First Edition Cycling News for August 24, 2006
Edited by Hedwig Kröner, with assistance from Susan Westemeyer
Eneco Tour final stage wrap-up
Schumacher wins Eneco Tour in bizarre finish
The last stage of the Eneco Tour finished with high drama, with Stefan Schumacher finishing third in the stage and jumping over George Hincapie to win by just one second, after the bonus seconds were worked out. It wasn't as simple as that, however. The bunch was sprinting for second place behind Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux), who took a fantastic home victory. With 100m to go, Schumacher led on the curving left hand barrier with Hincapie on his wheel, when he hit the arm of a fan who was perhaps celebrating Gilbert's victory. Schumacher swerved right, causing Hincapie to crash with just 50m to go, but held it up himself to finish third behind Gilbert and Manuele Mori (Saunier Duval). Had Schumi finished second and Hincapie third, the American would have kept the red jersey.
"I shouldn't be ashamed. I have deserved the victory," said Schumacher, who in any case wasn't happy on the podium. He stood a good chance of winning without the crash, but now it will be a case of "what if?"
The final stage, which started and finished in Ans and was run over a Liege-Bastogne-Liege-style course, saw a breakaway of seven escape after 10 km: Bram De Groot (Rabobank), Piet Rooijakkers (Skil-Shimano), Mario Aerts (Davitamon-Lotto), William Bonnet (Credit Agricole), Aaron Olson (Saunier Duval), Steven Caethoven (Chocolade Jacques), and Erwin Thijs (Unibet.com). The group got as much as six minutes as the race approached the halfway point, before Discovery and Quick.Step combined to chase it down. It came back together with 32 km to go and Merckx, Lövkvist, Löwik, Lefèvre, Portal and Righi escaped, gaining a maximum of 45 seconds, which wasn't enough to see them home. The winning move came from Philippe Gilbert at 4.5 km to go, and that was the one that paid off.
Click here for the Full results, report & photos from stage 7.
An unhappy victory
In today's last stage of the 2006 Eneco Tour of Benelux, Gerolsteiner's Stefan Schumacher was able to snatch the overall victory from Discovery's George Hincapie - but in a most unhappy fashion. Indeed, 'Schumi' did not smile once during the podium celebration, as he knew that it wasn't his sporting abilities that made him win over his American rival, but a crash directly caused by the German.
With only 50 metres to go, Schumacher was racing in front of the chasing bunch, followed by Hincapie, when a spectator leaned far over the barriers and hit the Gerolsteiner rider on the left shoulder - as a result, Schumacher abruptly swerved to the right, and Hincapie's front wheel touched his back tyre, which made the American crash.
"I am so sorry this happened; I did not want to win this way at all," the 25 year-old said. "I was hit by a spectator and had to react - it wasn't my fault." After the finish, there was much discussion in Ans about a possible relegation of the German, but finally the jury of commissaires attributed the third placing to Schumacher, and therefore its four bonus seconds, which made him victorious over Hincapie by only one second.
"The jury saw that Stefan did not swerve on purpose," commented Gerolsteiner directeur sportif Christian Wegmann. "Stefan just prevented himself from crashing, but he wasn't guilty of Hincapie's fall. We did win, but we're not in high spirits."
More team line-ups and previews for Vuelta
German team Gerolsteiner has announced its line-up for the upcoming Vuelta a España. The squad directed by Hans-Michael Holczer will have Davide Rebellin as team leader during the event, as well as young stage race hope Markus Fothen. The 24 year-old got second in the young rider classification at the Tour de France this year. For the flat stages, Gerolsteiner will be looking to Robert Förster, who won the last stage of the Giro d'Italia in a bunch sprint in May. Young Australian-German Heinrich Haussler, who already won a stage in the Vuelta last year, will also participate.
"We will be lining up a team geared towards stage wins especially," said sports director Raimund Dietzen, who scored three stage victories himself in the Spanish stage race in the 80's - on top of his three overall podium placings. "Robert Förster can go for the sprints, and Heinrich Haussler and René Haselbacher in the breakaways. And for the harder terrains we have Torsten Hiekmann and Andrea Moletta." Not to forget the team captain, Davide Rebellin, who is always good for a stage win according to Dietzen, but will not eye the general classification that much.
The same goes for Markus Fothen. "Markus is there to gain experience at yet another grand tour," continued Dietzen. "It's sort of a preparation for the 2007 Tour de France. That's why our expectations about him will not be very high. Still, Markus will certainly pick one or two stages to show his capabilities."
