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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for February 9, 2006

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

Boonen takes to the track

Before flying in Andalucia, Spain, to take part in the Vuelta a Andalucia, World Champion Tom Boonen will attend the Six days of Hasselt in his native Belgium tomorrow, February 9, to ride against Rabobank's Marc Wauters in the pursuit (3000 m). The show will be on in the evening at 8 pm.

But before 'Tornado Tom' will take off to Spain, the Quick.Step rider will receive yet another prize: On Friday afternoon, he will be handed the Trophée National du Mérite Sportif, a recognition for the Belgian sportsman of the year, directly from the hands of S.A.R. the Prince Philippe of Belgium in the Brussels' Hôtel de Ville.

"I am very proud to receive this recognition from my country," said Boonen, who is currently having some difficulties training because of the bad weather in Belgium. He will certainly be happy to line up at the 2.1 stage race also called 'Ruta del Sol', taking place in the Southernmost region of Spain. In the first clash between the Belgian fast man and fellow supersprinter Alessandro Petacchi, Boonen will be supported by Serge Baguet, Wilfried Cretskens, Steven De Jongh, Kevin Hulsmans, Matteo Tosatto and Guido Trenti.

Voigt crashes out in Mallorca

Team CSC's Jens Voigt and Andy Schleck crashed during Wednesday's Trofeo Soller, part of the Challenge Illes Balears, which was won by Paolo Bettini. Voigt had to abandon the race and will not start in tomorrow's Trofeo Calvia.

"I lost quite a bit of skin on the left side of my body and sustained some deep cuts in my hand and around my knee, but it wasn't any worse than the doctors were able to stitch it all back together," commented Voigt, who will use the coming days to do some training instead of racing. "Luckily I didn't hurt my shoulder but I'm now at the point where the only thing on my body which isn't hurting is my bad shoulder."

Team CSC's young talent Andy Schleck was in a break with Thomas Dekker of Rabobank, when he had to hit the brakes pretty hard in order to avoid crashing into a stray motorbike. "I lost some skin but there were no broken bones so I'm fine and was able to finish the race," the younger Schleck said. "We were 45 seconds ahead of the favourites' group on the descent before the final five-kilometre climb so of course it was bad luck. But I'll try again another day."

Andy Schleck is now looking ahead in the race calendar. "I've trained hard all winter and during the first training camp, so I feel strong right now. I hope to be able to make some good results in GP Chiasso and the Tour of Georgia," he said.

At the Trofeo Soller, his older brother, Fränk Schleck, was in a group right behind Bettini and finished fifth - 25 seconds behind the winner Paolo Bettini (Quick Step).

"Fränk did well on the last climb but didn't want to risk anything on the descent, when Bettini went full speed ahead. We'd already suffered two crashes today," said sports director Scott Sunderland, referring to the fact that both Jens Voigt and Andy Schleck had to bite the dust in today's 150-kilometer stage.

Kersten winning sprint 'swan song'

Ben Kersten
Photo ©: John Flynn
(Click for larger image)

Before confirming it was the last sprint event of his career, Ben Kersten, 24, has claimed his second Gold medal at the Australian Track Cycling Championships by winning the sprint crown to add to his kilometre time trial victory. Kersten defeated reigning American champion Christian Stahl - participating at the Championships as an 'out-of-competition' rider - and admitted he was probably driven by the knowledge he would never contest the sprint again.

"It's pretty damned special to me... That was my last sprint," Kersten said. "I'm going endurance. After the World Championships I will start training on the road and put my hand up for the teams pursuit."

Kersten's decision to switch to track endurance comes after the UCI dumped the 1km time trial from the Olympic program. "It's one of those freak things - subconsciously, it's your last one," said Kersten after his first Championship sprint win since he was in the U17 ranks. "I didn't do anything differently, I haven't done any short training at all. I don't know where it came from."

