By Andrew Hood
Rabobank’s Levi Leipheimer will be at the start line for this week’s Ardennes classics to cap what’s been a solid buildup throughout the spring for the American. The hilly courses suit Leipheimer’s strengths better than the cobbles and Liege-Bastogne-Liege will be his World Cup debut.
Leipheimer said his role will be to help Rabobank teammate Michael Boogerd as much as possible and perhaps look for an opportunity if it presents itself. Otherwise, Leipheimer said he’s happy with his form coming out a series of Spanish races and he’s already looking ahead to the Tour de France.
“I’m happy with how I rode at Pais Vasco. I did better there than last year, that’s a good sign,” Leipheimer told VeloNews. “It’s the hardest race of the spring. If you look at the field there, as far as climbers go, it’s the best field of the whole year. At the Tour or the Vuelta, teams send a mix of guys, but at Pais Vasco, they don’t even bother to send a guy who cannot climb.”
Leipheimer’s already raced at Luis Puig, Tour of Valencia, Clasica Almeria, Tour of Murcia, Setmana Catalana and Tour of the Basque Country. After Liege he’ll race at Henninger Turm and take a short break before the final build-up to the Tour.
“I’ll take a break, not too big. I want to keep racing through May,” Leipheimer said. “I want to do more racing this year before the Tour than last year. I think last year I was little bit under-par before the Tour. This year I cannot afford that.”
Leipheimer rode to an impressive eighth-place in his Tour debut last year. Leipheimer said he doesn’t like to make predictions for the Tour, but he said he wants to “better than last year.”
Brochard tops at Camembert
Ag2R’s Laurent Brochard collected the traditional prize of a giant wheel of Camembert cheese following his victory in the Paris-Camembert semi-classic race on Tuesday.
Former world champion Brochard, who also won the French Cup event in 2001, crossed the line after 200 km of riding with a 40-sec lead over a small group of pursuers.
Spaniard Carlos Torrent came second with French champion Nicolas Vogondy placing third.1. Laurent Brochard (FRA) AG2R 4hr 35min 29sec
2. Carlos Torrent (SPA) at 38secs
3. Nicolas Vogondy (FRA) 43
4. Sandy Casar (FRA) same time
5. Franck Renier (FRA) s.t.
6. Franck Pencole (FRA) s.t.
7. Rene Jorgensen (DEN) s.t.
8. Luis Pasamontes (SPA) s.t.
9. Patrice Halgand (FRA) s.t.
10. Anthony Geslin (FRA) s.t.
11. Kurt-Asle Arvesen (DEN) s.t.
12. Philippe Gaumont (FRA) s.t.
13. Nacor Burgos (SPA) s.t.
14. Thomas Voeckler (FRA) s.t.
15. Felix Garcia Casas (SPA) s.t.
Evans out for at least two weeks
Telekom’s Cadel Evans, who fell in this past weekend’s Amstel Gold World Cup race, will be out of action for the next two to six weeks, his German team said on Tuesdsay.
Evans, from Katherine in Australia’s Northern Territory, is set to have an operation after breaking his left collar bone in two places. Evans physician, Dr. Lothar Heinrich, said that he is still uncertain as to when the surgery will be performed. “Cadel’s recovery time isn’t certain, but it’s quite clear that his Tour de France plans are not at risk,” Heinrich said.
The revelation of last year’s Giro d’Italia, when he wore the leader’s pink jersey, is expected to be back on rollers, which allow a cyclist to train while the bike is in a fixed position, in a couple of weeks.
The 25-year-old Evans, who came to road racing after a stellar career as a mountain bike racer, is considered to be a future contender for the Tour. He was also the 2002 Commonwealth Games time-trial champion in Manchester, England.
Hincapie won’t start Dunkirk
U.S. Postal’s George Hincapie told VeloNews he won’t be starting Four Day of Dunkirk in May, contrary to reports in other media over the weekend. Hincapie was forced to sit out the spring classics with a blood parasite that made it difficult for the American to breathe and recover. Hincapie returned to the United States after it was confirmed he wouldn’t be able to start Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, his most important races of the year.
“I don’t think I will be at Dunkirk,” Hincapie wrote in an e-mail. “I have gotten a bit better, but I will not be ready to race that soon.”
Hincapie is expected to return to form in time to start the Tour de France and then take on the second half of the World Cup schedule in August. He’s also expressed an interest in racing in October’s world championships in Canada.
