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Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

First Edition Cycling News for March 8, 2005

Edited by John Stevenson and Jeff Jones

Chaos and tension mark the first stage

Quick.Step train
Photo ©: AFP
Click for larger image
The first road stage of Paris-Nice caused some important splits in the peloton towards the end of the 186.5 km between Etampes and Chabris, with plenty of favourites losing 40 seconds or more to the lead group of 23 containing Jens Voigt (CSC) and new leader Erik Dekker (Rabobank). A crash with 8 km to go on the narrow roads saw Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis), Alexandre Vinokourov (T-Mobile), Cadel Evans (Lotto), Jorge Jaksche (Liberty Seguros), Gilberto Simoni (Lampre), Michael Rogers (Quick.Step), Floyd Landis (Phonak), Lance Armstrong and Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery) and Georg Totschnig (Gerolsteiner) all lose valuable time, and possibly their chances of winning the "race to the sun".

It's not over yet, of course, but with Voigt's CSC team placing five men in the top 23, and riders like Erik Dekker (Rabobank), Philippe Gilbert (FDJ), Alejandro Valverde (Illes Balears) and Kim Kirchen (Fassa Bortolo) all making the front split, it's going to be hard for the rest to take back any time.

The stage saw a powerful win by Tom Boonen, whose Quick.Step team was one of those not caught out when the crash happened. Boonen comfortably beat home Luciano Pagliarini (Liquigas) and Jaan Kirsipuu (Credit Agricole), taking his third win of the season and probably one of the race's only bunch sprints. Afterwards, Boonen acknowledged his team for its excellent work and dedicated his victory to his best friend Dieter, who died last week while skiing in Germany. "On the day of his funeral, I promised his dad to win a stage of Paris-Nice for him," said Boonen.

After claiming 3 seconds in bonus sprints during the stage, Erik Dekker (Rabobank) found himself in the leader's jersey at the end of the day. "Today was my chance for taking the lead," said Dekker. "I don't know if I'll be able to win Paris-Nice. I don't think I'll be good enough for Friday's stage up to the Mont Faron. This climb suits Jens Voigt better than me, he won up there at the Tour of the Mediterranean last month. Even the best Erik Dekker struggles on the Mont Faron."

Robert Hunter (Phonak)
Photo ©: JF Quenet
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The bad luck story of the day was Robert Hunter (Phonak), who crashed at km 81 and was taken to the hospital in Châteauroux, receiving six stitches. "It could have been more but the doctor wanted to keep the leak instead of risking an infection," Hunter declared. "I didn't hurt anything but I have a big cut in my right arm. It's a U. The whole thing was all open!"

Hunter wanted to start in Wednesday's Tirreno-Adriatico in order to get some racing kilometres in before Milan-San Remo. But the South African was denied by the UCI, who did not agree to give him permission to start in another race, despite organiser ASO's compliance. "But I need the racing before Milan-San Remo!" an extremely upset Hunter reacted. "Does that mean my next race is the Three Days of De Panne?" he questioned. "I'm not a cheat, I was injured, I pulled out for going to the hospital."

Tomorrow's second stage to Thiers may be affected by some route changes due to the snow in the center of France. After signing on in La Châtre at 11:45, the riders will leave with their buses and team cars to start at one of three alternative points: Montaigut-En-Combraille (km 94), Aigueperse (km 144.5) or Maringues (km 163). The latter would result in just 28 km being ridden in the second stage!

Paris-Nice Stage 1

Full results & report
Live report
Stages & descriptions
Start list

"I'm not sharp," Armstrong admits

Lance Armstrong is trying to start his 2005 season in a low-key manner, using Paris-Nice as a training race, the first step on the long road to July's Tour de France where he'll attempt to clock up a historic seventh victory. But when you've won six Tours de France already, you don't get to do anything quietly, and Armstrong is already having to explain to the press that he's not a contender in the race to the sun.

"It's my first race of the season and I'm not very sharp," Armstrong told AFP after yesterday's stage of Paris-Nice. "I'm probably slower simply because I stayed longer than usual in the United States. When I return to Europe I pay a lot more attention to my form because I train regularly, eat better and have nothing to distract me."

Armstrong has had a busy off-season. "Don't say I spent the winter partying, because I didn't," he told the International Herald Tribune's Samuel Abt, but did acknowledge that he'd been to the Grammy Awards and an Academy Awards party with his girlfriend Sheryl Crow.

"Over there [in the USA] I've a lot of commitments and have problems juggling the rigours of preparation and other non-sporting demands," he told AFP. "I've hardly followed the beginning of the season whereas normally I'm on the Internet every day following results."

Armstrong will spend the next month in Europe and is focused on riding himself into form. "It will be a month of hard work without any distractions," he said. Armstrong will return to the US for the Tour de Georgia (April 19-24), and will be back in Europe for the Criterium du Dauphiné Libéré (June 5-12) and the ProTour team time trial in Eindhoven, June 19.

