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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for April 3, 2005

Edited by Hedwig Kröner and Jeff Jones

An interview with Stijn Devolder

In like Stijn

Exactly two years later,
Photo ©: Matt Conn
Click for larger image

Who is this young Belgian talent who no-one - except Discovery DS Dirk Demol - really knew or wanted to know about until his overall win at the Three Days of De Panne? Cyclingnews' Anthony Tan meets Stijn Devolder, once a dark-horse but now a top favourite for Sunday's Ronde van Vlaanderen.

Watching his friend and current directeur-sportif Dirk Demol win Paris-Roubaix almost 16 years ago, aged seven, then developing under his guidance as an amateur, aged 14, and then meeting up with him again 10 years later to join what was then called US Postal Service and one of the best teams in pro cycling, one would think Stijn Devolder dreams of emulating Demol's feat in a fortnight's time at the "Hell of the North".

"Actually, the Tour of Flanders is my favourite race," Devolder says to Cyclingnews - two days before his favourite race. "I still like Paris-Roubaix, but I like the Tour of Flanders a little bit more because of the hills."

Yes, with 17 short, sharp climbs in this year's Ronde van Vlaanderen [see parcours], Devolder likes it tough. It's part of the Belgian mentality. And it's in no small part responsible for his overall victory in the Driedaagse van De Panne on Thursday, where the 25 year-old took the biggest win of his career.

Click here for the full interview

Stealth tactics for CSC

By Jeff Jones in Melle

Bjarne Riis (foreground)
Photo ©: CN
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At a press conference at Team CSC's hotel in Melle on Saturday afternoon, a purple-clad Bjarne Riis presented his team for the Ronde van Vlaanderen. Despite its successes in the early season stage races, CSC has yet to make a big impression in the classics, and will be hoping for some success on Sunday. But Riis knows that the competition is very strong, naming Boonen, Van Petegem, Wesemann, Dekker and Hincapie as some of the favourites. The team will therefore apply "invisible tactics", which involve staying out of trouble, avoiding crashes, and not doing too much at the front until it's necessary.

It's easy to say that the day before the race, but only time will tell if the CSC boys manage to make their stealth stratagem work. The Ronde is a constant battle to stay up the front on the narrow roads and cobbled climbs, which pepper the last 100 kilometres with painful regularity. The team trained over the last 12 climbs of the race on Thursday, so they certainly know what to expect.

36 year-old Lars Michaelsen is the most experienced rider in the team, that includes Jakob Piil, Allan Johansen, Vladimir Gussev, Lars Bak, Matti Breschel, Luke Roberts and Thomas Bruun Eriksen. The Dane won the Tour of Qatar earlier this year but has been struggling to find top form since then. "I haven't been sick that much," Michaelsen explained to Cyclingnews. "We've been on another training camp since Qatar. I was sick during Het Volk and I couldn't ride the day after in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. So there's a little lack of competition. I would have liked to do some of the Spanish races before Het Volk and Kuurne, but the team didn't do it, and also I didn't do the last stage and a half of Tirreno. I crashed there. They are just small things and a little bit more racing would have been nice, but who knows? Perhaps in four or five days, suddenly it's there."

The CSC core
Photo ©: CN
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Michaelsen has done the Tour of Flanders almost every year since 1995, and we asked him whether it was one of his favourite classics. "In a dream world yes. I would be and it will always have a place in my heart. It's such a beautiful race, it's the queen of the Flanders classics. When you see the crowd; when you've done all the similar races, that's the one you want to win the most. But of course the competition is so high and for some reason I haven't been able to peak for it for any of the years."

Like most riders, Michaelsen is hoping to reach the final 30 km in the front group. "After Tenbosse, in Brakel, if you have it there, it's a new race. It's open. One year I was 10th in '99. In that part I was too occupied. I was in a team with [Max] Sciandri in Francaise des Jeux, and he was screaming for sugar. Since we were teammates, I made a lot of effort to get our car up, to get drinks and sugar gels and whatever. And that was when they went away. Just another experience I had. In the end he didn't get a place because he was dead, and I had to fight for 10th place. So if you can make it to that point and still have reserves, suddenly, things can change."

Michaelsen is tipping his 22 year old Russian teammate Vladimir Gussev to be one of CSC's best riders tomorrow. "He is the man in form. If he can get through a clean race, then he can be in the finale." What's Gussev like as a sprinter? "I think he's not loving it enough. He should have the ability to be a good sprinter. I don't know."

