By Andrew Hood
After two forgettable seasons, 2001 Vuelta a España champion Angel Casero is hoping to rediscover his winning legs for the 2004 season.
“I’ve had two difficult seasons. In 2002, I had problems with my knee and I couldn’t race the Tour and it impeded my preparation for the Vuelta, where I finished sixth. And last year the situation with the team was truly chaotic,” Casero told the Spanish daily AS.
Casero is set to ride for Kelme, though there’s no signed contract yet.
“I have a lot of motivation for this season. After such a hard year that I had, with the disappearance of Coast, the conversion to Bianchi and the unpaid salaries, which I hope will still be resolved, you can imagine the tranquility it gives to sign for a team from your own country,” Casero said.
Casero said it was “understandable” that people are beginning to say he’s washed up.
“After two years without results it’s normal to have your doubts. I can only devote myself to working hard and erase these doubts. The only thing I need rediscover myself, I hope I can do it,” he said.
Casero said his plans for the 2004 season are still not finalized, but said he would help his team as much as possible and didn’t discount playing a support role to rising star Alejandro Valverde.
Pettachi, Bettini outline goals
The Giro d’Italia will be the top goal for Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) while winning a third World Cup tops the list for Paolo Bettini (Quick Step). Both riders outlined their season goals while speaking on Italian radio Rai.
“I want to race a great Giro d’Italia. My duel with Mario Cipollini in the sprints will be fabulous, equal to the battle between Gilberto Simoni, Francesco Casagrande and Dario Frigo in the mountains,” Petacchi said.
Petacchi was the king of the sprints in 2003, setting a new record by winning four or more stages in each of the season’s grand tours.
“It will be difficult to repeat a season like that. After Milan-San Remo, which will be my principal goal, I will make a break during the spring classics to prepare myself in the best manner possible for the Giro,” Petacchi said.
Bettini said his top goal will be winning a third consecutive World Cup title, “something no one’s been able to do before and that will be my absolute top priority.” Bettini has said in other interviews he’s also eyeing the Olympic road race and the world championships.
Tour of Qatar teams announced
The following teams have been announced for the Tour of Qatar (UCI 2.3, Feb. 2-6): T-Mobile, Gerolsteiner, Quick Step, Lotto-Domo, Vlaanderen, CSC, Sauniel Duval, Crédit Agricole, Brioches la Boulangère, AG2R, Fassa Bortolo, Saeco, De Nardi, Rabobank and Phonak.
Quick Step getting season rolling
Quick Step-Davitamon gets the season rolling this weekend with a team presentation Friday in Wevelgem. On Monday, eight riders will fly from Amsterdam to Australia for the Tour Down Under (Jan. 20-25) while the remainder of the team will head to Tuscany for a training camp Jan. 13-21.
Quick Step for TDU
Josè Antonio Pecharroman
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