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Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

Lastest Cycling News, April 4, 2007

Edited by Gregor Brown

De Ronde - A killer cobbled Classic

Can anyone stop the might of Tom Boonen?

Tom Boonen (Quickstep-Innergetic)
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

De Ronde is almost upon us. This Sunday will see the running of the 91st Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders), a race that every Belgian would kill to win and any cyclist would love to have nestled in their palmarès. It's a race like no other, one that is designed for the true hard-men with a mix of pavé, climbs and, usually, dodgy weather.

The parcours certainly merits the name "Classic." De Ronde is a long, hard slog spiced with short cobbled climbs (Hellingen as they are called in Flemish). The 2007 edition, once again starting in Brugge, boosts 18 Hellingen before the race reaches its climax in Ninove-Meerbeke after 259 kilometres.

The second half of the race is loaded with dangers. The riders will encounter one climb after another as they wind their way in a westerly direction. Almost half the climbs are cobbled, with big gaps between the pavé that can spell disaster for those not near the front. Riders towards the back are often bogged down in the chaos that symbolises De Ronde, as last year's scenes on the Koppenberg illustrated only too well. Fortunately, for most of the peloton at least, the short but monstrously steep climb has been left off the menu this time around.

Read the full race preview.

Paolini thinks Flanders

Luca Paolini (Liquigas) with GC
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

"For the Belgians Flanders is everything, a little like Sanremo for us," said Italian Luca Paolini, referring to this Sunday's Ronde van Vlaanderen. Yesterday, the 30 year-old rider from Lombardy won Three Days of De Panne stage 1 and took the overall leader's jersey as a consequence but he is thinking ahead.

Paolini has raced as a teammate the two favourites for De Ronde, Tom Boonen and Paolo Bettini of Quick-Step. "They are big obstacles that can control the course," he continued to La Gazzetta dello Sport. "The Belgians have the advantage of knowing every metre of these roads, every block of pavé, but... Their disadvantage is that they are under a tremendous amount of pressure. Flanders to them is a little like Sanremo for us [Italians]."

The Liquigas rider, owner of a Ducati 999, is passionate for motorcycles, and he dedicated his 14th pro win to his occasional training partner, MotoGP pilot Roberto Locatelli. "This one goes to my friend Roberto," he continued of the pilot who crashed while training in Spain. "I hope he has a fast recovery.

"When I need to 'unload' I go on a training ride with him on the roads of Brianza. He is a good guy and he is very nice to have for company."

Meanwhile, Paolini's pick for the win in Ronde, Bettini, spent yesterday training. The World Champion trained for three hours on home roads and is planning on returning to Belgium this Friday.

Ullrich case: a new turn for Puerto suspects?

By Hedwig Kröner

Ullrich in 2005
Photo ©: John Pierce
Click for larger image

The news hit Germany and the rest of Europe like a bomb on Tuesday afternoon: The DNA extracted from Jan Ullrich's saliva matched the DNA of nine blood bags seized during the Operación Puerto investigation last summer - blood bags that had previously only been attributed to the 1997 Tour de France winner because they were marked "Jan," "number 1" or "Hijo Rudicio" ('son of Rudy'). Immediately, TV stations around Europe picked up on the subject, and on Wednesday morning, Germany's biggest newspaper Bild called Ullrich a "liar" in its headlines.

Indeed, Ullrich had always denied ever having had contact with doctor Eufemiano Fuentes - but the fact that his blood was stored in the offices of the Spaniard proves that some kind of relationship must have existed. Meanwhile, Ullrich's attorney Johann Schwenn spoke of possible "manipulation" of the blood bags, but in Germany, public opinion of Ullrich is low enough to see this as a bad April fools' joke.

Public prosecutor Friedrich Apostel, who is in charge of the fraud investigation against Ullrich which brought to light the DNA match, has denied the conspiracy theory. "There are no indications for manipulation," he told dpa on Wednesday, but could not say when charges could be taken against the former T-Mobile rider. Apostel had "great hopes" that the proceeding would be finished before the end of the year, but he added that similar cases in the past have taken over two years to come to a conclusion.

