Scheldeprijs Vlaanderen Cycling News for April 13, 2006
Edited by Anthony Tan
Laughing loser: Stefan Cohnen
By Anthony Tan
When you're up against seven members from the same team in a twenty-two man break, around the same number of world-class sprinters and you can't sprint, and you're 23 kilometres from the finish, there's only one thing to do. Attack!
"I can't sprint, the cobblestones are the same - they're not good for me - but you can make your own chances," said Naturino-Sapore di Mare's resident German, Stefan Cohnen, to Cyclingnews, who did exactly that in yesterday's Scheldeprijs Vlaanderen.
Asked if he was surprised how easily the early break came about no more than 20 kilometres into the race, Cohnen exclaimed: "Yeah, really easily! I didn't look back [at first], but when I did, I went, 'Oh - there's a break!' The race was too fast to look back," he laughed.
"We were going more than 50 kilometres [per hour] at the start; maybe after 70 kilometres, it was a little bit easier, but to begin with, you have to look out and make sure you're in the first [group]."
2006 marks the 23 year-old's fourth year as a professional, who began his career in 2003 with German squad Comnet-Senges, staying there for two seasons before riding for another German outfit, Team Lamonta, last year. To date, this lanky guy from the small town of Selfkant, Germany, situated near Sittard in the Netherlands (which explains his Dutch racing licence), has no major result to his name. But that almost changed on Wednesday.
For sixteen kilometres, Cohnen held off six Quick.Step men all swapping off at the front of the break until he was caught by a counter attack from Unibet.com's Luis Pasamontes Rodriguez with six kilometres to go, who met his own fate 1000 metres later. The rest of the story ended with a fairytale finish for Tom Boonen, but that was to be expected.
"I went alone, but Quick.Step is a really strong team - they had a big team in the front group!" he said, again laughing at the thought of actually pulling off a victory against such terrible odds.
"Yeah, yeah, I'm happy," Cohnen added about his performance, "but the cobblestone sections were too hard for me, and I gave my best. Next week is the Rund um Köln in Germany and I hope to go well there, because my legs are good."
ProTour 101 for Graeme Brown
By Anthony Tan
After doing plenty of domestique duties so far this spring, new Rabobank recruit Graeme Brown was looking for a little bit of payback and a big result at the Scheldeprijs Vlaanderen.
"That's definitely the goal. It's the kind of race that suits me, I guess, but there's quite a few good riders that could make it a bit hard," he joked, laughing nervously before the start.
The 27 year-old Sydneysider said that so far, he's enjoying his time at the very top-level of cycling, a situation he hasn't been exposed to week after week until this year. "I've had a lot of new experiences... actually, every race I've done has been new," he smiled.
"I've had to do a bit of work in them and they do a bit of work for me, so that's good. In Flanders, I had to help [Erik] Dekker and keep him out of the wind for the first 170k; he was happy with what I did, so maybe the next race we do together, he can help me out. I'm really enjoying it and it's working out well; hopefully, I can get a win on the board today."
Brown's transition to the ProTour has been made easier by the presence of fellow Aussie team-mate Mathew Hayman, who is entering his seventh year with Rabobank this season. "Yeah for sure; not only as a translator," Brown chuckled, "but also to get me in the right position at the front as well."
Yesterday, both Brown and Hayman both placed themselves in the winning move, but against the might of Boonen and his Quick.Step team, the best he could manage was fifth in the end - no disgrace against more than half a dozen of the world's best sprinters.
Cookie searching for success
By Anthony Tan
Another Aussie sprinter searching for success yesterday was Unibet.com's Baden Cooke, who is beginning to show glimpses of his 2003 form after finishing 17th in Paris-Roubaix last Sunday.
"Yeah, the form's been really good, though we haven't exactly pulled off the big jackpot we hoped for," Cooke said to Cyclingnews at the start of the Scheldeprijs in Antwerp's Grote Markt. "The legs have been really strong, but the classics have been a bit of a disappointment; a bit of bad luck, a few times a bit of bad judgment."
