Pre-USPRO comments

By Mark Zalewski and Kristy Scrymgeour in Philadelphia Tony Cruz (Discovery Channel) "It's going...

By Mark Zalewski and Kristy Scrymgeour in Philadelphia

Tony Cruz (Discovery Channel)

"It's going good - especially last month with the team winning the Giro. I can't complain.

"I think I've put in enough miles in the last month or so to maybe win here. I think [our team] is the most international it's ever been. In a way I guess it's [more pressure] but you always go out to win and bring the victory back to the team.

"After this I get a good break - I'm tired. My wife and kids came out a few days ago. [My schedule] is still being worked on. I'll do a lot of local stuff in California where I live, and probably Cascade again. If the Vuelta doesn't happen this year then definitely San Francisco - I haven't done that race yet.

"I'm feeling better, I was pretty tired when I got here. [My season] has been kinda continuous with the spring into Georgia and the Giro - the last week of the Giro the heart rate was not going up as high as before."

We asked Cruz a little more about the Giro d'Italia: "It was my first time and I didn't know what to expect. It's an incredible race. Spectator wise there were thousands of thousands of people coming out. The courses were amazingly difficult but scenic. You do your work leading up to the last or second to last climb, then you are in a gruppetto and you get to look around a little. Going up the Stelvio was amazing. I never thought I'd be racing up a climb like that...I was trying to work on my Italian a little."

On the crucial Stage 19, where Paolo Savoldelli hung onto the pink jersey by 28 seconds, Cruz said, "I was nervous because I could hear everything on my radio - each key rider was in the group and we could hear when the attacks were happening. We didn't know until six kms before the line that Savoldelli had the jersey. It was great working for him though, he's a really strong guy and down to earth. He really appreciated the team being there for him, and it was a pleasure."

Charles Dionne (Webcor)

"I feel alright. I didn't have a good race on Tuesday but [Trenton] was better, and I am looking for Sunday to be good - form is good and the team is working well together. I'm just going to have to be at the right place at the right moment.

"I've done [the USPRO] a couple of times, and it's a good field. There are a lot of strong riders so it's even better. The crowd is big and it's one great race of the year.

"[Health Net] is pretty good together, they do a good job. And Freddy is riding pretty damn well too. There will be a couple of guys that will want to break away and a lot of guys who want to sprint, so we'll see. If it's warmer, for 250km, the race might be a bit harder.

On losing Chris Horner as a leader: "It's totally different - we lost a big piece because [Horner] was the best rider in the U.S. for three years in a row. I had a lot of fun riding with him and together we could win a lot of races. Now it's totally different - there are a couple of new guys and I try to direct them, but it's also a new role for me to try to direct people in the race. We've been having a lot of good results but we need to break in with some wins now. And what better way than to start Sunday."

Dionne said he's telling the young riders, "That it's exciting, it's going to be hard and there are key points to the race - to be well placed at the finale of the race. I try to direct them as much as I can with what to do to end up in the places we need to. That will mean a couple of guys saving energy and a couple of guys spending as much energy as they can early."

Tim Johnson (Jittery Joe's)

"I hope I can make my prediction again - last year I predicted it right with Ventoso. But he's not riding as well. Our team is kind of new and they worry easily. If Hopkins or I flatted, they all would have stopped, or Kabush and Trent, but we kind of need a hierarchy thing that if you flat you are out of luck.

"If it's hot, then it's going to be one or two in groups of five. And it's going to be so hard. From that I would pick Horner as my personal favourite. Dionne as well, they are due for a win. But if it's colder, [Health Net] - it's their race to lose. Last year they lost it because they had five guys in the break and there is no reason that the break should have stuck.

For us, we are going to rock it out. We have to be aggressive, get in every single move - we'll have everybody going for the early break and whoever doesn't make it has to race the last forty miles. When the break gets caught and reshuffled, that's where the race really starts. Georgia had four days of 200 plus kilometres, and only Geoff, Trent and I made it, so we've been training longer distances."

