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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

First Edition Cycling News for April 8, 2007

Edited by Gregor Brown and Sue George

Spring Classics more important than ever for CSC

CSC going for victory on Boonen's home soil

By Brecht Decaluwé in Kortrijk

The three team captains for Flanders:
Photo ©: Brecht Decaluwé
(Click for larger image)
One day before things get going in Bruges, the CSC team welcomed the press in their hotel in Kortrijk. Press officer Brian Nygaard couldn't express it better way when he got the press meeting going. "It looks like there are about five times more people than last year, there must be a reason for that," Nygaard said.

For sure there was a reason, namely a bigger chance on the win in Ronde van Vlaanderen. CSC made it clear when introducing the team that they should be able to compete with the favourites from Quickstep. Team leaders Fabian Cancellara, Stuart O'Grady, and Karsten Kroon will be supported by five strong men: Matti Breschel, Marcus Ljungqvist, Allan Johansen, debutant Kasper Klostergaard, and retiring Lars Michaelsen. Team manager Scott Sunderland explained that these guys all have what it takes to battle the cobbles and the hills throughout Flanders on Easter Sunday.

"You need to have some sort of passion for these races, otherwise you can't make it to the finish," Sunderland said. The team really wants to do well during the Spring Classics and Sunderland pointed out how important these races are for the team. "We have more people here to support the boys than in the Tour de France."

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Who else than the retiring Lars Michaelsen could comment on the team's strength? "I've been riding for many strong teams like TVM but within this team, there are six to seven guys who're able to ride the finale in Flanders," Michaelsen said.

While 18,000 amateurs are doing their reconnaissance of the course on Saturday, the CSC guys threw a light on the changed course that is without the infamous Koppenberg and has fewer big roads. "It's justified to remove the Koppenberg from the course because this race doesn't need something like that. You have to be an artist to go up there, and I know we're artists, but that's a little over the top. The new part of the course will give a new dimension to the race anyway; by skipping the big roads, the race development will be different, " Michaelsen said.

His team manager Sunderland agreed, "everybody could recuperate after the first section before the Oude Kwaremont but now some riders will be isolated as it won't be possible to come back; that's when numbers start to count. We'll have an exciting finale," Sunderland said.

Read the full news feature on Team CSC.

Boonen ready to set Flanders on fire

By Brecht Decaluwé

Tom Boonen ready for Ronde
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

If you've won the Tour of Flanders two years in-a-row, combined with a victory in the 'Hell of the North' (Paris-Roubaix), not to mention four straight wins in the 'mini-Tour of Flanders' (E3 Prijs) then you're the one and only favourite for the 2007 Tour of Flanders this Easter Sunday. Cyclingnews' met up with the already legendary Belgian, Tom Boonen, to discuss the prospect of a historic triple.

The Quick.Step team picked up the gauntlet to dominate the Spring Classics, and they're certainly not hiding their ambitions. Quick.Step wants nothing less than victory in what for them seems to be the second most important race of the season after the World Championships. With two-time winners Tom Boonen and Peter Van Petegem alongside world champion Paolo Bettini, the Quick.Step management has several irons to put into the fire, not forgetting the more than capable team-mates on hand before the finale.

If Boonen wins the Tour of Flanders for a third time in three years, he will add his name to other triple winners like Achiel Buysse, Eric Leman, Johan Museeuw and Fiorenzo Magni (the Italian won the race three times in-a-row during the early fifties) but the 26 year-old from Balen, near Antwerp refuses to let history affect him. "I'm not thinking about that three times in-a-row record as I found out it becomes paralysing if you think about it too much," said Boonen.

During last year's Tour de France Boonen failed to live up to the high expectations for the first time, despite wearing the yellow jersey in Belgium. We asked the Belgian if it was possible for him to get nervous on home soil. "Maybe I'll be a little nervous on Sunday," he admitted. "I can't be nervous as from now on our plan just needs to fall together; at crucial points in the race we'll have to make the right decisions. We will ride the finale on Sunday, that's for sure... we just have to."

Read the full interview with Tom Boonen.

Pozzato to captain Liquigas

"Who has the legs will arrive; who doesn't will die."

Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

Filippo Pozzato will captain a Ronde van Vlaanderen team for the first time in his six years as a professional. This Sunday the rider from Veneto, winner of last year's Milano-Sanremo, will line up as head of the Liquigas squad.

