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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

First Edition Cycling News for February 14, 2006

Edited by John Stevenson

Davitamon targets the ProTour

McEwen looks forward to "great duels" with Boonen and Petacchi

Robbie McEwen and Mario Aerts
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

The Davitamon-Lotto team was formally launched on Monday and set out an ambitious program for 2006, targeting the ProTour, the Grands Tours and major Classics.

With the six-day racing as a backdrop, Davitamon-Lotto manager Marc Sergeant made it clear that he has high expectations of his riders for 2006, when he introduced this year's line-up in Hasselt, Belgium.

"If we do the same as last year we're doing fine," said Sergeant. "To win Gent-Wevelgem, a ProTour race, was fantastic but to win Tour of Flanders or Paris-Roubaix is something else still; if we can add one of those great ProTour races to our list that would be beautiful and top things of with the Green Jersey in the Tour, that would be the max we can ask for.

"I have to admit that when Nico Mattan won Gent-Wevelgem last season; the pressure came off. We started well in February but fell back in March.

"He saved us from things which probably wouldn't have done the team any good; the pressure would have become too much for many. It was important for us that win. But, I would like to take a step up this year."

Click here for the full report, including Robbie McEwen's, Cadel Evans' and Wim van Huffel's ambitions for 2006

Track stars in pre Commonwealth Games hit-out at Perth GP

By John Flynn

With the 2006 Australian Track Cycling Championships over, the focus of the sport shifts from Adelaide, across the great Nullarbor Plain to Perth, where an even smattering of World, Olympic and Commonwealth champions will assemble for the Perth International Track Cycling Grand Prix.

Headlining the event on Sunday February 19 will be Australia's Commonwealth Games sprinters, led by Western Australia's dual Olympic gold medalist Ryan Bayley, his sister Kristine, the Meares sisters Anna and Kerrie, along with Shane Kelly and Shane Perkins.

The Aussies will be in Perth to take on the freshly-arrived British, who according to tradition, will divide into England and Scotland for the upcoming clash of British Commonwealth nations.

"I think we'll have a sold out house, and everyone just checking each other out pre Commonwealth Games," an excited W.A.I.S. head cycling coach Darryl Benson told Cyclingnews.

"It's that one race they all want to have, Australia, England and Scotland, just to know where they're at getting ready for Comm. Games. The English and the Scots are very keen to race hard and I know the Australians are."

The British team includes a long list of world class track talents, among them Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton, whose form will be of particular interest to her rivals, the Meares sisters.

Frightening though it may sound for interstate rivals, Benson believes his young track talents (including Cameron Meyer and Scott Sunderland who dominated at the National Championships), can only improve by training and racing with the British.

"It's very good for our juniors to learn from, quite inspiring for them to see the likes of the Chris Hoy's who are just quite remarkable athletes," Benson said.

US riders aim for Sydney

Further boosting the quality of competition will be members of the U.S. and Malaysian track teams, who are in Australia preparing for the Sydney Track World Cup.

The U.S. sprinters raced impressively as guests at the Australian Track Championships and the likes of Jennie Reed, Michael Blatchford and Christian Stahl plan to be better than competitive.

"So far we've been able to race the best in the world, the two time Olympic gold medalist (Bayley), which we can't do back in the States," Blatchford told Cyclingnews. "It's excellent, we're lucky to race against that calibre of rider."

While U.S. Champion Jennie Reed provided quality opposition to the Meares sisters at the Australian Track Championships, it's the men's team sprint where the Americans have the highest of hopes.

The medal rounds and nothing less, will be their focus for the Sydney Track World Cup. "I think we're looking at podium in the team sprint," Stahl said. "That's our main goal."

The men's team sprint will be one of the feature events at the Perth Grand Prix, with no less than six teams lining up; the top two going through to the final.

Bittersweet Anniversary: Marco Pantani remembered, two years on

By Tim Maloney, European Editor

Two years ago on Saint Valentine's Day, Marco Pantani was found dead in room 5D in the Le Rose residence hotel in Rimini, Italy. On Sunday, February 12, many of his supporters and fans, former teammates and his family gathered in Cervia, near Cesenatico to remember Pantani with affection and grief. An evocative photo exhibit of Marco Pantani's career by renowned Italian cycling photographer Roberto Bettini was on show in one of the four large tents erected around Piazza Garabaldi, with other events including a commemorative "pedalata" with 200 riders including his loyal former team-mate and friend Robby Conti that stopped at Pantani's grave in Cesenatico and passed by his house.

After the ride, a memorial mass for Pantani was said in Cesenatico, with many noted attendees from cycling, including Conti, Gianni Bugno and Marco's remaining family; Mama Tonina, sister Manola and his father Ferdinando, who had bitter words to say after the service. "In these occasions we usually feel a great deal of pain and also anger for all the injustices that Marco and our family had to suffer. But plenty of people are here with us to bear witness and provide us with support and this is important, because it shows that Marco Pantani was right."

