First Edition Cycling News for March 11, 2006
Edited by Jeff Jones and Anthony Tan
Paris-Nice stage 5 wrap-up
It was the longest stage of the 'race to the sun' today: 201.5 km between the walled city of Avignon and Digne-les-Bains. The weather was overcast but warmer than it has been, and Spanish rider Joaquin Rodriguez (Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears) had the best legs today to win the stage. Rodriguez, who won a stage in Paris-Nice three years ago, counter-attacked past Joost Posthuma (Rabobank) on the final climb, the Cat. 1 Col du Corobin, and soloed to the finish with 19 seconds to spare. Posthuma hung on for second ahead of Jérôme Pineau (Bouygues Telecom), who led the yellow jersey group home.
There were no serious challenges to Floyd Landis' jersey, and the American has two more stages to survive before he can claim victory in Paris-Nice.
Posthuma comes close
Joost Posthuma (Rabobank) came close to repeating his victory in the penultimate stage of the 2005 race, when he attacked on the final climb today. But Joaquin Rodriguez was too strong, and the Dutchman finished second. "When Moncoutié attacked at the bottom of the climb, I just went with him, I rode my own rhythm," he told Cyclingnews. "The climb was just a little bit too steep for me. I rode my own tempo; I had good legs but in the steepest part of the climb part it just went a tad too fast, so Rodriguez just rode away.
"I'm happy because today was much better than the first mountain stage, where I was really bad in the first five kilometres of the climb because of the weather. Here it's not too cold and it's dry, and my legs are better."
Landis' muscles "have class"
Chatting to Phonak masseur Freddy Viane at the start of stage five in Avignon this morning, Cyclingnews' Hedwig Kröner found out that the former masseur of Lance Armstrong is now Floyd Landis' exclusive physiotherapist. Viane revealed that he, like Jan Ullrich's personal masseur Birgit Krohme, could tell the level of form of his his protégé by the feel of his leg muscles.
"It does make a difference," said Viane, who has been doing the job for more than ten years. "With the experience, you can also tell the general class of a rider, and I can tell you that Landis has plenty of it! Plus, he has that special killer instinct true champions have." Coming from the one who accompanied Armstrong in six of his seven Tour de France victories, it was hard to argue.
"Ah, how nice of him to say that," laughed Landis when we spread the word to him. "But I don't know if that system [of comparing muscle structure] works! We'll see, I can't promise."
Schumacher discovers himself
By Hedwig Kröner in Digne-les-Bains
New Gerolsteiner rider Stefan Schumacher has made his debut in the ProTour peloton this season. Obtaining a respectable sixth placing on GC halfway through Paris-Nice (which he lost today), and the white jersey of best young rider, the former leader of the European Continental Tour rankings in 2005 experienced a few stomach problems since the beginning of the 'race to the sun', which weakened his otherwise promising abilities.
Still, the 24 year-old leads the Gerolsteiner team in France at the moment, showing himself in the hills as well as in the sprints. "I still have to find out," Schumacher replied when Cyclingnews asked him what type of rider he actually was. "On the Continental level, I was good at everything. But now, it's changed so I'm still looking to find my spot. I was up front on the mountain, but there were a few guys still going stronger than me. And to sprint against Tom Boonen, you know... I'm pretty fast in those uphill finishes like the one in Rasteau, which needed a lot of strength, but I'm not explosive enough to be a top sprinter - although I do keep up in the sprints. I'm an OK time triallist too."
So in his quest for cycling identity, all of this would point towards stage races? "I don't know yet," he insisted. "I felt that the really longer mountain climbs are still something else; and I lack the experience, so I don't know how good I can be there. A ten kilometre climb is OK, but then... I'll definitely do the Belgian classics, except Paris-Roubaix, and I think they suit me. But regarding the Grand Tours or generally, stage races, I still have to find out what I'm capable of. I've never raced a three-week tour, but I will do the Giro this year to see how I go."
Asked which were his first impressions of the top league of cycling, he answered, "I have been a pro for two years now, and last year I also raced Amstel Gold race, which went well for me. But it is surely a different type of racing, much more controlled. The races unfold in a much more organised way; the teams have a concept of how to achieve things. And of course, the overall level is higher; it's much more difficult to get to the front, be it for the sprints or in other situations."
