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Wednesday’s EuroFile: Zabel for Stuttgart? Friedman’s Beijing dreams; Guerini winds it down

Controversial cyclist Erik Zabel looks set to take part in next month's World Road Championships after the German Cycling Federation (BDR) named him to its provisional squad on Wednesday. The 37-year-old, who won silver at last year's world championship road race in Salzburg, has been named in a preliminary 21-man squad which will be trimmed down before the championships which are in Stuttgart from September 26-30. Despite his close finish last year, Zabel's inclusion was opposed by many because of confession in May to using banned blood-booster EPO (erythropoietin) for a short

By Andrew Hood

Friedman avoided a potentially fatal result.

Friedman avoided a potentially fatal result.

Photo: Andrew Hood

Controversial cyclist Erik Zabel looks set to take part in next month’s World Road Championships after the German Cycling Federation (BDR) named him to its provisional squad on Wednesday.

The 37-year-old, who won silver at last year’s world championship road race in Salzburg, has been named in a preliminary 21-man squad which will be trimmed down before the championships which are in Stuttgart from September 26-30.

Despite his close finish last year, Zabel’s inclusion was opposed by many because of confession in May to using banned blood-booster EPO (erythropoietin) for a short period during the 1996 Tour de France. Zabel, who now rides for Milram, was a member of the Deutsche Telekom team at the time. “We have taken the decision after careful deliberation over the cyclist’s form and all the other circumstances,” said BDR president Rudolf Scharping.

After his tearful confession, the BDR had said Zabel’s selection was in doubt and the team will be trimmed in the middle of September.

Tour of Germany winner Jens Voigt was also included in the provisional squad.

Friedman eyes Olympics
U.S. pro Mike Friedman is dreaming of a shot at Olympic gold next summer on the track in Beijing, but following a dangerous brush with a life-threatening blood clot last fall, his future on two wheels was unexpectedly thrown into doubt.

Friedman, 24, is back in good health after taking most of the first half of the 2007 season off the bike to recover from a pulmonary embolism that struck last November.

“Things have been going better since July,” he said during a break at last week’s Tour of Ireland. “The season got off to a rough start, but I am back in the mindset of racing now and I’m starting to feel better.”

The problems started last October when the former Penn State student underwent surgery to remove a festering saddle sore. Two days later, he made the long cross-country drive from Colorado Springs to his hometown in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, when he noticed intense cramps in his right upper calf.

Nagging pains in his leg and back continued over the next several weeks as he recovered both from his surgery and a hard racing season. He wasn’t sure what was causing the discomfort, but Friedman’s condition suddenly worsened when he had trouble breathing while watching TV in mid-November.

Friedman thought he was having a heart attack and rushed to a local hospital. The trip probably saved his life. Doctors discovered a blood clot that had likely formed in his leg moved to his lung. Doctors said had he waited another 30 minutes, he might have died.

Doctors said that a clot probably developed in the days following the surgery when Friedman spent some 16 hours cramped in his car on the long road trip home. Several more weeks of recovery coupled with his naturally low heart-rate complicated the situation.

“We found out from genetic testing that my family is more predisposed to getting clots,” Friedman said. “I didn’t know the risks and my family didn’t know.”

Treatment included six months of anti-coagulants that slowly dissolved the clot. His first race back was the Four Days of Dunkirk in May.

Since then, Friedman is putting in a full racing schedule to make up for lost time, with scheduled starts at the U.S. nationals, Univest and the Tour of Missouri before heading full speed into the winter track racing season.

Friedman said he’ll spend the winter continuing to build his form and rejoin Slipstream for the first half of the 2008 season ahead of a bid to earn a spot on the U.S. Olympic team.

“It’s great for me that the team has faith in me to give me a contract for next year,” he said. “I hope to earn a spot on the Olympic team and go to Beijing to try to win a medal.”

Vuelta last grand tour for Guerini
Giuseppe Guerini – T-Mobile’s super-domestique – will race the Vuelta in what’s his last grand tour before retiring at the end of this season.

The 37-year-old Italian climber has won stages in both the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia, where he also twice finished third, but has never won a stage in the Spanish tour, something he’d like to change before hanging up the cleats.

“Yes, a stage-win at the Vuelta. Actually, I still have the chance to put that right. I have enjoyed success at the Giro and the Tour,” Guerini said on T-Mobile’s web page. “But seriously, what is missing from my palmarès is a national title. It was never really on the agenda during my career as I am not a specialist for one-day races and I had relatively few chances. But now with the benefit of hindsight, I think I can say what I really missed out on was the chance to pull on the jersey of the Italian national champion.”

Guerini, left off T-Mobile’s Tour de France squad this year, said he’s seen plenty of changes since turning pro in 1993. He said he supports efforts by T-Mobile to clean up the sport and commented that one of the biggest shifts in cycling is the slow disappearance of leading stars in a growing age of equality among riders.

