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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for April 8, 2006

Edited by Jeff Jones, with assistance from Sabine Sunderland

Who will win Paris-Roubaix this year?

As the countdown for Paris-Roubaix approaches zero, everyone has their own ideas of who will win the Queen of the Classics. A poll of cycling connoisseurs conducted by Sportwereld revealed a surprisingly wide range of opinions as to the winner.

Roger De Vlaeminck, who after winning the race a record four times became known as "Mr Paris-Roubaix" predicted that Tom Boonen would come out on top. "No-one is capable of beating Boonen. Because no-one there is that well known. The rest of the world doesn't enter the equation. Where are Vinokourov, Popovych and Ullrich? Tell me why they are not participating? You can't tell me that they can't ride across cobbles? Yes, the risks... but is descending a col at full speed less dangerous than Paris-Roubaix?"

What about George Hincapie? "Come on, what has that Hincapie proven? What has he won so far? No-one can challenge Boonen, or maybe Van Petegem. He will have to do a good job at hiding, if he still wants to be there in the finale. Van Petegem didn't ride Gent-Wevelgem did he? Understand who can. I'm not getting it."

But not everyone is predicting Boonen. Rik Van Looy, a three time winner of P-R, was even dismissive: "Stupid questions. There's ten or twenty who can beat Boonen. I'm not wishing for it but I take it into account. Look at Gent-Wevelgem: Tom had bad legs. It can happen quickly. George Hincapie looks to me to be candidate number one to challenge Boonen...With Van Petegem and Hoste you can go to battle too."

Walter Godefroot won Roubaix in 1969, and is putting his money on Fabian Cancellara (CSC). "Surprising? I know that he can do it. For that matter, he was getting into his stride in the Ronde and in Gent-Wevelgem; and on top of that he rode a very decent finale in Roubaix twice already (Cancellara was 4th in 2004 and 8th in 2005). After Cancellara I count on the Discovery-block to make Tom Boonen's life less enjoyable."

Italian Andrea Tafi won in 1999 predicted another Quick.Step: Filippo Pozzato. "If there's anyone able to beat Tom Boonen, he'll have to come out of his own team. I don't have a crystal ball and I don't know what Patrick Lefevere will shake out of his sleeve at the tactical meeting beforehand. But I see Boonen and Pozzato powering onto the track side by side. Pozzato will win, with Lefevere's blessing. Hincapie, Klier and Cancellara are merely shadow favourites for Sunday."

(Lefevere decided that Tafi had to let Mapei-teammate Museeuw and Bortolami finish in front of him in 1996)

Finally, Jan Raas, who finished first in 1982, is backing 2003 winner Peter Van Petegem (Davitamon-Lotto). "He is my man. Full stop. In Paris-Roubaix motivation is everything. According to me, Van Petegem isn't lacking that. He has been criticised heavily over the last few weeks. By journalists, by his own sponsor. Armed with a big desire for revenge he will be capable of a lot on the cobbles. On top of that, it's a race which fits him like a glove. If there's anyone who can silence the favourite, that it's him. Hushovd I put on the podium in third place."

Hoste thinks he can improve

Leif Hoste (Discovery Channel) wants to win Paris-Roubaix and improve on his second spot in last weekend's Ronde Van Vlaanderen. "Because Paris-Roubaix suits me even better," he was quoted in Het Volk . "Tom was good, strong and quicker. It's just that he is faster, that's the reality. We had grabbed each other by the neck already so hard during that long break, that neither he nor I could take off. When he took over after my attack, I had to bite my handlebars to keep on his wheel.

"It was the first time in the Ronde, that I shared team leadership with Hincapie. I have lived up to the expectations with that pressure on my shoulders. I have noticed once again that these are my races. You can say that when you finish second twice in four editions, and one year you're hindered in the Hell by a flag.

"I have never ridden Paris-Roubaix in the rain; it's the fourth time I am participating. I'm a good enough pilot, that is true, but in the rain it's not always your own fault. If it's dry, then you can afford to be in fifteenth position. If it's wet and dirty, everyone is less at ease. The order of the day is: not sitting too tense on your bike. Paris-Roubaix means blisters on the hands; I had those after the Ronde already. Pain in your wrists the day after; but the pain is inversely proportional to your ranking. The higher up you finish, the lesser the pain. Since I started training in November, I have been anticipating these two Sundays.

"Since January I have slept in my own bed for a maximum of one full week. All the tension has been building up for those two big goals. Paris-Roubaix, that is 260 km long, suffering each kilometre, but it flies by like it's nothing.

