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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest Cycling News for June 9, 2005

Edited by Anthony Tan

Tour de Suisse preview: A nasty, nasty way to end a bike race

By Anthony Tan in Vevey, Switzerland

2004 Tour de Suisse champion Jan Ullrich
Photo ©: Franklin Tello

If the field currently riding the Dauphiné Libéré looks deep, the 2005 Tour de Suisse provisional line-up is also one of the strongest in years, in no small part due to the advent of the ProTour.

Expected to be on the start line this Saturday, June 11, is a former Tour de France winner and the defending TdS champion (Jan Ullrich), a two-time winner of the Giro d'Italia (Gilberto Simoni), a two-time winner of the points competition at the Tour (Robbie McEwen), this year's Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix champ (Tom Boonen), and a host of contenders for the general classification at the world's biggest bike race.

Sure, most, if not all these drawcards are using the Tour de Suisse as their final race prep. for July - no argument there. But being so close to the Tour, these riders will want to test themselves, and the only way to do that is to ride hard and race hard, at least for a few stages.

"Defending my title is not on my mind, this is all about a measured build-up to the Tour de France," said Ullrich. "These stages will give me a chance to test my climbing form. I want to show myself at the head of affairs on at least one or two stages."

Double Vuelta a España champion Roberto Heras, who is riding the Dauphiné Libéré, also inadvertently praised the quality of field at the Tour de Suisse, saying before his race was about to begin: "many will be absent [from the Dauphiné] this year because they preferred to go to the Tour de Suisse".

In fact, the race has always attracted a top-quality field, and reading out the list of past winners reads like a list of delegates at a UN summit, with no less than 13 nationalities represented. Interestingly, apart from four-time winner Pasquale Fornara (1952, '54, '57-58), there's been no dominant winner at the TdS in its 72-year history; no-one has won the race three times, and only eight riders have done the double, including Italian Fornara.

Last year's race went down to the wire, as Ullrich won the race by less than a second from local favourite Fabian Jeker on the final day's time trial in Lugano. This year, however, the format has changed, almost representing a mini-Giro d'Italia of sorts, but could prove equally thrilling, with arguably the hardest stage reserved for last.

Click here to read the rest of the preview.

The revival of Belgian cycling

Meet the new boss - Tom Boonen
Photo ©: AFP
Click for larger image

After a few years in the doldrums since the great days of Eddy Merckx, Belgian cycling is on an upswing, with a array of young talent once more inspiring the fans of the cycling-mad nation. Gerrit Deleu looks at the riders who are restoring Belgian cycling pride.

"Name ten famous Belgians." This is a well known party game in the UK and considered one of the most challenging questions one can ask. Lately it has become slightly easier thanks to successful tennis players Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin-Hardenne, both on their way back to the top now after a fallback due to health problems. Other than them, most people get stuck after Jean-Claude Van Damme and Tintin. Cycling fans get a bit further of course, and will give you the name almost any Belgian would give you if you asked him or her about their most famous countryman: Eddy Merckx.

Merckx is an icon, symbolizing the importance of cycling in this little country in the centre of Europe. This is where the cradle of bike racing stands, and the sport has a great and long history here. Many of the longest-running races on the international calendar are Belgian, and the number of cycling champions this country has produced is completely disproportionate to its tiny population of just 10 million.

Apart from perhaps Italy, there is no country in the world where cycling is this popular - and where its popularity continues to grow, as shown by the still-increasing number of races that are covered live on television. Last month for example, the Belgian audience could not only enjoy daily live broadcasting of Belgium's own national tour and the Giro, but also of the Tour de Romandie, well known of course among cycling fanatics but not really a major general sporting event. The Belgian public TV channel VRT is therefore very experienced in broadcasting bike races and has built up quite a reputation. The UCI has now asked VRT to organize and direct the live coverage of the team time trial in Eindhoven, a new ProTour event that the UCI wants to showcase how ProTour organization should be.

Unfortunately however, Belgian cycling has been going through a crisis in the last couple of decades. Its name and fame has become a largely historical one.

Click here to read the rest of the story.

Gerolsteiner, Quick.Step to Tour de Suisse

Gerolsteiner's Tour de Suisse line-up will be headed by George Totschnig, seventh overall at last year's Tour de France, together with René Haselbacher, Sven Montgomery, Ronny Scholz, Fabian Wegmann, Peter Wrolich, Beat Zberg and Markus Zberg. Hans Holczer shall act as team manager.

