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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

Latest Cycling News for March 22, 2006

Edited by Jeff Jones

Ullrich confirms Giro participation

Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) has confirmed that he will be taking part in this year's Giro d'Italia, but only as preparation for the Tour de France. On T-Mobile's website, Ullrich is quoted as saying, "I'll be testing my legs on a few stages. I will not be concentrating on the GC however."

Ullrich has just finished a block of training in Tuscany, and is almost ready to start racing again in the Circuit de la Sarthe. "I started training in November already, so I've done more than in other years," he said.

Paolini heads north

Luca Paolini, who finished third in Milan-San Remo, is heading to Belgium for a tough schedule of northern classics. The Liquigas rider will race all the classics, save for Paris-Roubaix. He is particularly keen on the Ronde van Vlaanderen, which is his favourite race.

"After my performance in Milan-San Remo, I expect to do well in the next races too," said Paolini. "I especially like the Ronde van Vlaanderen, but I don't undervalue the other events. Besides the race of the bergs, I'm thinking about the Driedaagse De Panne and Amstel Gold Race."

Liquigas-Bianchi team manager Roberto Amadio admits that it won't be easy. "the Ronde van Vlaanderen is like a world championship for the Belgian riders, and it's terribly difficult to shine in this kind of race."

Liquigas's Magnus Backstedt is also hoping to regain a semblance of form after crashing in the Challenge Illes Balears earlier this year and injuring his left knee. Experienced campaigner Stefano Zanini is another one to watch for, as he knows the cobbled classics very well.

Liquigas-Bianchi for the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen (G.P. Harelbeke) and Brabantse Pijl (Flèche Brabançonne) this weekend: Michael Albasini, Magnus Backstedt, Daniele Colli, Mauro Da Dalto, Marco Milesi, Luca Paolini, Marco Righetto and Stefano Zanini. Team director: Dario Mariuzzo.

Boogerd gets back on the bike

Michael Boogerd (Rabobank) has resumed training again after breaking a bone in his foot last week. Boogerd managed to ride on Tuesday, and still hopes to be fit in time for the late spring classics, Amstel Gold Race and Liege-Bastogne-Liege. "It went reasonably well and I hope that it stays positive," he wrote on his website, "I trained for about four hours. I could hold a reasonable heartrate thus I have the feeling that I did something, and wasn't just riding around aimlessly. Positive...with a negative undertone, because I'm still riding with a broken bone."

Boogerd added that he felt he could get back to 80 percent fitness within a few days, before riding the Tour of the Basque Country, where he hopes to achieve 95 percent fitness. "The last 5% I'll try to get in the week before the Amstel," he wrote. He is also trying to shake off the effects of some bronchitis, just to make things a little harder.

"I'll definitely do my best to be at Amstel and Liege. In the last 10 years, I've always been among the top three on the podium, and I also want to start in 'my races' with the intention that I'm not just lining up to start."

Gardeyn and D'Hollander to miss early classics

Belgians Gorik Gardeyn ( and Glenn D'Hollander (Chocolade Jacques) will miss the upcoming spring classics due to injuries, according to Gardeyn will undergo an operation today for a muscle injury above his knee. D'Hollander, who suffered concussion after crashing in the first stage of the Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen, has been unable to train again: he experienced headaches when he tried to get back on the bike. He will need to rest for at least another week and a half.

Commonwealth Games MTB preview

By Rob Jones in Melbourne

Geoff Kabush (Canada)
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

Today (Wednesday), the Commonwealth Games mountain bikers had their last chance to train on the race circuit before they race tomorrow. At six kilometres, the circuit is short by World Cup standards, and some of the top competitors found it not very technical, but still expect a tough race for the gold medal. The women will do 8 laps and the men 10.

The circuit does not have a major climb, instead featuring a number of short up and down power climbs and false flats. The technical sections are not particularly difficult, but the many twists and turns will force the riders to constantly pay attention. The ground is very dry and dusty, with lots of loose gravelly sections where a rider can wash out. In training today it was 25°C, and tomorrow it is expected to go to 30-plus, so heat could be a factor.

The small women's field (12 riders) has a huge talent gap. At the top of the skill level are the two Canadian entries - Marie-Helene Premont and Kiara Bisaro. Premont was the Olympic silver medalist in Athens, and was the only rider to beat world and Olympic champion Gunn-Rita Dahle in World Cup competition last year (which she did twice). Bisaro is a regular top-10 finisher on the World Cup circuit. Barring unforeseen circumstances, these two are virtually assured podium spots. Behind them, the only recognizable name is Rosara Joseph (New Zealand), who has competed in World Cup competition, and won the Oceania title three weeks ago.