A member of the Spanish Civil Guard
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

So, what will be the consequences of these DNA findings? Over 50 cyclists had been suspected to have manipulated their blood or taken doping substances with the help of Eufemiano Fuentes, amongst which such big names as Ivan Basso and Francisco Mancebo. Even if the new Spanish anti-doping law is not retroactive, meaning that the cyclists cannot be charged for doping offences, they could be investigated for fraud or misrepresentation of a sponsor's image - which ultimately could lead to a DNA comparison like in the case of Ullrich.

But another one of Ullrich's attorneys, Peter-Michael Diestel maintained that even the DNA match did not prove that Ullrich made use of blood doping. "Even if all of this is true, it doesn't mean he doped," Diestel told the N24 TV channel. "I also have blood of mine in various places. I have a doctor in Rostock, another one in Berlin, another one wherever... This doesn't mean that the blood was manipulated, that it was used for doping purposes. Fraud is still far away."

The same reasoning was exposed to Cyclingnews some months ago by Jörg Jaksche (see interview). "Even if a bag containing the blood of one of the accused had been found in Fuentes' apartment, that doesn't mean that the rider had the intention of enhancing his performance," he said in December 2006. "It only means that a certain amount of blood was given. ... If someone goes into a shop and buys a knife, you can't convict him of planned homicide, either."

Still, the doubts cast on Ullrich have gained momentum with the new revelations. Austrian Team Volksbank, which had hired the retired German cyclist for representation duties, distanced itself from him. "Jan Ullrich has not started his activity with Team Volksbank yet, and, because of the current situation, will not do so until further notice," it said in a statement on Wednesday afternoon.

Cyclingnews' recent coverage of 'Operación Puerto'

May 18, 2009 - Valverde to start Catalunya
May 15, 2009 - Valverde not welcome in Denmark
May 14, 2009 - Spanish federation wants proof in Valverde case
May 13, 2009 - Spanish Olympic Committee defends Valverde
May 12, 2009 - Valverde responds to sanction
May 11, 2009 - Italian tribunal delivers Valverde two-year suspension
May 8, 2009 - Valverde case: Italian Olympic Committee defends Torri
May 7, 2009 - Valverde to take legal action against CONI prosecutor
May 5, 2009 - WADA and Spanish federation join CONI and UCI on Valverde
May 1, 2009 - International Cycling Union joins in on Valverde's hearing in Italy

Cyclingnews' complete coverage of Operación Puerto

Gone in sixty seconds

Hoy powers to his fourth
Photo ©: AFP Photo
(Click for larger image)

After taking gold in Palma on Sunday at the Track World Championships, Chris Hoy will do just one more kilo before reluctantly turning his back on the event. Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes talked to the triple medallist in Majorca, Spain.

With his gold medal-winning event now gone from the Olympic Games, Scottish rider Chris Hoy has decided to stop riding the kilometre time trial and shift his focus on to other sprint races. Before then, he's outlined two big targets in order to finish in style.

The first of those was to win the world title for a record-equalling fourth time in his career, a feat he achieved on Sunday. The second is to beat the world kilo record of 58.875", as set by Frenchman Arnaud Tournant in 2001. He will attempt this on May 12, going for the time at the same open-air velodrome in La Paz, Bolivia. The high altitude there means less air density, which should translate into more speed.

Six weeks out from his record attempt, Hoy landed his fourth world title in a time of 1'00.999, close to the world sea level best of 1'00.711 he set in Athens 2004. If he continues that form and the thin air brings about the expected time savings, the record could well be on.

Read the complete interview with Chris Hoy.

Jalabert tries triathlon

Retired French cyclist Laurent Jalabert will make his debut in triathlon with the Zurich Iron man, June 24. The 38 year-old, winner of Milano-Sanremo, Giro di Lombardia, Vuelta a España and Paris-Nice, started running marathons after retiring in October, 2002, and is now adding swimming to his training to prepare for Zurich.

