First Edition Cycling News for April 16, 2004
Edited by Chris Henry
The Battle of the Cauberg
By Jeff Jones
Defending champion Alexandre Vinokourov
Photo © Elmar Krings
By far the youngest of the spring classics - and the only one to be named
after a beer - the Amstel Gold Race in the Netherlands is the third April
spring classic. Last year's date switch with Liège-Bastogne-Liège
means that it's slightly more logically placed in the calendar, as the
race's 31 short climbs make it more similar to the Ronde van Vlaanderen
rather than Liège-Bastogne-Liège, which has fewer, but longer
climbs. Again as last year, the race finishes atop the steep Cauberg climb,
which has to be tackled a total of three times during the 250.7 kilometre
The race has been dominated by the Dutch since the late 1970's, with
Dutch riders standing on top of the podium 17 times in 38 editions. But
in the last decade, the winners have come from several different nations,
which is probably a reflection of the Amstel Gold Race's growing importance
on the cycling calendar. The only two Dutch winners in the last 12 years
have been Erik Dekker and Michael Boogerd (Rabobank), who are both favourites
to win in 2004. Boogerd has been on the podium four times since 1999,
and is thus always a contender in the Amstel Gold Race.
The defending champion is Alexandre Vinokourov (T-Mobile), who put in
a well timed attack late in the race last year to hold off Boogerd and
Di Luca and the rest of the leading group on the Cauberg. So far this
year, Vinokourov has shown himself to be in excellent form when he wants
to be, his three stage wins in Paris-Nice a testament to that. He will
be supported by a strong team that includes World Cup leader Steffen Wesemann,
Erik Zabel and Daniele Nardello.
Third last year, Saeco's Danilo Di Luca will be back for another crack
at it in 2004. He will be accompanied by Mirko Celestino, who has shown
glimpses of top form this year. Another Italian to watch is Paolo Bettini
(Quick.Step), who is looking to accumulate some more World Cup points
in his quest to win the overall title again this year.
Michele Bartoli (CSC) won this race in 2002, and has had a fairly heavy
classics season so far, without any outstanding results. But if everything
goes right for Bartoli, he'll be there at the end and surely a danger
to contest the finish on the Cauberg. His teammates include Jörg Jaksche
and Kurt-Asle Arvesen, both good on hilly terrain.
There was no Flanders-Roubaix double (or even a single) for Peter Van
Petegem (Lotto-Domo) this year, although few would deny that he is in
good shape. Van Petegem hasn't finished on the podium in the Amstel, but
if his mind and legs are set on it, he could be there this time. Teammate
Leon van Bon is also in good form, and should not be counted out.
After punctures at inopportune moments cost Franco Vandenbroucke (Fassa
Bortolo) any chance of a result in Flanders and Roubaix, the blond Belgian
will try and redeem things in the Amstel Gold Race. It's difficult to
assess VDB's form, but perhaps this time the cards will fall his way.
His teammates Fabian Cancellara and Juan Antonio Flecha have been riding
well too of late.
Other riders to consider in the Amstel equation include Laurent Brochard
(Ag2r), Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner), Oscar Camenzind (Phonak) and Franco
Cyclingnews will be covering the 39th Amstel Gold Race live
from start to finish. Coverage starts at 10:15 CEST (Europe)/4:15 EDT
(USA East)/1:15 PDT (USA West)/18:15 AEST (Australia East).
Map and time schedule
Lefevere thinks of Astarloa
Among the list of teams interested in the signature of world champion
Igor Astarloa is the Quick.Step-Davitamon team, managed by Patrick Lefevere.
While the addition of classics specialist Astarloa to a team already headed
by defending World Cup champion Paolo Bettini may seem unlikely, Lefevere
told Belgian Radio 1 Thursday that "the budget is exhausted. We'll see
how quickly we can get together extra money. I want to make an effort,
but without doing anything crazy."
Lefevere, who also presides over the Belgian/Spanish Relax-Bodysol team,
could also use Astarloa for his second Division I team which in the coming
years will be vying for an invitation to the Tour de France."
Astarloa has yet to formally indicate his desire to leave Cofidis following
the team's voluntary decision to abstain from competition, but given his
inability to participate in the Ardennes classics it appears likely he
will entertain offers from other teams. Cofidis management has indicated
that the Spaniard could depart without a fight. Astarloa's first concern
is gaining entry in this Sunday's Amstel Gold Race.
Grabsch and Phonak looking forward to Amstel Gold
Phonak's Bert Grabsch will be one of former world champion Oscar Camenzind's
key support riders for this Sunday's Amstel Gold Race. Grabsch knows,
however, that he could have his own card to play, along with Oscar Pereiro
and emerging talent Martin Elmiger, Phonak's top man at Paris-Roubaix.
Grabsch was involved in a fall at the Tour of Flanders, as was Camenzind,
but both are hoping for a change of fortune for the first of the Ardennes
"Primarily I'm starting as a thoroughbred pacemaker for 'Oesi', on whom
we are pinning our hopes," Grabsch commented on the team's website. "I
hope to be able to support him all the way to the finish. Should our intentions
not run to plan, I'll try to take advantage of my own opportunity.
"The narrow streets and the short climbs are also of my liking," he said
of the technical Amstel course. "The wind will once again be an important
factor, because you never really know from where it's coming."
