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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for April 24, 2006

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

An interview with Alejandro Valverde: Victoria doble

In recent years, winning several of the three Ardennes Classics has become a common theme, with Davide Rebellin's historic triple in 2004 and Danilo Di Luca's Amstel-Flèche double last year. This week, Alejandro Valverde continued the trend with victories in Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the latter the first ever for a Spanish rider. Cyclingnews' Brecht Decaluwé attended the post-race press conference in Ans.

Cyclingnews: How difficult was it to motivate yourself for today's race?

Two days shy of his 26th birthday, Alejandro Valverde is stepping out of the shadows,
Photo ©: Anthony Tan
(Click for larger image)

Alejandro Valverde: This 'doble' is really like a dream to me, but obviously, it is more complicated than just dreaming it. My main advantage was that I did not have to worry about winning a classic after my victory in Huy, so I entered the finale very relaxed.

CN: You didn't react to any attacks - why was that?

AV: My teammate Rodriguez rode up front so it wasn't up to me to lead the chase; thanks to Joaquin's work, I could spare all my energy. Furthermore, when Bettini went after them, Joaquin was still our leader, as he could still win the race because he is very fast at the finish line. Team CSC had to chase to get back on those guys; that was good for me.

CN: Does this double classics victory allow you to go at ease to your next goals, the Tour de France and maybe the overall ProTour rankings?

AV: These are my next targets; that's true. The ProTour is very important but I am not going to change my program to gather more points in the overall ProTour rankings. Obviously, I want to do very well in the Tour de France; now I can go there with a tranquillity and serenity that I couldn't have if I didn't win one of these two races.

Click here for the full interview.

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CSC happy with Spring Classics campaign

Team CSC had two riders up front in the fast-paced finish of the 92nd edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège: Fränk Schleck and Ivan Basso attacked during the final tough kilometre, and a third 2006 Spring Classic victory seemed within reach, but instead it was Spanish rider Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne), who took the of the last of the Spring Classics by outsprinting Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step) and Damiano Cunego (Lampre). Schleck and Basso finished seventh and 10th respectively in the 262-kilometre race, where Team CSC had kept a furious pace on the steep climbs through the Belgian Ardennes.

"Our tactics proved right all the way through, but in the end the others were better than us," said Bjarne Riis, who can now look back on the team's best ever spring season. "Maybe we lacked that last bit of luck as well, and with two punctures at very critical moments we didn't exactly have perfect conditions out there. But I'm not excusing anything because I think we did do well in Liège-Bastogne¬-Liège after all, with the whole team making an effort to keep us up front. Everyone watching the race could see we had a top motivated team with everyone ready to fight."

After the victories of Fabian Cancellara in Roubaix and Fränk Schleck in Maastricht, Riis is more than satisfied with his team's performances in the 2006 spring classics. "The way we fought today is a pretty good reflection on the way we've fought in all the spring classics this year," the Dane continued. "We've stayed up front with aggressive tactics and always with several riders in the finale. This has given us two big and well deserved victories in Paris-Roubaix and Amstel Gold Race, and for a long time it did look like we were going make it today as well. That wasn't meant to be, but I'm still very satisfied with the great one day races of this month."

Team CSC's Karsten Kroon finished in 18th place in Liége-Bastogne-Liége, which means CSC won the team's competition and also retained the lead in the ProTour rankings.

Impressive pacing "killed" Belgian riders

On the morning after, there was one consensus in the post-race comments of the Belgian press: Team CSC rode a fantastic race, making Liège-Bastogne-Liège too fast for the Belgian riders.

Paolo Bettini saluted the CSC team in HNB. "My hat off for CSC´," Il Grillo said. "It's been years since I last saw a team take control of a race in such a way. The morphology of the race changed, though, when Ivan Basso broke his wheel just before the real finale started. CSC called off the chase for a moment to wait for their team leader and Boogerd and Rodriguez were able to take more time, it became a risky situation that way. It's just a pity that I was by myself several times again today."

The Italian star, whom according to the same paper has been offered two million Euros per year by German T-Mobile, was greatly assisted by his teammate Serge Baguet. But also for the Belgian national champ, the light slowly went out on the Côte de Sart-Tilman. "We knew it wasn't going to be so obvious for our team to take control of the race today. We are not CSC," said Baguet, who confirmed his qualities as a dependable and hard worker and will wait to negotiate a renewal of his contract until after the Giro. "I don't think that there will be any problems. They know what I'm worth," he concluded.

