First Edition Cycling News for April 1, 2006
Edited by Hedwig Kröner
World Cup leader Teutenberg vs. the Bergs of Flanders
By Jeff Jones
The third edition of the women's Ronde van Vlaanderen takes place on the same day as the men's, on Sunday, April 2. The women will race over 111 km between Oudenaarde and Ninove-Meerbeke, taking in 12 climbs and three of the difficult flat cobbled sections that the men face: Paddestraat, Mater-Kerkgate and Haaghoek. The course is the same as last year, with the women racing the final 65 km of the men's course.
Hopefully it will be a better finish than last year, when a major part of the peloton was sent the wrong way in the final kilometres as they were vying for third place. That didn't take away from the victory of Mirjam Melchers, who attacked before Geraardsbergen with 25 km to go, and was joined by her Buitenpoort-Flexpoint teammate Susanne Ljungskog on the Muur. The pair were able to hold off the bunch until the finish, with Melchers claiming victory.
All things going to plan, it promises to be a great race this year, with the world's top women aiming for a good showing in the first World Cup race on European soil. Ina Teutenberg (T-Mobile) currently leads the World Cup with 110 points, compared with Sara Ulmer's 75 points and Miho Oki's 65. The series is 12 rounds long - this being round 3 - and it's still early days to pick a likely winner, but Teutenberg clearly has her sights on it.
Nobili Rubinetterie to Vlaanderen
Women's team Nobili Rubinetterie Menikini Cogeas will start its Northern racing programme with the Ronde van Vlaanderen next Sunday and has announced its roster: Australian Olivia Gollan, who makes her European debut after the Commonwealth Games, Marta Vilajosana, Sigrid Corneo, Eveyln Garcia, Miho Oki and Edita Pucinskaite. Team director Walter Zini is hoping that his girls won't deceive him in the 'Classic of the Walls', as it is one of the squad's greatest objectives this season.
"The team is growing stronger, and the Tour of Flanders is too important a race to not be going with the team's leaders," Zini said. "We head to Belgium feeling confident of being able to make a good appearance. Oki, Pucinskaite and Gollan have already shown in the last Italian competitions that they are in good shape; they will be able to follow the best riders. It's true, we're still chasing that first victory..."
After the World Cup event, Nobili Rubinetterie will remain in Belgium to participate in two Belgian calendar races, the Grand Prix Dottignies and Nandrin. With the exception of Edita Pucinskaite, the Flanders roster remains the same for these two events, furthermore joined by Silvia Valsecchi, Emanuela Azzini and Oxana Kostenko.
Koppenberg already "unclimbable"
After several days of rain showers in Belgium, the famous Koppenberg, one of the 17 'walls' to ascend in Sunday's Ronde van Vlaanderen, has been reported to be unclimbable already. With local weather forecasts not seeing an end of the cool and damp conditions in Flanders at the moment, more rain showers are announced for the whole week-end, and temperatures will not rise above 13° on race day.
Reconnoitring the route on Friday, Quick.Step's Filippo Pozzatto and Paolo Bettini, as well as FdJ's Philippe Gilbert got off their bikes when they arrived at the foot of the Koppenberg, which has a maximum gradient of 25 percent. The road being muddy, some cobbles loose, the pros complained about slipping rear wheels before stepping off their engines and being attended to by their service cars. But Belgian Sportwereld did report hard-headed tourists cycling up the Berg on Wednesday, calling Gilbert & Co. "cowards" for not doing it.
So in what state exactly is the Koppenberg? Cyclingnews' Chief Online Editor Jeff Jones might be able to tell on Saturday, April 1, as he intends to participate in a a pre-Flanders ride on the course - that is, if the predicted rain and winds don't put an end to his plan.
MTB World Cup round 1: Curacao
After racing in hot conditions at the recent Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Australia, Great Britain's Liam Killeen and Canada's Marie-Helene Premont will go into the first round of the Mountain Bike World Cup as likely favourites, given the tropical conditions on the Caribbean island of Curacao, which is hosting its first ever round of the MTB World Cup series.
It's also the first serious hit-out of the season for many of the Europe-based riders who are having to hurriedly adjust from the northern hemisphere winter to 32 degree Celsius temperatures and extremely high humidity. Indeed, it's probably better weather for cocktails, swimming and salsa dancing than racing MTBs.
In Melbourne, both Killeen and Premont were in excellent form, and seemingly enjoyed the hot weather and technical course. Curacao offers much of the same, except for much higher humidity and of course, a couple of reigning world champions in the field.
