First Edition Cycling News for April 10, 2005
Edited by Jeff Jones
Vogels comes full circle
2005 marks Henk Vogels eleventh year as a professional. It's a journey that has seen him begin in Belgium, move to France, head west to America, and now return back to Belgium, a place where he feels he belongs as a bike rider. On the eve of the 103rd Paris-Roubaix, Cyclingnews' Anthony Tan speaks with a man who has come full circle.
Two days before the biggest one-day classic of the year, how is Henk Vogels feeling?
"I feel great," he says in a sprightly tone to Cyclingnews, sprawled out on his bed at the Holiday Inn in Gent Expo. "I haven't had the ideal preparation as far as races go, but in Gent-Wevelgem, I felt quite strong - the crosswinds there were brutal, there was a lot of splitting in the peloton, and I seemed to be in every move, which you can't just fluke."
That morning, Vogels and his Davitamon-Lotto team-mates for Paris-Roubaix reconnoitred the new 'secteurs' that includes the removal of the Arenberg Forest but more undulating terrain, with many believing the 2005 Hell of the North parcours to be the toughest in years. "There are sections which are vicious and the climbs - but that I mean small rises in the roads that when you're on cobbles feel like mountains - in between sections are going to sort things out," Vogels predicts.
In excluding Arenberg - a place known for its history of bad crashes - from this year's race, Vogels applauds the move: "I think Arenberg is like a tree standing in the middle of a descent - it's just something you have to avoid," he says dryly. "You know with the history of my falls, I don't want to see anyone crash."
It's easy to forget that it was around two years ago that the 31 year-old Australian suffered the worst crash of his career, with some believing him to be dead at first. However, in the style of Museeuw, Pantani, Sunderland and O'Neill, Vogels has staged a courageous comeback to the highest level, earning a ride with one of the best teams in the world. "It's one of the reasons why I'm back here, in Europe, in the European pro peloton - because I love the Classics so much," he says.
In returning to Brakel, Belgium, Vogels' professional cycling career has now come full circle. Exactly one decade ago, he started out as a fresh-faced 21 year-old at Novell (now known as Rabobank), forging a reputation as one of the best Classics riders in spring, before a lucrative offer saw him migrate west for a successful five-year stint in America.
But during his time in the States, the Classics were always calling. Two top 10 places in Paris-Roubaix is hard to ignore. And it's one of the reasons why his name was on the eight-man list of riders in a team that holds the 2003 race winner.
"Riding over the cobbles with Van Petegem, Van Bon, with guys who have won it, been on the podium or are serious contenders - being part of that team, it was a good feeling," he says. "It gives me goosebumps just thinking about those stones..."
Click here to read the rest of the interview.
Hoffman "riding" Paris-Roubaix tomorrow
A serious crash in the Omloop het Volk earlier this season had some serious consequences for CSC's likeable Dutchman Tristan Hoffman. Tristan hit a small post and suffered an open leg fracture. He was transported to the hospital in Geraardsbergen before almost immediately being transferred to the University Hospital in Gent, where the surgeons diagnosed 'a complicated multiple open fracture on the lower leg and a fractured splint bone'. He was operated on that same evening.
If it weren't for the new technique used during the surgery in which a pin instead of plates were applied, Tristan would have been forced to rest for six weeks. But thanks to modern medicine, the healing process has been considerably faster. Tristan also suffered concussion and after recovering from that and a sore stomach (caused by the handle bars and fork which had broken off) in a darkened room in the UZ for a week, he was allowed to go home on March 4.
On the eve of his favourite classic Paris-Roubaix, in which he finished fourth twice - in 2000 and 2002- and second last year, Cyclingnews' Sabine Sunderland checked on how "Hoffie" is going.
Beautifully pregnant with their third child, who is expected to join brother Nout and sister Iris mid-June, the ever so bubbly Vera Hoffman is the first to update us on Tristan's progress.
"Tristan had his ups and downs the first days after his dismissal from the hospital," says Vera, who is a qualified nurse. "He had bad headaches and couldn't handle too much commotion around him. As long as Tristan was resting on the couch or in bed, the pain was bearable, but when he had to get up for only a brief period, his leg started swelling immediately and the pain was excruciating. But he has improved so much since. The dose of painkillers that he needed was reduced quickly and the headaches are getting less as days pass, but he still has to be cautious as the headaches return when he's working too intensively on his rehab. Although it's really nice that Tristan's joking and laughing again as before, I want him to be careful."
But knowing Tristan, there would be little reason needed for him to get up and get on with things.