According to Marca, there will be 1,850 competitors from 46 nations that will cover the 3.8 km of swimming, 180 km of riding and 42.195 km of running. In 2005, 'Jaja' competed in the New York City Marathon, finishing in 2:55'39".

Petacchi confirmed non-start for Flanders

Milram has officially confirmed its formation for the 91st Ronde van Vlaanderen, in which Alessandro Petacchi will not take part. After his abandon of the Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali, the sprinter from La Spezia opted for a less demanding schedule to concentrate on his Giro d'Italia preparations.

Petacchi will attach a race number again in the Rund um Köln, April 9, and could make the trip north for the Gent-Wevelgem, April 11. Meanwhile, Milram will point towards victory in De Ronde with Erik Zabel, who once finished fourth. Backing the German will be Alessandro Cortinovis, Ralf Grabsch, Brett Lancaster, Volodymyr Dyudya, Alberto Ongarato, Fabio Sacchi and Marcel Sieberg. Reserves will be Sebastian Siedler, Enrico Poitschke and Niki Terpstra, with Directeur Sportif Gianluigi Stanga.

Le Mevel re-enters in Sarthe

Christophe Le Mevel of Crédit Agricole will not take part in the Route Adélie, Friday, in Vitré, and the Grand Prix de la Ville de Rennes, Sunday, two rounds of the Coupe de France. According to L'Equipe, the Breton, winner of 2005 Giro d'Italia stage 16, is suffering from an inflammation in of his knee but should be back to line-up in the Circuit de la Sarthe, April 10 - 13.

Vandenbroucke and Nardello for Settimana Lombarda

The 37th Settimana Ciclistica Lombarda, April 5 - 9, will welcome some big stars of cycling. The race, starting and ending in Bergamo's city centre will feature Frank Vandenbroucke of Acqua & Sapone and Danile Nardello of Team LPR.

The 33 year-old Belgian, professional since 1994 and with victories in Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Paris-Nice, is re-building after knee problems earlier this year.

'Team Black and Green,' Team LPR, will head to the Bergamo race with Paolo Bailetti, Borut Bozic, Riccardo Chiarini, Andreas Dietziker, Raffaele Ferrara, Ignacio Gutierrez, Daniele Nardello and Nazareno Rossi.

At the last moment, Walter Proch was pulled from the line-up by Team Manager Davide Boifava because of the flu.

After a brilliant Critérium International in France, where Marco Mercato as the best young Italian in the general classification, Team LPR will point towards a success on Italian roads. The team will be captained by Nardello and Ferrara, with Directeur Sportif Mario Manzoni behind the wheel of the team car.

Slipstream-Chipotle's presence felt in Critérium International

Team Slipstream powered by Chipotle made its presence known last weekend in one of cycling's most prestigious events, the 76th Critérium International - the biggest race the team has entered to date. The team's young Aussie sprinter Ben Johnson took top honours in the King of the Mountains competition in Stage 1.

Gray skies greeted the peloton at the start, and the day's stormy weather served as a fitting backdrop for an aggressive day of racing. Timing his move perfectly, Ben Johnson attacked and maintained a small advantage to win the KOM points at the top of the côte de Barbe-en-Croc.

Team leader Danny Pate demonstrated on Sunday during stages 2 and 3 that his health and form are improving - good signs as he returns to the States this week to contest the US Open and Tour de Georgia. During the morning's road race (98.5km from Les Vieilles Forges to Monthermé), Pate attacked early - on the first ascent of the Côte du Mont Malgré Tout. He was quickly joined by three others, including eventual overall race winner Jens Voigt. Unfortunately, Pate suffered from his hard attack and fell off the lead group's pace. However, it was a sign of good things to come for the afternoon's time trial.

The final stage, an 8.3km time trial in Charleville-Mézières, the former Under-23 time trial World Champion proved himself amongst the best. Pate set an early fast time and remained on the leader board for quite some time before ending up with a fine 11th place result.

More on the Team Slipstream/Chipotle's journal pages.

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