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Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for March 6, 2006

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

Paris-Nice prologue wrap-up

Julich honours Paris-Nice back number

Bobby Julich (Team CSC)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Team CSC's Bobby Julich has taken the first leader's jersey of the 2006 Paris-Nice. The last to roll down the start block of the 4.8 km prologue in Issy-les-Moulineaux, Paris, Julich beat the then leading Andrey Kashechkin of Liberty Seguros by 71 milliseconds in a thrilling finishing straight countdown. Australian Brad McGee (Francaise des Jeux) got third.

"I can't describe the feeling," said the happy American in a TV interview after the race. "I just got back in France on Thursday and I tried to do everything perfect. As soon as I got on the turbo trainer, I was like 'Woah, I have good legs'. I couldn't find my rhythm though - I was either going too fast or too slow. I came to the final straight and saw the time was 6'02, so I thought 'time to go fast.'"

Julich is now looking to defend his 2005 Paris-Nice overall win, although he really didn't expect to be in the position of doing so. "I'm here for training - I came here because I had number one on my back," he continued. "I did it to of course honour the number. My goals are later in the year. But in this sport you have to take it when it comes."

His racing program altered to fit with new objectives this season, Julich's goal wasn't set on the did the overall lead in Paris-Nice. "My aims were to help Ivan [Basso] in the Giro and the Tour," the 34 year-old explained. "This was basically training. Now we have the jersey - maybe we'll try again. Like I said, I won last year, the pressure's not on me.

"Honestly I did not train this winter. I did not focus on this race. I did the training camps and so on. Then the Tour of California was a big surprise. I just keep getting better and better, the older I get."

Post-prologue quotes

Andrey Kashechkin (Liberty Seguros-WŘrth Team), 2nd

"I had good sensations today. It was my first experience of riding a time trial with Manolo Saiz behind me. It's the first time a coach kept talking to me constantly during the race. I enjoyed it."

Bradley McGee (Franšaise des Jeux), 3rd

"I'm happy with my performance. I've never had such a good form in the early season. It's only the second time I'm doing Paris-Nice, the first one was as a neo-pro in 1998. Everyone told me about the wet road when I started, but I had blurry eyes because of the cold and I didn't notice it. All I know is I made a lot of time up in the descent. This was my tactic. It's a well programmed race for me. A couple of stages interest me towards the end of the week but I'm not confident to put my hands up for GC. I'll have a similar approach of this race as the Tour of the Mediterranean: work with Tommy (Swedish teammate Thomas L÷vkvist) and be up there."

Benoţt Vaugrenard (Franšaise des Jeux), 8th

"I came here with the ambition of a top 15. I knew the course was good for me. I rode it in my mind many times this week. I'm happy with my result but I know I have to improve my technique. I was three seconds ahead of Brad McGee at the top of the hill and three seconds behind him at the end. I've lost all the time in the downhill and cornering. I'm highly motivated for Paris-Nice."

Rik Verbrugghe (Cofidis), 10th

"I'm still missing the turbo. It'll come with kilometres of racing and the rhythm of the competition. I'm always OK at Paris-Nice but never exceptional. My big goal this year is the prologue of the Tour of Italy in Seraing anyway."

Christophe Moreau (ag2r), 66th

"I decided to ride the prologue flat out, although I wasn't in the ideal conditions. Because of the snow at home in Switzerland, I had to travel by train and I arrived late last night. I went to bed at 1.30 this morning and I had a wake up call at 7.30 for a blood test. I also got my time trial bike only this morning. I was missing the good legs but it's a good start. My goal here is to improve my condition and work for our leaders Cyril Dessel and Mikel Astarloza. I'd like to be able to go for a breakaway at the end of the week. I look forward to see the sun again."

Erik Dekker (Rabobank), 69th

"About ten riders raced in the rain and I was one of them. It was me who chose to start early, so that proved to be the wrong choice. Mission impossible. I can't say anything else other than that I felt really good - there was power to my riding I think but I can't tell for sure. I have seven days to overturn my loss."

Also see: Prologue full results, report & photos.

Zabel on Milram and T-Mobile

Compared to the T-Mobile Team, where he rode for so many years, German sprinter Erik Zabel rates his new Team Milram as "maybe a little smaller, but it has more of a family feeling and through the Italian influence, it's more sympathetic."

Erik Zabel at the Milram presentation in January 2006
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image) Erik Zabel and his machine

In an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper, Zabel explained that the change to a squad with a lower budget also had its advantages. "I don't fly with Lufthansa any more, but with Air Berlin [a budget airline - ed.]. But that's not bad," the 35 year-old said. "It's also not bad when you don't get to go home directly after a race on Sunday, but instead on Monday morning. It's like earlier times when for example after a race that ends in San Remo, you get in the car, drive to Bergamo, spend the night in team manager Gianluigi Stanga's apartment, and the soigneur cooks an extra portion of spaghetti. That's the difference now. It is different, but charming in its own way."

