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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest Cycling News for April 14, 2006

Edited by Anthony Tan

Track World's Day 1 wrap: Plenty to cheer about in Bordeaux

By Mal Sawford in Bordeaux

A very happy Gregory Bauge
Photo ©: Mitch Friedman
(Click for larger image)

Of the four medals decided on the first day of the 2006 world track championships, only one had the crowd on its feet, as the French team of Gregory Bauge, Mickael Bourgain and Arnaud Tournant came from behind to overhaul a new look team from Great Britain. While the wins by Natallia Tsylinskaya (Belarus) in the 500 metre time trial, Sarah Hammer (USA) in the pursuit and Peter Schep (Nederlands) in the 40km points race received were applauded, the reaction whenever French riders took to the boards was deafening.

Women’s 500 metre time trial

Young French rider Sandie Clair was first off, and posted a respectable time of 35.114. Her time survived the next six challengers, including one of the medal chances, Australia’s Kerrie Meares. The first to lower the time was 18-year-old Cuban Lisandra Guerra Rodriguez, who stormed through the opening lap in 19.218, which eventually proved to be the best start of all the women. She stopped the clock in 34.609, a time which stood until the final two riders. Shuang Gao (China) Simona Krupeckaite (Lithuania) and Victoria Pendleton (Britain) were all less than a tenth of a second slower, but Anna Meares ended the debutants dream of a world title when she took the top position in 34.332.

While Guerra’s time surprised many, the rider herself had high hopes. When asked if she expected to do so well, she replied “Yes, actually I was training in the [UCI] world cycling centre, and with my times in training and after getting focussed for the world championships and how I was going in the training, I knew I was going to take a medal.”

Click here to read the rest of wrap-up from Day 1.

Also see:

Schedule & results

Cyclones open track world's medal account

Kerrie Meares (Australia)
Photo ©: Mitch Friedman
(Click for larger image)

On the opening day of competition in Bordeaux, the Australian 'Cyclones' have opened their 2006 world track championships account with a silver and two bronze medals. Melbourne Commonwealth Games gold medallist, Anna Meares, scored the first medal for the team when she rode to silver in the 500 metre time trial, two-tenths of a second off the pace of defending world champion, Natalia Tsylinskaya of Belarus, who clocked 34.152 to claim gold.

"I seem to be having this little tussle with her each year but I think it's really good for women's sprinting to have this competition," said Meares, who set the current 500m world record to win gold at the Athens Olympic Games. "I'm really happy with the ride. The first lap was a little bit slower than Melbourne but I managed to bring it home in the last lap and finish on around about the same time and to pick up the silver medal; with the sort of year I've had, it is really rewarding."

Meares has fought back from a career-threatening back injury suffered last year to regain her place in the top echelon of world cycling and is pleased her injury woes seem to have ended. "I haven't had any trouble with my back since a couple of weeks before Melbourne which is a really good sign and it's comforting to know that leading into next year the back is holding up and I think it will hold up for a good twelve months which I really want to get under my belt."

Meares added she was unsure how to read the early times set in the event which were slower than she had expected. "I didn't know if the times were slow or the track was slow or the times were quick for the track conditions so I had to do the same thing [I always do] and forget about all the outside aspects and concentrate on myself," she said, who, as the 2005 silver medallist, was the second last rider in the start gate. To come away with the same time I rode in Melbourne was really good but then I saw Natalia come out point-one quicker in the first lap and I thought 'Oh no! She's got it.' so hat's off to her." Anna's sister Kerrie, who placed third at the Commonwealth Games, finished 14th in a time of 35.551sec.

Katie Mactier (Australia)
Photo ©: Mitch Friedman
(Click for larger image)

In the women's 3km individual pursuit, Katie Mactier claimed bronze after a disappointing qualifying ride that saw her miss out on a chance to defend her 2005 world championship win. The Melbourne gold medallist was a tenth of a second off a berth in the ride off for gold and silver and instead lined up for the bronze medal final against Swiss road time trial world champion, Karin Thurig.

"It was a unique situation for me and I personally felt my ride this morning wasn't up to par," said Mactier, who has never placed lower than second since her pursuit world championship debut in 2003. "It was disappointing to miss out on the gold-silver ride by such a small margin and coming into bronze-fourth ride was a matter of collecting myself and approaching it as the final and a race still to be won."

