The Week That Was...
Unless you?ve had your head stuck in the sand for the past week, you?ll know that this week?s big news is the confirmation that Lance Armstrong will ride this years Tour de France. The news ends months of speculation over Armstrong?s possible program for 2005 and is now likely to see any attempts at the world one-hour record put on the back burners until next year.
"I look forward to achieving my goal of a seventh Tour de France (victory)," said Armstrong to thepaceline.com. "I am excited to get back on the bike and start racing although my condition is far from perfect." Armstrong went on to add that "Johan (Bruyneel) and I will evaluate my fitness later this spring and possibly add some races to the calendar," after confirming his start in such events as Paris-Nice, Tour of Flanders and Tour de Georgia.
Reactions to Armstrong?s announcement were positive. "The best should start in the Tour," said Jan Ullrich to DPA. "A possible victory would therefore be even more valuable." Ullrich?s Team Manager, Olaf Ludwig added that, "I had counted on it anyway. Why should the sponsor leave its best horse in the stable for the most important race of the season?" Fellow German and T-Mobile rider Andreas Kl?den said, "I have always said: he will ride. I'm happy that he's starting."
Tour Director, Jean Marie Leblanc was also up beat about the news. "If Armstrong hadn't come, we would have started from zero with challengers by the name of Ullrich, Basso, Heras, Kl?den, Mayo and, I hope, the new Italian pearl Cunego. One would have been incapable of designating a favourite. In this case, we come back to a situation that we already knew with Indurain and then Armstrong. One single favourite against the rest. I like both forms of the Tour de France."
One rider likely to be lining up with Armstrong in his Discovery Channel team is Russian Viatcheslav Ekimov. Speaking with De Telegraaf last week, the former track star said that his goal is to equal Joop Zoetemelk?s record of 16 Tour de France starts. ?Eki?, already 39, has started 14 editions of the race so far.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) last week up-held the two-year suspension issued to Scot David Millar by British Cycling after the former Cofidis rider admitted to taking EPO earlier. It did however amend the date at which the suspension is due to end. "The Panel noted that, from the date of his arrest, David Millar was unable to compete any more and that, in addition, he promptly and voluntarily announced that he was withdrawing from the British Team for the Olympic Games in Athens. As a consequence, the CAS arbitrators decided that the two year suspension should be calculated to run from June 24 2004, as requested by Millar, and to end on June 23 2006," the CAS said in a statement. The initial starting date of the ban had been August 5, 2004.
As a means of preparing for the future, Liberty-Seguros - Wurth Director, Manolo Saiz, has renewed the contracts of three of its young and promising professional riders. Luis Le?n S?nchez, Allan Davis and Alberto Contador have all signed new deals taking them to the end of 2008 according to Diario Vasco. Sanchez and Davis finished first and second in this year?s Tour Down Under and Contador won a stage.
Fourteen of the twenty Pro Tour teams have agreed to print a UCI Pro Tour logo on their jerseys according to the Union Cycliste Internationale. "This initiative shows their motivation and reinforces what already seems to be a certainty: the 2005 Road season will be fantastic and have the full support of the teams," the UCI said in a recent press release.
Until next week, send your thoughts and views to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.