Grabsch says Camenzind, who won his 1998 world title in Valkenberg near
the finish of the Amstel Gold Race, is back to good form and ready for
a breakthrough win.
"With him, Pereiro and myself, we have really got three irons in the
fire," he said.
Phonak's roster for Amstel Gold Race: Oscar Camenzind, Martin Elmiger,
Bert Grabsch, Uros Murn, Oscar Pereiro, Gregory Rast, Alexandre Usov
Sea Otter under way on road and dirt
By Kristy Scymgeour in Monterey
The Sea Otter Classic started today at the Laguna Seca Raceway, California
with the first stage of the Sony Playstation MTB stage race and the prologue
of the elite road tour.
The mountain bike scene is as big as ever with many foreign riders making
the trip to compete against a strong field. The road event however for
the men has been affected by the close proximity of Tour de Georgia with
many of the big teams opting not to attend. The women's road event has
also been changed, now allowing only four riders from each team to enter.
Beginning the event with wins on the dirt was both Alison Dunlap (Luna
Women) who has been busy racing consistently around the world this year,
in an attempt to increase her UCI ranking by June. World MTB Marathon
Champion Thomas Frischknecht (Swiss Power) took the win in the men's race
to take the yellow jersey going into the rest of the four-day stage race.
On the road, it was short and sweet for kiwi Hayden Godfrey, as he took
the 3km downhill prologue from his teammate Gord Fraser. In the women's
race, it is T-Mobile rider, Kristin Armstrong, who will wear the leader's
jersey going into tomorrow circuit race.
Despite the field being small, Chris Horner (Webcor) did decide to race
here and is considered the favourite for the men's race due to the large
amount of climbing on the course and his recent form. In the men's race
Lyne Bessette (Quark) has been dubbed as the favourite, but the T-Mobile
team are confident they can challenge her.
On the dirt, Alison Dunlap has the form to keep the lead over the next
for days, with Chrissy Redden (Subaru Gary Fisher) also looking pretty
strong despite a lot of time off with an injury after World's last year.
In the men's event, Frischknecht will be challenged by World MTB Champion
Filip Meirhaeghe (specialized), Roland Green (Trek Volkswagen) and a plethora
As usual, down in the pits of the raceway, the expo is huge and the racing
for non pro categories and kids is still thriving.
Cyclingnews is covering both road and mountain bike sides of Sea Otter
- look out for comprehensive reports and results very soon.
Painful operation for Pieri
Dario Pieri (Saeco) has undergone surgery on his groin to remove an abscess
that developed after last Sunday's Paris-Roubaix. The operation took place
in Pisa, Italy. Pieri has had a disappointing classics season, and his
70th place on Sunday was a long way off his second place in the 2003 edition
Injury threatens Blanco's career
Spain's Santi Blanco (Relax-Bodysol) has been forced to consider an end
to his professional career, a decision taken at the advice of his doctors.
Blanco has been diagnosed with an endofibrosis in an artery in his knee.
Surgery to correct the problem, which limits blood flow during exertion,
is considered too complicated to assure a successful recover and return
to professional racing.
"For the moment I have stopped because it hurts when I train," Blanco
told EFE. "The only solution I have is through surgery, but nobody
can promise that I will heal completely because I'm at an age (30) when
recovery takes longer. If you ask me now, I have to say that I'm thinking
of retiring. It's a complicated decision..."
Leblanc meets with Kelme representatives
Tour de France director Jean-Mare Leblanc met Thursday with the head
of the Valenciana region's advisor for Culture, Education and Sport, Esteban
González Pons, to discuss the decision to exclude the Comunidad
Valenciana-Kelme team from the 2004 Tour following Jesus Manzano's extensive
allegations of doping within the team. Leblanc stands firm in his decision
for 2004, but appears to have left the door open to future participation.
A spokesperson for Pons indicated that the meeting helped "reestablish
relations" between the Tour and the new title Sponsor of Spain's longest
running team. Kelme, for its part, made assurances to Leblanc that in
addition to an internal investigation, all riders on the team would be
be subjected to "rigorous controls".
The Tri-Peaks Challenge in Arkansas (May 22-23) will boast a strong men's
pro field and a new women's event for the National Racing Calendar (NRC).
Pro men's teams confirmed thus far include Jelly Belly, Jittery Joe's,
Health Net, and Sharper Image/Mathis Brothers. The Pro/Elite Men's field
should also include strong amateur squads such as St Paul Bicycling, Aerospace
Engineering, Mercy Cycling and Bikesource/Maclaren.
Sunday's 94-mile third stage climbs 2,400 feet in 9 miles over Mt. Magazine
and finishes with 3 1/2 miles at an 18% grade on top of Mt. Nebo. However,
the flatlanders' won't be entirely left out, as 32 flat miles into Stage 3 organisers
have placed a $500 hot spot at the start of the Magazine climb. A similar
12 mile hot spot is featured in Stage 1.
For the women's peloton, Tri-Peaks Challenge has gained NRC status. "Originally,
the 2004 Tri-Peaks had not included a Pro Women's event, but participant
demand caused us to rethink the event and put up a prize purse and request
NRC status," said promoter Chuck Gordon. "We look for a very strong women's field".
For more information, please visit the Tri-Peaks Challenge website at
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2004)