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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for February 27, 2006

Edited by Hedwig Kröner and Jeff Jones

Nick Nuyens completes the set

By Jeff Jones in Kuurne, with additional reporting from Brecht Decaluwé

Nick Nuyens (Quick.Step)
Photo ©: Michael Gernaa
(Click for larger image)

Quick.Step's Nick Nuyens has followed on from his brilliant victory in Het Volk last year to take out the 59th edition of Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne, thanks to some selfless teamwork from a super Tom Boonen today. The World Champion was in every breakaway that mattered today, but was happy to play policeman for Nuyens when the pocket powerhouse attacked the final nine man breakaway with 4 km to go. Nuyens wasn't sure of his strength, but with Van Impe and Boonen watching the rest, he was able to win by a comfortable margin from Leif Hoste (Discovery Channel). He now has the complete set of victories in the opening Belgian weekend.

"I was not feeling super today," Nuyens related afterwards. "I already had to pass when two others attacked. But, I thought that I could be of any use because we were behind with two teammates. We asked that Tom Boonen wouldn't ride so that we could come back. Choosing between a situation with three teammates against nine, or one against five is not difficult. Being there, we could gamble and tire the others out. I attacked a few times, first with Eeckhout and later alone. Boonen was always there to watch over the rest, who needed to react."

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

Post-race quotes

Courtesy of Brecht Decaluwé in Kuurne and Sabine Sunderland

Nick "the sniper" Nuyens (Quick.Step):

" This is beautiful," the very happy winner told Sporza. "This victory just finished off perfect team work. I honestly didn't feel that good today, but the result is good anyway. In the finale, it was a matter of go, go, go - to waste the others. Then we got away with that group. I knew I had to make mush of Steegmans. Even if I couldn't have finished it off it was the right strategy to make the others tired - if they would have taken me back it was up to Boonen to win the sprint. Then we had a situation where I was gone on my own and the team did a super job stopping the others from taking me back. The great team play - that's what is so scary about this team! I didn't believe I'd win until two hundred metres before the line."

Asked what he told Boonen when he made contact with his leading group with 9 kilometres to go, Nuyens replied, "I told him to sit quiet. If he would have stayed away with those four, they would have killed him. I knew that the rest of us would do the work to make the race.

"I was really mad at myself yesterday, to finish 90th was not good for me," Nuyens further explained his deception at Het Volk. "I wasn't super and was sitting too far back on the cobbles. I was spewing and deeply disappointed. It was a strange race; a big gamble in the finale. So this puts it straight. In a few weeks time things will culminate."

Finally, Nuyens said the "revenge" on Davitamon didn't matter much to him. "We don't care about the rivalry between our team and Davitamon; it's not the riders but the press who does that. For us it's important to just race and win."

Tom Boonen (Quick.Step) - third:

"Yesterday was a stupid race really," the World Champion told Sporza. "There never was real racing happening. I was like: 'common guys, what are you doing here?' I was disappointed by the tactics, but that's the other teams' good right - maybe we would have done the same if we had been in their position. Today we took control of the race. I threw a bomb in the ranks. I let the guys come back in the finale, and I told the rest that they could do as they wanted and they panicked a bit. Nick attacked and I blocked counter attacks. Nick has really deserved this win."

Boonen was also positive about the young Belgians' overall performance. "I'm happy to see guys like Gert Steegmans, Van den Broeck, De Vocht, Van Impe, Gilbert, me, etc, up there this weekend. That's really good; it shows the youngsters are stepping up to the front now. It was clear to me that I always raced with very capable guys from the early years."

Finally, Boonen looked ahead. "I trained hard in Monaco before the weekend and did ride a bit on the finale of Milan-San Remo already; I'm going back South now to scout the Cipressa and the Poggio some more and I think I can say I'm going up there pretty fast already."

Niko Eeckhout (Chocolade Jacques) - fourth:

"I've only seen one block in this race: Quick.Step," Eeckhout told Sporza. "They really played their numbers right. The sprint for the third place wasn't simple; Boonen flew past me. It's not easy to sprint against him. In the finale, everyone reacted to my attacks. I heard on the radio that they jumped in my wheel right away.

"I wasn't super but I would have liked to sprint for the win. It's positive that I was good in the finale while not being at a 100 percent just yet. It's good to ride well in the opening weekend. The Tour of Flanders is the big goal for me: I want to see how far I can get there."

Gert Steegmans (Davitamon-Lotto) - sixth:

"Everything is going much easier for me than last year," Steegmans told Cyclingnews. "I feel that particularly in the climbing sections. Peter Van Petegem advised me to stop thinking so much. This way, I fight for my place in the bunch. It means that you have to ride like your life depends on it, but I’ll take that for granted. But I already felt that I can compete with the best since the Eneco Tour of Benelux last season. This winter, I’ve been training really hard with Leon Van Bon. Staying healthy combined with a good winter delivers now. Unfortunately, I didn't get a win this weekend, but I hope to win a semi-classic this year like E3-prijs-Harelbeke. But I also want to be there in the big races like the Tour of Flanders."

Marc Sergeant, coach of Davitamon, confirmed Steegmans' high hopes: "He didn’t climb in our hierarchy but I must admit that we have a lot of confidence in this young man. He wasn’t in the breakaway at Nokere. This made us pursue for more than 12 km. Maybe that cost us a third man in the final break. Gert was nailed between three Quick.Step riders, so we accept our defeat. What's more concerning to me is Peter Van Petegem: he didn’t have any power. He's probably getting ill, as a lot of people are these days."

