By Andrew Hood
Times are tough for Spanish rider Joseba Beloki. The three-time Tour de France podium finisher is struggling in the hilly Bicicleta Vasca in northern Spain this week with allergies and then heard from journalists the news that his French team Brioches La Boulangere is pulling the plug on the team at the end of this season.
The team’s title sponsor announced Thursday it would not continue underwriting the team past the 2004 season due to mounting costs of joining the planned UCI Pro Tour for the 2005 season.
“I just heard the news from a journalist, but the team can continue if we can find a new sponsor,” said Beloki, who’s in his first of two years with the team.
Beloki has struggled to recapture his form since his stunning fall in last year’s Tour when he abandoned the race with broken leg, wrist and elbow. His troubles continued in Wednesday’s opening stage, when he lost more than seven minutes after suffering an allergy attack. Beloki lost another 27 seconds Thursday.
Beloki says he’s lagging behind in the Spanish race in part because he cannot use his allergy medicine for fear he might fail a doping test.
“It’s hard to focus on the race when your thoughts are somewhere else,” Beloki said. “And it’s not just the issue of the sponsor, but also tomorrow’s stage, which I know well, but there’s a lot of vegetation and, looking how things went today, it will be tough to do something.”
Bruyneel narrows in on Tour team
U.S. Postal Service sport director Johan Bruyneel said he’s narrowed the list of candidates down to 10 riders to join Lance Armstrong next month as he makes a run for a record sixth Tour de France victory.
There are no major surprises as 10 riders vie for eight spots to fill out the nine-man Tour roster, which Bruyneel said will be finalized after the Vuelta a Cataluyna later this month.
“We’ll do the same as we do every year,” Bruyneel told VeloNews. “We’ll make a decision after Cataluyna and see who’s strongest.”
On Postal’s short list are seven riders returning from last year’s winning team, including Americans George Hincapie and Floyd Landis, Russian veteran Viatcheslav Ekimov, Spanish riders Jose Luis “Chechu” Rubiera and Manuel “Trixi” Beltrán, Colombian Victor Hugo Peña and Czech rider Pavel Padrnos.
Portuguese rider Jose Azevedo looks to be the natural inheritor of the vacancy created by the departure of Roberto Heras to Liberty Seguros. But Bruyneel left the door open for two other riders — Luxemborg rider Benoit Joachim and Spanish rider Benjamin Noval.
“Those are the 11 candidates,” Bruyneel said. “We’ll see who’s riding well at Dauphine and Cataluyna.”
Hincapie, Landis, Ekimov, Beltrán, Azevedo, Peña and Noval will race alongside Armstrong starting Sunday at the Dauphiné Libéré while Rubiera, Padrnos and Joachim will have a chance to show their colors at Cataluyna (June 14-20).
Bruyneel said U.S. Postal Service will not race Saturday’s Classique des Alpes.
Simoni beat Cunego – in criterium
Gilberto Simoni got revenge on Damiano Cunego in a post-Giro critierium Thursday in Italy. The 22-year-old Cunego upstaged his Saeco teammate during the three-week Giro d’Italia, winning four stages and taking the overall title. In the climbing time trial at Mottarone, Simoni edged Cunego by two seconds on the 14.5km course.
Zabel back on top in rankings
German sprinter ace Erik Zabel (T-Mobile) recaptured the top spot in the latest UCI rankings released Wednesday. Zabel and two-time World Cup champion Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) have been swapping the world’s No. 1 ranking all season.
Italian young gun Damiano Cunego (Saeco) jumped 66 positions into seventh after his dominant Giro d’Italia victory. Belgian sprinter Tom Boonen (Quick Step) also nudged closer to the top 10, moving into 13th on the world rankings. Lance Armstrong (USPS) remained in the top 10 with sixth.
