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Photo ©: Schaaf

Latest Edition Cycling News for May 23, 2006

Edited by Les Clarke and Jeff Jones

Coming up on

Cyclingnews will cover the 60th edition of the Dauphiné Libéré live as of stage 4 on Wednesday, June 10, at approximately 15:00 local Europe time (CEST)/ 23:00 Australian time (CDT)/ 9:00 (USA East).

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Let the Dolomites begin

Cunego and the gang in the Dolomites
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

After months of anticipation, the week of the Dolomites is finally upon riders at the Giro, and for five days they'll do battle with some of the highest peaks in stage racing. There will be more than 175km of climbing, covering mountain passes such as Monte Bondone, Staulanza, Fedaia, Pordo, San Pellegrino, Gavia and Mortirolo. Speaking to about the abundance of climbing in the final week, Belgian champion Serge Baguet (Quick Step) said yesterday, "It's a little too much of something good - well, there's a price to pay [for that]."

It's unknown whether racers will actually be prepared for the five days ahead, with extreme grades and the likelihood of bad weather making it an arduous task for most of the riders. Earlier in the year Gilberto Simoni could only scout some of the climbs on his mountain bike, while Damiano Cunego could cautiously visit the stage 17 Plan de Corones only a month ago.

Many in the peloton aren't happy with what this final week holds, including Quick Step boss Patrick Lefevere, who is also chairman of the association of professional cycling teams. "We're going back to Roman times," said Lefevere, "We make ethical charters for riders' well-being while they go and make the courses longer and more difficult." He continued by outlining that along with reservations about the parcours, the proposed double stage day had to be abandoned and that concerns over the night train transfer from Belgium to Italy were also addressed.

"What do you think will happen on the Plan de Corones?" saked Lefevere. "Ten riders will make it through and the rest will have to push through the spectators or wait for the next vehicle coming through? This sort of thing happened last year on [the Col de] Finestre - if they want spectacular racing for the fans, they'll also have trampled ground for the riders to race on as a result," he added. "The racers should say 'f*** you' and come down at the foot of the climb!"

Bettini v. Pollack v. Förster v. Lampre

It was a very close finish
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

It got wild and woolly on Monday afternoon the last kilometer of the Giro's 15th stage. Gerolsteiner's Robert Förster, T-Mobile's Olaf Pollack and Quick Step's Paolo Bettini fought it out for the sprint, with winner Bettini at first not sure of his victory. How did the two Germans see it?

Pollack wasn't happy. "It was very close again today. I have been close in almost every mass sprint. But I haven't won, and I am therefore very disappointed." He also came in for some light criticism from directeur sportif Rudy Pevenage, who said, "Olaf didn't pay attention for a moment and let a hole develop."

After the stage, the sprinter allegedly said that he had been blocked by Förster, who said, "There are no presents on the finish line. Pollack could have held on to my rear wheel."

Förster, who finished third, had problems with other riders. "After the finish I got into it with Fornaciari from Lampre. We stood nose to nose and yelled at each other, he in Italian and me in German. Then a couple of guys got between us, otherwise it would probably have escalated. I got so angry at the Cunego troupe. They force themselves into the front at a sprint finish and escort Cunego in, as if he were the Patron with a 20 minute advantage," he wrote at Radsportnews. "Maybe tomorrow I should get in Lampre's way on the mountain stage, so that they can see how it is."

The Gerolsteiner rider saw the sprint this way: "I went for it. All or nothing. I would rather go down with all flags flying, than to try nothing and roll over the finish as sixth. When I saw the 300 metre sign, I thought, 'Oh oh, that's pretty far.' Out of the corner of my eye I saw the first bike go by me. S***...then another one. I had to pull myself together to keep on going."

Boonen returns

Quick.Step and Landbouwkrediet for Tour of Belgium

Two Belgian teams hae named their line-ups for the country's national tour, which starts on Wednesday, May 24, and finishes on Sunday, May 28.

For Quick.Step-Innergetic, world champion Tom Boonen will be back in action, after taking over a month off following his victory at the Scheldeprijs in April. The rest of the Quick.Step team is Wilfried Cretskens, Steven De Jongh, Kevin De Weert, Servais Knaven, Nick Nuyens, Sebastien Rosseler and Matteo Tosatto. Directeur sportif: Wilfried Peeters.

Landbouwkrediet-Colnago will have to do without Bert De Waele in its line up, after he crashed in a kermis in Lochristi on Sunday. He suffered a knee injury and light concussion, and will have to rest for a short period. His spot will be taken by Jean Paul Simon.

