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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for February 24, 2005

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

An icy start in Belgium

By Jeff Jones

The scene in 2004
Photo ©: CN

The Belgian season begins later than in most other European cycling countries, one reason being that the weather is not the greatest in this part of the world in late February. Snow is definitely not unheard of at this time of year, and last year it was bad enough to cause the cancellation of the Omloop Het Volk, the first race on the Belgian calendar. Amazingly, it has only been cancelled twice previously - in 1960 and 1986 - because of bad weather. The threat of snow hasn't been ruled out for this year's edition either, although it's unlikely to be very heavy. Still, the temperatures have been barely above zero this week and the cold alone will make it a very tough race.

The 201 km parcours is a typical one for this race, with a healthy mixture of Flemish climbs and cobbles that is sure to cause a selection. Starting in Gent's Citadelpark, the riders head due south towards the famous "hill zone" that is used for so many of the Flemish classics. The first climb is the Kattenberg (km 24), just before Oudenaarde. It's a 750m wide, cobbled climb at a fairly gentle 6%, and comes early enough in the race not to be of significance. The first important climb is the Oude Kwaremont after 44 km, but this 2.2 km cobbled monster is still probably too far from the end to really damage the peloton. On the other hand, an enterprising team could cause some irreparable damage if the time is deemed right.

After 83 km, the riders will encounter the famed Muur van Geraardsbergen, which often marks the deciding moment in the Tour of Flanders. But there is still a lot of riding to come in Het Volk after the Muur, and the peloton often goes over it in one bunch. The race then heads back towards Brakel and back into the hills. The Kleiberg, Eikenberg, Leberg, Berendries and Molenberg all follow in quick succession, with the summit of the final climb at 66 km to go. The Molenberg is often a break point, with its narrow, savagely cobbled 9.8% average gradient. After that, the parcours twists and turns on its way back north to Lokeren and the finish, featuring another eight flat cobbled sections. If the hills haven't split things up, then the these cobbles generally do.

That's not to say a bunch sprint is unheard of in Het Volk, but more often than not a small group will get away in the finale to contest the finish.

Live coverage

Cyclingnews will be covering the 60th Omloop Het Volk live, starting 14:30 local time (CET)/08:30 (USA East)/05:30 (USA West)/00:30 (Australia East).

Full preview
Start list
Past winners

Steels uncertain, Cooke out of Het Volk

Belgian champion Tom Steels (Davitamon) in uncertain of participating in Omloop Het Volk due to illness. After having to interrupt his training ride because of a headache on Wednesday, Steels' final decision for the UCI HC-event is yet to be taken.

Definitely skipping the event will be Baden Cooke (Francaise des Jeux), as he is still suffering from the 'flu and a gum infection. However, the Australian might participate in Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne on Sunday , February 27, and join his teammate Bradley McGee, who is resuming competition again after tendonitis.

Figueras hopeful for Swiss GP weekend

Lampre-Caffita rider Giuliano Figueras is looking forward to the GP Città di Chiasso on Saturday, February 26, followed by the GP di Lugano on Sunday. "I must say that the two cities of Chiasso and Lugano bring back incredible memories," he said. Figueras won the World U23 Championship in Lugano in 1996, and the GP Chiasso twice in 2000 and 2003.

The winner of the 179,9 km-long race with start and finish in Chiasso, Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas-Bianchi), will not be defending his tile, lining up at the Clasica de Almeria in Spain on the same day. Figueras is confident: "I am feeling fairly good; I had good legs at last week's race in Haut-Var where I finished 10th," he said. "Saturday's race is a difficult circuit and it always seems to be very cold on this weekend of racing. Unfortunately I really suffer in the cold so I am hoping for good weather!"

As for Sunday's UCI rated 1.1 race from Lugano to Biasca, totalling 157 km, Figueras recalls the circuit to be fairly similar to the World's of 1996. "I would like to confirm my good form before leaving for Tirreno-Adriatico and then Sanremo". Joining him at the two races for Lampre-Caffita will be: Salvatore Commesso, Giuliano Figueras, Gerrit Glomser, Andreas Matzbacher, Evgeni Petrov, Michele Scotto d'Abusco and Patxi Vila, with Gilberto Simoni taking Ballan's place at the GP di Lugano on Sunday.

Javier Otxoa present at movie screening

As previously reported, the movie feature Sprint Especial will be screened for the first time at the University of Valencia today, relating the life of Ricardo and Javier Otxoa. The production company now announced the presence of Javier Otxoa, his parents and the actors representing the family in the movie, as well as the president of the Spanish cycling federation and various professional riders who are currently racing the Vuelta a Comunidad Valenciana, like Alejandro Valverde, Mario Cipollini, Oscar Sevilla, Angel Casero and more.

Spanish TV station RTVV is also airing the movie on February 27.

Wood Geelong Tour champion once more

Canberra's Oenone Wood has been crowned Geelong Tour champion for the second straight year after racing over four stages, of which she won two including today's fourth and final stage in Lara north of Geelong. The 24 year-old Athens Olympian is the reigning World Cup champion and has signalled she'll again be the rider to watch when the world class field lines up on Sunday, February 27 in the opening World Cup round in Geelong.