The full Gerolsteiner roster in Malaga on Saturday will be: Davide Rebellin, Marcus Fothen, Robert Förster, Heinrich Haussler, Torsten Hiekmann, Sven Montgomery, Marcel Strauss, René Haselbacher and Andrea Moletta.
Italian team Liquigas is also looking to win stages in the Vuelta, as team manager Roberto Amadio confirmed. The great names of the team will be Danilo Di Luca, Luca Paolini, Magnus Bäckstedt and Dario Cioni.
Di Luca already won a stage of the Vuelta in 2002. "I’m ready to perform well," he said. "I’ve been training hard on home roads. I want to come out of the most important Spanish race in peak form and I hope that a stage win could give me the chance of taking part into the World Championships. I like the Vuelta: I’ll take part in it for the fifth time and I’ve already seen some stages that can suit me."
As for Paolini, he will race the Vuelta for the fourth time in his career. "I feel in very good form but I can better it even more," he said. "I approach the Vuelta with optimism: I’m going to fight for a stage win in the first part of the race, but I have to pay attention not to overdo things on the routes that don’t suit me very much. Before the World Championships I’ll have to do more workout and lose about one kilo..."
Here's the complete list of the Liquigas riders racing in Spain: Dario Andriotto, Magnus Bäckstedt, Kjell Carlström, Dario Cioni, Danilo Di Luca, Francesco Failli, Luca Paolini, Alessandro Spezialetti and Charles Wegelius.
The Astana ProTour team for the Vuelta a España is also decided: Carlos Barredo, Assan Bazayev, Andrey Kashechkin, Aaron Kemps, Sergio Paulinho, José Antonio Redondo, Luis León Sánchez, Alexandre Vinokourov and Sergey Yakovlev. The Spanish squad will be directed by Herminio Díaz Zabala and Neil Stephen. No one of the riders and staff is reportedly implied in the Operación Puerto affair which has been rocking Spain and the cycling community worldwide.
Team Astana arrived on Wednesday evening in Málaga from Madrid. Both Vinokourov and León Sánchez are referred to as contenders for the overall classification, and Spanish media have count on Astana as favourites for the prologue stage of 7 kilometres against the clock on Saturday, August 26.
Courtesy of Antonio J. Salmerón
Bäckstedt hopes for good luck at Vuelta
Magnus Bäckstedt heads into his final race of 2006 hoping for some better luck in a year that he would rather forget. The tall Swede spent most of the year out with injury and fought his way back only to encounter more bad luck.
With his form coming on in leaps and bounds, Bäckstedt was hoping for some opportunities to test out his sprinting legs at the Eneco Tour. But on stage two, a member of the Phonak team fell into his back wheel which took him out as the leaders put the hammer down at the front and split the field.
With what he described as magic legs on Saturdays third stage, he then hit a hole in the road to double flat both tyres going into the final corner. "Manuel Quinziato was leading me out, I moved slightly and just bam! Both tyres! I unclipped my foot and managed to stay upright. I'm now hoping that all my bad luck is behind me and I can finally record some good results," Bäckstedt said.
Finishing the Vuelta is vital to his goal of regaining the strength for another crack at his beloved northern classics in 2007. "Three weeks of racing in my legs going into the winter is vital to my preparation for the classics. Roubaix as always is my number one priority. I will also spend the winter on the track in the world cups and hopefully a couple of six days."
When asked about another possible attempt on the 'World Derny Paced Hour Record', Bäckstedt replied, "Yes, I really want that record and we are working on bringing the sponsors in for another crack at it, possibly in November."
An interview with Nicole Cooke: A prolific season
After a couple of seasons marred by injuries, Nicole Cooke has been almost unbeatable in 2006. She's also one of the most vehemently anti-doping riders, refusing to inject anything into her body - even vitamins and sugars - and refusing to room with anyone else who does. Ben Atkins caught up with the 23-year-old world number one as she builds up for the end of her season - the last few World Cup races and the World Championships - to reflect on what has so far been a fantastic season for her and her Univega-Raleigh team and how she feels about the less positive stories in the men's peloton.
After a fantastic season so far, Cooke can pick out a few specific results for herself and her team-mates that have given her the most satisfaction, "My third win out of the last three times I've ridden Flèche Wallonne is a highlight as it also marked the change in direction of the World Cup," she said. "The Thüringen Tour was a special race for the whole team as it was a race we targeted before the season had even started and every rider rode out of their skin during that week: Jo crashed on stage 2 and had to be restrained by the doctors for her own safety as she was desperate to get back on her bike, or any bike she could get her hands on and feet clipped into, so she could finish the stage and continue in the race!
