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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for March 24, 2006

Edited by Jeff Jones

Kirchen to spearhead T-Mobile in Critérium International

Kim Kirchen will lead the T-Mobile Team in the 78th edition of the two-day Critérium International (2.HC) in the French Ardennes this weekend.

Kirchen returns to competition after a two and a half-week break - back pain forced him to climb off his bike and into the team car during stage three of Paris-Nice. The Luxembourger has been back in intensive training in the last few days, however, and hopes to rediscover the good form that saw him place second behind Paolo Bettini at the GP di Lugano in late February.

Joining Kirchen in north-east France is Linus Gerdemann, who has some form after racing his first Milan-Sanremo last weekend. The young German was in the lead group until the Poggio, where a pedal slip caused him to lose touch. He recovered to cross the line in the first chasing group and now feels he has the legs to mix it in the Ardennes.

After recovering from a cold, Andreas Klöden was expected to return to competition at Critérium International - until he dislocated his shoulder in a crash on Tuesday. Following surgery Wednesday, the 2004 Tour runner-up will now spend a lengthy time on the sidelines and will miss all races in March and April. Jörg Ludewig is, however, fit to ride in France. Ludewig hit the tarmac at Wednesday's Dwars Door Vlaanderen, but only suffered light injuries to his knee.

"In Andreas' absence we've had to rethink our selection, as we have rosters at a few other races as well," said sports director Brian Holm. "But I'm convinced that we are starting this race with a solid troop of riders."

Eddy Mazzoleni, Thomas Ziegler, Bernhard Kohl, Bas Giling and neo-pro Frantisek Rabon round out the eight-man roster.

The Criterium International has been based in Charleville-Mézières in the French Ardennes since 2001. Since then the race format has remained the same and the parcours has changed very little. The race gets underway on Saturday with a long, predominantly flat first stage covering 187km from Sedan to Charleville-Mézières.

The second and final day - Sunday - decides the winner. A tough 101 km morning stage over lumpy parcours through the Ardennes is followed by 8.3 km individual time trial on flat terrain in and around Charleville-Mezieres.

"Sunday morning's second stage is very tough. The riders will have to do a lot of climbing over the short 100 kms," added Holm, who believes that the GC won't be decided until after the afternoon time trial. "That was also the case last year when Bobby Julich come out on top."

Julich (CSC) is one of the favourites again this year, but he can expect to be pushed all the way by a strong field that includes the likes of Denis Menchov (Rabobank), Paris-Nice and Tour of California winner Floyd Landis (Phonak) and Jörg Jaksche, who placed second at last week's Tirreno-Adriatico (Liberty Seguros).

The stages

Stage 1 - March 25: Sedan - Charleville-Mezieres, 192 km
Stage 2 - March 26: Les Vieilles Forges (Les Mazures) - Montherme, 101 km
Stage 3 - March 26: Charleville-Mezieres - Charleville-Mezieres, ITT, 8,3 km

Astarloa in Critérium International

After being one of the main protagonists in the finale of Milan-Sanremo, Igor Astarloa will be the leader of Team Barloworld for the Critérium International in France this weekend. The three different stages of the race always suit a multi-talented rider and the race will be an important test for Astarloa, now that he is again a major contender in the big races.

The Barloworld team for the race will be led by team manager Claudio Corti and will include Igor Astarloa, Giosuè Bonomi, Diego Caccia, Mads Christensen, Enrico Degano, Alexander Efimkin, Hugo Sabido and Tom Southam.

After finishing the French race on Sunday, the same team of riders will travel to Belgium for the Driedaagse De Panne race between March 28 and 30.

Solid performance by Canada in Comm Games MTB

Bisaro and Premont
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

Marie-Hélène Prémont (Château-Richer, QC) took gold, and Kiara Bisaro (Courtenay, BC) and Seamus McGrath (Waterdown, ON) bronze in the women's and men's mountain bike cross country races, held under extreme temperatures in Lysterfield National Park in Melbourne, Australia. Canada performed well as a nation, taking three medals out of four athletes entered.

The women were up first and Marie-Hélène Prémont gave a commanding performance, leading the race from start to finish and widening her lead with every lap of the six kilometres circuit. Prémont, Canadian champion and Olympic silver-medallist, took the gold in a time of 1:55,31. "It was a very good race today considering that this is the start of the season for the Canadians," said the 28-year old. "My legs felt good and I was able to execute my plan of pushing the pace from the start." "The heat was intense, about 30C, good chance that I liked it!"

Kiara Bisaro (Courtenay, BC) crossed the line in third place behind New Zealand's Rosara Joseph to round out Canadians on the podium. Bisaro (31) a regular top-10 finisher on the World Cup circuit, battled for a couple laps in second place, but the heat factor played a role in her case and she settled for bronze with a time of 1:57,59.

