By Andrew Hood
Lance Armstrong’s U.S. Postal team gave an indication of their collective force on the second stage of the Tour of Languedoc-Roussillon, won in Narbonne, France, on Thursday by Thor Hushovd.
Hushovd has been a force to be reckoned with all spring, so victory after 188km of riding in hot temperatures between Port-Leucate and Narbonne came as little surprise for the Norwegian.
The Credít Agricole sprinter came over the finish line ahead of French duo Samuel Dumoulin (AG2R) and Jerome Pineau (Brioches La Boulangere) to tighten his grip on the race leader’s jersey.
However, the day was marked by U.S. Postal. Armstrong, who is gunning for a record sixth Tour de France win in July, showed the extent of his team’s work ethic by effectively blowing the race apart. U.S. Postal’s solid riding in formation over the last 20km unceremoniously ended the earlier breakaways of Christophe Edaleine (Cofidis) and Anthony Charteau (Brioches La Boulangere).
Using the capricious wind conditions to their benefit, the American team’s efforts also ended the overall victory hopes of two contenders, Cofidis’s David Moncoutie, who finished at over six minutes behind, and Swiss rider Alex Zülle (Phonak).
“We saw that it was windy and decided it would be better to ride as a group rather than wait for any potential attacks,” said U.S. Postal manager Johan Bruyneel. “For us it’s a training session, it’s not a practice for the Tour de France. Lance (Armstrong) feels pretty good at the moment.”
Hushovd admitted that once Armstrong got going, it was too impressive to miss.
“I know that Lance is there just to get in shape, but when he really got going it was impressive,” said Hushovd, who will be hoping to do well on the Tour himself after his sizzling spring campaign.
“It’s my sixth victory of the season,” said 26-year-old Hushovd. “And it’s given me a lot of confidence. Now I’m considered one of the team’s leaders, and so they don’t hesitate when it comes to working for me. In the first week of the Tour de France, I’ll also be the leader.” –AFP and Reuters
1. Thor Hushovd (Nor) Credit Agricole, 4:16:35
2. Samuel Dumoulin (F), AG2r Prevoyance, same time
3. Jerome Pineau (F), Brioches La Boulangere, s.t.
4. Enrico Degano (I), Barloworld, s.t.
5. Franck Renier (F), Brioches La Boulangere, s.t.
6. Martin Elmiger (Swi), Phonak, s.t.
7. Bernhard Eisel (A), Fdjeux.com, s.t.
8. Sven Vanthourenhout (B), Quick Step-Davitamon, s.t.
9. Steven Caethoven (B), Vlaanderen-T-Interim, s.t.
10. Nicolas Jalabert (F), Phonak, s.t.
1. Hushovd, 9:07:27
2. Dumoulin, at 0:08
3. Pineau, at 0:13
4. Elmiger, at 0:21
5. Eisel, same time
6. Vanthourenhout, s.t.
7. Degano, at 0:24
8. Renier, s.t.
9. Egoi Martinez (Spain), Euskaltel, s.t.
10. Laurent Brochard (France) AG2r Prevoyance, s.t.
Danielson to race Vuelta
Tom Danielson (Fassa Bortolo) confirmed on his personal web page he will make his grand-tour debut at the Vuelta a España (Sept. 4-26). There was growing speculation that he might ride the Tour de France after Fassa Bortolo team management decided their young rider wasn’t quite ready to start this month’s Giro d’Italia.
After a solid spring of racing, which saw Danielson finish 18th in the Tour de Romandie, the 26-year-old will race at the Euskal Bizikleta (June 2-6) and the Tour de Suisse (June 12-20) before a quick trip home in July.
“Hearing I was scheduled to do the Vuelta was music to my ears and confirms that choosing this team was a great decision,” Danielson wrote on his personal web page. “The team feels the Vuelta will be good for me as by then I will have three times the experience I have now, and there will be less pressure for the sponsors to come out with big wins (as in the Giro). Therefore, the team can invest energy and power into me even if I don’t win something in the race, but maybe get a good result.”
Pound has another go at cycling
World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) president Dick Pound had some choice words for cycling, charging the sport is in “clinical denial” over continuing doping allegations surrounding the sport.
Speaking in an interview with Eurosport, Pound said he’s not singling out cycling, but insisted the sport isn’t doing all it can to stamp out doping.
“I am in the face of every other sport just as much as cycling,” Pound said on Eurosport. “But the problem with cycling is that there is this clinical denial of a serious problem. Cycling complains when riders come forward and say ‘this is what we had to do on our team.’ They’re dismissed as cranks instead of people that actually knew what happened. They are the paths to a possible solution.”
Pound also blasted the UCI for being one of the few sporting federations to not sign the WADA code. With less than three months to go before the Athens Games, the UCI still has not signed the WADA code, which could threaten the removal of cycling as an Olympic sport.
