First Edition Cycling News for April 14, 2006
Edited by Jeff Jones
Amstel Gold Race preview: Leg sapping Limburg
By Anthony Tan in Maastricht, Netherlands
The fifth major Spring Classic stop and the only race on the UCI ProTour calendar with its naming rights aligned to a beer company (not that there's anything wrong with that!), the Amstel Gold race is the Netherlands' most prized cycling event.
Compared to the Eindhoven team time trial and the Benelux Tour, the two other ProTour events based in Holland (with the latter also held in Belgium and Luxembourg) that are just two years old, 2006 will mark the 41st edition of 'the Amstel'. Still, with its inception in 1966, it is by some margin the youngest of the classics in spring.
The severity of the climbs may not be as harsh as Flanders, and the Amstel lacks the pavé of Roubaix, but this year's race, like recent editions before it, contains no less than 31 short climbs or 'bergs' spread across southern Limburg. Its finale is situated atop Valkenburg's famous one-in-seven Cauberg climb after 253.1 kilometres' racing - and that comes after two previous ascents.
Cyclingnews will be covering the 41st Amstel Gold Race live, beginning at 10:00 local time (CEST)/04:00 EDT (USA East)/01:00 PDT (USA West)/19:00 AEST (Australia East).
Garzelli and Paolini in Amstel; Di Luca waits for Fleche
Stefano Garzelli and Luca Paolini will lead the Liquigas squad for the Amstel Gold Race next Sunday, April 16. As planned, 2005 winner Danilo Di Luca won't start. He will begin his northern campaign at Flèche Wallonne next Wednesday and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
Luca Paolini, who was unlucky at the Ronde van Vlaanderen, is approaching the Amstel Gold Race hoping that things will tip in his favour in Limburg. "I'm definitely aiming at succeeding at the Amstel, because the squad at Flèche and Liège will count mainly on Garzelli and Di Luca. That's alright. Anyway, I'm in shape. I've already felt good at the Ronde and, in the last days, I tried to keep in form in order to feel even better. I spent two days in Salsomaggiore, where some riders of the team were taking part in a training camp: under the guidance of Mario Scirea, I did a couple of very hard workouts."
General manager Roberto Amadio pointed out that, "Luca, and the whole team in general, did their duty fully. The results haven't come yet because of a little bit of bad luck and, of course, the great opponents we met. I'm sure that our turn will arrive soon."
Stefano Garzelli, who performed well in the Vuelta al Paìs Vasco, approaches the Amstel Gold Race with enthusiasm too. The week will be very busy for him: Liquigas expects the 32-year-old rider from Varese to be in the limelight, especially in the upcoming classics in the Walloon region.
Vincenzo Nibali is one to look for too. This year, he has already won a stage of the Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali and he's said to be in excellent form. Besides Paolini, Garzelli and Nibali, the Liquigas squad for the Amstel Gold Race will include: Michael Albasini, Patrick Calcagni, Kjell Carlström, Nicola Loda, and Matej Mugerli. Directeur sportif: Stefano Zanatta.
Liquigas has also received a sponsorship boost from Primagaz Belgium, which joins the other companies of the SHV Group, Liquigas and Primagaz France, in supporting the cycling team. The team jersey will include the Primagaz brand in all the races taking place in Belgium and Holland, included the first four days of the Giro d'Italia.
More teams finalised for the hilly classics
Liberty Seguros-Würth has selected its rosters for the Amstel Gold Race, Fleche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
In Sunday's Amstel Gold Race, the team will include Alberto Contador, Allan Davis, David Etxebarria, Jörg Jaksche, Andrey Kashechkin, Koen de Kort, Marcos Serrano and Ángel Vicioso.
A similar squad will race Fleche Wallonne on Wednesday, April 19, where Koen de Kort will be replaced by Jose Antonio Redondo. Finally, on Sunday 23rd, Allan Davis will vacate his spot for defending champion Alexandre Vinokourov in Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
The Quick.Step-Innergetic squad for Amstel Gold will be Serge Baguet, Paolo Bettini, Kevin De Weert, Addy Engels, Jose Antonio Garrido, Filippo Pozzato, Bram Tankink, and Cédric Vasseur. DS: Serge Parsani.
