By Andrew Hood
Race officials revealed the 2005 Tour de France will start with a 19kmindividual time trial with the Vendée region of western France hostingthe “grand depart.”The time trial and two road stages will be featured for the openingof the 92nd edition July 2-4, 2005, which will then push east toward Choletinto central France, Societe du Tour de France officials revealed Thursday.Challans will be the site of the “Grand depart,” but the first stagewill be a 19km ITT from nearby Fromentine to Noirmoutier en l’Ile. Becauseof its length, it will be called stage one rather than a prologue, raceofficials said.Initial reports indicated the course will follow a modern bridge, notthe treacherous Passage du Gois section of cobbles covered by high tidethat featured highly in Lance Armstrong’s first of five consecutive victoriesin 1999.Stage two runs 185 kilometers between Challans and Les Essarts. Stagethree starts in La Châtaigneraie and heads out of the Vendéeregion in the direction of the town of Cholet, but a finish has yet tobe named.The region has twice hosted the “grand depart,” first in 1993 and againin 1999, both times at the Puy du Fou theme park.2005 Tour de France start
Stage 1, July 2: 19km, individual time trial – Fromentine toNoirmoutier en l’Ile
Stage 2, July 3: 185km, Challans to Les Essarts
Stage 3, July 4: Start from La ChâtaigneraieIlles Balears keeps on truckin’
Illes Balears schooled its rivals in Thursday’s 32km team time trialin the second stage of the Vuelta a Castilla y León to keep JoséIván Gutiérrez in the race leader’s jersey.Marred by heavy rains and cross-winds, Illes Balears won 29 secondsahead of Liberty Seguros and 1:23 ahead Lokomotiv on the relatively flatcourse. Kelme came through fourth at 1:43 slower.Tim Johnson came through 69th with his Saunier Duval teammates (SaunierDuval finished 11th out of 13 teams) and sits 78th at 8:15 overall.
The race continues Friday with a flat 140km stage from Carriónde los Condes to Mansilla de las Mulas across the parched meseta of northernSpain.
More bad news for Kelme
The troubled Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme team got more bad news Wednesday afternoon: it won’t be invited to race in the upcoming Giro d’Italia.
Giro officials told team officials — who traveled to Milan on Wednesday to plead their case — the Spanish team won’t be lining up in Genoa when the Giro starts May 8.
“What makes me mad is that the Giro always could count on us when they needed our help and now when it’s us who asks a favor, they turn their back on us,” said CV-Kelme sport director Vicente Belda. “They should have remembered who was at their side when other (Spanish) teams preferred to race the Tour of Germany because they had no television.”
The news is the latest blow for the venerable Spanish team, which has seen seven of its riders, including 2001 Vuelta a España winner Angel Casero, unable to race this season.
The biggest blow has been the allegations of organized doping within the team by ex-rider Jesús Manzano. The Tour de France has also told the Spanish team it won’t be allowed to race.
Manzano’s newspaper declarations, given in a paid interview to the Spanish daily AS, weren’t the deciding factor for Giro officials, however. It was Manzano’s testimony before an Italian tribunal that he was doped during the 2001 and 2002 Giro’s that tipped the balance against the team, the Spanish wires reported.
Without the Giro or the Tour, Belda said the team will focus on the Vuelta a España (Sept. 4-26).
“With the help of the Generalitat (Comunidad Valenciana), we will demonstrate that we are the most competitive,” Belda said. “In the Vuelta we’ll show who’s who.”
LA says cycling ‘won’t die’
Lance Armstrong, in an interview published Wednesday, said new allegations and scandals about rider doping are hurting cycling’s image but insists the sport “won’t die out.”
The 32-year-old Texan, who hopes to win a record sixth Tour de France title in July, said a new doping probe of French team Cofidis and the death in February of Italian great Marco Pantani – long bedeviled by doping allegations – have taken a toll.
“These cases are of course bad for cycling,” Armstrong told leading French sports daily L’Equipe, whose parent company also runs the Tour. “But cycling isn’t going to die. And I still love it.”
The scandal at Cofidis – one of France’s leading squads, and home to three world champions – is the biggest in years in cycling. Seven team members are under investigation in a probe of suspected doping that came to light in January.
Philippe Gaumont, a Cofidis rider embroiled in the probe, told investigators that the squad’s doctor had given cortisone and human growth hormone injections to riders.
Last month, the Tour threw out the Spanish Kelme-Costa Blanca team from the event after a fired rider, Jesus Manzano, alleged the team had doped its riders.
Armstrong said he was surprised by those revelations.
“It was a real shock,” he was quoted as saying. “In this specific case, I hope a trial will determine the truth. For now, it’s only words, no proof.’
In the ongoing Cofidis probe, French police seized male hormones, performance enhancer EPO and amphetamines. The scandal is the biggest to face cycling since the Festina affair in 1998, which nearly derailed the Tour itself that year.
Armstrong, fresh off winning the Tour de Georgia over the weekend, said the biggest threat to cycling is that sponsors could get spooked off by doping scandals. Armstrong said he regretted that cyclists – unlike in other sports – don’t have an organization to help defend them against doping charges.
“It’s an old system in which ‘everyone-for-himself’ reigns and in which, in the end, racers have no power, only to the right to get on their bikes and keep quiet,” he said.
– By The Associated Press
Di Luca sidelined with prostate problems
Danilo Di Luca (Saeco) remains in an Italian hospital following check-ups that revealed an acute inflammation of the prostate. Di Luca is being treated at the Clinica Villa Pini in Chieti, Italy, where he is expected to remain for a few more days, the team reported.
Di Luca was stricken with a urinary infection the night before last Sunday’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège, where he was a favorite after finishing second in last week’s Flèche Wallonne.
The Team Saeco rider will carry out further tests and stay in the clinic for a couple of days before the Saeco medical staff, team manager Claudio Corti and the rider decide the next step based on the tests and treatment Di Luca will have to undergo, the team reported. Valkenburg wants worlds again
The Dutch city of Valkenburg is preparing another bid to host the road world cycling championships. According to a report on the Dutch wires, Valkenburg wants to host the road worlds either in 2008 or 2009. The city has hosted the world’s three times, in 1938, 1979 and 1998. All clear in Spain
The UCI conducted hematocrit controls Wednesday morning on five teams before the start of the opening stage of the Vuelta a Castilla y León. Teams tested included riders from the Spanish national team, Café Baqué, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Lokomotiv and Relax-Bodysol. All riders were deemed “apt” to race. Racing today
Brad McGee (FDJeux.com) will be looking to hold his leader’s jersey as the 58th Tour de Romandie (SWI 2.HC) continues with the 156-kilometer second stage starting and finishing in Romont. The rolling stage features several unrated climbs and hits a Category 3 climb at 54 kilometers and a more difficult Cat. 2 climb at 136.5 kilometers before a rising finish into Romont.
José Ivan Gutierrez is hoping his Illes Balears team will be able to defend his jersey in the 32km team time trial in the second stage of Vuelta a Castilla y León (SPA 2.3) in northern Spain. Strong winds are expected to be a protagonist along a largely flat course from Fromista to Carrion de los Condes.