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Dauphinť Libťrť
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for February 26, 2006

Edited by Hedwig Kröner and Jeff Jones

Omloop Het Volk wrap-up

Superb Gilbert solo

Philippe Gilbert
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

Philippe Gilbert (FranÁaise des Jeux) has upstaged some of the more fancied riders and teams by winning the 61st Omloop Het Volk with an incredibly powerful ride in the last 20 km. After bridging up to the leading group (twice), Gilbert attacked repeatedly until he got away alone with 7 km to go. His gap at the finish was nearly 40 seconds to Bert de Waele (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago), while Leon van Bon (Davitamon-Lotto) won a three man sprint for third.

"This was the nicest win of my small career," Gilbert explained after the finish. "The last five or six kilometres were very tough. I didn't look behind."

An early break of 11 riders - containing two Quick.Steps but no Davitamons - survived until 50 km to go, when Davitamon started to split the peloton in the crosswind en route to Wetteren. Once they were caught, a new group of 13 went clear at 40 km to go, joined by Gert Steegmans and Tom Boonen at 26 km left. Eventual winner Gilbert bridged up to this group shortly afterwards, then had to chase again when Pozzato, De Vocht, De Waele and Scanlon went with 20 km to go. He succeeded, riding away from all of them with 7 km left.

Also see: Results, report & photos, Live report, Photos

Post-race quotes

By Brecht Decaluwť in Lokeren

Philippe Gilbert commented his victory at the post-race press conference. The young Belgian was the one protected rider in the FranÁaise des Jeux team: "I was protected by my teammates right from the start," Gilbert said. "That way, I spared some energy to ride the finale. But, at first, it was very difficult to come back to the four man breakaway group. When I got into that group, I immediately worked together with them so I wasn't able to recuperate. I didn't want to bet on a sprint with Pozzato in the group. I tried to escape and as you probably noticed, it worked out well. [DS] Marc Madiot informed me about my advantage. I kept on pushing hard because I didn't want to lose it all in the last few meters."

His victory of the Omloop Het Volk is his first big win on Belgian ground. "I never achieved a victory in Belgium, so this is the most beautiful one of my professional career," he added. "This week I was frustrated about my performance in the Tour du Haut-Var. So I wanted to perform well over here."

Talking about his future, the only 23 year-old said, "Milano Sanremo is a race that I want to win one day. With my sixth place last year, I already proved that I can do well over there. Iím in no hurry, so if it isnít this year, then maybe next year. Of course, maybe it will only happen in seven years."

Gilbert also paid tribute to his team director, Marc Madiot: "Marc keeps on saying that in the end, training does pay off. My victory today proves that this seems to be true."

Koen Barbť (Chocolade Jacques) was the biggest surprise of the day, finishing fourth. The former Belgian U23 champion wasn't expected to ride the race, being a reserve. "Last year, I had only one big win in the GP Dhaenens," he said after the race. "With this performance I also surprised myself. I wanted to help Niko Eeckhout by getting into the break of the day. My legs were not feeling good during the whole race. I never felt that I was good enough to stay in front. Apparently, the other riders were also suffering."

Marc De Maar was an unexpected face of Rabobank in the leading group, eventually finishing 15th: "In the future I can play an important role over here. Iím not like Boonen, but with some more power, I can get there." The Dutchman explained about a strange training technique in the past winter. "I wanted to do something different," he said. "I did a lot of speed skating on ice. Fortunately, it didnít turn out the wrong way, but it resulted in good stamina."

Davitamon-Lotto's Wim De Vocht, who finished ninth, rode in front for most time of the race: "We were in a bad situation as there was a gap of six minutes with the front group of 13 men. At the back, we got organised and the big teams delivered two men each. Together with Bert Roesems, I was ordered to work for the team. On the hills, I suddenly noticed that despite my work I stayed in front of the group. At the last hill, the Molenberg, I was still there so I started to believe in my chances.

"At the end, I was not strong enough to win but I think nobody was stronger than me today. I was leading the pursuit for so many kilometres and still, I was able to fight for the win," De Vocht said.

