Resurgent Igor targets Classics

2003 world champion Igor Astarloa is hoping to put a dismal 2004 season behind him and lead his new

2003 world champion Igor Astarloa is hoping to put a dismal 2004 season behind him and lead his new
PICTURE BY TDWSPORT.COM The 2003 world road race champion Igor Astarloa may be relying on wild card entries to ProTour events for his new Barloworld-Valsir team, but he is hoping to leave his mark on some of cycling's biggest one day events this year. Lige-Bastogne-Lige, Amstel Gold, Flche Wallonne and the post-Tour San Sebastian Classic are all targets for the season ahead should the Spaniard and his new squad get the nod. Lacking a ProTour licence, they will be relying on the good will of the organisers to gain access to the races, but the 28-year-old Basque seems confident that he can deliver on some good results. "It was fantastic to be the world champion but it also made things a little difficult for me," he said at the team's training camp near Pescara, Italy this week. "The demands of the jersey meant that I had less time to train and rest than before and that, together with the problems with the Cofidis team, made things hard for the year." Astarloa was forced to sit out his beloved one-day events in the spring of 2004 - including Flche Wallonne, which he had won 12 months earlier - after the Cofidis team underwent a self-imposed suspension from racing following allegations of doping. During that down time, Astarloa negotiated a move to Lampre, but things remained much more low key than in 2003. A crash at the Olympics and a distant 64th place finish in last autumn's world road race championship capped off a season he would rather forget, but he is hoping for renewed fortunes with the expanded Team Barloworld-Valsir set-up. "Things seem fine so far with the team," he told procycling. "I have trained well this winter and am in good shape. We will be relying on wild card entries to get into the ProTour events but hopefully race organisers will see our worth. I think this team is going to develop and become strong over the next couple of years. I am pretty confident that Team Barloworld-Valsir can gain a ProTour licence in the future. They have big aims and provided they build things gradually, it is possible." Astarloa's 2005 early-season race programme is expected to be finalised in the next few days. Meanwhile, Team Barloworld-Valsir has announced its line-up for the forthcoming Tour de Langkawi. Ryan Cox, 25, will be hoping to go one better than his runner-up slot in 2004 and has been training hard in advance of the Malaysian race. The psyched South African will be backed by team-mates Tiaan Kannemeyer, Jock Green, Antonio Salomone, David Plaza, Rene Jorgensen and Tom Southam in the 2.HC-ranked event.
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