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Thursday’s EuroFile: Discovery heads into Post-Armstrong season; Brit’ shake-up; Boonen re-ups

By Andrew Hood

Hincapie and Savoldelli during this year's Tour de France

Hincapie and Savoldelli during this year’s Tour de France

Photo: AFP-File photo

With Lance Armstrong firmly in cycling’s retirement home, Discovery Channel reloads for the 2006 with very different goals.

The team won seven consecutive Tour de France titles, but without the Texan’s dominant presence, the team will ride into next season with the same ambition of being among the peloton’s main protagonists only without the assurance of a clear candidate for Tour victory.

The team officially released its 2006 roster that includes 27 riders from 16 nations. The leading American team lost five riders, including Armstrong, but four new recruits bring fresh perspective.

“Without Lance our objectives will change, who will race in what races will change and the plans for the season will change,” said team manager Johan Bruyneel. “But we still have a very strong team without him. If you look at our 2005 season and take out what Lance accomplished, basically his Tour victory, this team had an amazing season. It was a season that any team would sign up for before it started.”

Bruyneel said Armstrong accounted for only two of the team’s 21 victories on the 2005 season (albeit good ones, a stage and overall at the Tour), but he pointed to other impressive wins in the Giro d’Italia with Paolo Savoldelli, the Volta a Cataluyna and best young Tour rider with Yaroslav Popovych, stage wins at the Dauphine Libere, GP Plouay and a stage win at the Tour with George Hincapie.

The team is expecting to share the load going into 2006, giving riders more opportunities to win as well as carry the pressure of the team’s expectations into next year’s Tour.

“We have plenty of strong riders who are ready to step up and take the opportunity to lead the team at a race like the Tour de France,” said Bruyneel. “The Tour was always our one goal and we always had one leader in Lance for that particular race. Now, riders like George, Popovych and Jose (Azevedo) are all excited to take the opportunity (to lead the team).”

The team can count on the experience of veterans Azevedo, Hincapie, Savoldelli, Manuel Beltran, Viatcheslav Ekimov, Jose Luis Rubiera and Max van Heeswijk while up-and-comers in Popovych, Janez Brajkovic, Tom Danielson and Stijn Devolder provide promise for the future.

“I feel like with have a really strong team but without Lance, it’s going to take some time and some races to get used to him not being here,” said Bruyneel. “It will be big challenge for me. I think in a few years we will have another strong leader at the head of this team and I think we have a few that are here now and are ready to step up into that role.”

In addition to Armstrong, other depatures include Americans Mike Creed, Tony Cruz and Patrick McCarty and Canadian Ryder Hesjedal.

Discovery Channel for 2006
Jose Azevedo (P)
Michael Barry (Can)
Manuel Beltran (Sp)
Fumiyuki Beppu (Jpn)
Volodymyr Bileka (Ukr)
Janez Brajkovic (Slo)
Tom Danielson (USA)
Stijn Devolder (B)
Viatcheslav Ekimov (Rus)
Vladimir Gusev (Rus) – new
Roger Hammond (GB)
George Hincapie (USA)
Leif Hoste (B)
Benoit Joachim (Lux)
Trent Lowe (Aus) – new
Egoi Martinez (Sp) – new
Jason McCartney (USA)
Gennady Mikhaylov (Rus)
Benjamin Noval (Sp)
Pavel Padrnos (CZ)
Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr)
Hayden Roulston (NZ)
Paolo Savoldelli (I)
Jose Luis Rubiera (Sp)
Jurgen Van den Broeck (B)
Jurgen Van Goolen (B) – new
Max Van Heeswijk (B)

British cycling manager resigns in post-world’s shakeup
Tom Boonen joked moments after winning the 2005 world road championships he counted “50 Italians” in the peloton.

Now it turns out that a few of those one-day Italians were two British riders — Tom Southam and Charly Wegelius. The pair was seen working hard at the front to chase down an early breakaway featuring USA’s Saul Raisin and taking some of the pressure off the Italian team in the middle part of the race.

The tactics created quite a stir within the team, which was supposed to be unified behind Discovery Channel rider Roger Hammond.

In an extraordinary move, British cycling team manager John Herety has resigned over the row.

“Mistakes were made and it was appropriate for me to resign,” Herety told the British media.

British cycling conducted an internal inquiry, interviewing all the key players and has officially reprimanded Southam and Wegelius for their “unacceptable” behavior.

“The men’s road team was chosen with a clear strategy, which identified a single team leader in Roger. The remaining riders in the team were expected to totally dedicate their efforts to supporting him,” said British Cycling performance director Dave Brailsford, who conducted the inquiry.

“In the event, both Tom and Charly ignored this team strategy, an act which was totally unacceptable,” he continued. “They both recognize that they made a grave error in judgment and while they have apologized, this type of behavior will not be tolerated now or at any time in the future.”

Herety is the fourth national team coach to vacate his post in the wake of the Madrid world championships. Franco Ballerini, the Italian national coach, was forced to resign after a poor Italian showing while the Belgian and Spanish national coaches have both quit to accept positions with professional teams.

McEwen, Boonen both extend
The Belgian teams are keeping their big stars close to home. Both Quick Step and Davitamon-Lotto have re-upped with their respective big guns.

Tom Boonen, 24, fresh off a remarkable season that included the Flanders-Roubaix double, two stages in the Tour de France and the world title, has signed a contract extension with Quick Step through the 2008 season.

McEwen, 32, refused offers from other teams to stay with Davitamon-Lotto through the 2008 season as well.

Bettini leads Quick Step in Lombardia
Paolo Bettini will be one of the top candidates for victory in Saturday’s Giro di Lombardia. The “Cricket” bounced to victory in the Championship of Zurich two weeks ago and will want to take advantage of his strong form with a big win on home roads.

Quick Step for Giro di Lombardia
Paolo Bettini
Davide Bramati
Juan Miguel Mercado
Cristian Moreni
Luca Paolini
Filippo Pozzato
Patrik Sinkewitz
Guido Trenti
Liquigas heading Down Under
Italian Pro Tour team Liquigas-Bianchi has confirmed team it will start next year’s Jacob’s Creek Tour Down Under.

Swede Magnus Backstedt, 2004 Paris to Roubaix winner, will lead this all-star team gracing Australia’s shores for the first time.

”We are delighted to have a Paris to Roubaix winner on the race,” said race director Mike Turtur. “Backstedt is no stranger to the event having competed here in 1999 and 2000 as Stuart O’Grady’s team mate with the Credit Agricole team.”

Other riders include Stefano Zanini, Daniele Colli, Alberto Curtolo, Mauro Da Dalto, Manual Quinzato, Michael Albasini and Nicola Loda.

The 2006 Jacob’s Creek Tour Down Under will be held in Adelaide and surrounding regions of South Australia January 17-22.

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