By Andrew Hood
‘Chechu’ free to fly again
José Luis Rubiera has been a fixture at Discovery Channel since joining the team for the 2001 season, but now he’s relishing the opportunity to show what he can do.
Always a loyal lieutenant to seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong, “Chechu” is free to fly again this year as the team reloads in the post-Armstrong era.
Speaking to journalists at the recent Tour of the Basque Country, the Spanish climbing ace says he’s looking forward to chance to stake out some results for himself.
“We have a lot of experience on this team from many years and we all knew, before working for Armstrong, another way of racing. This is what we have to do this year,” he told Diario Vasco. “Now we have to race differently, in a more aggressive manner than we have before, but we’ll have a result even more attractive.”
Rubiera stressed that he has no regrets at all about sacrificing the best years of his career to work for Armstrong. In the late 1990s, Rubiera was a rising Spanish prospect, notching top 10 finishes in both the Vuelta and the Giro, where he also won a stage in the 2000 edition.
It was those results that caught the eye of Armstrong and Discovery Channel boss Johan Bruyneel to lure him to the then-U.S. Postal Service team in the 2001 season.
“With Lance things were very good because he was a great racer and a very generous leader,” he said. “I don’t think about it twice to have worked for him for so many years. I would do it all again.”
Sinkewitz to lead T-Mobile; Ullrich gaining steam
Patrik Sinkewitz will lead an ambitious T-Mobile in Sunday’s 262km Liège-Bastogne-Liège in the German team’s last chance for victory after a strong run through the spring classics.
“This is going to be the toughest race in the series. The climbs are longer, albeit not that steep. Plus, there’s no time for rest,” Sinkewitz said on the team’s web page. “With our strong squad, the odds are good.”
In other news, the team reports that 1997 Tour champ Jan Ullrich has finished an important block of training ahead of his season debut at Tour de Romandie which begins Tuesday with a 3.4km prologue in Geneva.
“What I hoped for, has happened. In Italy, I was able to train pain-free and increase the workload intensity,” said Ullrich, who trained up to six hours a day on the roads of Tuscany, and included some intensive motorpacing in his regime. “My knee is able to support my full body weight again now that the slight irritation has gone.”
Ullrich said he isn’t expecting much at Romandie in terms of results, but is intent on using the hilly Swiss race to fine-tune his form ahead of the Giro.
Andreas Klöden, who dislocated his shoulder in a spill four weeks ago, hopes to resume training this week, the team reported. T-Mobile for Liège-Bastogne-LiègeMatthias KesslerKim KirchenBernhard KohlEddy MazzoleniMichael RogersPatrik SinkewitzSteffenWesemannThomas Ziegler
Cunego to race LBL
Italian star Damiano Cunego announced Thursday he’ll start Sunday’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège. The winner of the 2004 Giro d’Italia is looking back in top form following his difficult 2005 season. He looks to have a lock on the Giro di Trentino, which concludes Friday with a relatively flat stage.
Also lining up will be Alessandro Ballan, the Italian sprinter who’s enjoyed a breakout 2005 season. Ballan stands second overall in ProTour standings and could pop into the lead with a strong result in the Ardennes classic.
Lampre-Fondital for Liège-Bastogne-LiègeAlessandro BallanDamiano CunegoSalvatore CommessoRuggero MarzoliGiuliano FiguerasEvgueni PetrovGorazd StangeljTadej Valjavec
No Dean for Romandie, Giro
Crédit Agricole sprinter Julian Dean has been forced to sit out both the Tour of Romandy next week and the Giro d’Italia, AFP reported.
Crédit Agricole announced Thursday he is still troubled by a knee injury, and will be replaced by young Frenchman William Bonnet. Crédit Agricole will approach the Giro (May 6-28) looking to Italian Francesco Bellotti and Russian climber Alexander Bocharov to boost their standings in the general classification.
New Zealander Dean, 31, played a pivotal role on the Tour de France last year as the sprint lead out man for Norwegian Thor Hushovd, who after years of trying won the coveted green jersey for the points classification.
Menchov, Mancebo and Cancellara to start Cataluyna
A handful of top stars will race in next month’s Volta a Cataluyna, race organizers revealed this week in an official presentation of the 2006 route. Among the top names include 2005 Vuelta a España champion Denis Menchov (Rabobank), Paris-Roubaix champion Fabian Cancellara (CSC) and Francisco Mancebo (Ag2r).
The Cataluyna tour (May 15-21) will open with a time trial in Salou and end with a road stage into Barcelona and include a foray into Andorra for a pair of hard mountain stages. All 20 ProTour teams will be present, plus five continental teams.
Route for the 2006 Volta a Cataluyna (May 15-21) May 15: Salou-Salou individual TT, 12.6 kilometersMay 16: Cambrils-Cambrils 146.9May 17: Salou-Sant Carles de la Rápita 160.6 May 18: Perafort-Vallnord (Andorra) 225May 19: Llivia-Manlleu 161.5May 20: Manlleu-Lloret de Mar 166.4May 21: Lloret de Mar-Barcelona 121.6