The full selection is: Jean-Paul Simon, Steven Kleynen, Fréderic Amorison, Kevin Neirynck, Johan Verstrepen, Sven Renders, Jurgen Van Loocke, and Nico Sijmens. D.S. Claudy Criqueilion.

Indurain: Valverde needs to improve to win Tour

Spanish legend Miguel Indurain
Photo ©: Sirotti
Click for larger image

Five-times winner of the Tour de France, Miguel Indurain, believes that Alejandro Valverde can finish on the podium in Paris but looks to Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso as the two big favourites in July's jaunt throughout France.

"Valverde to could win the Tour de France if he improves his performance in races against the clock but without losing his qualitites in the mountains," said Indurain, before he added that, "Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso are both great favourites for this year's edition [of the Tour]." That's not to say that Indurain doesn't see Valverde and AG2R's Francisco Mancebo as the main Spanish challengers in July, however.

Indurain, who was in Barcelona as a member of the Laureus academy, said that Macebo was the other great possibility for Spanish cycling in the world's greatest bike race. "He's not a 'gun' in the mountains nor against clock, but he's always among the favorites, has experience and is used to performing very well at key moments [of the race]," said 'Big Mig'.

Indurain mentioned Valverde's lack of experience, which he considers, "the main key for success in the last week of the Tour, when most riders are heavily fatigued." Indurain is optimistic in respect to Valverde, and thinks that, “Valverde can finish on the podium in this year's edition, mainly because of the great progress he's already demonstrated in Fleche-Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege."

Indurain also spoke of who could be the heir to Lance Armstrong's throne, with the position open to a host of candidates. "But not to all riders, just five or ten," said Indurain. "Because to take this position one must have some very specific qualities and be very complete, like in the case of Ullrich and Basso, who have been around for some years and have developed strong careers," he added.

He believes the absence of Armstrong will change the development of riders' careers, in that they'll be, "more open and perhaps a little less controlled because there isn't a concrete leader as such - therefore the main reference point for riders' progression is lost."

The winner of the Tour between 1991 and 1995, Indurain emphasizes that preparation for July is a question "of feelings" rather than of specific preparation, something that Valverde has said in the past, and something he practices. He has often said he 'trains by feel', and if this approach doesn't work for him in 2006, it could work for the 'green bullet' in the not-so-distant future.

Coutesy of Antonio J. Salmerón

An interview with Udo Bölts

Tour pick: Ullrich

Udo Bölts
Photo ©: Mani Wollner
(Click for larger image)

"I believe that Jan Ullrich can win the Tour again. Yes, this year. And I think that as compared to Ivan Basso, he has the necessary mental strength to win it. " Udo Bölts is not one to mince his words, and there is no question for him as to who is favored to win the Tour de France this year. After 11 years of riding for Team Telekom, he finished his active career with a year at Team Gerolsteiner, where he is now in his third year as a directeur sportif. Susan Westemeyer got caught up to date on his thoughts in a recent phone interview.

Cyclingnews: One of the reasons you became a directeur sportif was so that you could spend more time with your family. Has it worked out as you had hoped, or are you still away from home a lot?

Udo Bölts: After my racing career I obviously had to do something. I didn't want to just fall in a hole and I wanted to stay in touch with cycling. I was lucky enough to get an offer from Hans-Michael Holczer to become a DS but limited to only 50 to 60 days on the road. That allows me to spend more time at home with my children, Helena, 8, and Jan, almost 6. I am very happy with the way it is working out.

CN: How long do you think you will work as a DS? What else can you imagine yourself doing professionally?

UB: I hope to remain a DS for as long as the team exists. What else I might do, I really don't know right now. That is hard to answer. I trained in a profession before I turned pro, but I could never go back to that. Sometimes something new comes along that you just have to go along with.

Click here for the full interview

Peace Race wants Pro Tour status

"The Peace Race will continue, and it is worth more than its present minorrating," said race director Peter Notter. "I will do battle with the UCI,because the Peace Race deserves Pro Tour ranking. It is in every respectan important race, even if we don't have as many financial resources assome other races." He also noted that things are looking better on thatfron, though, with the possibility of the Czech brewery Budweiser joining as a sponsor. The race was not held last year due to lack of funds.

The 58th Peace Race ended on Saturday, with Barloworld's Giampaolo Cheula taking the overall win.

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