"CSC did all the work, but another one tasted the jam in the end," Eddy Merckx is quoted. The fact that Bjarne Riis' team wasn't reluctant to take the weight of the race on their shoulders was clearly appreciated by the cycling icon. Eddy's son Axel crossed the line as first Belgian in 33rd position. "In the Flemish classics we're there, but on the roads of Wallonie we have too big a hole to fill," Merckx senior analysed.

"It was killing!," Belgian Philippe Gilbert told Het Laatste Nieuws. "Basso and co pulled the pack on a string. And it remained stretched until Ans. Only on the Haute Levée they temporised a bit. Luckily. If they would have kept on riding like that, they would have had to pick me up from the ground.

"The early break has stirred up the fire. As a result, everyone was dead in the finale. It went way too fast," he added. Gilbert attacked momentarily before the climb of La Redoute. "I was afraid to be at my limit there, so I wanted to surprise the rest by going before the climb. It didn't work. On La Redoute I was stranded by 20 meters from the best and I couldn't bridge the gap. Afterwards I got back on. At the foot of Sart-Tilman I slid on the dirt and I lost terrain. To hang on was hard."

Axel Merckx confirmed the speed of the race. "You can say that much," the Phonak rider commented. "That train kept on tearing along and didn't stop for a second. There was no hiding. I felt pretty stiff still from the crash on Friday. Not ideal, two days before such a top classic. So what could I do?," he asked in HNB. "I tried to anticipate, but that CSC train was powering."

Davitamon-Lotto's Björn Leukemans agreed with his Belgian colleagues. "I suffered. On Sart-Tilman it went too fast. They accelerated again. I wasn't one hundred percent. My legs didn't turn around properly. I did what I could for Chris Horner, got some bidons. But my tank was running on empty. You can't have the slightest problem; without the consequences of that fall in Basque country, it would have been completely different - I would have been there in Amstel and my train would have been on the move too," he said.

Courtesy of Sabine Sunderland

Evans undergoes tests

Davitamon-Lotto's Cadel Evans was disappointed with his performance in Flèche Wallonne, saying he was "well below my normal level from kilometre 0. Something is not right." Liège-Bastogne-Liège didn't come out much better, neither. "I was flat out to finish in the grupetto," the Australian continued on his personal website on Sunday. "A bit disconcerting, yes, but now I've found out what's wrong with me: 'Hunter's syndrome'."

Hunter's syndrome is an inherited recessive disease, whose mild form's symptoms can include stiffening of joints, enlargement of internal organs such as liver and spleen, and cardiovascular problems, especially valvular dysfunction. But after further testing on Monday, Evans' doctors said there was nothing to worry about..

"More tests - lots of tests - and I'm all OK!," Evans added. "Good news for me. It seems I got a migraine at a very invonvenient time. What can you do? It was not easy to ride Liège with one eye. Now, I'm on my way to Romandie so I'll see how things go there. The neurologist says there's nothing to worry about."

Davitamon Team director Allan Peiper informed Cyclingnews that Evans will know more from the tests in 48 hours.

Haedo shuts out ProTour sprinters

By Kirsten Robbins in Alpharetta, Georgia

J.J. Haedo (Toyota United)
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

Juan José Haedo has continued to prove the speed of his sprint against the top sprinters in the world by winning two stages of the Tour of California and storming through the competition at the final stage of the Tour de Georgia.

Cyclingnews caught up with Haedo after he crossed the finish line to find out the details of the final stage in Alpharetta. "I didn’t feel that great today," noted Haedo. "But the team did so much work for me that I had to do something good for them. We did a lot of climbing up until now."

With a break hanging off of the front of the field for the majority of the race, Haedo commented on Toyota-United’s strategy for the finale. "We had the team go to the front but we really had to just wait until the last minute because we did not want to waste too much energy. Then it was a drag race to the line. I had to go all the way to the line and give it one hundred percent or more to be able to beat Gord."

Early in the race Toyota-United let the other teams do the work as they had a rider in the break. But once the break was in sight the team moved to the front to finish it off. "From the beginning we wanted to put a guy in the break so that we didn’t have to chase. With fifty kilometres to go there were two or three guys of ours chasing to help bring back the break with Lotto and Quick Step helping."

