First Edition Cycling News for April 9, 2007
Edited by Hedwig Kröner and Laura Weislo, with assistance of Susan Westemeyer
Cancellara gets 'experience'
Bad luck for Boonen
By Brecht Decaluwé in Meerbeke
When Swiss strong man Fabian Cancellara started an impressive attack with 30km to go in Sunday's Ronde van Vlaanderen, Quick Step's Gert Steegmans was glued to his wheel. The move looked promising, and while Wim Vansevenant (Predictor-Lotto) couldn't hold their pace and Stijn Devolder was too late with his counterattack, Cancellara kept pounding forward. However, Cancellara didn't receive any help from Steegmans; only Maarten Tjallingii (Skil-Shimano) - from the earlier breakaway which was caught by the duo - helped him a little.
"It's normal that Steegmans didn't pull," Cancellara said of the Belgian's tactics. Nevertheless, the CSC rider kept pulling the group as if he was a suicide mission. Just before the Muur van Geraardsbergen, his group was brought back by the peloton, but Cancellara chalked up the failed attempt as experience. "This is just another experience," he said, "just something I tried ... but it was harder than I thought. It motivates me as it was a totally new experience."
Like Tom Boonen, the Swiss was unable to convert his role as a favourite into a good result, but he wasn't too disappointed. "Nobody ever heard me say that I needed to win this race; I only needed this race to be ready for next week [Paris-Roubaix]," Cancellara commented.
Super favourite Boonen was clearly unable to answer the attack from Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) and Leif Hoste (Predictor) on the Muur van Geraardsbergen. The Belgian star's chances of a third consecutive victory were impacted by a massive crash in the bunch near Kortrijk after only 60km; apparently there was water on the road due to works next to the road, making it a slippery affair for the peloton. The Belgian fell heavily, suffered a bruised knee and wrist, but he continued the race, eventually finishing 12th.
"I said it before that you must be extremely lucky to survive crashes three years in a row. It's clear that you can't win the Ronde at 99 percent of your possibilities," Boonen said on Sporza. "Still, I was beaten at my best," he added, not wanting to take away from Ballan's win.
When the finale was looming, Boonen's team-mate Kevin Hulsmans rode up to his captain to ask how he was feeling, but Boonen didn't answer his question. "I said: 'don't ask, just do'; because when you're thinking about it, doubts arise quickly," explained Boonen, whose participation in Gent-Wevelgem was already uncertain and now looks even less realistic with Paris-Roubaix coming up in just one week.
"I don't know if I'll be able to start, we'll have to examine the wrist first," he said.
A good move for Leukemans
The winning duo - Ballan and Hoste - got away on the Muur van Geraardsbergen and on the final climb of the Ronde, the Bosberg, a Belgian duo tried to chase them down. Actually only one of the Belgians was chasing, since Björn Leukemans (Predictor) wouldn't work with Staf Scheirlinckx (Cofidis) because his team-mate Hoste was up ahead.
World champion Paolo Bettini (Quick Step - Innergetic) bridged up to them, but virtually the entire peloton was right behind. Leukemans was disappointed about the result as a top five position would have been within reach if he had helped his compatriot during that breakaway.
"I was sitting a little too far at the back when we were hitting the Muur. After that I knew I was in a bad position, but that's my own fault as I could have been in front as well," Leukemans said to Cyclingnews. The breakaway he supported made it to the finish, but team-mate Hoste was surprised on the line by Ballan. "Hoste is like that; if he knows that he's faster, then he thinks he's certain of the win," Leukemans said.
With his performance, Leukemans could show his team's management that he's able to live up to their expectations. "I had to do it here, and I did it; from now on I'll show everybody what I'm capable of," Leukemans said. "The next objective is the Amstel Gold Race but Gent-Wevelgem [next Wednesday] is a goal as well."
Flanders injury update
Despite perfect racing weather, this year's edition of the Ronde van Vlaanderen was filled with crashes because of the high speeds and nervous energy of the peloton. Milram's Erik Zabel was one of many who had to drop out after making contact with the pavement and ending up with light injuries to his arm and hip. "I have no idea what happened, it all went so quickly," he said on the team's website, team-milram.de. "At the fastest part of the whole race, it caught Fabian Wegmann first I believe, and then I flew over him."
Zabel's team-mate Marcel Sieberg went down in a crash at the feed zone and decided to continue riding despite an injured wrist and knee. "But the pain was so strong that I decided to drop out," he said.
The team is waiting for a final diagnosis on both riders, but isn't too worried. "Zabel is okay. His hip hurts and he has some abrasions," team spokeswoman Sandra Schmitz told Cyclingnews. "Sieberg is fine, too. His wrist hurts and his knee is swollen."
Wegmann also had to abandon after the crash which also took down Zabel. The German was not seriously injured, but lost a lot of skin. His team-mate Heinrich Haussler was involved in a crash early in the race, but was able to continue riding to the end with minor injuries.
Team T-Mobile had 'only' one injury. Lorenzo Bernucci crashed on train crossing near the end of the race, and although it looked bad, "fortunately there is nothing broken," spokesman Stefan Wagner told Cyclingnews. The Italian came away with a bruised left hip and a lot of scrapes, but shouldn't miss any racing time.
Vicente Reynes (Caisse d’Epargne) was the victim of a crash at kilometre 150, and suffered a painful contusion on his coccyx (tailbone). According to the team doctor, Alfredo Zuñiga, there is no apparent fracture, but if the pain persists in the next few days, the rider from Mallorca will undergo further tests.
