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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for April 19, 2004

Edited by Chris Henry & Anthony Tan

Rebellin's Amstel tribute

Rebellin wins for Denis Zanette
Photo ©: AFP

Just as last year's Amstel Gold Race winner had a tribute in mind for his victory, Davide Rebellin offered his own triumph atop the Cauberg to a friend lost just over a year ago. For Vinokourov it was Andrei Kivilev, killed after a crash in the 2003 edition of Paris-Nice. Rebellin also lost a close friend, Fassa Bortolo's Denis Zanette, who died of heart failure before the start of the 2003 season.

"The win today was for Denis Zanette," Rebellin said after his victory Sunday. "He was my best friend and I hoped I could win a big race for him and his wife. I certainly got the strength today from Denis Zanette to win."

For the Italian leader of the Gerolsteiner team, a major win has been a long time coming, despite consistent podium finishes in major races throughout the year. Rebellin had not won a World Cup classic since he took two in 1997: the Clasica San Sebastian and Championship of Zurich. Winning at Amstel ahead of home favourite Michael Boogerd (Rabobank) sweetened the deal.

"He was very strong on the hills, and it wasn't easy to beat him," Rebellin said of his top rival. "I did everything I could to win. It was a hard race... Very dangerous with lots of hills and small roads, but it was a beautiful race."

Rebellin chalked his lack of major wins up to health problems which he says he has finally put behind him. Often accused of following wheels rather than attacking, the Italian has found renewed strength. "In future you can expect more from me," he promised. "I think I can continue at this level now."

Full Amstel Gold Race coverage:

Full results & report
Live report

No second thoughts for Boogerd

By Jeff Jones in Valkenburg

Second but no second thoughts
Photo ©: AFP

For the second year in a row, local favourite Michael Boogerd (Rabobank) had to be content with second place in the Amstel Gold Race. Although this time he narrowed the odds down to a two man sprint, he didn't have the legs to beat a very powerful and calm Rebellin today. The pair had attacked the decisive six man breakaway with 17 km to go, a move that Boogerd said was a calculated risk.

"They're all riders who would normally beat me in a sprint," said Boogerd of Bettini, Van Petegem, Di Luca and Kessler. "In principle I could match them on the Cauberg so I gambled [with Rebellin]. I thought that in that sort of sprint, Bettini would be unbeatable. The rest, maybe 50-50."

Asked whether he felt more confident of beating Rebellin than he did Armstrong last year [when the two constantly marked each other], Boogerd said, "Of course, otherwise I wouldn't have kept riding with him."

Boogerd was in an excellent position on the Cauberg, trailing Rebellin and being able to keep an eye on the chasing group. But he seemed to start his sprint very early, with well over 300 metres to go into a headwind. "Because last year [when he finished second] I attacked at the same place and won the sprint," was Boogerd's straightforward answer, although he also said that he was following his team leader Frans Maessen's orders.

Wesemann continues as World Cup leader

By Jeff Jones in Valkenburg

Steffen Wesemann
Photo ©: AFP

World Cup leader Steffen Wesemann (T-Mobile) finished 20th today was able to hold onto his jersey by a solitary point over Oscar Freire (Rabobank). The German winner of the Ronde van Vlaanderen explained afterwards that, "It's my objective to hold this jersey for as long as possible. It was hard to change from the style of racing in Paris-Roubaix to the Amstel Gold Race. I'll try to finish in the top 20 in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, but to win that race will be very hard."

"It was very important to win the second round in Flanders and it's difficult to say whether I can keep the jersey, as we've only done four out of ten races. The World Cup is certainly a goal of mine: not my biggest but one of them."

Wesemann nominates two more races that he would like to win. "My two favourites are [HEW Cyclassics] Hamburg and the Championship of Zurich. But I realise to win Zurich I'll have to be in maximum form. It's a tough classic, as hard as today or Liège-Bastogne-Liège."

