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Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

First Edition Cycling News for February 27, 2005

Edited by Jeff Jones

Belgian seasons opens on cue

The podium doinated by Quick.Step
Photo ©: CN
Click for larger image

In freezing cold and damp February weather, Belgium's opening race, the 60th Omloop Het Volk lived up to all expectations. Always a hard race, being similar to both the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix in parts, Het Volk was fought out between the Belgian teams Quick.Step and Davitamon-Lotto, with Discovery Channel and Rabobank playing important roles.

At one stage with 60 km to go, Quick.Step was on the back foot as a dangerous eight man breakaway was up the road with three Discovery riders (Ekimov, Devolder, Hincapie), Van Petegem (Davitamon), Kroon (Rabobank), Gilbert (FDJ), Gardeyn (MrBookmaker) and Tankink (Quick.Step). The break had 50 seconds and Tankink's presence there wasn't much of a consolation. Quick.Step began to ride hard behind and closed down the break with 37 km to go, opening things up for a new round of attacks. But in a tense and difficult finale, it was Nick Nuyens who escaped on the cobbled Vogelzangstraat with 15 km to go to ride the peloton out of contention, winning by 14 seconds from his teammate Tom Boonen.

"It was the longest 15 km of my life," quipped Nuyens at the finish. "Still, I was never in doubt, because I knew I was strong. The other guys in my team, who slowed things down, may ask everything of me now."

Tom Boonen had an unfortunate tumble when he was accidentally knocked off by Nico Eeckhout (4th) after the finish. But he was more than happy with the team's performance today. "It's as if I'd won myself - that's how happy I am for Nick," said Boonen. "I was also very content that he was there, because it meant that I wasn't going to get it all on my neck.

Results and report
Live report

Devolder strong

Stijn Devolder (Discovery Channel) was definitely one of the strongest riders in the race, but couldn't quite get himself in the winning breakaway. He initiated a move on the Leberg that grew to eight riders after the Molenberg, but it came to nought with 37 km to go. Even after then, he was very active in working for his teammate Max van Heeswijk. And all this while wearing shorts.

"I'm someone who will gladly make the race hard, certainly when we had three men from the team riding in front. But that didn't work out. Ah well, tomorrow is another race."

Davitamon-Lotto loses out

As it did two years ago, Marc Sergeant's Davitamon-Lotto team lost the battle with Quick.Step in the opening race of the season. Peter Van Petegem did get himself into one of the most important moves on the Molenberg, but when that was brought back, his team always seemed to be on the defensive.

Nico Mattan summed it up: "We came up against a superstrong Nuyens. The best won. We gambled on the sprint for Robbie McEwen, but he told me that he didn't feel 100 percent. He found it too cold. This is the nicest race of the opening weekend. This - minor - setback is not the end of the euphoria that we are living in, but actually I have to admit that we failed today."

Team manager Marc Sergeant was gracious in defeat. "Nuyens is the deserved winner. He rode beautifully away on the cobbles and held it for 15 kilometres: chapeau!"

Discovery comes close

Hammond and Devolder
Photo ©: CN
Click for larger image

Dirk Demol's Discovery Channel boys rode "a nice race today, but couldn't finish it off and isn't that what it's about? The victories? According to me, the race remained closed for too long. I gave the signal to Stijn Devolder to make the race hard. There was a break where I had three men with Devolder, Hincapie and Ekimov. Second by second, Quick.Step closed the gap. I kept Max van Heeswijk in hand for the sprint but it didn't work out. Sporting revenge on Sunday in my locale..."

Hoffman out for the classics

The main casualty of the first Belgian race of the season was Dutch classics specialist Tristan Hoffman (CSC), who crashed halfway through the race and suffered an open fracture on his left shin. At first Hoffman was taken to the hospital in Geraardsbergen, but was later transferred to the University Hospital in Gent, where he will undergo surgery on Saturday evening.

Tristan Hoffman (CSC)
Photo ©: AFP
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"It's going to be a while before Tristan gets back on his bike. We already know for sure, that he won't ride any of the spring classics this year," stated Team CSC's team doctor Joost De Maeseneer.

CSC started the day well with Jakob Piil getting into the main break of the day, but by the end it was only Allan Johansen who managed to make the front group. "It was definitely not a great day for us," said Team CSC sports director Kim Andersen. "Lars Michaelsen got stomach cramps and had no chance of keeping up, and Tristan Hoffman was involved in a serious crash. Piil did well in the early break, but in the final part we had no riders making a difference. With a bit of luck, we could have had a couple of riders in the front group, but today that wasn't meant to be. Allan Johansen is getting better all the time, and he really did well today. In general I'm optimistic about our classics squad, but of course Hoffman will sorely missed this spring."

Sunderland on Kuurne and the ProTour

By Jeff Jones in Gent

Tomorrow's Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne tips the balance in favour of the sprinters after Omloop Het Volk, with fewer climbs and a less technical finale. But that doesn't mean there will be a large peloton at the finish, especially with the icy weather conditions set to continue: although it should remain dry, a maximum of -2 is predicted combined with strong north winds. After Friday's team managers' meeting in Gent, Cyclingnews spoke to CSC director Scott Sunderland about the second race of the Belgian opening weekend.

"Kuurne is always very aggressive in the first 100 kilometres, because it's more or less flat on the big roads," said Sunderland. "Sometimes a break will go away and then it winds up on the Muziekbos. Then there's the Kruisberg and then it's more or less trying to be in good position there and keeping it on the run in down to the Kwaremont. If there's a bit of crosswind there, it puts it in a line and like last year, it splits on the Kwaremont and they go home with 30-40 riders."