The 23 year-old knows that there is a bright future ahead for him: "Still, I have some time as we have other team leaders. But, those guys like Van Petegem wont be there forever - so itís up to me to take my chances, just like Nick Nuyens did last year. I progressed a lot this winter as I started to live like a real pro. Iím living for my sport a 100 percent now. Gilbert grabbed the win today, but in the youth ranks and even now, I never felt that Iím weaker than him."

The Belgian - like a true Flandrian - seems born to ride over cobblestones. "Some guys, when they see those pavť-sections, they start riding 5 km/h slower, but I will ride 5 km/h faster! In my hometown, Arendonk, there is a cobblestone section of 300 meters. Iím sure I rode over that street more than 300 times. Tomorrow, in Kuurne, I won't be there so I can recuperate from my efforts."

Davitamon-Lotto team director Herman Frison was also happy with the performance of his team today, and : "Unfortunately, we didnít have a man in the big breakaway, so we had to work at the back. Wim De Vocht was the wrong man in front. Because he was the one that already worked a lot to bring everybody back together. By doing that he didnít have the energy to clinch the win."

Australian sprinter Robbie McEwen, whose second child Elena was born last night, did not have anything to do with the race outcome. "With some 70 km to go, I saw that some teammates were better than me. So I said that they shouldnít work for me. I had an emotional evening and night so this doesnít come as a surprise to me."

A hammered Mark Scanlon stood a few metres away from the finish line that he crossed in 16th place. The Irish AG2R rider needed some minutes as well as a popular caffeinated soda to recover from his efforts. "I was riding in the leading group until 20 km from the finish. I blew up my legs on the last pavť section. Then it was over for me."

Unibet.com rider Gorik Gardeyn wasnít able to ride in front. "When Boonen and Steegmans attacked on the Molenberg, I was riding in third position," the 25 year-old said. "They were riding two km/h too fast for me. In the next weeks, Iíll have to be able to dig deeper if I want to get a really good result."

More cold action in Kuurne

By Jeff Jones

2005 winner George Hincapie (Discovery Channel)
Photo ©: AFP
Click for larger image

Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne is the second race of the Belgian opening weekend, taking place over a slightly shorter (194 km) and easier parcours than Saturday's Omloop Het Volk. Most significantly, there aren't the tricky cobbled sections in the finale that so often destroy the bunch in Het Volk, and the sprinters usually do better in K-B-K. But, being a Belgian one day classic, bunch sprints are hard to come by.

Last year, George Hincapie and Kevin van Impe made the most of a very chaotic finale to escape on the finishing laps, with Hincapie taking the victory. This year, the American is racing in the Tour of California, while Van Impe has joined the Quick.Step block, and will be riding support for Tom Boonen, who is a good chance to win.

There will be no Robbie McEwen in the Davitamon team, as his wife Angelique just gave birth to a baby daughter, Elena. Instead, Davitamon will look to Peter van Petegem, Gert Steegmans, and perhaps Nico Mattan and Henk Vogels. Defending champions Discovery Channel will rely on sprinters Roger Hammond and Max van Heeswijk, with Stijn Devolder sure to play a role

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

Live coverage

Cyclingnews will be covering the 59th Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne live, starting 14:30 local time (CET)/08:30 (USA East)/05:30 (USA West)/00:30 (Australia East).

UCI Head visits Tour of California

By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor in Monterey

UCI president Pat McQuaid
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
Click for larger image

UCI president Pat McQuaid arrived in Monterey on Thursday, February 23 morning to get a first-hand look at the latest addition to the UCI calendar, the Tour of California. McQuaid drove the first thirty kilometres of stage four and was impressed with the views and parcours. He commented to Cyclingnews before the start of the stage that the feedback from the teams, particularly the Pro Tour teams, has been quite positive. "My impressions are very good so far," said McQuaid. "And when I say that, my impressions are formed by having a walk among the teams this morning and talking to the European team managers."

One aspect in particular that McQuaid is looking at is the way in which the local police participate in making the roads safe for the riders. "They all say it is an excellent race with good organization and superb police cooperation, which is a very important element - in a new race in particular, they are always concerned about that."

For the full feature, please click here.

Britain's new Continental team ready for action

By Gerard Knapp

Reigning British road champion Russell Downing
Photo ©: CN
(Click for larger image)

Britain's newest Continental cycling team - Team DFL-Cyclingnews-Litespeed - was presented to a gathering of over 200 guests at a function centre in Sussex, England earlier this week, and despite the somewhat cold and grey conditions outside, the atmosphere inside was decidedly upbeat and optimistic.

