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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest Cycling News for April 5, 2006

Edited by Hedwig Kröner, assisted by Susan Westemeyer and Sabine Sunderland

Mattan puts things straight

Nico Mattan (Davitamon-Lotto) leading the group last year
Photo ©: Sirotti
Click for larger image

The controversial winner of last year's edition of Gent-Wevelgem wasn't on the start list for the Ronde van Vlaanderen last Sunday. Davitamon-Lotto's team management had left the eccentric Mattan at home - according to HNB, because they didn't appreciate Mattan going to a party after the E3 Prijs last week.

"I didn't see one reason not to be selected," Mattan countered in Sportwereld. "On the flat I could have helped Van Petegem. I have the experience.

"The team management knew that I needed the kilometres of Milan-San Remo for the Flemish races," he continued. "In the media I heard I wasn't selected. Then I had to read in an e-mail that I was expected to ride GP Rudy Dhaenens in Nevele. I was having some problems with my knee. There has to be more communication in this team, but we're on the right track.

"Last Sunday I rode to Ichtegem, the village of the Ronde, on the bike. And after that I got lost somewhere deep in the West Flanders. I felt like crap," a rather annoyed Mattan told the Belgian press. "But let's keep things positive: I have congratulated Herman Frison, Allan Peiper and Hendrik Redant on Thursday afternoon for finally saying to my face that I don't fit in. It was the first time in the last year and a half."

Mattan doesn't consider himself the team leader at Gent-Wevelgem this year, although this apparently has nothing to do with his disagreements with the team management. "I wasn't [the team leader] last year either," he said. "I'm not someone who can finish things off. Everything starts and ends with the legs. If I feel good than I'll aim for top three, but it's not because you're racing on your training parcours that you are in for the win. I'm fifteen percent below the level I was at last year."

Still, the Davitamon-Lotto rider believes that it's necessary to attack the World champion Tom Boonen to at least try and go for victory. "Personally I think that everyone is accepting Boonen's supremacy too easily," Mattan added. "A good Mattan wages war on flat roads, and they should all do that. Attack like crazy, stir things up, even if it doesn't guarantee a win."

Petacchi ends classics programme

Alesandro Petacchi is looking forward to today's Gent-Wevelgem, his last one in the spring classics campaign. Meanwhile, the Italian supersprinter expected more of his Ronde Van Vlaanderen debut.

"That casino on the Koppenberg and the stampede towards the foot of that climb! Fear? Of course I was afraid!," Petacchi told HNB. "Even in the sprint I feel that fear, but I can push that aside when the peloton races towards the finish. In the Ronde, I was thinking of all the races that are still to come though: the Giro, the Tour. No, you don't take any crazy risks in a race in which you aren't one of the top favourites. That's why I'm not riding Paris-Roubaix. There's too much risk to ruin the important part of my season. And, we do have Zabel! But I'm going to keep racing for at least another three seasons, so I've got plenty of time to ride that famous Hell of the North."

Petacchi affirmed that he will be back for next year's RVV, to achieve that top ten placing he had hoped for last Sunday. But first things first: Did he think that he had a more achievable goal in Gent-Wevelgem?

"Luckily this is a less complicated race than Flanders," Petacchi replied. "It's not that hard, less technical. One needs to be aware of the wind, and be careful in the descent of the Kemmel, which is doable. If I'm not wrong, they aren't predicting any rain. I'm not saying it will be easy. On the contrary. To ride a stage in the Giro means only 30 km of stress - here, you have the whole race, but that's how it is in Belgium. With how many riders will we go into the finale after the Kemmel? Thirty, forty men? Never a guarantee for a sprint which I'm hoping for. There's always a possibility for a break to get away, like last year. Gent-Wevelgem is a race in which also the sprinters need to make the right moves. Yes, like Cipollini, the last time he won, that's a good example."

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).

Basso recons TdF time trial

Ivan Basso (CSC) gave it full gas already in the Criterium International ITT last week - in yellow...
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Before starting at the French Circuit de la Sarthe on Tuesday, where T-Mobile's Jan Ullrich would have made his racing debut this year hadn't it been for a hurting knee, Ivan Basso (CSC), second-placed at last year's Tour de France, reconnoitred the first time trial of the 2006 Grande Boucle on Monday, April 3. For the Italian Giro d'Italia and Tour de France favourite, everything unfolds as planned in this first part of the season, as his form developed according to schedule and he has already scored a victory (at Criterium International), which gives him a mental advantage over his rivals. Now, by pacing along the 52 km-route twice behind the team car with his teammate Giovanni Lombardi, another step towards his goal in July has been accomplished, as this day of reconnoitring had been planned since December last year.