See: Full preview
Klöden still believes in Tour-participation
T-Mobile's Andreas Klöden, who finished second-placed behind Lance Armstrong at the Tour de France two years ago, still believes he will be able to participate in the 2006 edition of the Grand Tour. In a heavy crash last week during a training ride, Klöden suffered acromioclavicular joint rupture, which needed an operation.
"The difficulties of last season clearly showed me that it is possible to get a good form back over a limited amount of time," said the German, who has now returned to his home in Switzerland. While the T-Mobile rider will begin physiotherapy in ten days, it is not yet known when he will be able to resume training on the road.
Pieri leaves Team LPR
Swiss Continental Pro Team LPR has announced on Friday, March 31, that Dario Pieri has officially resigned his contract with the squad. Speaking of a "decision that was taken in full responsibility", the rider "retained not being able to fullfill the expectations laid on him by the team, which had given him the greatest possible trust since the beginning of the season."
Pieri will therefore not line-up at the next edition of Paris-Roubaix. "For the team, it is an important loss," continued the statement of the team, which had just also announced its wildcard invitation to the Tour de Romandie and the Tour de Suisse. "The team will nevertheless take the best possible rider roster to the French Classic to honour the prestigious sporting event."
It is not yet known if Pieri's move also means the end of his career as a professional bike racer. The Italian is 30 years old; his most important victory was the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen in 2002.
T-Mobile roster for Pais Vasco
German T-Mobile Team is sending a roster of climbing specialists to the 46th Vuelta a Pais Vasco, which takes place from April 3-8 and kicks off its total of 829 kilometres in Irun on Monday. While the squad will start the Spanish ProTour race without a designated captain, directeur sportif Frans van Looy will be looking to Matthias Kessler, Patrik Sinkewitz and Kim Kirchen for results. "We will be concentrating our efforts on the individual stages," the Belgian said. "We don't count among the favourites for the overall."
The eight-man roster also includes the two Italians Giuseppe Guerini and Eddy Mazzoleni, as well as the Spaniard Oscar Sevilla - three strong climbers which will be needed on the mountainous parcours. Rounding out the team are Thomas Ziegler and Bernhard Kohl, a pure climber who has been in consistently good shape in recent weeks. Kohl spent a few days in the climbers jersey in the Tour of California and is now keen to "show what I can do" in the Basque country. "My strengths are in the high mountains," Kohl said, looking forward to the rather hilly event.
The organisers of the season's fifth ProTour race have included 33 categorised climbs in its six-days parcours. The race gets straight down to business on the first day already, with a tough 130 km stage starting and finishing in Irun on the Atlantic coast. The riders can look forward to two first category climbs over the final 45 km.
"The profile is really hardcore," said van Looy, looking at the race map. Even the final time trial will test the riders' climbing skills, with climbs of up to 250 vertical metres on the 24 km route. For van Looy, one thing is certain: "Whoever stands on the top step of the podium at the end will have worked hard to get there."
The 2006 Vuelta a Pais Vasco stages are:
Stage 1 - Monday, April 3: Irun - Irun, 130 km
Stage 2 - Tuesday, April 4: Irun - Segura, 155 km
Stage 3 - Wednesday, April 5: Segura - Lerin, 170 km
Stage 4 - Thursday, April 6: Lerin - Vitoria, 172 km
Stage 5 - Friday April 7: Vitoria - Zalla, 178 km
Stage 6 - Saturday, April 8: Zalla - Zalla, 24 km (ITT)
Training camp for Liquigas
Under the guidance of team manager Mario Scirea, eight Liquigas-Bianchi riders will enjoy a training camp in Alpine thermal station Salsomaggiore Terme from April 3-8. Italian champion Enrico Gasparotto, together with his teammates Vincenzo Nibali - who is back from the Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali, where he claimed stage two - Dario Andriotto, Kjell Carlström, Eros Capecchi, Francesco Failli, Roman Kreuziger and Matej Mugerli will fine-tune their respective forms in view of the next Northern Classics.
"Following the cancellation of the Setmana Catalana de Ciclismo that would have taken place in the second part of March, we decided to schedule in this training camp for those riders who aren’t taking part in the campaigns of Belgium and Paìs Vasco," said Scirea. "Moreover, this camp will allow us to check the form of these athletes for the upcoming second part of the Northern race program."
