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Clasica San Sebastian 2004 – The Italian Job
By Podofdonny
Date: 8/5/2004
Clasica San Sebastian 2004 – The Italian Job

The Clasika San Sebastian could well be seen as a show down between the great Italian one day racers. This Spaghetti Western has a list of stars, plots and sub plots which Sergio Leone would have been proud of, although it is not “for a fistful of dollars” that the Italian riders are gathering in San Sebastian, but rather the honour of winning the txapela, the chance to make a point regarding Olympic Gold, not to mention the honour and prestigue of winning the final World Cup.

It is a case of “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” (though the reader can decide which rider fits which description). Davide Rebellin and Danilo Di Luca arrive at the race determined to show the Italian Olympic Selectors wrong, meanwhile the elected sheriff of the Italian Olympic Posse, Paolo Bettini, rides into town with his latest scalp, a victory in the GP Cittá di Camaiore which he won on Wednesday. (To read Fabio’s outstanding race report and post race interviews click here.

Davide Rebellin did not start that race. Talking to DiarioVasco, Bettini said, "Rebellin decided not to start in Camaiore so he would have fresher legs in San Sebastián and maybe win the race. Make no mistake, I am looking to win the race again. I go to San Sebastián to win and also want to repeat my World Cup victory of last year."

The Quickstep rider also has a love of hats - "The cap (txapela) that they gave me last year when I won. I want another."

Having ridden the Tour de France, and indeed, was Polka Dot KOM until he passed it over to team mate Richard Virenque, Bettini will be not only riding for Olympic Gold , but also to win the World Cup. "After the Tour I have trained only lightly, so I could make a full recovery. Although I did not win in Hamburg, I thought I rode a complete race. I attacked, I escaped, I disputed the sprint. The reward was in Camaiore. I believe that I will be the same Bettini that you saw last year in this race and August."

Bettini - Do you know I look taller in this hat?
Courtesy El Mundo Deporte.
Meanwhile “The Cricket” is well aware that this is a key moment in the season - "If I win in San Sebastián or get a top three place then I am still on course for a World Cup Victory. Even so, if Rebellin is ahead of me then it might be too difficult in later races to recover the points though Zurich could also be a key event."

Bettini is also well aware of local “gunslingers” who are looking hot on the draw; Igor Astarloa is the local bookies' favourite: "Igor is riding very well, and he has home advantage. Freire cannot be discounted. The strongest one of all seems to be Astarloa. Rebellin will be with the best. Ivan Basso can be dangerous on a climb like the Jaizkibel."

Mystery Man

As with any spaghetti western, there must be a man who is basically a mystery. Enter stage right, Alejandro Valverde, It would appear that he can sprint, time trial, climb and read a race. Yet has rarely ridden outside Spain, or against real opposition. As Bettini notes, "I hardly know him, but his results are impressive. Valverde is going to be dangerous."

The Outlaw

No prizes for guessing the bad guy. Or is he the good guy? Enter stage left; Pippo Simeoni who leads a Donima Vacanze team that also includes Michele Scarponi U.S Postal include Azevedo, Hincapie, and Rubiera. Both teams would dearly love to be in the final shoot out.

Shoot out - Rebellin's team is looking very determined this afternoon.
Photo courtesy A Fistful of Westerns.

Texas Ranger

In spite of the fact that Lance Armstrong’s career is embraced by San Sebastian, the Lone Ranger of Texas will not be riding in our Spaghetti western.

Armstrong won the event in 1995, but probably a more legendary feat is his last place on his debut in the pro scene in San Sebastian in 1992. Why legendary? Because the next week he was second in Zurich. Awesome riding by the youngster.

Still, Armstrong has not yet quite ridden into the sunset. As Frantisek Bouc reports for the Prague Post, Armstrong continues to ride his own trail. And shame on the “Fans” who should endanger perhaps the greatest outlaw of our times - Lance Armstrong.

Legend Tours Kids' Clinic - Lance Armstrong, here for race, drops by oncology ward

By Frantisek Bouc
Staff Writer
The Prague Post
(August 5, 2004)

He came, he saw, and he lost. Still, he became a hero to many people in the city.