"Nice, very nice," were Basso's words after having completed the parcours from Saint Grégoire to Rennes twice - the first time easy, and the second time with a little more edge. "I think it's the best time trial course in the last five years; it's very suitable for power."

The 28 year-old has been progressing in the discipline against the clock. "A couple of years ago, I would have said that this parcours is not good for Basso," said his directeur sportif Alain Gallopin. "But he is now part of the specialists, like Zabriskie, Landis and Ullrich." Gallopin thinks that the wind will be an important factor when the Tour de France peloton will roll out on the parcours in Saint Grégoire on July 8.

"This time trial will create the first gaps between the leaders," Gallopin continued. "The wind will play a great part if it blows, like today, from the west: the first kilometres will then be decisive. Afterwards, with the back wind, it'll be very fast until Rennes. The time trial' ending in the streets of Rennes is beautiful, and more importantly not twisty at all, which makes it safe, just like the whole parcours."

Basso will test his skills against the clock at the Circuit de la Sarthe on Wednesday, April 5, when the peloton will take on a 8.8 km-long prologue-like time trial in Angers in the afternoon. "We have high expectations for this time trial, especially on behalf of Ivan Basso," added Gallopin. "We have brought a good team to this race with quite a few of the riders who are also participating in the Giro, and they are working together really well so far."

Ullrich optimistic

"The infection is my right knee isn't so bad," said T-Mobile's Jan Ullrich on his personal website, explaining to his fans that there was no reason to worry. "I worked good over the winter, so that it's just my season start that's being delayed. The ground conditioning is there."

The 1997 Tour de France winner, who initially wanted to return to racing at the Circuit de la Sarthe this week, has started training again. "Since yesterday (Tuesday, April 4) I am riding on the road again," he continued. "I just don't pedal putting on too much pressure. In the afternoons I work with my physical therapist Birgit Krohme to speed up the healing process. Next week I will slowly increase the power and do some tests. Then I will know when I can ride my first race. I am optimistic that I will participate in the Tour de Romandie the end of the month," added Ullrich, whose biggest goal is to win the Tour de France once again.

Totschnig out, Schumacher still in

Gerolsteiner's Robert Förster will have one helper less to help him defend his leader's jersey in the Circuit de la Sarthe. Teammate Georg Totschnig won't be at the start in today's stage two, as the team announced. After coming down with a sore throat yesterday, the team doctor advised him to drop out of the race. "I don't want to take any risk in my preparations for the Tour de France," the Austrian rider said. "Our doctor urgently recommended that I take it easy the next few days in order to recover faster."

Stefan Schumacher, who crashed in the last 100 meters of the race on Tuesday, was down but not out, and will ride again today. "Stefan has large scrape wounds on both shoulder blades - which leads all of us to wonder how on earth he fell? - but, in any case, he'll ride today," said team manager Hans-Michael Holczer.

No Paris-Roubaix for Gilbert

Française des Jeux's Philippe Gilbert, who abandoned last Sunday's Ronde van Vlaanderen because of a lack of power, will not line up in Paris-Roubaix next Sunday. The 2006 Het Volk winner prefers to spare his forces for the Classics in the Ardennes region, where the young Belgian comes from: Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, which will be held on April 19 and 23 respectively.

At the start in Compiègne next Sunday, La Française des Jeux will be counting on Frédéric Guesdon, Driedaagse van De Panne stage winner Bernhard Eisel and current Coupe de France leader Lilian Jégou, who will be leading the team into the 104th edition of Paris-Roubaix.

Phonak, Bouygues roster announced

Swiss Phonak team has announced its roster for Paris-Roubaix: Aurélien Clerc, Martin Elmiger, Bert Grabsch, Fabrizio Guidi, Ryder Hesjedal, Robert Hunter, Uros Murn and Gregory Rast will be participating for the squad in the 'Hell of the North'.

For French team Bouygues Telecom, Sébastien Chavanel, Mathieu Claude, Andy Flickinger, Yohann Gène, Anthony Geslin, Arnaud Labbe, Rony Martias and Franck Renier will be at the start of the famous cobblestone classic.

