has ridden around 4000 kilometres. His programme will be similar to last season. “Almería, Vuelta a Murcia, Setmana Catalana, Lizarra, País Vasco, Aragón or the Classics, Alcobendas, Asturias, Euskal Bizikleta and Volta Ciclista a Catalunya or Dauphiné, then the Tour."
However Mayo is not obssessed by the Tour. “I know that the Tour is there, but I do not like to be obsessive about things – obviously as July approaches you start thinking about it more seriously. But I do like this year's Tour more than last year's; the time trial on Alpe d’Huez is near the end of the race which is an advantage, and in the team time trial we can only lose, at the most, we will lose two minutes 30 seconds. That is a great advantage to us.”
Of course Zubeldia and Mayo, all being well, will start off as joint leaders for the Euskatel team but who does Mayo think will do best – “It is difficult to say it. When Haimar is on form, in the mountains and the time trials he is up with the best. He can even do very well in the Mountain time trial. The first part of the race favours me but the second with that long time trial gives Haimar the advantage. I want to win a stage and finish on the podium. It is a very ambitious objective, but last year has given me confidence and I believe I can do it. Zubeldia can do the same, although physically it might cost him more to win a stage. But he has every right to think he can make the podium – indeed it would be good for the team if we were both up there."
Can Mayo imagine attacking Zubeldia, or vice versa? – “No, I do not believe that will happen. At least, I cannot imagine it happening. Someday somebody or something will defeat Armstrong. Who? The biggest favourite is Ullrich, and clearly he dreams of this. It's amazing that his worse position ever in the race has been second. After him however there are several riders.
And what are the strengths and weaknesses of Mayo and Haimar? - “I am a rider who gives 100%, I am not afraid to take risks, to be brave, to go for the victory. However I am always well prepared – however sometimes I try too hard, too soon. That is Haimar’s strength – he is more calculating than me, he is a very calm and relaxed person and he knows when to make his move. However, sometimes he lacks a little character, and could give more. I wish I could time trial as well as he does, but slowly I have improved.
Who is better? That I cannot say. Some will think that he is, and another one will think that I am. We are two different riders but with the same objective. If I cannot achieve that, what better than help a team mate who can?
Photo courtesy Equipoeuskadi.com
Armstrong has Georgia on his mind
Lance Armstrong will race in the 2004 Tour de Georgia, which will be a huge boost for the race in its second year.
Armstrong had already indicated a radical shift from his normal Tour preparation and this decision is based partly on his desire to spend more time with his young family. It will mean that he will miss such Classic one day races as Liège - Bastogne – Liège which were previously on his programme.
The parcours of the Tour de Georgia have not yet been finalised (see below for more details) but it is expected that the number and difficulty of climbs in the race will be increased to accomodate the 5 times Tour winner.
Euro-sceptics, who already point to Armstrong's difficulties in the 2003 Tour being in part due to lack of hard racing, will be wondering how the US Postal team will line up for the event and to whether the race is ideal preparation for the Tour de France.
Johan Bruyneel held his card very close to his chest regarding team selection -
"Following a successful first year, we are pleased the Dodge Tour de Georgia has fit into our team's racing schedule in 2004, a year that could be a historic one for both our team and the sport," said Johan Bruyneel, sports manager of the USPS cycling team. "Led by Lance, we will send a strong team to the race in the hopes of improving on our team's fourth and fifth place overall finishes last year."
Regardless of the team, it is a huge boost for cycle racing in the USA which has lost several important sponsors in the close season.
"This is huge for the state of Georgia in terms of the national and international focus that will be in Georgia," Stan Holm, executive director of Tour de Georgia, told The Macon Telegraph. "Not only will cyclists be watching because it's Lance Armstrong, the best professional cyclist in the world, but also Lance is a personality to himself."
AP reports that "Obviously, we are really, really, really excited," said Dan Osipow, the general manager of Tailwind Sports, which manages and owns the United States Postal Service cycling team for which Armstrong races.
"We know Lance's presence this year, when he will be attempting a sixth Tour de France, will generate a ton of excitement," Osipow said. "It's a mini-Tour de France."
About the Tour de Georgia
Tour de Georgia is America’s premier professional cycling stage race that, for six days, traverses the State of Georgia. The event attracts world-class cyclists, fans, enthusiasts and visitors from across the U.S. and around the world. Billed as a “rolling festival,” a series of free, family events drawing huge crowds in the host venue cities and along the race route, this unique sporting event has three purposes:
Create a significant, positive economic impact across Georgia - particularly in the rural counties of Georgia.
Benefit the Georgia Cancer Coalition (GCC).
Establish a professional cycling event that will grow beyond Georgia and become the world’s fourth Grand Touring event, joining Tour de France, Vuelta a España and Giro d’Italia at the elite level of professional cycling.
Tour de Georgia Official site
Regarding the parcours the Gainesville Times reports
Read Full Original Article here
The professional bicycling event that whizzed into Gainesville last spring is due back April 23. If city and county officials decide they want it.
Helen Fincher of the Gainesville-Hall County Convention & Visitors Bureau told the Gainesville City Council on Thursday she learned only the night before that Dodge will sponsor Tour de Georgia again and organizers want to return to Gainesville.
This time, though, a leg of the cross-state race would end in the city on Friday, not Saturday. Also, after starting the next day from Chateau Elan in Braselton, the cyclists probably would bike back through Hall on their way to another stage in the mountains, Fincher said.
Mayor George Wangemann said the city would probe the costs in traffic control and workday disruption. "But my hope is that we can do it," he said. "I think it's grand publicity for Gainesville."
One unknown that would raise exposure is if Lance Armstrong races.
Stan Holm, tour executive director and staff chief for the state's Industry, Trade and Tourism department, said he hopes to learn this week if the five-time Tour de France winner will take part.
"I am optimistic," Holm said.
A second mountain stage would be added to make the race more attractive to Armstrong.
The inaugural six-day race involved 144 cyclists from 17 countries. More than 250,000 people saw them as they pedaled 613 miles across Georgia. More than 500,000 are expected this year, according to Tour de Georgia.
The fourth leg, ranging from Dalton to Gainesville, drew a crowd to Gainesville. It also spurred a lighter than expected economic impact, despite events such as Taste of Gainesville aimed at interesting tourists.
Combined with a woodturners' convention in town for the target weekend this year, Fincher said the 2004 tour could fill every remaining hotel room in Gainesville and Oakwood, boosting the impact.
Council members questioned the impact on city life during Thursday's work session.
City Manager Bryan Shuler said afterward that congestion and disruption were the key issues, even if, as Fincher said, the finish could be scheduled as early as 2:15 p.m.
The 2003 event cost the city less than $10,000 in overtime and other pay for police and Public Works, he said.
The race, set for April 20-25, benefits the Georgia Cancer Coalition
Georgia on my mind? Lance Armstrong by Anita Van Crey.