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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for June 13, 2006

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

Schleck looking forward to the climbs

By Shane Stokes in Arlesheim

Frank Schleck
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

Speaking after yesterday’s finish in Arlesheim, CSC’S Frank Schleck said that stage three of the Tour de Suisse was a very tough day, and one which gave an indication as to who will be in the running for the final yellow jersey. "It was a hard stage. This was a stage which was supposed to be flat, a sprinter's day, but it was much tougher than that! I think the last climb was much harder than anyone expected.

"It was a hard, hard day - it was up and down the whole time. On that last climb we have seen the really strong guys in the race. You will see them again after tomorrow."

Schleck finished fourth in the race last year and said he was quite happy with how he was going yesterday. "I was there [on the climb]. I think these short hills are not so good for me but I am looking forward to the big climbs. They suit me better," he added.

Merckx in Suisse to build form

By Shane Stokes in Arlesheim

While his Phonak team is racing on home soil, Axel Merckx said at the end of stage three that his big goal is to build form rather than chase a high stage result in the Tour de Suisse. "My goal for the race is to finish, I don’t have any other targets here," he stated. "I am trying to get ready for July, to do a good Tour de France. It is very important for the team. My form is building at the moment."

Merckx was very composed at the line, speaking to spectators in a very relaxed manner moments after the bunch thundered home. He looked more like a rider who had just been out on a club run rather than in a 187.5 kilometre-ProTour stage, but said that it was a tough day in the saddle. "It was really fast out there. It was a really hard course and obviously we were going really fast too," he added.

Ullrich "eager for the mountains"

Ullrich was in good spirits
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

'Der Kaiser' has a positive outlook on the upcoming, harder mountainous stages at the current Tour de Suisse. On his personal website, Jan Ullrich noted that "if I look at the profile of the third stage [taking place today, Tuesday 14], I see that the relaxed times in Switzerland are over. After using the first days to warm up, it's going to get harder and harder every day for the favourites."

But the T-Mobile rider is in good spirits and happy that his teammates are also back to better form. "I'm happy that Andreas Klöden is finding his place again after his shoulder injury. He can't pull on the handlebars to 100 percent yet, but if everything goes as planned, he'll be fit in time for the Tour," Ullrich continued. "Michael Rogers, too, is back to normal after his teeth problems at the Giro. We're looking forward to the mountains!"

An interview with Alejandro Valverde: Up for a challenge

It's been another year of firsts so far in 2006 for Caisse d'Epargne-Iles Balears rider Alejandro Valverde, the highlight being wins in both La Flèche Wallonne and Liége-Bastogne-Liége. With wins at the Tour de Romandie and Vuelta al Pais Vasco to his credit, his next challenge is the Tour de France. Cyclingnews' European Editor, Tim Maloney, grabbed a few minutes with 'the green bullet' after his spring triumphs.

In the best young riders' jersey
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Valverde, who turned 26 at the end of April, isn't a stranger to success at the highest level, having won two stages and third overall at the 2003 Vuelta a España and taking a world championships silver medal that same year in Hamilton, Canada. He secured a spectacular stage 10 win ahead of Lance Armstrong before abandoning the 2005 Tour de France, and went on to finish his season with another world's silver medal on home turf in Madrid, Spain.

In 2006, Valverde has been on fire, with a stage win and second overall in the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, a superb spring double with victory in La Flèche Wallonne and Liége-Bastogne-Liége, both of which catapulted him into the lead of the Pro Tour standings. He then won stage 4 of the Tour de Romandie and took third overall before completing a successful campaign at the 58th edition of Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré, where he was second on Stage 6 from Briançon to La Toussuire, a respectable ninth in the Stage 3 ITT, all of which helped him finish a solid seventh on GC.

With three weeks to go before the Tour de France, the modest yet confident Spaniard is clearly ready for the challenge of being a contender in la Grande Boucle.

Cyclingnews: With all your success this year, do you still like to talk to the media?

Alejandro Valverde: Sure, I like to, but there is a lot of media after me after the other. So it's kind of tough to deal with when there's always more.

CN: Your wins in Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege in April - has it sunk in what you achieved?

AV: Oh, I realise that it was very important and I had already had a good experience last year at both races, so I knew before that I really liked these races and wanted to do well.

Click here to read the full interview.

Quick.Step: Nuyens to go?

After his first ProTour victory at the Tour de Suisse on Monday, Nick Nuyens has finally catapulted himself in the limelight. The Belgian teammate of Tom Boonen already broke through in 2004, when he won the GP Wallonny and Paris-Brussels, but it was only after his victory in the Omloop Het Volk last year and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne that Nuyens was considered "the next big thing" at Quick.Step.

Now, with the yellow jersey of a ProTour race on his shoulders, the 25 year-old has fulfilled the promises of his young talent, and it is no surprise that Nuyens is courted by various teams for next season, as his agreement with Patrick Lefévère is running out According to the Belgian press, he has offers from Cofidis, Liquigas and Davitamon-Lotto. "But I also have had good talks with Lefévère," he pointed out to Sporza. "I will choose a combination of money and heart. Will I miss this squad? When you've worked four years together, you take that with you anyway."

