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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest Cycling News for March 23, 2006

Edited by Jeff Jones, with assistance from Sabine Sunderland

A chaotic finish in Waregem

The peloton had to hit the brakes right after crossing the line in Dwars door Vlaanderen yesterday. HNB took note of Boonen's remark that he almost ended up in the boot of a car.

But it wasn't only the sprinting peloton that wasn't happy about the incident; the UCI took a dim view of the cars and motorbikes that decided to follow winner Frederik Veuchelen across the finish line. Fines of 200 Swiss francs each were given to Chocolade Jacques sports director Walter Planckaert, Paul De Baeremaeker (driving the neutral Shimano car, and making a similar mistake as in Gent-Wevelgem 2005), neutral motorbike rider Fons Sheys, BWB motorbike driver Benoni Beheydt and the race commissaire motorbike. Also the Belgian TV channel VRT has to pay for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

"It's a disgrace," UCI commissaire Gilbert Prinzie was quoted in HNB, claiming he told Planckaert and co. to get out of there when Veuchelen's lead was melting away.

Walter Planckaert reacted surprised afterwards: " I was given permission by the UCI to stay with Veuchelen in the finale. With three kms to go his lead was a minute still. In the last straight line, the peloton came closer but I had nowhere to go. I didn't see the detour for the cars; probably because of the euphoria."

BWB-chairman Laurent De Backer is planning on taking the case in front of the national sports commission on Friday.

"I'm being targeted," Debaeremaeker reacted. "If I'm going to be suspended, I'll get a lawyer."

Discovery on the up in Flanders

Stijn Devolder (Discovery Channel)
Photo ©: Mani Wollner
(Click for larger image)

Discovery Channel's sports director Dirk Demol was happy with what he saw on the streets of Flanders on Wednesday. "The team did a good race, someone was there at the front all day," he was quoted on as saying after Dwars door Vlaanderen. "Stijn (Devolder) is back on a good level. And Max (Van Heeswijk) also had a good race. He had a minor crash before one of the climbs and still managed to come back to the main group. Max is riding much better than in his previous races and he's really focused on getting a good result at Gent-Wevelgem."

Seven kms to the line Veuchelen made the move of the day, dropping Boucher on a small climb and going solo. Back in the bunch, Boonen attacked again and basically splintered the chase effort. Discovery's Roger Hammond then countered and dropped Boonen as the result of his earlier efforts clearly showed. "Roger was very aggressive at the end," noted Demol. "And prior to that, Matt White really worked hard to bring back the escape."

The team now looks ahead to the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen this Saturday. Discovery Channel will field the same team as today except that Leif Hoste will ride in place of Benoît Joachim. "The following week we add in Michael Barry, George Hincapie, Eki, and Gusev - we are really looking good for the Spring Classics," said Demol.

Peter Van Petegem is ready

Peter van Petegem (Davitamon-Lotto)
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

Davitamon-Lotto rider Peter Van Petegem was working hard in the finale of Dwars door Vlaanderen for his sprinter Robbie McEwen; but when crunch came to punch he didn't have the legs to take the race into his own hands.

"Before the race really started, the team was already decapitated," Van Petegem told VUM's Freddy De Geest after the finish; referring to the crash before the Eikenberg. "To really take control of the race, we didn't have enough men in the front. On the Trieu a group rode away and after that we were left chasing."

Van Petegem stressed the fact that he is ready for his big week; although he is suffering from a painful knee. "My left knee is playing up. The cold weather is the culprit. In the start of the race the legs felt heavy, but that is due to old age I guess," he joked.

"I'm not doubting myself, I leave that up to others. I'm ready for my races. The day I start doubting, I stop racing. But we're not there yet. I saw a strong Davitamon-Lotto team at work in Waregem. Gert Steegmans is where he has to be. Bert Roesems proved that we can count on him when the ungrateful work at the front needs to be taken care of."

Mixed fortunes for CSC

CSC had a modest day on Wednesday, with Kurt-Asle Arvesen's eighth place in Dwars door Vlaanderen being the team's best result. But team director Scott Sunderland was pleased with his riders' form, as he noted on "The team looked ok out there today, and I think it's a good indication that the form is getting there. Karsten Kroon did well up front when the favourites' group was split, and generally we were well represented when the race entered its decisive phase. There are two very tough races this weekend, which are both important ahead of the Tour of Flanders. As I see it we have a fair chance of making good results there."

In Italy's Settimana Coppi e Bartali, David Zabriskie had to give up his leader's jersey after the 199 kilometre second stage from Cervia to Faenza. Italian Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) captured the jersey by winning the mountainous stage after having attacked on the penultimate climb.

"It was a tough stage, which wasn't made any easier by the fact that it rained from start to finish," said director Alain Gallopin. "Nibali was tremendous and dropped everyone on the climb. We had Nicki Sørensen and Volodymir Gustov in the group, which tried in vain to catch him, but they were both involved in a crash on the final descent. None of them were seriously injured so we were lucky today."

Forgettable day for Rabobank

Joost Posthuma (Rabobank)
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

"It's a day we have to forget about as quick as possible," said Rabobank sports director Frans Maassen on the team's website. Indeed, Dwars door Vlaanderen wasn't a great day in the annals of the Dutch ProTour team.

