By Andrew Hood
As U.S. Postal Service rides into the sunset and Discovery Channel prepares to take over the title sponsorship, the team released its 2005 roster of 25 riders set to ride in new uniforms next season.
Team officials said more names could be added, but so far there are 25 riders headlined by six-time Tour de France winner Armstrong. Back next year are seven of the eight riders who helped lead Armstrong to the record win, including veteran Russian Viatcheslav Ekimov who once again has decided to hold off on retirement. The sole exception is American Floyd Landis who is moving to Phonak.
Returning from the Tour squad are José Azevedo, Manuel Beltrán, José Luis Rubiera, Ekimov, George Hincapie, Benjamin Noval and Pavel Padrnos.
Other Postal Service riders returning in 2005 are Michael Barry, Michael Creed, Antonio Cruz, Stijn Devolder, Benoit Joachim, Patrick McCarty, Gennady Mikhaylov, Jurgen van den Broeck and sprinter Max van Heeswijk, coming off the finest season of his career.
“This year was an absolutely special one because we were confronted with a truly historic moment – the chance to win six Tours,” said team manager Johan Bruyneel. “It was pretty impressive to see the team perform the whole year, with the biggest objective right in the middle of the year, and it being one that overshadowed nearly everything else. Yet, we had riders winning races throughout the whole year.
“We started in February with wins and finished in October with wins and had solid performances in the Classics, stage races, the Tour de France and 11 days in yellow and two stage wins at the Vuelta,” Bruyneel continued. “It was an impressive performance in 2004. We hope 2005 will be as good as 2004, as I think it will be difficult to do better. But with our overall strength and depth, we should be able to do something very similar.”
A total of eight new riders have been signed on to join the team, highlighted by 2002 Tour of Italy winner Paolo Savoldelli and Yaroslav Popovych, third overall at the Giro in 2003, fifth overall this year and the U-23 world champion in 2001.
Bruyneel said many of the news names were brought on looking ahead to the upcoming Pro Tour, set to debut in 2005.
“If you look at how the new ProTour is designed, the emphasis is clearly on stage racing,” Bruyneel said. “Hopefully, the three week Tours (France, Italy and Spain) will join the Pro Tour because I think everybody should be part of this new idea. But you can see how the one day races are becoming less important on the schedule. I believe there is something like 14 or 15 one-day race days over 160 days of racing in the Pro Tour. That’s not a lot of racing.”
On Savoldelli, Bruyneel said, “With Savoldelli, we bring in a former winner of a (three-week) tour. He also has a few other solid finishes at the Giro as well and I’m convinced that after two years of bad luck and crashes, I think both mentally and physically he will get back to top form again. He is very motivated for his new challenge. We talked a few years ago and tried to get him on our team but it didn’t work out. Yet we kept in touch and now, it finally worked out.”
In regards to Popovych, Bruyneel said, “He’s still very young but has exhibited great things from the very start of his career. In his first year as a professional (2002), he placed 12th in the Giro and the very next year he reached the podium. If you can do those things, you definitely have the qualities to become a potential big tour winner. He is also somebody we have been following for a few years and tried to get at the start of last year. He is also really excited to come to our team. He had many other possibilities, some of which were more attractive financially, but he decided to ride for us. That says a lot about our program and how strong of a mind he has. He won’t regret his decision.”
Other new comers for next year include Volodymyr Bileka, a teammate of Popovych on the Landbouwkrediet-Colnago squad, up and coming American talent Tom Danielson, World Cup workhorses Roger Hammond of England (third at this year’s Paris-Roubaix) and Leif Hoste of Belgium (second at Tour of Flanders), American Olympian and Tour de Georgia stage winner Jason McCartney and New Zealander Hayden Roulston, winner of the opening stage at this year’s Tour de la Region Wallonne.
“This group brings extra strength to the team in many races,” said Bruyneel. “We get stronger in the Classics, we get strong in American races and get stronger in smaller stage races, with a rider like Danielson. While I’m very happy with this group, most importantly, everybody will really fit into the team well. For us, a new rider must fit into the whole group for it to work. Otherwise, it’s always difficult. One of the ways we selected some of these riders was how they would fit into our team. For us, that has always been a big condition.”
Rider’s condition improves
The condition of Joseba Albizu – the Spanish rider who was injured in the same weekend auto accident that cost the life of Jokin Ormaetxea – is improving, according to medical officials at a hospital in northern Spain.
Albizu suffered injuries to his heart, lungs, nose and his left collarbone and ribs and remains under observation.
Ormaetxea, meanwhile, was killed while driving after their car went off a highway in northern Spain and flipped over after hitting a bank. He will be buried in his hometown Azkoitia in Spain’s Basque Country. Ormaetxea was 24 years old.
Bouygues Telecom names another DS
French team Bouygues Telecom has selected Ismael Mottier as one of the four sport directors to direct the new squad in 2005. Mottier will join Christian Guiberteau and Christophe Faudot, two directors from Brioches La Boulangère, and Dominique Arnould, the former world cyclo-cross champion who recently retired from racing.
The team will make an official presentation later this week at the telephone company’s headquarters.
Testers told to ‘think like cheats’
Drug testers were urged to think like drug cheats in the ongoing war against the illegal use of drugs in sport, World Anti-Doping Agency chief David Howman said Monday.
Howman, in Sydney this week to conduct training workshops with teams from WADA and the Australian Sports Drug Agency (ASDA) for drug testers from the Oceania region, said sports scientists were constantly trying to anticipate the drug cheats’ next move.
“We tell them to think like a cheat. It’s a terrible thing to have to tell somebody… it involves a mindset which is quite different… but we know there are other potential designer drugs out there,” said Howman, a New Zealand lawyer now based at the WADA headquarters in Montreal.
“The simplicity of taking blood is very attractive, but the analysis is another issue,” said the agency’s director general. “It may turn out down the track that a hair or some other part of one’s body might also be analyzed. I’ve heard of devices a little like the ones you walk through at airports that can profile you and can show what’s in your body.”
Howman said WADA was also working closely with major pharmaceutical companies who were alerting them to new drugs and potential detection methods.
— By AFP