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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for April 22, 2004

Edited by Chris Henry

Bettini OK, looking to Liège

By Chris Henry

No worries
Photo ©: AFP

Questions were raised after Italian champion Paolo Bettini's quick exit from the Flèche Wallonne Wednesday, but the Quick.Step-Davitamon leader promises the decision was made entirely in view of Sunday's fifth round of the World Cup, Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Bettini, a two-time winner of Liege, returned to competition at last weekend's Amstel Gold Race after training for the two weeks after the Tour of Flanders earlier this month.

"I hadn't recovered well from Amstel on Sunday," Bettini told Cyclingnews. "We rode flat out for the first hour of [Flèche Wallonne], and it was better for me to stop and recover for Liège."

Bettini's confidence is high for Sunday, where he hopes to be back at full strength. His third place finish at Amstel indicates that the condition is there, and Bettini himself chalked up the result to tactical errors rather than weakness.

Bettini and his teammates will do a short reconnaissance ride of the final 100 kilometres of the Liège parcours on Friday, beginning at Trois Ponts and finishing in Ans.

Quick.Step-Davitamon for Liège-Bastogne-Liège: Paolo Bettini, Davide Bramati, Laurent Dufaux, Nick Nuyens, Luca Paolini, Patrik Sinkewitz, Bram Tankink, Jurgen Van Goolen

Di Luca comes up short

Di Luca couldn't shake Rebellin
Photo ©: Mitchell Clinton

Saeco's Danilo Di Luca once more came close to victory but found himself outdone by a flying Davide Rebellin. Just days after a fourth place in the Amstel Gold Race, Di Luca was once more on the attack at the Flèche Wallonne, clearly among the strongest riders in the race. As the large finishing group hit the final climb of the Mur de Huy, it was Di Luca who put in the decisive acceleration, only to be shadowed and then passed by Rebellin in the final 100 metres.

"I think the biggest difference between me and Rebellin was confidence," Di Luca admitted after his second place Wednesday. "He won because he won Sunday at Amstel. It's not that I was missing 50 metres in my legs, it's that he had 50 metres more."

Rebellin knew Di Luca was the man to watch Wednesday, and based his race entirely on his compatriot. "I spent the whole day on Di Luca's wheel, without wasting any energy, taking the risk of losing," Rebellin explained. "And I won!"

Both riders will once more be among the favourites at Sunday's Liège-Bastogne-Liège, where Rebellin once more will ride with the added power of confidence after two major wins in four days.

Hamilton set to defend Liège title

Tyler Hamilton (Phonak)
Photo ©: AFP

Defending champion Tyler Hamilton will line up Sunday at Liège-Bastogne-Liège with high hopes of a repeat at "la Doyenne", the oldest of the classics and among the most prestigious. Last season Hamilton became the first American to win Liege, going on to claim victory in the Tour de Romandie and put in his best Tour de France performance to date, placing fourth overall and taking a stage win along the way.

This year Hamilton returns to Liege with his new Phonak team, alongside co-leaders Oscar Pereiro and former world champion Oscar Camenzind. Although his chances are good, Hamilton doesn't count out the opportunity to work for his teammates if the race swings in their favour.

"We absolutely have the option of appointing either one of us as the leader," Hamilton commented on the team's website. "That way, we can decide during the race based on the situation. We're professional enough that we recognize and support the rider with the better form as the leader. If Oscar Camenzind has the chance to win the race, I will put myself completely at his service."

Hamilton has shown himself to be in good spring condition with solid rides in the Vuelta al Pais Vasco and Wednesday's Flèche Wallonne. Having first ridden Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 1997, Hamilton counts it among his favourite events and certainly his preferred World Cup race. Confident in his own preparation, Hamilton considers this year's race to present more competition than a year ago.

"I observe my competitors very closely," he explained."I definitely see that this year's field is considerably stronger overall than last year's.

"I don't think that you can program a specific tactic here in advance," he added. "It's better to carefully follow how the race proceeds and observe how the competition is riding. The last 20 kilometres are especially important. In the final phase it's a matter of being extremely careful and not letting yourself be caught off guard. Complete concentration is required of every rider."

Phonak Hearing Systems for Liège-Bastogne-Liège: Niki Aebersold, Oscar Camenzind, Martin Elmiger, Bert Grabsch, Kike Gutierrez, Tyler Hamilton, Oscar Pereiro, Gregory Rast

Ullrich out of L-B-L

Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile)
Photo ©: CN

After a tough day out at the Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday, T-Mobile's Jan Ullrich has decided that his body is not ready for Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday, the fifth round of the World Cup. Ullrich failed to finish Flèche Wallonne, noting that the level of competition was simply too strong for his current condition.