Tristan laughs: "I know, I simply can't sit still for long. Looking back on how I was as a child, I think that it is highly likely that I had a mild case of ADHD (Hyperactivity Disorder). It's no surprise to me that our kids have the same energy levels, they're always flat out too.
Click here to read the rest of the interview.
Tafi says goodbye to Hell
One of the best classics riders of his generation, Andrea Tafi, will be riding his last Paris-Roubaix this Sunday, April 10. The solidly built Tuscan rider has five top 5 finishes in the Hell of the North, including one win in 1999. Riding for Saunier Duval in his last season, Tafi wants to go out on a high note by winning the feared classic one more time. It might not be his last race, as he told a press conference that he could be riding the Tour de Georgia, and possibly even beyond that.
"I want to show that a rider of 39 can still ride with the best, especially during a physically demanding race like Paris-Roubaix," he said. "I feel stronger than in my best years in Mapei. Furthermore, I'm mentally balanced and experienced."
Paris-Roubaix holds a special place in Tafi's heart, and he has finished on the Roubaix velodrome podium four times. "I have lived my best moments as a rider in northern France," he said. "It will flash through my head during the race that this is really the last time. That was also the case during the Ronde van Vlaanderen last Sunday. I'll miss it. The trophy from 1999, a mounted cobble, stands on the fireplace in my house. It is an honour. Because I have everything to thank this race for."
Two years of physical problems almost convinced Tafi to retire, but at the Tour of Lombardy last year, he received encouragement from his friend and Saunier Duval team manager Mauro Gianetti. He signed a contract until April 10, 2005, and got ready to start his 17th season as a pro. "I could look back on a beautiful career, but I didn't want to retire like that," he said. "I still wanted to set a few things straight."
Tafi rates the new Paris-Roubaix parcours - without Arenberg - as difficult, more so because it will make it less predictable. Arenberg was always the point where the race really exploded. Now, the favourites will have to keep a closer eye on things in case a move goes earlier. Tafi said that he hopes to rely on his experience to read the race. That includes a fleet of seven spare bicycles in case of a mechanical problem,. Saunier Duval will have helpers placed at key points of the course with the bikes, as it's often very difficult to get one from the team car in the madness that is Paris-Roubaix.
After the race is over, Il Gladiatore doesn't believe it will be finished for him as a professional cyclist. "I prefer not to rule anything out," he said. "I'll ride perhaps until the Tour of Georgia. And who knows, the whole season if I feel good. But it's certainly my last year as a rider. I've promised [his wife] Gloria that."
Tafi's new career? Producing wine and olive oil in his beloved Tuscany.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Jean-Francois Quenet
Van Petegem happy with new course
Peter Van Petegem is happy with the excitement that the new Paris-Roubaix parcours promises: "The new sections are worthy replacements for the Forêt de Wallers," he told Het Nieuwsblad. "The parcours goes continually up and down, there's a lot of narrow roads and some sections of cobbles aren't in the best state. It doesn't look super heavy but it can become tough. Although I don't see us going full speed as toward Wallers.
"You can't rely too much on the stars which the organisers have given the different sections. They are an indication, nothing more. The way the parcours is now there's only one golden rule: ride nicely in the middle of the road. In those puddles there's nothing to be found, except for flat tires."
Van Petegem is also not too comfortable on his saddle at the moment. "I've got some discomfort on my behind," he said. "I've had it (a cyst) for a few weeks now and it will definitely require some minor surgery. But for Sunday it won't be a problem. I'll just have to have to endure it."
Marc Coucke isn't happy about the way the rivalry between Davitamon-Lotto and Quick.Step is being played out in some of the Belgian newspapers. The Davitamon boss believes the latest full page interview in which he claimed that Quick.Step is nowhere without Boonen, has been severely manipulated.
Coucke wrote on the team's website, "The full page article was an interview from the week before Flanders, with a few sentences from after the Ronde added and illustrated with a two month old photo, and was titled with a quote I never made and that I don't support. It's not because I love a bit of amicable rivalry that I don't have respect for, e.g. the win of Nuyens or Bettini's talent...I apologise for those never-made-statements in that never-taken interview."
The big boss of the Davitamon-Lotto cycling team is very happy with the team's biggest win of the season (Gent-Wevelgem) and wanted to honour Nico Mattan appropriately. "In haste, we put together this 'pilgrimage', with the destination being the pub Het Kleine Meer in St Eloois Winkel (where Mattan lives), and there Nico was declared a saint until 3:00am the next morning. So, I wouldn't put any money on him for PR. Nico deserved to have his nicest victory ever celebrated in that way. What is significant for the sympathy toward Nico and the atmosphere in the team, is that the party had over 700 visitors."
