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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for May 1, 2006

Edited byHedwig Kröner

Romandie final stage wrap-up: Evans pulverizes rivals

Cadel Evans (Davitamon-Lotto)
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

A surprise to many, Davitamon's Cadel Evans rode an astonishing final time trial in Lausanne, Switzerland on Sunday to take the final stage of the Tour de Romandie as well as the general classification. Until the Australian came into the finish, Discovery's Leif Hoste led the challenging 20.4 km-time trial over CSC's Bobby Julich - but Evans simply crushed the Belgian by another 22 seconds.

Behind, overall leader Alberto Contador (Liberty Seguros) was having a really hard time getting over the last kilometre's false flat, as he had spent his energy on then-second-placed Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) - but the fellow Spaniard didn't turn out to be the threat to look out for.

"I knew I was going well this week, and this morning, I woke up relaxed and calm. The pressure was not on me to win; it was on the others to lose," said a delighted Evans, most likely referring to Contador and Valverde, who bore the full brunt of the Aussie's might and power, finishing the race second and third overall.

"The course was perfect for me, and although the hills weren't big, I've been climbing well and also enjoy the time trial. I gave it everything I had, and to come away with the stage and overall victory is just superb!" Evans exclaimed.

Also see: Full results, report & photos

Family ties: An interview with Manolo Saiz

Liberty Seguros-Würth's Manolo Saiz is one of the most experienced campaigners in the professional peloton. Establishing and running one of the sport's longest-running professional teams has thrown up its fair share of challenges, all of which Saiz has had to deal with, as he tells Cyclingnews' Hedwig Kröner.

Manolo Saiz speaks
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

In 1989 Saiz began what became one of the sport's longest-running professional teams, ONCE, and it wasn't long before the Spanish outfit was a major force, producing several champion riders and a Vuelta a España overall title. In 2003, ONCE, the Spanish lottery of the blind pulled out as major sponsor, but Saiz was able to find a new backer, insurance company Liberty Seguros. The patron of the family he had created continued his ambitious project in the same way as he had before, achieving another two Vuelta overall wins with Roberto Heras - and a third one which the former US Postal rider was stripped after a positive test for EPO.

Consequently, Saiz has had to deal with the ramifications of Heras' positive test, and it hasn't been easy. Defending one of his star riders is a big burden for the 47-year-old Spaniard, and he's had to put the events of late 2005 behind him and look to the future, which includes fostering talented riders such as Andriy Kashechkin, Luis Leon Sanchez and Alberto Contador, plus the arrival of a certain rider by the name of Vinokourov.

Cyclingnews: You've always been one of the best managers for fostering young talent - do you have a lot of confidence in your younger riders this season, such as [Andriy] Kashechkin and [Alberto] Contador?

Manolo Saiz: Yes, I think riders like these are the future. If we can race well, the victories will come, even if the rider is only 22 years old now. Many focus on Contador, but for example Luis Leon Sanchez has also impressed me; on the day up to Saint Etienne he first waited for Kashechkin, then he came back on the front group, and he's only 22 years old. That's the most important thing for me - with this many young riders on the team, generally speaking, we have a great future ahead of us.

Click here for the full interview with Manolo Saiz.

AIS centre in Italy helping Aussie pros

Graeme Brown (l) and Mat Hayman
Photo ©: Gennie Sheer
(Click for larger image)

A host of Australia's pro cyclists commemorated Anzac Day last week with a visit to the Cycling Australia - AIS [Australian Insitute of Sport] High Performance Base in Castronno, Italy, for a traditional 'Aussie BBQ' and cricket match ahead of intensive biomechanics and physiotherapy sessions.

World, Olympic and Commonwealth Games champions including Michael Rogers (T-Mobile), Stuart O'Grady (CSC), Graeme Brown (Rabobank), Matt Hayman (Rabobank), Allan Davis (Liberty Seguros-Wurth), Aaron Kemps (Liberty Seguros-Wurth), Brett Lancaster (Ceramiche Panaria), Natalie Bates (AA Drink), Kate Bates (Nürnberger) and Gene Bates (Team LPR) gathered in Castronno, some with their partners and children, for a social catch up and to christen the new High Performance Headquarters.

