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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for December 6, 2004

Edited by Hedwig Kröner and John Stevenson

Nys wins 15th World Cup race

Round #5 of this season's cyclo-cross World Cup was impressively won by Belgian Sven Nys, whose teammate at Rabobank, Richard Groenendaal, kept the chasing Czech Peter Dlask and Fidea rider Erwin Vervecken under control when Nys made the final and decisive attack in the last lap. "When Groenendaal shut the door behind me, I knew I'd win," the Belgian World Cup leader told the press after the race. "A great gesture of Groenendaal. Finally, we could race as a team, because we were both strong enough to do it. He can count on me to give him something back in the coming weeks." It was Nys' 15th World Cup race victory, and his fifth win in Wetzikon.

An interview with Sven Nys

Nys has worn every jersey in cyclo-cross, except for the World's jersey
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
Click for larger image

Two days after top cyclo-crosser Sven Nys achieved his 25th Superprestige race victory, Cyclingnews' Hedwig Kröner spoke to the relentless Rabobank rider on the phone at his home in Belgium. Of course, he sounded eager to win some more, especially bearing in mind the World Championships at the beginning of next year. He also talked about his dreams on the road, as well as showing his son Thibau, who just turned two, how to ride a BMX - because that's how it all started for Nys. Before winning cyclo-cross races, Nys won eight BMX National Championship titles, starting competition at eight years old!

CN:Congratulations on your win on Sunday. Tell us about the race.

SN: When you win, it's always a good race! But still, it was hard as it was raining the whole day. At the start, I left with Groenendaal and Commeyne, but after three laps, I was riding alone through the whole race. I was really strong that day. Bart Wellens crashed during the first lap and moved back to the front during the race, but it was impossible for him to come back all the way because I was riding with more than half a minute's lead.

CN:Gieten was you 25th Superprestige race victory. Have you counted how many races you have won in your career?

SN: Well, I've been with Rabobank since 1998 and I know that this was my 98th victory for the team as a professional. So another two races will make a hundred for Rabobank.

CN:You've been Espoir World Champion in 1997 and 1998, but the Elite World Championships is about the only major race you haven't won. Why do you think that is?

SN: I don't know, but I sure hope that it'll happen this year because the conditions are good for me. I've always been second, fourth or fifth, but never won. The riders who won the World Championships focused on this particular race to be at their best, while I've raced successfully during the whole season - that might be the reason why I've never won it.

Click here to read to full interview.

Bettini looks at Giro

At the Italian tuttoBICI awards on Friday, December 3, where he was given an 'Oscar' for his achievements during the 2004 season, Paolo Bettini admitted that one of his goals in 2005 could be the Giro d'Italia.

"Being Italian, I've been missing the Giro for too long and I would like to return," Bettini said. "With the team, we'll discuss it during our next meeting in Tuscany. At the moment, we have the schedule ready only until Liège-Bastogne-Liège." Asked which race he would still like to win, 'Il Grillo' stated, "There are so many races. Milan-San Remo for example, my third Liège, the Tour of Flanders. I'll try to do something good. And in my heart there's always a place for the World's, although on paper this one seems to suit the fast men more. We'll see!"

Casagrande unhappy about ProTour

On the eve of his final season as a professional rider, Francesco Casagrande is unhappy that he may no be able to go after all the goals he has set himself for his last year. Casagrande, who will ride for Barloworld in 2005, still considers himself a contender for stage victories in the major tours - but under the Pro Tour structure Barloworld is far from guaranteed a place in the Giro d'Italia, Casagrande's home tour.

"I chose to continue because I could not retire peacefully while I can still be a stage protagonist in the Giro," said Casagrande, who believes the UCI should have structured the Pro Tout differently.

"The UCI should come up with a system of just ten teams," said Casagrande. "Offering a four-year license to twice as many teams prevents smaller squads from growing and automatically deters some sponsors. Also the function of small teams as a 'nursery' is nullified and that is a shame because the are the first to discover great riders."

Cooke considers track

British champion Nicole Cooke may target the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Australia as an occasion to make a major return to track racing, according to the BBC. Cooke, 21, rode her first track races since she was a junior at the Revolution race meeting in Manchester on Friday.

But first, Cooke wants to get back on top of road racing. The multi-talented rider from Wales was 2001 junior world champion in the time trial, road race and mountain bike race, but had a disappointing 2004 because of injury.

