Welcome, one and all, to another working week …. sorry, another thrilling edition of Euro-Trash! This is one of my favorite weekends of the season with racing on multiple fronts in snowy Belgium, sunny Spain and picturesque Switzerland to name but a few of the happenings.
Among today’s snippets we’ll wonder whether things are looking up for the sport with a brace of exciting results for young French stars, hear how Jan the man is progressing, and learn who’ll be taking part in this year’s Giro.
Clean French racing on the up?
There were a couple of majorly significant wins yesterday for French hopefuls as the bigger names battled it out in sub-zero Belgium.
Brioches La Boulangere’s Jerome Pineau bested teammate Thomas Voeckler (both aged 24) in a 2-up sprint at Spain’s Clasica de Almeria with US Postal’s new Spanish hope Benjamin Noval coming home third.
In Switzerland, Frederic Bessy took what must be a career-best win at the GP Lugano, edging out defending champ and teammate David Moncoutie. Moncoutie is one of the riders who everyone knows hasn’t stuck anything dodgy into his body over the years and can still get results on his day.
With the French being a bit defensive just lately in the wake of the Cofidis crisis, maybe these results will show that things are on an upswing for them.
Ullrich gets rolling
Jan Ullrich has started to warm up his big diesel engine of a body by turning out at the Clasica de Almeria, saying he couldn’t have had a better start to his season, and telling his website that he was happy to finish in the main bunch (over 20 minutes back) because Guerini and Konecny were in the front of the race.
“I now have two days break. The Vuelta a Murcia begins on Wednesday, and that will certainly be more exerting. The course is more undulating and there is a time trial. I have no ambitions to appear at the front of the field or to win. I start in order to gather the kilometers that I need if I want to win (the Tour) in July. That Lance Armstrong and I encounter each other isn’t important. Where we finish at the end, has no meaning for the rest of the season.”
Things also look much better for Jan in 2004 than they did in 2003 (unfit, team in meltdown) and in 2002 (unfit, in personal meltdown): “I am happy that I was able to race unencumbered (by injury) in February. I had to pay attention last year to my injured knee.” Come July, just maybe big Jan will be in his best shape since 1997 – roll on Le Tour.
Pellizotti grabs Chiasso win
Alessio-Bianchi’s Franco Pellizotti was the faster finisher in the 6th GP Chiasso, Switzerland, on Saturday, fairly easily beating off Leonardo Bertagnoli of Saeco to win.
The pair escaped after about 100kms of the 165 km race, and pulled away despite freezing conditions to hold off the chasers, with Cofidis’ Cedric Vasseur coming in 3rd just behind.
Giro d’ Italia favorite Gilberto Simoni raced and had a couple of digs off the front to loosen up his legs, although with such cold weather he might be wishing he’d stayed at home.
Giro announces team list for 2004
Eleven home based squads and nine foreign nterlopers will be on the start line for this year’s Giro d’ Italia, which rolls out of Genoa on May 8th. All the usual suspects should be present for the sprints (Cipo’, Petacchi, Quaranta, Robbie McEwen); the big home favorites for the overall (Simoni, Garzelli, Frigo) and a few big foreign names (Popovych, Valverde).
Time to get buying those replica kits so you can train with the Giro’s sunnier climes in mind!
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Vini Caldirola-Nobili Rubinetterie