By Andrew Hood
Joseba Beloki sounded like a lot of other riders at last week’s 2004 Vuelta a España presentation: The route looks great, but the Tour de France is the priority.
“It’s likely I will race both the Vuelta and the Tour, but the Tour will always be the most important race for me,” the three-time Tour podium finisher told VeloNews. “The Vuelta course looks very challenging, and it’s one I like and I’d like to win, but there’s the Tour and perhaps even the Olympics, which every athlete dreams about.”
Beloki was all smiles at the presentation ceremony, especially since his injuries have healed better than expected. Beloki said all the screws that held together his shattered elbow and thigh have been removed.
“The injuries have healed, and I have no pain. The most important thing is that I have no problems maintaining my position on the bike. I was afraid I might have some discomfort, especially in the time-trial position, but it’s fine,” he said.
Beloki said he’s optimistic about his new French team, Brioches la Boulangere, even though he doesn’t speak much French.
“That’s the only problem now, but I am studying French and hope to learn enough to get by,” he said. “I will be returning to France in January to meet with the team again. I had met with them, and so far things are going fine.”
Beloki said his 2004 racing schedule will largely be unchanged from previous years, though he said he “might do a few more smaller French races instead of the Spanish races, for example, the Dauphine instead of the Vuelta a Cataluyna, but nothing has been finalized.”
Quaranta injured in spill
Italian sprinter Ivan Quaranta (Formaggi Pinzolo Fiave) was injured in a fall Tuesday while on a training ride, touching pavement while coming down the Roncola descent, according to a report in L’Equipe.
The former Saeco rider crashed in a curve and was helped to a local hospital in Bergamo by future teammate Mario Manzoni, where he received five stitches to his head and was later released.
Somarriba named Basque athlete of year
Spanish rider Joane Somarriba, winner of her third Tour Feminin and the world time trial title, was named the best Basque athlete by the Vizcaya Journalists Association, according to Todociclismo.
Igor Astarloa, road world champion, and Iban Mayo, winner of the Tour of the Basque Country and a stage in the Tour de France, also received awards during the ceremony celebrated Tuesday in Bilboa.
UCI approves Fassa’s TT1 registration
The Italian team Fassa Bortolo has been registered in Division 1 for 2004 after supplying additional information requested by the Union Cycliste Internationale, the UCI reported on Wednesday.
Five other unregistered teams face a January 8 deadline to supply additional information to the UCI, including U.S. Postal, Alessio-Bianchi,Domina Vacanze, Kelme-Costa Blanca and Milaneza Maia.