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Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

Latest Cycling News for April 12, 2004

Edited by Jeff Jones & Chris Henry

A dream come true

Before the race, Alessio-Bianchi's big Scandinavian sprinter hoped a Paris-Roubaix win was within his grasp, but didn't really dare believe it would happen. At the post-race press conference he talked about the moment when he realized it could be done, and the turn-around in his and his team's fortunes this year.

Magnus Bäckstedt celebrates with the trophy
Photo ©: Sirotti

"If you had told me this morning I would win I would have called you a liar," said Bäckstedt at the post-race press conference. "I came into the velodrome with tears in my eyes because this has been my childhood dream.

"In the first 50km my legs were good and I could tell it was going to be a good day for me. I didn't have any problems during the day. I was always on the right wheel and I didn't have any mechanical problems. The really important moment during the race was the Arenberg Forest. I had a really close call and almost crashed. After that it was difficult to get through the people in front. I sat with Boonen till we saw a place we could slip through. At that time the front group wasn't big at all. Even after that, not a lot of riders made it back.

"The most important moment for me was when Johan attacked with 50km to go, and I realized I could follow. As long as I could stay close to Johan, he wasn't going to ride away from me. I began to believe I could win when I found myself in the group of four up front. I was most afraid of Hammond, because I knew he's fast in a sprint and he's had good results recently."

With six kilometres to go on the cobbles in Hem, the five man lead group suddenly became four when Johan Museeuw punctured. "When Museeuw flatted I didn't know what happened," said Magnus. "It was just at the end of a section of pavé and he was no longer there. At that point I said to everyone that we needed to really work together."

Click here for the full interview

Hammond wants to make amends

Roger Hammond (Mr. Bookmaker)
Photo ©: CN

Roger Hammond (Mr. Bookmaker-Palmans), after a third place in Paris-Roubaix on Sunday, is already looking ahead to next year and improvements he can make on his first podium appearance in the queen of the classics. Hammond was one of the animators of the crucial points in the race, following attacks by Johan Museeuw and trying a few moves of his own. Flying high on the ninth to last section of pavé, when he saw a look of acknowledgment in Museeuw's eye that his attack meant something, Hammond also felt the pain and fatigue of the epic World Cup event.

"I did overcook it a bit on secteur nine, and on secteur six I had a bit of a hard time," Hammond told Cyclingnews after his race. "But once my feet were back on the ground and I realized I better take care of myself because it's a 260km race."

For Hammond and many others, the race put him in another state, not completely aware of the passage of time and kilometres. Positioning is everything in (and before) the difficult sections of pavé, and before the crucial first test of the Arenberg Forest, Hammond was not where he needed to be.

"I didn't actually know I was coming into the Forest of Arenberg," he admitted. "I made some mistake. I mean, I knew where it was and I knew how many kilometres it was, but the race was just going so quickly and all of the sudden I was there, and I thought shit, too far back. But I was able to move up in the Forest, and normally if you can do that. your legs are quite good."

Hammond looked back on a near perfect 260 kilometres followed by a 'messed up' 200 metres in the final sprint. At once thrilled to be among the leaders entering the Roubaix velodrome, he no doubt will feel twinges of regret of what could have been. Either way, the British road champion continues to progress in the biggest European races and has marked himself as a contender for the Roubaix crown.

"I'm already thinking about 2005," he said. "I want to come back and make amends."

Similar story for US Postal

George Hincapie (USPS)
Photo ©: Sirotti

Despite once more entering Paris-Roubaix in peak spring form, George Hincapie is still chasing his first victory in Paris-Roubaix. The American classics expert, fourth place in Tour of Flanders and winner of the Three Days of De Panne, had the legs to fight for the victory but not the team support and the luck it takes to seal the deal. Hincapie found himself in a promising move with Tom Boonen (Quick.Step-Davitamon) and Juan Antonio Flecha (Fassa Bortolo) in the closing kilometres of the race, but the with too many big favourites chasing behind, the timing wasn't quite right.

"It was too early for George to be in the break," directeur sportif Dirk Demol, himself a Roubaix winner, told Cyclingnews after the race. "There were no Lotto guys there, no T-Mobile guys, so of course they were going to chase. But the other side is 'ok, you're there'..."

The timing of the break wasn't right, but Hincapie had to take his chance. His problem in this year's race, as in years past, was missing the key team support that riders like Peter Van Petegem and Johan Museeuw tend to enjoy in the closing kilometres of the tough northern classics.

"It was a bit like last week in Flanders," Demol commented. "George made the bridge to the leading group between the Tenbossestraat and the Muur van Geraardsbergen, and they came back just on the bottom [of the climb]. This time he did the same thing, but they came back just on the end on the last bad cobble section. He did a good race, but the team was not good today. We didn't get any punctures, but there was just a big crash in the forest and we lost three guys immediately, and that was bad.

"Plus, starting without Ekimov...It's impossible to replace him, because Ekimov is Ekimov. We lost out because of the crashes, and after 150km already Van Heeswijk was gone and it was just George left. That was too early for him to be alone. What can I say, he did a good race and that's it."

Surely not consolation for Hincapie, who finished the day in 8th place, coming home in the first main chase group half a minute behind race winner Magnus Bäckstedt, but the relatively good luck of having no mechanical problems was a positive spin on the day for Demol.

"What happened to Museeuw was a lot worse," Demol mused, "being in a leading group of five and he punctured and lost all his chance of victory."