"Christiane rode a fantastic prologue to take the leader's jersey, which got the team psyched up. Then when it really counted there was some serious work done by Priska, Karin and Emma who all gave so much and played such an important role in the final result... I was very proud of how we rode and glad to justify all the hard work. Oh, that's not even mentioning the support from my team-mates at home who were not competing in Thüringen..."
For the full interview, click here.
Cunego ends season early September
Lampre's Damiano Cunego has decided to end his racing season early this year. The Italian will participate in two more one-day events in his home country of Italy, and then finish off his cycling calendar in Belgium in early September.
"My season will end with the Giro del Veneto and Trofeo Melinda - a positive season, during which I obtained important satisfaction," he commented. "I will race without the aiming at the victory, also because my fitness won't allow me to do that after such tough season. Instead, I will be happy to help my team, that supported me during the whole year. But before closing definitely the season, at the beginning of September I will take part in some criteriums in Belgium: I will see many fans there and will be happy to meet them!"
At the Giro del Veneto (August 26) and the Trofeo Melinda (August 31), Lampre will line up its two Chinese riders Wu Kin San and Xu Gang, as well as Marzio Bruseghin, Jaime Alberto Castaneda, Salvatore Commesso, Giuliano Figueras, Morris Possoni and Damiano Cunego in the first race, and the same team in the second but without Figueras.
Schwager as neo-pro to Milram
Team Milram has signed neo-pro Sebastian Schwager to a two-year contract, the team announced on Wednesday. The 22-year-old was German U-23 champion in 2005 and finished third this year.
Schwager said that he was happy to have a contract so soon. "That gives me a feeling of security for the upcoming races. Of course I'm very excited about what next year will be like. I'm especially happy to able to ride in the same team as Alessandro Petacchi and Erik Zabel. I can surely learn a lot from the two of them."
Grabsch still looking
Bert Grabsch is still looking for a team for next year, now that his current team Phonak is ending at the end of the year. Reports that he signed with T-Mobile are not true, he told German Sport Bild magazine.
"The shock runs deep, I have to worry about my very existence," he said. "I have a wife and daughter to sustain." The best would be to sign for either T-Mobile or Gerolsteiner, the 31 year-old noted. "It would be a dream to ride for a German team."
Fantasy La Vuelta 2006 Prizes
We are pleased to announce the following prizes have been confirmed for
the Vuelta Fantasy game:
- Daily Prize - 21 pairs of BBB Winner Quickstep glasses
Details of the Grand Prize and more runner-up prizes to follow soon. With just a few days left until the 2006 Vuelta a Espana kicks off, now is a good time to start thinking about your strategy for your team selection for the Fantasy Game. Here's what 2nd Place winner from last year's game, manager "Erik Pettersson" from Sweden, had to say on his winning 2005 selection:
"I spent a lot of time studying last years results from the Vuelta and this years results from pre tour competitions and result to the start of the Vuelta. Reading a lot of cyclingnews also helped me pick out some great riders and make some good decisions like not putting Hushovd in the point classification because he probably wouldn't finnish in Madrid. The key rider for me and the winner was Ruben Plaza, a real dark horse who made me very happy and made me come 2nd in this competition. That's the key to win in this game, find the dark horses and play your cards right. And with a lot of luck maybe you will be a winner! =) "
Create your teams today. Registration has already begun. Be a professional team manager for the 2006 La Vuelta and create your own dream team from any of the real life riders in this year's Vuelta. Based on the live racing action, you will take up the challenge of using your knowledge and tactical skill as a race team manager to compete with other virtual managers from around the world. Follow the races live and use your skill and knowledge to win some great prizes.
The official La Vuelta rider list has been uploaded to the game site ready for your winning team selections to begin. We have based the points for each of the riders for the Vuelta on a merged list of ProTour points from both the end of last year and the end of May this year (post Giro 2006). More information on the Rider Reference details can be downloaded in Microsoft Excel format in the Downloads section.
Play for FREE in La Vuelta 2006 game
Remember you can play for free for the first 6 stages! Try your teams out and see which rider combination is best.
We hope you enjoy this year's game and look forward to seeing your winning
team online soon.
The Fantasy Cyclingnews Team
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2006)