By Andrew Hood
While American pros have Philly in earlier in the month, the bulk of the professional peloton holds its national championships on the last Sunday of June. The UCI holds this weekend open for national championship races and those were held throughout Europe on Sunday. (The American race is granted the dual status of an invitational, allowing foreign riders the chance to participate and promoters to shift the date to accommodate that.)
France: Rous wins ahead of Virenque
Veteran Didier Rous (Brioches) won ahead of Richard Virenque (Quick Step) in the hotly contested French national road race.
Rous attacked early in the 222km race and held on to win his second national title since 2001. Rous dedicated the victory to fallen teammate Fabrice Salanson, who died June 3 of an apparent heart failure.France
1. Didier Rous (Brioches), 222km in 5:31:16
2. Richard Virenque (Quick Step), at 33 seconds
3. Patrice Halgand (Jean Delatour) at 0:58Holland: Kemna takes sprint, Van Heeswijk third
Veteran Rudi Kemna (Bankgiroloterij) won the Dutch national title afterfinishing ahead of Stefan Van Dijk (Lotto-Domo) in a sprint finish Sunday.Kemna, 36, was fastest in the breakaway to score his sixth win of the seasonand his first national title.Holland
1. Rudi Kemna (Bankgiroloterij), 216km in 4:40:34
2. Stefan Van Dijk (Lotto-Domo), s.t.
3. Max Van Heeswijk (USPS), s.t.Belgium: Omloop fastest in bunch
Geert Omloop (Palmans-Collstrop) won the one-day Belgian national roadchampionship Sunday, narrowly beating Jurgen van Goolen in the closingsprint.Omloop covered the 248-km course around Vilvoorde, just south of Brussels,in five hours, 44 minutes and 11 seconds.Quick Step-Davitamon’s Van Goolenwas second, with his team mate Sven Vanthourenhout third.The 29-year old Omloop said he had dreamed for a year of winning therace, in which the riders had to complete a lap of 14.2 kilometers 17 times.”I’ve been able to make my dream come true,” he said, after winningthe championship. “It’s incredible. I felt strong enough and I knew I couldbeat Van Goolen in the sprint. I think it was finished for him in the sprint.”Landbowkrediet’s Tom Steels, last year’s winner and the favourite thistime, came a disappointing 15th.Belgium
1. Geert Omloop (Palmans), 248km in 5:44:11
2. Jurgen Van Goolen (Quick Step), s.t.
3. Sven Vanthourenhout (Quick Step) at 0:05Italy: Bettini outfoxes Pozzato
Quick Step’s Paolo Bettini edged Filippo Pozzato (Fassa Bortolo) towin the Italian national championships for the first time in his career.Bettini, 29, finished ahead of Pozzato in the 241km course to grab thenational jersey. Many of Italy’s top guns skipped the race, including GilbertoSimoni, Francesco Casagrande and Stefano Garzelli.Germany: Zabel keeps on rolling
German sprinting ace Erik Zabel (Telekom) won his second career nationaltitle Sunday after finishing nearly two minutes ahead of Patrick Sinkewitz(Quick Step). Zabel didn’t wait for the race to come down to a sprint.He attacked with 40km to go in the 175km race and held on to win his firstGerman title since 1998. Bianchi’s Jan Ullrich didn’t start in order tobe with his girlfriend, who is expecting the birth of the couple’s firstchild.Germany
1. Erik Zabel (Telekom), 175km in 4h49:41
2. Patrick Sinkewitz (Quick Step) at 1:49
3. Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner) at 2:19Spain: Plaza pips favorites
Relatively unknown iBanesto.com rider Ruben Plaza stole the thunderfrom the bigger guns to take the Spanish national title Sunday in Madrid.Plaza finished ahead of Rafael Casero (Paternina) and Benjamin Noval (Relax-Fuenlabrada)as part of a breakaway in the final lap of the course that will be usedin the 2005 worlds.Plaza attacked early in the final sprint and hung on to finish on the217km course to win his first race of his three-year pro career. Severaltop names skipped the race, including two-time world champion Oscar Freire(Rabobank), Iban Mayo (Euskaltel) and Joseba Beloki (ONCE).Other nations
1. Georg Totschnig (Gerolsteiner)
2. René Haselbacher (Gerolsteiner)
3. Andreas Matzbacher
1. Janek Tombak (Est), Cofidis
2. Lauri Aus (Est) Ag2r
3. Erki Pütsep (Est), Ag2rLithuania
6. Vytautas Kaupas
9. Andris Nauduzs, CCC-Polsat
1. Nicki Sorensen (CSC)
2. Allan Johansen (Fakta)
3. Bo Hamburger (Formaggi Pinzolo)
1. Roger Hammond (Palmans)
2. Jeremy Hunt (Oktos)
3. Jamie Alberts
1. Benoit Joachim (US Postal)
2. Marc Vanacker
3. Christian Poos (Marlux) Switzerland
1. Daniel Schnider (Phonak)
2. Roger Beuchat (Phonak)
3. Niki Aebersold (Phonak)
Savoldelli uncertain for Tour
Telekom’s Paolo Savoldelli is wracked with stomach problems and might not be able to start the 2003 Tour de France, according to the German wires. The 2002 Giro winner has suffered setbacks throughout the season, including a collision with a car while training in the Canary Islands in February, and struggled at last week’s Route du Sud.