When asked if was content with his ride in Roubaix, the Benalla Bullet gave somewhat of a yes and no answer: "I punctured just before the Arenberg [Forest]; I was already a bit tired before we hit the Arenberg and because of that [puncture], I didn't have the perfect position, so I missed the front group. I think on another day, if I hadn't had punctured, I could of made the front group no problem and been going for a top ten or top five," he predicted.
Putting those confident last words into action when he and team-mate Jeremy Hunt made the race-winning break, the Unibet duo were unfortunately let down a little by their sprint in the end, with Hunt scraping home in ninth and Cooke finishing fourteenth. However, 'Cookie' says his finishing burst is an area he's yet to work on.
"No, I haven't worked on it, I've just been working on getting strong for the classics and haven't trained my sprint all year, so it's probably not the sharpest it's ever been. But after this period when I have some time off, that's when I'll sharpen up for the racing at the end of the month."
Somewhat of a rarity will be the absence of the 2003 Tour de France green jersey champion at the start in Strasbourg on July 1, or any of the other two Grand Tours for that matter. However, this was always going to be one of the risks in joining the a Pro Continental team like Unibet.com, placing their hopes on a wildcard spot, and Cooke knows there's really only one way to get back to where someone of his talent belongs.
"Just to try and pop off as many wins as possible," he grinned.
Hayman trying to make hay while the sun shines
By Anthony Tan
Returning to Europe after his emphatic victory in the Commonwealth Games road race, Rabobank pro Mathew Hayman has been trying to capitalise on his good form.
However, since that glorious day in Melbourne just over a fortnight ago, things haven't gone quite to plan for the 27 year-old from Australia's capital of Canberra. Before the start of yesterday's Scheldeprijs Vlaanderen, Hayman told Cyclingnews he's still disappointed with how things went in his favourite race of the year, Paris-Roubaix, where he was allowed the opportunity to ride for himself but feels he didn't make the most of it, eventually finishing 23rd in a large group of 48 riders, 6'49 down on winner Fabian Cancellara.
"The week before [Paris-Roubaix] on Wednesday, I wasn't much chop in Gent-Wevelgem, and Sunday [before at the Tour of Flanders], I just did the job for [Juan Antonio] Flecha," he said. "But it takes a lot out of you for the first 160, 170k, just trying to keep him up the front; after the Commonwealth Games, I was happy to be in the team for Flanders and happy to do the work.
"Sunday [at Paris-Roubaix], Flecha was there and that was good [for the team]. But that's also my favourite race of the year and the best riders were at the front through the [Arenberg] Forest. I felt pretty good, but as soon as they got away, the race was closed down and there wasn't a lot of racing done after the Forest; I still felt like I had a bit more in me, but y'know, a top 25 is not too bad in Paris-Roubaix."
O'Loughlin and Europe: "It's... a challenge"
By Anthony Tan
"Pretty average," was how Irish road champion David O'Loughlin described his performance over the last few weeks. Since his Navigators Insurance team arrived on the continent after the Tour of California for their first of two European campaigns, the American-based Pro Continental team has enjoyed little success, but then again, they're up against the world's best at the peak of their form.
"Yeah, we've done a pretty good program, so it's tough racing this time of year in Belgium - you're racing against the best guys in the world, so... there's no place to hide," said O'Loughlin to Cyclingnews.
While half the squad have ridden events like the Three Days of West Vlaanderen and Nokere-Koerse before moving to Germany next week to compete at the Rund um Köln and Rund um den Henninger Turm Frankfurt, another part of the team will race the Tour of Georgia until they regroup in early May. Navigators will then return back in August for a second stint in Europe to race the autumn classics, many of which are in Italy; a totally different style and ball-game, but equally difficult.
So how does it feel for this 27 year-old from Cong, County Mayo in the west of Ireland to be up against some of the most formidable teams in the world - would intimidating be a good choice of word?
"Oh, not really intimidating," smiled O'Loughlin, "but it's... a challenge - no doubt about it!"
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