By Andrew Hood
World champion Oscar Freire won’t be going to CSC-Tiscali after all,according to reports in the Spanish sports daily AS.
Freire and the Danish team have been going back and forth for weeks and seemedpoised to sign a two-year deal. But according to AS, Freire sent an e-mailto Johnny Weltz declining the offer so the two-time world champion couldconsider others. Reportedly deals from Quick Step, worth more money and forthree years, and iBanesto.com are on the table. Banesto only has one yearleft with its title sponsor and seems to looking to reduce its roster nextyear, but a chance to grab Spain’s world champion rider is something to considerfor the hallowed Spanish team, AS reported.
Bruyneel optimistic for Vuelta
Johan Bruyneel, sport director for the U.S. Postal Service team, is bullishon Roberto Heras. The 2000 Vuelta winner will lead the Posties inits second major stage-race on the 2002 calendar and Bruyneel thinks Herasis up to the task.
“Our goal is to win the Vuelta,” Bruyneel said. “We have a rider in Robertowho can win it. He won the race two years ago and he’s in great shape atthe moment. We have built a team around him to assist him everywhere.”
Joining Heras are Jose Luis Rubiera, Americans Antonio Cruz,Christian Vande Velde and Dave Zabriskie, Colombian VictorHugo Pena, Steffen Kjaergaard of Norway, Canadian Michael Barry andAustralian Matt White.
Last year, Heras struggled with a knee injury but still managed to finishfourth behind former teammate Levi Leipheimer, who jumped into thirdoverall on the final-day time trial. Heras will be arriving in Valencia forSaturday’s Vuelta start in his best form since 2000. He helped Lance Armstrongwin a fourth consecutive Tour de France and even managed to squeeze in hiswedding before the Vuelta.
This year’s Vuelta features a good mix climbs and time trials, includingthe feared climb up the Alto de Angliru, something Bruyneel says is a plusfor Heras.
“It’s good to see that we are finishing in the Angliru in the last week.That is the mountain where Roberto gained the leader’s jersey and won theVuelta in 2000. That must give him a lot of confidence,” Bruyneel said. “Thecompetition will be tough with (Saeco’s Gilberto) Simoni, (Coast’sdefending Vuelta champion Angel) Casero, (ONCE’s Joseba) Beloki,(Kelme’s Santiago) Botero, (ibanesto.com’s Juan) Mercado andthe rest, but I think Roberto and the rest of the team are ready to facethem.”
Saiz on Beloki
Manolo Saiz, sport director for ONCE, says it’s time for Joseba Belokito step up and win a big stage-race. Speaking with the Spanish sports dailyMARCA, Saiz said Beloki will have the pressure on his shoulders thisyear as the sole team leader.
“This is a very mountainous Vuelta and it’s better for him to defend on thisterrain. I haven’t forgotten Igor (Gonzalez de Galdeano), but afterseeing what happened in the Tour, Beloki is the rider,” he said.
“Beloki has to realize that many of his aspirations for the future dependon winning a big tour. In this sense, he needs to win the Vuelta, but werealize there are others who want to win, Casero, Heras and Simoni.”
ONCE once ruled the Vuelta, but the team lost won in 1997 with Alex Zülle.Saiz says while the Vuelta is important, the Tour de France remains the topdog in cycling.
“What’s clear is that the Vuelta is our race, in our country and for oursponsor. It’s something special. For me the Vuelta is important, but it wouldbe foolish to forget that the Tour is the best race in the sporting sense,”he said.
Belgians check out the course at Zolder
The top Lotto riders checked out the road world championship course Saturdayto get a sneak preview of what they’re up against in October. Rik Verbrugghe,Christophe Brandt, Kevin Van Impe, Wesley Van Speybroeckand Aart Vierhouten took part in the exercise organized by RTBF, theFrench-speaking Belgian TV station and a Belgian newspaper.
“After my unfortunate fall during the first week of the Tour, I was out forsix weeks because of the collarbone fracture. That means that I am reallyeager to do some racing; I have got lots of pent-up energy,” said Verburgghe.“I want to get myself back into prime condition and hope to achieve thisduring the Tour of Poland. Afterwards I will take part in the Landenprijsin France, which I hope will serve to earn me my selection. Of course I alsohope to get my ticket for the individual road race. I want reach my peakagain so that the Belgian coach will make me a protected racer. I definitelywant to stand on thee winners’ podium in Zolder.”
Petacchi wants his world’s place
Alessandro Petacchi, the second Italian fast sprinter alongside MarioCipollini, informed the Italian coach Franco Ballerini that he also wantsto get his ticket for Zolder.
“If Cipo’ is a likely candidate for the title, then I am, too,” Petacchisaid in a statement. “I am glad that Mario is back racing, but with two fastmen in the team, we are stronger. I won’t be unhappy to help Cipo.”
Cipollini has been straddling the fence since his surprise retirement announcementin July, but has since said that he will race the Vuelta a España and the worlds.
USA Cycling announces world track nominees
USA Cycling announced Tuesday the automatic nominees to compete at the 2002World Track Cycling Championships in Copenhagen, Denmark, Sept. 25-29. Theeight athletes nominated Tuesday to the world championships team earned automaticnominations based on their results at last week’s USCF National Track CyclingChampionships in Trexlertown, Pa (Aug. 27-31).
U.S. athletes nominated to the 2002 World Track Cycling Championships teaminclude: Garth Blackburn, Houston, Texas (men’s keirin); Jame Carney,Durango, Colo. (men’s points race, men’s madison); Colby Pearce, SanFrancisco, Calif. (men’s madison); Marty Nothstein, Trexlertown, Pa.(men’s scratch race); Tanya Lindenmuth, Macungie, Pa. (women’s sprint– 500 meters); Jennie Reed, Kirkland, Wash. (women’s keirin); BeckyQuinn, Quakertown, Pa. (women’s scratch race); and Sarah Uhl,Perkasie, Pa. (women’s points race).
“This is the best team overall that USA Cycling has sent to the world trackchampionships in recent history,” said USA Cycling’s Steve Johnson. “Thisyear our athletes won the track cycling World Cup overall title, bringingthis title home to the U.S. for the first time in history. The team we aresending to the Worlds is a great mix of proven, veteran talent like Martyand Jame, and young, powerful riders like Tanya, Sarah and Garth. It willbe exciting to see what they do.”
USA Cycling will announce the discretionary team nominations on Friday. Theseathletes will be chosen based on international World Cup results from thisseason and performances at the 2002 National Track Cycling Championships.