The Week That Was...
Ian comments on the happenings in the world of cycling.
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