By Andrew Hood
U.S. Postal Service sport director Johan Bruyneel said the team’s paramount goal for the 2004 season is putting Lance Armstrong into the yellow jersey on the Champs Elysees for a sixth time.
“In theory, (winning the Tour) is the only thing that counts. If we can do that, that’s history,” Bruyneel told VeloNews during the presentation of the 2004 Vuelta a España in Madrid on Wednesday.
“It’s going to be difficult. This year was more difficult than other years, and we’ve tried to learn a few things from last year. It was a combination of things, and Lance is not improving anymore, but that Lance could win without being at the top of his physical fitness makes me confident we’ll do anything we can to win a sixth one.”
The departure of Roberto Heras from U.S. Postal Service to Liberty Seguros leaves the American team without a clear leader for the 2004 Vuelta.
“We don’t know who our leader will be for the Vuelta,” Bruyneel said. “Our objective next year is the Tour de France, but we’re certainly going to ride the Tour of Spain. It’s possible we come without a team leader. It’s clear we cannot replace a rider like Roberto (Heras), so it’s possible we come with other objectives.”
Bruyneel said the difficult, climb-laden course for the 2004 Vuelta will make it even harder for Postal to come to the September race with a loaded team.
“Our objective is the Tour, and we want the strongest team there. This Vuelta is going to be for a rider who didn’t do the Tour. It’s very hard, and there are a lot of mountains. To do the Vuelta will be very hard after the Tour.”
Phonak: Hamilton for Tour, Sevilla for Vuelta
Phonak sport director Alvaro Pino confirmed this week Tyler Hamilton’s top goal for the 2004 season will be the Tour de France, while Oscar Sevilla will ride both the Tour and the Vuelta a España, with the Spanish tour being the top goal for the 2001 runner-up.
Pino said the difficult 2004 Vuelta course is perfect for Sevilla, who left his longtime team Kelme after an injury-plagued 2003 season to join Phonak.
“I hope that Sevilla has overcome his problems of last year,” Pino told Europa Press. “This Vuelta is one that you have to fight for. From the fourth stage on, there’s no time for a cease-fire. The Vuelta won’t be decided in the final-day time trial because the penultimate stage is very hard.”
Vuelta 2005 to start in Granada
Vuelta officials also disclosed Wednesday that Granada will host the start of the 2005 edition, which will conclude with its traditional final stage in Madrid. Outgoing Vuelta director Enrique Franco promised even more surprises for the 2005 edition.
UCI previews 2005 world’s course
Technical delegates from the UCI have been in Madrid this week to review the proposed courses for the 2005 road world championships. The time trials will be held in the expansive Casa de Campo park just west of downtown Madrid while the road races will loop around the city, including climbs up the Dehesa de la Villa and the Avenida de Asturias, short but steep climbs in the hills around the city. Quick Step confirms Vuelta start
Quick Step team manager Patrick Lefevere was in Madrid for Wednesday’s unveiling of the 2004 Vuelta and confirmed his team – now laden with Spanish riders such as Juan Antonio Pecharroman, Juan Miguel Mercado and Jose Antonio Garrido – will take the start.
Cofidis using Cote d’Azur for training camp
Cofidis is hitting the sunny Cote d’Azur this week in its first pre-season training camp near Fréjus on the Mediterranean Coast. The team is holding light workouts, planning racing schedules for riders and organizing the upcoming season.
The French team will boast road world champion Igor Astarloa and time trial world champion David Millar as well as Spanish riders Daniel Atienza, Iñigo Cuesta, Bingen Fernandez and Luis Perez and Italians Massimiliano Lelli and Guido Trentin.
Following the Christmas holidays, the team will reconvene January 10-20 in Calpe, Spain, for a second camp before beginning the season in February.