Armstrong reloads for Liege
Lance Armstrong was once again a protagonist in what he described as his “favorite classic” in Sunday’s Amstel Gold, but said he expects to do even better in this weekend’s Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
Armstrong helped drive the decisive move over the Eyserbosweg climb with just under 20km to go, but when winner Alexandre Vinokourov (Telekom) slipped away with 5km to go, Armstrong knew the race was lost when the Kazakh arrived to final Cauberg climb with a 15-second gap.
“I didn’t try to sprint. I wasn’t interested in being second yet again,” Armstrong told L’Equipe after finishing eighth at 8 seconds back. “For me today, it was all or nothing.”
Armstrong returned to his European home-base in Girona, Spain, and said he will train specifically for Liege, a much more selective and difficult race than Amstel Gold. Armstrong finished second at the 1996 Liege to Pascal Richard just months before he was diagnosed with testicular cancer.
U.S. Postal’s Dirk Demol said Armstrong’s chances are even better at Liege than Amstel, especially with Liege coming a week later in the calendar and the fact that Amstel was Armstrong’s World Cup debut.
“The fact that Amstel Gold takes place one week earlier than last year doesn’t really play for him,” Demol told La Derniere Heure. “Lance will be at the head at Liege-Bastogne-Liege. He’ll be ready to make something happen there.”
ONCE confirms no Giro
The Spanish ONCE team confirmed it will not start the Giro d’Italia next month because of continuing disputes over TV contracts. Last year, Kelme was the only Spanish team to start the Giro because the Italian grand tour was not broadcast on Spanish TV. RAI, the Italian TV company holding the broadcast rights for most of the major Italian races, continues to ask too much for transmission rights, at least in the eyes of the Spanish broadcasters. “We were hoping for a last-minute resolution, but now it appears nothing will happen,” said ONCE’s manager Manolo Saiz. “We will not start the Giro.”
Zabel widens lead in latest UCI rankings
The top-5 in the latest UCI world rankings remained unchanged from the previous week, with German sprinter ace Erik Zabel retaining his top ranking. The latest rankings were released Tuesday following Sunday’s Amstel Gold race with Italian Francesco Casagrande (Lampre) moving up from 10th to seventh overall. Lance Armstrong (USPS) remains the top American in fourth, with CSC’s Tyler Hamilton unchanged in 16th. Zabel (Telekom) opened up a wider gap on second-ranked Paolo Bettini, who’s sidelined with injuries.
UCI world rankings April 22 (ranking last week)
1. (1) Erik Zabel (G), Telekom, 2, 217
2. (2) Paolo Bettini (I), Quick Step, 2152
3. (3) Dario Frigo (I), Fassa Bortolo, 2087
4. (4) Lance Armstrong (US), USPS, 1930
5. (5) Davide Rebellin (I), Gerolsteiner, 1847
6. (7) Aitor Gonzalez (Sp), Fassa Bortolo, 1502
7. (10) Francesco Casagrande (I), Lampre, 1499
8. (6) Robbie McEwen (Aus), Lotto-Domo, 1485
9. (8) Roberto Heras (Sp), USPS, 1442
10. (9) Mario Cipollini (I), Domina Vacanze, 1428 North Americans in top-200
16. (16) Tyler Hamilton, CSC, 1103
136. (131) Levi Leipheimer, Rabobank, 389
198 (192) Fred Rodriguez, 301
Perez Cuapio wins Giro warm-up race
Mexican mountain goat Julio Perez Cuapio (Panaria) wrapped up the five-day Settimana Lombarda (UCI 2.5) on Monday in what’s a nice warm-up for a run at next month’s Giro d’Italia. Perez Cuapio, who won two stages and took the King of the Mountains jersey at last year’s Giro, won the second stage, an individual time trial, and finished second in the key climbing stage in stage 3. Perez Cuapio rode with Tim Jones (Amore & Vita) up the climb and the pair finished 1-2, with Jones coming across first. Jones finished second overall while Steve Zampieri (Vini Caldirola-Sidermec) was third.
Final overall standings
1. Julio Perez Cuapio (Mex), Panaria, 15 hours, 38 minutes, 51 seconds
2. Timothy Jones (Zim), Amore & Vita, at 7 seconds
3. Steve Zampieri (I), Vini Caldirola-Sidermec, at 45 seconds
4. Giuseppe Muraglia (I), Pinzolo, at 56 seconds
5. Jef Peeters (B), Vlaanderen T-Interim, at 1:05