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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for February 21, 2006

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

Time trial amendments for Landis

Grinding teeth for the ToC prologue
Photo ©: Mark Zalewski
(Click for larger image)

American Floyd Landis has put his time trialling to the test in a San Diego wind tunnel in the week prior to the Tour of California. The Phonak rider, who is currently fourth-placed in General Classification, at only six seconds from race leader Levi Leipheimer (Gerolsteiner), pedalled a total of eight hours for the research, and part of the outcome was a change in his position on the bike.

"I changed my sitting position slightly and hope that I can be faster as a result," said Landis, who is hoping to benefit from the latest findings in stage three of the our of California, a 27km time trial in San José. "The team and I will be trying to win individual stages and the General Classification. The race is very important to us because it's in the backyard of our presenting partner iShares and the Barclays Group."

While the wind tunnel testing will also have an impact of Phonak's bike manufacturer ("The results will also be sent to BMC, where they will be applied when constructing new bikes"), Landis is happy to start the season in his home state and looks forward to the 2006 summer. "It’s nice to ride on one’s home turf, and I’m in very good shape on top of that," he added. "It’s important to me and the entire team to get off to a good start for the season. That will boost morale for the rest of the season, during which we intend to achieve great things."

CSC happy with O'Grady

Team CSC's Stuart O'Grady finished third in Monday's 131-kilometer first stage of Tour of California, won by Juan José Haedo (Toyota-United Pro). Bobby Julich still leads Team CSC overall in second place, five seconds behind Levi Leipheimer (Gerolsteiner).

CSC's main priority during stage one was protecting David Zabriskie and Bobby Julich for General Classification. Team Director Scott Sunderland told Cyclingnews after the stage that things went as planned for his team: "The finishing circuit was quite hazardous - there were 13 corners in the last lap so we decided not to take any risks and kept the boys out of harm's way. Dave is looking very good; he's cruising. Unfortunately Cancellara punctured in the last kilometre; hope he didn't lose too much time." In the end, Cancellara was given the same finish time as the bunch, although he crossed the line almost one minute down, because his mechanical happened in the last 1000m.

Sunderland was also satisfied with CSC's new sprinter. "Stuey was given carte blanche, if he could do something on his own, that was great," the team director said. "Stuey is riding very strongly here and he's eager. O'Grady's a very capable sprinter and as expected he was right up there to go for the stage win. The rest of the team stayed out of trouble, as was the plan."

Despite a crowded start site that saw O'Grady knocked off his bike by a photographer, CSC had a relatively calm day. "We just kept the guys together. In case it was needed, the team was there to assist Dave and Bobby," added Sunderland. "It's great racing in this weather: perfect conditions. The whole team is really motivated and we're definitely going for it."

Gerolsteiner manager impressed in California

"It's almost like in Germany," said Team Gerolsteiner manager Hans-Michael Holczer about the number of cycling fans lining the roads at the inaugural Tour of California, reporting back to his home base in Germany. "The public interest is huge, especially in Levi - he is a great hero here! There are signs with his name being held up everywhere."

Remembering the days during last year's Deutschland Tour in August, when Leipheimer led his Team Gerolsteiner to overall victory, Holczer also commented on the performance of the team during stage one of the Tour of California, where he hopes to achieve the same goal. "We took over the reigns on the front from the very first meter of the race and countered every attack," he added. "The guys rode sensationally well."

The only Gerolsteiner rider currently experiencing some difficulties is Fabian Wegmann, who has been suffering from stomach problems for the last few days. But instead of abandoning, the young climber chose to struggle through. "Fabian really tortured himself by continuing; he fought hard," Holzcer said. "Now we have to see how he'll cope and examine him further." Wegmann could be a valuable team mate for Leipheimer in the mountainous stages, for example stage two from Martinez to San José.

Cyclingnews' WAP Service for Tour of California

As the Tour Of California winds it's way South from the San Francisco Bay Area to the greater Los Angeles area, cycling fans don't have to miss a moment of the action thanks to a free WAP service provided by Cyclingnews.

Just enter the link live.cyclingnews.com/wap into the browser on your handheld device or WAP browser enabled telephone and you can follow the minute by minute, attack by attack action at the 2006 Tour Of California from our crack live commentary team of Kristy Scrymgeour and Mark Zalewski.

Cyclingnews publisher Gerard Knapp explained why the CN WAP service is the best way to follow the 2006 Tour of California while on the move: " We have spent a lot of efforts to ensure our Cyclingnews WAP service works really well. After a lot of testing and research, we know it is far superior to SMS updates. And Cyclingnews is the only web site in the world that has free WAP service."