Gussev knows he's in good condition. "I must admit my form is almost at 100 percent, and I'm feeling really good. In the last few races I've been very strong."

Last year, the Russian finished 8th in Gent-Wevelgem and 20th in Paris-Roubaix, and this spring he has made the top 10 in GP Marseillaise, Paris-Camembert and Brabantse Pijl. "Tour of Flanders is a very special race, but I'm quite familiar with the route. After Waregem we examined the most important stretches, and yesterday I once again looked at the course.

"I'm not aiming at a specific result, but of course I hope to do well. You really have to use your elbows to stay up front, but at the end of the day it's also about being fresh. If you have that extra strength in the last 30 kilometres, you never know what's going to happen."

Allan Johansen, Lars Bak and Matti Breschel are the other CSC riders to watch, according to Lars Michaelsen. We asked Johansen's opinion of the Koppenberg, which is "only" the fifth of 17 climbs this year. "It comes after 180 kilometres so it's still late in the race. The race really starts there," said Johansen.

Finally, CSC's new Aussie recruit Luke Roberts is very much looking forward to his first Ronde. "I haven't ridden the Ronde before, but I've done a lot of racing in Belgium so I know all the climbs," said Roberts. "I'm looking forward to it, it should be a lot of fun and a nice day. It's another step up when you're riding a race as big as the Tour of Flanders, but I've been training pretty hard for this; doing races such as Waregem and extra training after it to be ready for the distance. It shouldn't be a problem."

So what is the problem? "Whether I can go fast enough," was Luke's quick-witted reply.

Van Petegem has a feeling

Peter Van Petegem has told Belgian press that he thought he will be a major contender in the upcoming Ronde van Vlaanderen, which he has already won twice. "I have a feeling that I will be part of those riding for victory," he said, surely knowing how to play his cards right. "To win the Ronde, you have to watch carefully and have the legs. You have to make the right decisions at the right moments. Tom Boonen is the top favourite, just as I have been before - but that doesn't make you win in Meerbeke," he explained, hinting that Boonen might not have the experience required for the Flemish Classic. "Tom Boonen is the fastest of the big bunch of favourites. So I have to get rid of him, like Frank Vandenbroucke tried with me two years ago," he added.

Van Petegem has been fighting a cold with antibiotics these last few days, but as his main rival Tom Boonen said: "De Peet only needs to be at 75 percent for Flanders, all the rest has to be at 110 percent to win."

"On Wednesday morning I started feeling some discomfort," Van Petegem said, "but the long day in the saddle training was something I needed. My preparation is done, I'll start on Sunday with the feeling that I'll be able to win. I'm going to Brugge with a very strong Davitamon-Lotto team. It's nice to see how enthusiastically they are fighting to be part of things. It's like a soccer team.

"It will be a battle between us, Quick.Step-Innergetic, T-Mobile, Rabobank and Discovery Channel-Berry Floor. T-Mobile is still after its first win, and with Wesemann and Klier they have the capabilities; with Zabel and Aldag the experience. I don't like to pinpoint names," he continued. Asked where he thought the decisive moment of the race would occur, he replied, "I don't know, it could be anywhere. The Ronde really starts in Waregem (km 85). Before that you should be in the back, but you can't be sleeping! There are two sections in this race: the first crucial phase begins with the Oude Kwaremont after 172 km, the Paterberg and the Koppenberg. Then there's the sector with the Berendries (km 219), the Valkenberg and Brakel [his hometown]. Riding through Brakel starts the last phase of the Ronde, as it's only 30 km before the finish."

Unfortunately, Van Petegem's family has suffered a loss on Saturday, as one of his father's friends, Cees Uijtdewillegen, died. "If I win, it will be for Cees," Van Petegem said. "He only was sixty years old, a good friend of my Dad that followed me everywhere. This is really getting to me." A third victory for "De Peet" in Meerbeke would equal the record of Johan Museeuw, who has won the race three times (1993, 1995, 1998).

"I would like to keep riding until the end of 2007," Van Petegem said. "That is if my wife Angelique is OK with that. I still feel like a young cyclist, and it's a nice life. I would immediately make the decision to stop if I'd notice that I'm not on top of things in my races. But since Harelbeke I've got the feeling that I'm ready."