U.S. cycling legend Lance Armstrong arrived in the city July 29, just four days after capturing a record sixth consecutive triumph in the world's most prestigious cycling race, the Tour de France. He took part in an exhibition race on Wenceslas Square July 30.

Competing against 50 top cyclists, Armstrong circled the course 100 times in an 80-kilometer (49.7 miles) race watched by tens of thousands of fans, including celebrities and President Vaclav Klaus. Armstrong finished fifth.

"I was still quite tired after the Tour de France and also the ride on the cobblestones was demanding," he said moments after the race. The race was not the most important thing about Armstrong's two-day visit to Prague, however. The event's organizers, the Triatlon Praha club, said even though Armstrong was paid some 3.5 million Kc ($134,600) in appearance money, perhaps his biggest incentive was an invitation to visit the children's oncology clinic at Prague's Motol hospital. As a cancer survivor himself, Armstrong welcomed the opportunity to continue in his mission of providing hope to cancer patients worldwide.

"We contacted Armstrong's U.S. Postal team last winter and we had to wait for about two months before we actually received a reply from the team," Triatlon Praha director Jaroslav Vasicek said. "One of the most convincing arguments to accept the invitation was an opportunity to visit the pediatric oncology unit at Motol hospital where the kids read Lance's biography."

Armstrong, who survived a bout with testicular cancer that sidetracked his cycling career from 1996 to 1998, said he felt committed to visiting the children. "It's still hard for me to go to a hospital," he said. "I still have fresh memories of my time in hospital and I understand what the patients and families are going through. As a cancer survivor, I think it's my obligation to share my story and to hopefully provide some hope for young patients, for family members, for nurses and doctors."

Indian Welcome

Motol director Miloslav Ludvik said Armstrong is a tremendous icon for children being treated at the oncology unit. "He is a great inspiration for the kids and proof that it is possible to beat the illness," Ludvik said.

Indeed, Armstrong became a hero for the young patients. The children welcomed him to their "Indian camp" and gave the cyclist the Indian name Quick Wind.

Armstrong is the second athlete to receive an Indian name from the children at the hospital. Czech soccer star Karel Poborsky received the name Kicking Deer after visiting the patients last fall.

His visit to the hospital was among the few items on Armstrong's Prague agenda that remained unchanged.

Triatlon Praha's Vasicek said Armstrong's appearance in Prague was jeopardized after there was an incident with drunk fans in Holland who hurled stones at Armstrong's car July 28.

"U.S. Postal [team officials] contacted us several times ... in order to make sure there was not a similar danger in Prague," Vasicek said.

In Prague, four bodyguards escorted Armstrong and his girlfriend, singer Sheryl Crow, wherever they went. This time, it was the cyclist who made unexpected changes. First Armstrong failed to attend a dinner with U.S. Ambassador William Cabaniss after landing in Prague, citing fatigue. Later, Armstrong relocated from a luxurious villa in the upscale Barrandov neighborhood to the Four Seasons hotel in the city center. He and Crow then took a spontaneous night stroll through the city.

"My first impressions were great," Armstrong said. "Prague has a worldwide reputation of a beatiful place; we've got confirmation of that."

On the morning of the race, Armstrong arrived at Motol hospital some 30 minutes late. Not wanting to shorten his stay with the children, he did not spend much time with reporters.

When asked about his career plans, Armstrong, 32, said he was aware that the end of his cycling career was coming. He added that he maybe has one more Tour de France victory in him.

"Obviously, my time is limited. I suspect maybe one more Tour de France victory could come if things go well," Armstrong said.

Armstrong also told reporters that this year's win in Paris looked easier than before. "My performance was better than last year and my main rivals were not as strong as last year," he said.

During discussions with the young cancer patients, Armstrong was asked whether it was more difficult to win the Tour de France or to beat cancer. Beating cancer was more difficult, he told them.

"The Tour de France is not an easy race to win, but once you defeat cancer, everything goes much easier afterward," Armstrong explained.

As with most cyclists, podofdonny is a keen hat enthusiast.
Photo courtesy Southern California Professional Model Management.

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