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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for April 28, 2006

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

Romandie stage two wrap-up: Horner takes two

Chris Horner (Davitamon-Lotto)
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Davitamon-Lotto's Chris Horner has achieved his second victory on Swiss soil and scored the second European win for his squad yesterday in stage 2 of the Tour de Romandie, after Australian teammate Robbie McEwen got to put his fists into the air already on Wednesday. The mountainous stage proved to be just right for the American climber, who successfully attacked the leading group in the race finale to Porrentruy and then soloed to the finish line, followed by Jörg Jaksche (Liberty) and Alexandre Moos (Phonak).

And, the American climber took two honours on the podium after the race - not only the flowers, but also the yellow jersey of the overall lead, as he gained seven seconds over Paolo Savoldelli (Discovery) and Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne).

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"I was a little bad today," Horner recalled. "I had some moments where I wasn't so sure of the legs, but we hit the climb and I was to able to follow the pace on the climb; the Illes Balears rider Joaquin Rodriguez was very strong on the climb but very steady. Afterwards on the descent, Savoldelli was... whooaaah - now I understand where [he gets his nickname] - it was the first time I'd seen it, and I thought for sure he was going to crash a couple of times he went into some of the corners so fast.

"But he managed to stay up and split the group in three or four different places; at one time, I had to chase the whole time down the descent to get back on. Luckily, I had Cadel Evans in the front; he didn't take a pull and he slowed it down till I got there, and then we started playing some tactics after that.

"Hopefully the yellow jersey gives a little extra incentive, but I definitely... I'm certainly there with the top, I don't doubt that at all; tomorrow's going to be a mountain-top finish instead of a descent and there's so much tactics involved there. I'm certainly up there with the top climbers in the race, but we have to see tomorrow exactly if I can climb with the very best, or just some of the best."

The only point-to-point stage of this year's Tour de Romandie, tomorrow's stage begins in Biel in the far west. It's a relatively flat ride southeast to Leysin until 15 kilometres from the finish - but that's where things change, the day ending atop the 1,318 metre-high Category 1 ascent of Le Sépey. Here, we're sure to see fireworks galore, and by the day's end, the first significant reordering on general classification and a clear idea of just who will be standing on that final podium in Lausanne.

Also see: Full results, report & photos.

Reality bites thrice for Julich

Bobby Julich said he had three really big indicators telling him to 'chill out' before his season really got started.
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

2006 has been a another reality check for Bobby Julich, who found himself on the edge of doing totally the wrong thing earlier in the year and risking burning matches when he didn't need to. However, experience and intuition set things straight, and he tells Cyclingnews' Anthony Tan he's itching to race.

Minutes before I spoke with CSC's evergreen American Bobby Julich, the 34 year-old was having a fairly in-depth conversation with a representative from Oakley, one of his personal equipment sponsors. Phrases like, 'I need another set of M-Frames for the Giro and Tour' and 'the ones with black Iridium' were thrown around, indicative of someone very particular about the finer details.

"I mean, you're used to doing things the right way and when a guy like that is right here and can take care of a problem... " says Julich, his voice trailing off before explaining the reason behind his nitpicking: "In the time trial, there was something wrong with my glasses - I kept having to pull them up - and we found out they were a little uneven; of course, you don't have the right vision if they're tilted."

Compared to one year ago, Julich hasn't had the smoothest of starts to the '06 season. Since November last year, the plan was to skip races like Paris-Nice and Critérium International - events he won in 2005 - so he could be in top shape to aid Ivan Basso's quest to win both the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France. "I wound up doin' them anyway when I had number one on my back, then I crashed in Paris-Nice and was totally out of that race and had number one on my back in Critérium Internationale and was hors delai [outside the time limit - ed.] for the first time in my career on the morning stage.

Click here to read the full story.

Cunego recons key Giro stage

With a little more than a week to go before the start of the Italian Grand Tour, Lampre's Damiano Cunego has reconnoitred the final climb of the 17th stage of this year's Giro d'Italia: the ascent up to Plan de Corones. With more than 1200 metres of altitude difference to master on the 16.9 kilometres long climb up the 2273 metres high mountaintop (maximum gradient 24 percent just before the finish), Cunego reckoned that this would be a decisive stage towards to overall victory of the Giro.

"It's a climb that really impressed me," said Cunego, who was joined in the feat by Marzio Bruseghin, Paolo Tiralongo and young climber Morris Possoni. "I just hope it won't rain that day. You also have to be lucky: if you put your foot on the ground once, you're out. However, I like the climb and I think it suits me. Together with the Mortirolo (on stage 20), this will be a key stage to decide the Giro." The young Italian asked his mechanic to put on a 34 x 29 gear to ride up what Italian television RAI presenter called 'a ski slope, not a final climb.'

