Shorts: Beloki, TDU, Ghent Six

Beloki back with Manolo and heading for Giro debut, O'Grady targeting TDU and Aussie title, Downings


Beloki back with Manolo and heading for Giro debut, O’Grady targeting TDU and Aussie title, Downings

PICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE Joseba Beloki formally agreed to rejoin his former team manager Manolo Saiz at the Liberty Seguros team yesterday. Beloki underwent a stringent medical to ensure that he is no longer suffering any long-term effect from the injuries he received when he crashed out of the 2003 Tour de France, and having passed that signed a one-year contract with Liberty. Although the 31-year-old Basque’s aim is to reach his peak at the Tour de France, he will do so by following an unusual route that will take him to the Tour de Langkawi in February and to the Giro for the first time in his career in May. Beloki will lead the Liberty team there, with the aim of using the Giro as a springboard for his challenge at the Tour. Saiz was clearly happy to have him back when the deal was signed in Madrid. “Joseba is the only rider I know capable of losing money, and on occasions a great deal of money, in order to progress on the sporting side,” said Saiz to Marca, making clear that this probably isn’t the most lucrative deal Beloki has ever signed. “This is the second time he has lost money in order to join up with me, and in these times something like that really stands out, and I want to thank him for that commitment publicly.” – Stuart O’Grady has set his sights on victory in the 2005 Jacob’s Creek Tour Down Under and his Cofidis has confirmed a strong line-up of talent to help him achieve his third victory in his hometown event. “I definitely want to win it,” said O’Grady, who was last week named Australian Male Road Cyclist of the Year. “I missed out on racing it this year so I’m fired up to make a big impression in 2005.” The Cofidis team will include O’Grady’s faithful lieutenant, Matt White, who will be making his TDU debut. Newly signed sprint specialist Jans Koerts has been assigned the role of getting O’Grady to the finish line in the big sprints throughout the season, and the Adelaide event will be his first with the Cofidis team. “It’s basically the team that rides the Classics and it’s a really strong group,” said O’Grady. “We’ll be strong in the sprints through Koerts and Janek Tombak, and we’ve got experience with White and Peter Farazijn. Plus there’s a couple of young strong blokes to do the work when it’s needed.” O’Grady says he’s also excited about racing the road race at the Australian Open Road Championships being staged in the Adelaide Hills town of Echunga. “That’s another of my 2005 objectives, to take the jersey back,” said O’Grady, who was the 2003 Australian road champion. But Cofidis won’t have it all their way with Allan Davis leading the Liberty Seguros team in Adelaide. Davis, described by multiple Tour de France green jersey winner Erik Zabel as the “next big thing”, has had his share of the podium in 2004 and finished fifth in the road race at the world championships in Italy. “There’s no way Manolo Saiz is bringing the team out for a holiday, and he’ll be expecting us to perform,” said Davis, who at the 2004 event competed with Team Australia because of logistical delays which prevented Liberty riding in Australia. “It’s going to be great to ride in the Liberty pro team colours for the first time in Oz.” The Liberty team includes new recruit and Athens Olympic road race silver medallist Sergio Paulinho of Portugal, as well as Isidro Nozal. “Nozal is very strong and I’m looking forward to meeting Paulinho,” said Davis. “Alberto Contador is also coming to Australia and he’s a really good climber. He suffered a seziure and crashed in a race earlier this year so he hasn’t raced since May, but he has a lot of potential and will be making his comeback in Australia.” Davis’ return to training was delayed to fit in his wedding and honeymoon, but he says he has now settled back into his training regime. –’s Dean and Russell Downing were a little unprepared for the recent Ghent Six event due to having recently finished The Herald Sun Tour and Tour Of Queensland. The little gear spinning required for the Kuipke velodrome in Ghent was not quite ready in time as they had been riding bigger gears in Australia. Day one saw Dean Downing crash five minutes before the end of the first Madison of the evening. The brothers battled bravely on and finished their first professional winter Six in 11th place, which pleased the large crowd of English spectators on the last three days. Rob Hayles, finished the event with his Danish partner, Jimmy Madsen, in eighth place. Rob suffered with gastrointestinal problems, and had to stop the fourth day of racing early. However, he returned for the following two days’ racing. Rob commented: “Ghent is hardest six-day to ride if you haven’t done any of the others leading up to it. Your body has a hard time too, the tightness of the track, the little gears. It’s the most difficult and technical six-day in my opinion.”