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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for March 9, 2006

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

Halfway to Nice, anything can happen

By Hedwig Kröner

Stage three of this year's Paris-Nice yesterday was turbulent. Laid out on rather hilly terrain towards the finish, with one serious climb of 10 kilometres at 6.5 percent gradient, everybody knew that the overall contenders would take their first chances today. American Floyd Landis was able to shake the GC tree to put himself in first position, but many riders fell down its trunk like apples - and that was a surprise.

Fränk Schleck, still on Landis' wheel
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

"It is surprising to me that I put most of the riders more than one minute down," said Landis at the finish in Saint-Etienne yesterday. "Actually I though that the climb was a little too short to be making that much of a difference." Bobby Julich, last year's overall winner, lost 8.44 minutes and is therefore out of the game. But CSC, even though reduced to six riders after the loss of Christian Vande Velde and Michael Blaudzun, still has another joker up its sleeve: Luxembourg champion Fränk Schleck (see interview), who seems to start this season just how he finished the last one - very close to victory.

"I already thought that Julich wasn't going to be well enough to win the race for the second time in a row, but with Fränk we have another asset," Bjarne Riis told the Telegraaf, adding that Paris-Nice hadn't been a major motive for the Danish team from the start. "We're riding this race and of course, if we can, we want to win. But I can't deny that there is only on event that really matters to us this year, and that is the Tour."

Landis' attack on the Col de Croix de Chaubouret was very impressive, but like Team CSC, Phonak has only six riders left in the race, too, as Robert Hunter and Aurélien Clerc had to abandon due to illness. And there are still about twelve riders who could overturn the overall classification. "I've done a nice cut today, and therefore stand a good chance of winning Paris-Nice," said the Phonak leader. "But this is a course on which crazy things can happen all the time. And because there are so many riders within two minutes, it will be hard to control the race."

Nevertheless, motivation to win the race will be abundant as John Lelangue's outfit is currently in a bid to secure next year's main sponsor, with Barclays Global Investors' trade funds iShares a possible candidate, currently assessing the PR power of cycling. "We have to score," said Dutch teammate Koos Moerenhout. "The management is under pressure to find a new main sponsor, which could be iShares. If we can help the process by getting good results, we're not backing down."

Phonak's motivation to win also caught Dutchman Erik Dekker by surprise. "I was plain stupid," the Rabobank rider said about the decisive part of yesterday's stage. "I kept looking at Bobby Julich, but then I understood that he wasn't well enough to keep up with the best. So by the time I got back to concentrate on the others, I could have been closer to them. And then I cramped on the last two kilometres." Dekker the older is now 1.42 minutes off the yellow jersey, but, once again, Rabobank is another team with only six men left: Graeme Brown suffered a cold and joined teammate Gerben Löwik, who abandoned on stage two.

The weather god plays with his pawns

Dude, that looks cold!
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

The toll France's cold weather has been taking on the international peloton so far is great: many riders had to quit due to illness or crashes caused by chilly temperatures, rain and snow. Among those not yet cited are Bradley Mc Gee (Française des Jeux), Kim Kirchen (T-Mobile Team), Mauro Santambrogio (Lampre-Fondital) and Thomas Ziegler (T-Mobile Team). In stage two, Cofidis rider Ivan Ramiro Parra did not make the time limit, suffering from hypoglycemia due to the cold.

"I was in a good position in the race when I suddenly had a hunger knock," the Colombian rider said. "It was probably due to the intense chill, which made my body consume more energy than normally - I felt totally empty and powerless." Parra eventually finished, but arrived in Belleville seven minutes outside the time cut.

Fortunately, France's South is living up to its promises as the weather in today's stage four finish town Rasteau is much friendlier: up to 17° Celsius are predicted for Thursday, but there is also a risk of showers in late afternoon.

Live coverage

Cyclingnews will cover the final four stages of Paris-Nice live, beginning at 14:30 local time (CET)/08:30 (USA East)/05:30 (USA West)/00:30 (Australia East).

'Murphy's Law' for Klöden

What can go wrong, will go wrong - this applies to pro cyclists, too. T-Mobile's Andreas Klöden is starting slowly into the season as he comes back after breaking his hand in last year's Tour de France. But the German climber didn't mean to be quite so slow in yesterday's first stage of Tirreno-Adriatico, where he finished 197th, over nine minutes down.

What happened? According to Luuc Eisenga, T-Mobile spokesman, "He was dropped and also got a mechanical. Since the last group was not so protected - the roads being half open again - it was hard to come back. Murphy's law..."

Courtesy of Susan Westemeyer

World's road race not shortened

The International Cycling Union UCI has rejected a proposal from the Salzburg organising committee of the 2006 World Championships to shorten the men's road race from 265 to 220 kilometres. As previously reported, race organisers wanted to cut the event's distance from 12 to ten laps to make the racing more exciting.

But the UCI's Road Commission disagreed with the plan, saying that the World's are "one of the biggest events on the international calendar. Like Milano-San Remo, the Tour of Flanders Paris-Roubaix, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Paris-Tours and the Giro di Lombardia, the World's live on the myth which is created by a distance of 250 to 280 kilometres. We don't want to change that."

