By Andrew Hood
Tyler Hamilton will race at the 2002 Tour de France despite fracturinga bone in his left shoulder at the Giro d’Italia last month.That’s according to CSC-Tiscali team manager Bjarne Riis, who confirmedHamilton will start the 89th Tour on July 6.“The shoulder is a lot better,” Riis told VeloNews. “He’s hada good break after the Giro. He needed that.”Riis said Hamilton returned to his home in Marblehead, Mass., followinghis success at the Giro, where he finished second overall and won a stagedespite a crash in the first week when Hamilton landed hard on his leftshoulder.X-rays taken a day after Hamilton appeared on the final Giro podiumon June 2 in Milan revealed a fracture in his shoulder. Riis said Hamilton“didn’t touch the bike for the first two days he was back in America.”“He’s building slowly. He started easily on the bike again; 30 minuteson the home trainer, then an hour or two easy on the bike,” Riis said.“He’ll take the start of the Tour a little easier. He might not be thatgood during the first week, but that’s OK.”Unlike the Giro, where Hamilton was the outright team leader, the 31-year-oldwill share leadership duties with Carlos Sastre and Laurent Jalabert. Accordingto Riis, Jalabert will chase stage wins and perhaps defend the best climber’sjersey he won last year while Sastre will have a free hand to ride forthe GC along with Hamilton.“We built up for the Giro for the past eight months. Now there is nottoo much stress for Tyler at the Tour. We’ll see what happens.”Riis said he believes Sastre and Hamilton could finish in the top-10,perhaps even higher for Hamilton.“It wouldn’t surprise me if finishes on the podium,” Riis. “What heshowed me at the Giro, even with a broken shoulder, he’s gonna be good.If he doesn’t do it this year, he can do it next year.”
Tour de Suisse, June 18-27
Considered cycling’s fourth grand tour, the 1442-km, 10-stage (ninestages plus prologue) race won’t see Lance Armstrong back to defendhis overall victory from last year.Instead, the Swiss race is shaping up to be a consolation prize formany left out of the upcoming Tour de France, like Acqua & Sapone’sMario Cipollini and Team Coast’s Alex Zülle.This will be one of the few opportunities to see Cipollini and Telekom’sErik Zabel duke it out in the flat stages. With four flat stageswell-suited for the sprinters, watch for Cipollini and Zabel to providethe show that everyone will miss since Cipo’s team wasn’t invited to theTour.Saeco, which lost its Tour bid following doping allegations surroundingGilberto Simoni, sees the reappearance of Danilo Di Luca.Fassa Bortolo’s Francesco Casagrande is also back after being kickedout of the Giro following his incident where he allegedly ran a Colombianrider into the fences. Recent Giro winner Paolo Savoldelli is startingwith Index Alexia while homeboy Zülle leads Coast and Mapei givesOlympic mountain bike gold medalist Miguel Martinez a chance toshine in the mountains.In all, there are 17 teams with 8 riders each, including Americans FredRodriguez (Domo) and Kevin Livingston and Bobby Julich, both with Telekom.Levi Leipheimer, who’s been quiet throughout the 2002 season so far, waslisted as a replacement rider for Rabobank.The race opens Tuesday with a short 6-km prologue in Luzern. A shorthill with ramps as steep as 10-percent livens things up early in the opener.Stages 1 and 2, both long, relatively flat stages, gives the sprinterssomething to fight for. Stage 3 hits the Flualapass early and ends witha summit finish at Samnaun. Stage 4 is a rolling transition stage to Ambri.Stage 5 starts and ends in Meiringen, but his three major climbs, includingthe Grimselpass, Furkapass and Sustenpass, with ramps as steep as 9 percent.The stage finishes back down in Meiringen. Stage 6 is a difficult climbingstage finishing with a hard climb to the Verbier ski resort. Stages 7 and8 are flat stages for the sprinters who make it over the Alps and the racewill likely come down to the final 34-km time trial in Bienne.
Volta Ciclista a Catalunya: June 17-23
The Tour of Catalunya is the preferred final race before the Tour fortop Spanish riders. Most Spanish riders who can shine at the hard-climbingCatalunya race do well in the Tour.Several Americans are in the mix, including George Hincapie,Christian Vande Velde, David Clinger and David Zabriskie,all with U.S. Postal Service. In all, 16 teams with eight riders each willtake the start Monday.Roberto Heras will lead the Posties while Fernando Escartinand Angel Casero take the helm for Coast, still stinging over itsdenial at the Tour. Lotto’s Robbie McEwen will focus on the thesprints and Rik Verbrugghe will be the team’s GC focus and PietroCaucchioli, fresh off his third-place overall at the Giro, heads upAlessio. World champion Oscar Freire will be looking for stage-winswith Mapei and Lampre’s Raimondas Rumsas will be honing his formgoing into the Tour.The race opens Monday with a 30.9-km team time trial. Things get steepin stage 2, hitting the category-one Alt de Prades midway through the stagebefore a downhill finish. Stage 3 is a climbing individual time trial,with riders humping it up 600 meters in just 10.8 km. Stage 4 is the “etapareina,” with four rated climbs and the category-one summit finish to Pal.Stage 5 is another climbing stage, with two category-one summits beforea downhill finish. Stage 6 is a transition stage well-suited for sprinterswhile the finale in stage 7 had five rated climbs but finishes in downtownBarcelona just outside Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia church.