TIAA-Cref on course for Pro Tour 2009

Jonathan Vaughters and his TIAA-CREF team are not settling for anything less than racing in the ProTour in 2009, a goal the former professional is working very hard to achieve. For 2006 the team has exploded in size, thanks to a new sponsor in Chipotle and a 'man behind the curtain' - an anonymous benefactor that believes this is the best way to secure America's future at the highest levels of cycling. Cyclingnews' Mark Zalewski takes a look at what that future may hold.

Jon Vaughters
Photo ©: Beth Seliga
(Click for larger image)

"There is not much to tell," laughs TIAA-CREF team manager Vaughters, maintaining the anonymity his team owner prefers. "He's a guy who is the team owner and wants to develop the next American Pro Tour team. He wants to enter the Pro Tour in 2009 and feels the best way to do that, as opposed to buying talent, is to actually nurture talent."

"Of course as we get closer to 2009 we will have to start buying certain riders to get us into a position to enter the Pro Tour, but at least for this year and next the priority is to get guys like Danny Pate and Brad Huff up to the point where they are good enough to be on a Pro Tour team, so that we can continue bringing this team up to that level. The core idea is going to remain - helping young American riders progress, as opposed to just buying our way in."

This private source, rumoured to have attempted purchasing the Cincinnati Reds recently, takes a lot of the usual pressure off Vaughters when it comes to securing sponsorship money from year to year in the fiscally-challenging world of cycling. "TIAA-CREF is with us until the end of this year. But I'm imagining that will continue, and if it doesn't we are lucky enough to have private funding so that we can exist in a lot of different forms with a lot of different sponsors.

The team will continue to become larger no matter who the title sponsor is. Chipotle is on until the 2008 Olympics so that is good. TIAA-CREF is the anchor and we would want to replace the anchor - but it's not a do-or-die situation, which is something that I've worked really hard to get over the past three years; where a sponsor can come and go but everything will still function normally," explains Vaughters.

Click here for the full feature.

Armstrong drives pace car at Indy

Is Lance Armstrong as fast on four wheels as he is on two wheels? The seven-times Tour de France winner won't really have a chance to find out at the Indianapolis 500 next month, but he will drive the Chevrolet Corvette Pace Car. "We're proud that this year's Indianapolis 500 will showcase the new 505-horsepower Corvette Z06 and honoured that it will be driven by another racing icon - Lance Armstrong," Chevrolet general manager Ed Peper announced.

"All I can say is that when we got a phone call to ask if I was interested in driving the Pace Car at Indy, it was a very short conversation," the 34 year-old Armstrong said. "It was like, 'Are you kidding? Of course.' It's a huge honour and something that I am very excited to do. Hopefully I cannot mess things up, if that's possible." Armstrong joins the roster of such notables as Colin Powell, Morgan Freeman and Jay Leno, who have driven Pace Cars at Indy.

Kings Valley this week-end

More than 400 of the best bike racers in the Pacific Northwest are expected to descend on the small community of Kings Valley, between Dallas and Philomath, Oregon, this Saturday, April 8, for the Kings Valley circuit race director Scott Goldstein calls "La Doyenne". Riders will take up the challenge of a rolling 19.5-mile loop with 900 feet of elevation gain each lap, racing, depending on the class, three or four laps, 56 and 75 miles, respectively.

The classes of competition include Pro 1/2, Men’s Category 3, Men’s Category 4/5, Masters Men 40+ and 50+, and Women’s classes. Racing starts at 10 a.m. as riders will be competing for more than $1,600 in price money.

For more information, visit www.obra.org, site of the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association.

Lincoln Plating Spring Classic in fifth year

The fifth Annual Lincoln Plating Spring Cycling Classic, a benefit for the Willard Community Center will be held Saturday and Sunday, April 22-23, 2006 on the roads in and around Lincoln, Nebraska. The 2005 Lincoln Plating Spring Cycling Classic raised over $5000 for the Willard Community Center, a non-profit community center located providing services for both adults and youth, located in southwest Lincoln.

The two-day stage race format will feature a road race and individual time trial at Branched Oak Lake on Saturday, April 22 and a circuit race at Pioneers Park on Sunday, April 23.

The $6000 cash prize list will attract riders from Nebraska, Iowa, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri and Minnesota. The Lincoln Plating Spring Classic serves as the kick-off for the Midwest Maxxis Cup, a point series to crown the regions top cyclists in various categories. In addition, the Lincoln Plating Spring Cycling Classic has been designated as a "Lance Armstrong Junior Olympic Series" event, which provides junior racers 18 & under an opportunity to earn points for special invitations to regional and national training camps. This year's event will also feature a Collegiate Stage Race with schools from Nebraska, South Dakota, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri and Minnesota all vying for points to earn a spot at the Collegiate Nationals from May 12-14, 2006.

