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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

First Edition Cycling News for March 7, 2006

Edited by John Stevenson & Les Clarke

Paris-Nice stage 1 wrap: Boonen runs hot despite the cold

Time to soar - again
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

In what could be a sign of things to come for the ProTour in 2006, Tom Boonen (Quick Step) has won stage 1 of Paris-Nice after a bunch sprint in Saint-Amand-Montrond. Although happy to get the win, Boonen was riding hard at the finish in part to get out of the cold as well as take win number eight for the year so far. "The bunch wasn't riding fast and I was cold; I was so cold that I asked the organisers to cancel the last lap," he said after the stage.

In the first ProTour race of the season, Boonen showed that he's got the best form in the world right now by taking yet another win. "Today the team was perfect," explained the Belgian. "The stage was hard, because of the cold and the rain. Everybody waited for me and I'm happy to have been able to win first up. It's important for the morale and for the next stages. Besides this is the first victory in the first 2006 ProTour competition. I'm very satisfied," he added.

Overnight leader Bobby Julich finishing safely in 48th place, now seven seconds behind Boonen in second on general classification, but CSC boss Bjarne Riis knew today would be one for the sprinters, and isn't worried about Boonen as a GC threat. "It went according to plan for us today. As expected Quick Step had ambitions for Boonen to win the stage and the jersey and this means we can leave it up to the sprinters' teams to keep the peloton together and instead try to control the race as far as rivals for the overall victory are concerned," he said after the stage.

Tomorrow's stage takes riders from Cerilly to Belleville, covering 200km and several cat 3 climbs. Boonen said after today's stage that, "Tomorrow, it will be a stage for someone else. We're here to get ready for the classics." He's happy to get the win but anything else will be a bonus. "I also came with the goal of a stage win, that's done now. If I win two stages, it'll be even better but I'll have to lose the yellow jersey first."

See also:
Full results & report
Start list

Teams line up for Tirreno-Adriatico

Several teams have announced their rosters for the first major Italian stage race of the year, Tirreno-Adriatico, which starts in Tivoli on Wednesday March 8 and finishes in San Benedetto del Tronto on Tuesday, March 14.

T-Mobile will be looking to its Classics specialists for success in Italy, and using the race as final preparation for the big Northern European one day races which start April 2 with the Tour of Flanders.

Steffen Wesemann will lead the T-Mobile Team and the team focus will be on stage wins. "We are bringing an aggressive and committed approach to this race," says T-Mobile directeur sportif Mario Kummer. "We are not candidates for the overall standings, in that regard we are outsiders." Supporting Wesemann will be Stephan Schreck and the two Flanders residents Andreas Klier and Sergey Ivanov.

Alongside those four, T-Mobile newcomer Lorenzo Bernucci is looking forward to a ride on home turf, while the Dutchman Bram Schmitz gets his season rolling after recovering from a broken foot. However, "We can't expect much from Bram. After his injury he is just here to get race miles into his legs", says Kummer.

The final two members of the team will be Andreas Klöden and André Greipel. Klöden is using Tirreno-Adriatico as part of his early-season build-up towards what T-Mobile calls "bigger prizes to come" while Greipel will be looking for sprint victories after his podium places at Vuelta ao Algarve and the Tour of California.

Quick Step-Innergetic isn't as talkative about the how and why of its team line-up for Tirreno-Adriatico, but has simply announced that its team will comprise Serge Baguet, Paolo Bettini, Davide Bramati, Steven De Jongh, Servais Knaven, Filippo Pozzato, Bram Tankink, Kevin Van Impe.

Bettini will no doubt be going for stage wins and that line-up is very much a group of seasoned campaigners, several of whom are also capable of taking a stage win if things go their way, and all of whome3 wil provide solid support for the Olympic champion.

Barloworld is looking to former world champion Igor Astarloa to continue the strong form he displayed when he won Milano-Torino at the weekend. Tirreno-Adriatico also provides Astarloa with a chance to fine-tune his form ahead of Milano-San Remo (March 18) where the team says he is "determined to be in the action".

In the sprint finishes, Barloworld is pinning its hopes on Enrico Degano, who so far this season has won two stages of the GP Costa Azul, where, the team points out, "he even beat Robbie McEwen of Australia" (McEwen nevertheless took the general classification). Barloworld will also field Pedro Arreitunandia, Gianpaolo Cheula, Mads Christensen, Alex Efimkin, Mauro Facci and Hugo Sabido.