“Cycling now lacks the really big personalities,” Guerini said. “In the past, you had some really big personalities – full of charisma, and capable of leading a whole group. They were the driving force for a complete team. Those kinds of riders are thin on the ground today.

“That’s partly due to the changes in the sport. In the past you had a captain, and everyone rode in support of him. Now you have much more open races, because the riders are much more willing to put their own interests first. You often see teams go to races with a few leaders, and individual riders who are riding their own race. This trend can make individual stages very exciting, but it is not a good thing for the teams. The idea of a key anchorman has gone from the sport a bit. Team success now plays second fiddle to individual success.”

Pereiro wants Vuelta
Oscar Pereiro is tired of all the talk of the 2006 Tour de France and whether or not someday he might be named the official winner.

Fresh off discreetly finishing 10th in the 2007 Tour, Pereiro wants nothing less than to win the Vuelta a España.

“It’s a good route for me, with some longer, harder stages like you see in the Tour,” Pereiro said. “I came out of the Tour in good shape. I think I can have realistic chances to be on the podium, maybe even win if things go well.”

Caisse d’Epargne will also have Vladimir Karpets and even Luis León Sánchez to fight in the overall as well as hunt for stages. Eternal attacker Vicente García Acosta, David López and Xabier Zandio will also be looking to get into breaks and try to secure a victory.

Alejandro Valverde, second overall last year, is skipping the Vuelta to focus on the road cycling world championships.

Caisse d’Epargne for VueltaOscar PereiroVladimir EfimkinImanol ErvitiVicente García AcostaJoan HorrachVladimir KarpetsDavid LópezLuis León SánchezXabier Zandio

Sánchez wants win, too
How bad does Samuel Sánchez want to win this year’s Vuelta? Enough that he skipped the Tour de France to prepare exclusively for a run at the Vuelta’s final podium.

Sánchez enjoyed a breakout Vuelta in 2006, which included a daring stage victory into Cuenca, second in the final time trial and a top-10 overall. Those results convinced him that he could be a challenger for final victory and he skipped the Tour to prepare exclusively for the final half of the season.

“My goals this year are to step onto the final podium and win a stage,” Sánchez said on the team’s web page. “If I can fulfill these two goals, I will be very satisfied.”

Sánchez will headline a strong Euskaltel team full of potential stage winners. Haimar Zubeldia and Iñigo Landaluze will be on the attack as well as Igor Antón, the young Basque climber who won a stage in last year’s edition. Iñaki Isasi will be trying his luck in the sprints, but where’s Amets Txurruka, the most combative rider in this year’s Tour de France?

Euskaltel-Euskadi for VueltaSamuel SánchezHaimar ZubeldiaIñigo LandaluzeIgor AntónIñaki IsasiKoldo Fernández de LarreaAitor HernándezDioni GalparsoroAlan Pérez

Saunier Duval mixes old, new
Saunier Duval-Prodir hopes a mix of experienced veterans and grand tour newbies can deliver some promising results.

José Ángel Gómez Marchante and Leonardo Piepoli will provide experienced firepower and perhaps even a shot for the final podium for the Spanish yellow jackets. David de la Fuente, Rubén Lobato and Iker Camaño will try their hand in escapes while the remainder of the team is young riders making their respective grand tour debuts.

Notably absent from the lineup are sprinter Fran Ventoso, Brit’ David Millar (racing in today’s finale at the Eneco Tour with a shot to win) and Tour of the Basque Country winner Juanjo Cobo, who was injured during the Vuelta a Burgos earlier this month.

Also missing is star climber Iban Mayo, fending off charges that he doped after testing positive for the banned blood booster EPO during last month’s Tour de France.

Saunier Duval-Prodir for VueltaJosé Ángel Gómez MarchanteLeonardo PiepoliDavid de la FuenteRubén LobatoIker CamañoÁngel GómezJavier MejíasArkaitz DuránAlberto Fernández de la Puebla

Gerolsteiner brings Rebellin, Schumacher
Big names Davide Rebellin and Stefan Schumacher headline an otherwise young Gerolsteiner lineup for Saturday’s start of the Vuelta.

Rebellin and Schumacher are both hoping to hone their form ahead of the Stuttgart world championships with a strong ride through the three-week Spanish tour. Stages are the primary goal for the German waterboys.

“We’ll be looking to win a stage between Vigo and Madrid,” said team sport director Reimund Dietzen. “Rebellin and Schumacher are ready to win a stage.”

Gerolsteiner for VueltaMarkus FothenJohannes FrehlingerTorsten HiekmannTim KlingerAndrea MolettaDavide RebellinStefan SchumacherTom StamsnijderOliver Zaugg