"The first time I came to Belgium was in 2000, I was 18 years-old, a neo-pro," recalled Pozzato to Marco Pastonesi of La Gazzetta dello Sport. "It was a like a university; I was enrolled in minor classes but there were lots of feelings. Flanders is an enormous race, a Monument; imagine to think that for Tom Boonen it is the biggest race of the year, his true World Championships. You really have no idea how much it takes to win it."

After playing super-domestique to Boonen last year, 'Pippo' is now in a captain's role. He explained that he is prepared for this position. "I have already raced as a captain in the Haut Var and Het Volk. ... It is normal that there is some tension, it would be sad if there was only tranquility. One year ago, when I rode for Boonen, I had a lot (of) responsibilities. This year I have more stimuli."

Riding alongside Pozzato will be an in-form Luca Paolini. The 30 year-old rider from Milan showed his class by taking Three Days of De Panne stage one this last Tuesday, and, thus, has become a strong ally. "It is better that he is there, up front. Luca is in great condition. For there to be two of us in a decisive moment is always an advantage."

The Belgian fans are studious and they remember 'Pippo' from his day's under Patrick Lefevere's command at Mapei or his years spent riding in service of Boonen, and now they cheer him on like one of their own champions. "To win is a dream and to participate is a pleasure. Here cycling lives," he summarized. "The people recognise every cyclist, from the first to the last. And there is respect, applause and encouragement."

This year the organizers have struck the Koppenberg from the list of Hellingen ('climbs') but Pozzato reckons there will be other race-making zones. "Everything in the last seventy kilometres could be decisive," he said with a grin. "Up to last year the decisive point was the Koppenberg, this year it could be the Grammont."

The forecast for Sunday is sunny and warm. "There is expected to be good temperatures; sun and 20°C. People will be in shorts and t-shirts, like summer. Rain and cold make some selection but here the course is hard anyway. Who has the legs will arrive; who doesn't will die."

He will keep his eye on the entire Quick-Step team. "But they are only human, so they are beatable. ... Then there are Fabian Cancellara, he is going strong, Nick Nuyens, Kim Kirchen... Paolini, [Alessandro] Ballan and [Daniele] Bennati."

T-Mobile's up-and-coming Classics specialist

By Susan Westemeyer

Markus Burghardt
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

T-Mobile's Marcus Burghardt is bouncing back from an injury-filled 2006 season to become the team's captain in the Spring Classics, a role he feels he handles well.

2006 was a bad year for young Marcus Burghardt. Knee problems caused him to miss much of the season and his two-year contract with T-Mobile team was coming to an end. A new wind was blowing through the team, bringing a new management, and Burghardt didn't know if he was going to be a part of the "new" team or not.

Fast forward to March 31, 2007 and Burghardt stood on the podium of the E3 Prijs in Harelbeke, Belgium, having finished third in the race, which he went in to as T-Mobile's captain. And he is heading to the Ronde van Vlaanderen on Sunday not only as the team's co-captain, but also with a three-star recommendation from the Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblatt.

He is only 23 years-old but self-confident and calm about his new responsibilities. "After our captain Andreas Klier had to withdraw a day before Dwars door Vlaanderen one of us had to take over the responsibility. I was pretty satisfied with my form in Paris-Nice and came out of that race well," he said.

Read the full interview with Burghardt.

Tafi: "Stay up front"

Tafi in 2002
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Andrea Tafi, the last Italian to win the Ronde van Vlaanderen, responded quite simply when asked about the tactics involved to win the one-day Classic. "There is one secret, stay up front at all costs. If you are in the back you are able to recuperate but it will cost you dearly."

The soft-spoken Tuscan, now 40 years-old, retired in 2005, was part of the 2002 Mapei Ronde squad that was pointing towards a victory with Michel Bartoli or Daniele Nardello. "But it finished differently," he recalled to La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"It is a record that I will take voluntarily," he continued. "I am also the last Italian to win Roubaix.

"I raced Ronde eight times. It is not only a race, all of the surroundings are special. To think that it is the only race where the announcer at the start line begins speaking at six in the morning. And the gathering point in Brugge is in the middle of town that is like an enchanting castle. You think 'The adventure starts here.'"

Tafi outlined other details of the course and who he thinks will be near the front come Sunday afternoon. "In the first part the key points are the Oude Kwaremont and the Patenberg. In the finale you need to watch out for the Grammont and the Bosberg. The last is not the hardest but there is a stretch of false-flat that is perfect for attacking. [Read about the Ronde's climbs. - ed ]

"Boonen will be a favourite but he does not seem to me to at his best. Italy has some hard-men; Bettini, Ballan, Paolini, Pozzato and Bennati are the anti-Belgians. I am disappointed there will not be [Riccardo] Riccò, he would have gone well."

