By Andrew Hood
Michael Rogers, the promising Australian rider on T-Mobile, said he will hold his Tour de France ambitions in check to help team captain Jan Ullrich try for another maillot jaune.
The three-time world time trial champion said the team would rally behind the German captain in his quest to win a second Tour crown.
“My goals are the team’s goals,” Rogers said in an interview on the team’s web page. “Jan Ullrich is the leader and the team is 100 percent committed to supporting him.”
Rogers has been hailed as a potential Tour winner himself, but has so far struggled to stay with the best climbers in the key mountain stages. In 2004, he won the Tour of Germany and the Tour of Belgium, but saved his 2005 season with a third consecutive time trial rainbow jersey.
As far as the 2006 Tour goes, Rogers said team strategy is still to be finalized, but confirmed that Ullrich is the team’s main candidate for the overall.
“The individual roles for the other riders have not yet been fully defined and, of course, the exact roster is not going to be finalized for some time to come,” he said. “I see my role as a helper for the harder stages, and even then to be there for Jan on the final climbs. We plan to scout some of the key mountain stages in the build up to the race as part of our preparations.”
Rogers said it’s likely he’ll also race the Giro d’Italia, and confirmed he’ll be at the Tour of California and Liege-Bastogne-Liege. He made the somewhat surprising move to T-Mobile after it became clear Quick Step-Davitamon was content to focus on stage-wins and classics. “I was impressed by the quality of the riders in (T-Mobile). It also became quickly apparent that the team already had clear targets for 2006 and 2007, which fitted with my own personal targets,” he said. “At the time I felt that Quick Step was moving in one direction, while my goals were moving in another direction.
“While T-Mobile are set up to perform well in stage races, Quick Step are set up to perform best in one-day races and smaller stage races, like the Deutschland Tour and Tour of Benelux. Going forward, they are going to be even more focused on supporting Tom (Boonen). Of course, that’s hardly surprising considering what he is capable of delivering for the team.”
Valverde admits Tour win this year unlikely
Alejandro Valverde – the Spanish sensation causing a stir south of the Pyrénées – admitted his chances of overall victory in the Tour de France look slim in 2006.
Valverde told Spanish journalists it will be “complicated” to win what will be just his second start in France’s grand tour. Instead, he’s putting his objectives on the GC “as high as possible.”
“I will race a few stages at the Mallorca Challenge and after that, Murcia, Pais Vasco and the three most important classics before resting to arrive to the Tour in the best possible conditions,” Valverde said during a break in a team training camp.
Last year, Valverde won a climbing stage ahead of Lance Armstrong in Courchevel before abandoning the race with a knee injury. The victory pumped new excitement into Spanish cycling.
The Illes Balears-Caisse d’Epargne captain will have full support of his team following the departure of Francisco Mancebo to Ag2r.
Setmana Catalana, Primavera Rosa canceled
Two more major races have pulled the plug as event organizers find it harder to find sponsors for non-ProTour and women’s events.
In Spain, the week-long Setmana Catalana has died a quiet death while RCS Sport ended its support of Primavera Rosa, the women’s World Cup race held in conjunction with the men’s Milan-San Remo.
In Spain, the news of Setmana Catalana’s demise met with growing skepticism regarding races not included in the ProTour series. Earlier this month, promoters cancelled the one-day Luis Puig race because of money troubles. Reports in Spain also indicate the Vuelta a Aragon is having trouble finding enough sponsor money to hold its event this spring.
Joaquín Sabaté, organizer of Setmana Catalana, said the UCI’s rule that only 50 percent of the field can be ProTour teams in continental events is the real culprit behind his race’s demise.
“We can no longer attract the top international figures and even sometimes the national figures,” he told AS, adding events were like a chain reaction. “Our sponsors realized that our product had been devalued, that we don’t have the same level of actors and reduced their investment. At the same time, costs have increased. On this road, cycling is heading toward self-destruction.”
Acquiring television coverage is a major hurdle for the smaller races. Without the big stars, sponsors are not keen on forking over money. Spanish national television is also reluctant to broadcast races with minor teams and have raised their rates as a result.
Boonen wins Doha GP
World champion Tom Boonen of Belgium, competing in his first official race since capturing the coveted rainbow jersey in September, won the Doha Grand Prix in Qatar on Friday.
The 25-year-old proved too strong for Robert Hunter of South Africa and German veteran Eric Zabel in a sprint finish.
“It’s a very special feeling to win wearing the world champion’s jersey. I was a little nervous before the race. Now I know I’m in good shape,” said Boonen. —Agence France Presse
Manchester tapped for ’08 track world’s
The UCI has selected the Manchester Velodrome to host the 2008 track world championships.
The northern English city, which hosted the world championships in 1996 and 2000, beat the Polish capital Warsaw, whose velodrome has not yet been built.
The decision was taken at a meeting of UCI officials as the cyclo-cross world championships prepared to get under way in Zeddam, the Netherlands.
The Mexican city of Aguascalientes will host the junior world championships in 2007. Cape Town, South Africa, will host the junior event in 2008. —Agence France Presse