Latest Cycling News for March 6, 2006
Edited by Hedwig Kröner
Vinokourov plays it low
Instead of sticking to his habits and riding Paris-Nice, where he has always performed very well, Kazakhstan champion Alexandre Vinokourov has started his season at the Vuelta a Murcia in Spain this year. By leaving T-Mobile behind, the new leader of Liberty Seguros opted for a different team management, another race programme, a new language and a new position within the team directed by Manolo Saiz - but he is also less exposed.
"He [Saiz] wanted me to change my programme, to be less present in front," the Tour de France podium aspirant explained to L'Equipe at the Vuelta a Murcia. "He's certainly right: even if had gone [to Paris-Nice] only for training, I would have wanted to be up front. I feel much more free this year, as if I had no pressure at all. The Spanish journalists are not really interested in me, so I tell myself it's not too bad if people forget about me before the Tour..."
Vinokourov is also happy with his new director. "Manolo is incredible," he continued. "He takes care of everything in this team: the rider's programme, the choice of handlebar tape and organising each rider's travelling. He doesn't delegate anything."
Liberty Seguros has taken on not only Vinokourov, but also fellow Kazakhs Andrei Kashechkin and Sergei Yakovlev - and the three are now integrating into their Spanish surroundings: "I think the Kazakh clan has been accepted; it is now part of the team. It's normal, we were the new ones. We responded to them in our own way: with vodka and caviar which we brought from Kazakhstan. They loved it!," Vinokourov added, explaining that all three had taken Spanish courses this winter in Monaco, where they live. To top it off, the three newcomers not allowed to share rooms while at races, and 'Vino' has been staying with teammate Joseba Beloki.
"He is obliged to talk to me in Spanish, and if I don't understand a word, he'll translate it in French," Vinokourov said. "Manolo refuses that we share rooms with 'Kash' or 'Yako' as he fears that we'd only speak Russian."
Injured Breschel blames McEwen
Danish talent Matti Breschel was on his way to a possible victory in Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen, but then crashed badly as previously reported. The Team CSC rider was in the decisive 18-man breakaway on the final stage, a breakaway that also included the leading rider, Davitamon-Lotto's Robbie McEwen.
"I already won the intermediate sprint yesterday; and I was only seconds away from winning overall," Breschel told Cyclingnews from the hospital in Torhout this morning. "I just knew that I was stronger than McEwen but I never got the chance to show that in the final sprint. He had already come beside me and given me a push a couple of times to intimidate me so I'd be reluctant to take him on in the sprint. But I was where I had to be in that final straight."
While referring to the Monday morning edition of Het Volk newspaper on his bedside table, Breschel's tone of voice changed. "I'm most upset because McEwen said to the Belgian press that I tried to get through a gap which wasn't there. But that's rubbish. We started sprinting in the middle of the road and Robbie took me from the middle to the left, trying to close the door on me by pushing me towards the barriers. He went down first because of his irregular sprinting, and it was his bike which brought me down and made me hit the barriers damn hard."
Watching the TV footage of the event, race commissaires later relegated the Australian to 44th place for irregular sprinting. "Ok, they disqualified McEwen, but he walked away unscathed and although it is good to know that the commissaires saw what he was doing, their decision doesn't put me back in competition for the spring classics!," a very sore and battered Breschel said. "I've got to admit I'm seriously pissed off right now." Two fractures vertebrae and a serious concussion will keep the Dane out of racing for a few weeks, meaning he will miss out on the spring classics he was so focused on.
After being transported to hospital, it took Breschel 45 minutes before he could remember his date of birth, which immediately showed his head took most of the impact. But later on x-rays also revealed two fractured vertebrae. "At first I thought it was only a concussion so I'd be on the bike again in a few days," he continued. "But then they brought worse news and that made really feel low. Man, just when I was going so good, so strong! There couldn't have been a worse moment. But I guess that's always the case, for every rider crashing."
When asked if he was feeling better this morning, the usually upbeat and happy Dane responded emotionally: " No, I'm still hurting badly, never been this sore I think. Yesterday I was thinking that I'd recover quite quickly - I mean, I'm young and I'm tough! But right now, don't think I'll be going anywhere too soon."
The young CSC rider is likely to spend another day in the hospital in Torhout before being moved to a hotel close to the team doctor's practice. He hopes he can travel to Denmark next weekend where he can continue rehab with his family.
Murcia Gone with the Wind
At the last stage of the Vuelta a Murcia this Sunday, it was more important to the peloton to ride inside the boundaries of the road than to actually race. "It was an absolutely unbelievable stage," said Gerolsteiner's Peter Wrolich. "I have never seen anything like that in my career. The wind was so strong that at times riders were being blown off the road. As a result there were a lot of crashes."
Finally, event organisers decided to stop the race 25 km before the finish line and start it again 2000 metres before the finish. "With 25 kilometres left, the race was stopped and then came the most unbelievable decision by the race organizers: We rode a neutralized race up to the two km-mark and then the sprinters were turned loose. I can't understand that decision at all," continued Wrolich, but of course the Austrian was glad that teammate Heinrich Haussler won the stage - the second victory of the promising young talent this season.
