By Andrew Hood
Rabobank’s Levi Leipheimer is racing in this week’s Tour du Poitou Charentes(UCI 2.3), a five-day stage-race that starts Tuesday in France inwhat will be his final dress rehearsal for the 2003 Vuelta a España.The 29-year-old from Santa Rosa, Calif. crashed out of the first stageof the Tour de France after fracturing a bone in his hip and damaged musclesin his abductors and was forced off the bicycle for two weeks to recover.”I had to do 12 days of doing nothing on the couch so the bone couldheal,” Leipheimer told VeloNews. “I was starting from zero at theend of July. When you sit around that long, you lose pretty much everything.”Leipheimer returned to training 16 days after the crash and raced atthe Regio Tour, Aug. 6-10, a return to racing he said came too soon.”I made it (through the race), but I was so tired. I came back reallyfast and push it hard. I made a big improvement, but I paid for it,” Leipheimersaid. After the Region Tour, he said he was so tired he underwent teststo see if there was anything wrong.”Now I am able to train again. My form’s not 100 percent, but at leastI can build it now,” he said.After the Tour crash turned his season upside down, Leipheimer willreturn to the Vuelta, the race that changed his career after he finishedthird in 2001, the first American to place on the Vuelta podium.”I wasn’t planning on starting the Vuelta,” he said. “After I crashedand we decided to do the Vuelta, I thought, ‘Oh no, I got to get readyagain.’ But then I got excited about it. I really like the course. TheVuelta is a great race. It’s so much more open than the Tour. The Touris so controlled and dominated. At the Tour, you just try to hang on. Atthe Vuelta, it’s much more open.”Leipheimer said after the French race, he’ll return to his Europeanbase in Girona, Spain, to continue training for the Sept. 6 start of theseason’s final grand tour.Check back later this week to Eurofile for a complete interview withVeloNews European correspondent Andrew Hood.Chavanel local fave for Poitou Charentes
French rider Sylvain Chavanel (Boulangere) is among the top favoritesfor the 17th edition of the Tour of Poitou-Charentes starting Tuesday.Sixteen teams with eight riders each will be starting the five-day racethat’s the week’s main stage race in Europe. The Trofeo Scalatore (Aug.26-28) in Italy is a series of one-day races while the Tour of Slovakia(Aug. 27-31, UCI 2.3) are the other top continental races.Chavanel hails from the Vienne region and will be especially motivatedto shine in his home turf after finishing second overall last year to Cofidisrider Guido Trentin.Most of the top French riders will be racing, with the exception ofRichard Virenque (Quick Step) and national champion Didier Rous (Boulangere),who crashed out in the last stage of last week’s Tour of Limousin whileleading the race.French riders especially will be looking to make their mark to impressnational selection coaches to earn a spot on the world championship team.Teams
La Boulangere (F)
Credit Agricole (F)
Jean Delatour (F)
Big Mat Auber 93 (F)
Landbouwkrediet Colnago (B)
Marlux Wincor Nixdorf (B)
CCC Polsat (Pol)
Domina Vacanze Elitron (I)
Team Fakta (Dk)Stages
Tuesday, Stage 1 – Pons to La Couronne, 180km
Wednesday, Stage 2 – Ruffec to Bressuire, 160km
Thursday, Stage 3 — Bressuire to Loudun, 178km
Friday, Stage 4 — Monts sur Guesne, ITT, 20km
Saturday, Stage 5 — Monts sur Guesne to Buxerolles,106kmMenchov gives Banesto boost
Russian rider Denis Menchov gave Banesto yet another boost in its swan-songyear after winning Sunday’s Clasica a los Puertos race in the rugged mountainsnorth of Madrid.Menchov edged 1998 winner Marcos Serrano in a sprint to claim the victoryagainst ONCE, another team losing its title sponsor at the end of the season.Both teams are teetering on the edge of disappearing if new respectivesponsors aren’t found soon.Unconfirmed reports indicate both management teams are close to findingsponsors to continue. ONCE and Banesto staff have both approached majorSpanish firms, including the Zara chain based in Galicia and the CorteIngles department store.Menchov, who finished 11th overall in the Tour and was the best youngrider, believe the Banesto team will continue, only with a new name.”I’m happy for my first win of the season, even though I wasn’t tooworried about it because I was 11th in the Tour and I’ve seen some progress,”he said. “I hope my win is just one more grain of sand for a new sponsorto give us continuity with the team. I have one more year on my contract,so I am tranquil, because I am confident in Jose Miguel Echavarri. We areconfident that he already has something, but it’s still not finalized.”Vuelta doping tests spelled out
Officials from the UCI, the Vuelta a España and the Spanishsports department met in Madrid to spell out procedures for anti-dopingcontrols for the upcoming Vuelta a España (Sept. 6-28).Blood and urine tests will also be conducted for the detection of EPOin what Vuelta officials promise to be the most modern anti-doping testsever conducted at the Spanish race.Analysis will be conducted at laboratories at the Supreme Sports Councilin Madrid under UCI jurisdiction. Among the controls will be:Sept. 4, Mandatory health checks on 198 riders starting the Vuelta.
Six to eight daily tests, including race leader, stage winner and randomriders.
Surprise controls will be conducted throughout the three-week race.