He also noted that the change of sponsors from a large international telecommunications concern to a dairy-products company had a different feel: "The sponsor has tried to make it clear to the riders who it is and what it does. Sure there's a difference: If you go visit the farmer and stand in the stall and see the cows - or if you have dinner with the board of directors of T-Mobile. When I'm home in Unna [his home town - ed], then of course I know exactly which farm 'belongs' to Nordmilch and which of them is my sponsor, in that sense."

Looking at the sports side, Zabel said that he didn't feel he had anything more to prove in his career. "It's important to me to be happy with what I do." The sprinter thought that he had two professional challenges this year: To ride well with teammate and top sprinter Alessandro Petacchi, and to help the younger riders on the team. "Stanga expects that of me," Zabel noted.

And he doesn't worry about competition with Petacchi, or what the press will say about the two of them: "That's easy. One rides for the other. When the one who has sacrificed himself, so to speak, is portrayed as a loser in the newspaper the next day - then just don't buy the newspaper, don't even think about it."

Courtesy of Susan Westemeyer

┴ngel Casero resigns

2001 Vuelta a Espa˝a winner ┴ngel Casero has quit his job with the Spanish Continental team 3 Molino Resort-Murcia TurÝstica. The brother of Rafael Casero, who was declared unfit to race at the very beginning of the Vuelta Valenciana, had started the function of technical assistant with the team this season, after retiring from racing in 2005, where he had been with Comunidad Valenciana.

"I rate this experience as positive, because it made me see business side of cycling in which there are other interests than purely the sporting ones," Casero said in a statement. "My success was not in the pedal stroke, but in a multitude of variables, many of which did not depend on me. I leave with the satisfaction of having done my best possible work. I wish the team all the luck in the world for its career in professional cycling."

Unibet protests against ProTour

Team has been racing with red armbands at both the Vuelta a Murcia and the Record Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen. The Belgian Continental Pro team was not given any of the wildcard slots available at the three Grand Tours, and has decided to express its protest in this way, reported Italian tuttobiciweb.

The team has announced its disapproval with the ProTour system and the exclusion of the Grand Tours, which has apparently led to the Belgian management seriously considering to cease their activities by the end of the 2006 season.

Bad crash for Breschel

Just as Team CSC's Matti Breschel saw his chance to take his first pro victory, the young talent had to abandon his dream as an ugly crash only 50 meters before the finish line in the third stage of Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen forced the Danish rider off his bike, as well as rival Robbie McEwen.

"It simply couldn't be more unlucky," said sports director Tristan Hoffman. "Matti had the opportunity to win this stage and thereby enough bonus seconds to also win the race overall. He'd already beat Robbie McEwen in the last intermediate sprint, so there's no doubt he was flying today. He'll get his victory one day soon and the most important thing now is to get Matti back on his feet as soon as possible."

Further examinations at the hospital in Torhout have revealed fractures on Breschel's seventh and eight vertebrae, meaning that the young rider will be out for at least 3-4 weeks. McEwen suffered abrasions and bruising, but will have a full checkup in the Geraardsbergen hospital to determine whether there are any more serious injuries.

The final stage of the Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen with start and finish in Ichtegem was won by Nico Eeckhout (Chocolade Jacques), who also won the race overall.

Baumann out of hospital

T-Mobile's Eric Baumann has been released from the University Clinic in Freiburg, Germany, after a successful operation on his broken leg. He is now undergoing rehabilitation in Leipzig.

Baumann broke both lower leg bones in his left leg during the Volta ao Algarve. "Our doctors say that the wounds look good and that the infection is going away," Baumann said. "This week I could already make an easy and light Ergometer training - with a grand total of 50 watts!"

Courtesy of Susan Westemeyer

New Japanese team presented

Riders of team VANG
Photo ©: Makoto Ayano
(Click for larger image)

Asada, the former director of Japanese Continental team Bridgestone Anchor, has founded a new outfit, taking on many of the riders including the Fukushima brothers. The presentation was held in Tokyo, Japan, on March 1, 2006.

Asada has a strong desire to make the new team, VANG Cycling, successful. "We have quite a new concept of a cycling team," said Asada. "The difference to other teams is that our team started on our own initiative; mine and the riders'."

The nine members are mainly from the Bridgestone Anchor squad, including Shinichi Fukushima as a captain, his brother Koji, and U23 Japan National Champion Yukiya Arashiro. According to Asada, there is a possibility of the team recruiting further foreign riders.

The squad is currently sponsored by management company VANG, but it is said that it might get Yahoo Japan as a main sponsor. "It is now being negotiated," said Cho, president of VANG. "An agreement is imminent." The participation of such a major sponsor would have a great impact on road racing in Japan.

With a fairly optimistic long term goal of participating in the Tour de France, the team will start its plan by racing in France, hoping to garner the necessary sponsorship and results to break into the big time.

Courtesy of Kei Tsuji/

For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Makoto Ayano/

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