From Monday onwards I risk diving into a black hole. I even didn't want to talk about what will happen after this Sunday before the season started. I have looked forward to Paris-Roubaix as if it were my last race of the season."

And how does Leif plan to get rid of Boonen tomorrow? "That's simple," Hoste replied. "Tom will have to be not as good as me, otherwise it won't work. I love honest duels, like last Sunday. If he had punctured, they would have said forever that I had won the Ronde in which Boonen punctured. I'd rather go down fighting. The one who finishes second knows that one day he can win. But even if Tom has a lesser day, then we're not finished with Quick.Step yet."

Devolder not ready

Stijn Devolder (Discovery Channel) was expected to have one win on the board for this season already, but the results aren't showing yet. "The form is there though" he told HLN. "Maybe I'm even stronger than last year, but the results aren't there yet. In the three days of De Panne I wasn't bad, but that's all I can say. It finished with that. I have to accept that. Maybe it will be different in Liege-Bastogne-Liege?"

Dirk Demol had carefully suggested that Devolder try to go for a long breakaway, like Demol did in 1988 (he rode 222km in front). "That's not my plan," reacted Devolder. "I'd rather save my power for the finale. I have ridden Paris-Roubaix twice before. That was mainly to gain experience. Now I want to ride the finale. Win? No, I'm not ready for that.

"The Bois de Wallers has improved. The stones are less slippery but they are put down just as bad. Take it from me: the Forest will remain the turning point."

Pate and TIAA-CREF for FBD Insurance Rás

By Shane Stokes

It has been confirmed that the former world under 23 time trial champion Danny Pate is likely to lead a strong TIAA-CREF team in next month's FBD Insurance Rás. The American team was set up three years ago by former professional Jonathan Vaughters with a view to developing new US talent, and made a good Rás debut last year when Stuart Gillespie won the Irish Sports Council's award for best young rider and finished ninth overall. His teammate Nathan Mitchell was a fine third on stage six to Rathdrum.

Race organiser Dermot Dignam revealed this week that the squad would return. "The team rode very well last time and made a real contribution to the racing," he said. "I think they will play a very significant part this year and will certainly be one of the big threats to an Irish victory."

The team is managed by Vaughters, a successful pro who helped his US Postal teammate Lance Armstrong take the first two of his seven victories in the 1999 and 2000 Tours de France. He also recorded some fine personal results such as a stage win and second overall in the 1999 Dauphiné Libéré, plus a superb team time trial stage win with Credit Agricole during the 2001 Tour.

Two years later, he founded the TIAA-CREF team with the goal of helping young American riders develop into strong professionals. The team has shown strong form already this season, with Thomas Peterson, Tayler Tolleson and Craig Lewis taking the first three places in the best young rider classification of the Tour of California. Last month, Charles Bradley Huff won a stage in the Tour of Normandy and wore the race leader's jersey for 3 days.

Those performances show that aiming for the overall honours in the 2.2 ranked FBD Insurance Rás is a logical and attainable target. "Last year we won the best young rider jersey, and we'll have a couple of guys that will be contenders for that again," Vaughters states. "However, this year, our goal will be to win the race outright. I think predicting a victory in the Ras is next to impossible as the race always is decided by the odd breakaway and a bit of luck, as opposed to just brute strength. That said, we should be as good as any team out there."

Gillespie is expected to return, as is Ian MacGregor, the former US under 23 champion who was lying third overall in the best young rider standings for much of last year's race. The team is likely to be completed by three newcomers to the Irish tour, namely Lewis, Tolleson, plus the rider who is perhaps the team's biggest threat, Pate.

Vaughters said that the team would be looking forward to the ride. "I wasn't the director at last year's race, but I know my guys enjoyed the event and came out of it with fabulous form," he said.

TIAA-CREF are the second overseas team to be named as part of the lineup. Last week it was announced that defending champion Chris Newton and his Continental team will take part. The 2006 FBD Insurance Rás begins in Dublin on May 21st and finishes eight days and over 1200 kilometres later in Skerries on Sunday May 28th.

New chairman for Dutch federation

Marcel Wintels has been elected the new chairman of the Dutch cycling federation (KNWU), filling the position left by Joop Atsma, who will step down on May 29. Wintels (42) is currently the chairman of the board of the College of Arnhem in Nijmegen.

Other members to be elected include Jan Jongsma (treasurer), Frank van Veenendaal, Jan Hereijgers and Arthur Cremers (board members).

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