By Andrew Hood
Alejandro Valverde is still recovering from knee problems that knocked him out of the Tour de France last month and the Spanish sensation might not be able to start the Vuelta a España (Aug. 27-Sept. 18).
Valverde was forced to pull out of the Tour just days after his dramatic stage victory atop Courchevel. He smacked his left knee on his handlebars in the team time trial in stage four that exacerbated an existing knee injury, causing intense swelling and pain.
Team doctors were hopeful a two-week rest period would allow Valverde to recover in time for the Vuelta, but now team officials are sounding doubtful. A hard training session in the mountains last week caused pain once again.
“The first climbs were okay, but on the last climb when he was forcing it on the final climb, the knee started to hurt again,” Illes Balears sport director Eusebio Unzué told AS.
Unzué said Valverde rested the knee over the weekend, but they’re worried he won’t be able to put in the miles he needs going into the three-week Vuelta. Initially, the Spanish tour wasn’t part of Valverde’s racing schedule, but his early exit from the Tour prompted the team to reconsider.
“The pain comes when he forces the knee,” Unzué said. “He can pedal normally and live life normally. All we can do now is be prudent and wait.”
Valverde’s latest round of knee troubles have further complicated things as less than three weeks remain before the Vuelta starts August 27 in Granada.
“Now we’re going to make some X-rays to confirm the situation hasn’t worsened,” he said. “We’ll let him rest the knee this week. Later we’ll make another test in the mountains and then, depending on how he responds, we’ll decide.”
With the recent news that Francisco Mancebo will race next year for Ag2r, Illes Balears could find itself without its two top stars in the Vuelta if Mancebo decides to skip the Spanish tour.
Euskaltel eyes strong Clásica, Vuelta
Euskaltel-Euskadi is hoping for a strong performance on home roads for the Clásica San Sebastian this weekend in northern Spain.
“We hope to make a good race and earn a top spot,” team director Julián Gorospe told the Dario Vasco. “It’s a race for one-day specialists and clasicómanos, even though our riders can get over the Jaizkibel to form part of a group of 30 riders or so, that would be our best option.”
Iban Mayo is uncertain to start while the team will come with Aitor Gonzalez, Haimar Zubeldia, Roberto Laiseka, David Herrero, Samuel Sánchez and Aketza Peña.
Concerning the Vuelta, Zubeldia for sure will not start, considering he’s already raced the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France.
Tour de Suisse champion Gonzalez will be keen to make a strong performance on a course that’s tailor-made for his strong time trialing abilities.
“He’s motivated to make a strong Vuelta,” Gorospe said. “He’s racing the Tour of Burgos this week and we’ll see how he does in the Clásica.”
The remainder of the season is uncertain for Mayo. After a disappointing Tour, Mayo was hoping to attack the Vuelta to erase the bad memories from the past two years. Post-Tour tests, however, have disclosed that Mayo is bothered by an accident he had while he was an amateur and he’s not able to go beyond a certain limit. Schmitz pulls out with irregular heartbeat
Bram Schmitz pulled out of Sunday’s fourth stage of the Tour of Benelux after an irregular heartbeat worried team doctor Lothar Heinrich. The 28-year-old Dutchman suffered from cramp on the final climb of Sunday’s queen stage and suffered from Cardia arrhythmia.
Schmitz had been riding solidly at the Benelux Tour until the final climb of Sunday’s stage. The lanky Dutchman finished eighth in the race prologue and was sitting in fifth overall following Saturday’s third stage.
“Back at the hotel everything pointed towards heart-rhythm disturbance, so we took him that evening to hospital in Hasselt,” said Heinrich. “Everything is back in order now and Bram is on his way home. It was a one-off condition, brought on by the stress and strain of the race.”
Heinrich said after a short rest, Schmitz will be able to carry on with his regular racing schedule.
Moncoutie extends with Cofidis
French rider David Moncoutie, 30, has prolonged his contract with Cofidis for two more seasons. The winner of a stage in the Tour de France on Bastille Day, Moncoutie will race through the 2007 season with the French team.
Moerenhout to Phonak
Dutch rider Koos Moerenhout has followed Axel Merckx to Phonak for the upcoming season. Merckx encouraged the Swiss team to sign Moerenhout, a teammate on Davitamon-Lotto.
Ullrich on short list for world’s
Jan Ullrich is on part of a provisional list of 25 riders nominated by the German cycling federation for the world road championships in Madrid (Sept. 21-25).
Germany’s provisional list in full
Rolf Aldag (T-Mobile)
Markus Burghardt (T-Mobile)
Andreas Klier (B-Denderwindeke)
Andre Korff (T-Mobile)
Stephan Schreck (T-Mobile)
Tobias Steinhauser (T-Mobile)
Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile)
Erik Zabel (T-Mobile)
Robert Förster (Gerolsteiner)
Markus Fothen (Gerolsteiner)
Heinrich Haussler (Gerolsteiner)
Sebastian Lang (Gerolsteiner)
Michael Rich (Gerolsteiner)
Ronny Scholz (Gerolsteiner)
Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner)
Linus Gerdemann (CSC)
Jens Voigt (CSC)
Christian Knees (Wiesenhof)
David Kopp (Wiesenhof)
Gerald Ciolek (Akud Arnolds)
Jörg Jaksche (Liberty Seguros)
Jörg Ludewig (Domina Vacanze)
Patrik Sinkewitz (QuickStep)