Team Phonak aims to defend second-place ProTour ranking

News & Results

01/21/2006| 0 comments
by David Cohen
Team Phonak-iShares 2006. Photo copyright
Team Phonak-iShares 2006. Photo copyright

Team Phonak aims to defend second-place ProTour ranking

Switzerland?s Phonak Cycling team finished second to Denmark?s Team CSC in the UCI ProTour rankings in 2005.  It garnered 353 points; CSC had 390.

Switzerland?s Phonak Cycling team finished second to Denmark?s Team CSC in the UCI ProTour rankings in 2005.  It garnered 353 points; CSC had 390.


Defending that second-place ranking will be one of Phonak?s biggest challenges of the 2006 season, according to team owner Andy Rihs.


Phonak had a great year in 2005.  Colombia?s Santiago Botero, who joined Phonak in 2005 after two disappointing seasons with T-Mobile, won the Tour of Romandy and took two stages of the Dauphine Libere.  He notched 19th spot in the 2005 ProTour rankings.



And Phonak?s big man, Floyd Landis, took ninth spot in the 2005 Tour de France.


Phonak?s performance in 2005 was all the more remarkable due to the fact that its General Manager, Belgium?s John Lelangue, was in his first year at the helm of the team.  No less remarkable was Lelangue?s youth; he was 34 last year.


With Lance Armstrong absent, the 2006 Tour de France is up for grabs, and Landis and Botero have to be considered contenders.



They should benefit by the off-season Phonak acquisition of Belgium?s Axel Merckx, who came over from Davitamon-Lotto.  Merckx, while hoping to make a big impression at the classics and in the Giro d?Italia (which begins this year in Belgium), says he will place himself in the ?complete service? of Landis and Botero in the Tour de France.


Merckx grew up in Belgium with Lelangue and has always wanted to work with him. 


As for Botero, he?s aiming high.  He wants to win the Tour de France.  ?Being the first Colombian to win the Grande Boucle would be the greatest,? he says.  He is ?training harder than ever before? to achieve this goal.



Landis, low key as ever, isn?t making predictions but does say he?s in ?better shape than last year at this time.?  He plans to compete in the Tour of California in February and then enter Paris-Nice, the Criterium International and the Tour of Georgia.  And he?s likely to enter the Giro d?Italia ? but as a tune-up for the Tour de France.  ?I don?t think it makes sense to go for [wins in] both the Giro and the Tour de France.?


Another Phonak threat for 2006 is Victor Hugo Pena, the former Lance Armstrong lieutenant.  Forced to take a long break after fracturing a thoracic vertebrae at last year?s Paris-Roubaix, he?s anxious to demonstrate his old strengths in 2006.


His main goal is the Giro d?Italia. ?I want to win in Italy,? the Colombian says.  He adds that he also has high hopes for the World Championships and the Tour de France. ?This year I want to wear the maillot jaune again, just as I did for three days in 2003.?


Lelangue says Phonak is ?betting on continuity? in 2006.



There will be seven new athletes on the team in addition to Merckx.  Lelangue believes he has the right mix of experienced pros and young hopefuls.  ?During the scheduled 52 races [in 2006] we?ll not only climb mountains together; we also intend to move mountains.? Commenting on the 2006 Tour de France, Lelangue told that ?We go to France to win Le Tour.?


?The perfect mix of experienced and young riders and the right people in management positions are the reasons why we can tackle the new season with self-confidence,? adds team owner Rihs.


The Phonak team has just returned from training in Mallorca. The team will participate in its first race at the Doha International GP on January 27.

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