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Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

Latest Cycling News for February 24, 2006

Edited by Jeff Jones

Tour of California stage 4 wrap up

Haedo does the double

Juan Jose Haedo (Toyota – United Pro)
Photo ©: Jon Devich

The longest stage of the Tour of California saw Argentinean fast man Juan Jose Haedo (Toyota-United Pro Cycling) win a bunch sprint for the second time this week. Haedo outfoxed some of best sprinters in the world in what he called the fastest sprint of his career. "The last three kilometres were probably the fastest three kilometres of my life!" Haedo told Cyclingnews after the stage. "I was in my eleven and I couldn't go any faster! I think we were going over 70 kph!" Second and third places went to Freddie Rodriguez (Davitamon-Lotto) and Andre Korff (T-Mobile), while Floyd Landis (Phonak) retained the leader's jersey.

The 210 km fourth stage from Monterey to San Luis Obispo was marked by numerous attempts to get away in the first 100 km. But it took that long until a group of 13 managed to get clear, gaining nearly three minutes on the Phonak-led peloton. It was reduced to six with 50 km to go: Chris Horner (Davitamon Lotto), Lars Bak (CSC), Vladimir Gusev (Discovery), Jean Marco Marino (Credit Agricole), Glen Chadwick (Navigators), and Mark McCormack (Colavita Sutter Home), but the presence of Horner doomed the break. Gusev and Chadwick continued on their own, rebuilding their lead to 2'25 with 25 km to go before Toyota-United Pro Cycling, Health Net and CSC upped the tempo and chased them down with five kilometres left.

After a technical finish, the sprint saw Juan Jose Haedo burn off the others in his wake as he enjoyed some more early season success.

Also see: Full results, report & photos, Live report, Main, Stages & results, Map, Start list, Photos.

Levi Leipheimer diary: Getting our man in there

Levi felt better today
Photo ©: Rob O'Dea
(Click for larger image)

Today I felt better than yesterday; my legs were a little heavy at the beginning, but most people get that five days into a race. I got myself into some of the moves - I was on the wheel a couple of times and just got myself into the move because I wanted to see how they would react and of course I like to be a part of the race. On the big climb today I jumped across to a move and sprinted for the KOM, which was ok.

Our manager, Hans Holczer, is happy with what's happened so far in this tour - winning the prologue and having the jersey for a couple of days has definitely been good for us. I don't think we're done; I think we can win another stage, and we were very aggressive today; I think we were probably the most aggressive team out there. The guys were attacking non-stop and there was never a breakaway without us in it; they did a great job, and when there was a break of about 12 riders we had David Kopp in there - Chris Horner was in there so Phonak had to chase really hard. It would've been nice for David to go all the way to the finish because he's riding very strong and would've had a good chance to win, but that's how it goes - overall, I'd say it was a pretty hard day, actually.

Click here for the full entry.

Kohl wants to keep on fighting

Berni Kohl is determined to hold on to his mountain jersey at the Tour of California. The young T-Mobile rider was able to stave off Levi Leipheimer during Thursday's big stage, but notes that since the American no longer has a chance for the overall win, he is going for the mountain points. "In the next few days I will have to fight for the mountain jersey," he wrote on his personal website. "Levi Leipheimer is a very tough opponent, who is surely not going to give up without a fight. But I will do everything I can to bring my jersey, of which I have grown quite fond, home to Austria."

Kohl also looked back at Wednesday's time trial, saying, "To my own astonishment I was able to show my good form there, too." His 17th place finish was "an extraordinarily good time trial for me," and he was able to work his way up to 12th in GC. "It's a great feeling to look at the results and see my name between all the great riders. The winner's ceremony is something very special every time, too. Today on the podium were Hincapie, Landis, Zabriskie and Julich, all big names - and Me: Bernhard Kohl."

Courtesy of Susan Westemeyer

Navigators in the thick of it

Today's fourth stage was tough for many teams to establish a breakaway that would stick for more than a few kilometres. The Navigators' plan, like most teams, was to "Get in the break. If you aren't in the break, chase the break, then get in the next break."