"This is the best way to be before the world cup - all the girls are riding really well," said Wood who says it makes no difference to her if she is the hunter or the hunted on Sunday. "Either way, we haven't even decided who the team leader is for Sunday. The Geelong Tour is a good indicator to see who's had a long off season and who has been getting into it earlier but the Europeans are getting their race form from here."

Wood this week made her debut with the German registered Nurnberger professional team and today's stage saw her ably assisted by two of her German team mates, Judith Arndt, the reigning World Champion and Athens Olympic silver medallist and Trixi Worrack.

For the full report, click here.

UK Sigma Sport/Gizmondot South East Series

United Kingdom's South East Cycling announced, for the second year, sponsorship from Sigma Sport Pro Cycle Shop and new for this season, Gizmondo and The London To Paris Charity Bike Ride for the South East road race series for 2005, which will therefore be known as the Sigma Sport/Gizmondo South East Series. The aim of the series is to provide a bridge between the existing extensive League based programme of racing and national level Elite and Premier Calendar racing for riders within the South East Region and to provide regular racing in the region at this level through the season.

The Sigma Sport / Gizmondo Series consists of 10 single day races based on pre-established events spaced throughout the season from March to October. Each event will maintain it's own independent prize list with the Series to be based on an overall point's table. In 2005, there will be several new races on the calendar which feature in the Series, the format being expected as follows (subject to final confirmations):

Round 1 - March 6, Dulwich Primavera in Tenterden, Kent.
Round 2 - April 10, Fred Cowley Memorial in Cranleigh, Surrey.
Round 3 - May 1, Cycle Kingdom Spring Classic in Milland, Sussex.
Round 4 - May 8, Bec CC in Lingfield, Surrey.
Round 5 - May 30, Surrey League/ in Elstead, Surrey.
Round 6 - July 3, Les Ingman in Bletchingly, Surrey.
Round 7 - July 17, Southborough & Dist in Bells Yew Green, Kent.
Round 8 - August 7 or 14, Redhill CC 60th Anniversary in Norwood Hill,
Round 9 - September: tbc
Round 10 - October 9, Surrey League/Sigma Sport in Ewhurst, Surrey.

Entry to events will be as individual event criteria (at least Elites, 1st & 2nd categories) with individual race prizes open. Eligibility for the Series to be only to BC South East registered riders.

More information can be found at

Inaugural NCNCA Premier Series

The Northern California/Nevada Cycling Association (NCNCA) has announced the events and sponsors for the inaugural NCNCA Premier Series, including five of the oldest races in Northern California: the Testarossa Vineyards Cat's Hill Criterium in Los Gatos on May 7, the Nevada City Classic on June 19, the Fidelity Investments Burlingame Criterium on June 26, the 4th of July Criterium in Davis, California, and the Giro di San Francisco on September 5.

The NCNCA anticipates that the series will attract a total of over 3,000 entrants, 20,000 spectators, and pro racers including the Webcor Builders and McGuire-Langdale squads, the Kodak Gallery/Sierra Nevada team of defending Cat's Hill champion Ben Jacques-Maynes, and defending Giro di San Francisco winner Eric Wohlberg of Symmetrics Cycling.

The series is designed to provide each event with centralized promotion from the NCNCA at no charge, while the sponsors can access all five events and other benefits through a single sponsorship with the NCNCA itself. Additionally, the structure and promotion of the NCNCA Premier Series will not require the events or the NCNCA to increase race entry or membership fees.

Tour of Nevada City organizer, Duane Strawser commented that, "The Tour of Nevada City has been around for over 40 years, and this is the first time that we've been part of such a comprehensive way to market and promote cycling."

NCNCA Premier Series Dates and Event Information:

May 7 - Testarossa Vineyards Cat's Hill Criterium, Los Gatos, California or 408-248-8913

June 19 - Nevada City Classic, Nevada City, California

June 26 - Fidelity Investments Burlingame Criterium, Burlingame, California or 650-302-5410

July 4 - 4th of July Criterium, Davis, California or 530-759-1133

September 5(Labour Day) - Il Giro di San Francisco, San Francisco, California or (209) 533-4996

For more information about the NCNCA, please visit

Women's Team Diet Cheerwine 2005 roster announced

Carolina Beverage Corp. and Anne Whitton Bolyea, director/manager of Team Diet Cheerwine, have announced the 2005 roster for the elite cycling team Diet Cheerwine, which will begin the 2005 racing season in California with the San Dimas Stage Race on May 18-20. The team was founded in 2003 by Bolyea and has grown from a regional team based in the southeastern U.S. into an international women’s team with riders from the U.S., Canada and Norway.

"Our team is comprised of 10 riders with a mix of strength and smarts," Bolyea said. "We have a strong team in place with a great deal of potential, depth and balance." The team includes May-Britt Hartwell from Norway, a former Olympian and 2004 Paralympics pilot, as well as Leigh Hobson, Canadian Road Race Champion and Laura Yoisten from Alberta, Canada, who was 5th at the Wachovia Liberty Classic in 2004.

For the full team roster, please click here.

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