By Andrew Hood
Aussie Stuart O´Grady returned to action in Monday’s Rund um Köln after missing the northern classics with injuries. O´Grady cracked some ribs in a high-speed fall at Tirreno-Adriatico in early March, forcing him to the sidelines for Milan-San Remo and Tour of Flanders, two classics where he’s previously finished on the podium.
A healthy O´Grady is back on the bike and looking to rebuild his form for the Tour de France. This year, O´Grady said he’ll be at the service of team captain Ivan Basso and won’t be chasing the green jersey.
“If it was going to happen, it would have happened by now,” O´Grady told VeloNews referring to his chase for the points jersey. “Now it’s time for new challenges.”
O´Grady, 32, has finished runner-up four times in the hunt for the points jersey, with the latest coming in 2005. With his switch to Team CSC for 2006, O´Grady is looking to new goals and challenges.
“We have a chance to win the Tour de France, and that’s bigger than winning the green jersey,” O´Grady said. “The whole team will be there to support Ivan (Basso). I’m looking forward to it.”
Wiggins wants yellow
British rider Bradley Wiggins (Cofidis) joins the legion of favorites looking to grab the yellow jersey when the Tour de France starts July 1 in Strasbourg with a 7km prologue.
Wiggins, an Olympic gold medalist in Athens in the individual pursuit on the track, said he’s confident he’ll be in the mix.
“The start to my season couldn’t have gone any better,” Wiggins told BBC Sport. “The difference between winning the yellow jersey and ending fifth will be minute but, as it stands, I’m a match for any of the top time trialers.”
Wiggins, 25, is taking a short break after racing Paris-Roubaix before returning to competition at Four Days of Dunkirk, then Tour of Picardie and Dauphiné Libéré ahead of the Tour.
One of Wiggins’ top rivals will be compatriot David Millar, who will race for the first time in Strasbourg after serving a two-year doping ban. Despite his growing status as a favorite for the prologue, Wiggins said he’d never repeat the mistakes Millar made.
“I will never go down the drugs route whatever the pressure or expectation. I’ll do what I can as a rider, no more,” he said. “As for the pressure of winning the prologue, that’s the sort of stuff I thrive on – it’s no different to the Olympics.”
Wiggins said he’ll return to the track in 2008 to defend his Olympic title in Beijing and promised to be back again when London hosts the 2012 Summer Olympic Games.
Liberty ready to take Flèche
Liberty Seguros-Würth rider Andrey Kashechkin dreams someday of winning Liège-Bastogne-Liège because it’s the race that best-suits his all-round riding ability.
The team trained Tuesday on many of the key climbs the riders will see in Wednesday’s Flèche Wallonne, hills that Kashechkin says he knows well.
“I lived very near here, in Vise, for four years and I know the roads well,” he said in a team report. “I’m in good form for the classics. I like all three, but I prefer Liège. I’d like to win it one day. It’s more demanding, with longer climbs and for riders that are less explosive. It’s impossible for a sprinter to win there; it’s a race for grand tour riders. Flèche is less selective. It’s normal that a group of 50 arrives to the base of the Huy and the one that wins is the most explosive. It’s hard to do anything unless you arrive with a gap of 30 seconds or a minute.”
Liberty Seguros for Flèche WallonneAlberto ContadorAllan DavisDavide ExtebarriaJorg JakscheAndrey KashechkinJose Antonio RedondoMarcos SerranoAngel Vicioso
Di Luca still holding back
Defending Flèche Wallonne champion Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) says don’t expect much from him in today’s fight, though he’d like a good ride on Sunday for Liège. Di Luca – nicknamed The Killer – is still hoping to have a peak form next month for the Giro d’Italia.
“That’s a forced choice, since I decided to focus all my season on the Giro d’Italia,” Di Luca said in a team report. “If I said to be in the same good condition of the last year, I would tell a lie. My preparation aims at reaching the better condition in one month, but I don’t hide that I long to compete with the greats already today. I think of the Liège-Bastogne-Liège rather than Flèche Wallonne. It’s difficult to make prognostic: only during the race I will discover if it is right to have great ambitions. However, I think that the rule of leader of the team belongs to Stefano Garzelli. Stefano has been pedaling good since some weeks. I expect he races a great Flèche Wallonne.”
Liquigas for Flèche WallonneStefano GarzelliDanilo Di LucaLuca PaoliniVincenzo NibaliPatrick CalcagniKjell CarlströmMatej MugerliAlessandro Spezialetti
Cunego takes lead in Trentino
Damiano Cunego (Lampre) won the second stage of the Giro del Trentino on Wednesday, a 174km leg from Castello Tesino to Clès.
Cunego also took the lead on general classification from compatriot Luca Mazzanti (Panaria), who won Tuesday’s opener.
Stage 3 will cover 169km from Romeno to Tione di Trento. —Agence France Presse
Geslin wins Paris-Camembert
France’s Anthony Geslin (Bouygues Telecom) won the 200km Paris-Camembert semi-classic on Tuesday.
Geslin finished ahead of compatriots Cedric Coutouly (Agritubel) and Charles Guilbert (Bretagne-Jean Floc’h) in the event, which counts towards the French Cup. —Agence France Presse