Barloworld to South Africa

The Barloworld team will also be racing in South Africa this month, as Ryan Cox, Tiaan Kannemeyer, Giosuč Bonomi, Felix Cardenas and Rodney Green head south for the Giro del Capo, March 8-12. The team describes this event as a "major objective" and is likely looking for a repeat of last year's domination in which Kannemeyer won two stages and the general classification and Cox was second overall.

Barloworld will face opposition from an interesting source: the pairing of Dutch riders Robert Slippens and Danny Stam, better known as stars of the Six-Day Madison racing circuit on the track. Slippens and Stam will be joining local Team CVT/CSC for the Giro del Capo.

"Stam and Slippens will be using the Giro del Capo as preparation for the World Championships, to be held in Bordeaux in April. They're hoping for gold this year after winning silver last year and bronze in 2004," says CVT/CSC team manager Chris Willemse Snr.

Slippens and Stam will be supported by Chris Willemse Jnr, Konrad Siebrits and Mark Degenaar.

Selle Italia - Serramenti Diquigiovanni for Chile

As part of its build-up to the 2006 Giro d'Italia, the Selle-Italia will tackle the Vuelta Chile, March 9 to 19. The team will be represented by Alberto Loddo, Sergio Barbero, Vladimir Belli, Jose Serpa, Edgardo Simon, Walter Pedraza.

Power gets going again

By Shane Stokes

Following a recent operation to treat endofibrosis, Navigators Insurance professional Ciarán Power got his return to training underway with some off-bike work on Monday. The Waterford rider went under the knife last month to correct a blood flow obstruction in his external iliac artery, which led to the symptoms of numbness and a loss of power.

"Everything went well," he said in recent days. "I start back in the gym on Monday. I can do half hour of swimming and half hour of running every day for two weeks. Then I can get back on bike for an hour a day for a week. After that, I will do 40 kilometres a day the next week, then progress to 60 kilometres a day. I can also do the hour a day in the gym, too."

Power says that he can ramp up his training in mid-April. He is looking at racing in Ireland in order to build his fitness, before returning to international competition. "I am looking at possibly doing the Tour of Ulster as my first race back, to test myself," he said. "I will then talk to the team and decide what the best plan is in order to return to my highest level as soon as possible."

The 29 year old had been struggling with the leg problem ever since he took thirteenth place in the Olympic Games road race in Athens. He is hoping that he will make a complete recovery and get back to that kind of form later this year. Other professionals such as Stuart O'Grady have undergone similar treatment in the past and returned to full strength, giving Power considerable encouragement.

Sean Yates to ride Archer GP

Discovery Channel directeur sportif Sean Yates may be nominally retired, but the one-time wearer of the Tour de France yellow jersey has always kept himself in shape. He's in good enough condition to have decided to ride the Archer GP on April 9, one of the UK's most prestigious one-day races.

He's unlikely to be going for the win, though, as that would put him in the awkward position of presenting the trophy to himself. Organiser Stuart Cook says, "I was delighted that Sean accepted the presentation invitation and surprised and even more delighted when he said he wished to compete in the event."

Yates was a member of the co-promoting Archer club when he was a junior, but his rapid elevation to the professional ranks in Europe meant he never actually rode the Archer GP. Now, he's correcting that omission, though his comeback is unlikely to follow the path of Malcolm Elliott's 2003 Archer GP ride, in which he finished fourth and went on to win the overall UK Premier series.

Cook says there will be strong competition for inclusion in the 100 man field for the Archer GP. Selected riders will face a 118 mile course in the Chiltern Hills that incorporates probably more climbing than any of the whole Premier Series.

The race starts in Rose Avenue, Hazlemere., before heading through Hazlemere and descending Cryer's Hill. The route then ascends Hughenden Valley as it starts its first circuit. A climb of Longdown Hill is closely followed by the major climb of Whiteleaf Hill. The race then goes through Naphill before starting another circuit.

After five circuits the race then heads over to the finish circuit but not before a climb of the infamous Cryer's Hill! The route retraces itself back through Hazlemere before completing a circuit based around Penn Street and Winchmore Hill.

