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Latest Cycling News for September 12, 2005

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

Hiccups at Tour of Poland start

By Hedwig Kröner and Susan Westemeyer

In 1992 the Tour of Poland (originally called Wyscig Dookola Polski) was a moderate-sized race of just regional importance organized for amateurs. Thirteen years later it's a fully professional event with the twenty best trade teams in the world obliged to start, as it made the great jump to the highest level this season when it become part of the UCI Pro Tour.

With at least 50 points at stake and a 48 point difference between current standings leader Danilo Di Luca and Alexandre Vinokourov, the Tour of Poland might therefore be a very important race for the final classification of this competition.

On Monday morning however, just before the start of the event, the race already had a lot of problems. Kazahstanis Alexander Vinokourov (T-Mobile), Andrey Kashechkin, Dimitriy Muravyev and Dimitriy Fofonov (Crédit Agricole), all of whom live in France, did not get their visas in time from the Polish embassy, and therefore will not be able to ride the Tour. French team Crédit Agricole will field only five out of eight riders, while T-Mobile has replaced Vinokourov with Tomas Konecny. The awaited showdown between Vinokourov and Di Luca will thus not take place, T-Mobile's press officer Luuc Eisenga confirmed with Cyclingnews.

The visa application was correctly filed, directeur sportif Olaf Ludwig said. "We don't know what happened," said Ludwig, who tried until the last minute to get matters cleared up, but was unsuccessful. "Alexander is naturally hard to replace. He was to be our man for the GC. Now we will focus on stage wins," he summed up the last minute changes.

In addition, it looks like the new ProTour race may start with only 20 instead of 22 announced teams, as the Spanish Illes Balears and Euskaltel will probably not make it to the start today. Apparently, their flights on Sunday were cancelled due to bad weather. The first flight they could take on Monday allegedly arrived in Danzig at 12:30, which wouldn't give them enough time to make the scheduled 12:56 start, and a delayed start was reportedly not possible. However, the Euskaltel team buses were already at the team hotel, but no riders.

The 2005 Tour of Poland will depart in Gdansk on the Baltic Sea and finish on Sunday, September 18 in Karpacz, a ski-resort in the Karkonosze mountains, which has been the final destination of the race since 1999. The race course keeps with the Tour of Poland's "modern tradition", with a direction from North to South. It will be 1246.5 km long - 18km less than in 2004 - and divided into eight stages scheduled for seven days.

Diary Watch: The Vuelta

The weather was the biggest problem yesterday for much of the peloton. "If it wasn't difficult enough as it was, the rain had come to complicate things even more," noted T-Mobile's Daniele Nardello on danielenardello.it. His teammate Bernhard Kohl was worried that his group would not make it in within the time limit, but figured "they wouldn't disqualify a group of fifty riders. And we were able to make it in OK." On bernhardkol.at, he also noted that "the whole team is proud to be the only team that still has all nine riders in the race. You have to have some luck to accomplish that, we only need to think about Klier's and Aldag's crashes."

The bad weather was the least of the problems for Gerolsteiner's Thomas Ziegler, who called it "a hellish day" on German radsportnews.com. It all began the night before, when he developed stomach problems. "I had to throw up, felt bad all night. This morning still a funny feeling in my stomach, I was tired and weak. I could have fallen asleep at the start. Nausea all day. I think, this is the result of the strain the last few days... Maybe I ate something bad or it's a combination of both. After two weeks of hard racing, the body is susceptible to anything."

Courtesy of Susan Westemeyer

Pereiro to Illes Balears

According to Spanish website todociclismo.com, Phonak's Oscar Pereiro is about to sign a two-year contract with Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne. The Spaniard's current team gave its riders the freedom to leave if they wanted to, as Phonak hearing Systems will only be sponsoring the squad until at the end of 2006. Pereiro, according to his agent José Luis Pascua, had offers from T-Mobile and Quick.Step but finally opted for the Spanish Balearic Islands team, where he will be racing alongside Alejandro Valverde, as current Vuelta captain Francisco Mancebo will be riding for French Ag2r next season.

Bak's Avenir win promises great future

Team CSC's Lars Bak was over the moon with his overall win in the French Tour de l'Avenir. "I'm really happy!' he said after the last stage on Saturday, September 10. "It's a fantastic feeling to be the winner of such an important race. First of all I would like to thank the team. The entire race they have fought for this victory, it's been tough but they've really supported me all the way. I feel I've come a long way in my own development, and I've learnt a great deal from having to defend the leader's jersey for most of this race!"

Directeur sportif Scott Sunderland was very impressed with the young Dane's performance. "Lars has got himself noticed big time internationally by winning Tour de l'Avenir," Sunderland said. "He has done brilliantly and shown great skills on the climbs. This of course is very promising for the future. Check the list of previous winners; you'll see some of the greatest names in cycling on the palmarès, and taking the overall victory in this race really counts for something.

