By Andrew Hood
Late afternoon rain showers doused Bobby Julich’s chances in Wednesday’s 5.7km prologue at the Tour of Benelux.
Julich was one of the late starters facing the daunting task of racing over the rain-slick cobblestone roads that marked much of the narrow, technical course in Mechelen, Belgium.
“It was impossible to get around in the corners for both Julich and (Vladimir) Gusev, who were our two last riders,” said Team CSC sport director Scott Sunderland. “Already after 100 meters they’d lost about five seconds and then there was no chance of catching up at such a short distance.” Julich looks to be busy for the remainder of the 2005 season. Up next for the Olympic bronze medalist is the Tour of Germany, GP Plouay, the Tour of Poland and the world championships in Madrid.
Verbrugghe happy with win
An early starter in Wednesday’s prologue, Rik Verbrugghe benefited from the rain showers that tripped up the final 20 or so riders to win the Benelux opener.
The Quick Step rider rode in drier conditions and held on to beat Carlos Barredo (Liberty Seguros) by one second and teammate Servais Knaven by two seconds.
“I’m really happy with my result today,” he said. “At the beginning of the season I worked a lot to demonstrate not only to myself but also to those that had faith in me that I was still a winning athlete. I haven’t been a protagonist during my races, but I still didn’t give in.”
Verbrugghe, a winner this year at the GP Lugano, promises to try to win the Benelux tour.
“Now I’ll be trying to keep the jersey,” he said. “It will be difficult as the competition is very tough but the next stages really are suited to my style of racing.”
Basso still strong
Ivan Basso (CSC) was the surprise winner in Wednesday’s opening stage in the Tour of Denmark. With hardly a mountain in sight, Basso attacked with 10km to go in the rainy, mostly flat stage to grab the victory and leader’s jersey.
“This isn’t exactly my terrain, but I felt good, and I can feel that I’m still on form after the Tour,” Basso said after snagging his sixth win on the season. “This is an important race for my team and it was a pleasure to win in front of this fantastic crowd.”
Basso’s win was satisfying for Team CSC manager Bjarne Riis, who said the victory demonstrates Basso is one of the strongest riders in the peloton. After all, Basso’s been going hard since before the Giro d’Italia.
“It was great to see Ivan win like this,” Riis said. “It takes guts and class to attack on streets soaked with rain, but he’s clearly in excellent shape and really has the energy to go the distance. The race is still open, but I think, we’ve had the perfect start with Ivan in yellow.”
Ullrich targets Tour of Germany
While Jan Ullrich remains busy with post-Tour criterium appearances, the T-Mobile star is promising to get serious about a run for the Tour of Germany title.
The Deutschland-Tour, now part of the ProTour calendar and set for August 15-23, will be Ullrich’s major goal for the final half of the season.
“I am preparing intensively in Switzerland for this race. I still have my good form from the Tour and hope to maintain it between now and the Deutschland-Tour. It is a very important race, both for me and for the team,” he said. “The Deutschland-Tour will be really tough this year. The mountain stages look really demanding. The climb to Sölden is even steeper than the Galibier. That will be a hard test.”
Ullrich said he’s still undecided about racing the road world’s: “I am not looking that far ahead. I am taking things step by step and I will consider my options after the Deutschland-Tour.”
Klöden still sidelined
T-Mobile officials report that Andreas Klöden is unlikely to return to competitive racing before mid-September. Tests taken Tuesday at the Uni-clinic in Freiberg confirm the 30-year-old is slowly recovering from breaking the navicular bone in his right hand during stage 16 of the Tour de France.
“The swelling has gone down. And the X-ray gave the doctors a very good view of the fracture,” Klöden said. “I will be doing other things to stay fit, but I hope to return to competition later in the season.”
Beltrán okay for Vuelta
Manuel Beltrán, banged up after being hit by a motorcycle while on a training ride last weekend, will be able to start the Vuelta a España, Discovery Channel team officials confirmed.
“Triki is okay, just some scratches and bruises – nothing major,” Johan Bruyneel said on the team’s web page. “He’ll be okay for the upcoming Vuelta a España.”
Simoni eyes Vuelta, new team
Two-time Giro d’Italia champion confirmed he’ll race the Vuelta a España and Giro di Lombardia to wrap up his 2005 campaign.
Simoni, 33, will compete in the upcoming Volta a Portugal to hone his form ahead of the other races.
According to reports in the Italian wire services, Simoni also confirmed he will not renew his contract with Lampre-Caffita for the 2006 season. He’s been linked to Quick Step, Cofidis and Domina Vacanze, but no announcement has been made.
Charteau to join Crédit Agricole
French rider Anthony Charteau, upset about being left off the Bouygues Telecom Tour de France team, has been released from his contract and will be allowed to join Crédit Agricole for two seasons.
According to a report in the French sports daily L’Equipe, the 26-year-old Charteau was angered he couldn’t race the Tour and demanded the final year of his contract with Bouygues Telecom be nullified.
Jean-René Bernaudeau, who instead selected Walter Bénéteau to start the Tour, was more than happy to let the frustrated rider clear of his contract.
Armstrong already entering museum
Two of Lance Armstrong’s bicycles from his recent Tour de France victory will be on display in a French cycling museum. One of Armstrong’s road bikes and another time trial bike from his record-setting seventh Tour victory will be on display in a museum alongside a helmet, three maillots jaunes and a LiveStrong bracelet.