This report filed by PJ Rabice of Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team
To date, the Discovery Channel Team has had some solid shows of strength
from a variety of riders to open the 2006 season and oddly enough, none of
their last names have been Armstrong. At the inaugural Amgen Tour of
California, George Hincapie captured 2 stage wins and finished 4th place
overall. Over in Europe, Leif Hoste has shown great early season fitness
with a 2nd place at the 1-day race, Kuurne Brussels Kuurne, as well as a 2nd
place finish in the individual time trial at Tirreno-Adriatico.
Additionally, Jose Azevedo, Chechu Rubiera (6th and 9th overall at
Paris-Nice), Roger Hammond (3rd in stage –Ruta del Sol), Paolo Savoldelli,
George Hincapie and Tom Danielson (4th, 8th and 10th overall respectively)
have all shown great form in the first month of racing with nothing more in
their legs than some “non-specific” early season fitness. You know, the
kind of fitness that we mere mortals of cycling, treadmills and swimming
laps would die for and that these guys can obtain in about one months time.
Triki Beltran at Vuelta Murcia
A little about George-
During the Tour of California I spent a fair amount of time with George
Hincapie in the holding tent after each of his 2 stage wins and green jersey
podium appearance. And what became very clear to me was that these early
season wins had filled him with confidence. George couldn’t help but smile
about each of his wins as they were both the end result of his teammate’s
hard work. In both instances his teammates worked hard to protect him over a
climb and down into the valley below so that he could sprint away in the
final meters of the race for the win.
However, even with his first win of the 2006 season secure he was clearly
looking ahead to the month of July. As we waited for the podium ceremony
after George won the hilly stage into San Jose where he was dropped on the
final climb, I put George on the phone with team director Johan Bruyneel.
George’s first words to Johan were, “Don’t lose faith in me for the Tour.
I’m going to lose some weight and be good in the mountains.” Johan told me
later at the hotel that George’s climbing was of no concern to him at this
early point in the season and that he was simply happy to see him win and
gain some early season confidence. It was clear that Johan knows George’s
work ethic and professionalism and is confident that he will be prepared
The Boys protecting George all the way to the line in CA
George making his teammates very happy
More recently, I sent a note to George congratulating him and commenting
on his good fitness after he contested a sprint finish at Tirreno-Adriatico
alongside speedsters such as Thor Hushovd and Alessandro Petacchi finishing
5th on the day. While some would be satisfied with a 5th place stage finish,
George’s response to me was, “That’s nothing, wait until I feel normal
again.” George was referring to his transatlantic flight, 9 hours of jet lag
and a minor cold. George is clearly starting to feel better with his form
coming along as he gets closer to his upcoming objective, the spring classic
races - Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.
Tom Danielson: Traveling, Quacking and the Ford Tour de Georgia-
After a sold effort at the Tour of California Tom suffered through the
woes of international travel as he: missed his initial flight out of LA,
spent the night in LA grabbing dinner with Mark Higgins and I, relaxed in LA
the following the day, flew to Barcelona through London only to find out
that, oops, his bikes didn’t make it……….sorry Mr. Danielson. So what’s a
guy to do? Well, Tom, and Johan, took it all in stride and removed Tom from
the start list for Paris-Nice, replaced him with Roger Hammond, and moved
him over to race Tirreno-Adriatico (TA) providing him a few extra days of
After a few days of racing in Italy I caught up with Tom and his first
comments to me about TA were that there was a lot of “quacking” going on.
Huh? Yes, quacking or as some call it “argie bargie”. So what is it you
say? Tom describes quacking as this, “it’s when you are in a race with a
bunch of guys, in this case the spring classics tough guys, and they are
bumping and grinding the whole day for position in the peloton”……….all of
the things that Tom, a 135lb climber hates. “The roads are narrow, the pace
is super high and guys are constantly battling for position trying to put
you in the gutter,” stated Danielson. Unfortunately Tom’s worst fears about
all of the quacking came true as he crashed in the final 1000m of last
Saturday’s stage in the midst of some “quacking” during the final sprint.
Tom found himself lying on the ground unsure of what exactly happened.
Tom’s ok….a little sore but recovering well in Girona, Spain. His initial
response to me when asked if he was ok, “Come on PJ, I’m from the East
Coast, of course I’m ok but I think I bruised my spine.” I told him I didn’t
think that was possible.
Tom putting the pressure on Levi
As for the upcoming Tour de Georgia where Tom is the defending champion,
he told me that, “I am very motivated to perform well with the ultimate goal
of defending my title.” This race comes just prior to one of his season’s
top objectives, the Giro d’Italia. The Tour de Georgia course suits Tom
well with both a Time Trial and climbing stages highlighted by the epic
stage finish on top of Brasstown Bald, a stage that Tom won in 2005. Tom
told me, “I’m really excited to come back to race in the U.S and
specifically Georgia. There’s nothing like having fans cheering your name.
It’s amazing how much racing at home can motivate you to race at a higher
level and hope that I will be able to successfully defend my title in