For more information, please visit www.nebraskacyclingnews.com.

Wiggins tops Good Friday Track Meeting

Olympic and World Champion Bradley Wiggins (Cofidis) tops a record entry for the 2006 Good Friday Meeting, taking place in the Herne Hill Velodrome in London on April 14, 2006. Also participating are fellow Olympic and World Champion Luke Roberts (CSC) and 2000 World Madison Champion Stefan Steinweg, leading an international entry including Tony Gibb (Plowman Craven) and Tour de France stage winners Malcolm Elliott (Plowman Craven) and Sean Yates (In Gear).

The programme begins at 11am with a 200m Sprint and ends with the SCCU Golden Wheel Scratch Race, a 20 km-event part of British Cycling's National Endurance League, which will have £1000 going to the winner.

For more information, please go to www.goodfridaymeeting.org.uk/.

Spring Classics Fantasy Game 2006 - check this booty!

Specialized's Roubaix Pro is the big prize
Photo ©: Specialized
(Click for larger image)

OK - are you having trouble keeping up with the awesome range of prizes on offer in the 2006 Spring Classics Fantasy Game? Well, that's understandable, because it's a real booty of some of the finest cycling products on the planet. So, let's re-cap and help you decide whether you'd make a better directeur sportif than Patrick Lefevere or Johan Bruyneel.

We are offering a total of 19 prize packages for the Spring Classics, ranging from the super Grand Prize of the Dura-Ace and FSA compact carbon crankset-equipped Specialized Roubaix Pro bicycle (and a team replica Decibel helmet, plus funky Specialized eyewear), through to the per-race prize of Smith Optics Limited Edition Team CSC replica Reactor Max eyewear.

So with three races run and won, there are still four races to be held: Paris-Roubaix, Amstel Gold, La Fleche Wallone and finally, the oldest of them all, Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

The complete prize list is as follows:

A pair of beautiful Bastogne wheels worth over $600 USD
(Click for larger image)
HED's Bastogne wheels are named in honour of the Belgian town of Bastogne
(Click for larger image)
Craft are giving away ten of their Pro Cool Mesh Sleeveless Baselayers
(Click for larger image)

Grand Prize: One Specialized Roubaix Pro bicycle (complete), with a Specialized Decibel team replica helmet and your choice of one Specialized optics from their eyewear range. Total value - US$4700;

1st runner-up: One set (pair) of HED's 'Bastogne' wheels, worth US$600, plus a Craft Pro Cool Mesh sleeveless baselayer (yes, exactly like what the pros choose to wear), plus a set of Maxxis high-performance Columbiere road tyres and a pair of Reactor Max Smith Optics, the original Team CSC racing glasses;

2nd runner-up prize packages: there are three '2nd runner-up' prize packages on offer. Each has the following prizes - a Giro Atmos Helmet in your choice of colour, a Craft Pro Cool Mesh sleeveless baselayer, plus a set of Maxxis high-performance Columbiere road tyres and and a pair of Reactor Max Smith Optics;

3rd runner-up prize packages: and the goodies keep coming as there are three '3rd runner-up' prize packages on offer. Each has the following prizes - a set of Speedplay 'Zero' stainless steel pedals from the Californian company that equips ProTour teams like Team CSC and Phonak with their super-light, and super-adjustable pedals, plus a Craft Pro Cool Mesh sleeveless baselayer, plus a set of Maxxis high-performance Columbiere road tyresand and a pair of Reactor Max Smith Optics;

4th runner-up prize packages: there also three '4th runner-up' prize packages on offer. Each has the following prizes - a ultra-comfortable yet high-performance fi'zi:k saddle from the team issue - limited edition range, such as the Di Luca Killer & Cunego Piccolo Principe, plus a Craft Pro Cool Mesh sleeveless baselayer, and a set of Maxxis high-performance Columbiere road tyresand and a pair of Reactor Max Smith Optics.

So, in all, there are 19 separate prizes on offer in the 2006 Spring Classics Fantasy Game. To find out how to enter your team, go the Fantasy Game's information page and get behind the wheel of your own team-car! For more details on how to play go to the rules section of the site for more info. To register your teams for the game go to fantasy.cyclingnews.com.

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