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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for April 10, 2006

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

Controversy over Roubaix disqualification goes on

A worried 'De Peet' walked over to the podium on arrival, as the rumour of disqualification spread
Photo ©: Hedwig Kröner/Cyclingnews
(Click for larger image)

The decision of the UCI commissaires to disqualify the originally second, third and fourth-placed Hoste (Discovery), Van Petegem (Davitamon) and Gusev (Discovery) was at first a rumour. No official announcement was made in the hectic finish area, as Paris-Roubaix winner Fabian Cancellara (CSC) gave post-race interviews and many riders still flew into the velodrome. The three chasers had ducked through a red-light railway crossing with 10 kilometres to go.

"It's ridiculous," said a shocked Hoste. "I knew that we made a mistake, but we didn't endanger anybody. And why didn't they tell us in the finale that we could stop riding?" After 259 kilometres of cobbled 'Hell', the three were told they had done it all in vain.

2003 winner Peter Van Petegem was waiting for the podium ceremony with his son, as French TV asked him for his reaction. "You probably know more than me," 'De Peet' said. The reporter then told him about his disqualification, and the Belgian left, furious.

Even the organisers of Paris-Roubaix didn't agree entirely with the decision. ASO's Jean-Francois Pescheux, who is responsible for the race course, said, "It's true that these are the rules, but maybe they should have made an exception out of fairness and sporting ethics. After 250 kilometres of racing, and knowing it didn't affect the winner's position in the race, maybe the rules shouldn't have been applied to the letter."

The Boonen group crossed the rails after the train
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Jean-Marie Leblanc, race director, also thought the decision was too hard on the riders. "The regulation was made because there were situations that needed a rule," he said. "But this was not the case today. Cancellara passed the crossing, and the barriers went down behind him. The three chasers, who didn't see a train coming, certainly infringed the rule but it didn't really affect the race situation. Everyone knew that Cancellara was increasing his lead and that the ones behind him would be fighting for second place. In these kind of situations, I prefer the spirit rather than the rule itself to be applied - although that is certainly incorrect rules-wise. I think the decision is very severe."

As it turned out, the train in question was a goods transport, of which the schedules cannot be as controlled by the French trains corporation SNCF as passenger's trains can be. Moreover, the race was 15 minutes ahead of the fastest schedule, so the organisers could not prevent the incident from happening.

Still, Discovery Channel's team director Johan Bruyneel accused ASO of not choosing a train-free race finale. "You can ask yourself how it can happen that the finale of a ProTour race is affected by a goods train," he said, adding to the address of the UCI commissaires, "I know there are rules, but sometimes they can be interpreted differently."

Tom Boonen, who only got on the podium to get his ProTour leader's jersey, didn't consider his second placing to be legitimate. "My true placing is still fifth," he said. "That's the place I deserve considering the basic power outputs in this race. When Cancellara attacked in the sector of Campin-en-Pévèle, I wanted to react. Flecha hindered me, so I had to brake hard and my speed was gone immediately. After that, it was over and out..."

The UCI officials
Photo ©: Brecht Decaluwé
(Click for larger image)

Marc Sergeant, Davitamon-Lotto director, and Johan Bruyneel are now considering submitting a complaint against the UCI because of the train incident. "The decision isn't human," Sergeant told Het Nieuwsblad on Monday morning. "We lose an important podium placing and a whole lot of ProTour points. I do feel bitter. I don't have a problem with the rules, but if Van Petegem, Hoste and Gussev are disqualified, why wasn't Boonen? It's a question of principle."

Indeed, Boonen and his companions Ballan (Lampre) and Flecha (Rabobank) of the second chase group also crossed the rails when the barriers were still down, but the train had already passed.

Hincapie diagnosed with fracture

George Hincapie, the man who probably suffered the worst fate of all in this 104th Paris-Roubaix - his steerer tube breaking when he had all the chances for a victory in the race - has been diagnosed with a fracture between his collarbone and shoulder blade. The Discovery rider will return to the United States on Monday to get an operation.

"We don't know yet how long Hincapie will be out of competition," team director Dirk Demol told Belgian media. "It is a severe injury, that's for sure." X-rays in hospital reveled a fracture of about three centimetres.

Gut feeling the winning way at CSC

By Hedwig Kröner in Roubaix

CSC's DS Scott Sunderland with Fabian Cancellara in the Roubaix velodrome
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Team CSC's directeur sportif Scott Sunderland was over the moon on the Roubaix velodrome lawn oval as his protégé, Fabian Cancellara, received his pavé stone on the podium. The Australian was amazed at the young Swiss' coolness and of course, his physical abilities. "He's only 25 years old, he's still got so much ahead of him," Sunderland said.

Looking back on the race, he explained that racing instinct had been an important factor for Cancellara's win. "I talked to Bjarne on the phone and asked him if he could see the faces of the other riders on his big screen at home, and he said that Boonen and Van Petegem looked good. Then I told Fabian about it, but he was just very cool. He asked me how far the Carrefour de l'Arbre was, and I said 'you have one more section, then a little bit of tarmac and then you're there.' He decided to attack even before... He's so good you can't hold him back."