With British Eurosport commentator David Harmon acting as MC, some 11 of the 13 riders were introduced at the White Hart Hotel in Sussex, England on February 22, 2006. The team includes reigning British road champion Russell Downing, and as an indication of its UK talent, some five members of the team will be representing their respective British nations at the upcoming Commonwealth Games in Melbourne next month.

British Eurosport cycling commentator David Harmon
Photo ©: CN
(Click for larger image)

The team is a merger of the British DFL squad - launched last year - with the more well-established Team Cyclingnews, the Australian-registered, Belgium-based team that has over five years' experience of racing on the continent.

With an injection of funds from English businessman Nick Collins, managing director of Driving Force Logistics (DFL), the two teams were merged and a stronger squad has been the result, he said.

It retains the knowledge base of Team CN's joint Belgian managers, Gilbert de Weerdt and Rudi Dubois, as well as Daniel Willems being retained as director sportif. Willems, a winner of four stages of the Tour de France in the '80s among his 85 pro race victories, will direct the team through a comprehensive calendar scheduled to include racing on four continents this year.

According to De Weerdt, the team is a combination of mostly youth mixed with experience, especially with some of the Team CN riders, such as Sven de Weerdt (Bel), David Harrigan and Cameron Jennings, having good knowledge of the parcours of many European races.

The team gathers
Photo ©: CN
(Click for larger image)

The full roster of riders from the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Belgium includes: Russell Downing (British National Champion), Yanto Barker (GBr), Dean Downing (GBr), Tom Barras (GBr), Alex Coutts (GBr), Matt Brammeier (GBr), Leigh Palmer (GBr/Aus), Sven de Weerdt (Bel), Jeremy Vennell (Nzl), Cameron Jennings (Aus), Kane Oakley (Aus), David Harrigan (Aus) and Bernie Sulzberger (Aus).

Of these 13, five will be in action at the Commonwealth Games, including: Barker and Brammeier (Wales); Russell Downing (England); Alex Coutts (Scotland) and Jeremy Vennell (New Zealand).

A full report and photos will follow soon. (Cyclingnews.com is a sponsor of Team DFL-Cyclingnews-Litespeed.)

Previous report:

November 25, 2005: Team DFL merges with Cyclingnews

Second Irish Continental team to be launched

By Shane Stokes

Following last monthís launch of the Sean Kelly Racing Team, Irish cycling will receive another strong boost with the unveiling of yet another Continental level squad, the Murphy and Gunn/Newlyn team, in Dublin this coming Tuesday, February 28. Manchester United chief Sir Alex Ferguson will appear as guest of honour at the media launch in Milltown, where the full lineup of riders for the 2006 season will be officially announced.

The squad have been preparing for the new season with some local training camps, the most recent of which was based in Sandyford and saw the riders ride the Shay Elliott course and that of the Bray GP.

The team includes established internationals such as Andrew Roche, Paul Healion and Morgan Fox, plus eleven others. They will be using Pinarello frames, Rudy project helmets and glasses, and expect to compete in several world-ranked races abroad, including the Giro del Capo in South Africa next month. The FBD Insurance RŠs and the national championships will also be big focuses for the squad, which is receiving good financial backing from the sponsors.

2006 Trust House Women's Cycle Tour "more challenging"

The 2006 Trust House Women's Cycle Tour of New Zealand, scheduled from March 1-3, will not only provide the ideal build-up for riders in the Wellington leg of the UCI World Cup (March 5), it will also be a spectacular event in its own right. The tour will take the riders on a challenging three-day, four-stage tour around Hutt Valley, Wairarapa and Wellington.

Race director Jorge Sandoval said this year's course will be the toughest yet, as organisers are sending the field up the steepest hill climb in the Wairarapa - Te Wharau hill - previously used only by their male counterparts. "We didn't want to make it too hard last year because it's early in the season and the riders are not race fit," Sandoval said. "But some of the Russian team said to me last year that it was too easy - they wanted it to be more challenging. And believe me, it will be this year. The stage up Te Wharau hill is the same one we used in the menís tour earlier in January. It will be hard on their legs, because it's on just the second day of racing."