After Ben Brooks had a couple of tries, it was the turn of Glen Chadwick to get involved up front, and after whittling down the lead group from 13 to 6, he was finally left with Discovery's Vladimir Gusev with 50 km to go. "Me and the Discovery guy went up that hill and tried to get as big a gap as we could and tried to hold them off, but at the very last downhill they caught us at the top," said Chadwick, who was caught with five kilometres to go. "That's the way cycling works, that's what the teams are supposed to do, just catch the break before the finish. We just went turn for turn, and I seemed to be going a bit stronger than Gusev on the climbs, but we both did a pretty even job. He's a strong guy, too. At the end of the day I feel a little bit knackered. Sore neck, sore legs. But it doesn't matter, tomorrow's another day."

Stewart makes top 10

Kodakgallery.com/Sierra Nevada's best finisher in Stage 4 was Jackson Stewart, who finished eighth in the bunch sprint. Stewart came to the finish with three of his teammates, but was unsure of how his legs would hold up after 210 km of racing, and hesitated to put them at his disposal.

"I was really aggressive early on and I paid for it," he said. "I was in a few early breaks and it took a lot out of me, and there were times that I though I might not make it to the finish. So when we got towards the end, I didn't want to make the guys work for me but I wanted to see what I could do."

After coming out of the last corner, Stewart passed four riders in the final 200m and was eighth across the line, earning his best ever finish in an international race of this calibre. "I've been 12th a couple times at the Tour de Georgia, but to get in the top 10 here, especially in a stage this long, is something I'm really proud of," he added.

61st Omloop Het Volk

Who can knock Quick.Step off the throne?

By Jeff Jones in Gent

2005 winner Nick Nuyens (Quick.Step)
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
Click for larger image

The Belgian cycling season officially opens with the Omloop Het Volk, which has been held on the last Saturday in February for the last few years. It's traditionally a very cold affair, with temperatures not much above zero, and rain, sleet, and even light snow common weather conditions. The Belgians love it, though, as it signals the end of the long off-season, and the start of the fabled northern classics.

The race starts in Gent and finishes 202 km later in Lokeren, which is only about 20 km east of Gent. The parcours winds its way through southeastern Flanders, taking in 10 climbs, the last of which is 64 km from the finish. Several cobbled sections in the last 30 km serve to break things up for what would otherwise be a bunch sprint, but the latter is still quite possible, of course.

The defending champions are the Quick.Step team, which boasts 2005 winner Nick Nuyens and the reigning World Champion and runner up last year, Tom Boonen. With an impressive lineup that also includes Steven de Jongh and Filippo Pozzato, Quick.Step will be the team to beat again. Boonen will be heavily marked, but he is in form and full of confidence.

As usual, the Davitamon-Lotto team will be doing its best to take the race to Quick.Step. These two big Belgian rivals have a lot of firepower, and Davitamon brings three-time winner Peter Van Petegem to the party, along with top sprinter Robbie McEwen. The Australian believes he can win in a bunch sprint, as long as he survives the climbs and cobbles that he knows so well.

Live coverage

Cyclingnews will be providing live coverage of the 61st Omloop Het Volk on Saturday, February 25, starting 14:00 local time (CET)/08:00 (USA East)/05:00 (USA West)/00:00 (Australia East).

Click here for the Full preview, Map, Start List, History

Rujano and Savio's Selle Italia squad at odds

Contract issues keep climbing talent at home in Venezuela

By Tim Maloney, European Editor

Venezuelan climber José Rujano, third in the 2005 Giro d'Italia and best climber on the Italian tour, didn't make it to the team presentation of his Selle Italia-Diquigiovanni squad the other day in Vicenza, Italy. And his absence caused some bad vibes with the Italian team run by Gianni Savio. Because of an evolving dispute with his team over his contract status and transfer to the Quick.Step team this coming June, Rujano decided to stay home in Venezuela. The breach was first reported by Jean-Francois Quenet for Cyclingnews at the Tour of Langkawi earlier this month.

