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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

First Edition Cycling News for April 24, 2006

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

Valverde does the double

Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne)
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears) has followed up his victory in La Flèche Wallonne by taking out the 92nd Liège-Bastogne-Liège in an 11 rider sprint. That group was all that remained after a very attacking race, and it formed over the top of the Côte de Saint-Nicolas with 6 km to go. Paolo Bettini rode well but could only finish second behind Valverde, with Damiano Cunego achieving his best placing in LBL with a third.

The race was held in excellent conditions, and was coloured by a 26 rider breakaway that formed after 34 km, containing Steffen Wesemann and Michael Rogers (T-Mobile), Jens Voigt (CSC), and Jurgen Van den Broeck (Discovery), among others. The group reached a maximum lead of 7'30, but some work from Milram, Phonak, Lampre and CSC pulled them back to within 2 minutes before the Côte de Wanne, where Steffen Wesemann attacked alone. The German steadily gained time as the chasers were all absorbed by the peloton, but even he succumbed with 52 km to go.

The finale was coloured by an attack by Michael Boogerd (Rabobank) and Joaquin Rodriguez (Liberty Seguros), who went clear on the Côte de Sprimont with 29 km to go and gained as much as 44 seconds before the chase group started to pull them back. On the Côte de Saint-Nicolas with 6 km to go, it all came together with Boogerd (Rabobank), Perdiguero (Phonak), Sinkewitz (T-Mobile), Rodriguez, Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne), Horner (Davitamon), Cunego (Lampre), Basso, Schleck (CSC), Bettini (Quick.Step), Di Luca (Liquigas) and Kashechkin (Liberty) all making the front group. But no-one could get away in the closing kilometres, and Valverde won the sprint handily from Bettini and Cunego.

Post-race comments

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Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step) - second:

"I'm happy: I was alone at the end, as I feared. I spent the energy I had too soon, but if I hadn't done it myself, it's likely that Boogerd and Rodriguez would have made it to the finish. Anyway, I felt really good... so I'll see you at the Giro!"

Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Fondital) - third:

"I came here with the intention to get good training in view of the Giro - I had exceptional teammates and rode a good race. The team is fundamental and I have a great team. It's okay to get third, but it would have been better if I'd won! Anyway, it's a good sign for the Giro, where there will be many riders on the same level. We will therefore see an exciting race from the beginning on - there'll be some good ones right from the start."

Patrik Sinkewitz (T-Mobile) - fourth:

"It's a little bitter to get fourth again today. After the good placings in the Basque Country, Amstel Gold Race and Flèche Wallonne I would of course have liked to get on the podium. Maybe I rode in the wind a little too soon, but I felt strong and didn't want to play tactics."

Ivan Basso (Team CSC) - 10th:

"It was a good test, and the team tried to win the race in every way. Unfortunately, neither Schleck nor me were able to make the difference. The Giro? When you're able to be in the finale of a race like this one, it means that things are going well. Now I've finished racing until the Giro, so I'll see you then!"

Also see: Full results, report & photos.

JoJo Rujano Go-Go for Giro

By Tim Maloney, European Editor

Rujano king of the Italian mountains in 2005
Photo ©: Sirotti
Click for larger image

With a recent rapprochement with Gianni Savio's Selle Italia-Serramenti Diquigiovanni team, it looks certain that Venezuelan climbing phenom José Rujano will race in the upcoming Giro d'Italia for the Italian squad. With a firm deal reached, Rujano's contract will now be transferred to the Belgian Quick.Step team on June 1, 2006, but the climber will lead Continental Pro outfit Selle Italia during this year's Giro d'Italia.

Already placing 11th on GC in his second race of the season, the mountainous 2006 Giro dell Trentino, 24-year-old Rujano is already showing the form that put the tiny talent on the 2005 Giro d'Italia podium and earned him the Maglia Verde for best climber. Baby-faced Jojo hails from Santa Cruz del Mora in the Cordillera of western Venezuela, where the Merida region produces 'mucho cafe' - also the hometown of the only Venezuelan to win a Grand Tour stage, Leonardo Sierra, who took Giro stage honours in 1990. But Rujano's baby face belies his mountain man toughness, as the 162cm, 52kg rider set a record for planting 5,500 coffee plants in one day when he was only 12 years old. Having trained hard at altitude in Santa Cruz del Mora with Trentino under his belt, Jojo is all systems go-go for the Giro.

In a recent interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport's Marco Pastonesi, Rujano explained that, "I'm feeling really good and really happy to be back in Italy racing again. I was able to ride with the best riders in my first two races and only slowed down on the wet descents... it's normal as I don't want to take any risks before the Giro." As for his future, Rujano said, "Now everything is set; I'll stay with Selle Italia for the Giro and until 31 May, then I'll pass to Quick.Step for the rest of the season. Cycling is my life, my work, my way to Venezuela, the bottom has fallen out of the economy. Poor people have become really poor and rich people have become really rich. Those in the middle have become poor too. The Giro d'Italia has given me a lot of glory and not much money. I managed to buy a house for my family with my salary and prize money. It's near their old house but a little higher up, for when the floods come, it's important to be on a high spot. The houses up high stay there, but the ones down low get washed away."