World Cup standings after round 4
1 Steffen Wesemann (Ger) T-Mobile Team                           116 pts
2 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank                              115
3 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner                             100
4 Magnus Backstedt (Swe) Alessio-Bianchi                         100
5 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick.Step-Davitamon                        94
6 Peter Van Petegem (Bel) Lotto-Domo                              94
7 Leif Hoste (Bel) Lotto-Domo                                     84
8 Erik Zabel (Ger) T-Mobile Team                                  80
9 Erik Dekker (Ned) Rabobank                                      79
10 Michael Boogerd (Ned) Rabobank                                 76
1 T Mobile                                                        35 pts
2 Lotto-Domo                                                      26
3 Rabobank                                                        25
4 Quick.Step-Davitamon                                            22
5 Fassa Bortolo                                                   18

Di Luca missed the move

Danilo Di Luca
Photo ©: Sirotti

Danilo Di Luca, fourth in the Amstel Gold Race, is a rider with regrets. One step lower than his third place of a year ago, the Italian has been desperately searching for another World Cup win after his Giro di Lombardia title in 2001. Di Luca showed the form to ride with the leaders in Sunday's fourth round of the World Cup, but missed the winning attack from Davide Rebellin and Michael Boogerd.

"In the crucial moment of the race I was sleeping..." Di Luca admitted. "While I was watching Bettini's wheel I didn't catch the right moment to go along with Boogerd and Rebellin. When I saw the two gaining some distance, I tried to catch them but none of the other riders of my group joined me. I found myself riding alone after Rebellin and Boogerd, so I decided to wait for the others. Alone I had no chance.

"It's a pity because my condition is great," he added. "Last year I finished third, this year fourth, but I have so much more to complain about. I'll try to do something more next Sunday in Liège and before then on Wednesday in the Flèche Wallonne."

Di Luca's finish just outside the podium was another disappointment for the Saeco team, which found a struggling Dario Pieri in the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, and Giro d'Italia leader Gilberto Simoni well off his best form in the weeks prior to his maglia rosa defense.

Lampre vying for Astarloa

There's little secret in which teams are interested in obtaining the mid-season signature of world champion Igor Astarloa. Free to leave his Cofidis team, which is currently out of competition as a result of ongoing drug scandals concerning the team, Astarloa is being openly courted by Patrick Lefevere's and Quick.Step-Davitamon, as well as Giuseppe Saronni's Lampre team. The situation has become somewhat urgent for Astarloa, who based his early season plans on top performances at the Ardennes classics. He has already missed Amstel Gold Race, and the Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège are just around the corner.

While Quick.Step has lost a rider with Johan Museeuw's retirement, the team has (among others) Paolo Bettini in its ranks as a classics leader. Lampre, on the other hand, is in need of a team leader following continued injury and absence from Francesco Casagrande.

For any team, taking on such a high profile rider as the reigning world champion is no easy task, as most budgets have long been closed and in some cases the rosters have hit the 25 rider maximum.

"Lampre is interested in the world champion, even if the negotiations are difficult," Saronni explained, acknowledging that Museeuw's retirement did indeed place Quick.Step as his key competitor.

Lampre's key interest in Astarloa is for the Giro d'Italia, even if the Spaniard is more of a single day classics specialist. "What team wouldn't want the rainbow jersey in [the Giro]?"

Simoni blames it on the weather

Last chance to find form at Giro del Trentino

Simoni unperturbed
Photo ©: Sirotti

To say Gilberto Simoni's recent trips to Spain did not go as well as expected would be an understatement - and according to a statement issued by his team, there is no interest in hiding it: "He was clearly not in great shape," read the frank words from Team Saeco. However, while Simoni acknowledges his Giro arch-rival Stefano Garzelli (Vini Caldirola-Nobili Rubinetterie) is "definitely riding better than me at the moment", the defending champion said there is a clear explanation for his lacklustre form: the weather.

"I know I'm not in the same form as I was last year and I know that Garzelli is definitely riding better than me at the moment," Simoni said. "I'm not demoralised because there are clear explanations why my form is still at its best, mainly because I haven't been able to race in good weather conditions this season; it's always rained and been cold and I need sunny weather to be at my best."

