Ullrich hurting; Virenque looks to Longo; Simoni off to Setmana Catalana
By Andrew Hood
Health woes continue for Jan Ullrich. According to a statementreleased from Team Telekom on Tuesday, the 1997 Tour de France championwill not start the Tour de la Sarthe in France on April 9 because he isrecovering from a stress injury to his right knee.Team Telekom doctor Lothar Heinrich said Ullrich will ease on up ontraining schedule to take pressure off the knee in the coming weeks. Ullrichhas been plagued with minor injuries and illnesses since winning the Tourin 1997.Ullrich seems to have reined in his off-season eating problems, buthe continues to struggle to find the winning formula for at least the Tourde France, where he’s never finished worse than second.Ullrich’s last race was the Tour of Qatar in January but the 28-year-oldGerman pulled out of the Vuelta a Murcia earlier in March. Telekom teamdirector Rudy Pevenage said Ullrich will be fit in time to start the Girod’Italia, starting May 11. Ullrich will once again use the Giro to polishhis form in what’s sure to be another showdown with defending championLance Armstrong in July’s Tour de France.Virenque turns to experienced pro for helpThe French sports daily L’Equipe reported Tuesday that RichardVirenque, looking to improve his time trialing skills, has turned tosomeone who knows a thing or two about the race against the clock – noneother than Jeannie Longo. The most successful women’s racer willhelp the rejuvenated Virenque with positioning and training. Virenque,racing with Domo after serving a suspension following his role in the FestinaAffaire, plans to work with Longo in the coming weeks.Simoni heads to Setmana CatalanaAngel Casero (Team Coast) and Gilberto Simoni (Saeco)will headline the Setmana Catalana de Ciclismo, March 25-29. Casero, thewinner of the 2001 Vuelta a Espana, and Simoni, the defending championof the Giro d’Italia, will be joined by sprinters Erik Zabel and MarioCipollini and a crop of Spanish stars, including Fernando Escartin, JoseMaria Jimenez, Angel Edo, Melchor Mauri and others.Eighteen teams will start the five-day race in Lloret de Mar along Spain’sbeautiful Costa Brava and end in Sabadell, a suburb of Barcelona. Teamsinclude six Spanish rosters; ONCE, Kelme-Costa Blanca, iBanesto.com, Euskaltel-Euskadi,Relax Fuenlabrada, Jazztel-Costa de Almería, and 12 foreign teams;Rabobank, Telekom, Team Coast, Saeco, Phonak, Fassa Bartolo, Cantina Tollo,Credit Agricole, CSC-Tiscali, Milaneza, Itera and La Pecol.The course rolls through the lush countryside of Spain’s Cataluyna region.The first stage is a circuit course around Lloret de Mar. The second stageis split, with a 106-km morning race from Lloret de Mar to Castello d’Empuriesalong the Mediterranean Sea, followed by a 10.3-km time trial in the afternoon.Things get steep in the 157-km third stage, which includes a climb upthe 2,048-meter Coll de Pal. The fourth stage rolls over 176 kilometersfrom Baga to Vic. The closing stage covers 144 kilometers from Vic to Sabadell.