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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

First Edition Cycling News for March 17, 2006

Edited by Jeff Jones and Anthony Tan

Gerolsteiner has options in La Primavera

One thing is sure before the first one-day Classic race of the ProTour season: the riders from Gerolsteiner will arrive at the start of Milan-San Remo Saturday with a strong dose of self-confidence. With David Kopp, Heinrich Haussler and Markus Zberg, who just won the last stage of Paris-Nice, the team is sending three riders who have at least one victory so far this season. Directeur sportif Christian Henn added there is no need to worry about the other five riders, either, who he's sending to the 97th edition of the La Primavera.

Davide Rebellin, Fabian Wegmann and Andrea Moletta have shown their good form recently in Tirreno-Adriatico, and Stefan Schumacher did the same at Paris-Nice, with Peter Wrolich versatile as a strong helper or ambitious escapee. "We have several possibilities, and several options for each," Henn explained, adding, "The guys' motivation and self-confidence are very high." Henn wouldn't reveal exactly what the team's tactics for Milan-San Remo will be, partially because this depends on how the race develops. But the Gerolsteiner DS gave some hints as to how he could see things developing.

"If a group develops around Paolo Bettini, then we will have to try to have Davide and Fabian in that group," said Henn. The Olympic gold medallist (who is expected to start despite his bad crash in T-A), and Gerolsteiner could combine to snap the race away from the many sprinters, but for this to succeed, "you have to be in the right place at the right time," Henn conceded.

One key moment will be on the Cipressa, predicts Henn, the first of the climbs that is often a trouble spot for those not in top shape. The climb, which comes after 272.4 km, could divide the peloton into a gruppetto and the contenders. "In any case, we have a couple of jokers ready to play," says Henn. "And no matter what, you have to build up enough of an advantage to be in the leading group over the Poggio and to keep the followers behind you."

Riders: Heinrich Haussler, David Kopp, Andrea Moletta, Davide Rebellin, Stefan Schumacher, Fabian Wegmann, Peter Wrolich, Markus Zberg. Directeur sportif: Christian Henn

Courtesy of Susan Westemeyer

Sanchez in for Nozal in MSR

Manolo Saiz has made a last minute change to Liberty Seguros-Würth's team roster for Milan-San Remo on Saturday. Luis León Sánchez, who rode well in the recent Paris-Nice, will replace Isidro Nozal, who finished Tirreno-Adriatico with the 'flu. The team will be completed by Alexander Vinokourov, Allan Davis, Andrey Kashechkin, Jörg Jaksche, Giampaolo Caruso, Ángel Vicioso and Jose Joaquín Rojas. They met up with each other today in Milan, and tomorrow they will do their last training before the first big spring classic.

See also: Milan-San Remo start list

Verstrepen and Van Loocke OK

Landbouwkrediet-Colnago riders Johan Verstrepen and Jurgen Van Loocke are both OK after crashing in yesterday's Nokere Koerse in Belgium. Verstrepen underwent x-rays on his hand on Thursday, but they showed no broken bones. He will be able to resume training with a special cast. Van Loocke has pain in his back, but he can ride as normal.

Commonwealth Games Day 1 wrap up

Sprinters spring surprises on Aust coach

By Gerard Knapp

Ben Kersten rejoices his gold medal
Photo ©: Shane Goss
(Click for larger image)

For the host nation, Australia was expected to once again dominate at the velodrome, as it had done in the previous Commonwealth Games held in Manchester in 2002. But the first night of action didn't start out as planned, as the two Australian representatives in the men's 4km individual pursuit – Mark Jamieson and Peter Dawson - fared somewhat less than expected.

Considering they were following in the wheeltracks of Brad McGee, the reigning Commonwealth champion (2002, 1998, 1994) who wanted to compete but was not released by his French ProTour team Française de Jeux, there was some pressure on the younger riders.

The disappointment came with the performance of Jamieson, a former junior world champion in the individual pursuit, who put in a time that was some eight seconds off his best. "If I could put it down to one thing, I think it was the nervousness and excitement that overcame him," said Australia's head cycling coach, Shayne Bannan.

"He certainly didn't perform to expectations. We were thinking that qualifying say in fourth or fifth was realistic, but for them to come in at seventh and tenth (fastest times) wasn't what we expected.

"I think both of them went out a bit too hard, but the English and New Zealand riders are genuinely world-class, so we knew it was going to be a tough event."

Click here for the full wrap up

Gerrans out, Kemps in as Australia re-groups for Comm Games road race

By Gerard Knapp

Aaron Kemps
Photo ©: Shane Goss
Click for larger image

The not-entirely-unexpected withdrawal of the injured Simon Gerrans (Ag2R Prevoyance) from the Australian men's road race squad for the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games has resulted in Aaron Kemps (Liberty-Seguros Worth) being drafted into the national squad at short notice.

