By Andrew Hood
Gerolsteiner’s sprint ace, Danilo Hondo says, it’s only a matter of time before he scores a major win, with a victory in one of the major classics or a stage in the Tour de France topping his wish-list.
“I am more self-confident now, that’s now doubt. Riding on this team is very helpful for me, because I am a team leader,” Hondo said during the team’s training camp last month. “When I was riding at Telekom (1999-2003), I was often the helper even though I won two stages in the Giro (in 2001). I was never given many chances to have the team working for me. That’s the way it was on that team, so I am very happy to be here. The team functions well and I want to pay them back with some big trophies this year.”
Hondo will share leadership duties at the season’s first major test at Milan-San Remo with Davide Rebellin. The Italian will be coming off a run at the Paris-Nice overall title and will be looking to attack on the Poggio while Hondo said he’s saving his cards for a chance at the final sprint.
“My first major goal is Milan-San Remo, one of my favorite races,” Hondo said. “It’s always better to have two options in a big race such as Milan-San Remo. Davide is motivated to do well, perhaps try to attack, but I will be ready for the sprint. It’s a great race for me.” Contador has shot at Tour
Liberty Seguros rider Alberto Contador nearly died after suffering a brain aneurism in last year’s Vuelta a Asturias. He spent six months off the bike before doctors gave him the go-ahead to resume training.
The 22-year-old rider marked a remarkable comeback with an emotional stage victory in the Tour Down Under last month. Now he’s lining up for Liberty Seguros in the coming weeks in such races as this week’s Vuelta Comunidad Valenciana, Paris-Nice and Setmana Catalana.
There’s also an outside shot Contador will be on Liberty’s Tour de France team.
“Manolo (Saiz) always forms a group of around 13 or 14 riders from which nine emerge who will form the Tour team. He has told me that I am in this group, but that to go to France things have to go very well until then,” Contador said in an interview on the team’s web page. “I’d love to be able to ride it. Right now it is the race which I would most like to ride, much more than any other. If I don’t go and I have to do the Vuelta, I wouldn’t mind either, it is also a race that I like, where you ride several stages which you know well, but the Tour is special. On the other hand, the Giro doesn’t fall into my plans.”
Steels unsure about Tour
Tom Steels (Davitamon-Lotto) has a nice start to the 2005 with three wins already in the bank. The veteran Belgian sprinter seems to be back in the big leagues after a few inconsistent seasons.
The Belgian national champion has an aggressive spring classics campaign, starting with Het Volk this weekend, Milan-San Remo, Three Days of De Panne, Ghent-Wevelgem and Paris-Roubaix. It looks like he will not ride Tour of Flanders.
Steels will join sprinter teammate Robbie McEwen in the Giro d’Italia, but it’s unlikely the cycling world will see a Tour de France comeback for Steels. The winner of four Tour stages says he doesn’t see a conflict with McEwen about who will lead the sprint.
“We’ll talk before each sprint to see who’s feeling good,” Steels told La Deniere Heure. “I’m sure things will be OK between us. In the Tour, on the other hand, it’s difficult to go with two sprinters.”
Boonen wants Het Volk preview
With the Belgian classics season opening this weekend with Het Volk, the Quick Step will take a reconnaissance of the course. Team leader Tom Boonen and his fellow Belgian and Dutch teammates will ride the entire route with the exception of the Mur de Grammont.
ProTour teams add logo
Fourteen of the 20 ProTour teams have decided to include the UCI ProTour logo on their jerseys, the UCI announced late last week. The UCI said the gesture “(demonstrates) their commitment to the circuit. This initiative shows their motivation and reinforces what already seems to be a certainty: the 2005 Road season will be fantastic and have the full support of the teams.”