Premont flew in Monday, but has had two days of training on the course now. "It is a nice course, and I feel that I am going well on it. It should be fast; the more I ride it the more I like it. But it is my first race of the season, so you are always unsure of how well you are going. The heat will not be a problem; I like the heat!"

One of three Australians
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

Bisaro echoed her team mate's comments: "It's fun, it's fast. It may not seem too technical until you are at speed, then you can quickly get into trouble if you are not paying attention."

On the men's side, the competition is not quite so lopsided, with six of the 29 riders in the pro ranks. Geoff Kabush (Canada) is the early favourite, having obliterated the competition at the Oceania championships. However, Liam Killen (England) is also a top World Cup rider, and has come from training in South Africa (with new Specialized team mate Christoph Sauser) and doing some road racing in California.

After these two, there is Kabush's team mate Seamus McGrath, who took the silver in Manchester, and finished ninth on a similar course in Athens. Also, New Zealand pro Kashi Leuchs, England's Oli Beckingsale (who has been racing in Cyprus and is reputed to be very fit), and Australian hope Sid Taberlay, who could benefit from a strong partisan crowd cheering him on.

Both Kabush and McGrath feel that the race will really start in the final laps. Kabush: "Yeah, it won't start until late. There is nowhere to really get away, but lots of places to make little mistakes that will cost you."

McGrath agrees: "I'm expecting that it will be fast, and that there'll be a group of six or maybe seven that stays together for the first part of the race. I think that the Aussies could be strong- they've been training for this."

Click here for the full preview.

Paul Griffin shows that professionalism has its advantages

By Tommy Campbell, Irish Independent, Evening Herald, Sunday Independent

There will be Irish racing in all four of the country's provinces this weekend, which will afford those wishing to race the opportunity of limiting their travel.

Last Sunday the first real test of the season was unveiled in the Des Hanlon Trophy in Carlow, where the real divide between pros and amateurs came to the surface. Paul Griffin, now based on the Asian continental where he plies his trade as a professional bike rider with the Giant Asia outfit, was the hero of the competition. He stole all the plaudits when he had a resounding success against all the odds. Paul had no team support or back up, and still he came up trumps.

His win emphasises the gulf between those in the amateur and professional ranks. Even the might of the newly formed Murphy & Gunn/Newlyn Group, which had four competitors and was regarded as the 'bees knees' in the final miles of a very hard and demanding course, was unable to prevent Griffin's victory. Paul was also bridging a 10 year gap to his last success in 1996.

Based in Tralee, Paul will probably avoid the travel up country. He will go into the fray in the Jim O'Keeffe Trophy, which is being staged in Whitechurch, Co. Cork by Karl McCarthy, whose real claim to fame is that he got the better of Stephen Roche in the Wicklow Three Day over two decades ago.

In Leinster, the main attraction will be the Beggan Shield in Bohermeen, Co. Meath, which has five events on the program, including Under Age racing. Organiser here is Marie Reilly. According to ex-president of Cycling Ireland, Michael Lawless, who was very instrumental in the development of cycling for ladies, "Marie undoubtedly was a very good cyclist. She had many podium places, both on the domestic and international scene, during her career, and I know that this part of her career as an organiser will be on a par with her racing career."

Over in Connacht, the Atlantic Coast Hotel/Sheeffrey Grand Prix in Westport tops the agenda and according to Irish Junior Team Manger, Dan Curtain, "any juniors wishing to have their names in the frame for Irish streams will be obliged to be on site. They will race with the seniors. Race organiser Joe McGuire has toned down the distance of the event to comply with the regulation for junior participants."

The PJ Logan Cup is scheduled for a 1.30 start in Coalisland, Co. Tyrone where all the other events have a mid-day start.

The 2006 Christy McManus Memorial Road Race takes place in Roundwood this Saturday, March 25. Bray Wheelers will also host the inaugural Roundwood GP on the same day to cater for elite A category riders. Racing starts at 11am, from Roundwood GAA Club. The course for both races will be circuits of the Roundwood, Rathdrum and Laragh roads. The Christy McManus is sponsored by Frank Duff's Lounge Bar, Main Street, Bray. Duff's Lounge is Bray's cycling pub - virtually a museum to the exploits of Elliott, Roche, Kelly and others, a great venue for post race analysis.

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