"It's really good not only to get yourself back into shape in a 'physio' sense but it's to catch up with the boys," said dual Olympic champion Graeme Brown. The pro riders also put in some road training with the current members of the Australia U23 programme (SouthAustralia.com - AIS) and caught up with the women cyclists in Italy on AIS scholarships.

"I imparted some words of wisdom to Lloydy (Matthew Lloyd) going up the climbs he was taking us up yesterday," laughed Brown, who attended with wife Hayley (nee Rutherford) a former rider with the programme. "It's good for them and for us as far as morale. It's the part of the season where everything is starting to happen, and putting aside the biomechanics and physio it's just a good place to be with a group of Aussies," he added.

Click here for the full feature.

Belgium ready for Giro

Next weekend will be another high-day for Italian cycling, and not in the least for Belgium. The Giro d'Italia starts in Belgium, more precisely in Liège with a prologue followed by three stages through Wallonnie. The Wallonnian (or French-speaking) part of the small Northern European country is preparing for virtually a week of cycling euphoria, with the passage of the Tour of Italy being used as an ideal opportunity to honour the mine workers, the first Italian immigrants who arrived in Belgium just 60 years ago.

The 60th birthday of the Accord du Charbon, the agreement which regulated the first wave of immigrants from Italy after World War II and the commemoration of the terrible mine-disaster in Marcinelle, which took the life of 262 mine workers 50 years ago, are two events which will be highlighted during the passage of the 2006 Giro. Especially with Sunday's stage finish in Marcinelle, the reference to the mining industry is clearly present during the four days the Giro is ridden on Belgian soil.

Getting the Giro start to Belgium is an expensive adventure. Mister Joseph Crotteux, director of the division sports of the Province of Liège and the man who brought the Giro to Belgium, is expecting a very positive return. "To start with economically," Crotteux told Sportwereld, "all the hotels are booked out. The Giro caravan counts no less than 800 cars. All of those need fuel. Studies have revealed that there are on average four people in those cars. Those all have to eat, drink and find a hotel room. The second effect is the taxes staging this event generates. And the third factor is tourism. We expect 100,000 spectators. It's half of what the Tour de France had, but the Tour gets more exposure and takes place during the summer holidays."

The organisation is expecting for a majority of those spectators to be of Italian descent. Liège is home to no less than 50,000 Italians. If one adds the second and third generation - those people with Belgian passport - this amount triples. Most of them are descendants of mine-workers, the first Italian immigrants.

"The parcours will pass as many mine-sites as possible, but we had to take sporting parameters into account," continued Crotteux. "The stages were to be maximum 200km long and it's not our intention to make it into a battlefield. The third stage is a bit harder, but in all it'll be fluently ridden."

The Italian consul in Liège, Marco Riccardo Rusconi, born near Milan, 30 years of age and a mad cycling fan, has moved to Belgium only a year and a half ago. According to him, the four days of the Giro in Liège and Wallonnie mean more to the community than just an opportunity to look at passing cyclists. "Although it's been a long time since we're pauperised mine-workers, it is beneficial to our self-esteem," Rusconi told HNB.

"We have to thank two parties for this Giro start in Belgium: first of all the Italian organisers who wanted to make a nice gesture for Italian people abroad," he continued. "It's something which isn't that obvious as there's is an abundance of candidate-cities in Italy itself. Cycling is a very handy bonding tool; because all Italians love sports and in contrast with soccer or tennis or Formula 1, cycling goes to the people. And secondly, we thank this project to the province of Liège - those people have a nose for big events."

The important social roll of a big stage race like the Giro is something Rusconi is wishing to underline. "When Bartoli was successful in the Tour de France it was really heartening for the Italian immigrants in France. They immigrated to survive and Bartoli made them proud of their Italian origin," Rusconi said.

