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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

Latest Cycling News for April 18, 2006

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

CSC aims for Classic #3

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A strong Team CSC will again line-up this Wednesday in Belgium for the Flèche Wallonne. After its recent victories in the Spring Classics Paris-Roubaix and Amstel Gold race, the Danish squad will certainly be the one to beat. Fränk Schleck, winner of the 2006 Amstel Gold Race, will be one of the leading riders, together with Karsten Kroon, also in excellent form.

Also competing will be Circuit de la Sarthe winner Ivan Basso, who believes that this week's races in Belgium - he will also race in Liège-Bastoogne-Liège this week-end - are a perfect preparation for the Giro d'Italia. "They are two key steps in my build-up for the Giro in May," Basso said. "I've always done well in these two races and if I'm up there I'll have a go myself. But we have plenty of strong guys in my team and I would be proud to help any of them to win, too."

The full CSC rider roster for Flèche Wallonne is: Ivan Basso, Karsten Kroon, Peter Luttenberger, Carlos Sastre, Fränk Schleck, Nicki Sørensen, Christian Vande Velde and Jens Voigt.

Nuyens courted in Belgian team change rumours

According to Het Laatste Nieuws, Davitamon-Lotto is courting Nick Nuyens to fill Van Petegem's space in the team for next year. Nuyens didn't deny nor confirm the newspapers' assumption but admitted that he is in demand.

"There are a few teams which contacted me," said Nuyens. "But I'm playing the game in a correct way. I want to have a quiet word with Lefévère this week. After that we'll see. Fact is: I want clarity as soon as possible."

The two Belgian ProTour teams have 26 contracts to negotiate, of which 14 with Belgian riders. The best known cyclists are Peter Van Petegem and Nick Nuyens. Belgian National Champion Serge Baguet changed from Davitamon-Lotto to Quick.Step at the end of last season, after his national title wasn't something Omega Pharma boss - Davitamon's main sponsor - Marc Coucke wanted to reward the popular Baguet for. That is something Davitamon's Nico Mattan has kept in the back of his mind, as he is tying his future to Van Petegem's choice.

"If he goes, so will I," said Mattan. "I think that after Vansevenant, I'll be the next one to follow Peter. Whatever the destination. If I see that Baguet, with his National title couldn't get a better contract with Davitamon, than I don't have many illusions for myself. I'm 34, with my market value I'm not going to earn an extra penny. Quick.Step? Yes please. I would like to finish my career in Patrick's team. It will be a sentimental decision in any way. Just like for Peter, the atmosphere within the team is most important. Not the money."

But in the meantime, Van Petegem himself doesn't let on what his actual plans for next year might be. He has told the Belgian press over the last few weeks that he needs to get more respect from his current employers if they want to keep him - but that he isn't going to play deaf when Davitamon makes the right offer. Quick.Step manager Lefévère has pointed out that he hasn't dismissed the thought of letting the Belgian Classics rider join his ranks. To be continued...

Courtesy of Sabine Sunderland

First pro win for Knees

Team Milram' Christian Knees has achieved his first pro victory at Rund um Köln in Germany on Sunday, April 16, where only 25 of the 174 starters finished. The 25 year-old broke away in a four-men group with nine kilometres to go and rode the finale in front, finished four seconds off second-placed David Kopp (Gerolsteiner).

"I'm of course very happy about this victory, because it's my first as a pro," Knees said after the race. "I've worked towards this for a long time. It's especially great because I'm on home turf - I live only 30 kilometres from here. The podium ceremony was wonderful, but the most beautiful moment was when I passed that finish line. A dream came true for me today."

It was a surprise win for Knees, who didn't expect to succeed at all. "I wasn't sure to be able to win at any instant in the race," the German continued. "Anyone in our break of four could have made it first to the finish. And it looked like the peloton would be able to catch us, too. I realised that I could win only 500 metres before the line." Along with Knees and Kopp, two Rabobank Continental riders - Kai Reus and Robert Gesink - raced in front in the finale of the 203 km-long event.

"My advantage was that the two Dutchmen focused on David Kopp [2005 winner and second-placed in this year's Gent-Wevelgem - ed.]," Knees continued. "It also helped that Erik Zabel and Alessandro Petacchi were the centre of attention in the beginning: as my team was trying to lead the peloton, I didn't have to do the full work in front. It was being done in the main bunch so I could concentrate entirely on my own race. In the end, I was lucky to have the most power left between us four."