For Quick.Step-Innergetic, Tom Boonen and Michael Rogers spearhead a two-pronged attack, with able support from Paolo Bettini, Kevin Hulsmans, Servais Knaven, Cristian Moreni, Patrik Sinkewitz and Guido Trenti. Directeurs sportifs will be Wilfried Peeters and Luca Guercilena.

Ullrich: "I must convert strength into speed"

Satisfied with his performances last weekend, where he finished fifth at the GP Schwarzwald and second the following day at the GP Kanton Aargau/Gippingen, Jan Ullrich says all he needs now is a bit of fine-tuning.

"After both races on the weekend, I know the direction [I'm heading] is correct," he wrote on his personal website, "Sure, I would gladly have won in Gippingen, but after the heavy GP Schwarzwald, my turbo was missing; perhaps I need to watch Erik [Zabel] more often, how he does his sprint."

Continued Ullrich: "Now I must sit in the saddle again in order to achieve a fine cross section. That means, I must convert the strength, which I have, into speed. I feel completely sure that I am a bit further ahead compared to the same time in previous years. I still have about three pounds too much on the ribs. That is intended - I still have the Tour de Suisse [to lose the weight].

Speaking about the Tour de Suisse, which begins this Saturday, June 11, Ullrich says he looks forward to the start, because, to be completely honest, he says he's over training: "I want to race now; in competition, it is easier to go to the limit."

CSC: "The Tour is when we should be peaking"

Unconcerned about their performances in yesterday's Stage 3 time trial at the Dauphiné Libéré, where Danish rider Nicki Sørensen was their best performer in 21st place, directeur sportif Alain Gallopin said it was "a deliberate choice".

"Nicki did a good time trial today, but just like last year, it's apparent, that our riders aren't in top form at the moment. This is actually a deliberate choice," he said on "The Tour is still almost one month away, and that's when we should be peaking."

Rossner and Arndt become Gay Games ambassadors

Equipe Nurnberger's team manager and rider, Petra Rossner and Judith Arndt, have recently joined the list of athletes to be named Gay Games Ambassadors, reports

Cycling has been part of every Gay Games since its inception in 1982, when cyclo-cross and road races were held. In July 2006, at the Gay Games VII to be held in Chicago, mountain biking, criteriums and time trials have been added, although cyclo-cross no longer features as part of the programme.

"Cycling is our first love, of course, but there is a sport for almost everyone at the Gay Games," said Rossner. "We can't think of a better goal to set than to get fit and take part in an event that does so much on behalf of the gay and lesbian community around the world."

"We are both really pleased to get the opportunity to support the Gay Games as Ambassadors," said Arndt.

Federation of Gay Games co-president Kathleen Webster said: "We're honored that Petra and Judith are becoming Ambassadors in the middle of their ongoing professional careers. Their openness and enthusiasm about the goals of the Gay Games are an inspiration and I'm sure will earn them many new fans."

2005 Giro Fantasy Game winners announced!

The results are now in for this year's 2005 Fantasy Giro d'Italia competition! Below are the 10 lucky prize-winners, who all get to enjoy over US$13,000 worth of prizes, including the first-place prize of a Wilier Triestina Le Roi plus Park Tool IB2 multi-tool worth 7,015 George Washingtons!

Of course, these prizes wouldn't have been possible without our presenting sponsor, Wilier Triestina, and other sponsors Park Tool, Campagnolo, Bontrager, DMT, Giro, fi'zi:k and Speedplay. Yes, these are also the guys who make Cyclingnews happen, and we know you'd be lost without us!

And don't forget - the 2005 Fantasy Tour de France game is just around the corner! Stay tuned for more details.

Grand prize:

Won by team manager "y barrankas" with team "Beppuland & Halgand" from San Sebastián, Spain. Their team gets the big-daddy prize, a Wilier Triestina Le Roi plus Park Tool IB2 multi-tool worth US$7015! With a frame weight of just 950g and 7.2kg all up, the fully Campagnolo Record-equipped Le Roi is ready for everything from the rigours of the Spring Classics to the mountains of the Giro - and beyond.