"Joost (Posthuma) was even referring to it as the worst day of the year," said Maassen. "This is a thing which can happen. Joost wasn't good today; we were sitting too far in the back when it went wrong in the peloton and afterwards we weren't able to come back. It was just fitting the scenario of a crappy day."

Before the race, the signs were there already. Graeme Brown, Niels Scheuneman and Gerben Löwik had to forfeit because of different reasons. The sickbay at Rabo is crowded and there wasn't much choice of reserves: Michael Boogerd (foot), Thomas Dekker (stomach problems), Thorwald Veneberg (collarbone), Roy Sentjens (nervous system virus) are also out, so Theo Eltink and Pieter Weening started yesterday, but the race isn't exactly their cup of tea.

"Niels Scheuneman still suffers the consequences of his shoulder injury. Gerben Löwik has been operated on. For Graeme Brown this race didn't come at the right time. Three forfeits; two replacements. We started down one man and with not enough specialists for this typical Flemish race," explained Maassen

"The bow cannot always be stretched," Maassen added wisely. "This was Joost's first race since Paris-Nice and you can imagine a lot simpler things than a race like this. It noticeable, because a Posthuma in form of course joins Boonen and those other guys when they accelerate."

Luckily the day wasn't bad overall. the Rabo Continental Team put things into perspective in the Tour of Normandy. Martijn Maaskant won Wednesday's afternoon stage in a mass sprint.

The injury list

Unibet rider Marco Zanotti crashed 84 km from the finish of Dwars door Vlaanderen and broke his collarbone in four different places. On top of that he suffered a light fracture of the elbow. Zanotti is expected to be out of competition for four weeks.

In yesterday's race Unibet didn't get a fluent run, with also Baden Cooke hitting the deck in a crucial stage in the finale; fortunately for the Australian sprinter, he wasn't seriously injured.

T-Mobile's series of injuries continues: In Dwars door Vlaanderen, Jörg Ludewig had to be taken to the hospital after being hit by a team car. Team doctor Stefan Prettin said that x-rays showed that he had suffered a bruise to the head of his shinbone. "Jörg's swollen knee is not injured. The pain is all being caused by the bruise. Otherwise he could theoretically start training again on the rollers or even on the bike."

Gerolsteiner's Beat Zberg was also hit by a team car Wednesday, but will be able to continue in the Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali, the team announced. A team car pulled over to the side of the road and apparently did not see the oncoming cyclists when he opened his car door. "Beat couldn't avoid it and hit the door with his knee and shoulder," according to Directeur Sportif Christian Wegmann. "It all looked very dramatic, but thank God, Beat didn't have any pain overnight."

The team doctor drained the injuries Thursday morning, "and fortunately only blood came out," Zberg said. "I let him put a pressure bandage on and I will start. I don't have any pain, and maybe I will be lucky and the injuries won't swell today."

Courtesy of Sabine Sunderland & Susan Westemeyer

Team England scores in the MTB

Liam Killeen (England)
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

Mountain bikers Liam Killeen and Oli Beckingsale won Commonwealth Games gold and silver in the men's individual cross country event at the baking hot Lysterfield Park on the edge of Melbourne on Thursday.

Killeen, from Malvern in Worcestershire, finished third in Manchester four years ago when he was just 20, and turned Commonwealth bronze into gold with a superb ride over the eight 6.4km laps of Victoria's State Mountain Bike Course.

Beckingsale, a 29-year-old cyclist from Bristol, also rode brilliantly as together the English pair chased down and swept past Australia's Chris Jongewaard, then shook off the challenge of the 2002 silver medallist, Canada's Seamus McGrath.

Killeen finished in 2:13:11, just 15 seconds ahead of his teammate and 32 ahead of McGrath, who took the bronze.

"It's a pretty special feeling and it hasn't completely sunk in yet," said Killeen. "I'm happy I've come here and achieved what I set out to do.

"I stuck to my plan today. I was aiming for gold throughout. The heat was a problem and for a while I stepped back a bit and took on fluid. Jongewaard built up a solid lead and I wasn't sure whether we'd be able to reel him in, but as the race moved on we could see that we were catching him up."

Beckingsale said: "I'm chuffed to bits. To get a one-two is pretty full on. I've never won anything internationally, so to win a medal is brilliant. It was a big learning curve for me today. I learned what it takes to go out there and win a medal in the big races."

Team England mountain bike coach Simon Burney was understandably delighted: "That was fantastic," he said. "We couldn't have asked or planned for better. We talked about the possibility that the Aussies would go out hard and they did. It turns out they went too fast."

In the women's event, Team England's best finisher was Amy Hunt, from Bolton, who was fourth in a time of 2:01:33. The 19 year-old, who won silver at the Commonwealth Youth Games in Bendigo in 2004, improved her position throughout the six-lap course but never managed to gain a lead.

That was left to Marie-Helen Premont of Canada who led throughout and finished with gold. Rosara Joseph of New Zealand finished with silver and Kiara Bisaro of Canada took bronze.

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