For the Amstel Gold Race, Lampre-Fondital will feature the in-form Alessandro Ballan, Gorazd Stangelj, Evgeni Petrov, Ruggero Marzoli, Giuliano Figueras, Marco Marzano, Matteo Carrara and Salvatore Commesso.
Sports director Fabrizio Bontempi commented, "The team will be able to obtain a result: Stangelj, Petrov and Marzoli showed during the races in Spain that they're in good shape, and so they will be able to race as protagonists. Ballan will take part at Amstel to try to obtain points for the ProTour ranking: Alessandro won't aim for the victory, but he will try to use his form to obtain a placing."
Team Milram will race Fleche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège with Maarten Den Bakker, Andriy Grivko, Maxim Iglinsky, Matej Jurco, Daniel Musiol, Fabio Sacchi, Bjorn Schröder, Giovanni Visconti. Gianluigi Stanga will direct.
Landbouwkrediet-Colnago has named its riders for the Amstel Gold Race: Bert De Waele, Steven Kleynen, Nico Sijmens, Johan Verstrepen-Filip Meirhaeghe, Sven Renders, Andy Cappelle, Jean Claude Lebeau.
Skil-Shimano will ride the Amstel Gold Race with five Dutch riders: Aart Vierhouten, Rik Reinerink, Piet Rooijakkers, Maarten Tjallingii and Sebastian Langeveld. The team will be completed by the German riders René Weissinger and Paul Martens and the Japanese champion Hidenori Nodera. Rudie Kemna will direct the team.
Hammer's rainbow jersey first for U.S. since 1996
Sarah Hammer rode to the first world title for an elite American track rider since 1996 with a narrow victory in the women's 3000 metre individual pursuit at the 2006 UCI Track Cycling World Championships on Thursday.
Hammer clocked a time of 3:37.227 in the gold-medal final to edge Olga Slioussareva of Russia to become the first athlete to medal at the world championships since Marty Nothstein sprinted to a gold medal in the men's keirin in 1996. It's been 11 years since Rebecca Twigg earned the last women's elite track world title for the U.S. - also in the individual pursuit - in 1995.
"I'm blown away," commented Hammer. "My goal coming in here was to get into the medal rounds. I thought it (a world title) might have been possible and I remember a month ago driving home from the track and thinking that I want to be the world champion. After my world cup ride in L.A. earlier this year, I gained a lot of confidence knowing what the world championship times were there last year, so I think I knew it was possible."
Hammer began the day by posting a personal best time of 3:37.194 in her qualifying heat, the fastest mark of all 24 competitors.
In the ensuing head-to-head final against the second-seeded Slioussareva, Hammer went out with a plan and opened up a 1.2 second advantage after the first 1000 meters. Throughout the remainder of the race, Hammer's advantage dwindled but she managed to maintain enough momentum to hold on for a slim .072 second victory.
"My first six laps I kind of just stuck to my schedule which was to start pretty fast," explained Hammer. "Then from then on it was just going to be a race between me and Olga. They (coaches) were telling me I was up a second, then I was getting down and I could hear the crowd. They like to see someone come back and I could hear them getting louder and louder, so I knew it was close."
Hammer's success comes when USA Cycling's track program is undergoing upgrades and additions after a zero-medal performance a year ago. After a medal in her elite world championship debut, Hammer hopes ending an 11-year drought will contribute to the ongoing improvements.
"It's nice to kind of step into possibly the next endurance woman's shoes and hopefully this is a step up for American cycling. Hopefully this can help jumpstart us again."
After her performance on the second-largest stage for track cycling after the Olympic Games, Hammer has already tabbed the 2008 Beijing Games as a legitimate objective.
"I thought 2012 was going to be my main goal, but obviously now my plans my have changed a little bit. Now maybe 2008 can be something too."
The US team sprint team managed a 10th place finish, with the team of Ben Barczewski (Breinigsville, Pa./Team Spike) Giddeon Massie (Colorado Springs, Colo./Team Spike) and Christian Stahl (Bethany, Conn./CKR Racing) clocking a time of 46.146 seconds in qualifying. The team lacked one of its top sprinters, Michael Blatchford (Cypress, Calif./Team Spike), who was injured to the world's. Leadoff man Barczewski was also recovering from a recent injury.