In the final for the Bronze, dual Athens Olympic Gold medallist Ryan Bayley, 23, left the fastest qualifier, Michael Blatchford of the USA, reeling in his wake in a second heat performance reminiscent of his 2004 flare. Bayley was fired up after going down to Kersten in the semi-final, and made sure he used the disappointment to his advantage when he lined up against Stahl. He pipped him in the first heat and won by a massive margin in the second to claim the Bronze medal.

"I made every mistake in the book racing against Benny (Kersten) and that switched me on to race the American - I made no mistake in that," said Bayley. "The head isn't switched on, but this has helped me to switch on and realise where I'm going wrong.

"Benny (Kersten) is always impressive, he's a fast bike rider. He made us all look silly," he continued. "Tactically, I know he had confidence, whereas I knew I had none - I had motivation, I wanted to go onto the track and kick everyone's arse, but the confidence wasn't quite there."

Australian Road Race Champion
Photo ©: John Flynn
(Click for larger image)

New South Wales celebrated another victory when individual pursuit silver medallist and recently crowned road race Australian Champion, Kate Bates, won the 10 kilometre scratch race in a dominant display. Bates launched her attack in the latter half of the 40 lap race and no-one could counter. Powering solo a half lap ahead of her rival, Bates maintained the lead until to the end with the rest left to battle it out for the minor placings. In an aggressive final sprint for Silver, Victorian Jessica Berry surged to the line with Tasmanian Belinda Goss claiming Bronze.

Queensland continued their unbeaten run in the women's teams sprint taking the title for the fifth straight year, but this time with Kerrie Meares and up and comer Chloe Macpherson teaming up for Gold. They defeated the NSW pair of Elizabeth Georgouras and Kaarle McCulloch while the race for Bronze between Western Australian and South Australia was won by WA duo Kristine Bayley and Sophie Cape.

Earlier in the day, Athens Olympic sprint silver medallist, Anna Meares, posted the fastest qualifying time (11.656sec) for the flying 200m to secure top seeding in the sprint, with American Jenny Reed (11.711) second fastest and dual Manchester Commonwealth Games, Kerrie Meares third fastest in 11.737. Kristine Bayley of WA, who on Monday claimed the 500m time trial title, rode the fourth fastest time of 11.879sec. The women's sprint finals take place on Thursday, February 9.

Also see: Day 3 - Full results, report and photos

Symmetrics all set for 2006 America Tour

Canada’s Continental Symmetrics Pro Cycling Team is aiming to become North America’s number one in the new season. "Symmetrics Cycling has one of the strongest, if not the strongest set of riders riding on a trade team in Canada," said directeur sportif Jeremy Storie. "This year we have a bolstered squad, both in size and quality, and an increased sponsorship presence, so we are definitely ready to take a ‘no prisoners’ attitude at all Canadian, American, or international events," he continued, confident that the UCI America Tour is within the team's grasp - a heretofore unprecedented claim for a Canadian team.

Svein Tuft (Symmetrics) reached out to the leader's jersey at the 2005 Tour de Beauce
Photo ©: Rob Jones
Click for larger image

Following last year’s strong showing at a range of US and Canadian Pro events, which include NRC (National Racing Calendar) wins, as well as a bevy of National Championship wins and medals, Symmetrics Cycling finished third on the UCI America Tour, behind American team Health Net/Maxxis, which is still going to be the team to beat. In 2006, the team based in Vancouver, BC, will not only attack its usual calendar of Canadian races - including the Tour de Beauce, where Langley’s Svein Tuft held the leader’s yellow jersey and finished second overall behind top-ranked Australian Nathan O’Neill - and American NRC races, but six international UCI races in Mexico, Brazil, Ireland and China.

After the team’s training camp in Vancouver, BC this week, Symmetrics team members will head to Tucson, Arizona for the Vuelta Sonora-Arizona from February 28-March 5. This race begins in the USA and heads to the heat of Mexico where several top American, Canadian and Mexican teams are competing. The team will then head North to Fresno, California for the Central Valley Classic, before tossing its Spanish dictionary aside for a Portuguese one to compete in two Brazilian events: the Volta de Ciclismo Internacional do Estado De Sao Paulo (March 19-26) and the Volta do Rio de Janeiro (April 4-9). A second programme is also planned for Symmetrics to be present at the other highlights of the spring campaign, including the recently reincarnated and notoriously hilly Willamette Valley Classic in Oregon (April 21-23).