As for tomorrow's race, Coucke wrote that, "We'll go to Roubaix without the least bit of pressure, Peter (Van Petegem) is our team leader, we are proud of the Davitamon-Lotto team and its accomplishment, we thank and congratulate the whole team."
Lampre-Caffita ready for Roubaix
Lampre-Caffita is preparing itself for a wet, cold, and windy Paris-Roubaix, as team director Fabrizio Bontempi opines: "The weather could effect the strategies of those who want to win. Roubaix in the middle of all that mud could cause problems for the cyclists. Balance, strength and luck are the ingredients needed to race this Roubaix.
"I'm thinking about Alessandro Ballan after what he did on Sunday at Flanders and before that at La Panne. Other than Ballan, I can also count on Bennati, who came out well at Gent-Wevelgem, Bortolami, a great inspiration, and I'm sure that Enrico Franzoi can race well. For Franzoi, it means his absolute debut. His reconnaissance ride on Thursday, and his experience in cyclocross will help him to better understand how to handle this race, above all during the first section of pavé."
Team roster: Alessandro Ballan, Daniele Bennati, Giosuè Bonomi, GianLuca Bortolami, Salvatore Commesso, Paolo Fornaciari, Enrico Franzoi, Samuele Marzoli
Vandenbroucke in hospital
While Tom Boonen seems to be immune to the hype surrounding him at the Paris-Roubaix team presentation; the other (ex) golden boy of Belgian cycling has more problems coping with the pressure. Only one thing is certain as far as Frank Vandenbroucke is concerned: he won't be starting in Paris tomorrow.
Vandenbroucke has been admitted to hospital; suffering from what appears to be an allergy to the medication he received earlier this week, to treat a case of food poisoning. "On Friday Frank went to see the doctor and it is the GP who referred him to the hospital for treatment," team director Hilaire Van Der Schueren said. "Maybe people will take his complaints serious now; and believe Frank. After all, no-one gets taken into hospital for nothing I think."
The name of the hospital hasn't been made public. "Otherwise there will be a horde of journalists trying to get to him right away, and we want to avoid that. Just let him get better first for once. We don't know yet when Frank will be able to return to cycling. Let's hope that he can leave the hospital quickly and that he can keep building his form afterwards."
Cyclingnews' Paris-Roubaix coverage
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) .
Championship of Zurich changes hands
Switzerland's biggest one day race, the Championship of Zurich (Züri-Metzgete) has changed organisers, and will now be completely run by the Swiss. Although Radfahrer-Verein Zürich is the owner of the event, it had left the running of it over the last three years up to German company Upsolut Event GmbH. RVZ claimed that Upsolut did not cover its costs and reclaimed the race, which will now be run by the newly created Züri-Metzgete GmbH company. Upsolut will still be in charge of running the Metzgete für Jedermann, a cyclo-sportif event to be held on the same day as the race (October 2).
The administration has changed a little too, with Marco Canonica taking over as general director, Roland Hofer staying as sporting director, and former Phonak team manager Urs Freuler coming on board to manage sponsorship acquisition.
Spring Classics Fantasy Game Paris-Roubaix
The final start list for the Paris - Roubaix on Sun 10th April has been uploaded to the game site. Here's what John Frey from Northampton, MA, USA, the manager of the winning team "PEP Results 30" in Gent-Wevelgem, said:
"The key to success in this race was to shy away from the favorites. It seems all the big guns had Roubaix on their minds so you knew it was a day for the opportunists. In Flanders the top three favorites took 1-2-3. That is why over 100 teams finished within sight of the top Fantasy team. In this race however, Mattan and Flecha were 25-1 mid-range longshots, having both of them was the key along with Hushovd, Cooke and DeJongh. Of course,now I think we'll need to go back to the favorites with a race as important as Roubaix."
Pick your riders now! Enter your team now to win one of the prizes in this year's Fantasy Spring Classics game:
Grand Prize: Specialized Roubaix bicycle equipped with Shimano Dura-Ace 10-speed groupset worth US$4400
Runner Up Prizes:
Per Classic Prizes: 6 Specialized Decibel helmets worth $169 USD each
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:
Paris - Roubaix - April 10
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.
To register your teams for the game go to fantasy.cyclingnews.com.
It's a great way to follow the Spring Classics!
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2005)