Savoldelli’s condition is also another setback for Telekom, which is rebuilding following the acrimonious departure of 1997 Tour winner Jan Ullrich. Telekom is already missing the services of Cadel Evans, who broke his collarbone twice in the spring.
Telekom will enter the Tour with an on-form Alexandre Vinokourov, fresh off his victory at the Tour of Switzerland, and Colombian Santiago Botero, a winner of two stages and fourth overall in last year’s Tour. Telekom is expected to make an announcement later this week about Savoldelli’s condition, perhaps opening the door for either American Bobby Julich or Italian Giuseppe Guerini, both left off the Tour team.
O’Grady aims for green jersey
Australian Stuart O’Grady says he’s in form for the Tour de France and wants to win the green jersey. The popular Credit Agricole sprinter says after a strong start to the season, he feels better than ever going into next weekend’s Tour start.
“I’m delighted with my shape at the moment. I started the year pretty well, winning the Tour Down Under,” O’Grady told BBC. “I feel different to anything I’ve ever felt in my professional career. There’s something different to my racing in the past and it feels great.”
O’Grady said he’s confident he can win the green jersey in what’s sure to be one of the hottest battles in this year’s Tour as O’Grady, defending champion Robbie McEwen and six-time winner Erik Zabel will be going full bore for the sprinter’s jersey.
“I fancy going for yellow at the prologue and after that I’ll be pushing those boys for the green jersey. After coming so close to Erik three times before, I think this year will be mine,” said O’Grady, who called compatriot McEwen a top threat for the points jersey. “Robbie was the form man in 2002. He started the season sensationally and then didn’t really look back after that. I know what it’s like to go head-to-head with Erik for the green jersey. It’s not easy, but Robbie managed it, even if it was in the most nail-biting fashion. He has immense power and should be the major contender for green.”
O’Grady says he thinks Zabel has lost a step and also pointed to fellow compatriot Baden Cooke (Fdjeux.com) as another threat for the green jersey. “I don’t think Erik Zabel is the same rider he used to be. A few cracks are just beginning to appear in his armor,” O’Grady said. “Last year, when Robbie won the green jersey from him, was perhaps the first time his crown started slipping. This season he’s not looked the same force and I’ve found myself beating him pretty easily. That’s a great boost for me psychologically as the Tour has always been about Erik and the Telekom train leading him in. Someone else might take the limelight from him this year.”
O’Grady is hoping it’s him taking the limelight all the way to Paris.
Lotto to back McEwen
Lotto-Domo is bringing a strong team to the Tour de France to deliver Robbie McEwen to Paris in green. The Belgian team will be without Tour of Flanders-Paris-Roubaix winner Peter Van Petegem. Instead, the team comes loaded with strong rollers to help the defending green jersey champion make a run for a repeat.
Joining McEwen will be Belgians Rik Verbrugghe, Axel Merckx, Tour stage-winner Serge Baguet, Christophe Brandt and Hans De Clercq, Dutch riders Koes Moerenhout and Leon Van Bon and Aussie Nicolas Gates.
Galvez out of Tour
Spanish sprinter Isaac Galvez won’t be starting the Tour for Kelme and will be substituted by Spanish rider Julian Usano. Galvez was one of Kelme’s best chances to win a stage, but is suffering is suffering from too much pain with tendonitis to make the start. Kelme is also without the services of star rider Oscar Sevilla, sidelined with recovering problems from removing a cyst in his groin area.