Sunderland would have preferred Cancellara to attack at sector 4 (Carrefour de l'Arbre) instead of sector 5, but trusted his rider's instincts. "He's got a great feeling for the race," Sunderland continued. " You feel it as a rider, too, you can't always do as your DS tells you - you have to follow your gut feeling. He got 10 seconds, and at 15 I told him to try and give a sprint to get Gusev off his wheel. I wanted him to get to the velodrome alone, without having to think about someone in his back. At first I wasn't sure he'd make it, but then... I admit I was nervous. I kept thinking 'Don't puncture, don't crash...'"

But the race had turned in favour of CSC long before that final attack. The Arenberg sector was again a decisive stage in the race this year. Fortunately, nobody got hurt at this point, but it was at this mythical pavé road that the first great split occurred. And Quick.Step's rivals soon noticed that the World Champion was on his own in the front group after it, and decided to take advantage of the situation.

"I told Fabian to ride really hard on the next sector, to break the rhythm of the chasing Quick.Step - and it worked," Sunderland explained his team's tactics. "Quick.Step was fantastic last week, but they just missed it today. It was the reverse of the Tour of Flanders: at the Koppenberg, we should have had two more there but they couldn't get on because Quick.Step put the foot on the gas. That's just the way it goes sometimes."

Sunderland also commented about CSC's mechanical 'fortune'. "It was great. We only had one puncture with Allan Johansen. We had no wheel problems, the bikes were great - everything. The mechanics did a ton of work. I stressed them out beforehand. It's hard because it's a one day race. It's like getting ready for a three week tour. We had three bikes for everyone, a lot of pairs of wheels, five people out on the road, with one or two pairs of wheels and bidons."

Finally, the second year CSC director must have been quietly confident in Cancellara's ability. "When I paid for the hotel rooms yesterday morning in Kortrijk, I said 'can you keep the rooms for us and some champagne for tomorrow'. How's that for confidence?"

Tour Down Under naming rights up for grabs

Australia's most popular cycling event, the Tour Down Under, will have a new naming rights sponsor next year, as Australian Major Events heralds a new era for the event.

Jacob's Creek - the current naming rights sponsor - has ended its naming rights sponsorship with the race in 2006 and Australian Major Events is starting early to find the right "fit" for Tour Down Under sponsorship. However, Jacob's Creek will retain an involvement with the event as the official wine supplier.

South Australian Tourism Commission's Chief Executive, Bill Spurr, said the Tour Down Under was one of the state's most important and popular events. "The Tour Down Under has put South Australia on the map around the world, particularly in Europe, and the event can only continue to grow," he said, adding that the event offered a worldwide audience for potential sponsors, and with the plans for the Tour Down Under to work towards being part of the Pro Tour competition the opportunities in the next few years would be even greater.

Stephen Couche, Managing Director at Orlando Wines agreed. "We have enjoyed a tremendous eight years with the Tour Down Under and it has been a hard business decision to make as a result of a change of focus within our organisation - it is time to move on from this major role whilst still maintaining a presence," he said. "This is a wonderful event for potential sponsors particularly given its international audiences."

To date, the 2006 event has generated more than $19M in editorial media coverage, with 15 hours of broadcast media nationally and 60 hours expected internationally.

"The Tour Down Under has an international audience of millions, as well as attendance figures at the event of 435,000 at the 2006 event," Spurr continued. "Sponsorship involvement in the Tour Down Under will offer huge opportunities in the next few years, with crowd number and audience figures anticipated to climb."

Spurr said the timing was right to look forward and capitalise on the event's popularity and Australian Major Events was looking forward to the next era with a new sponsor.

For interest in sponsorship contact:

Simon Romaniuk
Sponsorship Development Manager, Australian Major Events
Tel: 08 8463 4713
Mob: 0415 890 999

PA state helps Philly bike race

Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell has announced that Philadelphia’s 22nd annual International Cycling Championship on Sunday, June 11, will continue with the help of a $400,000 state investment. "For more than a generation, the world’s best cyclists and their fans have flocked to Philadelphia to enjoy this great athletic competition," he said, "And, it pumps $15 million into the local economy. Losing it was not an option because it means so much to the Delaware Valley. It would be like Boston losing the Boston Marathon."

The state’s investment helps replace Wachovia’s long running support after the Charlotte-based bank belatedly opted not to renew its title sponsorship last October. Through bank mergers and acquisitions, title sponsorship passed from CoreStates Financial Corp to First Union in 1998 and from First Union to Wachovia in 2002. Organizers are seeking a long-term corporate sponsor for the event beginning in 2007.

This year will also be the first time an official charity has been selected to become a partner in the event. Fox Chase Cancer Center has signed on for an initial five-year relationship and will benefit from the development of new fund raising events. This year’s fund raising focus will be on "Pedal for Prevention," a family bike ride to be held on the professional race course before the pros hit the streets.

The Philadelphia International Championship Bike Race, heading into its 22nd year and famous for the Manayunk Wall, will this year anchor an all-Pennsylvania "Triple Crown" - a three city international race series with related community events during the first week in June. Triple Crown Events include the Lancaster Classic on June 4, the Reading Classic on June 8 and the Philadelphia International Championship on June 11. Nearly 1000 competitive cyclists in the Elite, Women’s Elite and Professional categories from some 20 nations will compete in the series for prize money totaling $130,000.

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(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2006)