By Andrew Hood
Tim Johnson (Saunier Duval) said illness in March destroyed his chances of making the team selection for the Giro d’Italia (May 8-30).
The 26-year-old American was hoping to earn a spot on the Saunier Duval line-up in his first season racing based in Europe, but he missed nearly a month of racing after becoming sick during a cold and wet introduction to Europe.
“I was so sick, I missed a month and I just couldn’t race,” Johnson said during last week’s Vuelta a Castilla y León in northern Spain. “I’m feeling good now. I’m finally racing, getting in the action.”
Johnson was among 24 riders who abandoned Sunday’s final stage. He’s expected to race later this month at the Vuelta a Asturias (SPA 2.2) in northern Spain.
According to a preliminary Giro start list, sprinter Fred Rodriguez (Aqua & Sapone) is the lone American set to start Saturday in Genova for the season’s first grand tour. Tom Danielson (Fassa Bortolo) wasn’t listed as a starter despite a strong top 20 performance in the challenging Tour de Romandie (SWI 2.HC) last week.
Beloki pulls out – again
Joseba Beloki (La Boulangere) has yet to finish a stage-race this season after abandoning Sunday’s final stage of the Vuelta a Castilla y León in northern Spain. Beloki, the 2002 Tour de France runner-up, has been plagued with injuries and setbacks in his efforts to return to competitiveness following his dramatic crash in last year’s Tour. Problems with tendonitis have forced him either to not start or abandon each race this season. Beloki told VeloNews earlier in the week things were looking up. “It’s been one thing after another,” Beloki said. “This has been the toughest spring of my career, but I am feeling better. Things are improving and I believe the worst is behind me.” Beloki, however, crashed in the team time trial in stage 2 when another rider fell into him. He scraped his wrist and thigh, but said “it’s nothing. This was nothing serious.” Manzano speaks – again
Jesus Manzano – the ex-Kelme rider who revealed alleged doping within the Spanish team in a paid interview in March – told the French daily Le Monde that he believes Spanish authorities are trying gloss over his declarations without taking any real action.
“They want to cover it up,” Manzano said. “I appeared before the (Spanish sports federation) and now I have yet to hear any news. I have no confidence in it. I’m sure there’s pressure, but I believe with the new (Socialist) government, things will change.”
Manzano is scheduled to appear before a judge later this week, but he remains skeptical about the larger names in cycling who he says aren’t doing enough to combat doping.
“The liars and hypocrites are those that continue to lie,” he said. “They gain a lot of money from cycling and they don’t desire anyone to speak about doping.” Museeuw gets final send-off
Classic strongman Johan Museeuw (Quick Step) got his going away party Sunday when 50,000 fans showed up to watch a criterium in his hometown of Gistel, Belgiuim.
Museeuw won the sprint which also included friends Peter Van Petegem (Lotto-Domo), Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) and Paolo Bettini (Quick Step).
The “Lion of Flanders” made his last pro race April 14 at the GP de l’Escaut after winning 11 classics during his long career. At 38, Museeuw will now become an assistant sport director at Quick Step as well as engage in other activities. New Spanish team on horizon
There’s talk of a new Spanish team in the works modeled after the grassroots support of Euskatel-Euskadi, according to reports in the Spanish press.
The regional government of the Castilla y León region of northern Spain is looking at creating a new pro team for the 2005 season, government officials revealed Sunday during the final stage of the Vuelta a Castilla y León.
“It will be born to grow in the future, a team similar to Euskaltel-Euskadi, that will grow from below, sponsored by businesses from the region and principally have riders from Castilla y León, but also from other places to guarantee its competitiveness,” said Silvia Clemente, the minister for Culture and Tourism.
She said the Castilla y León race was “very important” for the community after being broadcast live on national television throughout Spain. Clemente said sponsoring a team is an ideal way to promote tourism and economic development in the region.
Giro highlights week’s racing
The racing world shifts gears this week as the spring classics season was officially closed with Saturday’s Rund um den Henninger Turm in Germany. The week in racing is dominated by the season’s first grand tour, the Giro d’Italia, May 8-30.
The opening prologue in the narrow streets of Genova on Saturday gets the Italian race moving. Sunday’s first stage is 149km from Genova to Alba. From there, the Giro pushes south into the ‘heel’ of Italy’s boot over the first nine stages that include two of the Giro’s three summit finishes until a long transfer and rest day May 18. The Giro’s lone individual time trial is a 52km test in stage 13 on May 22 followed by visits to Croatia and Slovenia before hitting the Dolomites for four brutal days in the mountains in stages 16-19. Stage 20 should be a mass gallop into the streets of Milan for any survivors.
Most of the Spanish Tour de France contenders are expected to line up for the Clasica Alcobendas (SPA 2.3) near Madrid on May 8-9. The two-day race will see the first action from Euskaltel-Euskadi leaders Haimar Zubeldia and Iban Mayo since the Tour of the Basque Country in early May. Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros) and defending champion Joseba Beloki (La Boulangere) are also expected to start.
The Peace Race (CZE 2.2) runs May 8-16 with stages taking in Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic. The race was the most important race for amateurs in the days before the fall of the Iron Curtain. After a few missteps, the race seems to have recovered some of its appeal and typically attracts a competitive field with a half-dozen of the top European teams taking part. Last year, the now-defunct Saturn team also raced. T-Mobile is expected to line-up with five-time defending champion and Tour of Flanders winner Steffen Wesemann. The week’s other main attraction is the oddly-named Four Days of Dunkirk (FRA 2.1), a five-day, six-stage race held in northern France. Wind and poor weather can be factors and the final-day time trial is always decisive. The race marks the return to competition for the French Cofidis team, which pulled the plug on racing in attempt to control a doping scandal that was threatening to overwhelm the team. The events this week will likely tell if that strategy was successful. Last year’s winner Christophe Moreau (Credit Agricole) will be a favorite to repeat following his victory Sunday in the Trophée Grimpeurs in France.Stages Four Days of Dunkirk (FRA 2.1)
Stage 1, May 5, Dunkirk to Steenvoorde, 181km
Stage 2, May 6, Hem to Saint Pol sur Mer, 183km
Stage 3, May 7, Hondschoote to Longuenesse, 200km
Stage 4, May 8, Neufchatel Hardelot to Boulogne sur Mer
Stage 5, May 9, Dunkirk-Dunkirk, 12km ITT
Stage 6, May 9, Dunkirk-Dunkirk, 97.5km