By Andrew Hood
Tour de France prologue winner Bradley McGee said he’s planning on making an all-out assault on the 2004 Jacob’s Creek Tour Down Under as a springboard to what he hopes is an Olympic medal. “I’m confident I’ll have better form than I did this year so I can attack the race because my goal is for a strong early season,” said the FDJeux.com rider in an interview on the race web page. “The best way to ensure I’ll be firing when I get back to Europe is to be in the race and competitive in South Australia.” Set to join McGee in the TDU (Jan. 20-25) are 2003 Tour de France stage winner and green jersey champion Baden Cooke, French rider Nicholas Vogondy, Belgian Philippe Gilbert, Austrian Bernard Eisel, new team rider Thomas Lövkvist of Sweden and two other Australians in Matthew Wilson and first-year pro Mark Renshaw. “It’s a really good team and I wouldn’t be stretching it to say these guys, with the exception of Mark in his first year, would all be on the shortlist to start the 2004 Tour de France,” said McGee. “Gilbert, Vogondy, Lövkvist and myself are all good for the GC and Cooke and Eisel are the hot sprinters.” McGee enters the 2004 with his sights set on another Olympic medal in the individual pursuit. A metabolic disorder last summer forced his withdrawal from the Australian team for the track cycling World Championships in Stuttgart, but he’s hopeful the health problem is behind. McGee’s top goals for 2004 are the Tour de France and an Olympic medal in Athens. In 1996 and 2000 he claimed the Olympic bronze medal in the individual pursuit (1996 also teams pursuit bronze) but is setting his sights higher in 2004. “The individual pursuit is the goal for me and, if they need me, the teams pursuit and road race in Athens,” McGee said. “I have a roadmap planned out to get me to the IP but I’ll need to qualify myself so I’ll have to ride a time in Australia before I leave and then race the Manchester Track World Cup.” Chaurreau recovering from mono
Ag2r rider Iñigo Chaurreau is recovering from a bout with mononucleosis, but it isn’t expected to derail his planned season debut at the Tour Down Under later this month. Speaking to the Spanish daily El Diario Vasco, Chaurreau said he lost six kilograms of weight during his bout with the illness. “About a month ago I realized I had something, that I wasn’t OK. I had a fever and my throat was swollen. I took antibiotics, but that didn’t work and I felt weak,” Chaurreau said. “It happened at the same time during some tests the team made for the UCI, I told the doctor and he made some tests that detected the mononucleosis.” Chaurreau said the illness forced him to miss several weeks of training, but he said the good news is that he’s recovering and is expected to race as expected at the TDU. “I wanted to arrive strong to Australia and now all there is to take advantage of training and hope to have strong legs by June, July and August. I have a setback in my preparation, but the most important thing is that I am better and recuperating,” he said. “Even though I won’t be arriving as strong as I hoped, we’ll see what happens.” Saunier Duval gets more sponsors
The new Spanish team Saunier Duval has two new sponsors lined up to support the team in its debut season. The Swiss company Prodir is set to be the co-sponsor and the regional government of Castellón along Spain’s Costa del Azahar will be a secondary sponsor. Along with American arrival Tim Johnson, the team will be led by Spanish riders Martin Perdiguero and Joaquín Rodríguez and Italian Leonardo Piepoli. The team has a training camp set for Jan. 16-22 at Oropesa del Mar. Waiting for judgment day
Spanish riders Fran Pérez (Milaneza) and Aitor Kintana (Labarca 2-Cafés Baqué) are still waiting to see how long they will be suspended from racing after both failed doping tests last year. Pérez tested positive for EPO in May during the Tour of Romandie, eventually won by American Tyler Hamilton, while Kintana failed an EPO test in June during the Tour of Cataluyna. Both riders face racing bans from 12 to 24 months. Another Spanish rider who failed a doping test, Javier Pascual Llorente (Kelme), came up positive for EPO during the 2003 Tour de France and was already slapped with an 18-month racing ban.