By Andrew Hood
Nicki Sorensen (CSC) got the 2005 season off to a strong start, taking the win at the GP d’Ouverture La Marseillaise in France to mark the season’s first race of the European calendar.
Sorensen finished ahead of Team CSC teammate Vladimir Gusev and Daniele Masolino to take the win marred by some confusion on course. There was a group clear that featured Philippe Gilbert, among others, who took a wrong turn and steered off course.
Sorensen was part of a second group and pushed through to take the victory in the first race of the 2005 season in Europe. Action continues Wednesday with the first stage of the five-day Etoile de Bessèges while racing also kicks off in Spain with the Trofeo Mallorca and in Italy with the GP Costa delle Etruschi.
None of these smaller races are part of the new ProTour. In fact, the first ProTour event isn’t until Paris-Nice in early March. In the meantime, these continental races will continue to draw elite fields as racers are anxious to stretch their legs.
Teams for Grand Prix d’Ouverture La Marseillaise
Française des Jeux
Sevilla begins new chapter with T-Mobile
Plagued with health problems for much of the past three seasons, Spanish climber Oscar Sevilla is hoping for a new start as he begins the 2005 season with T-Mobile.
“I start the year with a lot of motivation and hope,” Sevilla told Spanish radio. “I believe I have left behind my health problems the past few years. Since I was operated on in August, the pain hasn’t returned and my morale and confidence has been on the rise.”
Sevilla says he’s already feeling comfortable in the German team, where he will be riding in support of team captain Jan Ullrich in the Tour de France. Sevilla will be the team captain at the Vuelta a España.
“The team has assured me I will lead at the Vuelta,” Sevilla said. “But at the Tour we will all work for Ullrich. If anyone can beat Armstrong, it’s Ullrich and everyone knows, including Vinokourov and Klöden, know that we need to work together. I have that very clear.”
Belda believes former Kelme deserves Tour bid
There’s still no word from Tour de France officials, who were expected to announce the final two wild-card invitations for the 2005 Tour on Monday.
Vicente Belda, meanwhile, said he’ll be disappointed is his Comunitat Valenciana team isn’t selected for the Tour. The team, formerly Kelme, was left out of the ProTour after a series of problems last year, including the scandal following the revelations of widespread doping within the team by former pro Jesus Manzano.
“I would be really bothered if we don’t get into the Tour because there are few teams with our potential,” Belda told reporters during the team’s presentation this weekend. “I am ambitious and I believe in this team. We have a huge potential and that’s what makes me ambitious and to have large goals.”
The team’s hopes are built around the revival of 2001 Vuelta a España champion Angel Casero, who missed all of last season in a dispute over a contract dispute and required bank deposits demanded by the UCI. Belda also looks to Rubén Plaza and David Bernabéu to have strong seasons.
Team manager José Luis Aznar said, “The start in the Vuelta looks almost assured. We have also solicited the Tour, but I see it very difficult if we get invited.”