The Week That Was...
Speaking at the official 2005 team launch in Toledo, Spain, last week, Liberty Seguros?Wurth?s Director outlined the team?s priority for the year: ?We are going to try to win the Tour. The line-up last year was of great quality and this year it has been made even stronger." He went on to add that, "We are going to be the team to beat; the team that provides an example, as Miguel Indurain said, a beacon in the world of international cycling. We are the best team in the world. We have the right mixture of youth and experience."
Leading the team towards this goal will be former US Postal rider, Roberto Heras. Heras moved to the Spanish outfit at the end of 2003 only to experience a horrific Tour de France last year. "I want to arrive at the Tour fresh physically and mentally," he said. "We have to learn from the mistakes [of last year]." Heras was also pleased about the news released last week regarding Armstrong?s participation in this year?s event. "The ambition of any sportsman is always to beat his greatest rival," said Heras. ?It would not be good if Armstrong was in form but did not ride the Tour.?
The team will also include former Tour podium finisher, Joseba Beloki, although he will primarily focus on the Giro d?Italia. Beloki will travel to France to support Heras in the team?s quest. This, ?takes the pressure off me,? said Beloki.
Former World Champion, Igor Astarloa, will be forced to delay his season after a bad fall in the recent Haribo Classic. Riding for the British registered Barloworld team in 2005, the Basque underwent surgery to repair a broken wrist, in Vitoria, Spain, by the same surgeon that treated Joseba Beloki when he crashed out of the Tour de France in 2003.
It was confirmed last week that five Pro Tour teams will line-up for the start of the 2005 Tour de Georgia. Besides the American Discovery Channel team, also confirmed are Swiss team Phonak, Danish squad Team CSC, France's Credit Agricole and Spain's Saunier Duval/Prodir. Armstrong will defend his crown from April 19-24 in his build-up towards a possible record breaking seventh tour victory. Besides the current Tour champion, also ?coming-home? will be Floyd Landis, Bobby Julich and Saul Raisin to name but a few of the European based Americans.
Leading the Saunier Duval/Prodir charge will be 2003 TdG champion, Chris Horner. The Californian said that, "I've been looking forward to coming back to the Dodge Tour de Georgia since it ended last year. The course just gets better and better, and I can tell that this year is no exception. I'm coming with a great team that is expecting me to lead them against the Pro Tour teams as well as the best domestic teams in the U.S."
German, Jan Ullrich, last week announced a one-month delay to his season. Previously he was due to begin racing at the Tour of Murcia at the beginning of March but will now instead line-up at the Circuit de la Sarthe. T-Mobile doctor Lothar Heinrich said, "Right now it doesn't make much sense for Jan to ride such an intensive race as Murcia. The aim right now is the intensive build up of his ground conditioning - that is the basis of a successful season." Since returning from South Africa, Ullrich has been training in Tuscany although recent bad weather and a cold have forced him to return home early to Scherzingen in Switzerland.
Making his 2005 season debut yesterday was Italian star Damiano Cunego. The 23 year old began the Classica Almeria race in Spain. "I'm feeling pretty emotional; I just can't wait to get the season started," he said. "Right now, I'm feeling the right kind of tension at the start of an important season."
Cunego has reportedly ridden 6000km in training since December and in recent tests on his local test-climb of Monte Lessini, Cunego?s power output has increased by 10% since last year.
"I feel like I've done a good job in the build up to my season so far; our team training camp in Terracina was good for me and I am feeling even better now than I did last year at this time. So the Vuelta a Murcia (March 2-6) means a lot, because it will show me my true race condition for this time of the season," said last year?s Giro winner.
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