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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for April 11, 2007

Edited by Greg Johnson & Ben Abrahams

McEwen back for Gent-Wevelgem; looking to Giro

Robbie McEwen (Predictor-Lotto)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Predictor-Lotto sprinter Robbie McEwen is looking to re-ignite his spring campaign after injury and a recent bout of flu and will start Gent-Wevelgem with an eye to honing his sprinting legs for the Giro d'Italia. "As I'm starting, then I aim to win," McEwen told Sporza Radio about his ambitions for Wednesday's semi-classic.

Last Saturday, while most Classics riders were resting up for the Ronde van Vlaanderen, McEwen made a low-key appearance in Holland at the Hel van het Mergelland, finishing in the main bunch, 2'50 down on winner Nico Sijmens. "I did that with an eye on Gent-Wevelgem," said McEwen. "I got confirmation there of what I already knew, that my condition was still good."

Asked whether he considers himself among the favourites, McEwen noted: "If a large group arrives at the finish then yes. I feel much better than ten days or a week ago, my injury is virtually gone and I haven't lost any condition. I want to start with ambition."

The Australian has never figured in the finale of Gent-Wevelgem before, although sprinters have often trimphed from a small group with the peloton broken up by strong cross winds, coupled with two ascents apiece of the Monteberg and Kemmelberg. "I am at my best in big races with mass sprints," admitted McEwen. "From now I'll begin my preparation for the Giro."

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Kelly talks Classics

Sean Kelly in the 1989 Tour de France
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

What does it take to be a top Classics rider? And why is it that the pattern of racing has changed so much in the past two decades? Cycling legend Sean Kelly spoke to Shane Stokes about winning the top one day events.

In addition to victories in the 1988 Vuelta a Espaņa and countless shorter stage races, Irishman Sean Kelly is regarded as one of the best Classic riders of all time. During his pro career he took nine monuments [two each of Milan Sanremo, Paris-Roubiax and Ličge-Bastogne-Ličge, as well as three Tours of Lombardy], one edition of Gent-Wevelgem and the 1984 Blois-Chaville, now run once again as Paris-Tours.

He retired in 1994 but has stayed involved with the sport, acting as a commentator for Eurosport and thus regularly attending the big races. Cyclingnews recently had a chance to sit down with the former world number one and speak to him about the Classics, asking how he prepared for them and how things have changed in the years since his retirement.

Kelly was the subject of many books, one of which was entitled a Man For All Seasons. That sums up his attributes and approach as a rider; rather than peaking for a specific time of the year, he would be in the thick of the action from the Tour of Valencia and Paris-Nice until the Tour of Lombardy, winning constantly from start to end. He feels that a lot has changed since his retirement due to increased specialisation in the peloton.

"Things are very different now," he said, taking a break from a training ride on the island of Majorca. "Riders approach the season very different, mentally. It has changed in the past 10 or 15 years: the guys now are either Classics men or Tour men, that is the way it is. One exception was a guy like Jalabert, for example, and Zabel is perhaps the very last one doing that."

For the full interview with Sean Kelly, click here.

Disco leads ProTour rankings

Despite all the early season wrangling between ASO and the UCI, the ProTour classification continues to exist, with Discovery Channel topping both individual and team standings after a strong showing by Vladimir Gusev and Tomas Vaitkus in the Ronde van Vlaanderen on Sunday. The pair finished fifth and sixth respectively, propelling the American squad to first place in the team standings while Alberto Contador holds onto the white jersey by virtue of his overall victory in Paris-Nice.

"I was very happy to see how well the team performed on Sunday. Going into the race I was hoping for one rider in the top 10, so to have two riders place so high was a great showing for us," said assistant directeur sportif Dirk Demol. "The team is looking great and I expect Vaitkus, Gusev and Devolder to be good for Paris-Roubaix."

Discovery boss Johan Bruyneel added: "I cannot recall a better start to the season since I have been Director. The entire team has performed better than expected and after his win at Paris-Nice it is nice that Alberto has the chance to ride in the Pro Tour leaders jersey this week."

Contador looks unlikely to extend his overall lead this week in the Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco, the Spaniard is currently in 30th position overall, four minutes behind leader Juan José Cobo (Saunier Duval-Prodir).

For the full ProTour rankings, click here.

Hammond wants result in Roubaix lead-up

Roger Hammond
Photo ©: Tim Van Keer
(Click for larger image)

T-Mobile classic specialist Roger Hammond is aiming for a good result in today's Gent-Wevelgem race to cement his position as a contender for this weekend's Paris-Roubaix Spring Classic. The British rider enters the race off the back of a fortnight of disappointment in Belgium, where he finished a disappointing 39th in the UCI 2.HC De Panne-Koksijde and abandoned the weekend's Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders).

"Not finishing at the Tour of Flanders was obviously disappointing for me but it means I will be even more determined as I go into today's race alongside my T-Mobile teammates," he explained.

Hammond has contested Gent-Wevelgem with some success in years gone by, taking sixth place in 2004 and eighth in 2003. He will undoubtedly be hoping to avoid a repeat of his last appearance at the Semi Classic for today's race, after crashing out in 2005.

"It's a very different type of event from the Tour of Flanders and is likely to throw up a host of new challenges as well as being a great warm-up for Paris-Roubaix this Sunday," added Hammond.

Hammond is hoping to repeat his success of the 2004 Paris-Roubaix on Sunday, when he sprinted to third place while rider for the MrBookmaker-Palmans squad.