Injury report: Löwik breaks elbow, De Clercq collarbone

The first serious crash in the 2004 Paris-Roubaix happened at kilometre 59, when about 10 riders came down including Gerben Löwik, John Gadret (Chocolade Jacques) and Tony Bracke (Landbouwkrediet). Löwik was the most seriously hurt, breaking his right elbow and sustaining multiple cuts and bruises. He was taken to a hospital in Roselare on Sunday evening, where he was operated on for the break. He will be out of competition for several weeks.

John Gadret was not quite as seriously hurt, although he suffered a deep cut in his left knee that required stitches. He also cut his left elbow. It's uncertain whether he'll ride the GP de Denain this Thursday. Tony Bracke (Landbouwkrediet) sustained cuts and bruises, but escaped any broken bones.

There were numerous other crashes later in the race, including Wim Vansevenant (Lotto-Domo), who came down at km 107 and heavily bruised his left upper arm. At km 145, Michael Albasini (Phonak), who was in the early break, crashed and sustained multiple cuts and bruises.

Finally at km 212, Lotto's Hans De Clercq came down and heavily bruised his left shoulder. He was taken to hospital in Lille, where they diagnosed him with a fractured left clavicle. He too will be out for several weeks.

Cyclingnews Paris-Roubaix coverage

Full results & report
Live report
Pro Bikes at Paris-Roubaix
Scott Sunderland's bikes of Roubaix
Magnus Bäckstedt pre-race interview

Magnus Bäckstedt post-race interview
Roger Hammond pre-race interview
Michele Bartoli interview
Tales from the pavé

Australians on track in Manchester

Rochelle Gilmore tries her damnedest to get round compatriot Alison Wright
Photo ©: Nick Rosenthal

The Australian track cyclists enjoyed a good deal of success in last weekend's third round of the UCI Track World Cup Classics in Manchester, Great Britain. The Australian team finished the three day event with seven gold medals and 111 points, followed by Germany on 97 points and Great Britain on 93 points.

"I'd have to say we're really happy with how the three days of racing went," said Track Coach, Martin Barras shortly after the final session of racing . "We must have done something right because I'm holding a 20 kilo crystal vase in my hand which we've been awarded for winning the round."

Australia started the three day meet well, claiming four gold medals on the opening night, including Shane Kelly's keirin, Brad McGee's 4000m individual pursuit, Mark Renshaw's scratch race and Katherine Bates' points race.

"Kate absolutely dominated the points event in a performance that was reminiscent of her outstanding ride at the Commonwealth Games here two years ago and Brad did what Brad always does," said Barras. "He just got on the bike and did the job."

The major hiccup came on Day 2 when the Australian team failed to make the final against the British in the 4000m team pursuit. Their qualifying time had not been fast enough, and they were forced to settle for bronze against the New Zealanders.

"We were disappointed not to get into the gold medal ride against the Brits, who are going extremely well, but it was an extremely valuable exercise," added Barras. "We had Brad rejoin the team and worked on little refinements which is what you have to do if you want to be the best in the world again. We gave team members different responsibilities to see how they handled it because our aim is to get as close to perfect as we can by the time we line up in Athens.

"Although we're happy overall we need to keep things in perspective because we wanted a rehearsal for the track endurance guys ahead of Athens," said Barras.

The fourth and final round of the World Cup will be held in Sydney, Australia from May 14-16. The Track World Championships will be held two weeks later in Melbourne from May 26-30.

See Cyclingnews' coverage of the Manchester Track World Cup for results, reports and photos.

Armstrong calls for Tour of Hope volunteers

Cancer survivor and five time Tour de France winner is calling for candidates to take part in the second Tour of Hope, a cycling event to raise awareness for cancer that will be held between October 1-9 in the USA. The event will start in Los Angeles and finish in Washington, DC, which means that a total of 3,200 miles (5150 km) across the USA will be covered in this short time span. Participants include cancer survivors, caregivers, physicians, nurses, and researchers who will ride 100 miles each day (or night) as part of a relay team.

There are just eight days to go until the April 20 sign up deadline for the Tour of Hope, and Armstrong, who is currently in the USA getting ready for the Tour of Georgia, sent out the following letter requesting volunteers for the event:

Dear Friends,

Last fall, 26 individuals from the cancer community joined me on an inspiring journey across America from Los Angeles to Washington, DC. This year, I'm looking for 20 cyclists who have been touched by cancer to join the Bristol-Myers Squibb Tour of Hope(tm) Team to help inspire and invigorate interest in cancer research.

I'm partnering with Bristol-Myers Squibb, the company who provided the drugs with which I was treated, to lead the Tour of Hope. It will kick off in Los Angeles on October 1, 2004 and reach Washington, DC on October 9. The Tour of Hope riders will stop in cities along the way to share their personal stories that bring to life the importance of cancer research. I'll join the team at the start, finish and for selected segments along the way.

The cross-country ride is only one of many ways to become involved in the Bristol-Myers Squibb Tour of Hope. Consider joining us in Washington for a fundraising recreational ride at the grand finale on October 9, or as a volunteer at locations along the route.

The 20 member Tour of Hope Team must have the cycling ability and endurance to complete the 3,200 mile trip, which will involve cycling in 100 mile relays each day for 8 days, riding day and night. Equally important is a passion for furthering cancer research. The team will include cancer survivors, caregivers, physicians, nurses, and researchers, who will train for 16 weeks under the guidance of Carmichael Training Systems.

Please forward this message to your friends and help spread the word about the Bristol-Myers Squibb Tour of Hope. If you're interested in being a part of the 20-person team, apply by April 20th at

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