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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

First Edition Cycling News for April 19, 2006

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

Flèche Wallonne preview

Will CSC splinter the Walloon Arrow?

By Anthony Tan in Charleroi

Coming up on

Cyclingnews will cover the 60th edition of the Dauphiné Libéré live as of stage 4 on Wednesday, June 10, at approximately 15:00 local Europe time (CEST)/ 23:00 Australian time (CDT)/ 9:00 (USA East).

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2005 champion Danilo Di Luca will face stiff opposition in this year's Flèche Wallonne
Photo ©: AFP
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Its literal translation, 'The Walloon Arrow', doesn't give too much away, but given its location in the Belgian Ardennes, its shorter distance compared to the other Spring Classics and comparatively less climbing, the 70th edition of the men's Flèche Wallonne is likely to be moving in said formation until one third of the way through the race.

At that point, and in the vein of the Amstel Gold Race last Sunday, riders will tackle the first of three ascensions of the dreaded though legendary Mur de Huy. The Mur's statistics need no further explanation: 1.3 kilometres in length, an average gradient of 10% with sections up to 19%, and rising 130 metres within this short distance.

Leaving the Stade du Pays de Charleroi at five past eleven Wednesday morning, the 202 kilometre parcours heads northeast to Eghezee (km 37) then east to Huy after 61.5 kilometres, reaching the summit of Mur de Huy four kilometres later. From there, the peloton, most probably still intact, will complete a small, 30 kilometre clockwise route that sees them crest the Mur de Huy for a second time after 95 kilometres via the Côte de Amay (km 81.5).

The second and final loop around the Belgian Ardennes will be the decisive one; over the next 107 kilometres, the peloton takes on a lumpy, bumpy clockwise parcours with four climbs en route - the Côte de Pailhe (km 132.5), Côte de Hautebisse (km 154.5), Côte de Bohissau (km 173.5) and Côte de Ahin (km 191.0) - before the race culminates on the 'Wall of Huy' for the third and final time.

Live coverage

Cyclingnews will be covering the 70th Flèche Wallonne live, beginning at 11:00 local time (CEST)/05:00 EDT (USA East)/02:00 PDT (USA West)/20:00 AEST (Australia East).

Click here for the full preview.

Women's Flèche preview

Field wide open as Cooke attempts to equal Luperini's record

By Anthony Tan in Charleroi

2005 women's Flèche Wallonne champion Nicole Cooke will be back to defend her title
Photo ©: AFP
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Running in tandem with the men's race this Sunday, the women's Flèche Wallonne looks to be an equally open affair. While only in its ninth year, La Flèche Wallonne Femmes has already produced a triple champion in Fabiana Luperini (1998, 2001-02) and one double winner in Nicole Cooke, who took her second title last year in convincing fashion over the Nürnberger duo of Oenone Wood and Judith Arndt. In 2006, the Welsh wonder comes back in an attempt to defend her title and equal Luperini's record, but a deep field of contenders suggests she won't have it all her own way.

Rather than starting in Charleroi, the women's peloton will start and finish in Huy, essentially riding the final 106 kilometre loop of the men's Flèche. So before reaching the foot of the invariably leg-breaking, race-deciding Mur de Huy, the same four climbs will be faced, namely the Côte de Pailhe (km 36.5), Côte de Hautebisse (km 58.5), Côte de Bohissau (km 77.0) and Côte de Ahin (km 95.0).

Certainly, one can wait, sit back and enjoy the ride, but as history shows, it doesn't always have to be that way. In 2004, Frenchwoman Sonia Huguet and Germany's Hanka Kupfernagel attacked with six kilometres to go and held off the field all the way to the line, with the former coming out on top to claim her biggest ever career victory. It was an enterprising move that caught the peloton off-guard, and similar initiative will be required if the race is to finish that way again.

Click here for the full preview.

T-Mobile with two teams at Flèche

German T-Mobile is sending two cycling teams to Belgian Flèche Wallonne: the elite men and women's squads. At the 70th Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday, April 19, the magenta men will amount to eight riders, while the ladies event will feature five cyclists.

The biggest challenge awaits the riders on the steep, 1300 m Mur de Huy, ("Wall of Huy"), with several sections steeper than 15 percent. "You have to dig deep in order not to get dropped there", said T-Mobile rider Matthias Kessler, who placed third in 2004. The men's roster will be led by Steffen Wesemann, runner-up at Amstel Gold race just two days ago. His teammates Patrik Sinkewitz (fifth) and Sergey Ivanov (tenth) also made a strong showing.

Kim Kirchen, who will join the squad at the Belgian Classic, has good memories of Flèche Wallonne: The Luxembourger was beaten only by Italian Danilo di Luca last year.

