By Andrew Hood
Tom Danielson will headline a strong Discovery Channel team for the upcoming Vuelta a España. Team boss Johan Bruyneel revealed the starting lineup that’s a strong mix of veterans and ambitious younger riders hungry for success in the 61st Vuelta.
“Selecting this team was not easy for me as we have a lot of guys that are riding very strong at the moment, but I feel that we have a very solid team in place that will work well together,” Bruyneel said in a team release. “Tom Danielson is set to be our leader for this race and I believe he has prepared very well. With the team that we have to support him I am confident that he will be able to finish very high up in the overall classification.”
The team will look to repeat its success from the season’s previous two grand tours, when the squad won stages and wore the race leader’s jersey. Discovery Channel for Vuelta a España (Aug. 26-Sept. 17):Michael BarryManuel BeltranJanez BrajkovicTom DanielsonStijn DevolderVladimir GusevBenoit JoachimEgoi MartinezJurgen Van Goolen
ReservesVolodymyr BilekaGennady Mikhaylov
USA to have nine world’s starters
The United States will be able to start the Strasbourg world championships with nine riders, just one of 10 nations picked to have the maximum allowed riders.
The UCI released its official list Wednesday of the numbers of riders each nation will be able to field, following the controversial model from last year’s world’s that uses the criteria of ProTour and continental national rankings.
The other nations with nine starters include Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Holland, Russia, Spain and Switzerland.
Other cycling nations get the short end of the stick, such as Denmark and Kazakhstan, which can only start with three. Once again, non-traditional cycling nations such as Brazil and the Islamic Republic of Iran start with six while Canada only gets one starter.
Nations with nine starters
Islamic Republic of Iran
Sastre aims for Vuelta
Team CSC’s Carlos Sastre has confirmed he will start the 2006 Vuelta a España, marking his third grand tour of the 2006 season and his fifth consecutive grand tour going back to last year’s Tour de France.
Sastre had doubts about whether he could recover from his fourth-place effort at this year’s Tour, but said he felt surprisingly good in Saturday’s Clásica San Sebastián, where he led the attack over the Jaizkibel climb with 34km to go in the hilly classic in Spain’s Basque Country.
“I wanted to wait to make a decision before making a test in real competition to see how the legs responded, but also to see how I recovered,” Sastre told VeloNews on Wednesday. “I feel good about how my legs responded. I am both fresh mentally and physically, which is the most important ahead of a three-week stage race.”
Sastre – who finished third overall in the Vuelta last year but was bumped up to second after winner Roberto Heras tested positive for EPO – said he’s going to take it “stage by stage.”
“I go with the maximum aspirations but with both feet on the ground, because I have never raced three grand tours in one season,” he said. “The Vuelta is hard because the mountains start early, with the fifth stage, and it’s hard right through the first week, then it’s hard again in the final week with a time trial in between, so you really need to be strong all the way through the race.”
Sastre was leaving nothing to chance. When VeloNews contacted him Wednesday, he was about to jump on his bike and ride the final summit finish of the decisive ninth stage to the new climb at La Cobertoria.
“I am rider who sets high goals for himself,” he said. “Plus, I would rather race close to home in front of my fans than traipse all over Europe instead.”
The final Vuelta squad for Team CSC has not yet been finalized.
No world’s for Cunego
Damiano Cunego won’t race in next month’s world championships because he should consider his season already a success, said his sport director Giuseppe Martinelli.
Cunego finished fourth at the Giro d’Italia and was the best young rider at his Tour de France debut, coming on strong in the final week to finish second in the stage up Alpe d’Huez and finishing 12th overall.
“Cunego’s season has already achieved a lot and it might be too much to race the world championships,” Giuseppe told the Italian wire service ANSA. “It might be better for him to stop soon and prepare for next season.”
Cunego is expected to race next on Aug. 26 in Italy while Italian coach, Franco Ballerini, is expected to announce his world’s short list soon.
Julich, Boonen headline ENECO Tour
Defending champion Bobby Julich (CSC) and world champion Tom Boonen (Quick Step-Innergetic) are the top draws at the ENECO Tour this week.
The seven-stage, eight-day ProTour race takes in stages in Holland and Belgium and give Boonen a chance to move closer to series leader Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d’Epargne), who is not racing again until the Vuelta a España. Valverde leads third-place Boonen, 200 points to 145.
This will be Boonen’s first race since abandoning the 2006 Tour de France on July 18 in the 15th stage. While he’s raced a few post-Tour criteriums, it marks the Belgian’s first major test as he looks to challenges later in the season.
“My last training rides I felt pretty good, but it’s hard to say how well I can do,” Boonen said. “I don’t know what I can expect at the [ENECO] tour and it’s more for my preparations for the world championships.”
Also making a comeback of sorts is Julich, who returned to racing earlier this month following his own early departure from the Tour. The veteran American crashed in the Tour’s first time trial, breaking his wrist. He raced the LUK Challenge time trial race and the Tour of Germany earlier this month.
Julich was on a career-best run last year, highlighted by ProTour victories at Paris-Nice and the ENECO Tour (called the Benelux Tour last year) as well as wins at the LUK Challenge and Criterium International.
So far this year, Julich won the opening prologue at Paris-Nice and helped Team CSC teammate Ivan Basso win the Giro d’Italia in May.
Other big names include Discovery Channel’s Yaroslav Popovych and George Hincapie, in his last European race of the 2006 season.
“We’ll see how I do at the ENECO Tour,” Hincapie said before finishing ninth in last weekend’s Clásica San Sebastián. “The legs were feeling pretty good after the Tour, so I hope to do something there.”
The race opens Wednesday with a 5.8km prologue in Den Helder, Holland, and ends with a 201.2km road stages in Ans, Belgium.
Regio Tour draws Klöden, Petacchi
The 22nd Regio Tour in Germany is drawing some top names, including Tour de France podium man Andreas Kloden and Alessandro Petacchi, who continues his comeback from a knee injury.
Klöden only raced three post-Tour criteriums after finishing third overall in the Tour and will be looking to get his racing legs back in shape for goals later this season while T-Mobile will also bring three-time world time trial champion Michael Rogers and British track star Mark Cavendish.
The five-day race kicks off Wednesday in Heitersheim with a 194km stage that pushes into France at Guebwiller, an ideal stage for Petacchi to continue on the road to recovery. The Italian sprinter cracked his kneecap in a crash in stage three at the Giro d’Italia and returned to competition last week.
Ale-jet is looking to gain form ahead of the Vuelta a España, set to start next weekend in Málaga.
Other big names include Markus Fothen (Gerolsteiner) and last year’s winner, Nico Sijmens (Landbouwkrediet).
Dessel leading Ag2r at Vuelta
Cyril Dessel, the top Frenchman in the 2006 Tour de France with seventh overall, is set to start the Vuelta later this month. With Ag2r captain Francisco Mancebo among the nine riders banned from the start of the Tour, Dessel will take over as captain in the Spanish tour.
Four Spanish riders and French sprinter Jean-Patrick Nazon round out the squad.
Ag2r for Vuelta (Aug. 26-Sept. 19)Jose-Luis Arrieta