By Andrew Hood
Tim Johnson will make his debut Friday in his new colors at the Saunier Duval team presentation in northern Spain. His bosses are already saying good things about the former Saturn rider.
“Our co-sponsor, Prodir, has an interest in the American market and Johnson appeared to me as one of the best in the country,” team manager Joxean Fernandez told the Spanish cycling weekly Meta2Mil. “He has a big motor and he’s good in all terrain. I met him when he was racing at Saturn and he always impressed me with his strength.”
Fernandez said Johnson will be racing at the 2004 Giro d’Italia, with the tentative team also including Juan Gomis, David Cañada, Juan Carlos Dominguez, Leonardo Piepoli, Massimo Strazzer, Alberto Loddo, Rubens Bertogliati and Ruben Lobato.
Hamilton sets 2004 schedule
Tyler Hamilton has already set his 2004 racing schedule. His program is very similar to last year, when he won a stage and finished fourth overall in the Tour de France. Hamilton will debut his season at Paris-Nice and defend his titles at Liege-Bastogne-Liege and Tour of Romandie. He’ll take a short break, return for Dauphiné Libéré with hopes of starting the 2004, depending on an invitation from the Societe du Tour de France.
Hamilton’s 2004 race schedule: Paris-Nice (March 7-14), Criterium International (March 27-28), GP Miguel Indurain (April 3), Tour of the Basque Country (April 5-9), Fleche Wallone (April 21), Liege-Bastogne-Liege (April 25), Tour of Romandie (April 27-May 2) and Dauphiné Libéré.
Moreau out for six weeks
Christophe Moreau will be out of action for six weeks after crashing on his right knee during training this week on the Cote d’Azur in France, L’Equipe reported Wednesday.
“Fortunately, an MRI revealed it’s not very serious,” said Credit Agricole director Roger Legeay. “An operation isn’t necessary and the ligaments are not damaged.”
Legeay said Moreau, who finished eighth as the best French rider in last year’s Tour de France, will make his season debut at Tirreno-Adriatico in March.
Steels won’t start Berlin 6-Day
Although Landbouwkrediet-Colnago rider Tom Steels had originally planned to ride the upcoming Berlin 6-Day (teamed with Matthew Gilmore), Steels will be forced to cancel his participation due to a shoulder strain, the team reported Wednesday.
Steels strained his shoulder during the recent Bremen 6-Day. The Landbouwkrediet-Colnago rider had not raced on the track in many years and the stress of this abrupt return to track caused the injury. However, Steels will continue his regular road training.
Astarloa eyes World Cup, Olympics
Reigning world champion Igor Astarloa said he wants a gold medal to go with his world championship title as he enters the 2004 season.
“I have three objectives this year, the classics of the World Cup, the Olympic Games and the world championships,” Astarloa told the Spanish daily AS. “I am going to race nine of the 10 World Cup race, all except Paris-Roubaix, and I have a lot of motivation to win one of them, especially Liege-Bastogne-Liege, which I have dreamed about since I was little.”
When asked if he’d choose between an Olympic medal and another world title, Astarloa edged toward the Olympics.
“Well, the balance is very equal, but perhaps I’d lean a little toward the Olympics because they’re only held every four years and they’re harder to win. As a cyclist, the most you’ll get are three chances,” he said. “It’s my dream, just like everyone else.”
Bruyneel has baby girl
Johan Bruyneel, the Belgian sport director who’s led Lance Armstrong to five consecutive Tour de France titles, reported the birth of a baby girl Tuesday afternoon in Madrid. “Mother and baby are doing great,” Bruyneel wrote in an e-mail.