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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

First Edition Cycling News for August 3, 2005

Edited by John Stevenson

Eneco Tour of the Benelux

2004 Tour of the Netherlands winner Erik Dekker
Photo ©: Elmar Krings
Click for larger image

At midday today Tom Boonen will fire the starting gun for the inaugural Eneco Tour of Benelux, the next stage race on the ProTour calendar. The race is an amalgamation of the former tours of the Netherlands and Belgium, and so you'd expect it to be high on the young Belgian sprinter's list of season priorities, but Boonen is still recovering from the injuries that put him out of the Tour de France last month.

A lot is riding on the success of the Tour of the Benelux, which was added to the ProTour calendar to fill the gap left by the original exclusion of any stage race in the cycling hotbeds of Belgium and the Netherlands. Organisers say that they intend it to be the best stage race in the world within three years.

A lofty ambition, and organiser Henk van Mulukom admits no race can compare to the Tour de France, "but organizationally we can become the best," he told ANP. "The Tour has become a great circus that wears everyone out over three weeks. We have a tour in which we can offer the riders and spectators a better service. We share the ambition to be the best with our Belgian colleagues."

To that end, the organisation plans to put riders in good hotels close to race finishes. "They have it hard enough on the bike already," said van Mulukom.

Top riders who will be enjoying the Benelux tour's improved hospitality include Italian speedster Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) who is a favourite for stage wins in the absence of Tom Boonen; local hero and 2004 Tour of the Netherlands winner Erik Dekker (Rabobank), who can be expected to go for a stage or two in his inimitable wily manner; Erik Zabel (T-Mobile) who still cannot be written off in sprint finishes; Bobby Julich (CSC) who may be hitting a second season peak after working for Ivan Basso in the Tour de France; and Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) who will be looking to pick up some ProTour points in the absence of series leader Danilo Di Luca.

The Eneco Tour of the Benelux starts today, Wednesday, August 3, with a 5.7km prologue in Mechelen, Belgium. The action then moves to nearby Geel where Boonen will again pull the trigger on a 192km stage to Mierlo in the Netherlands, the first of several border crossings as the race flits between Belgium and the Netherlands.

Stage two covers a mostly flat 178.5km between Geldrop and Sittard, both in the Netherlands, but just to keep things international, the race nips across the border into Germany for a few kilometres toward the end of the stage.

Stages three and four are expected to be crucial as the race moves into Spring Classics terrain of southern Netherlands and northern Belgium. Stage three's 206.3km journey from Beek to Landgraaf in the Netherlands assaults the riders with a series of short, steep climbs in the area east of Maastricht used for the Amstel Gold race. But that's just a softening up for the following day's queen stage, 232km from Landgraaf in the Netherlands to Verviers, Belgium. Taking in some of the roads - and climbs - used in Liege-Bastogne-Liege, stage four throws seven KOM summits at the riders.

If that weren't enough, stage five backtracks through the same terrain from Verviers to Hasselt, though its 194km parcours doesn't seek out the hills quite so assiduously. Stage six's final road stage covers 196km from St Truiden to Hoogstraten before the race finishes with a 26.3km individual time trial at Etten-Leur.

Stages

  • Prologue - August 3: Mechelen (Bel), 5.7 km
  • Stage 1 - August 4: Geel (Bel) - Mierlo (Ned), 192 km
  • Stage 2 - August 5: Geldrop (Ned) - Sittard/Geleen (Ned), 178 km
  • Stage 3 - August 6: Beek (Ned) - Landgraaf (Ned), 206 km
  • Stage 4 - August 7: Landgraaf (Ned) - Verviers (Bel), 232 km
  • Stage 5 - August 8: Verviers (Bel) - Hasselt (Bel), 194 km
  • Stage 6 - August 9: Sint-Truiden (Bel) - Hoogstraten (Bel), 196 km
  • Stage 7 - August 10: Etten-Leur (Ned) ITT, 26.3 km

EPO test called into question

Researchers at the Catholic University in Leuven, Belgium (KUL) have cast doubt on the EPO-detecting urine test currently in use by the UCI. The researchers say that the test in potentially unreliable because it traces too many types of protein, leading to the risk of a false positive. After a race it is possible for athlete to excrete some of the proteins detected by the test, causing a positive result without the use of EPO.

World-Anti-Doping Agency researchers in Germany are working on an improved version of the test.