"We did the best job we were capable of, injuries not withstanding," explained Massie after the race. "The fact of the matter is that the time was consistent with what we've been doing all year. And I think it's within a tenth of a second of our best time for the season. Obviously there's a little disappointment because we always want to do better, but at the same time, given the circumstances, it wasn't a bad ride."
In the final of the team sprint, host country France clocked a winning time of 43.969 seconds over runner-up Great Britain who turned in a 44.194. Australia claimed the bronze with a mark of 44.600.
More improvements for Raisin
By Shane Stokes
Having come out of a coma on Wednesday, 23 year old US rider Saul Raisin took another important step forward on Thursday when doctors took him off the ventilator he had been on since his condition worsened last week.
Family friend Shane Adams has been in contact with parents Jim and Yvonne Raisin and gave another update to fans and friends of the Credit Agricole rider. He said that Raisin was nodding in answer to questions, but "not really talking yet, it may take a day or two to get his voice back." He pointed out that Raisin had a tube in his throat for over a week, and that this could be complicating any attempts to converse.
With Raisin now conscious, doctors made an assessment of the effects of the trauma he had gone through. Adams said that the information he received was encouraging, but that he was awaiting more clarification. "The initial reports are that the damage to the brain isn't as extensive as they first believed. I don't have a baseline on how bad they thought it was, though, so I don't know exactly where we stand here. But it is still good news."
It is thought that Raisin may be flown back to the US in approximately three weeks, the rider most likely transferring to a hospital in Atlanta for further treatment and care there. Cyclingnews will post further updates when more information becomes available.
Hondo signs with Lamonta
Danilo Hondo will finally be able to start racing again, as he has signed a contract to ride for the German Continental Team Lamonta, he announced Thursday. He expects to ride in Rund um Köln on Monday.
"Of course my goal is to still a contract in the ProTour," he said. "Those discussions are continuing, but for me it was important to start riding races again as soon as possible, that's why I decided for Lamonta."
Holger Sievers, Lamonta Team Manager, said that both sides will benefit from the signing. "Danilo gets racing support from us and our team will profit extremely from his experience." He added that the team is not worried about any legal fallout from Hondo's signing.
Courtesy of Susan Westemeyer
Jittery Joe's to Tour de Georgia
The Jittery Joe's team is getting ready for its 'home' race, the Ford Tour de Georgia, which takes place between April 18 and 23.
"We have done so well the past couple of years that our sponsors have learned to just expect great things," said Micah Rice, general manager of the team. "Some of our sponsors don't know how hard it is to race against teams like Discovery, CSC and Quick Step; they just assume that we will have a big impact on the race."
In 2004, the team won the queen stage of the tour when Cesar Grajales attacked a group with Lance Armstrong, Jens Voigt and Chris Horner with 2 km to go to win on top of Brasstown Bald. In 2005 with Trent Lowe, the Bean Team managed to defend the GE Best Young Rider jersey for four days against a hard charging Saul Raisin.
The team heads into the tour with the following roster: Trent Wilson, Jeff Hopkins, Evan Elken, Craig Wilcox, Peter Hatton, Phil Wong, Austin King and Neil Shirley.
"Trent is riding really well right now and his experience at the last two Giri d'Italia will really help lead the team," said Rice. "We have a number of other riders riding good and we expect to have a trick or two up our sleeve for next week."
Kodakgallery.Com/Sierra Nevada at Tour De Georgia
The Kodakgallery.com/Sierra Nevada team has finalised its eight rider selection for the Ford Tour de Georgia, April 18-23. Leading the squad will be Ben Jacques-Maynes, an allrounder who currently is currently ranked eighth in the USA Cycling National Racing Calendar standings.
Climber Dominique Perras, who figured prominently in the final stage of last year's Tour de Georgia, and Jackson Stewart, a breakaway threat with great finishing speed, will also be in the hunt for stage wins, while Dan Schmatz will captain the team. Pete Lopinto, Scott Zwizanski, Mike Dietrich, and Jesse Anthony will primarily play support roles, but may also be called upon to represent the team in a breakaway, as Zwizanski did in the final stage of the Tour of California.
The team is also optimistic that Anthony, 20, will contend for the Best Young Rider classification.
Racing Manager Jonas Carney commented, "We have a balanced team for this race, and we're ready. Ben has been knocking on the door all season, and Jackson has been really impressive as well. We've raced hard all year and this could be a breakthrough race for us."
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