By Andrew Hood
Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) will be among the starters Sunday for the sixth round of the 2004 World Cup stop in Hamburg, Germany for the HEW Cyclassics event. Also joining Ullrich, fresh off a somewhat disappointing fourth place finish in the Tour de France, will be T-Mobile teammates Andreas Klöden and Erik Zabel.
Also set to race are two-time World Cup defending champion Paolo Bettini (Quick Step), current leader Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner), Peter Van Petegem (Lotto-Domo), Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole), Tom Boonen (Quick Step), Danilo Hondo (Gerolsteiner) and Milan-San Remo Oscar Freire (Rabobank).
The 250km course hits the difficult Waseberg climb, but typically ends in a bunch sprint in front of thousands of enthusiastic German fans.
Tour a hit with viewers
Tour de France coverage was a hit with viewers as OLN posted ratings records, giving the cable channel its best numbers. Sunday’s finale into the Champs Elysées drew more than 1.37 million viewers and 2.2 million people tuned in during part of the stage Sunday, compared with 1.2 million last year, according to Nielsen Media Research.
OLN’s ratings also were up in key demographics, including men 18-34 and 18-49. By comparison, CBS’ three Tour de France telecasts were down about 10 percent from last year in Nielsen Media Research’s overnight household ratings.
The Comcast-owned network spent $20 million on a high-profile advertising campaign to promote its coverage and had a team of 90 staffers on the ground in France to do the job.
“We had never really been this ambitious about the programming strategy before, and it worked well,” OLN president Gavin Harvey told the Hollywood Reporter. “We’re going to continue being the No. 1 (network) for field and stream, fishing and shooting, outdoor shows. We’ve got a tremendous leadership position in that, and we intend to continue.”
Popo to Discovery?
Several European web pages are reporting that U.S. Postal Service is close to signing Ukraine sensation Yaroslav Popovych to a three-year contract. No official word yet from Postal Service, which next year will race under the Discovery Channel banner.
The team is looking to bolster its roster as part of the build-up for the Pro Tour next year, which will require teams to race in all three major stage races. Typically, Postal Service has raced the Tour and the Vuelta a España at the expense of the Giro d’Italia.
Popovych – third overall in the 2003 Giro — confirmed there have been talks with the team, but said nothing is signed yet.
Levi Leipheimer is another name that’s been linked with Discovery, but Leipheimer said during the Tour that he’ll make announcement within 10 days on his future. Armstrong: I could do it again
Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong said Friday that he is fully capable of winning the race at least one more time.
“Time is limited but I think I could win the Tour de France one more time,” the Texan told AFP during a visit to Prague one week after his record sixth successive win in France.
Armstrong was in the Czech capital to take part in the Prague Grand Prix race and to visit children suffering from cancer.
The 32-year-old insisted there were no wedding plans, following reports that the cyclist had proposed to rock singer Sheryl Crow. The couple arrived in Prague in his private plane late Thursday.
Speaking of his comeback to storm the cycling world after being diagnosed with testicular cancer that had spread to his lungs and brain, Armstrong told a press conference that his diagnosis played a large role in his success.
“Being diagnosed with cancer was the wake-up call for me. It reminded me that we only have one opportunity in life and in that sense it was a good thing for me,” he said. But he admitted it was still difficult for him to visit cancer patients.
“It is still hard for me to go to hospitals. It still has fresh memories of what patients and family are going through,” he said. “But as a cancer survivor I think it is my obligation to share my story and to provide some hope for patients young and old and to remind doctors and nurses that there is hope.”
One of the cancer patients at Prague’s Motol Hospital who spoke to Armstrong, 18-year-old Tomas Hoznedr, said the rider has offered him hope.
“Lance is a huge inspiration for me. When I was diagnosed a year ago with the same cancer as he had I was stunned, I just never thought it could happen to me. Then when I read his book it was the key turning point for me – it gave me hope and showed me it is possible to come back to a sport you love,” Heznedr, a professional hockey player, told AFP. “Now I am training again and believe I can go back to the game.”
Asked what he thought about when riding five or six hours a day, Armstrong, smiling, replied: “I am thinking about life after cycling.”
–Agence France Presse
Kelme name change?
The troubled Kelme team could roll on in 2005 with a new title sponsor. According to a report in the Spanish daily AS, team management is negotiating with the Elche football team to join Comunidad Valenciana as co-sponsor for the team next season.
The 66th Volta a Portugal (POR 2.2) continues with the 187.5km second stage from Castelo Branco to Cartaxo. Jose Miguel Elias, a Spanish rider on Relax-Bodysol, will start in the leader’s jersey after taking 1:47 on Candido Barbosa (LA Pecol) in the opening stage.The Tour de la Region Wallone (BEL 2.3) concludes with the 163km finale from Brussels to Charleroi. Frédéric Gabriel (MrBookmaker.com) takes the lead into the final stage.Post-Tour criterium season continues with events in Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria and Holland. Six-time Tour champion Lance Armstrong is set to appear at the race in Prague and then race Saturday with Viatcheslav Ekimov in the Luk Challenge in Germany before hopping on a plane and returning to the United States.