Then there's the Tour de France. "The Tour is my favourite race, which I owe everything to, for which I live," said Armstrong.

The fact that he's going for a seventh victory, and has already set a record that looks likely to stand for decades doesn't affect Armstrong. "In fact I'm going to approach it like the others," he said. "The figure, the record, all that is of no importance. It will be like the first, like the second. Winning the greatest race in the world one more time."

Paris-Nice crash impedes Liberty

The entire Liberty Seguros team were among those who suffered as a result of the crash in the closing kilometres of yesterday's stage of Paris-Nice, though fortunately none of them were hurt.

Only young Australian Aaron Kemps got past the crash at seven kilometres to go, and seeing that his team-mates were all hindered, he decided to wait for them. The subsequent regrouping wasn't enough to prevent the team's leaders, including defending champion Jorg Jaksche, from losing vital seconds.

"The fall happened on the right side of the road and almost all my guys were trapped by it," said Liberty Seguros team manager Manolo Saiz. "The only thing it was good for was the show." Nevertheless, Saiz was philosophical about his team's chances in the remainder of the race. "Though we have lost time, the race isn't over; there will be other opportunities. There was nothing we could do. It was just bad luck."

Liberty Seguros' Igor Galdez de Galdeano had escaped earlier in the day with Fabien Sanchez of la Française des Jeux. "I was keeping en eye on the attacks and I simply went with the good one," said de Galdeano. "The fall was unfortunate as we were going for that side of the highway. I have been feeling good and that is the most important thing. I will continue fighting for this Paris-Nice."

Gerolsteiner boss angry as Rebellin loses time

The Gerolsteiner team was another that suffered as a result of the stage one pile-up, and while manager Hans-Michael Holczer was initially angry at the turn of events that put team leader Davide Rebellin 58 seconds back at the finish, he was ultimately philosophical.

"[Getting angry] doesn't help anything," he said. "There's nothing anyone can do. These things happen. Now we just have to try and make up the time."

Rebellin had lost only eight seconds in the opening prologue time trial, and up until the crash everything was going according to plan, Holczer said. "Now we have to try and make up time in the general and team classifications." However, he reflected, it could have been worse. "Davide ended up in a ditch with his jersey totally wrecked, but at least he wasn't injured."

Turnabout is fair play: Is Mario super again?

Mario Cipollini (Liquigas-Bianchi)
Photo ©: Sirotti
Click for larger image

Mario Cipollini (Liquigas-Bianchi) returned to racing today after three weeks off the bike and roared loud to grab his second win of the 2005 season, beating neo-pro sprinter Paride Grillo (Panaria-Navigare) and Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo), the one sprinter who has bedeviled Cipo for the last two season. After a magnificent victory salute to notch his 189th career win in Altopascio, Cipollini said, "My win is really thanks to the serenity I've found at the Liquigas-Bianchi team. They've given me the possibility to race without a lot of pressure, with the ideal psychological and technical conditions."

Cipollini further explained how he put together his win today, saying, "The last man in the train was supposed to be Backstedt, but he had a flat. So we decided to make the race against Petacchi's team. My teammates brought me perfectly to the last kilometer and from then on, I just marked my man Alessandro. Velo and Petacchi lead into the last corner with 500m. to go. I jumped early and got a two bike length lead on Petacchi which I held to the finish line."

"I'm very surprised I won but I'm also very happy," said Cipollini. "People keep telling me I'm too old to win at 38 but I'm enjoying proving them wrong."

With Tirreno-Adriatico starting the day after tomorrow, Cipollini explained that he's looking further ahead. "My real thoughts are already for Milano-Sanremo. That's my first, real objective of the season. If I can get over il Poggio in good position, I may be a factor there.

"In the last few weeks I've been training hard for Milano-SanRemo and I think my form is pretty good. I needed to see if I'm still competitive with the other sprinters and I think I got the answer I was looking for."

Biondi charged

Laurent Biondi, assistant directeur sportif of the French AG2R Prevoyance team has been charged with "possession, transportation and acquisition" of doping products by police investigating the transportation and sale of 'pot belge'.

Biondi was arrested last Wednesday by police investigating the trade in the notorious drug cocktail, which typically contains heroin, cocaine, amphetamines and painkillers.

Police have also arrested former amateur cyclist Jean-Guy Jordie, who has been charged with selling doping products.

Bettini returns to racing at Tirreno-Adriatico

While Quick Step's Tom Boonen looks for more stage wins at Paris-Nice, the team's 'Italian arm' will campaign at Tirreno-Adriatico from Wednesday, with Paolo Bettini heading the line-up for the race between the seas.

Bettini has been training after the Omloop Het Volk and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. "This past week of training has been really useful for me in getting back on form," he said "I'll be taking Tirreno-Adriatico a day at a time hoping for weather conditions that enable me to perfect myself in sight of the Milan-Sanremo."

