By Andrew Hood
Spanish rider Joseba Beloki is one of those types of riders who never turns down a request for an autograph and always has a smile on his face. Despite three consecutive Tour de France podiums, however, he’s not regarded as a feared rider.
With the absence of Jan Ullrich last year, Beloki bounced to second on the Tour podium. Still, it’s one very far step to knock off defending champion Lance Armstrong. In an interview with MARCA, a Spanish sports daily, Beloki admits he has to ride more aggressively if he hopes to seriously challenge Armstrong.
“I think I need to change my attitude about the Tour. I recognize that I have been somewhat conservative and perhaps I should convert myself into a more aggressive rider, trust in myself more,” Beloki said. “I think I can be closer to the American in certain situations. Maybe I shouldn’t just settle for second place, like I did last year.”
Beloki said he feels content with his results, however. After all, he’s finished on the top-three podium in all three Tours that he’s started. Not a bad a record, but something that the Basque rider feels he doesn’t get full credit.
“Perhaps with Miguel Indurain’s achievements, people don’t see me as the same. It’s true that I have yet to win something big, but no one’s been on the podium of two grand tours since 1998 and I did that last year,” he said. “I am content and tranquil.”
Beloki still believes his ONCE team – where his three-year contract is up at the end of this season — is strong enough to give Armstrong a run for his money.
“If there’s a team strong enough to challenge Armstrong, it’s us. Armstrong is just one star rider. We are an entire team of strong riders,” he said. “Given these circumstance, things could go our way.”
Last year, Armstrong rose to the challenge of the Spanish onslaught. The world will know just how serious Beloki is about getting more aggressive once the Tour starts in July.
Gonzalez eyes Luis Puig debut
Aitor Gonzalez is hoping he’ll get the green light from the UCI to finally don the Fassa Bortolo jersey and is eyeing a season debut at Luis Puig on Feb. 23 in Spain, according to the Spanish sports daily AS.
Gonzalez’ fate has been in limbo over a contract dispute for the 2002 Vuelta a Espana champion. During the last year’s Giro d’Italia, Gonzalez reportedly penned a deal to join Domina Vacanze (formerly Acqua & Sapone), but a bidding war erupted following his Vuelta victory and Gonzalez finally settled on Fassa Bortolo. Domina Vacanze, however, continues to insist that it has rights to Gonzalez and now the UCI is expected to settle the dispute in a hearing next week.
Ullrich to spin to Tour success?
Two years after trying it and not liking it, Jan Ullrich is reportedly going to give Lance Armstrong’s high-revolution spinning pedaling style another try. According to an interview with Team Coast director sportif Juan Fernandez, Ullrich is already training with easier gears and higher cadence to give his pain-plagued knee a break.
“This will be positive for him, because there will be less strain on his muscles and there is less overloads,” Fernandez said in MARCA. According to the report, Ullrich has been training up to five hours per day with a cadence of 110 to 120 pedals per minute.
Ullrich is serving a suspension for testing positive for amphetamines after taking the party drug Ecstacy at a night club. That will keep him out of action until the spring, but it won’t fade Fernandez’ optimism for a strong Tour.
“With this smoother, easier pedaling, I believe it will be better,” said Fernandez. “I believe Ullrich can win if he’s good and (Angel) Casero can be very near the final podium.”
Pain could derail Dekker’s spring campaign
Rabobank’s Erik Dekker said he might skip the spring classics if persistent knee pain doesn’t fade in the next few days. Dekker said in an interview in De Telegraaf newspaper that if the pain continues, he’ll skip Ruta del Sol (Feb. 16-20) and possibly the early spring classics. He said without some hard racing in his legs, he doesn’t see himself starting Milan-San Remo (March 22), where he crashed last year and breaking his left leg.