Mactier's frustration was compounded when her time of 3min36.123sec proved to be the fastest ride of the medal round. She defeated Thurig by a margin of more than six seconds and a hard fought battle for gold between American Sarah Hammer and Russian Olga Slyusareva saw Hammer triumph in 3min37.227.

"I firmly believe I should have been in the gold-silver ride off, so it's frustrating to see my time could have won me the gold, but looking at it objectively, I stuffed up the first ride," said Mactier. "But I'll get over it and it's a blessing it happened here and not in two years' time [for the Beijing Olympics].

"I'll be honest though in saying it's been tough having to back up from such an enormous ride in Melbourne," she said. "To be perfectly honest, I wouldn't give that away for the world because to win in my hometown, I'll never have that opportunity again. But it's a big ask and I found it emotionally very challenging. Putting that aside, I can't wait for the next world championships to come around so I can dominate this race again, because I still love this race with every inch of me and today's disappointment has only made me hungrier."

Team mate Kate Bates, who was second to Mactier at last year's world championships in Los Angeles and again last month in Melbourne, had been struggling with illness and finished 11th with a time of 3min45.217sec in qualifying.

The Aussie train
Photo ©: Mitch Friedman
(Click for larger image)

The men's teams sprint trio of Shane Perkins, Ryan Bayley and Shane Kelly were the next Australians on the podium after posting an impressive third fastest qualifying time of 44.591sec. Perkins led them out with another sub 18 second first lap (17.9sec) with Bayley riding second wheel and Kelly bringing them home in the second fastest final lap of the round.

The trio lined up against the Netherlands in the bronze medal final with Kelly posting a sizzling final lap to bring the team home in 44.600sec, more than a second faster than their Dutch rivals. France claimed gold in 43.969sec ahead of the Great Britain team [44.194sec].

"I was pretty happy and surprised," said 19 year-old Perkins of his qualifying ride. "Obviously coming from Commonwealth Games whic was a big one, I backed up so it's a sign of things to come."

Bayley was also pleased to get a good performance under his belt with the sprint and keirin, events he is the reigning champion in at both Olympic and Commonwealth Games level, still to come for him. "I knew the team was good and confident after Commonwealth Games [silver medal] and we came here knowing we were capable of some good stuff - we put it on the boards and showed everyone so we're happy with the way it's going," Bayley said. "First day and we're on a high and only going up from here."

Kelly, the most experienced of the trio after competing at world championships since 1991, says he's pleased with the fact the team has maintained it's form since Melbourne. "We've been here for a good week waiting, waiting, waiting but once we got on the track we pulled out the big one so pretty happy with that," Kelly said. "Melbourne was always going to take it out of us but once we got back into training it was back to normal and we've come together nicely so great to get on the podium."

In the other final contested on day one Sean Finning, who decimated the opposition to claim gold in the points race in Melbourne four weeks ago, was unable to reproduce his form in Bordeaux, finishing 19th in the event won by Dutch rider Peter Schep.

Phonak counting on two Ms in Amstel

Koos Moerenhout, the only Dutchman on Phonak Hearing Systems, and Axel Merckx will be the team's lead riders in Sunday's Amstel Gold race. Both have made serious preparations to achieve their best possible result, with Moerenhout working on his speed behind a motorbike the last few days and Merckx training in the hills around his home in Monaco.

"For me, as a Dutchman, the Amstel Gold Race is doubly important," said the 32 year-old Moerenhout in a team statement, who knows and likes the parcours a lot. "I've prepared myself in the best possible way for an important race. I hope to achieve as good a result as possible."

Riders: Martin Elmiger, Bert Grabsch, Nicolas Jalabert, Axel Merckx, Koos Moerenhout, Alexandre Moos, Miguel Angel Perdiguero, Gregory Rast
Directeurs-sportifs: John Lelangue, Jacques Michaud

Gerolsteiner to Amstel

2004 champion Davide Rebellin will be leading the light blue brigade at Sunday's Amstel Gold Race, supported by the following seven riders: Heinrich Haussler, Andrea Moletta, Davide Rebellin, Mathias Russ, Stefan Schumacher, Fabian Wegmann, Beat Zberg, Markus Zberg.