Nico Mattan (Davitamon-Lotto) - 38th:

"I think we should have done better as a team," Mattan told Sporza. "I felt strong on the Kwaremont but in the finale we fell one man short. I tried to make the race explode. It was a test for me and that test came out positive today. I was strong enough but it wasn't up to me to keep going again and again with Boonen. I came back with Hoste. Steegmans rode really well, he was the man in form on our team; he rode here to win but Quick.Step had a man more than us in the finale. There were only two of us left; I couldn't do anything anymore at that stage, my barrel was empty. I really think that we should have had another rider there in the last kilometres. But there's other races to come."

Nico Mattan looked to be in the good escape but it proved to be an escape to soon, as he told Cyclingnews: "Without my efforts on the Oude Kwaremont, I think I could have fought for victory today. On that hill, I gave everything to make the race as hard as possible. But, with these legs a good prologue in Paris-Nice should be possible. I'm not saying that I’m going to win - Top 3 is my pick."

Serge Baguet (Quick.Step) - 48th:

"I felt very strong on those hills, but that’s also my problem in this race," Baguet told Cyclingnews after the race. "Those hills are too far away from the finish, so everything came back together. At that moment it was raining attacks. I tried to be there in the escape but suddenly we had our men up front so the race was over for me. It gives me a lot of confidence for my races. I want to stay healthy and be there in the Brabantse Pijl, Amstel Gold Race and Liège-Bastogne-Liège."

Arenberg sector back in Paris-Roubaix

Paris-Roubaix organiser ASO has announced that the 2.4 km-long cobblestones stretch of the Arenberg forest will be back in the 2006 edition of the race. The dreaded sector, one of the most mythical of its kind, had been excluded from last year's itinerary because it was judged too dangerous. In the meantime, ASO and the local community shared the cost of important works to restore the pavé road.

"But don't be fooled," said race director Jean-Francois Pescheux. "The renovation of the road don't make Arenberg a boulevard. It remains a tricky stretch of cobblestones. But now, Paris-Roubaix will not be a lottery anymore." The next edition of the race on April 9, 2006, will see international peloton race over 27 pavé sectors totalling 52.7 kilometres.

Cunego debut at Clasica de Almeria

Lampre-Davitamon is happy over a good 2006 debut for Damiano Cunego: the Italian finished eighth in the Clasica de Almeria in Spain this Sunday, which was won by Francisco Perez (Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears). The race was especially tough because of a strong wind that put all the riders in difficulties.

"In a race hardened by the strong wind, finishing with the best racers it’s a good signal for Damiano," explained team director Giuseppe Martinelli. "In his first race, Cunego showed that is in quite good shape. But I’m sorry about our three riders that crashed because of the wind: we will see how they do tomorrow morning."

Lampre's Tadej Valjavec, Marzio Bruseghin and Paolo Tiralongo all came to a fall during the race.

Armstrong "devastated" at Crow's breast cancer

Lance Armstrong has issued a statement this Saturday to say that he was deeply affected by the fact that his former fiancé, rock star Sheryl Crow, had been diagnosed with breast cancer. "I was devastated to hear this news," the statement read. "Once again I'm reminded of just how pervasive this illness is as it has now touched someone I love deeply."

Crow underwent surgery last week to cure the illness. "Based on my contact in recent days with Sheryl, her doctor, and her family, I am confident that she will have a full and complete recovery and the world will be a better place for it," it continued. "And to all of her fans and friends out there, please keep Sheryl in your thoughts and prayers yet know that I have never known a stronger woman in my life."

Second edition of Saint Patrick’s Classic

Supported by Down District Council, the Tour of Ulster promoters (Ulster Cycle Promotions Club) is running the second edition of the point-to-point Downpatrick-Armagh St. Patrick’s Classic on Sunday, March 19, 2006. The race will roll out from Downpatrick Leisure Centre, along to Annacloy, across to Ballynahinch, Dromore, Lurgan, Charlemont, Blackwatertown, before making its way to Armagh City, finishing at the 30 mph signs on the Cathedral Road.

Winner of the inaugural Saint Patrick’s Classic last year was Martyn Irvine (Ards CC), who recently competed for Ireland in the Tour of Siam in Thailand. A substantial prize list has been announced; with prizes for the first six across the line, first unplaced lady, first unplaced 3rd category, first unplaced veteran and first unplaced Junior. The winner will be awarded with the Gerald Long Memorial Cup.

Starting at 11.00 am (not 1.00pm as advertised in the Cycling Ireland Handbook), the sign-on will be in Downpatrick leisure centre from 09.30am. With the Leisure Centre expecting a busy day, all competitors are advised use the car park opposite the front gates of the Leisure Centre.

Scott Bleifer Scholarship funded

The Union Bank of California Foundation has donated $25,000 for the establishment of the Scott Bleifer Scholarship Fund. The check was presented on Friday, February 24, to the president of the Velo Club LaGrange, Dan Weinberg, and to the family of the local cyclist and Santa Monica resident Scott Bleifer, who was killed while cycling last September on Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu. The Velo Club LaGrange and Bleifer's family will establish a scholarship in his memory.

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