Cozza continues Slipstream's strong weekend

By Gregor Brown & Brecht Decaluwé in Kuurne

Steven Cozza continued a strong weekend of racing for Slipstream Chipotle - H30 thanks to his efforts in the escape of the day in the 61st Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne. The American rider added to the team's good weekend – one day prior, Michael Friedman made the main escape group in the Omloop Het Volk.

"It was a good day, but tough," said Cozza, who hails from California, but now bases himself with team-mates in Girona, Spain. He was part of the nine-man move that formed in the closing half of the semi-classic, and eventually finished 24th for the day at just under five minutes back. "For 60 kilometres I did not have water or food," he continued. He lost his bottles during the rough ascent of the Oude Kwaremont at kilometre 110. "That was very tough. Finally, with 20 kilometres to go I pounded down three water bottles and five Clif Shots.

"It is all a good learning experience for me, I am only 22 years old, actually I turn 23 tomorrow," stated Cozza, who plans to celebrate by looking for an apartment in Girona. He won't have much time though, as the Professional Continental squad has him signed up to ride Tirreno-Adriatico in Italy from March 12-18.

"Slipstream is doing well," commented Cozza, "and I think it is only going better and better. We all knew want we wanted to do; after yesterday's performance I was pretty disappointed and I was hungry today. In the first part, I went with attacks but they all came back together, and that was pretty frustrating." He noted he is over his jet lag after travelling from the Tour of California, and looking forward to the spring. "It is always the first race in Europe that is hard for me, after that I am always good to go."

Team-mate Martyn Maaskant was in the group with Cozza for the finale, in 28th, Friedman finished 55th, Jason Donald 58th, Christophe Laurent 74th, Tyler Farrar 77th and Huub Duyn 113th.

Riders do it their own way

At the start of Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, Cyclingnews talked with Slipstream-Chipotle directeur sportif Johnny Weltz. The atmosphere in the team was good after the strong performance from Michael Friedman yesterday, and Weltz was understandably delighted about all the publicity the team is receiving.

Friedman's team bike had a mini car plate fixed under his seat bearing his nickname 'Meatball', surely not the best idea from an aerodynamics point of view? "He has a big arse and actually the aerodynamics should benefit him, I calculated a little on that," Weltz laughed. "It's true that Friedman could've finished a little closer yesterday, but he gave all he had all day long. He started his sprint a little too early, especially after such a race. But it shows our spirit: we're not here to hide away. Freedman shouldn't be unhappy about the lost sprint for a top-10 result, because this is just the beginning."

Besides Friedman's car plate, Steven Cozza's moustache has attracted some attention in Belgium, but the Danish directeur sportif said the unusual facial hair wouldn't extend to team management. "I'm not joining them, but again, it shows the philosophy in the team. We're not in the army and the guys have some liberty as long as they know what the main goal is," Weltz explained.

"I remember a story when I rode for Fagor," said Weltz, the former winner of stages in the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España rode for the French team in 1988, together with Stephen Roche, Robert Millar, Sean Yates and Malcom Elliott. "One of our French riders, Marc Gomez, who was a former winner of Milano-Sanremo [1982], showed up at the Dauphiné Liberé with a beard. Our directeur sportif went mad and ordered him to get shaved. Gomez was stubborn and didn't want to do it, as a result he was sent home. In our team it's up to the riders to decide on those matters."

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