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Photo ©: Swift

Latest Cycling News for April 11, 2007

Edited by Hedwig Kröner, with assistance of Susan Westemeyer

UCI to take legal action against GT organisers

UCI president Pat McQuaid as well as ProTour manager Alain Rumpf were at the start of Gent-Wevelgem today to support the team Before the race, rumours subsisted that the Swedish team would not be allowed to start in the semi-classic because of the legal situation of its sponsor in Belgium.

But finally, was allowed to race by the organiser. While the team has been left out of the wildcard invitations for Tour de France organiser ASO's Classic races (Paris-Roubaix, Ličge-Bastogne-Ličge, Flčche Wallonne), on the grounds that the law in France and Belgium prohibited the online gaming company from advertising, the organiser of Gent-Wevelgem is less fearful of possible consequences. It would appear that while the law is similar in the two countries, Belgium does not enforce it at the moment.

McQuaid and Rumpf thereby made a point in the ongoing feud between the world governing body of cycling and the most powerful race organiser, ASO, and revealed that the power struggle is far from over. Now, the UCI is planning to file suit against ASO and RCS, the organiser of the Giro d'Italia and Tirreno-Adriatico. "There's no reason why Unibet should not have been invited to Tirreno-Adriatico. RCS broke their agreement [the 'peace deal' of March 5, 2007]. We're currently looking into the possibilities of taking legal action against ASO and RCS," McQuaid told Cyclingnews' Brecht Decaluwé at the start of the race in Deinze.

Watch out for a more detailed News feature on the subject coming up soon on Cyclingnews.

Cyclingnews' recent coverage of the ProTour-Grand Tours split

October 4, 2008 - New ASO chief to maintain values
September 26, 2008 - UCI declares peace, appoints new VP
August 30, 2008 - UCI re-signs five ProTour races
August 22, 2008 - ProTour: Bouncing back or lame duck?
August 19, 2008 - Stapleton analyses 'world calendar'
August 18, 2008 - Feedback on 'world calendar'
August 18, 2008 - UCI announces 'world calendar'

Cyclingnews' complete coverage of the ProTour-Grand Tours split

Gent-Wevelgem: Power-sprinters prevail?

By Gregor Brown in Gent

Mighty Thor Hushovd takes 68th edition
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

The 69th edition of the Gent-Wevelgem is bookended by two monuments, Ronde and Roubaix, but still contains its own beauty and status. Cross-winds, cobbles and the climbs, Monteberg and Kemmel, shape this Semi-Classic of Flanders.

The parcours stays true to tradition; starting in Deinze (at 11.30), just south of Gent, where the race used to start in the Citadelpark. The riders, after being swarmed by the Belgian fans, will roll towards the coast, in a westerly direction, and face their first obstacle.

Winds define Belgian cyclists and make them the 'hard-men' of cycling. Riders will likely encounter head and sidewinds as they travel to Oostende, and then down the coast to De Panne. We should see an escape edge off the front in the 55 kilometre run to the coast while behind some riders (many of the non-Belgians) will suffer as the chase will form into echelons.

Leaving the coast, from De Panne, there will be 115 kilometres remaining, including two runnings of the Monteberg (km 151 and 172) and Kemmelberg (km 153 and 174). These little brutes, cobbled on the up and downhill, are usually wet and always precarious.

Click here to read the full preview of Gent-Wevelgem.

Latest: Bennati out, Petacchi's leadership questioned

By Gregor Brown in Deinze

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Lampre's top sprinter Daniele Bennati has not been able to take the start of Gent-Wevelgem due to a stomach bug. The Italian was feeling so bad his team preferred not to make him race, even though he would have been one of the favourites for the victory.

On the same note, Team Milram seems to be uncertain as to the state of its leader Alessandro Petacchi. This spring, the Italian has not been able to display his superiority as in the last few years, and while 'Ale-Jet' is participating in the race, the team seems to have allowed his teammates freedom of choice concerning racing tactics. Especially Alessandro Cortinovis has reportedly been told to play his own cards if he can, which means Petacchi might not be considered a leader for this race.

CSC ambitious, and experienced

Lars Michaelsen at the 2005 Omloop Het Volk
Photo ©: CN
Click for larger image

On Wednesday, the 67th edition of the semi-classic Gent-Wevelgem will be taking place right in between the two greatest of the spring classics: Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix. The timing of the race means that practically all Classics riders participate - and most in excellent shape as well - but with somewhat varying ambitions.

Team CSC's Lars Michaelsen, winner of the event in 1995, will be doing the race for the last time. "I had some really great results early on in my career, and yes - I guess this race was my biggest along with the first stage of Vuelta a Espana in 1997. At the time, it felt natural for me to aim for a good result in Gent-Wevelgem: it suited me well, because I wasn't quite ready to battle it out with the big profiles in Paris-Roubaix and Ronde van Vlaanderen," said Michaelsen, who was among the top-20 four times over the five years after his victory.