The KUL researchers looked into the test at the request of Belgian triathlete Rutger Beke who tested positive for EPO at a race in Knokke last year. Beke denied having used EPO and an investigation by the KUL researchers found he was producing the proteins detected by the test. His suspension is expected to be dropped next week.

Lefevere wants Simoni

With a powerful sprint train in place for Tom Boonen, Quick Step boss Patrick Lefevere is now looking to strengthen his team for the general classification in the grand tours. Lefevere is targeting Gilberto Simoni as its point man for the Giro d'Italia.

"The transfer of Spanish champion Juan Manuel Garate is arranged," he told Het Laatste Nieuws. "Now I am going hard after Gilberto Simoni. He would become our head man for the Giro. That would be a fantastic transfer if it happens."

Quick Step has recently signed Steven De Jongh (Rabobank), Kevin Van Impe (Chocolade Jacques) and Matteo Tosatto (Fassa Bortolo) to work for Tom Boonen and is reported to be chasing two more top young Italian riders.

Garate to Quick Step

Spanish road champion Juan Manuel Garate has signed a deal with the Belgian Quick Step - Innergetic team, the team has announced. The 29-year-old will ride for Patrick Lefevere's team for the next two seasons (2006-2007).

ProTour rankings

With only one of the major contenders finishing in the points at Sunday's HEW-Cyclassics-Cup, there are few changes in the ProTour rankings. Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas-Bianchi) retains his first place ahead of the now-retired Lance Armstrong and T-Mobile's Alexandre Vinokourov. His fifth place on Sunday moves Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) into sixth place on the ProTour ladder, but he remains 83 points behind Di Luca and will have to pull off some impressive rides in the remaining ProTour one-day events to challenge for the title.

Phonak remains at the head of the team competition.

Top ten ProTour standings

1 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi                                184 pts
2 Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team             139
3 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile Team                             136
4 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step                                          120
5 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Fassa Bortolo                              111
6 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner                                   101
7 Jan Ullrich (Ger) T-Mobile Team                                       98
8 Santiago Botero Echeverry (Col) Phonak Hearing Systems                95
9 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank                                     94
10 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team            92

Full rankings

Liquigas-Bianchi for upcoming races

The Liquigas-Bianchi has announced which of its riders will be where over the next few races.

ProTour leader Danilo Di Luca will not be riding the Eneco Tour of the Benelux, which starts today, but will instead take in the G.P. CittÓ di Camaiore, August 4 and the Giro del Lazio, August 6. He will be joined in Lazio by Stefano Garzelli, while Enrico Gasparotto leads the team in the Benelux tour.

Upcoming Italian races will provide chances for Liquigas' stagiaires to get a taste of top-level racing. Mauro Da Dalto of Liquigas feeder club Marchiol-Ima-Famila, will ride Camaiore and Lazio, while at the Due Giorni Marchigiana it will be the turn of Eros Capecchi (GS Mastromarco) and Alberto Di Lorenzo (Bottoli-Artoni-Zoccorinese).

Liquigas' full line up for the next few races will be:

Eneco Tour of the Benelux, August 3-10: Enrico Gasparotto, Patrick Calcagni, Nicola Loda, Marco Milesi, Matej Mugerli, Marco Righetto, Gianluca Sironi, Marco Zanotti.

G.P. CittÓ di Camaiore, August 4: Danilo Di Luca, Kjell Carlstr÷m, Dario David Cioni, Mauro Da Dalto, Oscar Mason, Vladimir Miholjevic, Devis Miorin, Andrea NoŔ, Franco Pellizotti, Charles Wegelius.

Giro del Lazio, August 6: Danilo Di Luca, Kjell Carlstr÷m, Dario David Cioni, Mauro Da Dalto, Stefano Garzelli, Oscar Mason, Devis Miorin, Andrea NoŔ, Franco Pellizotti, Charles Wegelius.

Bert Story-Piels stops

Netherlands Continental team Bert Story-Piels will close at the end of this year as its sponsors have decided to end their involvement, according to ANP. The team has a fifteen-year history and this season saw members of its 15-man squad on the podium 66 times. Team management believe riders should be able to find places in other teams.

TIAA-CREF starts Avenir run

US under-23 development team TIAA-CREF started a six-week stint in Europe yesterday with the first stage of the Paris-Correze race. The team has crossed the pond to prepare for the Tour de L'Avenir (September 2-11), the most important race on the calendar for under-23 riders.