To recap on the Trentino rider's recent spate of non-results: Simoni pulled out of the Vuelta al Pais Vasco (Apr 5-9) after finishing fourth-last on the fourth stage from Vitoria to Lekunberri; then at the Vuelta a Aragon, he finished in 72nd position on the first and hardest stage that finished on top of the Valdelinares ski station before exiting once again three days later after being almost 40 minutes behind on general classification. In between these two races, Simoni managed to show a glimpse of condition at the Klasika Primavera, where he came seventh behind winner Alejandro Valverde (Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme).

However, Simoni is still determined to show his ability at the Giro, and after returning home early from Aragon, he reconnoitred the venue for the thirteenth stage, a 52 kilometre individual time trial from Trieste to Altopiano Carsico. "It was important to see the time trial course because it is quite different to the one Alex Zülle won a few years ago when he set a supersonic average speed," Simoni said.

"After just a few kilometres there is the start of the climb and then there is a technical part of the course which in theory gives me an advantage. After the summit, the rest of the course is for time trial specialists; I think we'll have to even consider changing bikes at the top," he added.

His last test of form will be at the upcoming Giro del Trentino (Apr 20-23), which takes place on familiar ground, close to his home on the outskirts of the Italian dolomiti. And despite his poor showing to date, Simoni believes- or at least hopes- he can still defend his Giro crown.

Hushovd extends Coupe de France lead

Norwegian Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole) won his second race in less than a week, taking the Tour de Vendée Sunday just days after a win in Thursday's Grand Prix de Denain. In doing so, Hushovd extended his already comfortable lead in the Coupe de France series, having won three of the eight races held thus far.

The 26 year-old Credit Agricole rider sparked the winning moves in both races, beating Irish champion Mark Scanlon in a two-up sprint Thursday and going one better to finish solo in Vendée on the home turf of rival Brioches La Boulangère team.

Coupe de France standings after 8 races 
1 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole               175 Pts
2 Franck Bouyer (Fra) Brioches La Boulangère        79 
3 Pierrick Fedrigo (Fra) Crédit Agricole            63 
4 Anthony Geslin (Fra) Brioches La Boulangère       60 
5 Sebastien Hinault (Fra) Crédit Agricole           50 

Pezzo's back

Paola Pezzo returned to racing in fine style Sunday, winning her namesake Gran Fondo Paola Pezzo, a 39km event featuring some 1,200 metres of climbing. Pezzo had been out of competition after an emergency appendicitis earlier in the spring, but is back to racing in a bid to challenge for a third Olympic mountain bike title this year in Athens. Pezzo outpaced the 2,000 riders entered in the event, notably Alexandra Hober, who finished second, five minutes back.

Helmet compulsion in UK likely to be defeated

Further to our story published on April 7 regarding British cycle trade magazine and website BicycleBusiness calling on its trade and consumer readers to oppose the proposed mandatory helmet ruling by under-16 riders in the UK, it appears the Department for Transport has bowed to pressure from those against the compulsory helmet ruling. Without support from the UK's Department of Transport, the bill proposed by MP Eric Martlew is "dead in the water" says BicycleBusiness editor and publisher, Carlton Reid.

Roads minister David Jamieson recently told ministers of parliament that enforcement via a mandatory helmet ruling would be too tough: "Our position on compulsion has been that at current wearing rates, it would cause enforcement difficulties and could have an effect on cycling levels," Jamieson said. "But the Government will keep their policies in this as in all areas under review in the light of discussion in Parliament and elsewhere."

Reid says the anti-compulsion fight needs to continue its momentum, insisting that MPs need to be made aware of the hidden consequences of such a ruling, and that 'scare tactics' will create a negative impact on all cyclists.

"It's important for MPs to be told of the hidden consequences of helmet compulsion so that the UK can remain a country where cyclists are free to choose whether to don helmets or not," says Reid. "Instead of compulsion, the government should increase funding on pro-helmet publicity campaigns but these should not use scare tactics, which can portray cycling as much more dangerous than it actually is."

Furthermore, Reid cites that in some US states, authorities issue children without helmets with vouchers that can be presented to participating retailers in exchange for a discount, a scheme funded by the government, and suggests that the UK should turn their thoughts towards piloting a similar initiative. "Helmet compulsion seems sensible to non-cyclists but is a poor substitute for education," he says.

For more details, see:

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(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2004)