Paris-Nice has left the German tired, but hungry for more. "The race is pretty demanding, there's no completely flat stage and they all are over 200 kilometres," he commented. "But I'm still fit and I hope it stays that way.
Schumacher lost more 1'20 minutes on the General Classification today, but retained the white jersey of best young rider. Enough to make his team proud and hopeful for his future achievements: "Stefan wasn't able to stick to the group of GC favourites in the last climb today," directeur sportif Christian Wegmann said. "Ronny Scholz did a great job to stay with him in that second group, and he tried to bridge the gap but didn't succeed. He still has the white jersey of best young rider and of course he wants to keep it. I think he has proven that we can still expect plenty of him this season; as you have also got to take into account that he hadn't raced for a while, and that this is not the Rheinland-Pfalz-Rundfahrt!"
Inevitably, the conversation with Schumacher had to include last year's doping affair involving cathine (norpseudoephedrine), which Schumacher took in an asthma medication. He was able to clear his name by proving that he was in the belief that the medicine didn't contain any forbidden substance, so finally his name was cleared.
Looking back at the affair now, he said, "It was just a pity that it lasted so long, three months. I wasn't guilty of anything but it went on until mid-September. It really overshadowed my season towards the end, but now it's definitely over and I'm looking ahead."
At the time of the events, Schumacher led the Continental Classification and was on his way to winning the Rheinland-Pfalz-Rundfahrt. Although he didn't know that the doping substance was included in his asthma remedy, did he feel that it did enhance his performances at the time? "No, I can definitely exclude that," he replied. "I won seven races that spring, and took the medication only once while racing, at the time trial [of the Rheinland-Pfalz-Rundfahrt], when I had considerable asthma problems. I won three stages before that, had a great advantage in the classification - so you can always give the drug a try but I didn't feel that it made any difference!" he almost laughed, hadn't the subject been as difficult as it was.
Tirreno Adriatico stage 3 wrap-up
Bettini loses big time on crash-marred day
Although three-time world champion Oscar Freire was delighted to once again return to his winning ways on the third stage of Tirreno-Adriatico, the good news was overshadowed by a crash-filled day that claimed the scalp of Paolo Bettini, the overnight leader forced to abandon the race.
At the 80km mark near Piano d'Orta, Danilo Di Luca's attack in windy conditions brought confusion behind as the peloton struggled to follow the wheel of the 2005 ProTour winner. Subsequently, a crash on a descent brought down race leader Bettini, his Quick.Step team-mate Davide Bramati, Andrea Tonti (Acqua & Sapone), Benat Albizuri (Euskaltel) and Lars Bak (CSC); Bettini and Bak were the most seriously injured, with the former escorted to the local hospital in Popoli.
Once there, Bettini was treated for cuts and abrasions, as well as undergoing an MRI of his pelvis and X-rays of his left knee and right ankle. Quick.Step team spokesman Alessandro Tegner told Cyclingnews that "the exams showed that Paolo Bettini has not broken anything. He has a major abrasions and bruising to his left hand and left hip, as well as right knee and right side of his chest. Paolo is in a lot of pain and will have further exams in the next few days, and it's impossible to say now if [Bettini] will compete in Milano-Sanremo."
Other riders who abandoned on Friday's stage included Lars Bak (Team CSC), Jaan Kirsipuu (Credit Agricole), Fred Rodriguez (Davitamon-Lotto) and Isaac Galvez Lopez (Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears).
Zabel's legs stop working
Finishing in 35th place, 15 seconds in arrears of stage winner Oscar Freire, Team Milram's Erik Zabel dropped nine places on the overall classification from second to eleventh, but as a result of Paolo Bettini's abandon, the evergreen German becomes the new points leader by default.
"In the last 500 meters the legs have stopped pushing," said Zabel in a team statement, "and I've arrived [at the finish] with a small gap. Unfortunately, I've not maintained my overall ranking, but I take comfort being the leader in the points classification."
Bak not seriously hurt
Following Lars Bak's withdrawal from the third stage of Tirreno-Adriatico, Team CSC doctor Joost De Maeseneer confirmed their young Danish rider is not too badly off: "Even though it was quite painful for Lars, he got away with cuts and bruises," he said.