USA Cycling stipend programme announced

USA Cycling announced it has allocated more than $50,000 for the 2006 Elite Mountain Bike Performance Stipend programme, which aims to provide off-road athletes with incentives and support to compete at international mountain bike events.

With 2006 marking the beginning of the two-year Olympic qualification period in which countries accumulate points to decide how many start spots a country receives at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, USA Cycling created the stipend programme as one of several efforts to help America's international ranking. The programme is specific to elite men's and women's cross country disciplines and begins with the first UCI World Cup event on April 1 in Curacao.

Following each World Cup event, USA Cycling will pay cash incentives to men and women finishing in the top four in the following day's UCI rankings. To be considered for the cash incentives, athletes must participate in the applicable world cup events. If an athlete fails to compete in a world cup but is still ranked as one of the top-four American riders in the following edition of the UCI rankings, no stipend will be provided. Additionally, riders must be ranked in the top 60 overall for men and top 40 overall for women to be eligible for the funding.

"The benefit of this programme is really twofold," said Gerard Bisceglia, CEO of USA Cycling. "By providing funding for athletes to compete internationally, we're creating a platform that supports more participation in World Cups and other internationally-sanctioned events."

USA Cycling 2006 Mountain Bike Performance Stipend Programme qualifying events:

April 1-2: UCI World Cup #1 Curacao
May 13-14: UCI World Cup #2 Madrid, Spain
May 20-21: UCI World Cup #3 Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium
May 27-28: UCI World Cup #4 Fort William, Scotland
June 24-25: UCI World Cup #5 Mt. Sainte Anne, Quebec
September 9-10: UCI World Cup #6 Schladming, Austria

Ullrich: Where? When? Why?

Some light hearted speculation by Susan Westemeyer

The avian flu is spreading across Europe, south Germany is being buried under unprecedented amounts of March snowfall, Germany is still enduring its coldest winter in years, its national soccer team is struggling only months before the World Cup is held in Germany - but how important are these things really? For German cycling fans there is only one topic of discussion: Jan Ullrich. Where is he? How is he training? How much does he weigh? Is he healthy? And when will he finally start his season?

"All top favorites racing except Ullrich" trumpets one headline. He's still merrily training away and will decide sometime this month when his first race will be, according to a report from DPA, which also quotes T-Mobile team manager Olaf Ludwig relaxedly saying he has "No problem!" with this indefinite planning. Ullrich is only his star and Tour de France contender, why should he worry?

But it is already known where he will first race! That same DPA article says it will be the Circuit de la Sarthe, starting April 4. No, no, no, the Italians know better! Not a French race, but an Italian one! He is absolutely going to start with the Settimana Internazionale di Coppi e Bartali!

And then there was the rumor that he was going to make his season debut in a two-day race on the Adria - but unfortunately no one has been able to track such a race down.

By the way, the Italians also know that Ullrich is going to ride the Giro. In fact, it has been officially announced and confirmed - at least according to a Spanish report of some unnamed Giro officials. But the fans quote Olaf Ludwig and say, "No Problem!" Of course Jan will ride the Giro!

Of course it will happen that way - just ask the fans! There is a definite lack of concrete information about Ullrich's present condition, so they have to speculate. And boy, do they speculate! There's no news because he's sick, it can only be the avian flu (nothing else is good enough for Der Kaiser!), he has gained lots of weight, he is at his perfect weight, he's home training (or home eating and not training), he is training in Tuscany with Andreas Klöden or was it Matthias Kessler? He's not in shape, or he's in better shape than ever and trying to hide it from everyone. Daily come the cries from the fans: is he in Tuscany? Who is he training with? And is there a recent picture of him?

Doesn't matter, the fans know what he is capable of. So we start the season winning Sarthe, just to get things off to a good start and everybody who's who. Then there's not much until he wins the Giro, (because what would be the point of riding it without going for the win?). Of course he'll win the German Championship so that he can take his long-awaited second Tour de France (who can possibly doubt it?) while wearing his national colors. The Deutschland Tour naturally follows - good grief, he can't let another American beat him twice! And then there's the World's, where the road title is waiting for him.

After which he will probably be totally exhausted and victoriously retire from the sport, leaving T-Mobile in the good hands of the man carefully chosen to take his place: which is either Andreas Klöden, Michael Rogers or Linus Gerdemann, depending on which report you read.

There's just one question that's left to be answered: Are T-Mobile and Ullrich aware of any of this "news"?

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