Kemps is currently racing in Europe and recently completed the Tirreno-Adriatico stage race for his Spanish ProTour squad, finishing in 113th place on GC. However, the Queenslander was informed on Thursday by Australia's head cycling coach, Shayne Bannan, that his services would be required in Melbourne Sunday week, March 26, for the men's road race.

The selection of Kemps comes after Gerrans was forced to withdraw yesterday due to a post-operative infection in his shoulder, damaged after a nasty tumble in the GP d'Ouverture la Marseillaise, held in France on January 31.

However, the selection of Kemps raises questions over the value of the senior Australian men's national road championship, as 2006 winner Russell Van Hout was once again overlooked for national duties.

Bannan told Cyclingnews that following confirmation of Gerrans' withdrawal, he had spoken to all the reserve riders who were named when the team of six was announced on February 3.

Alberto Contador and Allan Davis
Photo ©: Hedwig Kröner
(Click for larger image)

At that time, a surprise omission from the squad was the gutsy South Australian rider, Van Hout, who'd been a key protagonist and stage winner in the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under. Van Hout was only named as a reserve at that time, and once again, the national road champion has missed out on selection for his country.

"Well, we gave him (Van Hout) our reasons, and Russell is understandably very disappointed," Bannan said. "But since the Tour Down Under, Aaron has ridden fifteen races, a mix of one-day and stage races, and he's just finished Tirreno-Adriatico, which is a tough race.

"We feel he's better prepared at this stage," he said, compared to Van Hout and other reserves, who'd not had as much racing in their legs. "So that's what Aaron had over Russell … he (Van Hout) was disappointed, and why wouldn't he be? But at the end of the day our job as selectors is to pick the best possible team," he said.

"And I should add it's not only Russell Van Hout who's missed out; there's also Chris Sutton (Cofidis), who was fifth last year in the U23 world championships road race. But it's the nature of the situation we're in that there is so much depth of talent in Australia, that making a national team is very hard."

Bannan said making the call to committed riders like Van Hout and Sutton "was not easy … and it never will be."

It's expected the Australian team leader for the Commonwealth Games road race will be Kemps' teammate from Liberty and fellow Queenslander, Allan Davis, who is lining up this weekend for the Milan – Sanremo Classic in Italy. Davis was forced to abandon the Paris-Nice stage race due to a stomach illness, but he'd been in good form, running second on three occasions in Paris-Nice to reigning world champion Tom Boonen, who's currently on fire and in sensational form.

The team now includes Davis, Kemps, Ben Day, Mathew Hayman, Nathan O'Neill and William Walker.

(Note: The Australian Open men's road race in January this year was actually won by U23 sensation, Will Walker, followed by Tasmanian and fellow U23 rider Wes Sulzberger. Van Hout was the first senior rider home in third place and was awarded the right to race in that national champion's jersey, recently worn by Robbie McEwen, Matt Wilson and Stuart O'Grady. There were only 26 finishers out of 180 starters.)

Also see: 2004 interview with Aaron Kemps.

News from the English camp

England sweep cycling pursuit

Paul Manning (England)
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

England's track cyclists produced an historic clean sweep of the medals in the men's 4000m individual pursuit on Thursday - the first time English athletes have won all three medals in a cycling event in Commonwealth Games history.

Stockport's Paul Manning took gold in the all-England final coming from behind to beat Derbyshire's Ron Hayles after they had produced the two fastest qualifying times earlier in the evening. Manning, who won a bronze in this event in 2002, rode to a time of 4:23.799 in the final, beating his English team-mate by nearly five seconds.

"I'm so pleased with that," said Manning after winning Team England's first cycling gold since 1994. "I rode well in qualifying but I knew I had to back it up with a second ride. "We're all absolutely delighted," said Hayles. "We were hoping to get a medal but we never dreamed of getting all three. This is brilliant for English cycling."

Merseyside's Steven Cummings took his first major individual medal when he beat New Zealand's Jason Allen to take the bronze with a ride of 4:24.767.

"I said the other day no one knew what Steve could do, including himself," said Manning of his young team-mate. "And he showed his potential here. He's going to be a force to be reckoned with."

The all England podium from the
Photo ©: Shane Goss
(Click for larger image)

Manning led briefly in the early stages of the final, but Hayles had sneaked ahead by the end of the first kilometre. He had a lead of nearly half a second by the halfway point. But Manning wasn't going to be beaten easily and he began his charge. By the three kilometre point he was back in the lead as Hayles' fast early pace began to tell. The man from High Peak faded in the closing stages and Manning punched the air as he crossed the line.

"I've been there or thereabouts for four or five years," said Manning. "I've had medals at world and Olympic level but obviously gold is great. But to us this is a team sport and winning all three is superb for the team."

