Latest Cycling News for March 27, 2006
Edited by Jeff Jones
Scholz happy with fifth
By Susan Westemeyer
Gerolsteiner's Ronny Scholz may be best known by German cycling fans as Team Manager Hans-Micheal Holczer's "virtual" son-in-law, but he is doing his best to make his name as a winning rider. On the weekend in the Criterium International, he finished in the top ten in each of the three stages, finishing 5th overall.
Cyclingnews: Congratulations on your fifth place finish in the Criterium International. How do you explain your good performance and what does it mean to you?
Ronny Scholz: I trained for this season more intensively than I ever have before. Actually I have been in training since November. Among others, I had three training camps in the mountains, I was able to accomplish a lot there. In addition (knock on wood!) I haven't had anything to do with sickness or injuries this year. Naturally I'm happy to have the fifth place in the Criterium International with its strong competition - and the brutally hard riding there. A good sign that I am obviously doing the right thing.
CN: You said that you wanted to finish in the top ten, but that your directeur sportif Udo Bölts said that top five was possible. How much did this help you?
RS: Every rider is motivated, when he feels the trust - and that is surely one of the great assets at Gerolsteiner, that the management gives every rider this feeling of trust. But in the end what counts is your performance on the bike, your form and your own motivation. I am having a lot of fun on the bike right now. I even started Dwars door Vlaanderen last Wednesday, even though such cobblestone races will never be my favourites. So there are a lot of factors that come together, and then when a man like Udo Bölts trusts you to do well...
CN: How were the three different stages?
RS: You can prepare yourself for a time trial or for the stage on Sunday morning - but the stage on Saturday was something else! First there was the *#%&§*$ weather with gusting wind, and from the very beginning they were riding extremely aggressively and offensively. There was absolutely no time to take a break, there were constantly large or small groups going off. One little moment of inattention could cause you to be totally out of the race. Hey, that was actually the "sprint" stage...and I didn't even have time to clean my glasses. It was almost more difficult to keep concentrated the whole stage than to ride the bike.
CN: What does the rest of your season look like? Will you ride the Tour de France again, and if so, what is your goal there?
RS: First I'll go the Basque Country Tour, then Rund um Köln, Romandy and Henninger Turm. The last big form test before the Tour de France will be the Dauphine, which will also answer the question of my Tour start. I think that I can be an important helper for Levi Leipheimer and Georg Totschnig, but of course one always has one's own goals at the Tour de France. I will work hard for a stage win - I will find the right day and then fight for the win with everything I have.
Criterium International diary watch: not everybody's happy
Gerolsteiner's Ronny Scholz was very happy with the Criterium International, where he finished fifth overall (see above), but you might not believe it when you read his website, www.ronnyscholz.de. He describes how the breakaway group, of which he was a part in the first stage, rode through "the bad weather and especially strong wind," struggling to stay ahead of the peloton. After the penultimate climb, "those of us left in the group kept on going, to try and keep as much of our advantage as possible," although the group no longer worked together. "In such a situation, the only thing to do is go all out as long as possible, because usually the group breaks up and you can only stay with the first group if you really work."
On the last climb, the race was decided. "On the last descent, Erik Dekker really took the full risk and just flew down the mountain. I was a little more scared of it and took something out. That's probably why I couldn't stay with the leaders. I'm still satisfied to have finished within the top ten, but I'm still a little irritated with myself that I didn't take more risks in the descent."
Bernhard Kohl, of T-Mobile, didn't finish as high the GC, but was satisfied with his 18th place. "A top 20 result in a 'training' race is not bad," he writes on bernhardkohl.at. The second stage "was all up and down, but I could more or less stay with the best on the mountain. I wasn't entirely in the front, but I was in the first chasing group. The race was really planned just for training purposes and I was positively surprised by my performance."
One thing that pleased none of the riders was the early start on Sunday. To make matters worse, daylight savings time started in Europe that morning, so that the riders had to get up even earlier. "The day started very early," Kohl said. Scholz noted the second stage was due to start at 8:40, "which because of the change to daylight savings time will feel like 7:40." It was especially difficult for his teammate Rene Haselbacher: "We had to get up at 6 a.m., that didn't please me at all!" (www.haselbacher.com)
Landis drops Giro in favour of Tour
By Susan Westemeyer
Floyd Landis has cancelled his plans to ride the Giro d'Italia in order to fully concentrate on preparing for the Tour de France, Team Phonak has announced. It was not a sudden decision, the team said, noting that Landis had been pondering the whole season "whether to stand by his decision to include the Giro in his Tour preparations for the first time."
In the last ten days he gave the decision a lot of thought before discussing it with team manager John Lelangue this past weekend in France. Landis crashed on Saturday and dropped out of the Criterium International, but the team said that this crash "had no influence on his decision."
Landis has already proven his form this season by winning the Tour of California and Paris-Nice, the team noted. His further race planning includes the Tour of Georgia and the Dauphine Libéré. In between those two races, he will check out various parts of the Tour de France course, such as the climbs in the Alps and Pyrenees, as well as the time trial courses.
Phonak will now have to come up with a new captain for the Giro, but says that even without Landis, it will have a "powerful team" in Italy, based on Victor Hugo Pena and Axel Merckx. Jose Enrique Gutierrez and Martin Elmiger are also expected to be on the team.
No Flanders for Freire
After winning Brabantse Pijl for the second time on Sunday, Oscar Freire (Rabobank) says he will skip the tour of Flanders in favour of the hilly classics. The Spaniard admitted that his saddle sore injury is still concerning him, as he started to feel it again after Milan-San Remo. "Therefore, it makes sense to me that I avoid the Tour of Flanders as a precaution," Freire was quoted in De Telegraaf as saying. "I don't want to take any risks and will set my sights completely on the Amstel Gold Race and the Wallonian classics."