Bettini himself, then, won't be targeting Tirreno-Adriatico. "We've got a team full of riders that are more than able to do well in the race," he said. "For example Nick Nuyens who recently won the Omloop Het Volk. He certainly could be one of the protagonists at the Tirreno-Adriatico."

Nuyens isn't looking at the general classification though. "I've got a good feeling and my legs are working well," he said after a three-hour training ride yesterday. "There are a few stages of the Tirreno-Adriatico that are suited to riders like me. I'll not be thinking about the general classifications but I'll definitely be aiming for a stage win. The Tirreno is my first ProTour race and I'd like to leave my mark."

Filippo Pozzato will also line up with Quick-Step in Civitavecchia on Wednesday. "I've been slowly getting better over the past few days," said Pozzato of the respiratory infection that has dogged his early season. "Thankfully the cough I had has gone. I'm not on 100 percent form - I'm missing the race rhythm, but I'm improving".

However, the team's other Italian hopeful, Luca Paolini, will miss Tirreno-Adriatico because of a knee inflammation. Paolini is undergoing physiotherapy for the problem in his right knee that flared up last week and is taking seven days off to allow it to heal.

Quick Step for Tirreno-Adriatico: Paolo Bettini, Davide Bramati, Wilfried Cretskens, Servais Knaven, Cristian Moreni, Nick Nuyens, Filippo Pozzato and Stefano Zanini.

New name for GP Beauce

Canada's Grand Prix Cyclist de Beauce, one of the top stage races in North America, celebrates its twentieth edition this year. This year's race will be held June 14-19 and gets a new name: the Tour de Beauce, bringing it in line with most other stage races around the world.

Organisers of the newly-monikered Tour de Beauce are planning various activities to celebrate the race's twentieth anniversary, including an exhibition at the Caisse Populaire de Saint-Georges, a gala dinner on June 18 and a youth race on June 19.

NZ's Hagen signs for Iron Horse/Mad Catz

Reigning junior mountain bike downhill world champion, Scarlett Hagen of New Zealand, has announced that she will ride this year for the US-based Iron Horse/Mad Catz team.

"It's totally awesome to have the backing of an international team, especially Team Iron Horse/ Mad Catz." Hagen said "They're a smart but funky team with innovative bike technology and a top notch racing programme. A dream come true for me."

The team includes other talented young riders including Australian downhill champion Sam Hill, twice junior world champion and bronze medalist at the senior level in 2004. "I know riding with Sam will elevate my level of skill," said Hagen. "He's a very cool guy and a hugely talented rider."

Hagen acknowledged that it was unusual for a major mountain bike team to sign such a junior female rider. "I feel very privileged to have had a choice," she said.

Hagen will leave New Zealand in April to spend five months with the team racing in Europe, Canada, South America and the US. She will compete in US open and NORBA races, the World Cup and the world championships in Italy.

33 countries qualified for track world's

After the winter-long track World Cup series, 33 nations have qualified for the world championships at the ADT Event Center in suburban Los Angeles, California, March 24-27.

The Netherlands and Russia topped the World Cup rankings and are expected to send strong squads to Los Angeles, as is perennial track powerhouse Australia, whose nine track cycling medals at the 2004 Olympic Games led all nations.

Germany, Great Britain and Spain, each with four Olympic medals to their credit last August, are also expected to be among the primary contenders. The remaining countries that earned medals at Athens - Canada, New Zealand, France, China, Japan, Mexico, Switzerland, Belarus and the United States - have also qualified.

"This is shaping up to be the most athletically gifted field assembled in the U.S. for a track cycling event in the last 20 years," said USA Cycling chief executive officer Gerard Bisceglia. "Whether you're a cycling fanatic or a just a sports fan in general, it really is a must-see event not only because of the sheer talent that will be participating but also because of the frequency at which such a spectacle takes place in the United States."

The complete list of qualified countries includes: Argentina, Australia, Barbados, Belgium, Belarus, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Malaysia, Moldavia, Mexico, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Paraguay, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, Slovakia, Ukraine, United States.

Independent Fabrication / Kempner Women's Cycling Team

The Independent Fabrication / Kempner Women's Cycling Team has announced its roster of riders and sponsors for the 2005 season.

The women on this elite amateur team have amassed impressive results over the past few years. Brenda Bahnson is the 2003 Massachusetts State Time Trial champion; Lisa Maxwell garnered top-20 results in NRC crits in 2004; Heather Peck finished 15th in the 2000 Olympic Trials road race; Michele Smith was the 2000 Division 2 collegiate national champion in the criterium; Marianne Stover was the 2003 women's 30-34 master's national cyclocross champion; and Pauline Frascone emerged in 2004 as a top podium contender in the hotly contested New England women's regional racing scene. In addition, these riders won the team competition in the inaugural Serotta New England Elite Women's Series in 2004.

Full roster & announcement

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