Ullrich maintains innocence
Although the Bonn, Germany prosecutor's office has matched Jan Ullrich's DNA sample to nine bags of blood seized in the Operacion Puerto affair, the retired rider maintains that he is innocent of any wrongdoing. "That does not change the fact that I have a clean conscience," Ullrich said. "In my entire career I have never cheated or used anybody, and I can't admit to a failure that doesn't exist. I am not afraid of any trial, any prosecuting attorney or any federation."
There are still many unanswered questions, he wrote on his website, janullrich.de, but he will not address them publicly until his case is closed.
"It is naturally not an easy time for me, especially because my my friends, my family and I can't understand it, but it is giving us good experience for our future," he wrote. "I will lead my life in the way I think is right and nobody will be able to change that. Life is a challenge that has to be faced, and I am ready for it."
US Open makes for dramatic television
Richmond, Virginia's US Open Cycling Championships, a race that faced imminent cancellation just over a month ago, made its successful debut on the calendar on Saturday, at the same time making a bit of cycling history. The first year event is one of the few domestic one-day events to make major sports television when it was broadcast on the NBC Sports channel for more than two hours.
Extreme weather made for headaches for the race organisation, but also made a dramatic backdrop for the television cameras once the skies cleared enough for the helicopters to take flight.
Race director John Eustice nervously waited for the weather to clear the morning of the event, and he made it clear that the television coverage was as important as the race itself. "As soon as the clouds lift, the choppers can fly. If the choppers can fly, we have live pictures and we can have a bike race... it's all about the TV show."
Eustice explained that the coverage of the race was a critical ingredient in raising the level of the sport in America, and said that this race in particular is the type of event that can bring in more than just a niche audience. "It's a point to point race along a very historic route - and you've got this circuit, it's compelling. You're going to have some real interesting, really great action which will show Americans how exciting cycling can be."
"All the ingredients are here to make good races - what we need is television - good television and enough exposure to make the sponsors come in. And stars? That'll come - as soon as you get the big guys winning on television, you'll have stars - but you have to get them on television first or otherwise they're invisible."
The race's demanding circuit would have been dramatic enough, but the race was made even harder by unusually cold and snowy spring weather. BMC's Mike Sayers described the race as "an unbelievable race. It was gas on right from the start. Today was seriously one of the hardest races I've done in America in a long time."
The brutal start to the day made for plenty of nervous racers, and the combination of nerves and riders trying to go hard enough to keep warm led to a little 'excursion' for the peloton. Health Net's Shawn Milne described the start, saying, "The first left turn (of the race) everyone missed.
"Everyone was so worried about crashing, we kept passing the commissaire's car. He slowed down to take a left, and everyone just went around and went straight. I mean, there was so much snow - everyone was worried about not crashing and just staying warm - and not about following directions."
Slipstream director Jonathan Vaughters, a veteran of races in harsh European weather, used the unpleasant conditions to his team's advantage and was satisfied when Pat McCarty took second place in front of the national audience. "It was pretty extreme conditions, but we knew it was going to clear up. It was perfectly okay to run the race - the roads were just wet, there wasn't any ice - it was never unsafe, it was just cold. I just told the guys we need to be aggressive early and often and throughout the race - we just went for the most aggressive tactic and it almost worked..."
Gerolsteiner in Sarthe
Team Gerolsteiner will send sprinter Robert Förster to the Circuit Cycliste Sarthe in France this week, where he won the first stage last year. The 672,9 km race runs over four stages.
Gerolsteiner for Sarthe: Robert Förster, Markus Fothen, Johannes Fröhlinger, Torsten Hiekmann, Marcel Strauss, and Markus Zberg.
Elk Haus in Cologne
Christian Pfannberger will lead the Austrian Professional Continental Team Elk Haus Simplon in Monday's Rund um Köln. It is his first race back after being rammed by a taxi on Gran Canaria at the end of March. It was first thought that he had broken his thigh, but he ended up with only bruises and scrapes.
The 27-year-old will be looking mainly to get some racing time in, while teammates Peter Pichler and Jochen Summer will be looking to do well in a possible sprint finish.
Elk Haus for Rund um Köln: Peter Pichler, Marc Weisshaupt, Hannes Grundlinger, Martin Comploi, Harald Starzengruber, Robert Lauscha, Christian Pfannberger and Jochen Summer.
Team H&R Block announces 2007 cycling team
The Calgary-based team's primary objective is to continue to develop promising junior and elite riders so that they can meet their full potential, a task which is critically important to the growth of the sport in Canada.
The team will be competing across Canada and at select U.S. events for the 2007 season, and will also focus on the World Championships, National Championships, British Columbia Superweek, and the Alberta Provincial Championships.
Last year, the team supported Alex Wrubleski, a racer who's is now on the roster for the 2007 UCI women's team Colavita-Sutter Home represented by Cooking Light.
2007 Women's Roster: Danielle Kenny, Carrie Tuck, Sky Mitchell, Dianna Kennedy, and Melanie Zinck.
2007 Development Roster: Dallas Morris, Gideon Kristalka, Adam Boyko, Steve Shiers, Mike Wrubleski, Finn Pedersen, Roy Andrigo, Terry Rice, Phil McDonald and Gordon Smith.
For more information, visit www.teamhrblock.ca.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2007)