"His preparation for the Tour will now be based on the Tour of Germany and the Tour of Switzerland," directeur sportif Mario Kummer indicated.

Blijlevens retires

Dutch sprinter Jeroen Blijlevens has decided the call an end to his career as a professional cyclist, effective immediately. Blijlevens, 32, turned professional in 1994 with the TVM team, where he found some of his greatest success, before bouncing around several teams including Polti, Lotto, Domo-Farm Frites, and his most recent team Bankgiroloterij. In recent seasons he has struggled to rediscover his best condition, prompting a decision to retire from the peloton. He does hope to remain involved in cycling, although his next move is not yet known.

In his prime, Blijlevens rivaled the best sprints with stage wins in the Tour de France, Giro d'Italia, and Vuelta a España.

"It makes no sense at this point to carry on," he said this week, quoted in an ANP report. "I can look back on a beautiful career and I want to hold onto some honour."

Blijlevens was diagnosed with a virus several weeks ago, which would require antibiotics to treat, "fatal for a professional cyclist", he said. It was a virus several seasons ago, when riding for Polti, that knocked the Dutchman from his top level and began a long period of recuperation. Not eager to go face the process again, Blijlevens had already reached a decision after last week's Scheldeprijs to retire.

"[Team manager] Piet Hoekstra told me not to be too impulsive, to think about it another week," he explained. "Monday I had a meeting with him. My decision was made.

"With the guys, training for six hours on the road, I enjoyed that..." Blijlevens added. "Bicycle racing is not just a sport, it's a way of life. But now I feel relieved, like I'm taking a holiday. I can spend more time with my children and no longer have to worry about resting, though I know a difficult period will follow in the next few months."

Van der Ven injured

Bankgiroloterij's Remco van der Ven suffered a broken wrist after a crash in the finishing sprint of the opening stage of the Niedersachsen-Rundfahrt stage race in Germany. It is not clear how long he will be out of competition.

Shay Elliott Memorial preview

By Shane Stokes,

A strong field of 140 riders has been confirmed for this Sunday's Shay Elliott Memorial in Wicklow, Ireland, including 25 competitors from overseas. The Murphy and Gunn-sponsored Shay Elliott Memorial is regarded as one of the toughest one day events in Ireland and, over the course of 163 kilometres, will see plenty of good racing.

Mark Lovatt (winner in 2002) and his Planet X teammates John Tanner and Kevin Dawson always ride strongly in Irish races and must be listed amongst the favourites for the 1.5 ranked event. So too former top pro Malcolm Elliot and 2000 FBD Milk Rás winner Julian Winn, lining out as part of the Team Murphy and Gunne/Pinarello RT squad for the race.  

The foreign challenge is further increased by riders from Scotland and the Isle of Man squads, plus the Energy Cycles RT, XPower and the Dutch BRC Kememesland teams.

Of the home riders, David O'Loughlin (, David McCann (Phoenix CC), Denis Lynch (Kanturk CU), Eugene Moriarty (Lee Strand-Cycleways) and Tommy Evans (Cycling Ulster) have all extensive international experience and are the most likely to figure prominently, but others will be quick to seize whatever opportunities come their way. The Hibernian Team Ireland squad will also be amongst the likely aggressors; Richie Cahill, Mark Cassidy, Micheal Concannon and Stamullen GP winner Conor Murphy should all be a factor in the race.

After starting at Bray Town Hall at 10:30 the riders will tear down the main Kimacanogue-Ashford road and on to Glenealy, Rathdrum, Avoca, Woodenbridge and Arklow (61.2 kilometres). The route then turns and heads towards the slopes of the Old Wicklow Gap, a tough, steep ascent which will put the riders under real pressure. Once over the top (72.7 kilometres) the race heads towards Ballinaclash and Greenane, then up the Glenmalure Valley to the base of the Glenmalure/Drumgoff climb.

Turning right onto the slopes, the riders will be faced with a torturous climb which rears upwards to the Shay Elliott Memorial at the top. Dead roads and a steep gradient will shatter the field, providing a perfect springboard for attacks. From the top the riders will hurtle down the dangerous, twisting descent to Laragh (125.5 kilometres), and then on to Annamoe where the route swings left and takes the riders around the lakes and on to the top of the Long Hill. A full-belt descent will take the riders into Kilmacanogue (156.1 kilometres) and then past the Bray Wheelers club house to the new finish on the Bray seafront.

Besides the valuable UCI points on offer, a total of €2,156 is up for grabs, including a first prize of €500. Two KOH primes of €50 and an equal sprint prime at Kilpedder will also be awarded. Sign on for the 2004 Shay Elliott Memorial will take place at the Bray VEC College on Putland Road on Saturday evening and Sunday morning. 


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