Team manager Gianluigi Stanga knows that Knees has a lot of potential and will send the young German to his first Giro d'Italia this year. "Knees is a very honest young man and has a powerful motor," said Stanga. "He always worked hard for the team in the start of the season: first in Tirreno and then in Sanremo, where he showed what he's made of. He has a great basic strength and is a good finisher. He will definitely be one of the eight riders that will support Petacchi in the Giro d'Italia."

Pre-Giro: Simoni vs. Cunego again

Gilberto Simoni (Saunier Duval) and Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Fondital) will compete against each other for the first time after the elder Giro d'Italia winner left the Italian team to move to Spain. The two riders, whose sporting fight culminated during the 2004 Giro d'Italia, won by the younger Cunego, will be in the main attractions at the Giro del Trentino. The Italian stage race, taking place around Lake Garda, starts today, Tuesday, April 18 and finishes on Friday, April 21.

Simoni was victorious in this race in 2003, and Cunego in 2004 - in both years, the Giro del Trentino paved the riders' way for their respective Giro d'Italia victories. This year, Venezuelan climber José Rujano (Sella Italia) will also be one of the favourites on the mountainous course. 2005 winner Julio Alberto Perez Cuapio (Panaria), his teammate Emmanuele Sella, Liquigas' Franco Pellizotti, Leonardo Piepoli (Saunier Duval-Prodir), Félix Cárdenas (Barloworld) and Przemyslaw Niemiec (Miche) are also expected to show themselves. In a race which has seen more important line-ups in the past, only three of the participating teams have ProTour status.

The most difficult climb of the 30th edition of the Giro del Trentino will be the Campo Carlo Magno (1682 m, 15 km at 6,1 percent), some 50 kilometres from the penultimate stage finish, but a major selection will already be made on the first day: a mountaintop finish on Passo Forcella (9,2 km at 4,8 percent).

The full parcours outlines as follows:

Stage 1 - Tuesday, April 18: Arco-Castello Tesino, 162 km
Stage 2 - Wednesday, April 19: Castello Tesino-Clès, 174 km
Stage 3 - Thursday, April 20: Romeno-Tione, 168 km
Stage 4 - Friday, April 21: Tione-Arco, 172 km

Entry fees for Sunny King Criterium to cancer research

Entry fees from those participating in the amateur and pro races of the Sunny King Criterium in Anniston, Alabama, on May 6 will be donated to Relay for Life, a local American Cancer Society fund-raiser. "The goal is a $10,000 donation," said Mike Poe, race director. A 15-minute time slot has been allotted between races to allow for a special presentation by Relay for Life officials from the race stage.

In 2005, the Sunny King Criterium donated $7,880 to Relay for Life and honoured Ron Williams, captain of the 2004 USA Paralympic cycling team and winner of silver and bronze medals, in Athens, Greece. Ron was presented with a Key to the City by the Mayor of the City of Anniston, Chip Howell. Ron, a cancer-survivor and resident of nearby Birmingham, AL, is registered to race at Sunny King again in 2006.

The Sunny King Criterium has been selected as a "Top 10 Event" in Alabama, is on USA Cycling’s National Racing Calendar and is the final race in USA Crits, a series of six criterium races in eight days. Series races include the Athens Twilight (April 29) and Nalley Historic Roswell (April 30) Criteriums in Georgia, the Heritage races in Walterboro (May 3) and Greenwood (May 4) South Carolina, the SmithBarney Classic (May 5) in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and Sunny King (May 6).

All criterium venues are located near one another, making for easy transfers from one race to the next in the series. Each individual race awards a minimum of $10,000 to the Pro Men field and the series awards an additional $10,000 in prize money to overall winners of the series, for a total of $75,000 in prize money. Leader’s point’s jerseys will be awarded at each race.

More than 90,000 total spectators are expected at the 6 criterium races combined, and numerous healthy activities for children are planned. "Each race in the series is locally organized and is the centerpiece of downtown festivals in each community," said Gene Dixon of Swagger, LLC, the promoter of the series. "A big part of these festivals centers on children and active lifestyles, which we think is a positive approach to combat childhood obesity."

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