By Andrew Hood
Danielson: ‘Repeat will be difficult’
Tom Danielson will be starting his season early with a return trip to the Tour de Langkawi (January 28-February 6), the race he won in 2003 that proved to be his springboard to the big-time for the Colorado climber.
Now embarking on the 2005 season with Discovery Channel, Danielson said he’s traveling to Malaysia with the idea of building fitness for what will be an important season in Europe.
“In 2003, the plan all along was to try and have a good ride in Genting. Nathan (O’Neill) was in incredible form throughout and through his and the team’s support, I was able to perform well on the climb,” said Danielson in an interview with New Straits Times.
”This year, I’m going into the race with no form and the goal is to come out of it with renewed fitness, ready to go to Europe hungry and strong.”
Danielson’s victory in 2003 elicited interest from several top teams and he eventually settled on Fassa Bortolo for 2004. After a frustrating season that saw him be left off both the Giro and Vuelta teams, Danielson has signed on with Lance Armstrong’s team at Discovery Channel.
Joining Danielson at Discovery will be Jose Azevedo, Japan’s Fumiyuki Beppu, Jurgen Van den Broeck, Guennadi Mikhailov, Antonio Cruz and New Zealander Hayden Roulsten.
McEwen wins national title
Aussie sprinter Robbie McEwen started the 2005 season off on a good note, snagging the national title in the 182km race in the foothills surrounding Adelaide.
Defending champion Matthew Wilson and his Fdjeux.com teammate Baden Cooke, a Tour de France green jersey winner in 2003, were absent but will ride the six-day Tour Down Under race, which begins this Tuesday.
“It’s started off really well. It’s my fifth win of the season, but the first big one. The Australian championship really means a lot to me. It just feels so good riding around in the jersey, so (I’ll have to have) a new paint job for the bike, new jersey, new helmet – everything color-coordinated so that I look the part for the year,” McEwen told AFP.
After a frenetic start, a group of 16 riders managed to pull away from the main bunch in the latter half of the race and build a two-minute lead. But with less than four laps to race McEwen’s group attacked and built a 20-sec advantage. Stuart O’Grady and the rest tried to close the gap, but even on the last lap the leaders maintained the rhythm. –Agence France Presse
Dierckxens to retire
Belgian veteran Ludo Dierckxens has decided to hang up the cleats after being unable to secure a ride for the 2005 season. The 40-year-old wanted to race at least another season, but his former Landbouwkrediet-Colnago team didn’t want to offer him a contract.
Dierckxens made efforts to join MrBookmaker.com, but nothing could be finalized for the veteran known for his attacking panache. He started late as a pro, joining the peloton in 1994. His major wins include a stage in the 1999 Tour de France, the 1998 Belgian national title and the 2003 GP d’Ouverture La Marseillaise.
Cunego, Ullrich at Murcia
Race organizers for the Tour of Murcia (March 2-6) have confirmed that 1997 Tour de France champion Jan Ullrich and defending Giro d’Italia champion Damiano Cunego will be among the starters.
Other top names already committed to the race include Spanish riders José Iván Gutiérrez (Illes Balears) and Juan Carlos Domínguez (Saunier Duval). The Spanish race has drawn solid interest, with the following teams penciled in to start: T-Mobile, Lampre-Caffeti, Gerolsteiner, Rabobank, Bougyes Telecom, Chocolate Jacques, Phonak, Mr Bookmaker, Barloworld, Illes Balears, Saunier Duval, Comunidad Valenciana, Kaiku and Relax Fuenlabrada.
Ullrich, meanwhile, will travel to Tuscany in February to continue his preparations for the season; he has announced that he will not race in any of the spring classics. Teammates Andreas Kloeden and Alexandre Vinokourov will train at altitude on the Canary Islands on the Teide volcano on roads above than 2,000 meters. Both are expected to make their season debut at the Tour of Valencia (February 22-26).