Rumour has it that Nuyens has already chosen to depart for French Cofidis. Teammate and World Champion Boonen revealed that, "if Nuyens can earn as much as I think he can somewhere else, he has to go."

As for Milano-San Remo winner Filippo Pozzato, also in contract negotiations for the next few years, the 25 year-old has no desire for change. "I want to stay with the team," Pozzato said. "I'd like to continue to work with Tom Boonen. The World Champion and I have found each other this season." The other Italian in the team, Paolo Bettini, has proposals from T-Mobile, Liquigas and Lampre, and it is doubtful that team director Lefévère has the budget to hold all three: Boonen, Pozzato and Bettini. Contract talks are expected to continue with 'Il Grillo' this week.

Vogels to leave Davitamon

By Hedwig Kröner

Catching up with Australian rider Henk Vogels (Davitamon-Lotto), after some rumours about his departure had started to spread in the Belgian press, the 32 year-old told Cyclingnews that there was a "big possibility" that he would not ride for the team anymore next year, but that he could not comment on his ongoing negociations.

"My contract is running out at the end of the season, that's true, and I'm currently in talks with several teams," Vogels said. "I can't talk about it at the moment, but I definitely haven't signed anything yet."

Gerolsteiner to Ster Elektrotoer

Team Gerolsteiner will depart to the Dutch stage race Ster Elektrotoer with two Giro d'Italia stage winners: Stefan Schumacher and Robert Förster. Although directeur sportif Christian Wegmann prefers to play it low as to the expectancies lying on the two Germans, and particularly Schumacher, the team knows it has a card to play. "After the Giro, we have to wait and see how Stefan's form is coming along," Wegmann said on Tuesday, one day prior to the race start in Schijndel. "But we will surely pick a couple of stages and put on a good pedal stroke there. Then, if ever there is an opportunity also for the GC, we'll be in the game, for sure. And we have Förster for the sprints."

The first half-stage on Wednesday, June 14, will see the riders taking on an 11km-time trial - the first opportunity for Schumacher, but also for Michael Rich, who won in that same discipline at the Ster Elektrotoer last year. The full Gerolsteiner line-up will be: Robert Förster, Thomas Fothen, Torsten Hiekmann, Volker Ordowski, Michael Rich and Stefan Schumacher.

Latest deadline for VDB on June 21

The team management of have been more than patient with their "leader" Franck Vandenbroucke, who has barely raced for the outfit this season. Hilaire Van der Schueren has now set up one last deadline for the 'enfant terrible' of Belgian cycling: June 21. If the rider hasn't raced until then, "it can't go on," according to the team manager.

VDB is thus scheduled to take part in a kermesse in Ruddevoorde on June 20, followed by Halle-Ingooigem on the next day and the Belgian Championships on Sunday, June 25 in Antwerpen.

McCann & Griffin to rattle the Irish cage

By Tommy Campbell, Irish Independent, Evening Herald, Sunday Independent

The countdown is on in earnest for the Irish Road Race Championship which will be held on Sunday next week in Westport, but those with aspirations of getting amongst medals will have their final trials on Sunday in Navan, Co. Meath and Currow, Co. Kerry. All categories will be catered at both locations. Organiser John O’Connell of the John Drumm Memorial made it very clear that irrespective what it says in the Cycling Ireland handbook, the first categories are included in the programme.

Recently returned from Asia for the ‘Nationals’, Paul Griffin and David McCann will be represented in their Giant Asia gear at the Co. Meath and Co. Kerry venues. Griffin, a four time winner of the John Drumm will race in Currow, whereas McCann is a certain starter in Navan in the Sean Nolan Meath GP.

McCann’s form should still be great after last Sundays’ win in the Newbridge Grand Prix, where Brian Kenneally of was the only competitor capable of staying with the former national road championship and FBD Insurance winner. Back to back wins is very much on the cards in Navan for McCann, as the 86 mile-event will suit him ideally because of his rigorous racing programme in Asia. Likewise his team mate, Paul Griffin will not stir out of the Kerry ‘Kingdom’ and should be a match for the locals, but the favourites have a habit of being overturned!

Cycling Legends to meet RAAM in Durango

When top contenders in the Race Across America come to Durango, Colorado on Tuesday, June 12, they will find a town of die-hard biking fans ready to cheer them on, including several mountain-bike legends themselves. Durango marks the first Mandatory Control Point (MCP) for this year's new Solo Enduro division, which requires an average of at least four rest/stop hours per night.

These hours may be logged at any of 23 control points along the route, including two hours at each of five MCPs. Most of the top riders in the Enduro division have not yet stopped for more than two of these 40 hours.

Slovenian champions Jure Robic and Marko Baloh, in the lead, should arrive in Durango in the vicinity of 4 pm EDT. Close on their heels will come Jonathan Boyer, Tinker Juarez and Kenny Souza.

Duathlon world champion and 2-time Olympian and MTB Hall-of-Famer Tinker Juarez have been battling for third or fourth place since the race started early Sunday, June 11. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, Souza and Tinker will arrive at the Durango, Colorado Check Point around 6-7 pm EDT.

Bob Roll, John Tomac, and Ned Overend will be there to cheer them on, and may even jump on a bike to ride along! The Durango Check Point is at Santa Rita Park on US160.

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