By Andrew Hood
Members of the U.S. men´s pursuit team on Saturday morning raced with an homage to Saul Raisin emblazoned on their helmets in the qualifying round.
In a show of solidarity with the injured Raisin, the team wrote, “Raisin Hell” on their racing helmets.
“We´ve been thinking about him all week,” said team member Mike Creed. “It´s hit everybody pretty hard.”
Raisin, 23, is showing signs of improvement after coming out of a coma earlier this week. Raisin crashed in the Circuit de la Sarthe and nearly died when he suffered a brain hemorrhage.
Vande Velde rides with eye on Giro
Christian Vande Velde will start Sunday´s Amstel Gold Race despite having shoulder surgery less than three weeks ago in a bid to earn a spot on Team CSC´s Giro d’Italia squad.
Vande Velde cracked his clavicle at Paris-Nice in early March and the break seemed fairly clean, but he rebroke it three weeks ago and required surgery. He’ll return to the peloton Sunday at Amstel Gold to make a run at securing a start for the Giro.
“I wanted to do some racing ahead of Romandie and have a shot at going to the Giro,” Vandel Velde told VeloNews. “I’m taking a little risk, because you can´t just show up at a World Cup race after not racing for six weeks, but I’ll do my best and try to escape unscathed.”
Ivan Basso will be one of the top favorites for overall victory in the three-week Giro and Team CSC is sure to bring a top-form squad to support him. Vande Velde raced the Giro last year and a return this year was his top goal for the first half of 2006 until he crashed early in Paris-Nice.
Training was going well in and around his home in Girona, Spain, when he rebroke it three weeks ago. He underwent corrective surgery in a Spanish clinic and missed about five days during recovery.
“It´s pretty hard to reboot the system after surgery,” he said. “I´m feeling alright and the team is kinda beat up, so they wanted me to return to racing. I feel good in training, but racing a race like Amstel is completely different.”
After racing Flèche Wallone and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Vande Velde will make a good push in the Tour de Romandie to try to prove he´s ready to handle the demands of the Giro.
“I want to go well at the Giro and with this program, I´ll be ready to go,” he said. “If not, I can come back in May and race Cataluyna and the Dauphine in June.”
And the Tour de France?
“I don´t even want to think about that right now,” he said. “Let´s get through the Giro first.”
Also back for Team CSC will be Stuart O´Grady, who seriously crashed in Tirreno-Adriatico. O´Grady is slated to start the Rund um Koln in Germany on Monday.
Pate to TdGeorgia
Danny Pate and TIAA-CREF team manager Jonathan Vaugthers are boarding a flight Sunday from Paris to Atlanta to arrive in time for Tuesday´s start at the Tour de Georgia.
Pate was scheduled to race the Tour of Brittany next week in northwest France, but was selected to make the journey back to the United States after Tim Duggin recently cracked his shoulder.
“It´s the most ideal way to arrive at the race, but it should be cool to race in Georgia,” Pate said. “I hear it´s not as bad going from Europe to the United States, so I hope that´s the case. It´s going to be better weather in Georgia than Brittany, so that´s good.”
Pate, 27, will be the elder statesman among a relatively young team at Georgia for TIAA-CREF. Most of the team´s top riders are staying over in Europe to compete as the team continues to nurture its European base.
“It´s funny, because on most teams I´ve been on, I was always the youngest rider, now suddenly I´m the oldest rider by a long shot,” said Pate, referring to the youth-oriented TIAA-CREF, team where the average age is around 23.
Pate said he´s happy to be at TIAA-CREF, where he´s getting another shot at racing in Europe. A U-23 world time trial champion in 2001, Pate raced in Europe in 2000 with Saeco and 2001 with the U.S. national team before settling into the domestic scene.
“This team is a good mix of racing between the biggest races in the United States and some good races here in Europe,” he said. “It´s good. There are more opportunities over here in Europe. It´s a bigger pond. The races are bigger and it´s more competitive over here.”