French protests delay bike race
French students, apprentices and unions have been protesting for over two weeks now against the "CPE", a proposed law which will loosen the younger employee's protection against dismissal in labour law. A national day of protest had been staged last Tuesday, April 28, and is to be repeated on Tuesday next week. In the meantime, the French protesters take every opportunity to get media attention, including stopping bike races. At the Route d'Adélie on Friday, the crowds delayed the start by half an hour, and are expected to turn up as well at the GP de Rennes on Sunday.
Fantasy Grand Prize - Win a Specialized Roubaix Pro!
With the field of the Ronde only hours away from rolling out, get into the spirit of the Classics by selecting your own dream team in the 2006 Cyclingnews Spring Classics Fantasy Game.
Appropriately, the winner of this year's Spring Classics Fantasy Game game will win a Specialized Roubaix Pro Bike, equipped with Shimano Dura-Ace 10-speed groupset and an FSA all-carbon compact crankset, worth US$4400. Plus, the top player also wins a team-issue Specialized Decibel helmet and a pair of Specialized optics for a total prize value of US$4710 (that's probably the same money as 20th place in the actual race - and you don't have to grovel up the bergs.)
The Roubaix has become one of Specialized's most popular road bikes, with its combination of light weight and supple ride. It's based on the 'FACT 7r' carbon frame with compact race geometry and Zertz vibration damping seatstay inserts, matched to a carbon fork (also with Zertz inserts). It has an S-Works FACT carbon stem with magnesium face plate, and carbon aero handlebar with Shimano Dura-Ace 20-speed group.
The Roubaix Pro also features the FSA K-Force MegaExo two-piece carbon crankset with compact 50x36T chainrings, plus a Dura-Ace wheelset and Specialized 'Body Geometry' Avatar saddle with titanium rails.
And the most important part - more prizes!
In addition to the Roubaix Pro bike-Decibel helmet-plus-optics from Specialized, there is an array of some of the finest cycling products on offer to players in the 2006 Spring Classics Fantasy Game.
From HED comes a pair of beautiful Bastogne wheels worth over US$600, as well as helmets from Giro, saddles from fi'zi:k, pedals from Speedplay, tyres from Maxxis, Pro Cool mesh sleeveless base-layers from Craft, and for each race, there is a pair of Smith Reactor Max-Team CSC Edition glasses for scoring the highest in each of the seven Spring Classics.
You can win prizes for each of the individual races and for competing in all seven races. Remember you don't need to enter all seven races to win prizes. Have a look at the tactics and prizes of last year's winners.
'Via Milano' takes first win
The first prize winner of the Spring Classics is manager "VeloEspresso" with his team "Via Milano". He wins the pair of Smith Reactor Max-Team CSC Edition glasses for scoring the highest in the first race of the seven Spring Classics. These are the limited edition Team CSC racing glass worn by the guys on the team. Manager "VeloEspresso" was narrowly beaten by our own manager, Jeff 'Doctor Maboose' Jones, with team "Cyclingnews", but obviously we don't allow our own guys to win. Manager VeloEspresso "promises to give Jeff a run for his money in the Tour of Flanders"!
Once again you will have 4000 points per team to select your eight riders with. This year, in the light of the new UCI ProTour points system, we have had to make some changes. We have taken the final 2005 rider rankings from the UCI ProTour and have multiplied them by ten. Riders that did not score UCI ProTour points have been awarded nominal points (lower than those of the scoring UCI ProTour riders). We appreciate this might not best reflect some of the skills of the non scoring UCI ProTour riders in the coming races but we hope that this will set us up better for the future as the scoring system becomes more accepted. We have also limited the number of teams people can enter in this year's Spring Classics game to five per manager. We've done this to ensure the competition is open to all, spreading the prizes to an even wider range of players.
How to play
Yes, you too can be a professional team manager. Based on the live racing action, you will take up the challenge using your knowledge and tactical skill as a race team manager to compete with fantasy managers from around the world. All you need to do to take part in the latest of the Fantasy Games at Cyclingnews is register and, once the provisional race list has been announced, select 8 riders for each of the following races:
Milan - San Remo: March 18
Ronde van Vlaanderen: April 2
Gent-Wevelgem: April 5
Paris - Roubaix: April 6
Amstel Gold Race: April 16
La Flèche Wallonne: April 19
Liège - Bastogne - Liège: April 23
Follow the races live and use your skill and knowledge to win prizes. For more details on how to play go to the rules section for more info. To register your teams for the game go to http://fantasy.cyclingnews.com/
It's a great way to follow the Spring Classics.
The Fantasy Cyclingnews Team
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2006)