Cancellara to ride home tour

After his magnificent victory in last Sunday's Paris-Roubaix, Fabian Cancellara confirmed his participation in his national tour, the 70th edition of the Tour de Suisse. Held from June 10-18, just short of a fortnight before the start of the Tour de France prologue in Strasbourg on July 1, CSC team should field a very competitive team, with Cancellara already tipped as a favourite for the final day's time trial from Kerzers to Bern.

Asia's own Tour de France?

Despite having a few last-minute problems concerning logistics with one of the stages in Hong Kong, it appears the inaugural Tour of Hong Kong-Shanghai will commence unhindered when the race begins in Shanghai on May 3. Furthermore, Li Xin, vice-president of the China Cycling Association, would like the event to one day become 'Asia's own Tour de France'.

"We hope the tour will grow from strength to strength. Our target is to make it a super race classification in five years," said Li to the South China Morning Post. "Coastal provinces such as Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Fujian, Guangdong and Jiangxi will be reached by the tour and hopefully it will become an Asian version of the Tour de France in future."

Should this goal be attained, the tour would stretch from the Yangtze Delta of Shanghai to the Pearl River Delta of Hong Kong, crossing through provinces along the southeast coast of China.

This year, armed with a budget of six million Yuan (approx. Euro 620,000/ US$750,000), Asian-based teams from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan and Qatar will up against riders from Australia, Belgium, France and the United States, all vying for a total prize pool of $300,000 Yuan (approx. Euro 31,000/ US$37,500). Starting in the heart of Shanghai on May 3, the first of four stages will travel 120km to nearby Kunshan, which becomes the starting point for the following day's stage. On May 6, riders will depart from the AsiaWorld-Expo at the Hong Kong International Airport in Chek Lap Kok, before the tour finishes the next day with a criterium in downtown Sha Tin, one of 18 districts of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China, located in the New Territories.

The stage held at Hong Kong International Airport was the race organiser's previous stumbling block, as another event was scheduled to be held at the AsiaWorld-Expo two days afterwards. However, general secretary of the Hong Kong Cycling Association, Fredrick Chan Chun-hung, said the issue has now been resolved. "We have had some problems with the venue at the airport before, but with joint efforts from all parties concerned, including the police and the Airport Authority, we have resolved it," he said.

NZ BMX champs this weekend

Held in Cambridge on the west coast of the North Island, the 2006 Southern Trust New Zealand BMX National Championships will be conducted over the coming Easter weekend with New Zealand's elite riders vying for national selection.

BikeNZ National BMX Coach Grant White said: "The national championship event serves as the final selection event prior to the 2006 national squad being selected. This event will also be the final selection event prior to the national team being named, which will travel to Australia for the upcoming Australian National BMX Championships."

The national team is selected based on a continuously rolling series of results, prior to any overseas competition. With a prize purse of NZ$6000 and valuable UCI ranking points, joining New Zealand's top riders Marc Willers, Sarah Walker, Hayden de boer and Lisa Horlor are eleven of Australia's best riders including Renee Junga (world number 2), Warwick Stephenson (2004 world champion), current national champion Luke Madill and 2004 national champion Kama Kazi.

Racing commences at 9.30am Saturday at the Cambridge BMX Club, Lamb Street, Cambridge.

Phonak's excess baggage

Preparations for next week's Tour of Georgia (from April 18-23) are running full speed ahead for the Phonak Cycling Team. The logistical planning involved is especially huge: think of eight riders, directeur-sportif René Savary, Dr. Denis Demir, three mechanics and three massage therapists as well as their media officer, travelling with more than 40 pieces of luggage - all bound for the US State of Georgia.

Included in that entourage are: 24 racing bikes with 43 pairs of wheels, 300 energy bars and three kilos of powder for isotonic drinks. The team can't depend on the usual fleet of cars, so the cars provided by the organisers have to be fitted out before the beginning of the race.

While it may seem like a logistical nightmare, Savary finds it 'stimulating' (?!), according to a team statement. Last year, Phonak took stage wins with Floyd Landis and Robert Hunter, and also wore the leader's jersey during four stages. "That was a nice success," Savary recalls. "If we could improve on that [result], it would be wonderful."

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