On Trent Lowe, who won the Best Young Rider jersey in Georgia, Johnson said, "Trent's a rock star. Twenty years old and he was a minute behind Danielson on Brasstown. In Trenton, he shot off the front like a rocket!"

Rob Hayles ( Xpower/Litspeed)

"I've seen the climb, which obviously on its own is not too bad - but with the distance and the amount of times you've got to go up it, then it'll get grippy as hell - especially if it's as hot as they say it will be. It won't be much fun.

"It will be good obviously being brought over by Litespeed, it will be good to show them. We've had a bit of bad luck on Tuesday with Dean Downing having a crash - busted himself up a bit with a busted thumb and broken collarbone. Yesterday I punctured with just over a lap ago. But it's good to come over here and show the jersey, we've been racing in Africa and all over the place - and it would be nice for us as a team to extend what we've done so far this season."

When asked what he is doing with his off days, he responded, "I bought myself a Darth Vader light saber! You can't get those at home. I could have done with it yesterday, sticking it in some front wheels!"

Danny Pate (Jelly Belly-Pool Gel)

"[Trenton] was not my race, a total sprinter's race. But I felt good in both races and the team is looking good going into it, myself and [Ben] Brooks have a good chance of doing well. There are some teams that have a lot of good sprinters, so I'm going to have to be aggressive with the stronger guys that have a go the last couple laps up Manayunk hill.

"I think they made the teams smaller which would be a bigger deal than more riders [total]. They made the teams one guy smaller and allowed two more teams I think.

"I think [Health Net] has proved that they not only have the fastest guys, but a couple of the fastest guys. I wouldn't doubt if they ride fully for a field sprint, but there will be a lot of other strong teams out there - CSC, team Horner, and Navigators too.

"I don't want to sprint against more than three or four - Brooks can handle more of a field sprint, and Alex [Candelario] can handle the big field sprint. He's pretty recovered and riding real well - he's ready to go."

Tyler Farrar (Health Net/Maxxis)

"Everything has been going ok, as long as I don't hurt myself too much more! This is actually my first real racing in the U.S., except for a few in February for training - I've been in Europe pretty much the whole spring. The form came good but unfortunately I broke my collarbone in April. I couldn't completely capitalize on the good form. I went back and did a couple of big stage races to get the form back and came back here.

"If you look at the last three races, Health Net has been going pretty good. We've got a couple guys on our team who could walk away with it. Julich obviously is flying, and Horner is always a threat. There are a lot of good guys, but it will be an interesting race.

"I think the reality is coming down to the last hour of the race who is feeling best. Granted I don't have the experience Ivan, Gord or Greg have, but I think in the right conditions I would be alright. We'll see how I do in that 240-250km range!"

Davis Phinney

"I'm gonna say it's between Gord and Freddy, just because the race has come down to a sprint so many times in the last few years. It's just too hard to get away anymore in this race and some team will control it. Freddy's got a good team and Henk as a good lead-out but Gord has been really close to winning this race, and I told him today that he is ready to put his name on that top step. It's not a surprising projection, but based upon what I saw [in Trenton] it is going to be one of those two guys."

"The only way it's not going to be a field sprint is if it's like 100 degrees. Back in the day when Lance won - up through the middle 90's you could still make a break stick - Lance, Sean Yates, Norm Alvis solo, there were a lot of good solo victories. Subsequently, it just rolls together - there is so much power and the stretches up and down Kelly Drive is too long without a big hill in it."

Is a course change needed? "I wouldn't go that far - it's akin to Milan-San Remo where it's a sprinter's race. But unlike Milan-San Remo, there is no mountain pass nearby that you can just throw in! (laughs) So the tradition is the race is what it is, the length is what it is, the course is what it is. I was a sprinter too, and the best I ever did was second."

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