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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for April 4, 2006

Edited by Jeff Jones

68th Gent-Wevelgem: Flecha back for revenge in 2006

By Les Clarke

Mattan leads Flecha in 2005
Photo ©: Sirotti
Click for larger image

After being narrowly beaten by Davitamon-Lotto's Nico Mattan in last year's edition of Gent-Wevelgem, Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank) will be out for revenge this year in edition 68. The finale of last year's race was marred by controversy, and after joining Rabobank in the off-season it appears as though the Spaniard has most factors in his favour - except for one thing - the all-conquering Quick.Step team.

Following Filippo Pozzato's win in Milan-San Remo [where Boonen helped the Italian to the win] and Boonen's triumph last Sunday [where Pozzato helped the Belgian to the win] the pair have formed quite the combination; so much so that Boonen elaborated on the fact he'd be willing to "give a present back to" Pozzato in the form of a victory in the midweek classic. The sign of a man supremely confident in his own ability, surely.

The Belgian superstar may well be discounting other contenders for the win, including CSC's Fabian Cancellara, T-Mobile's Andreas Klier and Liquigas' Luca Paolini. Klier has stated that he's in good form, and will want to make amends after a serious crash during last year's race. Paolini is keen to make up for misfortune in the Tour of Flanders last Sunday, where a puncture struck as Boonen attacked. The Quick.Step juggernaut will have to overcome the competition and the parcours, and although it isn't as openly challenging as the course for de Ronde, it offers plenty of hardship for riders already weary from a tough race just days earlier.

Live coverage

Cyclingnews will be covering the 68th Gent-Wevelgem live from 14:30 CEST/08:30 EDT (USA east)/05:30 PDT (USA west)/22:30 AEST (Australia east).

Click here for the full preview, map, start list, and past winners.

Klier to lead T-Mobile at Gent-Wevelgem

With the Ronde van Vlaanderen now behind them, T-Mobile will line up for Wednesday's 68th Gent-Wevelgem with a slightly depleted roster. Sports director Valerio Piva will take only seven riders to the start in Deinze, as Steffen Wesemann, who already scratched the Tour of Flanders as a result of breathing difficulties, is still not 100 percent fit and with one eye on Paris-Roubaix, the veteran will be rested on Wednesday. Bram Schmitz, after a top performance in Sunday's Ronde, is now suffering from back trouble and is a doubtful starter in Gent. A decision will be made on the Dutchman's well-being later this evening.

With two rosters already in action at the Basque Country (ProTour) and Sarthe, Piva has nowhere to turn for reinforcements: "With our injury list and the races in the Basque Country and Sarthe, we're down to the bare bones, so I can't call up any riders," said the Italian.

Despite the team's personnel problems, Andreas Klier upbeat about his chances in the 210 km race. The German won Gent-Wevelgem in 2003, and after a solid ninth place at the Tour of Flanders, he is eager to get back to the podium. Klier's relationship with the Tour of Flanders' little sister has been bittersweet, however. Last year, in contrast to his 2003 heroics, he suffered concussion and a knee injury after colliding with a race motorbike in the feeding zone.

Lining up alongside Klier on the cobblestones of West Flanders are Lorenzo Bernucci, Marcus Burghardt, André Greipel, Sergey Ivanov and Stephan Schreck. "In our situation the team spirit will be more important than ever. The team already showed on Sunday that they are capable of working very well together," said Piva.

The full roster: Lorenzo Bernucci (Ita), Marcus Burghardt (Ger), André Greipel (Ger), Sergey Ivanov (Rus), Andreas Klier (Ger), Bram Schmitz (Ned), Stephan Schreck (Ger). Sports director: Valerio Piva (Ita).

Landbouwkrediet-Colango for Gent-Wevelgem and Pino Cerami

Gent-Wevelgem (April 5): Jurgen Van Loocke, Sjef De Wilde, Andy Cappelle, Kevin Neirynck, Mathieu Criquielion, Jean Claude Lebeau, Johan Verstrepen, Grégory Habeaux. Claude Vancoillie.

GP Pino Cerami (April 6): Nico Sijmens, Steven Kleynen, Grégory Habeaux, Jean Claude Lebeau, Jean Paul Simon, Mathieu Criquielion, Bert De Waele, David Verheyen, Sven Renders.

An interview with Oscar Freire Gomez

Spain's man for the spring

The cheeky grin of Oscarito...
Photo ©: Bert Geerts
(Click for larger image)

Rabobank's Spanish sprinting sensation Oscar Freire Rabobank is a three-time road world champion, and looked to set to take world's title number four on home turf last year before injury halted his season very early. Having mostly recovered from those injuries and hoping to have a good spring, Freire could be a handful for his rivals during April. Cyclingnews Hernan Alvarez spoke with Freire to get the full story following his 'comeback' victory in Brabantse Pijl late last month.

Freire won last year's edition of Brabantse Pijl as part of an early season that included a stage wins at Challenge Illes Balears and the overall at Tirreno-Adriatico; all looked good for a strong season, culminating in a fourth world title in Madrid in late September. But injury struck him hard and he spent the remainder of 2005 recovering from complications around the sensitive saddle region, and as he well knows, recuperation from that type of injury can't be rushed.