The squad for the team's European tour includes Timmy Duggan, Craig Lewis, David Robinson, Stu Gillespie (second overall at Tour de la Martinique), current under-23 national champion Ian Macgregor, and climbing phenomenon Michael Lange.

After Paris-Correze, the team will tackle the Tour de L'Ain (August 7-10) which traverses the French Alps, then two major Spanish races, Subida Urkiola on August 14 and Clasica de los Puertos, August 21.

Team TIAA-CREF director, Jonathan Vaughters admits it's going to be no holiday for his riders. "These races are going to be a stretch for a team that is so young, like ours," he says. "But, we have to learn to compete with the ProTour teams if Team TIAA-CREF is truly to fulfil its mission of producing the next American champions.

"No matter how the guys do, as long as they finish, these races will be absolutely ideal preparation for Tour de L'Avenir," said Vaughters.

Navigators to ride Tour of Britain

The US-based Navigators Insurance Professional Continental team will be among the peloton when this year's Tour of Britain rolls out of Glasgow on August 30, Tour of Britain organisers have announced.

The team intends to make its mark on the race, and manager Ed Beamon will be bringing a strong squad headlined by Irish rider Ciaran Power who has won two races in his home country this year. Power will be supported by a multinational line-up that includes experienced Italian Siro Camponogara and 25-year-old American rising star Shawn Milne, who won two stages in this year's Nature Valley GP.

Rounding out the roster are Australian, Hilton Clarke, Russian Oleg Grichkine and American Phil Zajicek.

Tour of Gippsland kicks off revamped Tattersall's Cup

The Australian racing season gets under way today with the Tattersall's Tour of Gippsland, the first in a series of three five-day races that comprise the 2005 Tattersall's Cup series.

In previous years the Tattersall's Cup has been a series of one-day races in regional Victoria and Tasmania, but for 2005 organisers have freshened up the format which will now include the Jayco Tour of Tasmania, August 17-21, and the Tour of the Murray River, August 31-September 4. A total of $90,000 in prize money is up for grabs, including $10,000 for the overall leading placegetters in the Tattersall's Cup

The Tour of Gippsland will take in four municipalities - Latrobe, Wellington, South Gippsland and Baw Baw - and will cover 534km over nine stages. It starts with a 45km criterium in Moe on Wednesday, August 3, and will finish with a 57km street race in Traralgon on Sunday, August 7.

Top Australian riders Robert McLachlan, a Barcelona Olympian, and 2004 Herald Sun Tour runner-up David McKenzie say they are looking forward to the Tour of Gippsland. "It is going to be great. I can't wait," said McLachlan. "I am excited by the Tour of Gippsland because the scenery is stunning and the prize money is excellent."

David McKenzie, a stage winner in the 2000 Giro d'Italia, agreed. "The Tour of Gippsland has all the makings of a magnificent event," he said. "But it won't be easy."

Australian club nationals expands

This year's Australian National Road Cycling Championships (NRCC) will be the cornerstone of a three-week festival of cycling, organisers USM Events have announced. The NRCC, Australia's national championships for riders below the pro/elite level, has joined forces with the Pepper's Hidden Vale Cycle Epic mountain bike race to put together three weeks of riding and racing for riders of all abilities.

The festival starts with the inaugural Caloundra Big Bike Ride on August 28, a 10km, 30km or 50km mass participation fun ride to raise money for Camp Quality.

The following weekend sees the Flight Centre Peppers Hidden Vale Cycle Epic, which this year has been expanded to both Saturday and Sunday September 3 and 4, with shorter races on Saturday open to 5-13 year olds, and a 50km half Epic on Sunday along with the full 100km Epic.

On the road, the Junior National Road Cycling Championships starts the same weekend, beginning ten days of NRCC racing from September 3 to 11 and incorporating the National Club Road Cycling Championships for the elite and junior divisions.

The organisers say they expect even more riders than last year's 1200 competitors to attend this year's events. Prize money has been increased for series winner, under 19, 23 and elite categories.

The juniors and seniors will be utilizing the same courses, tackling the tough hill climbs of Yandina, the fast flowing criterium circuit at Currimundi and the new time trial course at Kawana Waters. The time trial course is part of a recently completed motorway, providing a smooth and very fast course that is expected to be one of the best in the country.

For more information see www.usmevents.com.au and www.cycleepic.com.au.

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