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T-Mobile team leader Jan Ullrich has confirmed he will start his season at the Circuit of the Sarthe on April 4. The decision was made over the weekend at a meeting in Tuscany with T-Mobile sporting director Rudy Pevenage and team manager Olaf Ludwig. "Jan has started his season at the Circuit of the Sarthe in previous years and it has worked out well for him," said Ludwig. "It's a race that features some rolling terrain. A time trial is also planned, so Jan will have a chance to acquaint himself with the competition again."
Ullrich made his 2003 and 2005 season debuts at the same race in western France. "It is a good race to get the ball rolling," said Ullrich. "It's not too tough, but you still have to roll along nicely if you want to stay in touch. I can put a few things to the test, especially my time trialling."
Ullrich will be joined by time trial specialists Serhiy Honchar and Michael Rogers in the Sarthe. Both are leading candidates for a place in the Tour roster alongside Ullrich. The rest of Ullrich's race programme is still to be plotted. "The only sure thing is that he won't be riding any spring Classics," said Ludwig.
- Paolo Bettini has confirmed that he will be starting of Milan-San Remo on Saturday. The Olympic champion trained for about three hours in Tuscany on Tuesday before confirming his decision. "I feel better," explained Bettini, who fell during the third stage of Tirreno-Adriatico after winning the first two stages. "Day by day I am improving a little bit, even if pains persist in my lower back and my right knee and it's difficult to stand on the pedals. Unfortunately, Milan-San Remo is the longest race of the season. I hope the injuries don't limit me during the final kilometres of the race."
- CSC's Matti Breschel, badly injured in a bunch sprint crash on the final stage of the recent Three Days of West Flanders, is set to be released from hospital in the Belgian town of Oudenarde on Wednesday after extended treatment for injuries that were more serious than originally thought. The young Dane will have to wear a corset to protect his torso.
"At times I feel really good, I guess that is when I've been given a fresh batch of painkillers," he told the CSC website. "I get up and move around more easily then. My mum even took me out for a breath of fresh air yesterday. I've got to say it's a special experience to be in a wheelchair. Seeing the cobbled streets normally gives me a real buzz and then I can't wait to get on the bike and ride them; but now I had complete different feelings!
"It's been great to get that many heart-warming messages from the Belgian people and fans from all over via email. Johan Museeuw has checked on me regularly and it's really nice of him to be so concerned about my progress."
Being in a Belgian hospital for 10days had an upside too Breschel remarks: "I received plenty of chocolate and that's a real treat of course, but I've got to be careful not to put on any weight, so mum and my younger brother Casper are going to enjoy them!"
Breschel says his injuries are healing, but progress has been slow. "The headaches are definitely getting less, but my back kills me at times. The lack of movement is the main cause I think of that. But I am looking forward to going back to Denmark and get back on the bike training as soon as possible. I'm motivated and eager to return to competition.
- Phonak have suspended Swiss rider Sascha Urweider after he tested positive for testosterone in a control undertaken on February 14. Team boss John Lelangue explained the team had suspended Urweider to "underline its support for the [ProTour's] ethical code and all of the values that support it, as well as out of respect for the UCI's anti-doping code".
- Former women's world champion Zinaida Stahurskaya has been suspended for two years for as yet unspecified doping infractions at three races last year. The 34 year old won the world road title in 2000 and the women's Tour de France in 2002.
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