The women’s race, which will start and finish in Huy, will be 106 kilometres-long. World Cup leader Ina-Yoko Teutenberg will be trying to defend her points advantage against Miriam Melchers.

The T-Mobile rosters are:

Men: Scott Davis, Sergey Ivanov, Matthias Kessler, Kim Kirchen, Eddy Mazzoleni, Patrik Sinkewitz, Steffen Wesemann and Thomas Ziegler.
Women: Judith Arndt, Kimberly Baldwin, Christina Becker, Amy Moore and Ina-Yoko Teutenberg.

Liquigas with the "Killer"

The "Killer" will be returning to the scene of the "crime" - twelve months after his victory, Danilo Di Luca will show himself again on the Côtes of the Ardennes in La Flèche Wallonne. On Wednesday, April 19, the winner of the 2005 ProTour will start his short northern campaign, which will only include Flèche and, next Sunday, Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

But Di Luca does not come to Belgium with the same potential than last year. "I decided to focus all my season on the Giro d’Italia," said Di Luca. "If I said to be in the same good condition of the last year, I would tell a lie: my preparation aims at reaching top fitness in one month. I think of Liège-Bastogne-Liège rather than tomorrow’s Flèche Wallonne. It’s difficult to make a prognostic, as I will discover only during the race if it is possible to have ambitions. However, I think that the role of team leader belongs to Stefano Garzelli. Stefano has been riding well for weeks now: I expect he'll race a great Flèche Wallonne."

Liquigas directeur sportif Stefano Zanatta will lead a team that, in addition to Di Luca and Garzelli, will include Luca Paolini, Vincenzo Nibali, Patrick Calcagni, Kjell Carlström, Matej Mugerli and Alessandro Spezialetti. Next Sunday, the same team will take part in Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

Rebellin for Gerolsteiner

At the 70th edition of Flèche Wallonne, the rider roster of German team Gerolsteiner will of course include 2005 third-placed and 2004 winner Davide Rebellin, who placed sixth in last Sunday's Amstel Gold Race. Directeur sportif Christian Henn is confident the Italian will be able to get onto the podium again this year, but the team's strategy is not based on its leader alone.

"As we saw at Amstel on Sunday, we have more options," Henn said. Stefan Schumacher, for example, reached the finish line in ninth position. Third best Gerolsteiner rider was Fabian Wegmann (13th), who has been a top ten finisher at Flèche before - last year. Andrea Moletta has also proved his good shape by placing 16th in Amstel two days ago.

"We can therefore attack and ride aggressively - we always have to have someone in front," added Henn.

The full Gerolsteiner team roster at Flèche Wallonne will be: Andrea Moletta, Davide Rebellin, Matthias Russ, Ronny Scholz, Stefan Schumacher, Fabian Wegmann, Beat Zberg and Markus Zberg.

Evans leads Davitamon

Belgian team Davitamon-Lotto will be led by Australian Cadel Evans at Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday. The climber finished ninth last year on the Mur de Huy. Mario Aerts, Christophe Brandt, Chris Horner, Josep Jufre, Bjorn Leukemans, Wim Vanhuffel and Johan Vansummeren will be supporting Evans at the Classic. Aerts, suffering from a swollen knee after a crash in Amstel Gold race, hopes that his injury will be healed in time for the event.

Riis calls Ullrich's form "catastrophic"

According to Danish newspaper BT, CSC team director Bjarne Riis has said that Jan Ullrich's current level of fitness was a "absolutely catastrophic". The Dane, who ended the reign of Miguel Indurain at the Tour de France 1996, as his then-teammate Ullrich placed second one year prior to his own Tour de France victory, criticised the German's attitude towards his sport after seeing him in Tuscany.

"It's clear that he doesn't like to ride a bike, which is why I can't understand why he wants to be a cyclist," Riis was quoted as saying. "It's a waste of talent. He has to wake up soon. I believe in him less and less." While admitting that Ullrich remained inside the circle of favourites for this year's Tour de France, the CSC director also added that his own Ivan Basso was "way ahead" in terms of form.

Hondo come-back in Niedersachsen

Danilo Hondo (Lamonta) has received the permission to return to racing form the governing body of cycling, UCI, on Tuesday, April 18. The German sprinter, after being suspended form competition because of a positive doping result for Carphedon in March 2005, will thus represent his new team, Continental outfit Lamonta, at the Internationale Niedersachsen-Rundfahrt stage race in Germany, beginning on April 19. An earlier come-back in Rund um Köln on Easter Monday had not been possible because of UCI rules on team changes.

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