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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

First Edition Cycling News for September 19, 2006

Edited by Jeff Jones, with assistance from Susan Westemeyer

An interview with Alexandre Vinokourov

Winning the Vuelta

Alexandre Vinokourov has long been regarded as one of the most exciting riders in cycling, due to his all-out aggression. Landing victory in the Vuelta means he is now a fully-fledged Grand Tour champion, as Shane Stokes reports from Madrid.

Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana)
Photo ©: Unipublic
(Click for larger image)

It seems like an eternity ago, but back on the fifth stage of the Vuelta a España it looked like the race had slipped away from Alexandre Vinokourov. The Kazakhstani had come into the Tour short of racing kilometres and the first day of the mountains exposed that lack of sharpness, with the Astana leader struggling with the pace of the other overall contenders.

He finished back in 21st place, 2'13 down on stage winner Danilo di Luca (Liquigas) and conceding over a minute and half to riders such as Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne), Carlos Sastre (CSC), José Angel Gomez Marchante (Saunier Duval-Prodir) and his own team-mate Andrey Kashechkin.

Day seven was somewhat better, with Vinokourov unleashing some strong attacks on the final climb to Alto de El Morredero, but being overhauled by a blistering fast Valverde and four others inside the final 500 metres – and losing a further 12 seconds to Valverde – was doubtlessly hard for his morale.

From there, though, things improved. Consecutive stage wins at Lugo and Alto de La Cobertoria on days eight and nine showed that he was clicking into a higher gear, spurred on no doubt by the presence of Kazakhstan's Prime Minister Danial Akhmetov at the race. And while Valverde continued to fight on, wearing the maillot oro for eight stages, it became clear towards the end that one rider's form was on the ascension while the other was starting to run out of steam.

"I came to the Vuelta with only 30 days of competition," Vinokourov told the press on the eve of his final victory, explaining how things worked out. "The third week of the race was very hard and I think that perhaps missing the Tour has helped me here.

Click here for the full interview

Clerc finishes strongly in Vuelta

Clerc was third
Photo ©: Unipublic
(Click for larger image)

In the final stage of the Vuelta a España the Phonak Cycling Team managed to secure its second top three placing. The rider from western Switzerland, Aurélien Clerc was beaten by Erik Zabel and Thor Hushovd in Madrid. Clerc described himself as "satisfied" with the placing, in a stage that he had targeted to win.

"Already on Friday I said that I wanted to concentrate fully on this final stage. I was able to rest up well. Although there were just five of us left on the team, the team worked incredibly well during the last six laps and always supported me and got me into a good position for the last kilometres. The final 100 metres, my legs were tired but my morale was high. I wanted to win and score the first stage win for Switzerland since 2001. In spite of that, this third place is a great result for all of us. We showed that the Phonak Cycling Team is still here."

Clerc said he suffered through the final week's worth of mountain stages, and it "certainly wasn't very easy. But I'm in good shape and on the day off on Monday I set myself the goal of definitely finishing this tour."

His next goal is the World Championships in Salzburg. "Our national trainer René Savary has offered me a spot as a joker. Compared to other riders, no one is really expecting me to make the race. Often enough the World Championship has been decided in a sprint of a large group. For me, that means keeping my cool and, should it come down to a sprint, being successful. In terms of the Vuelta a España I had a perfect preparation and my morale was high. I always enjoy riding for Switzerland."

Clerc's season won't be finished after the World's, as he will be racing Paris–Bourges and Paris–Tours. "I hope that I will be able to conserve my good form. Last year, I placed sixth at both of those races. This year, I hope to be able to improve on that. I would really love to thank my teammates, the staff and especially Andy Rihs for the wonderful time with Phonak Cycling with another podium spot or even a win."

Klöden looking to a top 8 finish in TT

Andreas Kloden (T-Mobile)
Photo ©: Florian Schaaf
(Click for larger image)

"The world's time trial course is good for me," said T-Mobile's Andreas Klöden. His goal is "a place in the top eight. But I think that won't be easy, in light of the competition." The favourites include his teammate and three-time champion Michael Rogers, Fabian Cancellara, and Vuelta winner Alexander Vinokourov (if he starts). "But also Sebastian Lang has specially trained for this and won the time trial in the 3-Länder Tour. He has the necessary power to be among the top finishers."

Klöden himself was fourth in that 3-Länder Tour time trial. He called it "a final endurance test, which was important when looking to the World's. That it wasn't enough for a podium place, is surely because of the fact that I had ridden hard the day before and used up too much power. On Saturday I dropped out of the race on purpose, in order to have a few days before the world's to recuperate."

Vandenbroucke racing again

Frank Vandenbroucke (Acqua e Sapone)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Frank Vandenbroucke is racing for a real team again, following his late season transfer to the Italian Acqua e Sapone team. The Belgian, who rode for in the early part of the season before he stopped showing up to races, did Saturday's GP Misano and Sunday's GP Prato. On Saturday, a fresh faced VDB finished 19th.

"I'm just 31 and am convinced that I still have a couple of nice years ahead of me in cycling," said Vandenbroucke to Sportwereld. "Agreed, I have not always taken the right path in my career, but from that to decide that it's over and out...not everyone is right, eh!"

Beñat Intxausti to Grupo Nicolás Mateos-Murcia

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Spanish talent Beñat Intxausti has become into the first reinforcement for the continental squad Grupo Nicolás Mateos-Murcia for 2007. The team is already working on next season's planning, although it could become a professional continental team in 2007.

Intxausti recently won the Avelino Camacho Memorial, one of the races of the Copa del Porvenir series. The young Basque rider is a good climber, although he is also the Euskadi time trial champion. In addition, he is part of the Spanish U23 selection that will dispute the World Championships this week in Salzburg.

The contract of Beñat Intxausti with Grupo Nicolas Mateos-Mateos is only for one season, although he has also signed a commitment with Saunier Duval-Prodir for 2008 through 2010.

New Zealand Secondary School Cycling Championships

600 competitors from around New Zealand will complete at the three day New Zealand Secondary School Cycling Championships being held in Levin and Feilding this weekend. The event which caters for riders aged between 11 and 19 years old is one of the largest junior cycling events in the country. Schools' racing in New Zealand has had significant growth in the last two years with events experiencing an increase of 21 percent.

The three day event starts on Saturday with the team time trial, which has an impressive 113 school teams entered. Riders will compete over 16km in four age categories with each team made up of 3 to 5 riders depending on the age category. Sunday’s road race sees riders take to the road around Feilding and Monday’s point’s race provides excellent watching for spectators with the race being held at Manfield Auto Course.

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