Courtesy of Susan Westemeyer
Scholz: "That has never happened to me before"
What's it like to finish absolute last in a prologue? It's not much fun, noted Gerolsteiner's Ronny Scholz on his website. First he lost the weather "lottery", as the sunshine turned to rain just when he started. But Scholz felt good on the climb, and his time wasn't bad. And then, what happened? A mechanical, which required changing the whole bike and which resulted in giving him the last place in the standings, 168th and 1.01 minutes down.
"That has never happened to me before - but I think that everyone has to experience it once in their professional career." For stage one on Monday, the Gerolsteiner riders was looking forward to a sprint finish, with CSC leading the charge. "I hope that I won't be the last to roll over the finish line."
Courtesy of Susan Westemeyer
Austin cycling center project ambitious
A nonprofit group, the Austin Velodrome Project, is pushing to build a $35 million indoor velodrome in Austin, Texas. The proposed facility, which has the support of the city's most famous resident, Lance Armstrong, would seat 5,000 people around a banked, 250-meter wooden track.
On the long run, the Austin Velodrome Project, if realized, could make the headquarters of USA Cycling move from the Olympic Training Center site in Colorado Springs, Colorado, to Austin. "It would be a great opportunity to be (in Austin) as a national cycling center instead of as a tenant at the Olympic Training Center," head of USA Cycling, Gerard Bisceglia, told the American Statesman. "Our sport is beginning to ascend to the point where we need to have our own home."
Plans to create an ambitious developmental cycling program to train riders to compete in both track and road racing have the full support of the local seven times Tour de France winner, who also understood early proposals to create a Lance Armstrong museum in the facility.
"For cycling and the community, it's a big step," Armstrong said. "This would be a great way to bring kids into the sport and have them around coaches that are constantly observing them. I hope it happens." As for the museum, he continued, "I have a lot of my stuff - all my bikes from every Tour and all the jerseys. You could certainly put some interesting things in there."
So far, major national companies have been approached for corporate sponsorships to help build the velodrome, for which four locations are currently being examined. The Austin Velodrome Project would manage the facility and lease space to USA Cycling, which also would consider helping pay for the project.
"It would make Austin the center of the cycling universe," said Todd Reed, a corporate attorney and director of the board of the Austin Velodrome Project. "If we can lock down one of these very good, centrally located pieces of property, I don't think money will be that difficult."
One proposed site is part of a privately owned tract in Central Austin, the other three are public owned land: An old landfill at the southeast corner of MoPac Boulevard (Loop 1) and Town Lake would be available, as well as the Butler baseball fields on Toomey Road, west of Zachary Scott Theatre Center, and a site on the University of Texas' J.J. Pickle Research Campus in north Austin.
First win for new DFL-Cyclingnews squad
After a successful merger last winter, the DFL-Cyclingnews-Litespeed kicked off 2006 with a win, as Dean Downing took out the Neerlineder kermesse held in Belgium over the weekend. A break of 10 riders found themselves fighting for the win heading into the closing stages, but with English brothers Russell and Dean Downing in the front group a win to the British national road race champ or his sibling was always on the cards.
Dean Downing took the win with Russell finishing in sixth, the team's excellent showing continuing as Sven de Weerdt led home the second group home to finish 11th, Australian Kane Oakley finished 15th and Cameron Jennings finished in 19th. Team manager Gilbert de Weerdt said the team has already formed a good bond and this was evident during the race. He added that with all riders living and training together it's expected the good results should continue throughout 2006 as the team will ride in races such as the Tour of Bretagne and the Tour of Britain.
Check out all the details of the new DFL-Cyclingnews-Litespeed team launch in our related feature here.
PSK Whirlpool training camp successful
From February 1-23, the Czech Continental team PSK Whirlpool Hradec Kralove held its first training camp abroad in Greek city of Loutraki. Very satisfied with the roads, weather, and hotel food, assistant team manager David Rajmont said the camp was a complete success.
"The weather was ideal for training, except for one day when all of our riders had to train in the gym," Rajmont said. "We trained on hilly roads, no flat land. Because this year’s winter was really cold and the conditions for practicing were bad, we first had to improve the endurance of our riders."
A total of approximately 3500 kilometres was on the team's cycle computers after the camp, which also included lactate testing and a time trial at the end. "Our leader Rene Andrle won it, second position was taken by Stanislav Kozubek and third by Radek Becka," continued Rajmont. "Fortunately, the riders didn’t have any health problems except Michal Dlouhy, who had a little eye problem, but that only stopped his training for one day."
Now, the season has started for team PSK Whirlpool - on Sunday March 5, the squad lined up in Trieste, Italy, for the Trofeo ZSSDI. After another training camp in Croatia, the riders will head to the Porec Trophy on March 12, and the stage race Jadranska Magistrala beginning March 16.
Further on this month, the team will split into two groups, with one returning to the Czech republic for Brno-Vel. Bites-Brno on March 26 and the second to participate in The Paths of King Nikola in Serbia-Montenegro.
Click here for the full team roster.
Photos of the PSK Whirlpool training camp
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Team PSK Whirlpool
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2006)