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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for October 6, 2006

Edited by Jeff Jones and Gregor Brown

100th Paris-Tours: Century edition of sprinters' classic

By Gregor Brown

Zabel wins last year's race
Photo ©: AFP
Click for larger image

Paris-Tours is synonymous with the autumn and the end of the season. This Sunday, October 8, the classic will be celebrating its hundredth edition, and will welcome 25 teams. The ProTour classified event will consist of all 20 ProTour teams, plus five additional Professional Continental Teams.

The Paris-Tours peloton, all 200 riders, will depart from the town of St-Arnoult-en-Yvelines (close to Paris), heading south for 254.5 kilometres, before arriving on the famed l'Avenue de Grammont in Tours. The race, although "flat", has an unpredictable character. First, because of its geographical path, which means the peloton can be pushed along at full speed by the wind or face a long day in a head-wind. Second, the time-slot on the calendar the weather can be unpredictable. The road-side fans might be in their light cotton shirts or dressed in leather jackets under umbrellas.

The French race is well known as a sprinters' classic but being a sprinter is certainly no assurance of victory. Take Richard Virenque as an example: The waif like climber caught them all napping back in 2001 and nailed what was one of his finest victories ever. Most often the l'Avenue de Grammont, dead-straight for nearly 3000m, does offer up sprinting madness, like last year when Erik Zabel took his third win, and last for T-Mobile.

Zabel will be back in the century edition with new squadra Milram but a rider like Italian Daniele Bennati (Lampre-Fondital), second in 2005, is the big favourite. Australian Robbie McEwen won't take to the start line, but compatriot Stuart O'Grady (Team CSC) will. The rider from Adelaide, third in Paris-Bourges and second in Züri Metzgete, is on the verge of another big win. Uros Murn, finishing fifth in the World's, right behind McEwen, could also pull off the win with the help of Phonak teammate Fabrizio Guidi.

Live coverage

Cyclingnews will be covering theParis-Tours live, with coverage starting at 15:00 CEST (Europe)/9:00 EDT (USA East)/6:00 PDT (USA West)/23:00 AEST (Australia East).

Click here for the full preview, map, past winners, start list

CSC aiming for end of season bang

For Team CSC this weekend's races in Italy, Giro dell'Emilia and GP Beghelli, are primarily about preparing for next weekend's final ProTour race, Giro di Lombardia, while the team hopes to retain its first place overall in the ProTour Rankings in Sunday's Paris-Tours.

"It's no secret that Giro dell'Emilia and GP Beghelli are preparation for Giro di Lombardia, where we have a number of strong cards to play," said sports director Kim Andersen, who is hoping to be on the podium with the team in Lombardy as winners of the UCI ProTour, to

In Italy, Nicki Sørensen and Schleck are both riding this weekend. Schleck finished as runner up in last year's edition of Giro dell'Emilia. "The race ends in a climb, so it suits Fränk perfectly, but also for Nicki, who has actually been in great shape since the beginning of the Vuelta and most recently in Züri Metzgete," said Andersen. "However this weekend the most important thing is not the result, but rather how we keep on track towards the Giro di Lombardia."

In Paris-Tours the team will be aiming for a good result. "It's a great line-up we have for Paris-Tours as well, so we hope for a good team result in order to retain the overall ProTour lead, and of course I wouldn't mind winning the race. We have a number of World Championship riders in the line-up, and they all did well in Salzburg, so we definitely have a good chance." Andersen will have riders like Kurt-Asle Arvesen, Lars Bak, Karsten Kroon, Marcus Ljungqvist and Stuart O'Grady, who finished third in 2003, while team mate Jakob Piil won Paris-Tours in 2002.

Team roster for GP Beghelli and Emilia: Iñigo Cuesta, Volodymir Gustov, Martin Pedersen, Andrea Peron, Fränk Schleck, Nicki Sørensen, Brian Vandborg.

Team roster for Paris-Tours: Kurt-Asle Arvesen, Lars Bak, Kasper Klostergaard, Karsten Kroon, Marcus Ljungqvist, Lars Michaelsen, Stuart O'Grady and Luke Roberts.

Phonak betting on Clerc and Guidi in Tours

This Sunday in Paris-Tours, Phonak Cycling says it will be betting on its sprinters Aurélien Clerc and Fabrizio Guidi. The Swiss-Italian duo have displayed excellent form in the last couple of races and intend to come up with another top result for their Swiss team.

"We'll support Clerc and Guidi with all our strength. If our tactics fall into place during the 254 kilometre race, then they stand a good chance of taking a top result," said Gregory Rast and Florian Stalder, who placed 5th at Thursday's Paris-Bourges.

"It's my last race for Phonak Cycling and I definitely want to claim another top result," said Clerc. Phonak will end its sponsorship at the end of 2006.

Quick.Step with Boonen for Paris-Tours

The Quick.Step team has been finalised for Paris-Tours, with top sprinter Tom Boonen leading the squad. The Belgian is looking for one more big win before he finishes his season, and Paris-Tours is certainly a race that suits him. The rest of the Quick.Step team is strong, with Filippo Pozzato and recent Franco-Belge winner Kevin van Impe, as well as Steven De Jongh, Kevin Hulsmans, Nick Nuyens, Sebastien Rosseler, and Wouter Weylandt. The team will be directed by Wilfried Peeters.

Specialized snares Quick.Step-Innergetic

By Gerard Knapp

Bettini will ride a Tarmac
Photo ©: Specialized
(Click for larger image)
Boonen will ride a Roubaix
Photo ©: Specialized
(Click for larger image)

The talk of the Interbike exhibition in Las Vegas last week was the apparent bidding war to secure the right to be bicycle sponsor to Quick.Step-Innergetic, the Belgian ProTour squad of Tom Boonen and 2006 world road race champion, Paolo Bettini.

