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By Andrew Hood
Fred Rodriguez (Caldirola-Duval) has left the door open for a possible start at the October road world championships. Earlier this month, Rodriguez told U.S. national team coach Jim Ochowicz he wasn’t interested in racing in Hamilton, but has since changed his mind after finding his legs in the second half of the Vuelta a España.
“Ochowicz needed to know by September 15 and at that point I thought I needed to shut it down. But I’m feeling better now and I told George (Hincapie) if he needs me, if he feels like the team isn’t strong enough, to give me a call,” Rodriguez told VeloNews before the start of Saturday’s time trial.
“There’s still a small chance I might do it,” he said. “The legs are good now. I made it through the Pyrénées and that gave me new motivation.”
Rodriguez has been close to stage victories in this Vuelta, taking third in stage 12 and second in stage 14. But Rodriguez admits it’s difficult to go up against Telekom and Fassa Bortolo, who throw everything into helping Erik Zabel and Alessandro Petacchi, respectively.
“I’m hoping to find a team next year that will be able to help me better in the sprints,” said Rodriguez, who added he’s considering offers from several teams. “I really noticed it here, going up against these super-teams.”
U.S. Postal firms up roster for 2004
U.S. Postal Service is firming up its roster for the 2004 season, when Lance Armstrong will go for a history-making sixth Tour de France victory.
“All nine guys from the Tour team are back,” said U.S. Postal’s sport director, Johan Bruyneel. “Plus we’ve signed a few riders. There won’t be that many changes for next year.”
The riders back obviously include Armstrong as well Pavel Padrnos, Viatcheslav Ekimov, George Hincapie, Floyd Landis, Jose Luis Rubiera, Victor Hugo Peña, Roberto Heras and Manuel Beltrán.
Bruyneel said the team has signed Benjamin Noval, a Spanish rider currently on the Relax-Fuenlabrada team, and two young Belgian riders: Styn Devolder and Jurgen Vanden Broeck.
Rasmussen satisfied with Vuelta
Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank) said he’s very satisfied with how the Vuelta a España unfolded for him. The former mountain bike world champion won a mountain stage at Cauterets and looks to finish seventh overall, barring disaster in Sunday’s finale.
“I’m happy and the team is happy. I won a stage and still have chances to move up in the GC,” Rasmussen said before the start of Saturday’s climbing time trial. “I’m pretty tired now. I had to let them go in the final kilometer (Friday), but it’s been a long race.”
More importantly for Rasmussen, the Vuelta salves the sting of missing this year’s Tour de France when a Dutch rider was chosen ahead of him.
“This makes up for the disappointment of not going to the Tour de France. I’m coming out the winner in that question,” said Rasmussen, who has one year remaining on his contract. “I won’t have to worry about going to the Tour next year.”
Rasmussen confirmed he won’t be racing the world championships but will end his season at the World Cup finale at the Giro de Lombardia in October.
Spanish worlds team finalized
The Spanish national team has been set for the upcoming road world championships, with two-time world champion Oscar Freire leading the 12-man squad.
Joining Freire will be Igor Astarloa (Saeco), Oscar Sevilla and Alejandro Valverde (Kelme), Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano and Marcos Serrano (ONCE), Francisco Mancebo and Aitor Osa (iBanesto.com), Luis Perez and Inigo Cuesta (Cofidis), Manuel Beltran (USPS) and Gorka Gonzalez (Euskaltel).
Riding the time trial will be Isidro Nozal and Galdeano (ONCE).
Ampler in coma after bike-car nishap
Former Olympic track cycling champion Uwe Ampler remained in a coma on Saturday after being hit by a car while training on Friday.
The 39-year-old, who won gold for East Germany at the 1988 Olympics, was being treated at a Leipzig hospital after sustaining severe facial injuries and several fractures in the accident near the eastern German town.
“The doctors have told us that he could move his hands and feet, which is a good sign,” Ampler’s father, Klaus, told the German sports-news agency SID.
McEwen claims Franco-Belge stage
Australian Robbie McEwen (Lotto) won the third stage of the Circuit Franco-Belge, a 194.3km run between Ghyvelde in France and Lichtervelde in Belgium.
McEwen outsprinted New Zealander Julian Dean (CSC) and Belgian Jo Planckeart (Cofidis). The Netherlander Gerben Lowik (Bankgiroloterij) remains in the overall lead. – AFP and Reuters contributed to this report