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Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for April 8, 2005

Edited by Jeff Jones

2005 Roubaix closer than ever

By Les Clarke

Magnus Bäckstedt triumphs in 2004
Photo ©: Olympia

The 'Queen of the Classics', Paris Roubaix, is the race every one-day specialist wants to win, and every fan wants to see his or her hero triumph in the Roubaix velodrome. In 2005 it's the Belgian contingent and their fans that have most reason to be hopeful, with their men winning last Wednesday's Gent-Wevelgem (Nico Mattan) and last Sunday's Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tom Boonen), and both carrying great form into Sunday's race.

The 103rd edition of the 'Hell of the North' promises to be a monumental battle, with most of last year's top ten back for another crack on the pave; Bäckstedt, Hincapie, Cancellara and Boonen all come into the event keen to perform. Roger Hammond, after standing on the third step of the podium in 2004 was looking to step up a notch with his Discovery Channel team in '05 but injury has probably forced him out after a crash at Wednesday's Gent-Wevelgem

Last year's winner Magnus Bäckstedt is back in an attempt to take successive Roubaix victories. Injury as a result of a recent crash means that he'll be riding bruised and a little battered, but the big Swede is likely to overcome this. 2003 winner Peter van Petegem rode well to take third in de Ronde, and appears to be hitting top form at the right time.

Tom Boonen is the obvious favourite - a third place in 2002 (at the remarkably tender age of 21), and wins in last year's E3 Prijs and Gent-Wevelgem, and this year's E3 Prijs and Ronde have established the 24-year-old Belgian as a strongman of the classics, taking the place of three-time Paris-Roubaix winner Johan Museeuw in the hearts of Belgian cycling fans, and surely the man to beat in the big-distance races.

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Cyclingnews will be providing live coverage of the 103rd Paris-Roubaix starting from 11:00 CEST (Europe)/5:00 EDT (USA)/2:00 PDT (USA)/19:00 AEST (Australia) .

Discovery not finalised for Paris-Roubaix

The Discovery Channel team will make its final decision later on Friday whether to include the injured Roger Hammond in its line up for Sunday's Paris-Roubaix. Hammond crashed in Wednesday's Gent-Wevelgem and broke his right thumb as well as spraining his ankle. However, he was back on his bike on Thursday morning and managed to ride for two hours.

"He has been working the whole winter and doesn't want to miss it," said team director Dirk Demol. "If the doctor agrees that he can ride, then it's OK with me. We just want to make sure he won't do any more damage to the thumb by racing on Sunday."

The other members of the Discovery team include George Hincapie, Leif Hoste, Stijn Devolder, Antonio Cruz, Viatcheslav Ekimov, Michael Barry and Ryder Hesjedal, who will recon a 160 km section of the course on Friday that includes four new pavé sectors.

If Hammond doesn't start, his place will be taken by Volodymyr Bileka.

Lotto-Davitamon and CSC reconnaissance

Lotto-Davitamon left at 9.30 am on Friday morning to scout all the cobbled sections of Paris-Roubaix. More than likely the riders will be experiencing the same weather conditions as are predicted for the weekend. Their team selection: Wim De Vocht, Nico Mattan, Bert Roesems, Tom Steels, Leon Van Bon, Peter Van Petegem, Aart Vierhouten and Henk Vogels.

Their colleagues from the CSC team already did their reconnaissance on Thursday. Team director Scott Sunderland said, "It went very well. We covered all of the new sections of the parcours. We only got a sprinkle of rain, nothing bad. The redesigned route is a lot hillier in between the sections of cobbles; in general the whole parcours is more undulating. There's one section of cobbles, 4.4 km long followed by 500m normal road, and then again 1.6km of cobbles which I think will be a critical point in the race. Alain Gallopin agreed with me that this year's edition of Paris-Roubaix will be a tough one, harder than previous years and Lars Michaelsen also has that idea."

Being a freshly retired pro, Scott seemingly can't get enough of it. Today he's out on the bike on the parcours again, in the company of a group of American tourists. Cyclingnews contacted him to enquire about the state of the parcours: "It's a lot worse today, believe it or not. There's a greasy film on the cobbles, it's muddy and slippery. A lot different to how it was to ride yesterday. I think the race will definitely blow open a lot earlier this year; they won't be waiting long to give it a good lashing. We've had no rain so far but the skies look threatening."