Day one will see a 45 km criterium around the streets of Hutt City. On day two, riders will complete a 99 km stage from Martinborough to Masterton, and then a 30 km criterium around the Masterton CBD. And on day three, riders will compete in a 12 km Individual Time Trial around Wellington's Miramar Peninsular. "Televised both nationally and internationally, it will provide a unique showcase for the Wellington and Wairarapa regions," Sandoval continued.

Top field for Wellington World Cup

The second edition of the UCI Womenís Road Cycling World Cup, straight after the Trust House tour, also promises some excellent racing: On March 5, 2006, a star-studded field including 11 riders ranked in the top 21 in the world will line up in Wellington. Three teams of New Zealand's best road riders, including Olympic track champion Sarah Ulmer, will be participating, with many of the outfits in the final stages of their preparation for the Melbourne Commonwealth Games starting on March 15.

The top three road riders in the current UCI world rankings are all confirmed starters for both events - Australia's Oenone Wood, Sweden's Susanne Ljungskog and Germany's Judith Arndt. "To have the top three riders in the world racing here, as well as the four top professional teams in the world is beyond everything we hoped," said Sandoval. "We will have riders from the top 16 cycling nations in the world. The only thing I can compare that to is New Zealand hosting a soccer World Cup. This is that big."

In the Wellington race, the second in the UCI series, the riders will contest 20 laps of a tough 6.5 km circuit. They start and finish in the grounds of parliament and wind their way through the central business district for 3.5 hours, including a tough climb up Boulcott Street and a thrilling descent down The Terrace.

Prior to the Wellington round, the riders will tomorrow contest the opening round of the Women's World Cup in Geelong, Victoria, Australia, where once again Oenone Wood is tipped as the favourite.

Kersten wins -again

Kersten at the Aust track nationals.
Photo ©: John Veage
(Click for larger image)

Sydney track cyclist Ben Kersten, who won four Australian national track cycling championship gold medals in Adelaide earlier this month, has continued his winning streak with his third victory in the Clarence St Cyclery Cup at the Dunc Gray Velodrome in Sydney on Saturday night, February 25.

Riding from scratch and conceeding up to 180 metres to the limit riders in the handicap event, Kersten caught the 24 rider field with a lap to go and produced his trademark finishing burst to overtake the field and win a six-rider sprint for the line, with Grant Law and Grant Frazier (140m) taking second and third.

Earlier in the program, Kersten out-sprinted a world-class field in the Keirin which included Jan Van Eiden (Germany) and Alex Rassmussen (Denmark).

The Sydney-based rider, under the guidance of NSWIS head cycling coach Gary Sutton, now has his eyes firmly fixed on gold at the Commonwealth Games.

(Full report and results to follow.)

Amy Gillett Scholarship applications open

The Amy Gillett Foundation has called for applications for the inaugural Amy Gillett Scholarship in memory of champion cyclist Amy Gillett, who was killed in a tragic road accident while training in Germany in July 2005. The scholarship is a joint partnership between the Foundation and the Cycling Australia/AIS High Performance Program and will provide national and international competition and training opportunities for Australia's talented women cyclists.

A strong business and commercial base has also been established to ensure the name of Amy Gillett will endure through work towards achieving the aims of the Foundation. Husband Simon has been instrumental in setting up the Foundation and initiating the scholarship.

"I am really pleased to be able to announce that we have been able to provide such a lasting legacy in Amy's name" he said. "The scholarship also has a strong emphasis on providing further educational opportunities, something Amy successfully combined with her elite sporting career."

The scholarship is one of the three key aims of the Foundation. In addition to the scholarship, it will also assist the five women cyclists injured in the accident and will promote road safety awareness among cyclists and motorists.

For more information and scholarship application form go to: www.amygillett.org.au.

Dekker and Boogerd fined

According to Spanish media outlet Marca, Dutch pros Erik Dekker and Michael Boogerd have been fined after stage four of the Vuelta a la Comunidad Valenciana, each cyclist receiving a penalty of 100 Swiss Francs. The two had been seen urinating in the street leading up to the race start in Alzira on Friday. The race jury had issued a warning on Thursday, saying that urinating in the stage towns of the event was strictly forbidden.

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