Closing the books on the season’s first month of racing,
Johan Bruyneel, the director sportif of the United States Postal Service Pro Cycling
Team, is pleased with the team’s effort in its first several races and is looking
forward to the team’s first true test of the year – the Paris-Nice stage race March
5-12. Bruyneel’s objectives for the event is for the team to continue its preparation
for the World Cup schedule, which begins the weekend after Paris-Nice, and to record
a stage victory.
"I hope to have the team at a high level for Paris-Nice," Bruyneel said
from his home today. "Our goal will be to win one stage."
The eight riders who will start Paris-Nice for the USPS are Frankie Andreu, Lance
Armstrong, Julian Dean, Viatcheslav Ekimov, George Hincapie, Benoit Joachim, Christian
Vande Velde and Cedric Vasseur.
"The guys we are counting on for the beginning of the season – George, Cedric,
Eki, Frankie and Christian – are where they have to be," Bruyneel said. "While
they have been riding well, everyone knows they can still improve a lot and this
week we will do some intensive training.
"Our best chance for a stage win at Paris-Nice will likely be George in a small
group or perhaps Eki trying a breakaway at the very end of a stage," Bruyneel
continued. "Those are our two best and most realistic options. However, Cedric
will be very motivated for the race and could go with a break and surprise, and the
same with Christian. But Eki and George are our most realitic options."
On Saturday, the team completed the Tour of Valencia. In the final time trial stage,
Ekimov placed sixth to move up six places and finish 24th overall. Ekimov’s time
in the 19.8 kilometer time trial was 1:03 seconds back of the stage and overall winner,
Abraham Olano of ONCE. Also finishing in the top 20 were Vasseur (18th, at 1:38)
and Vande Velde (19th, also at 1:38).
On Ekimov’s ride, Bruyneel added, "He was very pleased with his result, especially
since we have not done any specific training for the time trial yet."
Meanwhile in the US, the USPS team is gearing to defend its title at the Redlands
Bicycle Classic, scheduled for March 7-12. The USPS team has won the Redlands event
the last four years and will send a five-man team – Dylan Casey, David George, Marty
Jemison, Levi Leipheimer and Kirk O’Bee – to the race in an effort to make it five