Freire isn't a stranger to injury - throughout the immensely talented sprinter's career he's had to deal with back problems and the like, setbacks that haven't stopped him being one of the most accomplished fast men in the pro peloton; despite his diminutive build he's a feared sprinter that's easily capable of leaving riders such as Petacchi and McEwen in his wake. He's hopeful that can once again be the case in 2006, and making it back-to-back wins in Brabantse Pijl is a good way to start that comeback.

Cyclingnews: How was your preseason?

Oscar Freire: It was tough because I still had some discomfort and it was a big effort for me to start training, but I think that now I've reached a good level. But it hasn't been easy.

CN: How was Brabantse Pijl?

OF: It was good - when you win it's clearly good news for any rider. I think that because I had spent so much time out with injuries it's especially good and now I've start finding the same strong condition I had in former years. I think little by little I'm starting to get to an acceptable level of competitiveness.

Click here for the full interview

Basque dairy watch: Getting off to a bad start?

The day didn't start out right on Monday for the German teams in the Tour of the Basque Country. T-Mobile got an early wake-up call, as Bernhard Kohl explains at "The first stage didn't begin until the early afternoon, so we were all looking forward to sleeping late and recovering from the long journey here. But no: At exactly 7 a.m. we were torn out of bed and the whole team had to report to the doping controls."

Gerolsteiner's start was later but more hectic, writes Ronny Scholz ( "We wanted to ride our bikes to the start, but got totally lost...instead of being on the normal road we ended up on the highway! Some of us climbed quickly into the team cars, another group including me rode on to the next exit." Obviously, though, the team was able to read the race map better than they had read the road map, as captain Davide Rebellin finished third in the first stage.

Courtesy of Susan Westemeyer

T-Mobile injury update

The bad news just keeps piling on for T-Mobile. The knee problems that kept Olaf Pollack out of this week's Belgian races have turned out to be worse than expected. An examination at the University Clinic in Freiburg, Germany, showed that the 32-year-old has not only an infection in the right knee but also a hairline fracture in the meniscus. Team doctor Andreas Schmidt recommended that Pollack reduce the intensity of his training. "I'm doing pretty well. I'm glad that we've found the cause of the problem, and that I can keep on training," Pollack said. His next planned start is Rund um Köln on April 17.

Another, more famous, T-Mobile right knee should get a little more intensive training this week. Team Manager Olaf Ludwig said that Jan Ullrich should start increasing his workouts again. It should be decided around April 20 as to whether Ullrich will start in the Tour de Romandie, as currently planned. His teammate and good friend Andreas Klöden, recovering from shoulder surgery, will not start racing again until sometime in June, with the Luxemburg Tour, the Dauphine Libéré, and the Tour de Suisse all being possibilities.

Ludwig is still optimistic about his stars' chances. "The project Tour de France is not in danger," he said. "Both can still reach their optimal Tour form, we just have to change the path they will take."

Courtesy of Susan Westemeyer

Preliminary rosters for 2006 Tour de Georgia

By Mark Zalewski

With the fifteen teams announced for the 2006 race, speculation quickly turned to which riders the teams would present on April 17 in Augusta, particularly the ProTour teams. Monday the preliminary 8-man line-ups were revealed with the current number one ProTour rider, Floyd Landis leading the way for his Phonak squad. Joining the Tour of California and Paris-Nice champion is the winner of last year's first stage, South African sprinter Robbie Hunter.

2005 champion Tom Danielson (Discovery Channel) will have veteran Viatcheslav Ekimov, 2005 best young rider Trent Lowe and 2004 stage winner Jason McCartney assisting his defence. Sixteen time Tour de France stage winner Robbie McEwen leads a fast Davitamon-Lotto squad consisting of American Freddie Rodriguez and former Tour de Georgia stage winner Henk Vogels. CSC brings most of the usual State-side squad led by American David Zabriskie, but without Bobby Julich.

Quickstep-Innergetic does not have a certain rainbow jersey wearer on the roster, but a very deep team nonetheless. American fans will finally get a glimpse of the man that has routinely represented the USA in races like the World Championships, Guido Trenti. Saunier Duval-Prodir rounds out the ProTour teams with two North American products in Charles Dionne and Aaron Olsen.

LPR signs Mitlushenko

30 year-old Ukrainian Yuriy Mitlushenko has changed teams from Miche to LPR, his new team announced. The sprinter fills the place left by the recently retired Dario Pieri, and will act as a guide for the younger sprinters in the squad.

"Our sprinters, Marzoli and Gavazzi, are young and talented, but perhaps still a little raw for certain situations," said tam manager Omar Piscina. "Mitlushenko is instead an experienced athlete, in a position to fight shoulder to shoulder with the better specialists...I think he will debut already next Sunday in Paris-Roubaix."

Mitlushenko won the GP Costa degli Etruschi in both 2002 and 2004, and described himself as being "very happy to join Team LPR, where it is certain I will find the stimuli that I lacked a little in Miche. In the team, I know Khalilov, our national champion, as well as Muraglia, who I raced with in the amateurs, not to mention Konyshev, a real legend of cycling.

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