By Andrew Hood
Armstrong recon mission: Lance Armstrong will survey key stages in the 2002 Tour de France in the coming weeks, just as he’s done every year since 1999. Armstrong is scheduled to travel in June with U.S. Postal Service directeur sportif Johan Bruyneel and possibly other teammates to examine new climbs and time trial courses in the 2002 route.
Bruyneel says this year they’ve slightly tweaked a strategy that’s paid off for the three-time defending Tour de France champion.
“We’ve changed it a little bit from past years,” Bruyneel told VeloNews. “We’re going to do it later this year because sometimes we’ve had bad weather and we don’t want to have to wait. We’re going to do it later, then we are sure that the mountain passes are open.”
Bruyneel said Armstrong will skip stages he’s already seen, such as the climb up Mont Ventoux in stage 14, and instead focus on the Alp stages and the final time trial at Macon on July 27. In early April, Armstrong reconnoitered the first individual time trial at stage 9.
Bruyneel said the final recon mission will be scheduled around Armstrong’s final June preparation races — Classiques des Alpes (June 8) and Dauphine Libere (June 10-19).
“We still have to see how it fits into the race schedule,” he said. “These training rides take a lot of organizing and a lot of time. It’s better if we can do it before or after a race.”
Cipo poised for Giro run: Mario Cipollini is ready to roar again. The Lion King has already had a spectacular spring, winning dramatic victories at Milan-San Remo and Ghent-Wevelgem. Reanimated with his new team at Acqua & Sapone, Cipollini will be going for stage-wins as the 2002 Giro d’Italia starts Saturday in the Netherlands and runs to June 2. Super Mario is narrowing in on the all-time Giro stage-win record of 41 owned by Alfredo Binda. Cipo is second on the all-time list with 34 Giro victories. Cipo won’t be racing at the Tour de France, so he’s sure to try to win as many stages as he can. Cipollini’s most successful Giro was in 1997 when he won five stages, so he likely won’t approach Binda’s record this year. But you never know. Cipo could hit a hot streak as Binda did in the 1927 Giro when he won 12 stages.
Mapei Giro team: Mapei comes to the Giro loaded with talent, led by 2000 Giro champ Stefano Garzelli. Also, Paolo Bettini, Davide Bramati, Dario Cioni, Cadel Evans, Paolo Fornaciari, Robert Hunter, Daniele Nardello and Andrea Noe
Coast Giro team: Where is Alex Zulle? The Swiss veteran is having his best year since 1999, winning in Valencia and a stage at the Tour of Romandie, but he’s skipping the Giro. Vuelta champion Angel Casero is out with injuries. The team: Manual Beltran, Fernando Escartin, Fabrizio Guidi, Frank Hoj, Andre Koff, Francisco Lara, Lars Michaelsen, Raphael Schweda and Malte Urban.
Fassa Bortolo Giro team: Francesco Casagrande comes flying into the Giro following his recent victory at Tour of Trentino. A spill took him out of the Tour of the Basque Country where he was looking the strongest. Amstel Gold winner Michele Bartoli is absent but Petacchi and Honchar will be looking for stage-wins. Joining Casagrande: Wladimir Belli, Serhiy Honchar, Dmitri Konychev, Alessandro Petacchi, Gorazd Stangelj, Matteo Tosatto and Denis Zanette.
Rabobank for Giro: Michael Boogerd has had an impressive spring and will lead the team. Levi Leipheimer is skipping the Giro to focus on the Tour while Erik Dekker is still on the mend. Joining Boogerd: Jan Boven, Marc Lotz, Addy Engels, Steven de Jongh, Thorwald Veneberg, Geert Verheyen (B), Mathew Hayman (Aus) and Grischa Niermann (Aut).
Kelme at Giro: Kelme-Costa Blance is the only Spanish team racing in the Giro. Oscar Sevilla and Santiago Botero won’t start and instead will continue their preparation for the Tour de France and later the Vuelta a Espana. The team includes: Jose Cayetano Julia, Aitor Gonzalez, Angel Vicioso, Isaac Galvez, Jesus Manzano, Juan Jose de los Angeles, Francisco Leon and Santiago Perez, fourth at the Romandie.
Lotto for Giro: Rik Verbrugghe will be hoping to repeat his opening prologue performance and snatch the maglia rosa early. Joining him are: Kurt Van De Wouwer, Ief Verbrugghe, Robbie McEwen, Stefan Van Dijk Aart Vierhouten, Thierry Marichal, Kurt Van Lancker and Christophe Detilloux.
82nd Volta a Cataluyna: Nineteen teams will make up the field at the 82nd Volta a Cataluyna (June 17-23), a key Tour de France warm-up race for the Spanish riders. Race officials have confirmed the following teams: U.S. Postal Service (though Lance Armstrong is expected to race at Dauphine Libere), Lotto, Cofidis, Coast, Saeco, Telekom, Credit Agricole, Alessio, Lampre, Mapei, Fassa Bortolo, Itera, Milaneza, ibanesto.com, ONCE, Kelme, Euskaltel, Relax and Jazztel. The race will open June 17 with a 30.9-km time trial in the Delta del Ebro. The second 198-km stage brings the race to the 10.8-km climbing individual time trial up the Alto de Boi Taull at 2,030 meters. The so-called “queen’s stage” is 197km between Barruera to Pal, featuring three Cat. 1 climbs. A transition stage brings the race to the outskirts of Barcelona, where the race concludes with the final 115-km stage that finishes in front of the La Sagrada Familia to commemorate the 150th birth of architect Antonio Gaudi.