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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for February 6, 2006

Edited by Jeff Jones and Hedwig Kröner

Freire comes back

Together with 179 other European pros, Rabobank rider Oscar Freire has made his own start into the new racing season at the Challenge Illes Balears on Sunday, February 5. A new beginning that he hopes will be the end of his saddle sore problems, which have held the Spaniard back for most of last year. The triple World Champion could not show his rainbow jersey much last season, and was forced to renounce defending it in Madrid.

Now, Freire feels healthy again, but he still fears further setbacks. "I feel better and better," he told Spanish daily Marca. "But I'm keeping my calm and caution, because it wouldn't be the first time that I try to come back and then get another blow. The saddle sore has disappeared, but I don't want to abuse anything, because usually you pay for it."

Recalling a difficult last season, Freire is hopeful that this year will be better than last, and possibly his best. "[The worst was] the frustration of feeling good and not being able to compete because of the saddle problems," the 28 year-old said. "I felt in good shape, but every time I got onto the bike, the problems reappeared. I rode several races in pain, but finally there was no other solution than to stop. On top of that, it generated a certain tension, because the team wanted me to race - there was some pressure. And although I was the first interested in competing again, it was an uncomfortable situation, but logical. I hope that all of this will soon be forgotten and that this year will be more positive: if the problems stay away, I will be stronger than ever. I'm older now [Freire will be 29 years old on February 15 - ed] and I feel better than after the last difficulties. I think it can be a great season."

Asked what his objectives would be, Freire didn't hold back. "I'll fight for the Classics - I don't care which, because they all attract me," he said. "Then I would like to ride a good Tour, where we will try to win a stage and the green jersey, which is an option that I like. And finally, the World's: I hold three titles and I would like to be only one who won four rainbow jerseys!" In 2004, Freire joined the three-times winners' club of Alfredo Binda (1927, 1930, 1932), Rik Van Steenbergen (1949, 1956, 1957) and Eddy Merckx (1967, 1971, 1974).

Of course, the Spaniard knows that his rivals won't be easily beaten, but he is more concerned with his health. "There are very good riders like Boonen for example, who started out very strong this year," he said. "Also Petacchi, Bettini and McEwen. According to the individual race, there'll be different rivals - but what's important to me is the state of my form and my health."

Tosatto impressed with Boonen

One of the important wagons - if not the locomotive itself - of the famous silver train which drove Alessandro Petacchi to victory so many times in recent years, Matteo Tosatto, is very impressed with his new sprint leader, Tom Boonen. After changing teams to support one of Petacchi's greatest rivals and getting acquainted with his new teammates and the structure of the new lead-out train, Tosatto had nothing but praise for the World Champion.

"Tom is much more explosive [than Petacchi]," the Italian told AFP news agency. "Alessandro is stronger on a long sprint, and he has more experience. Then again, Tom has won so many races already that he doesn't stand behind."

Boonen, for his part, is very happy with the services of Tosatto. "No other rider is able to lead out the peloton on the last two kilometres like Matteo does. This guy is extraordinarily strong and resistant," the Belgian said.

"I started the train's engine, then Ongarato and Marco Velo put Alessandro in the ideal position at the 200m mark," Tosatto recalled about his time with Fassa Bortolo. "Now, I have the same role, handing down the lead to Guido Trenti and then to Steven De Jongh. At the Tour of Qatar, we were able to fine-tune that, I think we are efficient!"

For the future, Tosatto predicts further victories for Boonen, especially at Milan-San Remo, a race that would be very dear to Petacchi's new team Milram, which also includes Erik Zabel. "Tom is very strong at the moment," Tosatto continued. "At Milano-Sanremo, if he can follow me on the last difficulties, including the Poggio, I'm sure that he'll win."

Maurizio Carta recovering after GP d'Ouverture crash

Miche rider Maurizio Carta is still recovering after being involved in the finishing crash in the GP d'Ouverture "La Marseillaise" last week, which sidelined Australian Simon Gerrans. Carta suffered head and back injuries, and will return to Italy on Monday for further monitoring.