In a statement issued late Tuesday, October 3, California-based manufacturer Specialized announced it had won this right after competing with rival firms to have the glamour squad ride its bicycles.

Sean McLaughlin from Specialized's marketing department would not comment on the rumoured amounts that were bandied about at Interbike, except to say, "The perceived market value among ProTour teams varies dramatically. Some teams command much higher than others and that was always the case, but more so now."

McLaughlin said it was Boonen's international appeal, as well as that of the Italian champion Bettini, that motivated Specialized's founder and president, Mike Sinyard, to get closely involved in the negotiations to secure QuickStep.

McLaughlin said, "We'd been in discussion with this team for a long time.

"Tom took the world by storm and he struck us as the type of athlete we want to work with. It didn't take long for Mike (Sinyard) to strike up a dialogue," he said.

The Specialized boss was "personally involved" in this deal, working with Specialized executives Sean Sullivan and Simone Toccafondi, based in Italy, to secure the deal with Quick.Step management.

Boonen was world road champion in 2005 and this year won the Tour of Flanders, among many other victories. He has become the complete package - from a marketing point-of-view - with the ability to back it up. He is a household name in Belgium and arguably one the world's most popular - and successful - cyclists. Despite his numerous victories in many important races, he can also be a loyal team rider and remains friendly to cycling fans and the media.

On the home front, McLaughlin could not say if Boonen would ride in the Tour of California next February, but added, "We need to sort out the training and race schedule. That is still to be determined.

"We'd be honoured to have him (Boonen) here of course, but we (Specialized) are a global brand" and riding the Tour of California was not a condition of the sponsorship deal, he said.

McLaughlin said the Californian bike company would look to recover this cost from both marketing and product development angles. "It's a good investment from a shrewd marketing standpoint, and a product development standpoint."

He said Specialized's sponsorship of leading teams had allowed it to take features of its high-end 'S-Works' line and introduce them in "bicycles with more affordable price-points."

"For 2007 our product line is set. You will see some special graphics for the Quick.Step bikes and they will have their own visual identity."

McLaughlin would not confirm if Boonen or Bettini had ridden one of the Specialized bikes, as they are still contracted to ride the French-made Time bicycles until the end of this year. (However, former Quick.Step rider and Belgian legend, Johan Museeuw, has ridden Specialized bicycles. In fact, he participated in a major press event Specialized hosted earlier this year along the parcours of Paris-Roubaix.)

Industry sources told Cyclingnews at Interbike that Quick.Step's manager, Patrick Lefevere, was only interested in bids worth over one million euros per year. It's understood that the Belgian team's current bike sponsor, the French manufacturer Time, had secured the right for a mid-range six figure sum, but now it had climbed into seven figures.

The talk at the show was of a subsequent bidding war between Specialized and another American manufacturer.

McLaughlin would not comment on these figures, but added, "There were a lot of suitors for this team, and it quickly came down to two."

Ballerini meets old rivals on Manchester track

Italian national director, Franco Ballerini, is travelling to the Manchester velodrome to contest a special pursuit with old rivals Max Sciandri, Andrea Tafi, Silvio Martinello and Rolf Sorensen at the Revolution on October 14th. Ballerini is now almost as famous for managing the Italian national team to victory in the 2006 road World Championships as he is for his memorable victories in Classic races like Paris-Roubaix.

With the world title in Italian hands for a year, Franco can now focus on the serious business, which is squaring up to his old sparring partners. "There can't really be any rivalries," he smiled. "There might have been once upon a time but not any more. This thing in Manchester will just provide ammunition for mutual mickey-taking for a few months, or years, and prove how bad we've become and how cruel cycling is...!"

"Your name can be Armstrong," said Franco, "but if you stop putting the kilometres in, you'll soon become cannon-fodder. The bicycle is a nasty piece of work in that respect."

Ballerini admitted that, as Revolution 13 has loomed large, he has been keeping an eye on his rivals' form. "Of the five of us," he said, "to look at him, you'd say that Martinello has stayed the fittest, but then he's almost never touched a bike since the day he retired. This should be a great leveller because, in theory, with his experience on the track, Silvio should beat us all ten-nil."

And who's the weakest link? Diplomatically, Ballerini paused, before picking out Tour de France star turned TV pundit, Rolf Sorensen. Franco seems to think that all those press buffets on the Tour have caught up with the blond Dane.

"Rolf is maybe the one - how can I put this? - with the most meat on him," he said. "But then, paradoxically, he's the one who perhaps spends most time on his bike."

"Max is probably somewhere in between Silvio and Rolf," Ballerini said of Sciandri, a former Olympic medallist for Team Britain. "I'm actually looking forward to seeing how Max measures up when we're all relatively unfit; I've always thought that he had natural talent and that he should have won much more than he did in his career. I'm not playing mind games, honestly, but if you could have combined my dedication and Max's ability, you'd have had a superstar."

Tafi, Ballerini said, has "stayed in pretty good shape, although, if you didn't know better you'd probably say the same about me."

But what about Ballerini? "I weigh about 80 kilos, which isn't far off what I weighed at my peak," he said. "It's just that the muscles have been replaced by a whole load of fat. And we all know that muscles weigh more than fat..."

"I still ride my bike a fair bit, but it's very seasonal, depending on my work commitments. Because of the worlds, I've hardly sat on my bike in the last few weeks, but before that it was going well. I was going out a few times a week for two or three hours and," he said, "I must say that I was getting pretty good again."

Franco Ballerini, along with Martinello, Tafi, Sorensen and Sciandri, will face-off this coming October 14th in Manchester. Visit for more details.

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