"The first Italians in Belgium were poor too. But in the meantime, the Italian people have made it to the top layers of the social hierarchy. Because doing business is in our blood, a lot of Italians have become successful entrepreneurs. It's not necessary for us to 'get revenge', but it does improve the image we have of ourselves. It shows us as winners, and I don't just mean that literally, winning cyclists, but everything surrounding cycling."

The consul would love to see an Italian on the podium. "It would be magnificent, and I think it's perfectly possible. During Liège-Bastogne-Liège I saw that the Italians are ready. Basso, Cunego, Bettini: they're there. In Italy there's no gaps in between generations of talent, like there is in France for example. The stream is constant, there's always fresh blood. Italy is the biggest cycling country," the consul proudly boasted in typically Italian fashion. "Well, Belgium is second, after Italy. Eddy Merckx of course is the biggest cyclist ever. I have gone for a ride with him a few times. He speaks Italian with a Milanese accent, just like me. It's very funny, very sociable. But it's been a while since I've got the bike out of the shed though. I'm Italian. And an Italian waits for the sun to shine to get out. So I have been waiting for a long time."

Courtesy of Sabine Sunderland

Cummings and Manning back to the road

Commonwealth Games gold medallists Steve Cummings and Paul Manning will return to European road racing with their Landbouwkrediet-Colnago team this week. Their next race scheduled is the Rund um de Henninger Turm in Franfurt on May 1. Their successful track campaign saw the British pair win seven medals in the Commonwealth Games and World Track Championships, but they have only participated in two road events in two months. Both are eager to race again in some of Europe's biggest races.

Steve Cummings, 25, whose second place in the Italian semi-classic Trofeo Laiguelia - the best performance by a British pro this year - can't wait to get on with things. "It was in some ways difficult to leave the road racing scene to concentrate on the track for such a long period especially as I had proved I had very good form," Cummings said. "It was a commitment I had to make and have no regrets, I gave it 101 percent. However, it was unfortunate to come at a time when I was breaking through on the continent. I cannot wait to get some races under my belt and find my road form again. Hopefully with hard work it will not take too long. After the German classic we go to the Four Days of Dunkirk (May 3-7) and at the end of the following week the three day Tour of Picardie. We might be riding the Tour of Belgium or some other races then ride the Tour of Luxembourg at the beginning of June. I hope I will get in great condition again soon and get some success so I can ride in a ProTour team next year."

Paul Manning, 32, had similar ambitions at least in the short term. Winner of the individual gold medal in the Commonwealth Games and the gold medal in the team pursuit as was Cummings, not to mention a individual bronze medal in the World Championship where he recorded the fastest time, Paul has taken a big step up in world pursuiting and is now in the world's top three riders in that event. "I feel the same as Steve in a lot of ways, despite my recent success on the track I cannot wait to race on the road again, helping Steve reach his goals and if I am 'feeling lucky' take some opportunities myself," Manning said. "However, because of circumstances we have to play catch-up, so it will be good to get a few races in and hopefully things will happen."

T-Mobile to Tour de France with special jersey

The T-Mobile team has presented a new racing kit on the eve of the Rund um den Henninger Turm race in Frankfurt on May 1. The new clothing line - only slightly changed - will be worn be the T-Mobile riders at the Tour de France to showcase the team's "Schools for Africa" charity initiative, which aims to give children in southern Africa access to education. The project is a cooperation of the United Nations Children’s Fund, the mobile communications company T-Mobile and the cycling team.

A thin stripe in 'UNICEF blue' differentiates the promotional jersey from the usual kit. The stripe, featuring the UNICEF logo, sits above the larger white "T-Mobile" stripe on the jersey’s front. On the jersey’s left front are the words: "We ride for: Schools for Africa"

To mark their commitment to "Schools for Africa", the outfit will contribute € 3000 to the project for every stage win. In the event of an overall Tour victory, team manager Olaf Ludwig promised that "we’ll come up with something special." In this year alone, donations are expected to fund the construction of 20 new schools.

500 replicas of the limited edition 2006 T-Mobile Tour de France jersey can be ordered from May on for 75 Euro on the team's website. All proceeds go to the "Schools for Africa" project.

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