Freire out of Flanders

Oscar Freire (Rabobank) will not be at the start of the Tour of Flanders on Sunday. His Dutch Rabobank team told the press that the World Champion is down with the 'flu and will be replaced by Aussie Mathew Hayman. Freire had decided to ride the Ronde van Vlaanderen despite a saddle sore that had turned into an infection, but will now have to forfeit it completely. The World Champion is currently ranked second in the ProTour standings behind Alessandro Petacchi.

Click here for the full preview, course map and description and start list.

Corneo leads team at Women's Flanders

Italian Women cycling team Nobili Rubinetterie-Menikini Cogeas will be led by Sigrid Corneo in the upcoming World Cup race on Sunday. Sports director Walter Zini has announced the following riders to join her in the 112 km long women's race: Modesta Vzesniauskaite, Edita Pucinskaite, Daniela Fusar Poli, Anna Gusmini and Joanne Kiesanowski. The women will have to master 12 climbs, including the Muur van Geraardsbergen and the Bosberg.

Click here for the full women's preview, course map and description and start list.

Gerolsteiner manager in shock

After the having to face the news that Danilo Hondo tested positive twice for a stimulant at the Vuelta a Murcia, Gerolsteiner manager Hans-Michael Holczer is in a state of shock. "My whole world is coming apart," Holczer said. "Danilo swears that this matter doesn't make any sense to him. We are trying to shed some light into this case rapidly. I have built this team up for seven years, and this would be the first doping case if the accusation is confirmed." A B sample is currently being analysed.

Meanwhile, German federation director Burkhard Bremer is standing behind Hondo. "Danilo is an experienced pro rider," he said. "Being an athlete of the national selection, he is under the control of WADA, BDR [the German cycling federation] and the UCI and knows that tests are carried out at every bigger race. For me, he remains not guilty until the B sample shows a positive result."

All Italian weekend races cancelled

The Italian Olympic Committee has asked its national sports federations to cancel all competitions taking place this weekend out of reverence for Pope John Paul II, who died on Saturday evening aged 84. Alongside other disciplines such as football and basketball, the president of the Italian cycling federation has therefore decided to postpone all the races scheduled for this weekend to a later date.

Ronde van Vlaanderen Fantasy Game: Start list ready

The latest start list for the Ronde Vlaanderen on Sunday has been uploaded to the game site. Enter your team now to win one of the prizes in this years Fantasy Spring Classics game:

Grand Prize

Specialized Roubaix bicycle equipped with Shimano Dura-Ace 10-speed groupset worth US$4400

Per Classic Prizes

6 x Specialized's Decibel helmets worth $169 USD each

Runner-up Prizes

A pair of Zipp 404s worth $1,600 USD; 2005 model Carnac M5 Carbon road shoes; Sinclair Imports 10 x Specially engraved IB-2 multi-tool from Park Tools

New Features

We will begin displaying the overall points for the Spring Classics on Tuesday.

We have enhanced the game so you can now see the breakdown of other manager's teams. If you played last year you can see these on your homepage.

If you haven't played before go to the ranking page, select a race and click on any of the team names to see more.

If you know the name of your friend's team/s you can also search for them on the ranking page.

Joining

Specialized Roubaix Pro
Click for larger image
 
Click for larger image

It's not too late to join in, you have every chance of winning one of the "prizes per classic" and are still eligible for the Grand prize of a Specialized Roubaix bicycle equipped with Shimano Dura-Ace 10-speed groupset worth US$4400, and runner up prizes.

All you need to do to take part in this, the latest of the Fantasy Games at Cyclingnews, is register and select 8 riders for just a few, or all of the following races:

Ronde van Vlaanderen - April 3
Gent-Wevelgem - April 6
Paris - Roubaix - April 10
Amstel Gold Race - April 17
La Flèche Wallonne - April 20
Liège - Bastogne - Liège - April 24

As a manager you will have 4000 UCI points to purchase your riders for each race. There are ~250 riders in each official start list to choose from. Make your choice wisely as expensive riders don't always score the highest points for the team. The first 15 riders to finish each race will score points for your team. Have a look at the rules for more information.

It's a great way to follow the Spring Classics.

To register your teams for the game go to http://fantasy.cyclingnews.com/

Good luck!

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