UCI World Standings – Week of May 30
1. Erik Zabel (G) 2290 pts
2. Paolo Bettini (I) 2235
3. Alessandro Petacchi (I) 2137
4. Davide Rebellin (I) 1962
5. Alejandro Valverde (Sp) 1873
6. Lance Armstrong (USA) 1849
7. Damiano Cunego (I) 1675
8. Alexandre Vinokourov (Kz) 1381
9. Iban Mayo (Sp) 1381
10. Michael Boogerd (Nl) 1324
11. Jens Voigt (G) 1215
12. Jan Ullrich (G) 1186
13. Tom Boonen (B) 1183
14. Oscar Freire (Sp) 1174
15. Isidro Nozal (Sp) 1159
16. Robbie McEwen (Aus) 1145
17. Danilo Di Luca (I) 1133
18. Serhiy Honchar (Ukr) 1105
19. Brad McGee (Aus) 1078
20. Ivan Basso (I) 1062
21. Francisco Mancebo (Sp) 1061
22. Roberto Heras (Sp) 1049
23. Baden Cooke (Aus) 1015
24. Mirko Celestino (I) 988
25. Igor Astarloa (Sp) 955
Perdiguero takes second stage
Spanish sprinter Miguel Angel Martín Perdiguero (Saunier Duval) picked up where he left off in the Bicicleta Vasca (Euskal Bizikleta), winning Thursday’s second stage in similar fashion after taking the flowers in the opener a day earlier.
Martín Perdiguero edged Angel Vicioso (Liberty Seguros) in the 155km stage while Alberto Martínez (Relax-Bodysol) came through third. Pre-race favorites Haimar Zubeldia (Euskaltel) and Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros) finished in the lead group of 20 to remain in contention. Euskal Bizikleta (SPA 2.1)
Stage 2, Karrantza to Agurain
1. Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero (Sp), Saunier Duval – 159km in 3h49:53
2. Angel Vicioso (Sp), Liberty Seguros
3. Alberto Martinez (Sp), Relax-Bodysol
4. Didier Rous (F), Brioches
5. Samuel Sanchez (Sp), Euskaltel all same time
44. Tom Danielson (USA), Fassa Bortolo +0:27
72. Joseba Beloki (Sp), Brioches st
Overall standings after two stages
1. M.A. Martin Perdiguero (Sp), Saunier Duval-Prodir 8h05:06
2. Angel Vicioso (Sp), Liberty Seguros
3. Alberto Martinez (Sp), Relax-Bodysol
4. Samuel Sanchez (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi
5. Roberto Heras (Sp), Liberty Seguros all same time
46. Tom Danielson (USA), Fassa Bortolo +4:14
Hinault surprises German aces
Sébastien Hinault (Credit Agricole) held off the sprinter specialists in the 181km fourth stage of the Tour of Germany on Thursday. Rain seemed to hamper the sprinters teams from setting up their top guns and Hinault jumped early to beat Allan Davis (Liberty Seguros).
While Patrik Sinkewitz (Quick Step) finished safely in the bunch to retain the overall, he didn’t seem so pleased that he had to wear a raincoat for the much of the day and couldn’t show off the leader’s jersey.
“It was a great feeling to defend the yellow jersey today. Too bad it was raining almost the whole time, that way I couldn’t really show it to the crowd during stage,” Sinkewitz told German television station ARD.
Tour of Germany(GER 2.2)
Stage 4, Bad Tolz to Kulmbach
1. Sebastien Hinault (Fra), Credit Agricole – 181km in 4 hours, 10 minutes, 9 seconds
2. Allan Davis (Aus), Liberty Seguros
3. Tom Boonen (Bel), Quick Step
4. Danilo Hondo (Ger), Gerolsteiner
5. Lubomir Kejval, ZVVZ all same time
65. Christian Vande Velde (USA), Liberty Seguros
DNF David Clinger (USA), Domina Vacanze
Overall standings after four stages
1. Patrick Sinkewitz (Ger), Quick Step 13 hours, 10 minutes, 43 seconds
2. Jan Hruska (Cze), Liberty Seguros +0:11
3. Jan Ullrich (Ger), T-Mobile +0:18
4. Igor Galdeano (Sp), Liberty Seguros +0:18
5. Jens Voigt (Ger), Team CSC +0:23
66. Christian Vande Velde (USA), Liberty Seguros +25:00
Dutch feathers ruffled over naked bike tour plans
A planned nudist bicycle tour in the Netherland’s so called bible-belt has upset local churchmen who are holding their own youth charity bike ride the same day.
They have tried in vain to get local authorities to ban the nudists to stop them clashing with the youth chapter of the Reformed Church when they both take to the road in the eastern town of Apeldoorn on June 12.
The nudist tour is part of the World Naked Bike Ride which also takes place in London, Chicago, Los Angeles, Montreal, Toronto and Pforzheim in Germany.
The organizer of the church bike tour told the ANP news agency Thursday he had tried to coordinate the routes with the nudist tour to avoid any embarrassing meeting but had obtained no reply.
He is now asking the 300 or so cyclists on his youth tour to call the police if they see any nudists.
“Nudity in public is provocative and illegal,” he said.
– By Reuters