Vierhouten answers his critics
Aart Vierhouten (Skil-Shimano) gave the best possible answer to the dark rumours around him after last Thursday's Belgian police doping raids. On Friday, his name was one of many published in Gazet van Antwerpen as one of those who was raided. But he denied it completely, and on Saturday finished third in the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen.
"One day you are incorrectly named on the front page in a doping affair, and the following day they rectify it on page 50," Vierhouten said. "Three years ago, I trained with a few of the guys [Bruylandts and Omloop]. Maybe that was why the connection was made. But the police have never set foot in my house, let alone interrogated me."
In the E3 Prijs, Vierhouten rode well, winning the sprint of the chase group with Leif Hoste and Bert de Waele behind the unstoppable Boonen/Ballan combo. "A third place in this prestigious race was the biggest thing possible. Through years of work for Peter van Petegem, I can now read these races."
No couperen please
There is an important piece of news for people planning on going to see the Tour of Flanders this weekend. With the popularity of Vlaanderen's most beautiful classic still growing every year, it is expected that an immense number of cycling fans will head over to the Flemish Ardennes this weekend. For many, it's all about the adrenaline rush to get to see the riders pass at as many places as possible; in fact it's become a sport next to the sport and is called 'couperen'.
This year, though, the Ronde Van Vlaanderen organisation is trying to avoid the mad and often dangerous traffic situations caused by people running and driving around like crazy from one place to another. Geert Vanden Bon from the RVV organisation told HNB, "It's not necessary (to rush from one spot to another). We are going to place giant screens on four spots along the parcours: in Geraardsbergen, Kwaremont, Ichtegem and that finish in Meerbeke."
People are advised to go to one of those places and enjoy the atmosphere. "On those four spots the ambience is guaranteed," assured Vanden Bon.
Courtesy of Sabine Sunderland
Landbouwkrediet-Colnago for De Panne
The Landbouwkrediet-Colnago team will ride the Driedaagse van De Panne (March 28-30) this week with the following riders: Andy Cappelle, Jurgen Van Loocke, James Van Landschoot, Sven Renders, Johan Verstrepen, Kevin Neirynck, Sjef De Wilde and Mathieu Criquielion. Sports directors are Claude Criquielion, Marco Saligari and Claude Vancoillie.
New Zealand team takes stock of Commonwealth Games
The Kiwis finished the Commonwealth Games with a more modest medal count than their neighbours across the Tasman. Two silvers (women's MTB and men's points race) and two bronzes (men's team pursuit and men's time trial) had to suffice, with the New Zealanders missing out on the medals on the final day in the road races.
In the women's race, Toni Bradshaw led the New Zealand charge for most of the nine lap 100.17 km event. Bradshaw was the only Kiwi in the leading bunch of five riders, staying with them until the peloton caught them on the final lap. Earlier during the sixth lap, Australian Natalie Bates made her winning move, and was far too strong to be reeled in. For New Zealand, Joanne Kiesanowski and Sarah Ulmer were in contention for a silver or bronze until the final sprint, with Ulmer leading out Kiesanowski for an eventual sixth place.
Unfortunately for Meshy Holt, a crash in the feed zone during the fourth lap saw her taken to hospital with a broken collar bone. Michelle Hyland and Susie Wood also raced well as part of the New Zealand team and finished 23rd and 26th respectively.
The men’s road race in the afternoon was even tougher, with only 35 finishers out of the 135 starters. Greg Henderson was the best placed New Zealander in sixth place, with Peter Latham in tenth.
The race was dominated by a lead bunch of five riders for most of the race, which included no New Zealanders or Australians, and suited both teams. The Australians controlled the peloton to catch the leaders and continued to work well as a team to see their riders take gold (Mathew Hayman) and bronze (Allan Davis), with South African David George taking the silver.
Full field for P&O Easter Classic
The race organisers have now closed the entries for the P&O Irish Sea Tour of the North, which gets under way in less than three weeks time on Good Friday. The race will start with a full field, and unfortunately some squads, local and mainland have had to be turned away.
The addition of leader's jerseys for juniors and under 23s has proved a big hit, with the under 23 line-up particularly strong. One of the UK's top teams, Agisco-Viner.co.uk are sending their under 23 four man team, including Irishmen Sean Brennan and Daniel Davies who has been riding for the team's Belgian squad for 2006, having been based in Holland during 2005.
Not to be outdone, local Irish clubs are also fielding strong under 23 riders. Northern CC, first promoters of the event in 1955, has three under 23s in its line-up. They are led by recent Phoenix GP winner Fraser Duncan. He is joined by 2004 junior Commonwealth Games riders Dave Watson and Adam Petrie-Armstrong, with Armstrong already showing class this year, his first in the senior ranks, taking last week's Downpatrick-Armagh race and also Surgenor Cup.
The pick of the crop of under 23s is undoubtedly 20 year-old Ards man Martyn Irvine. Winner of the Armagh-Downpatrick in 2005, he has notched up a win in the Cicli Sport GP this year, was runner up in the Surgenor Cup and took 6th in last weekend's big race in the South, the Des Hanlon Classic.
The locals will have to be at their best to be in contention for the under 23 leader's jersey over the Easter weekend, however with the race having been won in the past by 'youngsters' Sean Kelly, Gary Scott and more recently Ryan Connor, it could well be an under 23 who pulls on the race winner's yellow jersey on Easter Monday.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2006)