By Andrew Hood
While his teammates are in Italy, Jose Antonio Pecharromán is hopingfor a “strong start” to his 2004 season at the Tour Down Under. The 25-year-oldwas picked up by Quick Step following his impressive 2003 season, withvictories in the Bicicleta Vasca and the Volta a Catalunya.“I am going to start the season strong, racing in the first competitionsof the season, to be competitive at the Tour of Valencia (Feb. 24-28),”Pecharromán told the Spanish daily MARCA. “Depending on howthings go, I could be on the Tour team, even though my principal goal ofthe season is the Vuelta a España.”Pecharromán said he’d like to win a week-long stage-race earlyin the season to give him “motivation, confidence and tranquility.” Concerninghis new higher profile, Pecharromán admitted it’s a challenge sometimes.“Before when I had injuries or health problems, no one knew who I wasand, logically, no one worried about what was happening with me,” he said.Lotto’s Australian sprint star Robbie McEwen won the opening stage ofthe six-race tour (see “McEwenwins muddled finish Down Under“)Osa brothers hope for lucky, healthy season
Spanish brothers Aitor and Unai Osa are hoping to enjoy some luck andinjury-free seasons as they begin the year anew with Illes Balears-Banesto.Second to reigning world champion Igor Astarloa at Fleche Wallone, Aitorsaid he’s still smarting at his loss to ONCE’s Joaquín Rodríguezin a climbing stage to Plá de Beret in the 2003 Vuelta. Rodríguezfollowed Osa’s wheel up the grinding climb and pipped him the two-up sprintto take the stage.“At Fleche, Igor was better than me and I have nothing to reproach himabout, but the Vuelta was another thing,” he told the Diario Vasco. “Itkeeps causing me pain that stage at the Vuelta for the way things turnedout. The previous year, in 2002, I had a very high level and was able towin. Last year I lacked this little piece of luck that’s always necessary.”Aitor said he will use races such as Ruta del Sol and Paris-Nice astraining to prepare for the Vuelta a Pais Vasco, a race he won in 2002.Then he’ll take a break to prepare for the Tour de France.
The other Osa brother, Unai, wants something else: “I’m not askingfor luck, the only thing I want is to be healthy.”Unai will start his season at the Tour of Murcia with eyes on a strongresult at Euskal Bizikleta. His main goal of the season will be the Vueltaand he won’t race the Tour de France.“Last season was very bad. I didn’t start to show my face until theVuelta. I started the season with two months of the flu then I had backproblems at Mallorca,” he said. “I could never get a certain sense of continuityduring the season.”Paolini celebrates birthday
Quick Step-Davitamon rider Luca Paolini celebrated his 27th birthdaywith teammates Sunday night in Cecina Mare, Italy, where the team is holdingits training camp.“I hope this is the year that it will allow me to effect an importantbreakthrough,” Paolini said on the team’s web page. “The next three yearswill be the most important of my career.”
Poor weather forced the team to return to the hotel after only twohours into their planned ride.“We pedaled toward north, toward Rosignano to avoid the rain, but therehas been nothing to do. Today we have also taken the hail,” said JohanMusseuw.