By Andrew Hood
Jan Ullrich flew to South Africa this week to escape a cold snap that’s gripping most of Europe. The 1997 Tour de France champion was scheduled to train in Tuscany, but flew to Cape Town to avoid the frigid temperatures in Italy. “Currently, winter has Italy in its grip. The snowfall and the freezing cold make it impossible to train efficiently. The risk of catching a cold is much too high,” Ullrich said on the T-Mobile’s web page, adding he can “do a more focused and intense training under the South African sun.” Ullrich, who’s recently been gaining Tour-favorite endorsements from such luminaries as Lance Armstrong and Eddy Merckx, trained most recently in December in South Africa. The 32-year-old German regularly trains there each winter.
Ullrich will be joined by teammates Matthias Kessler, Andreas Klöden, Italian Giuseppe Guerini as well as sport director Rudy Pevenage and physiotherapist Birgit Krohme.
“Despite the long distance there’s no time difference to Central Europe. So we don’t have to deal with jetlag and go into training straight away,” Pevenage said. Ullrich still hasn’t set a date for his season debut, but added, “for the time being, I will continue to work and stay focussed to build up my form.” Popovych Georgia-bound
Yaroslav Popovych, fresh off a California training camp with Discovery Channel teammates, is set to begin his season with the Tour of the Algarve later this month in Portugal. The Ukraine, who grabbed the best young rider’s jersey in last year’s Tour de France, confirmed he will be racing in the Tour de Georgia in April. He said his season goals will be on stage races, with stops in Spain, Portugal as well as Georgia in April. The Tour will be his top goal for the 2006 season. “My condition is good,” he told Tutto Bici. “I worked hard over the winter.” Gerrans on the mend
Simon Garrans, who crashed 300 yards from the finish line in Tuesday’s GP d’Ouverture la Marseillaise, said he can’t remember what caused him to go down. The winner of the Tour Down Under is set to be transferred to a hospital in Nice for further observation.
“I remember sitting in second wheel with 300 meters to go and that’s the last thing I remember,” Gerrans told the Australian cycling federation. “I hadn’t even kicked off the wheel or anything and then there I am in the back of an ambulance. I wouldn’t mind asking some of the guys who were around me what happened because I have no idea.” Gerrans, who broke his left collarbone and injured some ligaments in his right shoulder as well as received stitches in his head, said he might not be able to start the Commonwealth Games later this year.
“I will see the specialist later today to try and resolve the mystery of my right shoulder injury,” he said. “Maybe my right shoulder will just need strapping and the ideal scenario would be that I’m back on the home trainer within a week or so and back to racing as soon as possible. The team will need to adjust my racing program now as well because I was due to line up in the Tour of the Mediterranean next week and that’s not going to happen.”
Valverde believes in Tour fate
Alejandro Valverde, the Spanish sensation that’s lighting up cycling south of the Pyrénées, said he now believes he’s a man for the Tour de France. In his debut last year, Valverde won a key climbing stage at Courchevel ahead of seven-time winner Lance Armstrong, an experience that he says changed his view of racing. “At first I was considered a rider for the classics, that they were well-suited for me, but I like the Tour more,” he told the Spanish daily AS. “I’d like to win the Tour or another three-week grand tour.” Valverde said he’s been working hard to improve in the time trial, a discipline that he admits is his “weak point.” He’s not forgetting the classics altogether as he builds toward another run at the Tour. He’ll race in Liege, Amstel Gold and Fleche Wallone in April. After the Tour, he also confirmed he’ll race in the world championships, where he’s already earned two silver medals in three starts. New dates for Castilla y León
The Vuelta a Castilla y León will take over the dates from the now-defunct Setmana Catalana. According to a report on todociclismo, the UCI agreed to a petition from race organizers to move the race late April to new dates, March 20-24.