"We came here to a wide open field not really knowing how the rest of the girls would be like to race against," said Bisaro. "The sun and heat really got to me today and I just didn't have what it took to finish second, but I'm super happy with the bronze. I had fun on the course today and I'm looking forward to the next World Cup race."

McGrath instigated
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

On the men's side, Seamus McGrath (Waterdown, ON) finished with the bronze medal behind the two English riders: Liam Killeen and Oli Beckingsale. McGrath said he enjoyed the fast course: "I felt really good at the start of the race and I knew right away this was going to be the kind of race where I would have to pick my spot. The two English riders had numbers on me in the last lap, and with the sun and the heat, I just didn't have it left in my legs to get to the line first."

Geoff Kabush (Courtenay, BC), who was the early favourite, said that he just didn't get into the race today. He finished in 11th spot and was disappointed.

Svorada makes his own team

Jan Svorada, the winner of 77 professional races, including stages in the Tour de France, Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a España, presented his new project today in his home town Brno, Czech Republic.

Svorada has created his own cycling team called Grisoft-XCR. 2006 will not even officially be its first season, as the team will have only up to six professional riders in it: Svorada, Michal Precechtel (29, from e´D system ZVVZ), Jiri Mikulasek (29, from Sparta Prague), Jan Jobanek (22, member of the Czech U23 national team). There will also be several young amateur riders in the team. The team will be focused not only on road races, but also on MTB.

The main sponsor is Grisoft, the worldwide producer of AVG Anti-virus software. XCR is a Czech company, owned by Svorada, importing cycling goods and producing bikes with the brand 'Svorada'.

"I hope that I can defend the Czech national champion title with my new team this year," said Jan Svorada. "This is our zeroth season, my effort is to build a continental pro team in few years."

New beginnings and endings for Baw Baw

For the first time in the event’s six year history, a new start and finish will greet the 112 entrants for the 2006 Baw Baw Classic in Victoria, Australia, on Saturday, April 1, 2006. But the main feature of the 94.5 km race will remain: a final six kilometre surge up an incredibly steep (12% average gradient) sealed road section. Bedfore that, competitors will race 88 km through the Deli Region of Jindivick, Neerim South, Noojee, Icy Creek and Tanjil Bren.

This year's Baw Baw Classic will start at the West Gippsland Arts Centre, located next to the Baw Baw Shire Council offices who are event sponsors. The finish location remains the top of Mt Baw Baw, but will shift from the traditional carpark finish to the new Village Central venue, located opposite the Baw Baw Hotel.

The legend of Baw Baw and its final six kilometres have grown each year among the cycle racing fraternity since the event began in 2001. Prior to this the road was an unpaved gravel track used to access Mt Baw Baw and was popular with mountain bikers. The Herald Sun Tour used the course as a feature in two previous Tours, proving to be decisive stages for the overall winner Victorian Baden Cooke in 2002 and Swede Jonas Ljungblad in the 2004 Tour. The Classic has attracted a number of high profile and up-and-coming athletes to race, including multiple Herald Sun Tour stage winner David McKenzie, Barcelona Olympian Robert Crowe, and Simon Gerrans. In 2003 and as a little known cyclist, Gerrans won the Baw Baw Classic. Since then he has gone onto bigger and better things, competing in last year’s Tour de France, winning the Herald Sun Tour and Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under, and gaining selection to ride for Australia at the Commonwealth Games until a complication from an injury sustained earlier this year ruled him out for the road race.

More information: www.bawbawclassic.com

Roberts and Wiggins at Good Friday track meeting

Luke Roberts (CSC) and Brad Wiggins (Cofidis) will be two of the stars at the Good Friday track meeting, to be held at London's Herne Hill velodrome on April 14. The pair will be riding against each other in an individual pursuit, which will be one of the highlights of the meet.

Other events on offer include the SCCU Golden Wheel 20km Scratch Race, which is the richest race of its kind in the country, with a prize fund of £2850 and £1000 going to the winner. Also, national derny paced champion Bryan Taylor will be looking for a win in the BPA Derny Paced Race.

Riders taking part will come from Belgium, Holland, Italy, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Germany, Japan and Australia, and it looks set to be the largest field ever in the history of the meet. The gates open at 10 am with sprint preliminaries starting at 11am. The main meeting starts at 1pm and is scheduled to finish at approximately 6pm. Admission is £6 for children, £12 for adults and a Super Saver Family Ticket is £30. Tickets are available from the Good Friday Box Office c/o Classic Wills, 11 Addington Road, West Wickham, Kent, BR4 9BW or at the gate on the day.

More information: www.goodfridaymeeting.org.uk

Park Cycling Cycling Academy

The Park Cycling Cycling Academy has announced its roster for the 2006 season. PCCA is a developmental program that provides a foundation for young cyclists from around the United States to move to the mountains of Park City, Utah for the summer and race and train with elite and professional mentors while travelling to some of the best races in the country. PCCA provides guidance for riders who wish to race national level races with full team support and mentorship.

Click here for the full roster and announcement.

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(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2006)