By Andrew Hood
Tyler Hamilton’s dramatic victory at Liège-Bastogne-Liège was the lead sports story in European newspapers Monday (well… after soccer news, of course). “Hamilton, the first,” read the French daily L’Equipe. “An American in Liège,” wrote Italy’s La Gazzetta dello Sport. “The Other American,” wrote Spain’s MARCA.
Hamilton’s win was the first by an American at “La Doyenne,” the oldest classic in cycling. Greg LeMond finished third in 1984, beaten in a sprint by Irishman Sean Kelly and Aussie Phil Anderson. Armstrong was runner-up in both 1994 and 1996 and the Texan entered Sunday’s race as the five-star favorite.
But it was Hamilton’s Team CSC that did most of the work to reel in Armstrong on the Cote du Saint Nicolas just 6km from the finish line in Ans. In a moment of hesitation among the race leaders, Hamilton shot off the front and hammered the pedals until he crossed the finish-line victorious.
Hamilton was quick to thank his CSC teammates.
“I credit the team with this victory,” Hamilton said. “Our team was the best in the peloton today and each and every one of our riders deserves a place on the podium. The team helped me to take the biggest victory in my career so far. The victory comes at a good time and I would like to dedicate it to everyone who has believed in me. Not least Bjarne Riis who has been an invaluable support to me.”
Team CSC manager Bjarne Riis was equally satisfied with Hamilton’s victory, the first major win for the team since Laurent Jalabert retired at the end of the 2002 season.
”It is a fantastic feeling to be part of the team that has won the Liége-Bastogne-Liége,” Riis said after Sunday’s race. “Today we gave a demonstration of world-class teamwork. We created the race and it was our effort that caught Armstrong. Today, Tyler demonstrated that he is able to win the biggest races. This victory is a result of a spectacular team effort. We must continue to work the way we worked today, and I am convinced that we can.”
Rebellin bounces back
Gerolsteiner’s Davide Rebellin was supposed to be out three to five weeks after fracturing his arm in a crash in last week’s Fleche Wallone, but there was no way the Italian was going to miss Sunday’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
If Hamilton can finish second in the Giro d’Italia with a broken shoulder, perhaps Rebellin thought a hairline fracture wouldn’t slow him down. Rebellin finished 14th at 40 seconds back at Liège.
“I got the green light to start Sunday. On Friday, I trained for two hours and I was completely reassured,” Rebellin told the Belgian daily La Deniere Heure. “I still have some pain, but not racing would have been too much. If I had stayed home and not started at Liège, I would have been filled with regret.”
Venue change likely for world track championships
It is unlikely that this July’s world track championships will be held in Shenzhen, the southern Chinese city at the center of the epidemic of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, an official at USA Cycling said Monday.
Contacted by VeloNews, director of competition Steve Johnson confirmed that the U.S. squad would not participate in an event in Shenzhen as long as it remains on a World Health Organization list of cities affected by the SARS epidemic.
French federation officials, too, confirmed Monday that their team will not attend if the event remains in Shenzhen.
“It’s out of the question,” FFC president Jean Pitallier said. “Our riders can’t race facing such high risks.”
The French and American decisions might ultimately prove academic as the outbreak of SARS may force organizers to move the championships away from Shenzhen to another country.
“The UCI is working on locking in another site,” said Johnson. “I really doubt it will be there. I mean, that is the source of the outbreak and we’re not going to put anyone at risk.”
A spokesman for the Union Cycliste Internationale told AFP that its officials were in almost daily contact with the Chinese organizers to monitor the situation, but would not confirm plans to move the event.
WHO named Shenzhen, China’s capital city of Beijing and Toronto, Canada, as the three major sites of the outbreak and issued advisories against travel to each.
Johnson said that despite Hamilton, Ontario’s proximity to Toronto, no decision had been made regarding the world road championships, scheduled for October.
“It’s still early,” Johnson said, “and we haven’t touched on that yet.”
There have been 277 SARS-related deaths reported in China and Hong Kong.
Charles Pelkey, with contributions from AFP
Hamilton eyes Romandie
Hamilton will barely have time to reflect on his history-making victory at Liège before taking on his next challenge. The Tour of Romandie (UCI HC) starts Tuesday in Geneva and Hamilton says he’s going into the six-day stage-race looking for the win.
“I’ve never done Romandie before, but it has a prologue, a time trial and some hard mountains, so it suits me well,” Hamilton told VeloNews last week. “Because the Tour is still a long ways away, Bjarne (Riis) pointed to the Ardennes classics and Romandie. It’s nice to have some objective early in the season.”
Stages, Tour of Romandie (UCI HC), April 29-May 4
Prologue, April 29 Geneve-Geneve, 3.2km Opening prologueon mostly flat course.
Stage 1, April 30, Geneve to Fleurier, 189km, three rated climbs, Category 2 at 122km, Cat. 2 at 151km and Cat. 3 at 173km.
Stage 2, May 1Couvet to Lucens, 178km, two rated climbs, Cat. 3 at 43km, Cat. 4 at 152km
Stage 3, May 2, Moudon to Loeche les Bains, 171km, two rated climbs, Cat. 3 at 139km, Cat. 1 at 169km, followed by sharp downhill finish.
Stage 4, May 3, Monthey to Les Paccots, 146km, four rated climbs, Cat. 1 at 31km, Cat. 1 at 77km, Cat. 1 at 125km, Cat. 2 summit finish.
Stage 5, May 4, Lausanne-Laussanne, 20.4km, individual time trial with unrated 232-meter climb over the final 5 kilometers.
Simoni will skip Romandie
Saeco’s Gilberto Simoni is so pleased with his form after winning the Tour of Trentino, he’ll skip this week’s Tour of Romandie. The 2001 Giro d’Italia champion said he’s ready for the Giro and doesn’t need the stress of another race before the May 10 start.
“First of all I want to say how happy I am to have won,” Simoni said on Saeco’s team page. “This race is something special for me. I only had a slight lead over and so I had to be careful. The last two days have bee n difficult and as a result I didn’t sleep well because I wanted to win so much.”
Simoni hails from the Trentino region, and although he’s won stages at his “hometown” race, his 8-second victory over rival Stefano Garzelli is the first time he’s taken the overall title.