Here's what they had to say: "Incredible and wonderful! We have won! We are very happy! It has been exciting and difficult. Thanks to my two daughters who helped greatly. Ana Mendazona"

2nd prize:

Won by team manager "The Shining" with team "Shining4" from Denmark. This Stephen King fan receives a Campagnolo Record group set plus Park Tool IB2 multi-tool worth US$1,465. The ultimate in light weight and pro quality durability, with carbon and titanium parts and sub-components to shave weight, and Campagnolo's famous reliability to keep you rolling down the road however tough the going gets.

3rd prize:

Won by team manager "Pinocchio" with team "Beyblade" from the Netherlands. The team manager who sometimes tells a few white lies will be telling the truth when he says he's won a pair of Bontrager Race X-Lite Aero wheels, Race X Lite OS handlebars, Race XXX Lite OS carbon stem, Race X Lite Pro saddle, plus Park Tool IB2 multi-tool worth US$1,440.

4th prize:

Won by team manager "FomleFinn" with team "Mats :)" from Norway. Prize: Bontrager Race X-Lite Aero wheels, DMT Kyoma shoes, plus Park Tool IB2 multi-tool worth US$1,065

Here's what he had to say: "Originally from Norway I am for the time being a student in Australia, I had to use the web as my only source of information. Daily reading of the world 'numero uno' site, together with the Norwegian website and the Danish site, gave a great insight on the team tactics and objectives. I followed all the action live on Cyclingnews supplemented by the Gazzetta's online live graphical representation for a view of the stage profile, the peloton and the breaks. A great Giro and great prizes! Now I'm really looking forward to the Tour, as I'll be standing on the slopes of the Galibier cheering and giving a 'push' to all my Fantasy Tour riders."

5th prize:

Won by team manager "Probert" with team "(OLN 4) Obnoxious Lance Network" from Nevada, USA. Well Probert obviously likes Cyclingnews much better than OLN, because, the team's just walked away with: a Giro Atmos Fassa Bortolo Team Issue helmet, fi'zi:k Arione saddle, Speedplay CSC Team Replica pedals (and coffee shop caps), plus Park Tool IB2 multi-tool worth US$525.

Here's what he had to say: "Hours and hours of research. The key was not to focus on the point value of the riders as my #1 priority, but rather research how different riders where performing in the early season. My team was very well rounded between GC riders, sprinters, and KOM contenders."

6th prize:

Won by team manager "Bogus" with team "Longhorns" from the USA. Longhorns certainly wasn't a bogus team, as they take away with them a Giro Atmos Fassa Bortolo Team Issue helmet, fi'zi:k Arione saddle, Speedplay CSC Team Replica pedals (and coffee shop caps), plus Park Tool IB2 multi-tool worth US$525.

7th prize:

Won by team manager "The Shining" with team "Shining" from Denmark. Wow! Second and seventh place - congratulations! As well as winning the Campagnolo Record group set plus Park Tool IB2 multi-tool worth US$1,465, "Shining" also wins a Giro Atmos Fassa Bortolo Team Issue helmet, fi'zi:k Arione saddle, Speedplay CSC Team Replica pedals (and coffee shop caps), plus another Park Tool IB2 multi-tool worth US$525.

8th prize:

Won by team manager "Kleppers" with team "Basso basta!" from Amsterdam (Netherlands). Well, Basso almost had enough of the Giro, but came back strongly in the end. "Kleppers" will takes home with him a fi'zi:k Arione saddle, Speedplay CSC Team Replica pedals (and coffee shop caps), plus Park Tool IB2 multi-tool worth US$325.

Here's what he had to say: "After the first five stages a few must-haves emerged: Lancaster, McEwen and Di Luca. Although he failed in the first stages I also picked Petacchi. Because of the relatively low weighting of the general classification as compared to other cycling games, I chose more stage hunters (mainly sprinters, of course) than I usually do. For me, the most difficult decision was what to do with Bettini. He took a lot of points in the beginning of the Giro, indicated that he was aiming at the points jersey but was also one of the most expensive riders. I ended up playing with three teams to spread my chances and it paid off."

9th prize:

Won by team manager "Kleppers" with team "Simoni" from the Netherlands. Prize: fi'zi:k Arione saddle, plus Park Tool IB2 multi-tool worth US$140.

10th prize:

Won by team manager "AngryJ" with team "Gilatto" from Australia. Prize: Park Tool IB2 multi-tool worth US$15.

Thanks to everyone who entered,
The Cyclingnews Fantasy team.

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