Haedo has been consistently sprinting successfully against the fast men usually competing in ProTour field sprints. "It is hard to sprint with these guys. When you have Rodriguez, Hunter and Fraser you go to the sprint and it is not one hundred percent you will win. You just have to go with what you know about how you feel and go with what you have in the moment," he explained. "I was never worried about not winning a stage at the Tour de Georgia. I did feel a little bit of pressure because it came down to the last day for me."

Many of the ProTour teams have their eyes on rising talents in the UCI America Tour and Haedo is certain to be at the top of that list. "My stage wins at the Tour of California and here at the Tour de Georgia are important for my future as a cyclist. I think I am ready to go to race over in Europe and perhaps I will begin to contact some teams."

Time will tell if Haedo will be the next product of the U.S. domestic team program. Until then, ProTour teams that come to race in America will have to keep their eye out for Haedo.

Quick.Step to Romandie

The Quick.Step team has announced its rider selection for the upcoming Tour de Romandie from Aril 25-30. Ad Engels, Juan Manuel Garate, José Antonio Garrido, Ivan Santaromita, Hubert Schwab, Cédric Vasseur, Davide Viganò and Wouter Weylandt, under the guidance of DS Serge Parsani, will be climbing the Swiss mountains this week.

Ullrich must "force himself"

One day before Jan Ullrich's late 2006 season debut at the Tour de Romandie, the 1997 Tour de France winner knows that it will be hard to keep up with an already fast moving European pro peloton. "The road will be hard," Ullrich told German television ARD on Sunday before flying out to Genève, Switzerland. "I only rode my first really intensive kilometres a few days ago - they hurt, but I have to ride races now."

In order to achieve the much longed for second Tour de France victory this year, the former German "Wunderkind" plans to sharpen his fitness by participating in the Giro d'Italia after the Swiss tour. "Jan absolutely wants to ride the Giro d'Italia starting May 6 as Tour preparation," said T-Mobile directeur sportif and Ullrich's personal trainer Rudy Pevenage. "So he desperately needs Romandie before that to collect some race kilometres. He'll have to force himself through it - the motivation is there."

Because of a knee infection, Ullrich could not start into the season a few weeks ago at the Circuit de la Sarthe, his traditional debut which was won by Team CSC's Ivan Basso.

Gerolsteiner's Giro line-up

German outfit Gerolsteiner has communicated its line-up for the Giro d'Italia from May 6-28, 2006. Although Davide Rebellin missed out on the last of the Spring Classics on Sunday, as he is currently ill with stomach problems and an injured rib, the Italian will be team captain at his home Grand Tour. Robert Förster, Torsten Hiekmann, Sven Krauss, Andrea Moletta, Sven Montgomery, Volker Ordowski, Matthias Russ and Stefan Schumacher will be Rebellin's teammates at the Giro.

51st Lincoln GP

The 51st edition of the Lincoln Grand Prix Cycle Race organised by the Velo Club Lincoln and Lincoln City Council will be held on Sunday May 7, 2006 in Lincolnshire, United Kingdom. This year's race course will be slightly revised with the distance reduced by two laps to 86 miles.

The entry list features two strong foreign teams from Australia (Team FRF Couriers) and Ireland (Team Murphy & Gunn) but they will be up against the best of British competition over the usual 8 mile circuit and 11 ascents of the Michaelgate climb which can be guaranteed to sort out who are the main contenders as the laps progress.

Commonwealth Games Gold Medallists Rob Hayles and Chris Newton will be back at the event. Newton won the race six years ago in 2000, whilst Hayles had bad luck last year when he was forced to abandon with mechanical problems. Other previous winners in the 128 strong field are Malcolm Elliott (1983) and Kevin Dawson (1996). Russell and Dean Downing, first and second last year, will not be present, but Elliott has vowed to win the event again 23 years after his first victory!

The Grand Prix is a counting event in the season long British Cycling Premier Calendar and the current top three riders in the competition, Kristian House, Matthew Stephens and Ben Greenwood are also on the start list.

UK Coast to Coast ride

Sunday, July 9, 2006, will see the third running of the Coast to Coast charity cycle ride from Ilfracombe in North Devon to Plymouth in South Devon, UK. The ride, 75 miles long across Devon’s hills and Dartmoor, will be in aid of the Children’s Hospice South West.

This year's ride will see two groups start to merge at 10 miles from the end, to ride the last miles together. Sponsored by local cycle shops, the ride which has raised over £2500 before will have full support vans with a PA system playing music to the riders as they will cycle for approx. seven hours.

For more information, please go to

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