"As a team we've had an awesome experience here in France and everyone deserves huge credit for their efforts: the three first year pro's Andy Schleck, Matti Breschel and Christian Müller, also our stagiaire Kasper Klostergaard and of course Brian Vandborg. Even with Christian out after the time-trial due to a stomach bug we were able to still carry the race. The team had to be good on all terrain over the ten days. The guys really got to test their limits here; the mental game and play of tactics were great for them to experience. There's very few races of this level young riders can compete in and this is beneficial to all of them. The personnel and myself really enjoyed doing this race with the team's youngsters," Sunderland added.

Solo victory for Scholz

At the Rund um die Nürnberger Altstadt 1.1 men's race, last Sunday in Germany, which was held before the Women's World Cup final, T-Mobile's Ronny Scholz soloed to victory in a very impressive finish. Leading on his own or in a breakaway since kilometre 60, the Gerolsteiner rider was constantly up front of the race. With 26 kilometres to go, he jumped away from his breakaway companions and came into the finish 25 seconds before the chasing Rafaele Ferrara (Androni Giocattoli) and Jan Valach (eD'system - ZVVZ).

"That was a extraordinary performance," said his team director Hans-Michael Holczer after the race. "Even for me sitting in the car, it was very impressive." Scholz had planned this event to be his last race for this season, but "with this kind of form, he should think about it once more," Holczer added.

T-Mobile's Jan Ullrich and CSC's Ivan Basso, two the great contenders for next year's Tour de France, didn't mingle with the top ten of the race. Both came in with the peloton nearly one minute after the winner, and finished 45th and 59th respectively. "You start to feel that the power missing," said Ullrich. "The season has been long, and the legs start to get heavy."

Gunnewijk joins Buitenpoort-Flexpoint

Dutchwoman Loes Gunnewijk will leave her current team Vrienden van het Platteland and join the Buitenpoort-Flexpoint squad to become a team-mate of Susanne Ljungskog and Mirjam Melchers. Gunnewijk, an all-rounder with good time trial capabilities, won the Dutch Top Competition as well as a stage in the Tour de l'Aude this year.

Buitenpoort-Flexpoint team manager Jean-Paul Van Poppel is very satisfied to have signed the rider. "Loes fits into the squad," Van Poppel said. "We have several riders with time trial qualities, that want to excel in that discipline. She is like that too; we saw it in the Expert Ladies Tour."

Gunnewijk is happy to have found a team with expanded racing possibilities. "The team's focus also includes more foreign countries," Gunnewijk explained. "What's more, I needed a new breath of air as I've been with Vrienden van het Platteland for four years now."

Tour of the South this week

The Tour of the South takes to British roads starting from Wimborne in Dorset on Thursday, September 15, taking 13 teams through four separate British Cycling Division territories and across more counties.

Initially the dream of Central Division’s Trevor Smith, the ambitious four-day race came about following the Competition Review undertaken by British Cycling. The 310-mile race has been designed to be a stepping stone for domestic riders to gain valuable stage race experience between local and national competition. The race is exclusively for riders from the home nations and open to five-man teams only.

Garry Dodd (South East Division) and Danny Axford (Artic/Shorter) will be amongst the favourites for stage and overall victories based on their previous stage race exploits with Dodd finishing fifth in the recent Surrey 5-Day. Roy Chamberlain (Central Division) has shown form in the Premier Calendar events racing with the Team Milton Keynes squad this year and will be one to watch. Chamberlain’s team mate Simon Gaywood will be difficult to pass if it comes down to a bunch gallop on any stages.

With the Melbourne Commonwealth Games on the horizon in March next year and teams still to be decided Anthony Malarczyk may be anxious to prove his fitness and race know-how as part of the Fugibikes UK team entry.

Former professional Ben Luckwell could a good outside bet riding as part of the South Division team. Luckwell returned to competition around two years ago and has been enjoying racing at local level gaining his Elite licence and you can’t ignore his pedigree.

The Surrey League field a composite team with climber Matt Melville likely to contest the King of the Mountains (KOM) prize and Brett Perez comes to the event with plenty of good results under his belt already this year. A generous prize fund of £3,500 and prizes for the overall classification down to 20th place could see competitive racing everyday.

The race schedules as follows:

South Division’s stage one - September 15: Wimborne to Shaftesbury in Dorset, 81 miles. A tough hilly circuit around Cranborne Chase.

Central Division’s stage two - September 16: Based in Long Crendon in Buckinghamshire, 72 miles. A relatively flat circuit with a sting in the tail on the short steep ascent back into Long Crendon, where KOM points will be awarded on two of the five laps

Eastern Division’s stage three - September 17: Soham, Cambridgeshire to Hadleigh, Suffolk. A multiple circuit stage that doubles the normal distance of 41 to 83-miles with pretty English countryside to enjoy peppered with KOM and sprint primes along the way.

South East Division’s stage four - September 18: Maidstone, Kent to Crawley, East Sussex. An ambitious 74-mile stage starting in Maidstone Town Centre taking in areas previously used in the recent Surrey League 5-Day. Notably riders will climb for around two miles up Marsden Hill to Crowborough after 40-miles and then proceed to ‘The Wall’ just after Coleman’s Hatch after 52-miles. This looks like the toughest stage and could provide the platform for victory in the overall and KOM classifications.

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