Bennati sprinting with confidence

Daniele Bennati
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
(Click for larger image)

Daniele Bennati stormed into 2007 by winning against star sprinters. An intestinal infection kept him from romping on the Via Roma in Milano-Sanremo, but the sprinter seems to be back in-form. The soft-spoken Italian chatted with Cyclingnews' Gregor Brown in Kortrijk, two days prior to the start of the Ronde van Vlaanderen.

"It was my Grandpa, Nino, who gave my first road bike," proclaimed Daniele Bennati, sitting down in the lobby of Lampre-Fondital team's hotel on Friday afternoon. He and his teammates had just returned from a reconnaissance of De Ronde parcours but our conversation was drifting to a recent newspaper's article with photos of his family. "I had gotten my start on BMX bikes. (A) gift from my grandpa was my first road bike; he still follows me at 84 years-old!"

'Benna' was full of enthusiasm, and he had good reason. Early this year, after winning three times against Alessandro Petacchi, one of the few racers regarded as a super-sprinter, he was struck down by an intestinal bug, but Wednesday he marked his return. The 26 year-old rider from Arezzo swooped ahead of the field to win Three Days of De Panne stage 2.

"It feels good to return and win. It was my first win after the ones in the Volta a Valenciana," Benna said. In that Spanish stage race, he commanded the bunch gallops and signaled that perhaps he could be Italy's next sprinting star. He explained that soon after he started racing in France he was sidelined by sickness. "In Paris-Nice, I was really flying. I finished second in one of the first stages. Then I was up there in the other stages, with a third and a fourth.

"(In) the penultimate stage, I had stomach pains and intestinal problems. I was no longer at 100 percent. Afterwards, I trained but I did not feel good. I had to stop for three days but, fortunately, I did not have to take antibiotics."

He was put in jeopardy for the race that all Italians dream of winning, the 300-kilometre Monument, Milano-Sanremo. "Then at Sanremo I was not myself," he continued to explain in his soft, Tuscan dialect. "Now I am still not back at my best, or with the feelings that I had in Valenciana and the first stages of Paris-Nice. I hope that I can refind these feelings for Sunday [at De Ronde], Wednesday, for Gent-Wevelgem, and then next week in Roubaix."

Read the full interview with Daniele Bennati.

Freire on De Ronde

By Monika Prell

Oscar Freire (Rabobank)
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

After winning the Vuelta a Andalucía, Milano-Sanremo and the Brabantse Pijl, Oscar Freire will try to add another important race to his palmarès: the Ronde van Vlaanderen. He talked with AS about this race and his possibilities to win it.

"I'm well", he said, "I am in the form I wanted to be in. But Flanders is a special race where experience plays an important role. You have to know well the pavé sections.

"Last Saturday, I competed the in the GP E3 and I went very well on the pavé, I hardly have pains," he answered confidently in regards to possible back-pains resulting from the Belgian cobbles.

Freire believes Tom Boonen will be his biggest rival. "He won the last two editions; he's strong and has the best team. But I also think there will be Cancellara and Bettini. I have seen [Bettini], he is riding very strong."

The Spaniard is sure that he won't be the sole captain in his team for this important Belgian race. "In my team we have Belgian and Dutch cyclists who have options in this race; [Michael] Boogerd, [Leon] van Bon, [Gerben] Löwik, even [Juan Antonio] Flecha."

After the Ronde, he will compete in the Amstel Gold Race, the Flèche Wallonne and Liège–Bastogne–Liège. "The Amstel Gold Race is the best one for my characteristics. I also could have some possibilities in Liège, but the finish of the Flèche Wallonne is too hard", concluded the Spaniard.

Senf out of RvV after auto accident

By Susan Westemeyer

Team Getränke-Hoffman will have to ride the women's Ronde van Vlaanderen without Theresa Senf, who finished seventh last year. She was involved in an auto accident on her way to the race.

Team spokeswoman Ines Weiterman told Cyclingnews that Senf suffered a severe concussion and injured her shoulder. The shoulder is still so swollen that it will have to be diagnosed later. She was released from the hospital and is resting at home.

Fuentes active again?

"There are indications that Fuentes is active again," said QuickStep team manager Patrick Lefevere. He has asked the UCI to investigate whether the controversial Spanish doctor is again involved with the peloton, he told the Belgian newspaper De Morgen.