The CSC selection: Lars Bak, Matti Breschel, Thomas Bruun Eriksen, Vladimir Gussev, Allan Johansen, Lars Michaelsen, Christian Müller. Luke Roberts

Baguet's spring classics not in danger

"Serge was extremely happy to be walking out of the physio's practice yesterday evening, instead of limping," Serge Baguet's wife Sandra told Cyclingnews this morning.

After a heavy crash in the Vuelta al Pais Vasco had jeopardised the rest of his spring campaign, Serge has high hopes that he'll be ready for the Amstel Gold Race and Liege-Bastogne-Liege. "In Amstel he won't be riding for the win, but at least he'll be there, he was hoping for that at least," said Sandra.

"Serge was in serious pain after that crash, especially his knee was hurting badly. X-rays revealed an accumulation of blood behind the knee cap and later he was diagnosed with a blocked meniscus. The physiotherapist de-blocked it yesterday evening and he went straight on the home-trainer to loosen things up.

"Today he'll do three hours on it if he can. Serge felt pretty sore still this morning, but if you see that he lost skin all over his body, it's normal to expect stiffness of the muscles."

Peter Van Petegem on pressure, Mattan and Paris-Roubaix

Peter Van Petegem (Davitamon-Lotto)
Photo ©: Jon Devich
Click for larger image

In a lengthy interview with journalist Rik Van Welden from Het Nieuwsblad a seemingly relaxed Peter Van Petegem (35) makes clear that he is ready for the win on Sunday. "For my family, the sporting successes I've had are plenty," Van Petegem said. "My wife Angelique told me she really would like to experience another big win though, we'll take it as it comes."

There was a lot of criticism at his address because he didn't compete in Gent-Wevelgem, while 'Tom Van Vlaanderen' did. But 'de zwarte van Brakel' is keeping his cool: "Maybe I'm exaggerating a bit but next Sunday, Gent-Wevelgem will be forgotten about already. In January-February we won ten, fifteen races; bit things didn't work out in the Omloop and Kuurne and immediately those are forgotten. And later in this spring it will start all over again in case we don't win a stage in the Giro. You see, there's always stress. With someone like [Davitamon boss Marc] Coucke it never eases."

"Of course there was relief last Wednesday, we waited a long time for that first big win; but the way the team was riding, it had to happen soon. I was especially happy for Nico, it is his race, he really lived toward that moment. This year he has been performing really well, even though the team management didn't want to take him seriously, they left him out of the selection for some of the spring races. Luckily he had a lot of support from the riders, myself included.

"If he had had a bad winter, that would have been a reason not to select him. If they would do something like that to some other riders they would have reacted differently and have given it away. It started with his contract; he was the last one to get things agreed on. The way Nico answered on the bike is a sign of big class I reckon."

Last year, Van Petegem saw the victory on the velodrome in Roubaix slip through his fingers because of bad luck. "When I punctured, I didn't know how strong I really was yet," he said. "That realisation only came later. I knew that things were about 90 percent lost but started chasing anyway. I saw how I rode from one group to the next, at that moment I could tell how fast I was really going. I felt it. It was a great sensation at that moment, but it was less uplifting when I got to the big group at the end of the Carrefour de L'Arbre and everyone was knackered; they couldn't go any faster.

"If not too much goes wrong, I should be competing for the win again. The last two years I didn't ride Gent-Wevelgem and I had my best results in the Hel. Of course there's always people who don't think it's a good idea not to ride. I know that Tchmil didn't ride Gent-Wevelgem but went training for six hours. That's what I did. It is not because you're not racing that you are not at work on the bike. It is a dangerous race, look how many crashes there were again. I prefer crashing in Paris-Roubaix than to have to miss out on riding it that way."

After Paris-Roubaix, Van Petegem will ride the Amstel Gold Race and possibly Liege-Bastogne-Liege, but the latter only in the service of his teammates. "My next goal is the Belgian Championships. The parcours suits me and I want to be good there," he finished.

Boonen feels better

Tom Boonen says that he is ready to go for the win in Sunday's Hell of the North, as his injuries from the Driedaagse van De Panne are now much better. Having three stitches to the middle finger of his left hand did not seem to stop him in last Sunday's Ronde van Vlaanderen, but he was definitely not at his best in Wednesday's Gent-Wevelgem.

"In contrast to the morning of Gent-Wevelgem, my left hand wasn't swollen this morning," he said to the VUM newspapers after a two hour ride on Thursday. "For Paris-Roubaix, it won't be a problem."