The UCI's Philippe Chevallier argued that the new participation rules made the event more attractive. "[The Madrid World's] were exciting from the very beginning until the end, raced fast with average speeds of 42 km/h," explained Chevallier in a letter to the organisers. "An important aspect is the reduction of team sizes from 12 riders for the greatest nations to nine since last year. The race is more open because of it, as the greatest nations are finding it harder to implement their tactics."

The organisational advantages of shortening the race (a reduction of TV production costs and les traffic problems in the city) were not considered valid arguments. The organisers have accepted the UCI's decision, but added that "in the future, it would make sense to consider the interests of all the concerned parties, which include the athletes - the main actors -, the spectators, the media, the organisation and the resident population."

Wellington World Cup's future looking good

The organisers of the Wellington leg of the women's cycling World Cup believe the success of last Sunday's race will ensure the future of the event in the New Zealand. Race organiser Jorge Sandoval, who has a five-year contract with the UCI to run the event, said positive feedback has been flooding in from around Wellington and around the country and also from overseas.

"Everyone involved did a fantastic job - the organising team, the city council and police - everyone," he commented."We got perfect weather and big crowds, and the race was won by a Kiwi girl, Sarah Ulmer, who is a crowd favourite. We couldn't have asked for anything more."

Sandoval said the crowd that watched the race both in Parliament grounds and around the streets of Wellington, was the biggest he has seen for a cycling event in the country, and revealed even the UCI congratulated the organisers via e-mail on the size of the crowd.

"We had around 4000 people at Parliament and thousands more around the course, it was fantastic. The only cycling event here I can think of where there were anywhere near as many people might be the road race at the 1990 Commonwealth Games in Auckland. People really turned out for it," Sandoval continued, pointing out that the preceding Trust House three-day tour around Hutt City, Wairarapa and Wellington was also very well supported.

"I believe the success of this year's event will open a lot of doors for us with sponsors and corporates. The event will keep getting bigger and better," he concluded.

Pucinskaite debut in Brissago

Edita Pucinskaite will make her racing debut this season at the GP Brissago, in Switzerland, on Sunday, March 12. "I still lack rhythm but that's normal," the Nobili Rubinetterie Menikini Cogeas rider said. "I've prepared for it in the best way, certainly in the cold but it's clear that I need to race to get better."

In 2006, the Lithuanian is looking forward to race the Women's Giro d'Italia, scheduled for June 30-July 9. "It's a race that has fascinated me since I was a kid, for its importance and history," she continued. "I would like to race it as a contender for victory but much will depend on the parcours, which I hope will be hard." After the GP Brissago, Pucinskaite will participate in the Giro di Campania from March 17-19. The Primavera Rosa, the women's Milano-San Remo, has meanwhile been cancelled.

Italian Cycling Great Giordano Cottur dies

By Tim Maloney, European Editor

91 year-old Giordano Cottur died today in his hometown of Trieste, Italy. Cottur was one of the historical figures of Italian cycling and was three times third at the Giro d'Italia, behind Fausto Coppi and Gino Bartali. Last Sunday, Cottur entered the Salus Clinic in Trieste and passed away this morning.

Cottur signed his first pro contract in 1938, where he won the Lanciano stage in the Giro d'Italia. In a recent interview, Cottur told the Gazzetta dell Sport that "I remember well the World Championships that were scheduled for Varese, Italy in 1939. In our last training session, the coach was Alfredo Binda. In our last training session, with 60 km to go, he said 'go for it and let's see who is first back at the hotel'. I dropped everybody and got a lot of compliments from Binda and Bartali because I was first back to the hotel. But the day before the race, we got a telegram: World Championship suspended due to war." WW2 took Cottur's best years, but as soon as the Giro d'Italia started up again in 1946, he won the first stage from Milano to Torino and wore the first post-WW2 Maglia Rosa.

Giordano Cottur was born in Trieste on May 24, 1914, when the city was still part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Cottur was a professional cyclist from 1938 to 1949, and on top of his three podium placings in 1940, 1948 and 1949, he won five Giro d'Italia stages, including the historic stage to Trieste that was cancelled due to popular protests on June 30, 1946. In total, Cottur wore the Maglia Rosa on 14 occasions.

British club looking for riders

The British club Kingsnorth International Wheelers are recruiting riders to join them in Belgium. The team, under the directorship of Belgian Staf Boone, have their base in and around Gent and again will have a programme of kermeses and interclub races this season.

Among the winners last year were Tasmanian Darren Young, 19 year-old Lithuanian Tomas Tareilis and evergreen Patrick Vanhoulandt, who is still winning races at 42 years of age.

Clothing and transportation are provided and the team offers accommodation. For further details contact Staf Boone (Bel) on +32 9 2250096, Peter Murphy (GB) +44 1233 636443 or Ian Whitehead (GB) +44 1689 896292.

The club's web page can be viewed on www.ruxleycycles.co.uk.

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