The ambitious young Rujano has higher goals this than just one podium spot in a Grand Tour, declaring that "I want to be at least in the first three at the Giro, and in the first five at the Tour de France." And Rujano is already working on a project to help the young cyclists in Venezuela through his new José Rujano Cycling Foundation, where he's provided bikes and equipment for 10 riders between 17 and 20 years old back home in Santa Cruz del Mora. With his climbing skills, tenacity and character, Rujano has shown already he has the talent to back up his ambitions. And come July, Quick.Step's miniscule mountain man from Merida may be planting more than coffee with his blistering attacks in the mountains

ProTour teams create interest group

Grand Tours ask for more wildcards

The ProTour teams have created their own association of common interests. Just as the G14 in European soccer, 18 of the 20 ProTour teams have announced the creation of the IPCT (International Professional Cycling Team) on Saturday, April 22. Aimed at defending and promoting their interests in the sport, the IPCT will be presided by Patrick Lefévère (Quick.Step manager), Roberto Amadio (Liquigas-Bianchi) and Theo De Rooy (Rabobank). Phonak, whose sponsorship during the next few years is still uncertain, as well as Française des Jeux did not adhere to the new organisation.

Meanwhile, the organisers of the three Grand Tours have expressed their will to increase the number of wildcard entries at a meeting of the race organisers' association AIOCC on the week-end. A "minimum of four, possibly six" Second Division teams should be allowed to participate in the premium races according to the commission headed by Vuelta a España director Victor Cordero.

"It is vital for the system that it gets a breath of fresh air through wildcard invitations," said ASO's Christian Prudhomme, pointing out that this was also in the interest of the riders, whose association CPA had criticised the plans to cut down ProTour teams from 20 to 18 to allow for more invitations at its meeting on Thursday, April 20. The current compromise paper still being discussed by the UCI and the concerned parties would only allow for two to four wildcard entries.

The AIOCC also showed concern over the cancellations of several races, especially in Italy and Spain this season, which could not take place because of missing TV coverage and a less impressive participation list as a result of the ProTour. "If this goes on, we will lose more and more races," said ASO's Jean-François Pescheux.

Petacchi über alles in Germany

Alessandro Petacchi has won all five stages of the Oddset Rundfahrt - formerly Niedersachsen-Rundfahrt - in Germany. Leader from beginning to end, the Italian supersprinter left not a single win for the other German ProTour teams participating in the race. While Gerolsteiner secured two podium placings, T-Mobile couldn't make a top three spot. German Continental team Lamonta scored three podium placings with returned sprinter Danilo Hondo.

"It's the first time that I win every stage of a race," said Petacchi, "and because we are in Germany where our main sponsor is, it couldn't have been better. It's the third time that I've won a stage race after the Vuelta Valenciana in 2005 and the Giro della Provincia di Lucca in 2000. Now I travel home and concentrate on the start of the Giro d'Italia."

LPR to Romandie

Professional Continental team LPR has announced its roster for the upcoming 60th edition of the Tour de Romandie. Roger Beuchat, Andreas Dietziker, Daniele De Paoli, Giuseppe Muraglia, Dmitri Konychev, Carlos Ochoa and Yuri Metlushenko will be at the start for the Swiss team in Genève on Tuesday.

"It will be a very hard competition for us," said team manager Orlando Maini. "Again, we will line up with a diminished roster as part of the team remained in Italy to contest the Gran Premio di Larciano and the Giro di Toscana. Still, we'll try to honour the race in the best way we can. We'll have to be very concentrated to grab every possible opportunity. Of course, our rivals are particularly sharp, but we have the quality to do well - especially Ochoa, who is in good shape. Maybe he can be a surprise in Romandie."

Förster injured shoulder

Gerolsteiner's Robert Förster didn't make it to the finish of Saturday's Oddset-Tour stage four, because he was "run down from behind at a speed of 60 km/h," he said. Victim of a bad crash, Förster injured his shoulder. "I can barely move my left arm," the sprinter explained. "I fell on the shoulder that I was operated on two years ago."

X-rays showed no fractures, but there is still the possibility of ligament damage. "The swelling and bruises have to let up, until then you can't see anything. But right now I'm just glad that nothing was broken," Förster said.

Courtesy of Susan Westemeyer

Giro transfer by plane

The Giro d'Italia organisers have announced that the long transfer from Belgium to Italy on May 9 will be done by plane, and not by night train as previously planned. Teams and riders had protested against the train transfer during the last months. After the end of stage three in South Belgian Hotton, the riders will therefore be transported to Italy with two chartered airplanes at nine o'clock in the evening. There will be a rest day after the transfer, and on the next day the Giro will continue with a team time trial.

Fothen a dad

Gerolsteiner has announced an addition to the family of 24 year-old Marcus Fothen: Baby daughter Maxine was born on Sunday morning, which is why the German team participated in Liège-Bastogne-Liège with only seven instead of eight riders. The young dad travelled back to Germany to spend precious time with his family. "Mother and daughter are fine, we are very happy," Fothen said.

Run, Rolf, run

Former T-Mobile rider Rolf Aldag finished 31st in his marathon debut this weekend. The tall German had announced that he was aiming for a finish time of 2 hours and 45 minutes, and came in almost exactly on time, at 2:42:57. "That was brutal," Aldag said. "I started out much too fast."

But the former teammate of Jan Ullrich and Erik Zabel was running together with an experienced companion who helped him pace himself, "and then it went perfectly." Aldag said it was a great experience, but "I can cycle better." The Hamburg marathon was won for the fourth time by Spaniard Julio Rey, in a time of 2:06:52.

Courtesy of Susan Westemeyer

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