The England cyclists had made their medal intentions clear from the start, as they dominated the qualifying round earlier in the evening on day one of the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games. Manning and Hayles ensured England would have the gold and silver medals when they posted the top two times. Manning overpowered New Zealand's Hayden Roulston to record 4:21.801, and Hayles crossed the line only fractionally slower in 4:21.837 eclipsing his opponent, the home favourite Mark Jamieson of Australia.

"It was pretty close to my best," said Manning of his qualifying time. "But I thought I would have to break a personal best to win the final."

Cummings was also in sparkling form as he recorded 4:25.570, the fourth quickest qualifying time. In the bronze medal ride he was simply too good for Allen, leading from the start and never wavering to ensure England's monopoly of the medal podium.

England are now regarded as favourites for the team pursuit title this Saturday, March 18.

Queally takes TT silver

Jason Queally from Great Britian
Photo ©: Shane Goss
(Click for larger image)

England's Jason Queally won his third consecutive Commonwealth 1k time trial silver in Melbourne's Multi Purpose Venue, missing the elusive gold by just over three hundredths of a second.

"I couldn't get any more out of myself," said Queally. "It was a 100 per cent ride from me and the better man won on the day. It was a close call. I've been Olympic champion and world champion but I just can't get Commonwealth gold," he added.

It was meant to be the jewel of the cycling programme, between two of the sports closest friends - British teammates, training partners and Commonwealth rivals: Queally of England and Chris Hoy of Scotland. But no-one told Ben Kersten, and the Australian came to spoil the Britons' party, taking the gold with a ride of 1:01.815.

Queally, the Sydney Olympic champion, knew this would be his last 'kilo' at a major championships as the event has been removed from the Olympic program. The 35 year-old from Chorley was the penultimate rider, with Hoy, who snatched the Englishman's Olympic title in 2004, last to go.

But Kersten, roared on by the 6000 home fans, produced a time less than a tenth outside Hoy's existing Games record, so Queally knew he would have to produce the ride of his life to win. He came close, recording 1:01.849, a whisker away from the gold medal spot.

With Hoy, the favourite, still to come it looked as though Queally would have to settle for bronze. But the Scotsman lacked his customary consistency and after a fast start he slipped behind Kersten's time on the third of the four laps and never recovered. Hoy's time of 1:02.071 was good enough only for bronze, leaving Queally with another silver to add to his collection.

"A younger, better, good looking guy won on the day," joked Queally.

"What more can I say? Tonight it was his night. Now I've got three days left to get a Commonwealth gold. Sunday's race [the team sprint] will also come down to a few fractions of a second between England, Scotland and Australia. "Let's just hope I can amend what happened today with a gold medal there."

Pendleton powers to silver

Victoria Pendelton from Great Britain
Photo ©: Shane Goss
(Click for larger image)

Another silver for England happened on Thursday night when Victoria Pendleton powered to England's first track cycling silver of the 2006 Commonwealth Games, recording a 34.662 in the women's 500 metre time trial. She was only beaten by world record holder Anna Meares of Australia, who added the Commonwealth Games crown to her Olympic title from Athens.

"I'm very happy with that," said Pendleton. "It's the best performance in the 500m of my life so far."

Riding fourth of the five finalists, the 25 year-old from Hitchin knew exactly what she had to do to snatch a medal. If she could beat Anna's sister Kerrie's time of 35.210 she would put herself in gold medal position.

With the awesome Aussie to come, however, she knew however fast she pedalled, it might not be enough for gold. Pendleton blasted off at the start recording 19.576 for the first 250m lap and sweeping round the second. As soon as she crossed the line the words 'Commonwealth Record' flashed up on the giant screen.

She had taken the lead by more than half a second and beaten Kerrie Meares' Games record, set in Manchester four years ago, by more than three tenths. Pendleton must have thought that would be enough for the top prize. But Anna Meares is not Olympic champion for nothing - to the roars of the Aussie fans, and watched by her parents in the stands, she clocked 34.326 to take the gold medal and eclipse Pendleton's mark.

"It seemed to take forever waiting for Anna's ride," said Pendleton. "I know it's only 34 seconds but it seemed ages. I just wish the time had gone a bit slower. But it was an excellent ride by Anna so you can't take that away from her."

Despite being so close to gold, Pendleton was happy to have split the two Meares sisters. After finishing fifth in this event in Manchester and sixth at the Olympic Games in Athens, she had her first major Games medal. "Technically I'm a bit disappointed," said Pendleton. "But I'm going well. It's a very fast track and very steep."

More positive for the Manchester-based cyclist is that her best event is yet to come: Pendleton is world sprint champion and that final takes place this Saturday evening. "The sprint is my main event and I will be trying very hard to get the gold," she said.

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