"He got rich doing this before," Lefevere said. "One day he got caught, but he got out of that. He could open another firm, officially under a different name, but doing exactly the same thing.

Pic & Tuft win US Open despite snowy start

By Sue George

The men's podium
Photo ©: Emory Ball
(Click for larger image)

Only days ago in Virginia, riders were wearing sleeveless jerseys and shorts and enjoying the spring sights of colorful, blooming trees, but Saturday morning racers anticipating the US Open awoke to conditions more appropriate for January and February. An unusual, early spring snow coated roads, bikes, and team cars and brought near-freezing temperatures. The raw conditions left racers and team directors wondering about the fate of the day's events, but the show went on as the sun came out, melted the snow, and dried off the roads.

Svein Tuft (Symmetrics) won the point-to-point 180.2km (112 mile) men's race from Williamsburg to Richmond, Virginia. The race was a stop on the international UCI Americas Tour (UCI 1.1) and the national USA Cycling Pro Tour. Racers approached Richmond all strung out for eight laps on an arduous 8.9km (5.5 mile) circuit which included a cobbled climb over Liberty Hill Park and an uphill finish by the Library of Virginia.

The move of the day came from Patrick McCarty (Slipstream), who launched a successful attack with three laps to go as the peloton climbed the 6% grade hill up the finishing straight. Everyone was expecting the big attack to come on Libby Park Hill, but director sportif Jon Vaughters advised his squad to attack instead on the finishing climb to catch others unaware.

Eventually Tuft bridged to McCarty and the duo raced off the front. However, on the last lap, Tuft attacked McCarty and got away solo for the win. McCarty put in a gutsy ride, holding off the rest of the pack by just a few meters to secure second. Third place went to Argentinean Alejandro Borrajo of Team Rite Aid.

"On a course like this, it was so hard. You can't wait. You just have to go and hope the guys behind are as tired," said Tuft.

While the men were heading toward Richmond, the women raced nine circuits downtown. Tina Pic (Colavita/Sutter Home) won the women's race with her powerful final sprint. Her teammate Andrea Dvorak (Colavita/Sutter Home) led her out for the win ahead of Jen McRae and Heather Labance, both of Advil/Chapstick.

Kreuziger seizes Lombarda stage and overall

Liquigas has doubled up in the Settimana Lombarda, and in the process recorded its eighth win of the season. Following on the win in Thursday's team time trial to Bergamo Alta, 20 year-old Roman Kreuziger won the first road stage (Vertova to Vertova, 146 km) thanks to a powerful punch with 1500 metres to go.

The move allowed the Czech to anticipate the final sprint and take the leader's jersey from teammate Francesco Failli.

"Considering the management of the race, it has been a perfect day," noted the 2004 Junior World Champion. "I thought that Capecchi's action would be the winning one [he was caught in the final three km - ed.], but the group was able to reach him and I then I did my best".

He dedicated his first professional win to his teammates. "This is for my team, which worked in the best way possible today so that I could win."

Liquigas in Spain and France

After Easter, and the Ronde van Vlaanderen, the team Liquigas will have a week full of appointments. The riders will be split between Belgium, Spain and France. Besides the Gent-Wevelgem and the Paris-Roubaix, they will also take part in the Vuelta al Paiis Vasco (April 9 - 14) and the Circuit de la Sarthe (April 10 - 13).

In Spain there will be Danilo Di Luca, who, backed by two wins so far this season, will try to hold on other successes. 'The Killer' won the Paiis Vasco in 2005 prior to going on to win the Amstel Gold and Fleche Wallone. The complete team will be Manuel Beltrán, Patrick Calcagni, Kiell Carlström, Danilo Di Luca, Vladimir Miholjevic, Andrea Noè, Alessandro Spezialetti and Charles Wegelius with Team Managers Dario Mariuzzo and Mario Scirea.

In France the front will be headed by Magnus Backstedt and Vincenzo Nibali. The complete team will be Michael Albasini, Magnus Backstedt, Aleksandr Kuschynski, Matej Mugerli and Vincenzo Nibali, with Team Manager Mario Chiesa.

Astana for Pais Vasco

Antonio Colom and Matthias Kessler will lead Team Astana in the Vuelta al Pais Vasco starting Monday. Colom finished third in the race last year.

Astana for Vuelta al Pais Vasco: Assan Bazayev, Antonio Colom, Matthias Kessler, Julien Mazet, Andrey Mizurov, Steve Morabito, Daniele Navarro and Jose Antonio Redond.

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