By Andrew Hood
The road to the Vuelta a España goes through the Tour de l’Ain for Discovery Channel’s Tom Danielson.
The 28-year-old is racing in the French event this week in his final competition ahead of the August 26 start of the Vuelta, where he will line up as a grand-tour team captain for the first time.
“This is the best race I could do before the Vuelta,” Danielson told VeloNews. “The race has shorter stages and it’s always up and down, so it’s good to get some good racing in the legs without being too taxing.”
Danielson won the Tour of Austria in July for his first European victory since joining Fassa Bortolo in 2004. Discovery Channel isn’t racing in the Tour of Burgos, and Danielson said the nine-day Tour of Germany was too long and had too many flat stages to suit his needs ahead of the Vuelta.
“I have done some good hard training in the mountains but the week after (Ain) is critical. I can now just taper right into the Vuelta, this race fits right,” Danielson said. “Next week I will train in the mountain and spend some more time on the time trial bike.”
Concerning his expectations at the three-week Vuelta, where he finished in the top 10 last year, Danielson said he simply wants to race stronger and more confident than ever, adding, “If someone else beats me, then they deserve it.”
Pereiro wants yellow-jersey ceremony
Spanish rider Oscar Pereiro might “feel like the winner of the Tour de France,” as he stated in a press conference over the weekend, but he wants to formally receive the yellow jersey in a ceremony when the time is right.
After Landis’ counter-analysis confirmed an askew testosterone-epitestosterone ratio, runner-up Pereiro is poised to become the Tour winner, though disciplinary action by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency could take weeks or even months.
In the meantime, Pereiro is already being hailed as Spain’s fifth Tour winner by the Spanish media. But while Pereiro said he already feels “99 percent” like the Tour winner, he added that he would wait for official notification before celebrating.
“I am only waiting for the official fax that says I have won the Tour de France,” Pereiro said in an interview with L’Equipe. “Later, I would like a ceremony with the yellow jersey. Maybe I can make another trip to Paris for that.
“I wanted to be on the Champs-Elysées with the yellow jersey. That’s a disappointment,” he said. “When you win the Tour, what’s beautiful is the last day, with the celebration as the winner. For this, I am not happy with Landis, but that’s life.”
Belda to leave cycling
Vicente Belda, the sport director of the troubled Comunidad Valenciana team, said he will quit cycling at the end of this month.
Speaking during Sunday’s first stage of the Vuelta a Burgos, Belda told the Spanish wire service EFE he’s fed up with the “pleasure seekers that begin with those who direct the UCI and end who those who work at UniPublic.”
“If we don’t race the next Vuelta and the Comunidad Valenciana has decided to end its sponsorship, all this means that it’s the end of the team,” he said. “All of our riders are clean and no one’s been able to show the opposite, yet they keep us from racing the Vuelta.”
After the Tour of Burgos, the team is scheduled to race the Subida a Urkiola and the Clásica de los Puerto on Aug. 20. If the team loses its last-gasp bid to regain entry into the Vuelta, these will be the last racing for the Spanish team, which has part of the sport for more than 20 years.
Cedric Coutouly, a French pro since 2001, has extended for two years to stay with Agritubel … Jimmy Casper, winner of the first stage of the 2006 Tour de France, signed a two-year contract extension to stay with Cofidis … Eric Leblacher, a French rider on FDJeux, said he will retire at the end of the 2006 season.