The WADA code sets out stricter penalties with bans up to two years for doping violations without a sliding scale based on the levels of positive tests, something the UCI opposes.
“The problem with cycling is that they [the UCI] know that at least one part of the sport, the professional road racing circuit, has a serious problem,” Pound told Eurosport. “And it’s that part of the sport that produces most of the revenues that keep the UCI going. The UCI is reluctant to get into something that may expose a rider who tests positive to a two-year suspension.”
In Pound’s view, cycling’s doping woes have only turned to the worse. Recent revelations of alleged systematic doping involving the Cofidis and Kelme teams indicate to Pound that cycling is losing the battle.
“You would think that cycling would say, ‘This is bad for our sport. There are constant revelations of systematic doping among teams. We’ve got to clean it up,’” Pound said.“But instead their approach has been: ‘We do more testing than anyone else, so why are you picking on us?’ The fact of the matter is that no matter how much testing they’re doing, they haven’t made progress in stamping out doping from cycling. There is no indication whatsoever that there is less doping than in the past.”
Pound’s earlier comments about doping caused the consternation among several of cycling’s leading figures, including five-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong, who sent an open letter to Pound defending cycling.
Bruyneel says sponsor search close, not finalized
U.S. Postal Service sport director Johan Bruyneel said a new sponsor is in the works to take over the U.S. Postal Service at the end of the season, but clarified statements that a new sponsor had already been secured, Reuters reported.
Wire services Tuesday reported Bruyneel said a new sponsor was already lined up to take over for U.S. Postal Service, which is ending its nine-year run of the team at the end of this year.
“I did not say we’d found a new sponsor only that I believed the team will still exist in 2005 and beyond,” Bruyneel said. “Several companies are bidding to take the team over but nothing’s done yet.”
Armstrong and his teammates are taking part in the Tour du Languedoc-Roussillon (FRA 2.1) in the south of France, the five-time Tour de France winner’s first race since winning the Tour de Georgia in April.
The Texan finished 67th on Wednesday, taking things steadily on a tricky 166-km first stage between Maury and Port Vendres won by Norwegian Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole).
“It was trouble-free day. The race was hard on a very bumpy route and Lance took it easy,” Bruyneel told Reuters.
British-Italian vet Sciandri retires
1996 bronze medalist Maximilian Sciandri abruptly announced his retirement Wednesday and will leave Team CSC immediately to pursue a new career opportunity, the team reported.
“I would have liked to end my active career with a victory, and it did in a way as we won the teams competition in my last race at Tour de Georgia,” said the 37-year-old Sciandri. “I was on the podium and got the chance to open the champagne. The whole team was together and there was a huge audience. As I stood there, I thought this was the right way to say goodbye.”
Sciandri’s long and successful career included 33 career victories, including wins at the Tour de France, the Giro d’Italia and the Leeds International Classic. Sciandri took out an English license because he was born on Derby to Italian parents and raced with the British national team to win the bronze medal in the Atlanta Games in 1996 the first year professionals took part in the Olympics.
Sciandri began his career in 1989 and was a teammate of Lance Armstrong on the Motorola team in 1996. He joined the ill-fated Linda McCartney team in 2000 before switching to three seasons with Lampre. His last victories came in 2000.
The 87th Giro d’Italia continues with the 228km 11th stage from Sant’Elpido to Cesena, birthplace of recently deceased Marco Pantani. Damiano Cunego (Saeco) takes his 10-second lead over defending champion Gilberto Simoni (Saeco) into the hilly, long course that should provide some fireworks as the Giro pushes north toward Saturday’s time trial. There are three rated climbs, with the final Muro di Sorrivoli coming with just 17km to go. The 2.5km climb features ramps as steep as 18 percent and could cause major splits in the peloton. … Lance Armstrong (USPS) finished 10 seconds behind stage-winner Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) in Wednesday’s opening stage of the “reborn Midi Libre,” a race he won in 2002. Now called the Tour du Languedoc-Roussillon (FRA 2.1), racing continues Thursday with the 188km second stage from Port Leucate to Narbonne. The course rolls over three Cat. 3 climbs and one Cat. 2 at 82.5km before a largely flat finish into Narbonne. … The Tour of Belgium (BEL 2.2) continues Thursday with the 179 km second stage from Oostende to Knokke Heist. Gianluca Bortolami (Lampre) won the opening stage, but Geert Omloop (Mr Bookmakers) took the “black” leader’s jersey on time bonuses. … The Bayern Rundfahrt (GER 2.3) continues with a split stage Thursday, with a morning road stage 120 kilometers from Roth to Aichach followed by an afternoon 15.8-kilometer individual time trial.