In KBK, the tactics for some riders can change, depending on what happens on the previous day. "If the favourites are racing right to the line [in Het Volk], then you'll always get a few guys who are having a bit of a bad day on the first day or a bit of bad luck," said Sunderland. "Then they'll pull the pin and wait for Sunday. You've got a few guys who'll not do Het Volk and will purposefully get ready for Kuurne. The thing with in Kuurne, you've got a couple of finishing laps at the end, so most of the time it comes down to a bunch sprint."

We also asked about the effect that neither of these races being a ProTour race will have on the riders' motivation. "The riders that are here are the ones who are serious about the classics," explained Sunderland. "Most of them are Belgian teams naturally, but if you want to be good there, you want to be racing Het Volk. Some riders choose not to do it, because of the bad weather, but tactics wise or anything else because it's not ProTour...ProTour is great but prestige is prestige. The race still there, it's ingrown in the people. It's not because it's not a ProTour they're just going to forget about Het Volk. Riders have been riding this for years and years and there's folklore in these races. Most riders, you ask them, to win a race - that's what they're riding for. The money comes after but it's just that feeling. There's still prestige in being a winner."

On the other hand, the fact that ProTour teams can't score points in non-ProTour races could very well lead to situations that if they are not racing for the win, then they will sit up. "Probably they won't be racing for the points, because there's no UCI points any more," admitted Sunderland. "Top 20 possibly on the bigger races with a bigger prize purse, but definitely for the smaller races, forget about it. If there's not much money there, the riders aren't going to worry about trying to finish up there. That definitely will have an influence on that part."

Not chasing points all year could be a good thing, according to Sunderland. "That's the whole thing - it's taken that stress off. In that respect, it's going to be a lot better. Domestiques will come back in flavour again. You're going better working happening within the teams. We'll see how it unfolds. It's going to be interesting."

Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne coverage

Start list
Past winners

Farrar begins European campaign

By Shane Stokes,

Tyler Farrar (Health Net)
Photo ©: Jon Devich
Click for larger image

Up and coming rider Tyler Farrar left America on Thursday for Belgium, where he will race as part of the US under 23 national squad for the first part of the season. The 20 year old has already shown some sparkling form this year despite a collarbone break over the winter, winning the third stage of the recent Valley of the Sun race and finishing fourth overall. He was also second on stage two.

Speaking to Cyclingnews the day before his flight to Europe (Thursday), Farrar said he was looking forward to the 2005 season. "I'm motivated. Every year I feel like I am making big improvements in my strength, my speed and my experience. I definitely feel like I am more fit than at this time last year.

"I go over with the US National under 23 team. For the first part of the trip, we will be racing almost completely in Belgium in lots and lots of one-day races, in Espoir World Cup events such as the Grand Prix de Waregem and other races like that.

"My plan is to stay in Europe and then I will fly back just in time for the Tour of Georgia. I will be riding that with the US National team. I am really excited because it is my first-year riding that race, so that should be a good experience. Then it is as back over to Europe for another couple of weeks with the National team. I am not sure exactly what I will be doing, I think a couple of stage races. And then, after that, it as back to the States for the US Pro Championships, Philly Week."

Winning in VOS
Photo ©: Jon Devich
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Farrar won a stage in the Tour de l'Avenir last year and will return there after some time racing with his Health Net p/b Maxxis team in the US. The strong sprinter will then target the world Under 23 championships in Madrid, the race taking part on the type of course which is tailor made for a bunch gallop.

Longer term, he's hoping to earn a place on a ProTour team and do some of the sports biggest races. "I really hope within the next year or two to be racing full-time over in Europe. I would love to be racing the Classics such as Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders, and the Grand Tours. It may take four or five years to get there, but you never know how good you are going to get until you try. So I just have to see how far I can make it."

Look out for a full Tyler Farrar interview on Cyclingnews in the next few days.

Ireland's Cassidy to come back for Archer International GP

43 year-old Phil Cassidy...
Photo ©: Gerry McManus
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... and son Mark
Photo ©: Gerry McManus
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Yet another remarkable comeback is scheduled for the British UCI 1.2 Archer International GP on April 3 as Phil Cassidy, the winner in 1988, will be part of an Ireland Select team of six riders. Even more surprisingly is that he is likely to be competing against his son Mark, who will be riding for the rival DFL team in this 50th Anniversary of the classic race in the Chiltern hills, in the Gt Missenden-Amersham area.

Three years ago, the Archer International GP race organisers caused some controversy in the sport by accepting the entry of Malcolm Elliott, then 41, and now 43, the same age as Cassidy. Entry into the 100 rider field is much sought after. Unlike Elliot, who had not raced for a number of years, Cassidy has, however, been racing consistently in Ireland and is in good form.

The organisers and Elliott were proved right when he came fourth and he has since gone on to become the top road rider in the UK by winning the Premier Series last year, in which the Archer event is a counting event as well as being in the UCI's European Continental Tour.

All the Irish are full Ireland internationals and Paul Griffin and Dave McCann, competing for the Giant Asia Team, rode the recent Tour de Langkawi in Malaysia. They have since gone to a series of races in Taiwan. The other three are Philip Finegan, Stephen O'Sullivan, and Eugene Moriarty.

The Ireland Select team will be managed by Cycling Ireland's chief executive, Stuart Hallam, showing his enthusiasm as it will be in a private capacity, who will also have mixed loyalties as his son Ben Hallam is likely to be riding for the DFL team, similar to young Cassidy. The senior Hallam knows the route well as on a number of occasions he has been part of the 12-man motor-cycle escort group for the race.

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