Sentjens weakened

Belgian rider Roy Sentjens (Rabobank) is in hospital in Antwerp, Belgium, after being laid low by a viral infection of his nervous system. Sentjens abandoned the Tour of Qatar early last week, complaining of tingling hands and feet, and very weak legs. When he returned to Belgium, he was even having trouble walking and talking. He was given antibiotics in hospital to prevent secondary infections, and it is not known how long he will have to rest for before he is able to train again.

De Waele OK; Sijmens still hurt

Landbouwkrediet-Colnago rider Bert de Waele has been given the green light to train and race again after suffering knee problems during the team's recent training camp in Tuscany. De Waele was examined back in Belgium by Dr Michael Dick, who gave him the all-clear. He will make his season debut at the Trofeo Laigueglia on February 14.

Another Landbouwkrediet rider suffering from knee problems, Nico Sijmens, will have to wait a little longer before he gets back into racing. Sijmens has an inflammation that is being treated at the moment, but is not preventing him from training. In principle, he will be back for Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne on February 26, reports his team.

Landbouwkrediet-Colnago for Laigueglia: Bert De Waele, Frederic Amorison, Steve Cummings, Paul Manning, Jurgen Van Loocke, Sjef De Wilde, Kevin Neyrinck, Mathieu Criquielion

Lampre finishes in Montecatini

Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

The Lampre-Fondital team has completed a successful training camp in Montecatini Terme, Italy, with a four hour ride on Saturday morning. The team reported that training conditions were optimal, with sunshine and dry weather, as well as excellent hospitality. The riders who took part were Damian Cunego, Paolo Tiralongo, Marius Sabaliauskas, Salvatore Commesso, Marco Marzano, Morris Possoni, Matteo Bono, Marzio Bruseghin and Evgeni Petrov.


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Roberto Bettini/

Euro-Devo: A scholarship program for Michigan riders

American cyclists from the state of Michigan now have the chance to be funded to race in Europe, courtesy of a new cycling scholarship program called the Euro-Devo Scholarship. Brian Adams, who raced with the Cycling Center in Belgium in 2001-2002, has organised the program. Now 32 and a physical therapist operating a sports medicine clinic for the University of Michigan, Adams hopes to subsidise four Michigan riders who plan to spend all or part of the 2006 season racing in Europe.

"Europe is where you need to go to cut your teeth," Adams said, adding that he hopes that the scholarship, which has been partially funded by Red Bull, will help create a pipeline to the Cycling Center (, and other similar programs that offer organised European racing experience.

"With the talent these guys have, it would be a waste to not let these guys do it in an atmosphere like this," Adams said.

Adams said the scholarship program has multiple goals. In addition to helping offset the costs of racing full-time in Europe, he said he hopes Euro-Devo will generate a pool of interested and qualified riders that can be accepted at programs like the Cycling Center, and also to accelerate the growth and development of elite U23 racing in the state of Michigan.

Bernard Moerman, who directs the Cycling Center in Hertsberge, Belgium, said the Euro-Devo Scholarship will help ensure that talented young riders ready to race in Europe have the opportunity. "Brian knows first-hand how racing over here can help young riders develop the skills that they need to grow and possibly move on to professional teams," Moerman said. "There's no question that more talented riders - some who otherwise wouldn't be able to come here - will now have the chance to see if they have what it takes."

Support is being offered this year solely to riders from the state of Michigan, although Adams said he hopes to see the scholarship expand in the future. For more information, visit

Darren Lill looking for team

Darren Lill (South Africa)
Photo ©: Shane Goss
(Click for larger image)

South African rider Darren Lill, current mountains competition leader in the Telekom Malaysia Tour de Langkawi, is still seeking a team for the 2006 season. A former team Barloworld rider, Darren has found himself without a ride for the upcoming season following the Barloworld reshuffle.

Interested teams please contact Simeon Green at for further information.

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