Knapp noted that "Anyone with a WAP compatible handset or handheld device can get our WAP Service link and watch our Live coverage for no charge from CN, although the user may have to work out a data package/browsing rate from their mobile phone company." And the WAP Service isn't just for the California Tour. In fact, whenever Cyclingnews offers our unmatched Live coverage from anywhere in the world, cycling fans can follow all the racing action on the go via this innovative, free service.

The bullet's back

An interview with Baden Cooke

Sometimes a little step backwards can become a leap in the right direction - after trading his ProTeam Francaise des Jeux in for new Continental pro outfit Unibet.com, Australia's Baden Cooke began the 2006 racing season with victory at the GP d'Ouverture de la Marseillaise. Motivated to prove his worth and lead the team to the next level, the 'Benalla bullet' told Cyclingnews' Hedwig Kröner about injury concerns and what's in store for 2006.

Cooke's time at FdJ
Photo ©: Shane Goss
Click for larger image

Green jersey winner at the 2003 Tour de France, Cooke has had a tough couple of years since winning that prize; he's not only changed teams in 2006 but his objectives for the year are vitally different. Instead of chasing the bigger stage races, the 27-year-old from Benalla, in country Victora, will be out for wins in the Belgian Classics. Shaping up to peak at one-day races like Het Volk, Tour of Flanders, Gent-Wevelgem and Paris-Roubaix is a lot different to tailoring his form to last over the three weeks of a grand tour, and as such has requires a different approach.

Cooke started this season in the gym back in Australia, and after racing the Herald Sun Tour didn't ride the country's biggest stage race, the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under, because his new team Unibet.com weren't competing at the event. He came out with all guns blazing and won France's season opener, GP de La Marseillaise, making it a perfect start to his 2006 account - so he's doing something right. While he still has racing to get into his legs before the spring madness begins, he's already focussed on those months in Belgium where the bike is king and only the toughest riders survive.

To read the full interview, please click here.

Belgium set for season start

The Belgian cycling loving public is gearing up for what could be a cold and wet weekend alongside the Flemish roads for the opening races Omloop Het Volk and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. The media are following every move of the "Belgian" favourites and even though Davitamon-Lotto and QuickStep cancelled their reconnaissance rides, journalists are eager to find out what kind of substitute training is done.

Quick.Step's Tom Boonen trained 170 kilometres on the French Côte D'Azur, in the company of Nico Mattan, Kevin Hulsmans and Australian sprinter Baden Cooke. "The weather was fantastic: 19 degrees and sunny," Boonen was quoted in the VUM papers. "We rode alongside the coast but then went into the hills of the Corniche."

With Cooke training well in France and sickly Frank Vandenbroucke on the mend in Italy, it's not looking bad for the Unibet.com team for the weekend. Wild child Vandenbroucke is staying in Italy as long as possible to benefit from the better weather conditions.

Davitamon-Lotto's preparation for the weekend is also going well. Tom Steels is reported to be starting again, after a minor bout of flu kept him out of French Classic Haribo last Sunday. "It was the right decision not to start," team manager Marc Sergeant told HNB. "The weather was bad last weekend. On Monday, Tom trained four hours on the home trainer. He will be ready for the Omloop."

Davitamon's Gert Steegmans was on a roll in Portugal last week, winning two stages and missing out the overall victory on the very last day. "I'm expecting to be a protected rider in Het Volk," Steegmans commented. "I'm coming out of what was a perfect winter, without knee problems or other hiccups. It's only normal that it's starting to show now - but it's not the time for me to start dreaming and demand a leading role for this weekend. Even though I can't deny I'm riding really well, I'm not the only one in the team with sights set on victory in Het Volk: there's also Peter Van Petegem. But believe me, we'll be ready!"

Australian sprinter Robbie McEwen has been preparing for his first big goal of this season in the quiet of his home town area Everbeek (Flemish Ardennes), with wife Angelique due to give birth to their second child any day now. "It was expected for her to go into labour the 20th of this month, but the baby is keeping us waiting a little longer," McEwen said.

Courtesy of Sabine Sunderland

New partners for Swiss stage races

IMG, the company that organises the ProTour races Tour de Suisse and the Tour de Romandie, has announced on the signing of a three-year sponsorship agreement with Winterthur Insurance.

From April 25-30, the jersey of the points ranking for the Tour de Romandie will include the Winterthur logo, as well as, from June 10-18, the jersey of the best sprinter of the Tour de Suisse. The Winterthur Group is one of the leading insurance companies in the market, employing more than 19,500 people worldwide.

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