By Andrew Hood
Bobby Julich (CSC) didn’t take Monday’s start at the Vuelta al Pais Vasco in northern Spain after battling the flu.
The veteran American won a stage here in 2004 to herald his comeback to the elite ranks of cycling. Julich fell ill after crashing out of Paris-Nice and wasn’t quite up to the task of combating the hilly Basque Country tour or its infamously bad weather.
“He wasn’t quite all the way back from the flu and we felt he wasn’t ready for a race this demanding,” said Team CSC sports director Kim Andersen. “This race usually also has bad weather, but it’s sunny right now! It’s supposed to get worse and it wasn’t worth risking anything with Bobby’s health.”
Instead, Julich trained an additional few days near his home in Nice in southern France and will line up in the Circuit de la Sarthe in France alongside team captain Ivan Basso.
Rabobank lining up behind Dekker
Rabobank is hoping its rising star Thomas Dekker can carry the team’s banner in this week’s Basque Country tour, which ends with a decisive 24km time trial on Saturday that favors the young Dutchman’s prowess against the clock.
Dekker, racing for the first time since winning Tirreno-Adriatico in March, said he’s feeling up to the task. He missed Critérium International after catching a cold.
“I hope to finish in the front group every day and then play my card in the time trial,” Dekker said. “This is a hard race and I know it will be difficult, but I am feeling pretty good, so we’ll take it day by day.”
Denis Menchov, the Russian who won this race in 2004, told VeloNews that he’s not fit enough to challenge for the overall.
“At this part of the season, I’m not at the level of these other guys gearing up for the classics,” Menchov said. “My goals come in the second half of the season, with the Tour and the Vuelta. I might race one of the classics – either Fleche or Liège – then race Cataluyna and the Dauphine.”
The team was still stinging from its narrow loss by Oscar Freire to Alejandro Valverde in Monday’s opener. Depending on which headline you read, the difference was either 9mm, 56mm or 3cm. Either way, it was bloody close, and Freire even asked race officials two times to review the finish. Michael Boogerd, meanwhile, did fine work to help set up Freire in the closing kilometers, showing little signs of his broken foot that sidelined him in March.
McEwen out of Ghent-Wevelgem
Australian Robbie McEwen has pulled out of Ghent-Wevelgem with a sore throat, his Davitamon team announced Tuesday.
Ghent-Wevelgem, a 210km one-day semi-classic, is the sixth race in the 27-race ProTour series.
Following last Sunday’s Tour of Flanders classic, Ghent-Wevelgem will draw most of the riders with hopes of success at Paris-Roubaix this Sunday.
Among them will be Belgium’s Tom Boonen (Quick Step), who successfully defended his Flanders crown on Sunday and hopes to do the same at the Hell of the North. —Agence France Presse
Kirsipuu may return during Dunkirk
Estonian Jaan Kirsipuu (Crédit Agricole), injured in mid-March during Tirreno-Adriatico, could return to racing at the beginning of May in the Four Days of Dunkirk.
Kirsipuu, who suffered from a crack to the left heel, is recovering more quickly than had been expected, said sporting director Roger Legeay,.
The 36-year-old Kirsipuu has won four stages of the Tour de France and counts more than 120 victories in his career, which began in 1992. —Agence France Presse
Florencio sidelined by crash
Spaniard Xavier Florencio (Bouygues Telecom), who crashed Sunday in the Tour of Flanders, sustained a fracture of the left clavicle, his team reported.
Florencio, who was to dispute Ghent-Wevelgem Wednesday and Paris-Roubaix next Sunday, will be out of action for approximately four weeks.
The Spaniard fell on the descent from the Koppenberg, some 70km from the finish. —Agence France Presse