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Thursday’s Euro-file: Ángel’s busy schedule; Tour wildcards coming May 2

Ángel Casero could have a very busy summer, especially if thingsgo well for his Team Coast. The 2001 Vuelta a España champion isalready planning to race in the Giro d’Italia in May and the Vuelta a España in September and might even go to the Tour de France in July if his team earns a wild-card bid in May. “I will race in the Giro, because I have focused my preparation on thisrace. If we are invited to the Tour, I will also have to go. Of course,I want to defend my title at the Vuelta,” Casero told the Spanish sportsdaily AS. “It’s obvious that you cannot race all three at the highest

By Andrew Hood

Casero may be on that bike a lot this summer

Casero may be on that bike a lot this summer

Photo: AFP (file photo)

Ángel Casero could have a very busy summer, especially if thingsgo well for his Team Coast. The 2001 Vuelta a España champion isalready planning to race in the Giro d’Italia in May and the Vuelta a España in September and might even go to the Tour de France in July if his team earns a wild-card bid in May.

“I will race in the Giro, because I have focused my preparation on thisrace. If we are invited to the Tour, I will also have to go. Of course,I want to defend my title at the Vuelta,” Casero told the Spanish sportsdaily AS.

“It’s obvious that you cannot race all three at the highest level, butthat always depends on the circumstances. For example, if I am good in the Giro and the Tour, maybe I will forget the Vuelta. But if somethinghappens like last year, and I have to quit in the middle of one of theraces, I could start in all three.”

Casero is racing this week in Germany but is still recovering from aknee injury that kept him out of the Vuelta al Pais Vasco and the Vueltaa Aragon earlier this month.

“In yesterday’s stage, I still felt a little pain, but I can tell it’sgetting better. This German race is good for me. There aren’t a lot ofmountains, so it will help me recover my rhythm.”

Casero is confident he can arrive strong enough to challenge for theGiro podium although the May 11 race start is just over two weeks ago.

“I already had good form at Tirreno-Adriatico in March. I only haveto recover it. This Giro is a good one for me. I am very motivated to finishon the podium,” Casero said. “But if we are invited to the Tour, we mighthave to change some plans. It all depends on what the team wants.”

Tour “wild cards” coming May 2

Tour de France director Jean-Marie Leblanc insisted Thursday the final decision May 2 on the Tour de France’s “wild card” teams will be based “strictly sporting” criteria. Sixteen of the 21 teams to race in the 2002 Tour are already decided and the fate of many teams remains in the balance.

Last year, Tour de France organizers created a firestorm after selectingeight French teams and leaving out many big Division I teams, includingSaeco and Mercury-Viatel.

Tour to the Canary Islands?

In other Tour news, Leblanc was in Canary Islands on Wednesday to study the possibility ofbringing the French race to the Spanish islands off the west coast of Africa,the Spanish wires reported.Leblanc confirmed Thursday the Tour could start in Tenerife in 2006or 2007 if details of a complex transfer back to France can be worked out.

The “grand depart” of the Tour is typically announced two years in advance, giving local organizers more time to work out a plan. Leblanc left the door open for a prologue and two stages on the Spanish islands.

“It would be difficult and expensive, but possible with proper planning,”Leblanc said during a press conference.

Leblanc was traveling with several officials from the island of Tenerifethis week to examine roads, hotels and other infrastructure on the island.Leblanc had already met with Tenerife officials in Paris about possiblystarting the French race on the islands in the coming years.

Island starts are nothing new for the Tour. In 1998, that ill-fatedTour started on Ireland and the entire entourage returned to France onferries. There was even some talk a few years about starting the Tour onthe French Caribbean island of Guadalupe. Tenerife and the other CanaryIslands often host training camps for some of the top European teams. Theislands have sound infrastructure and good, steep roads. Tenerife includesthe 3,718-meter Teide volcano, the highest point in Spain, but riders won’theading to the top – it’s still spitting out smoke. The only draw-backis a long flight back to Europe, some 2.5 hrs to Madrid and even furtherto France. If approved, it would be the furthest the Tour has ever startedfrom France.Dekker back on the bikeYou can’t keep a good rider down, as Erik Dekker proved barelya month after fracturing his left leg in Milan-San Remo. The defendingWorld Cup champion made his first training ride Saturday since his injuryand subsequent surgery following his crash in the 2002 World Cup openerin Italy.

“Of course I am very happy, because I really want to get back to racing,”Dekker told the Algemeen Dagblad newspaper.

“But to come back is always complicated. I had a heart-rate of 115 andnow it goes up to 155, so that says everything about my form right now.”

Dekker has been given the green light to ride three times this week.The rest of the week he will undergo physical therapy and gym sessionsto rebuild his strength. No specific date has been set for his return tocompetition.

Marc Siemons dies at 35

The former Dutch road racer Marc Siemons died Tuesday from skin cancerat the age of 35. Siemons, who comes from a family rich in cycling tradition,rode for TVM in the early part of the 1990s and his best result was 17that the 1991 Paris-Tours. His brothers, Jan and Ruud, were also pro cyclists,but the family is best-known for its “Sauna Diana” luxury bus the familywould lend out to teams in the early- to mid-1990s to advertise the massageparlor it owns.

Euskaltel spells out plans for coming weeks

The Spanish team Euskaltel-Euskadi has announced its lineups for someupcoming races:

Vuelta a La Rioja (April 26-28): Unai Etxebarria, Igor Flores,César Solaun, Gorka Gerrikagoitia, Rubén Díaz de Cerio,Lander Euba and Joseba Zubeldia.

Tour de Vendee (April 28): Alberto Martínez, IñigoLandaluze, Iñaki Isasi, Egoi Martínez, Julen Fernández,David Herrero

Tour of Romandie (April 30 to May 5): Haimar Zubeldia, IkerFlores, Gorka González, Alberto López de Munain, Aitor Silloniz,Josu Silloniz, Mikel Artetxe, Gorka Arrizabalaga

Brodtka takes Stage 2 at Vuelta a Castilla

Germany’s Angel Brodtka won the sprint in the second stage inthe Vuelta a Castilla y Leon Feminas in Spain on Wednesday while the Frenchracer Catherine Marsal retained the overall lead.

Brodtka won the 89-km stage in 2 hours, 13 minutes, 25 seconds in agroup sprint, edging Olga Slyusareva and Regina Schleicher. Warm weatherand the difficult climbing stage awaiting the riders Thursday kept thegroup together.

Stage Two Results:
1. Angela Brodtka (G), German National Team, 2:13:25
2. Olga Slyusareva, (Rus), Itera
3. Regina Schleicher(G), S.C. Michela Fanini Record Rox
4. Diana Ziliute, (Lit), Acca Due O Pasta
5. Luisa Tamanini, (I), Italia National Team
6. Tanja Schmidt-Hennes (G), Nürnberger
7. Giorgia Bronzini, (I), Italia National Team
8. Annetta Beutler, (Swi), Swiss National Team
9. Monica Valen, (N), Team Sponsor Service
10. Alessandra Cappellotto, (I), Power-Plate, all same time.

Overall after two stages:
1. Catherine Marsal (F) 4:58:08
2. Angela Brodtka (G) at 0:05
3. Olga Slyusareva (R)
4. Regina Schleser (G)
5. Diana Ziliute (Lit)
6. Monica Valen (N)
7. Tanja Schmidt-Hennes (G)
8. Luisa Tamanini (I)
9. Rosa Bravo (Sp)
10. Sylvie Riedle (F) all same time.