By Andrew Hood
German star Jan Ullrich lined up with his T-Mobile teammates this weekend to kick start the team’s 14-day training camp in Mallorca. The 1997 Tour de France champion already has 2,500km in his legs after spending the holidays in South Africa to prepare for the 2005 season.
An assault on the 2005 Tour remains Ullrich’s top goal for the upcoming season and he said toppling six-time champion Lance Armstrong gives him extra motivation. Last year, Ullrich failed to finish on the podium for the first time in his Tour career.
Despite recent reports that Armstrong is hinting at skipping the 2005 Tour, Ullrich believes the Texan will be there for a run at a seventh consecutive title.
“Lance Armstrong wouldn’t continue cycling if he didn’t plan another assault on the Tour de France,” Ullrich told German television. “Armstrong will try and win a seventh Tour, that is good for cycling and it is good for me, because then I can try and beat the man who has dominated the race in the last few years.”
Fernández: ‘Phonak aiming for Tour’
Juan Fernández, the new sport director at the troubled Phonak team, told Spanish radio that the team’s top goal is to earn a bid to the 2005 Tour de France. Fernández, who was tapped last week to take over as part of a major shakeup in the Swiss team, said “transparency” is key to the team’s success in the coming year.
“Legality and transparency will be the priority at Phonak,” Fernández said. “We hope to earn an invitation to the Tour as well as race the Vuelta. Given then potential of the team, I have full confidence in our possibilities. But the most important thing is to clean the image of the team. Once that happens, it will be easy to secure a place in the Tour and the Vuelta.”
The Swiss team has been reeling since the positive doping tests of former world champion Oscar Camenzind, Olympic gold medalist Tyler Hamilton and Vuelta runner-up Santiago Perez. Since the fallout last fall, Phonak team boss Andy Rhis has replaced team manager Urs Freuler with former Tour de France official John Lelangue while sport director Alvaro Pino was also shown the door.
Fernández, a former director at Clas, Mapei and Coast, is no stranger to taking over a listing ship. In 1999, he took the helm at Festina and helped the team regain credibility following the team’s role in the 1998 doping scandal that bore its name.
“What happened at Festina was more complicated than this,” Fernández said. “All I have to do here is continue the work of Pino. I’m very motivated for this new challenge. In the cycling world, once you’re left without a team it’s very complicated to return to the peloton.”
The team was scheduled to begin its 10-day training camp Monday in Mallorca with a line-up that includes American Floyd Landis, Oscar Pereiro and Santiago Botero. Astarloa still working on Barloworld deal
Former world champion Igor Astarloa has signed a contract to race with South African team Barloworld for the upcoming season, Spanish radio reported. But the 2003 world champion is still working on getting out of his contract with Lampre-Caffita to join the second-division team, his agent confirmed.
Lampre and Saeco are set to fuse their two respective teams for the 2005 season, with Caffita taking over as the name on the Saeco jersey, but Astarloa wants out of his contract with the team.
A former Saeco rider, Astarloa left Cofidis early last season after the French team descended into controversy following doping allegations against the team, but never found the winning form that carried him to the world title in Hamilton.
At Barloworld, the Spanish classics rider will be joined by compatriot David Plaza, Italian sprinter Giuliano Figueras and possibly Vuelta KOM champion Félix Cárdenas.
The ‘LiveStrong’ bandits
Eight stores in New York have allegedly been selling imitations of the popular yellow “LiveStrong” wristbands and keeping the money that would otherwise go to the Lance Armstrong Foundation for cancer programs, The Associate Press reported. Local Consumer Protection Department issued citations against the stores, the latest sign of a counterfeiting trend dogging the foundation. County Executive Andrew Spano said the shops were engaging in “unconscionable and deceptive trade practices.”
“Someone buying a Lance Armstrong wristband thinks their money is going to a charitable program to help those with cancer,” Spano said. “But with these phony bracelets, that is not the case.” The foundation has sold 30 million of the rubbery wristbands, which have “LiveStrong” engraved on them, at $1 each from its Internet sites, official Nike retailers and some bike shops. Armstrong, the six-time Tour de France champion, is a cancer survivor. In recent months, the foundation has received several reports of fake wristbands, especially from the Northeast.
“It is extremely disappointing to learn that individuals are profiting from the sale of counterfeit wristbands,” spokeswoman Michelle Milford said in an e-mail message. “It is not only illegal, but it is unethical to profit from the sale of counterfeit LiveStrong wristbands.’
She said the foundation has taken “appropriate steps” to battle counterfeit sales. She would not elaborate. The eight Westchester stores, in White Plains, Yonkers, Mount Vernon and Yorktown Heights, are subject to fines of up to $1,000 if the accusation holds up after a hearing. — The Associated Press