Asked who he counted on as his top rivals in the week ahead, Cunego responded, "There are many, but mainly Basso. But I feel stronger than I was in 2004 when I won, and I also have a very strong team behind me, which equals or even tops CSC."

Ullrich clear for Giro

Jan Ullrich has the medical OK to ride the Giro d'Italia beginning next week. "His knee is okay. Jan can start in the Giro," team doctor Stefan Vogt told the Gazzetta dello Sport. Ullrich himself noted that he has no ambitions at the Italian race. "It it unrealistic to think that I could do well at the Giro," Der Kaiser said. "That would be impossible against the Italians, who are already in top form." But Ullrich paid respect to the race, saying, "I know that I will suffer at the Giro. But it is better to suffer because of a race than because of knee problems."

Courtesy of Susan Westemeyer

AG2R to Giro d'Italia

Participating at the Italian Grand Tour for the very first time, French ProTeam AG2R has announced its Giro d'Italia roster. From May 6-28, the following riders will represent their team colours on the roads in Belgium and Italy: Sylvain Calzati, Inigo Chaurreau, Philip Deignan, Renaud Dion, Hubert Dupont, John Gadret, Yuriy Krivtsov, Carl Naibo and Tomas Vaitkus.

First Chinese ProTour riders at Lampre

2005 Tour of South China Sea winner Kin San Wu (Pocari Sweat)
Photo ©: Tim Yue
(Click for larger image) Kin San Wu (Pocari Sweat) on the start line

The first Chinese riders to get contracts into a ProTour team are 21 year-old Kin San Wu from Hong Kong and 22 year-old Gang Xu. Both riders have signed with Italian squad Lampre-Fondital, beginning their careers within the ProTour peloton this July.

Wu, winner of the 2005 Tour of South China Sea, and Xu are reported to be the best Chinese riders in the Continental peloton. They will also line-up for their country at the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008.

Melchers out for months

Women's cycling star Mirjam Melchers (Buitenpoort-Flexpoint) will be out of competition for several months. On Thursday, April 27, doctors at a Dutch hospital in Veldhoven diagnosed vasoconstriction in her left leg, which will need to be operated soon.

Vasoconstriction is a narrowing of blood vessels, causing restricted blood flow. Melchers, who will be out of competition for months because of this, has been suffering back and knee problems for a while. The Dutch woman recently won the Ronde Van Vlaanderen, but found herself more and more handicapped as the season moved on. She is now aiming at coming back to competition for the World Championships in Salzburg, Austria, at the end of September.

T-Mobile confident for Henninger Turm

The T-Mobile team is looking forward to Monday’s 45th edition of German race Rund um den Henninger Turm, with firm plans to attack on May 1. Patrik Sinkewitz in particular is full of ambitions for the race on his home turf. In the past week, the 25 year-old placed fifth at both the Amstel Gold race and La Flèche-Wallone and finished fourth at Liège-Bastogne- Liège.

"The wins will come in time," said local hero Sinkewitz, pointing at the magenta riders’ strong team performance in the Ardennes. "The team worked together excellently. We put he tactics into action and were always in the thick of things with two riders in the important moments of the race."

Having barely missed out on podium spots, however, is bugging Sinkewitz. In Liège in particular, where he was clearly one of the strongest riders in the finale, he came tantalising close. After a courageous ride, he had to make do with fourth place. At his home race, Sinkewitz now aims for the podium, supported by Steffen Wesemann - runner-up at the Amstel Gold Race - and the reigning ITT World Champion Michael Rogers from Australia.

Traditionally, the focus at the Henninger Turm will be on the German teams. "It’s a matter of prestige for us," said team manager Olaf Ludwig, who in 1994 won the race himself. "Everybody expects us to control the field and react to each attack. You have to be alert at every second."

The T-Mobile roster at Henninger Turm will be: Marcus Burghardt, Sergey Ivanov, Kim Kirchen, André Korff, Michael Rogers, Patrik Sinkewitz, Bram Schmitz and Steffen Wesemann.

Pellizotti and Nibali in Tuscany

Franco Pellizotti and Vincenzo Nibali will captain the Liquigas team in the Italian races scheduled this weekend in Tuscany. Under the guidance of team manager Mario Chiesa, the rider from Friuli and the young Sicilian - who claimed a stage in this year’s Settimana Internazionale di Coppi e Bartali - will take part in the GP Industria e Commercio di Larciano (Saturday, 29 April) and in the Giro di Toscana (Sunday, 30 April).

The Liquigas line-up will also include: Eros Capecchi, Kjell Carlström, Alberto Curtolo, Francesco Failli, Roman Kreuziger and Charles Wegelius.

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(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2006)