But since then, the Danish veteran has not had any major results in the race. "After a while my focus shifted, so I concentrated more or less 100 percent on Paris-Roubaix, where I think I've accomplished a lot even though it's a tougher race."

In spite of his crash on Sunday in "De Ronde", Michaelsen will be taking part in Gent-Wevelgem again this year, but he pointed to Stuart O'Grady as his team's biggest favourite, with Lampre's Daniele Bennati as the best bet overall.

"It's not until after the three big climbs that you're able to tell exactly who the favourites are. The trick is to have as many riders as possible up front on those climbs, and for those, who want to try and make it on their own, this is also the place to attack," commented CSC's sports director Scott Sunderland. "Stuart O'Grady will probably be up front at the finish and if we get Matti Breschel and Juan José Haedo up there with him, they'll also be in position for a bunch sprint - and 'JJ' has shown that he is in great shape at the moment with his victory in Rund um Köln," added the Australian, who is very much looking forward to the race with such a strong team.

"We have some strong riders in the line-up, but it's a very unpredictable race though. I think the peloton will be as nervous as we saw on Sunday in Ronde van Vlaanderen, because the weather reports say dry weather with no wind. This could very well mean a gathered peloton heading for a bunch sprint at the end," Sunderland explained.

Saunier Duval out for victory at Pais Vasco?

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Yesterday, Spanish Saunier Duval-Prodir team worked very hard again at the Vuelta al Pais Vasco. Juan José Cobo maintained his leadership and his directeur sportif, Joxean Fernández Matxin, sees him as "a solid candidate for the final victory of this race because he is very convinced of his possibilities of success and because he is in a very good state of form."

But the Saunier Duval-Prodir director has also two other main riders: Gómez Marchante, who is now second on GC, and Koldo Gil, in fourth position. "The development of this race will say who will finally the best rider. At the moment, the only thing that I can say is that I have three riders able to win this race and they count on some great teammates, such as De la Fuente, Iban Mayo, Leonardo Piepoli or Iker Camańo. The team is ready to make victory possible."

Matxin knows that the road to the final triumph will be difficult, because there are still 14 other riders within one minute of the leader. "We will have to work hard like until now, from the beginning to the end, because our rivals have not said their last word yet."

'Triki' very happy

Beltrán gets the classical txapela
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Spanish climber Manuel Beltrán, this season riding for Liquigas, has scored a first important victory. Yesterday, in the second stage of the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, 'Triki' Beltrán was accompanied in the last kilometres by José Antonio Redondo (Astana) and Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel), but drove away from them in the last kilometre. "Redondo was a hard rival and also deserved to win, but in my opinion, he paid for his audacity after a very demanding route", the former Discovery Channel rider said after the stage.

Beltrán is now third in the general classification, "but winning this race would be so exciting." The Spaniard seems had to benefit from an optimal state of form and his overall experience, as well as a team with which he is very satisfied. "I'm very happy at Liquigas now, " he said. "I've come to a new chapter in my long cycling career. I've always been treated well in any squad, but that belongs to the past now." Beltrán emotionally added that, "the best thing that life gave me is to have been able to be professional cyclist."

Kohl saves himself

Gerolsteiner's Berni Kohl finished 18th in Tuesday's second stage of the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, 51 seconds down, and moving up to 17th in GC. The Austrian rider was very happy with that result, especially since the stage almost turned out very differently for him.

In one of the descents, not far from a curve, "at tempo 60, my front tire blew out. Those of you who ride will know what that usually means," he wrote on his website, "With a little luck and (I don't want to brag) a lot of skill, I was able to prevent a crash.

"Jens Voigt, who was riding next to me, congratulated me on my ability after the stage. He thought I was done for."

Getränke Hoffman's bumpy ride

All things considered, Team Getränke Hoffmann was satisfied with its 29th, 56th and 58th place finishes in the women's Ronde van Vlaanderen last weekend. Two of its riders didn't even make it to the start, and a series of crashes and flat tires handicapped or eliminated others.

Things started going bad on Good Friday, when Theresa Senff was involved in an car accident which , which sent her briefly to hospital and prevented her from travelling to the race. Then, Angela Brodtka got sick and likewise couldn't make the journey.

Actually, the race started out well. Birgit Hollmann broke away and built up a lead of up to 30 seconds, before a flat tire stopped her on the first cobblestone passage. She had to wait so long for help that the entire peloton passed her, but she fought her way back to the group. Another flat tire made her take the bike of teammate Sandra Missbach, who subsequently dropped out of the race. Natalie Bates had to drop out after being involved in a mass crash. And further flat tires cost the teams "nerves and time."

Directeur sportif Torsten Wittig commented, "Of course we were initially disappointed with our race results. But the girls accomplished great things, especially Birgit Hollmann. Despite a series of disasters she rode a great race. This race was to let us know where we stand. We know now that we can hold our own and that we aren't there to watch the others, but to attack them."

The team also had good news to report. Senff has recovered from the concussion and swollen shoulder she suffered from her accident, and both she and Brodtka are expected to race again this weekend.

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