"I really want to make sure I'm perfect in road racing," said Cooke. "Then perhaps next winter [2005], with the Commonwealths coming up, maybe I'll decide to focus on the track."

Cooke is back in Wales for the winter and is concentrating on being ready for a better 2005. "With the injury I had, I really want a good winter where I look at the things which are more important to me," she said.

At the Revolution meet, Cooke won the women's points race, winning three of six sprints against a field that included top British riders Rachel Heal, pursuit champion Emma Davies and Victoria Pendleton.

Merckx takes centre stage

Eddy Merckx
Photo ©: Michael Bar-Or
Click for larger image

It may be almost 30 years since Eddy Merckx retired from professional cycling, but the god of Belgian cycling is still the centre of attention whenever he turns out on a bike.

Merckx was in Israel at the weekend for Friday's Israel Triathlon Open in Eilat, in which he took par as a member of a three-rider relay team along with German triathlete Lothar Leder, who tackled the swim and the chairman of the Israel Triathlon Association, Chagi Pagirsky, according to a report on

Merckx has been a very visible figure in the cycling world this year, and at Eilat he spent plenty of time meeting fans and schoolchildren.

"Wherever I go, I am first and foremost an ambassador for the sport of cycling," he said. "I have enough patience for everyone, because the issue is important to me."

Here we go
Photo ©: Michael Bar-Or
Click for larger image

At the event's award ceremony, Merckx received a standing ovation from thousands of competitors and fans - and fended off the inevitable comparisons with his friend Lance Armstrong.

"I don't think it's fair to compare between [Armstrong] and I," Merckx said. "We competed against different opponents in different eras, but Lance has contributed much to the popularity of the sport. The Tour de France has now become popular in China. It's now more important than it was in my day."

Merckx, who has dramatically lost weight this year as a result of a programme of getting out "on the bike when I can" rode the 40km bike leg of the race in under 75 minutes.

Australia plans solo-only MTB 24-hour

By John Stevenson

Australian mountain bike club Canberra Off-Road Cyclists (CORC) has unveiled plans for Australia's first 24-hour mountain bike race open only to solo riders. [It's not the first in the world however, as this story originally claimed - that title goes to the Montezuma's Revenge event in Colorado - Ed]

The event is scheduled for March 26-27, 2005 which CORC president Karina Roper told Cyclingnews was chosen most because it's "the only free weekend in the year." That's not quite true, but nobody wants to run a 24-hour race during the Canberra winter, which can see freezing overnight temperatures or during the height of summer when 40C temperatures make life uncomfortable and fire bans in forest venues make it tricky for camping riders to feed themselves.

Based in the Australian capital, Canberra, CORC ran the first Australian 24-hour race, and that event has now grown to attract 2200 racers and an additional 3000 or so friends and helpers. The idea for a 24-hour race without the relay team riders that traditionally make up the bulk of entrants was a response to the reluctance of less-experienced riders to have a go at the solo category when they have to share the track with high-speed team racers.

"The Men's Four riders do zoom past people and while they all have excellent etiquette they can be a bit intimidating," said Roper. The notion of an event that catered just to solo riders was discussed among CORC's committee and the decision received an immediate positive reaction.

"A lot of people have said that if the are going to have a go at solo they want to do it just among other soloists," said Roper. A solo-only event will also make it easier for those riders to recruit the support crew necessary to complete a 24-hour race, a perennial problem when the candidates are riders themselves and decide to get a team together to take part rather than hand up food and bottles.

Two possible venues in the Canberra area have been earmarked for the event, Majura Pines (location of a very successful national MTB championships a few years ago) and Sparrow Hill, a developing race venue that is currently used by CORC for local races. There will be six rider categories with men's and women's classes in Open, Over 40 and a junior class with an age limit of 18 or 21. And there will be prizes for helpers too. "We're looking at recognition for support teams," said Roper.

So how popular does CORC expect this event to be? "We're going to cap entries at 300," said Roper. "Because of the size of the Majura course we're planning to run a 10km loop and it will get congested with more than that."

Roper and CORC are hoping that riders will still choose to take part in the organisation's other big 24-hour event, the Mont Australian 24-Hour. For the moment that race will retain the Australian national champion status that it gained this year, with the first Australian champion jerseys for solo 24-hour race going to Josh Street and Tory Thomas. The 2005 edition will likely be held in October, as usual, though no date has yet been set.

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