Following that, the squad will head further South to the Vuelta a El Salvador from April 29-May 5. After a quick trip home to clean the laundry, Symmetrics will be sending a roster to the steep hills of Ireland for the FBD Insurance RAS from May 21-27, and another squad to the NRC Mt Hood Cycling Classic to defend the team’s win from 2005. Riders will then return home to recuperate and prepare for the core of the season, as the BC contingent of the team is set to let local riders race against the S-Train. Look for Symmetrics to show up at several BC cups and regional races in the month of May and June like the West Side Classic/BC Road Champs, the infamous Bastion Square Crit and the well-known Gary Lund road race.

June is an especially important time, with the team returning to Tour de Beauce, where "Tuft and co." hopes to up last year’s finish by one place, and take a few stage wins to boot. After last year’s performance, Symmetrics is set to return with more pressure, but more horsepower: Tuft will have his lieutenants Eric Wohlberg and Jacob Erker at his side, along with new teammates Andrew Randell and last year’s best young rider at Beauce, Brandon Crichton.

With top form from this collection of races, the team will then turn its focus to the National Road Championships which return to the East to 'la belle province' of Quebec from June 29 to July 2. Set in the first weekend of July, the team has its eyes set on all the prizes - the under-23, as well as the elite men’s and women’s road races, criteriums, and time trials.

After a brief recovery in Quebec, half the Symmetrics team will then get to skip Chinese takeout for the week of July 15-23, and get the real thing: Symmetrics will send a full squad to contest the Tour of Qinghai Lake, China, a tough and famous race with a strong presence from some of the top teams in Europe and Asia. The other half of the team will race one of the highlights of the Canadian racing season - BC Superweek. Looking for a win in both the overall and the individual races (Delta, Gastown and Whiterock), Symmetrics Cycling is hoping for redemption for last year as the annual event is one of the its big targets.

Another appearance in Eastern Canada, the Capital City Classic in Ottawa, is on the schedule after the Asian adventure, as well as races on every following week-end, concluding with the Tour of Chihuahua from October 10-15. Symmetrics is also working on one additional UCI race in the month of September.

Katharine Carroll clipped by car

Victory Brewing riders Kirsten Robbins and Katharine Carroll where on a training ride on February 7 in Santa Rosa, CA on Highway 12, when they were surprised from behind by a motorist. It seems the older driver of the car did not see the riders and overcorrected to avoid the two girls.

He clipped Carroll and sent her to the ground hard, but the girls luckily escaped with just bruises and scrapes, as well as a sore shoulder. "If this is my brush with a car I feel pretty lucky," a shaken Carroll said. "Right now my shoulder is very sore and I want to get it checked out at the hospital."

"He came from behind and surprised us," explained Robbins. "I heard Kat grunt, and felt the car brush my hip, when I saw him swerve into oncoming traffic." The police arrived at scene and two motorists stopped to offer assistance. The blame was placed on the driver of the vehicle.

USA Cycling partners with SponsorHouse

USA Cycling and SponsorHouse have announced a new partnership: SponsorHouse, an on online community where athletes and teams can go to connect with sponsors, promote themselves, and communicate with others, will be offering all new and renewing USAC members a free online profile and discounted services. This profile will appear on both SponsorHouse.com and USACycling.org.

Since 2001, more than 225,000 sponsorship deals have been made at the online community. "For our members to have the ability to build a personal profile and then actively seek and be exposed to potential sponsorship is of tremendous value," commented USA Cycling CEO, Gerard Bisceglia. "Whether just beginning in this sport or at the highest level, the act of soliciting and obtaining sponsorship can be a lot of work. SponsorHouse has streamlined the process making the sponsorship connection easier and more effective."

All new and renewing 2006 USAC members can expect to receive communication from SponsorHouse and USAC detailing steps on how to get started.

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