"Rujano will never race again for Selle Italia", declared the 24 year-old climbing talent's manager, Giuseppe Acquadro, who also represents Dario Frigo. "(Selle Italia) should be happy that José uses their jersey during training. (Rujano's) first race this season will be the Dauphiné Libéré and then he'll ride the Tour De France for Quick.Step." But team manager Savio was decidedly on the other side of the coin, as he explained to La Gazetta dello Sport's Claudio Ghisalberti: "I don't want to have a big conflict here. We've respected all the contractual clauses. (Rujano) is supposed to race in the GP Chiasso and Lugano this weekend. We'll see if he shows up."

Besides a misunderstanding over contractual rights regarding use of Rujano's image and endorsements, it seems that there is a major issue regarding the Venezuelan's contract. It was reported that Rujano would have a six month contract with Selle Italia in '06 until May 31, then pass over to Quick.Step. However, when Savio's Selle Italia-Diquigiovanni squad put in the paperwork for their Continental Pro license, but the UCI's auditors Ernst & Young didn't accept this. So Rujano, who already had a 2006 contract option with Selle Italia had to sign for the full year. The deal was that Selle Italia-Diquigiovanni would release Rujano to Quick.Step but now that scenario is not at all certain.

As for Quick.Step, team boss Patrick Lefevere told La Gazetta , "This situation is unfortunate...I don't like riders who don't race. I can only say that Rujano will my rider when he has his release from Savio and Selle Italia. I have an agreement with Savio and I will respect it. As far as whether Rujano will ride the Tour De France, it's much too early to say, but it's not his decision anyway."

Never one to parse his words, Lefevere continued by saying, "At this point, it's almost impossible to imagine that (Rujano) will ride the Tour."

From 2005 Giro revelation to 2006 question mark, unless he works out his contract issues, Rujano is now at risk to sit out this season unless he solves his problems with Savio's Selle Italia squad.

More teams for Het Volk and K-B-K

Team Milram will race the Omloop Het Volk and Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne with the following lineup: Simone Cadamuro, Ralf Grabsch, Christian Knees, Martin Muller, Fabio Sabatini, Giovanni Visconti, Mirko Celestino and Maarten Den Bakker. Reserves: Dennis Haueisen, Erik Zabel, Carlo Scognamiglio, Sebastian Siedler. D.S.: Gianluigi Stanga.

Team LPR will also field identical squads for both races, with Dario Pieri leading a team containing Roberto Traficante, Alessandro Maserati, Mikhaylo Khalilov, Giairo Ermeti, and Michele Maccanti.

Wholly Bagels to NZ

Wholly Bagels presented by Unichem Perham Pharmacy has announced it's team for the women's Wellington (New Zealand) UCI World Cup and Tour of New Zealand that will be held next week.

The team has been created especially for participation in these two events, building on the ongoing individual sponsorship of several developing Wellington athletes by the independent bagel cafe chain. The aim of the team is to provide the best possible platform for a group of developing cyclists to get as much as possible out of the rare opportunity of having the world's very best female cyclists racing on home soil.

The team combines the experience and leadership abilities of Wellington cross-country mountain-biker Robyn Wong (Olympian and 2006 NZ Commonwealth Games Team member) and American Category 1 road cyclist Robin Farina (on exchange from Team Kenda Tyre, USA), with some of New Zealand's most talented up-and-coming women cyclists.

Team Manager, Karl Kane said, "This team will give our two established elite-level riders (Wong, Farina) a chance to take on a supported leadership role, and offer our development riders, some are very strong all-rounders already and others great technicians or very talented climbers, the chance to play a real role in a solid team result."

Team roster: Robyn Wong (NZL, Captain: World Cup), Robin Farina (USA, Captain: Tour), Amy Mosen (NZL), Karina Wilkinson (NZL), Rosy McCall (NZL), Nicola Johnson (NZL), Pernille Fletcher (NZL, Tour only). Staff: Oli Brooke-White (NZL, Mechanic), Paul Larkin (NZL, Soigneur), Tim Wilding (NZL, Soigneur: World Cup), Karl Kane (NZL, Manager).

Sponsors: Wholly Bagels, Unichem Perham Pharmacy, Maxxis Tyres, Roadworks Bicycle Workshop, Leppin Sport, Pro4, Ultimo. DeFeet and Dopers Suck.

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