"You can't blame us for being lucky at the moment, even though we have to be glad Lars didn't get seriously injured, because it was a really bad crash," added directeur sportif Tristan Hoffman. "Everything is open in this race, and I think Rabobank will try to keep the peloton together during tomorrow's long stage. After Sunday's time trial we will see a completely different top GC."
An interview with Iban Mayo
Rediscovering the glory
After a great Tour de France performance in 2003, Iban Mayo was tipped by many as one of Lance Armstrong's biggest rivals in subsequent editions of the Tour. But after showing so much promise in the high country things haven't quite been the same for the diminutive rider from the Basque Country. Cyclingnews' Hernan Alvarez spoke with Mayo to see if 2006 would be his 'turnaround' year.
The centenary Tour de France had so many fantastic moments as Lance Armstrong won his fifth successive title. A race full of emotion, stage 15 became legendary when Armstrong crashed due to the infamous yellow musette on Luz-Ardiden. Behind the American was Euskatel-Euskadi's Iban Mayo, who also went down. The Texan recovered from that fall to catch Jan Ullrich, win the stage and the Tour overall, and although Armstrong went on to win two more editions of La Grande Boucle, Mayo has faded a little in the years since 2003 despite the expectations of an adoring Basque public.
He took a win on stage 8 to L'Alpe d'Huez and finished sixth overall, just over seven minutes behind Armstrong. With a win in the Vuelta al Pais Vasco and victory in two stages of the Dauphine Libéré, Mayo enjoyed an incredible 2003. His good run continued into 2004 with victory in the Clasica de Alcobendas, Subida al Naranco and Vuelta a Asturias in May that year, confirming his status as one of the world's best climbers with a win in the Dauphine Libéré in June.
But after a lacklustre 2005 that saw him fade from many an observer's Tour calculations, the Basque rider is trying to re-emerge as one of Spain's premier riders and return to the front page of the country's sports papers. He commenced his season at the Vuelta a Murcia, where Cyclingnews caught up with him after the first stage into Las Torres De Cotilla.
Click here for the full interview
Davitamon-Lotto and Gerolsteiner for Milan-San Remo
The first really big one day race is approaching, with the 97th edition of Milan-San Remo taking place next Saturday, March 18. Davitamon-Lotto has named its preliminary line-up for the race, with eight riders to be chosen from the following 10: Mario Aerts (Bel), Christophe Brandt (Bel), Josep Jufré Pou (Spa) Björn Leukemans (Bel), Robbie McEwen (Aus) Gert Steegmans (Bel), Leon Van Bon (Ned) Wim Vansevenant (Bel), Johan Vansummeren (Bel), and Henk Vogels (Aus)
The Gerolsteiner team has also named its riders for MSR: Heinrich Haussler (Ger), David Kopp (Ger), Andrea Moletta (Ita), Davide Rebellin (Ita), Stefan Schumacher (Ger), Fabian Wegmann (Ger), Peter Wrolich (Ger) and Markus Zberg (Swi).
UCI doping news
The UCI has reported that the following riders have been sanctioned for doping offences:
Cédric Haas (Fra), tested positive for Acetazolamide during the race Côte Picarde (Fra) on April 13, 2005, sanctioned by Federation Française De Cyclisme, suspension of 2 years from October 12, 2005 to October 12, 2007, disqualification of the race.
Pablo Lucatelli (Bra), tested positive for Terbutaline during the race UCI Mountain Bike World Cup (Bra) on July 3, 2005, sanctioned by Confederacao Brasileira De Ciclismo, suspension of 3 months from November 4, 2005 to February 4, 2006, disqualification of the race.
Zinaida Stahurskaya (Blr), tested positive for Stanozolol during the race GP Carnevale Europa (Ita) on July 16, 2005, tested positive for Testosterone during the races Giro di San Marino (SMr) on July 31, 2005 and during Sparkassen Giro Bochum (Ger) on August 7, 2005, sanctioned by Federation Bielorusse De Cyclisme, suspension of 2 years from July 16, 2005 to July 16, 2007, disqualification of the races.
Danilo Hondo (Ger), tested positive for Carphedon during the race Vuelta Ciclista a Murcia (Spa) on March 3-4, 2005, sanctioned by Court Of Arbitration For Sport, suspension of 2 years from April 1, 2005 to March 31, 2007, disqualification of the race.
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