As for the inquest surrounding the death of Pantani, five individuals have been brought in front of the court in Rimini. Three have pleaded out to drug trafficking charges; Fabio Mirandossa, Cirio Veneruso and Ramirez Cueva have received prison sentences ranging up to five years (Mirandossa). Fabio Carlino and Elena Korovina have declared their innocence and have refused to plea bargain and their trial starts in Rimini in early May.

Giant MTB squad has giant goals for 2006

By Tim Maloney, European Editor

Giant recently presented its 2006 MTB squad in Aschau, Germany. The international squad from the Taiwan bicycle colossus is an important part of not only their marketing program, but also a valuable source of research and development for Giant mountain bikes. Giant global sport marketing manager Tom Davies explained, "As we've been doing for more than a decade now, Giant is delighted to continue backing a MTB team of such great quality. This clearly enables us to remain at the cutting edge of MTB technology and racing."

Davies told Cyclingnews that the Giant MTB team will be using both the reliable hardtail and the new dual suspension Anthem racing bikes. "We're really excited about the way the new Anthem combines the same kind of efficiency in power transfer we've worked so hard to get, together with added comfort," declared Davies

Giant MTB Team directeur sportif Sven Zeppel explained the squad's sporting goals in Aschau. "For us, a primary objective is to get a rainbow jersey from a World Championships," he said. "No matter what event it comes in, that's initially our main goal for the Giant MTB team this year."

Looking at team cross-country top dog Bart Brentjens, Zeppel said "Bart is the man of experience of the team, and has won virtually everything there is, so we know we can rely on him."

For his part, 37 year old Sir Bart is positive about the coming season with Giant. "The marathon rainbow jersey is the only one that's missing in my collection and that's the one I want the most in 2006," he said. "But I won't just be limiting myself to the World Championships, because there are plenty of other races, like World Cups, where I want to show the fans what I'm capable of doing."

Giant will also have off-road talent, World Championship podium finisher and World Cup winner Roel Paulissen of Belgium. The 29 year old is a solid rider and Zeppel says, "Roel can benefit from the knowledge that Bart is so experienced at mountain bike racing and at the same time, we see Roel is more open to different goals, with World Cups one key specialty."

British rider Oli Beckinsdale, Austrian Martin Kraler and German Stefan Sahm round out the five-man Giant MTB squad for 2006. Team director Zeppel says, "Martin, Stefan and Oliver will all have their own objectives throughout the season as well, with national champions' jerseys one key 2006 goal. But there will be other goals; I know Oliver is training hard and focusing on the Commonwealth Games MTB event in March."

Next up for the Giant MTB riders is some early season racing in Cyprus with their national teams, then Giant will launch the entire team at the Liquigas Cup in Brescia, Italy on March 18. Giant MTB then head to Curaçao for the first World Cup event of the season on April 1.

Three-way showdown for Dwars door Vlaanderen

The organisers of Dwars door Vlaanderen (Belgium, March 22), will have the world's three best sprinters lining up for the 61st edition of their race. The finale is therefore expected to be a titanic tussle between More than likely they'll get a fantastic final sprint with Tom Boonen (Quick Step), Alessandro Petacchi (Milram) and Robbie McEwen (Davitamon-Lotto).

Thomas Dekker to Tirreno-Adriatico

Rabobank's rising star Thomas Dekker will ride the Italian Tirreno-Adriatico stage race (March 8-14) instead of Paris-Nice (March 5-12), according to the ANP news agency. Rabobank decided to send Dekker to Italy because this year's race includes a time trial, while Paris-nice has no race against the clock aside from its short opening prologue. Rabobank will be hoping that Dekker can repeat the 200 success of his namesake Erik, whose took the lead in that year's time trial and retained it to the finish.

T-Mobile to the Algarve

T-Mobile's Patrik Sinkewitz and Serhiy Honchar will return to racing on Wednesday February 15 when they line up for Portugal's Volta ao Algarve, which runs until February 19. For T-Mobile, the race will provide intense preparation for Paris-Nice.

Sinkewitz says he is looking forward to getting back to racing after knee problems in early January. "I have no problems at training any more. The Tour of Algarve is just the right start for me", he says.

Sinkewitz is especially keen to see how he is going on the climbs, and Algarve's final day from Santo António to Malhão (Loulé), with four categorized climbs, will give him a solid opportunity to find out.

For the flatter stages, Eric Baumann will be T-Mobile's man for the sprint finishes. "He's in good shape, I think he's capable of pulling off good results in Portugal," says directeur sportif Frans van Looy.

The full T-Mobile roster for Volta ao Algarve will be: Eric Baumann (25/Germany), Linus Gerdemann (23/Germany), Serhiy Honchar (35/Ukraine), Kim Kirchen (27/Luxembourg), Jörg Ludewig (30), Stephan Schreck (27/Germany), Patrik Sinkewitz (25/Germany) and Thomas Ziegler (25/Germany).

Liquigas for Trofeo Laigueglia

The Liquigas team has announced its line-up for today's Trofeo Laigueglia, the second race of the Italian pro season. Under direttore sportivo Stefano Zanatta the team will field Eros Capecchi, Dario Cioni, Mauro Da Dalto, Francesco Failli, Marco Milesi, Vincenzo Nibali, Andrea Noè, and Charles Wegelius.

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