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By Andrew Hood
With two stage wins and the points jersey lead to his credit, Alessandro Petacchi vows he won’t abandon the Vuelta a España as the race heads Friday into three decisive and very difficult climbing stages in the Pyrenees.
Petacchi was heavily criticized after abandoning the Tour de France in the opening mountain stage in the Alps, pulling out on the first major climb of the race after winning four stages and controlling the points jersey.
“I like this jersey a lot and I want to arrive in Madrid to win the jersey,” Petacchi said after winning Wednesday’s fifth stage. “This is like the jersey I had in the Giro. I’d like to finish the race.”
Petacchi won six stages at the Giro and was leading the points competition when he was eliminated along with 35 other riders in stage 18 for finishing outside the time limit.
Despite his poor history in the hills, the ace sprinter promises to give it his best shot.
“I’ve trained to get over the mountains,” he said. “I want to win the pointsstandings and show that I know how to suffer on a bicycle as well.”
Casero hopes for turn-around
On the eve of Friday’s first individual time trial, 2001 Vuelta a España champion Angel Casero said he’s hoping to finish on the final podium at least.
“Tomorrow is going to be an important day to see if we can make some time up on the climbers,” said Casero, who’s sitting in 36th at 3:10 back. “I have the minimum goal of being on the final podium in the Vuelta. The Pyrenees will prove decisive.”
Casero suffered through a forgettable 2002 season after taking the Vuelta title in a final-day time trial showdown against Oscar Sevilla. Casero entered this year’s Tour with high hopes, but faded and provided little help to Bianchi teammate Jan Ullrich and his quest for the podium.
Casero’s Bianchi team finished 1:01 back of winner’s ONCE and then lost 1:35 in the second stage when he lost contact over the Category 1 climb at Mirador del Fito.
Dial to join Postal’s sponsor lineup
U.S. Postal Service will have Dial soap to help cleanup after the races through the 2004 season. The team announced the Dial Corporation, makers of Dial soap and Purex laundry detergents, will join the team’s lineup of sponsors through the end of next season.
Along with title sponsor the U.S. Postal Service and presenting sponsor Berry Floor, other team sponsors include Trek Bicycles, Nike, Thomas Weisel Partners, All Sport Body Quencher, Subaru of America, BISSELL Homecare, Inc., Visa and Coca-Cola.
Gonzalez, Del Olmo can sleep comfortably in France
Spanish riders Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano (ONCE) and Txema Del Olmo (Milaneza-MSS) can sleep easy because French authorities said they will not interfere when the Vuelta crosses the Pyrenees this weekend.
Both Galdeano and Del Olmo are banned from racing in France, but authorities from the French anti-doping agency have let it be known the riders won’t be stopped from entering France or bothered during stages 7 and 8 when the Vuelta hits the French side of the Pyrenees.
According to reports in the Spanish press, the French agency said it won’t interfere because the Vuelta is not officially organized or sanctioned by the French cycling federation.
Galdeano was slapped with a six-month racing ban that began in March following high levels of salbutamol found in tests during the 2002 Tour. Galdeano’s high levels was viewed as a positive test under French and WADA rules, but not by the UCI, allowing him to race in the Vuelta.
Del Olmo was given a three-year ban after testing positive for EPO before the start of the 2001 Tour. Galdeano’s ban ends Sept. 24 while Del Olmo’s ban continues through 2005.
Bruckner surgery ends season early
T-Mobile’s Kimberly Bruckner underwent a 5 ½ hour surgery Tuesday night, receiving muscle and skin grafts to repair damaged tissue around her ankle as the result of a prior surgery to remove a cancerous soft tissue tumor.
Two weeks ago, Bruckner had a soft tissue mass removed that was originally thought to be benign as a result of original biopsies. After the removed tissue was further analyzed, it was determined that it was cancerous resulting in Tuesday night’s surgery to remove any potential remaining carcinoma the doctors may have missed in addition to a muscle and skin graft.
After noticing a bump on her ankle during a winter training camp in 2002, Bruckner consulted her dermatologist who diagnosed it as a synovial cyst and suggested that she return after the season in October to have it drained.
After returning and finding there was nothing to drain, Bruckner went to see a doctor at the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine in June where it was later suggested that she have surgery to remove it.
Bruckner will remain in the hospital for three to four more days so that doctors may monitor the progress of the grafts.
Bruckner’s cycling season is over, but she is already on the road to recovery and has insisted that she will be back in full force next season. “I will not be able to put any weight on my foot for two weeks,” she explained, “but my doctor said I will fine in time for the wedding.” (Bruckner is getting married on Oct. 17th) “I think I can get back on the trainer and start up slowly in about three weeks, so that’s not too bad,” she assures. “I’m already planning on coming out flying for Australia in February!”
Both Bruckner and her doctors expect a full recovery and return to racing.
USA Cycling press release