Boonen's teammates Filippo Pozzato and Bram Tankink will also start on Sunday, despite recent injuries. Pozzato was able to train OK on Thursday morning after his crash in the finale of Gent-Wevelgem.

Vandenbroucke aims for the feed zone

Frank Vandenbroucke will make his return to racing in Sunday's Paris-Roubaix, but has no ambition to finish it. The MrBookmaker.com rider, who has been battling injury and sickness for the first part of the season, intends to race to the first feed zone at Solesmes after 113 km. "Normally, I would be riding well," Vandenbroucke was quoted in the VUM newspapers as saying. "I don't feel too good after getting food poisoning. On Monday and Tuesday I didn't train. The last couple of days I trained for three hours. My aim is to reach the feed zone."

After Paris-Roubaix, VDB is scheduled to ride in the Scheldeprijs, de Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

Illes Balears for Roubaix

The Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne team has confirmed its lineup for Paris-Roubaix as follows: Daniel Becke, Imanol Erviti, Isaac Gálvez, Jose Vicente García Acosta, Cayetano Julià, Iker Leonet, Mikel Pradera. Director: J.L. Jaimerena

The team will also race in the Clasica Primavera on April 10 with the following riders: Francisco Mancebo, David Navas, David Arroyo, Toni Tauler, José Luis Carrasco, Jonathan González, Toni Colom, Joan Horrach, Aitor Osa, Xabier Zandio.

Latest weather report

Météo France is predicting Sunday's weather conditions in the northern part of the country to be cold and wet. The riders will probably start in just two degree temperatures in Compiègne, which will reach a maximum of nine in Roubaix in the early afternoon. A moderate northwest wind will blow across the riders for most of the day, and intermittent rain showers are predicted. Thus, the cobbles are likely to be very slippery and muddy.

Armstrong retirement rumours stronger

The speculation surrounding Lance Armstrong's possible "early" retirement received some more fuel on Thursday when he spoke in New York's Central Park to support the city's bid for the 2012 Olympics. Asked about whether he would retire after this year's Tour de France, the six-time Tour champ was quoted by AP as saying, "It's a possibility. I'm still thinking about that."

Armstrong made similar comments to La Gazzetta dello Sport recently, where he said that he missed his family. He has promised to make a big announcement (the subject of which is unspecified) on April 18 before the Tour de Georgia.

Armstrong's endorsement of the New York bid came just a month after he showed his support for the Paris 2012 bid. "I think Paris deserves the Olympics," he said at the time, but added that his heart lay with New York because of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

"A few weeks ago, I tried to be extremely diplomatic in a country I have not always been diplomatic in," Armstrong said before reinforcing his stance on New York. "I want to be clear: I think all the other cities are deserving. But none of them deserve it like New York City."

Petacchi returns in Aragon

Fassa Bortolo's super sprinter Alessandro Petacchi will make his return to racing on April 13 in the Vuelta a Aragon, a five day stage race in Spain. The current ProTour leader will have a strong team to support him in the sprints, with Paolo Bossoni, Marzio Bruseghin, Andrej Hauptman, Fabio Sacchi , Julian Sanchez Pimienta , Matteo Tosatto, Marco Velo as the other riders.

Garrett Lemire Grand Prix

On Sunday, April 10, the second annual Garrett Lemire Memorial Grand Prix will be held in the downtown area of Ojai California. USA. Ojai is located at the base of the Topa Topa Mountains just inland from the coast between Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. It is Garrett's hometown and he had always dreamed of having a professional race here.

Due to the success of last year's race, USA Cycling has added the Garrett Lemire Memorial Grand Prix to the National Racing Calendar with a full day of racing for all categories, culminating with the Pro Women's race at 11:30 AM and the Pro Men's at 12:35PM. There are over 180 volunteers coming in from all over the US and the local communities working together to make this year's race a safe and successful event.

Garrett Lemire was killed while participating in the 2003 Tucson Bicycle Classic, and after his death, his friends and family created the Garrett Lemire Memorial Foundation. The GLMF is a non-profit organization working in the local school system educating students of all ages about cycling safety, fitness, bicycle maintenance and the sport of cycling. Funds from the foundation also go towards insuring that the race is an annual success and a fun family event for the kids.

For more information or to make a donation, go to: www.glmgp.com

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