Breschel ready for Gent-Wevelgem

Matti Breschel (Team CSC)
Photo ©: Mark Gunter
(Click for larger image)

Team CSC's Matti Breschel will contest today's Gent-Wevelgem, despite almost breaking his elbow at the weekend's Ronde van Vlaanderen. The Danish rider has been training since the weekend's accident and believes is ready to return to competition.

"I've been out riding my bike for three hours today, just to warm up the body: there are no problems," Breschel said in his diary on "I tried to test myself a little on the cobble stones. It still hurt a little, but I'm convinced that I'll be ready, and luckily there are not that many cobble stones in Gent-Wevelgem."

The crash at the weekend's race occurred due to nerves and the craziness of the Oude Kwaremont area, according to the rider.

"The arm is sore and got a lot of scratches, but I've received plenty of treatment today and some of the swelling is already gone," he added. "So there are no problems at all. I'll be ready for Wednesday."

Quick.Step for Tour de Georgia

Belgian squad Quick.Step - Innergetic has announced its eight men who will head across the pond to contest the Tour de Georgia from April 16-22. The team is composed of Mauro Facci, Alessandro Proni, Ivan Santaromita, Leonardo Scarselli, Hubert Schwab, Kevin Seeldraeyers, Andrea Tonti and Maarten Wynants. Barking team orders over the radio will be directeur sportifs Rik Van Slycke and Davide Bramati.

Prior to their US departure, the same eight will ride the 1.1 classified Grand Prix Pino Cerami in Belgium this coming Thursday.

McCann to lead Colavita in Georgia

David McCann (Colovita/Sutter Home)
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

The Colavita/Sutter Home men's cycling team has announced its roster for the seven stage Tour de Georgia, which begins on Monday. The eight-man squad will be lead by Irish National Champion David McCann.

"We are very excited to return to the Tour de Georgia," said director sportif Tom Schuler. "It's an honor to be selected and we look forward to applying our stamina and climbing skills to race against some of the best cycling teams in the world."

Joining McCann in the lineup is two time San Francisco Grand Prix winner Charles Dionne, and Anthony Colby, whose third-place finish in the first stage at the Redlands Bicycle Classic will position him well for the challenging climbs of the Tour de Georgia.

Colavita's eight riders form part of the 120 competitors, from 15 international and domestic teams, that will contest the event.

Full team roster for Tour de Georgia:
Gustavo Artacho (Arg)
Adam Bergman (USA)
Anthony Colby (USA)
Charles Dionne (Can)
Davide Frattini (Ita)
Peter Hatton (NZl)
David McCann (Ire)
Tyler Wren (USA)

Drapac-Porsche lead strong B2B Classic lineup

Robert 'Bear' McLachlan (Drapac Porsche)
Photo ©: Shane Goss
(Click for larger image) Robert 'Bear' McLachlan (Drapac Porsche)  powers out of a corner in Geelong

Victoria's Drapac-Porsche cycling team heads the list of over 1000 cyclists that are expected to participate in this weekend's Blayney to Bathurst (B2B) Cyclo Sportiff in New South Wales. The Professional Continental team's roster will be lead by Australian National Road Series Champion Rob McLachlan, who is hoping to go one better than his second place finish to Shaun Higgerson in 2005.

Drapac will also bring Under 23 Criterium Champion Dean Windsor, NSW Under 23 Road Champion Rob Williams and Stuart Shaw.

The squad, which has finished second in the past two editions of the B2B Cyclo Sportiff, will be faced with some stiff competition at the event, which incorporates the NSW Hill Climb Championship and Mt Panorama Criteriums.

Rival UCI team FRF/NSWIS is bring 10 riders to the Central West for the event, including 2005 third placegetter and KOM winner Peter McDonnell. McDonnell who has won the Grafton to Inverell classic will be backed by Joe McDonnell, John Ebeling, Anthony Bennett, Tyler McLachlan, Robbie Carter, Luke Cridland, Chris Jory, Brendan Brooks, Brendan Jones and David Treacy.

The two UCI registered squads will be faced with another strong rival, with Tatts Cup round winner Glenn Stojanow returning to defend his title on the 110 kilometre B2B course.

National Junior Road Champion Michael Matthews or a strong squad entered by the Velo Canberra team could also cause an upset at the weekend's event.

The B2B Classic Weekend of Cycling is aimed at applying the City to Surf fun run concept to cycling, with cyclists of all abilities taking on a personal challenge. B2B organisers are attempting to provide the particular environment that each participant wants, be it a social family atmosphere or more competitive.

The long course B2B leaves Blayney at 8.30am this Sunday, while the short course, which features World IPC Champions Lindy Hou and Tandem partner Toireasa Gallaghe, will set out for Bathurst at 10am.

Sunny King Crit aims for $28,000 in cancer donations

The fourth annual Sunny King Criterium, a round of USA Cycling's National Racing Calendar, is aiming at donating $10,000 USD from this year's May 5 event to cancer research. If event organisers reach their ambitious target, it will take the event's total donations tally to some $28,000 USD.

The race and surrounding festival attract almost 10,000 spectators to downtown Anniston, Alabama, a town of 25,000 located 90 miles west of Atlanta, Georgia.

Juniors races have been added for the 2007 event and the women's professional race has an increased prize list. Amateurs from across the southeast are expected to race in the afternoon and the pro field, including many Tour de Georgia teams, will take the streets after dark.

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