Road

Wednesday’s EuroFile: Cooke may not defend WC title; Johnson at Ruta; Simoni checks out new climb

World Cup champion Nicole Cooke says she might skip the series opener later this month in Australia to focus entirely on the Olympics and world championships. The 20-year-old British star became the youngest rider to win the overall World Cup last year, but she told BBC Sport that she’s still feeling pain from a knee injury suffered in a crash last June “I've had 10 weeks without training and that's left a massive hole in my preparation,” she told BBC Sport. “Given that, the Olympics and the World Championships are the target this year.” Cooke said the allure of the Olympics could prove

By Andrew Hood

World Cup champion Nicole Cooke says she might skip the series opener later this month in Australia to focus entirely on the Olympics and world championships.

The 20-year-old British star became the youngest rider to win the overall World Cup last year, but she told BBC Sport that she’s still feeling pain from a knee injury suffered in a crash last June

“I’ve had 10 weeks without training and that’s left a massive hole in my preparation,” she told BBC Sport. “Given that, the Olympics and the World Championships are the target this year.”

Cooke said the allure of the Olympics could prove too much. She said she might not be into top shape until mid-season, forcing her to miss, or at least not be competitive, in the first four or five World Cup races.

“I’ve believed for a long time that I can be a medal contender at Athens, so it’s the public who have to play catch-up and get in tune with what I’ve been thinking for five or six years. I rode the Olympic course last September and liked both the road race and time trial route a lot,” she said. “They’re both demanding courses, but if I focus my training I’ll be OK.”

Ruta del Sol next for Johnson
After making his European debut at last week’s Mallorca Challenge, Saunier Duval’s Tim Johnson marches on and is set to race at the Ruta del Sol next week in Spain.

Joining Johnson for the race Feb. 15-19 will be Rafael Casero, Juan Carlos Domínguez, Fabian Jeker, Rubén Lobato, Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero, Joaquín Rodríguez and Francisco José Ventoso. Casagrande won’t race Laigueglia
Inflammation in his Achilles heel is keeping Francesco Casagrande out of the Trofeo Laigueglia next Tuesday. Instead, Casagrande hopes to race the Giro della Provincia di Lucca (Feb. 24-27). The team is already without veteran Gianluca Bortolami, who was hit by a car Tuesday while training. He wasn’t seriously injured, but doctors have ordered 10 days rest. Turkish race cancelled
The planned International Turkish Riviera Tour (Feb. 18-22) has been cancelled for financial reasons, according to a report on Velo Club.

Simoni continues to reconnoiter Giro routes
Saeco’s Gilberto Simoni did a particularly difficult training ride Wednesday, checking out the uphill finish of this year’s third stage of the Giro d’Italia to Corno alle Scale.

Simoni said the ride may have been a tough early season effort, but added that it was well worth the effort for the valuable information he gained.

According to a Saeco press release, team manager Claudio Corti, and teammates Dario Pieri, Paolo Fornaciari, Gabriele Balducci and Sylwester Szmyd accompanied Simoni on the ride.

As well as riding the last 80km of the May 11 stage, which will run from Pontremoli to Corno alle Scale, Simoni and his teammates also used the occasion to meet the management of Saeco at the firm’s headquarters in nearby Gaggio Montano.

Company president Sergio Zappella even followed Simoni in the team car with Corti. Simoni last visited the area for the Saeco Christmas party, but at the time the climb to Corno alle Scale was covered in snow. This time Simoni was able to pedal in near-perfect conditions to fully comprehend the difficulties of the first uphill finish of the 2004 Giro.

“The Giro has rarely included such a tough stage after just three stages,” Simoni said. “The climb is almost 13km long, it never eases off and forces you constantly change pace. To make things worse the last three kilometers are really hard.”

“I’m sure the climb to Corno all Scale will be a very important stage in the Giro and means we will have to suffer right from the start. I hope I’ll be in good condition on the day, the Saeco headquarters are close by and everybody will be cheering me on, so I don’t want to let them down.”