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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest Cycling News for April 13, 2007

Edited by Hedwig Kröner and Susan Westemeyer

Roubaix weather forecast

A few days ago, spring finally broke through the cloudy skies of Northern Europe, and brought with it warm temperatures and lots of sunshine This tendency is expected to last over the weekend, with temperatures predicted to rise from 15° Celsius in the morning up to 25° in the afternoon in the region of Paris-Roubaix in Northern France. Only light winds of about 10 km/h are being forecast, coming from the west. It thus looks like a dry, warm and dusty 105th edition of Paris-Roubaix, which fuels hopes that there won't be many crashes - but this was said about Gent-Wevelgem, too.

CSC ready for 'Hell'

Fabian Cancellara (CSC) surrounded by CSC staff after his 2006 victory
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Danish Team CSC and its defending champion Fabian Cancellara are all set for Sunday's Paris-Roubaix, the "Queen of the Classics," "Hell of the North", "La Pascale" or whatever nickname you may choose to describe it. No doubt, Paris-Roubaix is a much loved race by many cycling fans, who have looked forward to it for months, but also a race which the riders either love or hate. Only the World Championships can probably compete with it as the greatest one-day race in the entire calendar.

Team CSC has very proud traditions in the race - the biggest victory being last year, when Fabian Cancellara left everyone behind with a margin of almost two minutes. But the tradition dates further back than that: The team has had a rider in the top-five for the last five years. In 2005 Lars Michaelsen was fifth, Tristan Hoffman took the second place in 2004, Andrea Tafi was fifth in 2003 and back in 2002 Hoffmann was fourth and Michaelsen fifth. The stakes are thus high for the team.

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"There's a great atmosphere on the team," said sports director Scott Sunderland. "The morale is high and everyone has done a great job so far - not just the riders, but also the mechanics and our soigneurs, who are working practically day and night to make sure everything is ready for this race. We know we have the very best staff and equipment possible and all the riders are in absolute top form, so all we need now is the right amount of luck, which you always need in Paris-Roubaix. So I'm confident of a great result for our team."

The squad has been training on the new cobblestone section from Beuvry-la-Forêt to Orchies, which is about 60 kilometres before the finish. "It's actually quite a brutal part of the route, so it might turn out to be pretty crucial," explained Sunderland, who was a bit put off by the fact that summer has chosen this particular week to arrive in Northern Europe, because it does not provide the conditions for the riders which he had hoped for.

"The weather forecast says between 20 and 26 degrees on Sunday - sunny, not a cloud in sight and absolutely no wind either. We have a lot of riders who would like for this race to be as tough as possible, and it won't be under these circumstances. It will be easier for riders to keep up with the main peloton like we saw in Ronde van Vlaanderen last week. At the same time it changes our preparations for the race as well, because we'll need a lot more water, which can sometimes be hard to get to the riders," he continued. "It will probably turn out to be quite a tactical race, but it should still be well worth watching and tough enough to get excited about!"

Hoste looking for revenge

Back in fighting mood: Leif Hoste (Predictor)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Leif Hoste has put his second-place finish in the Ronde van Vlaanderen out of his mind and is concentrating on the upcoming Paris-Roubaix, admitting he thinks of it as a revenge.

"I must leave it behind me," he told Sporza. "I think about that sprint as little as possible. I have spent much of the week on the bike, which helps. And Sunday is another course."

The Predictor-Lotto team rode over the cobblestones of Paris-Roubaix Thursday. "The cobblestones are very dusty," he said. "I would rather ride Paris-Roubaix in the rain. Then there would be fewer crashes."

Last year, Hoste finished the race as second, but was later disqualified for bypassing a closed railroad crossing. "I will never forget that," he said. "I have feelings of revenge. I don't know if that is the correct feeling or not. In Roubaix it depends more on luck than in the Ronde. If I can, I will be number one. That speaks for itself."

Kemmelberg crashes - who or what is to blame?

The view from the crash
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

On Wednesday, during Gent-Wevelgem, many riders suffered serious injuries on the cobbled descent of the Kemmelberg, which has caused a widespread discussion. Luc Gheysens, organiser of the race, refused to take Kemmel out of the event as suggested by some, and said it is the riders' fault if they crash there.

"Then they must also take the cobblestones out of Paris-Roubaix, or the cols out of the Tour de France! Museeuw was nearly dead after his crash in Paris-Roubaix and Casartelli died in the descent of the Portet d'Aspet in the Tour," he bluntly told Sportwereld. "Races are dangerous. It is the fault of the riders if they don't have enough skills."

The most prominent victim of the Kemmelberg was Jimmy Casper, who smashed face-first onto the cobbles and slid for several meters with his face grinding into the stones, in full view of the TV camera. "Casper caused it himself," Gheysens claimed. "He collided with the wheel in front of him. Well, that's when you crash. They must learn to adapt their riving behaviour, to watch the distance between bikes, and keep their bidons in their bottle cages."

He refused to consider a new way down or around the Kemmelberg. "They now ride the safest possible descent from Kemmelberg. I do not want an alternative. That would kill Gent-Wevelgem."

Johan Museeuw
Photo ©: Ben Atkins
Click for larger image

Former Classics specialist Johan Museeuw had another theory for the many crashes, blaming them on the high rims of the bikes and the bottle cages. As soon as the first riders come to the cobbles, the bidons start bouncing out of their cages and exploding on the stones, creating a risk for the subsequent riders, especially those - like Jimmy Casper - with very high plastic rims.

"Those rims are splendid for open roads, but not for cobblestones," Museeuw told Sportwereld. "You come to Kemmelberg at 70 km an hour. Then you can be the best rider in the whole world, but you won't have your bike under control. 90 percent of the riders who fell had high rims."

Museeuw laid the blame on Unibet's supplier, Carbon Sports, which provides the team with lightweight carbon wheels, very stiff and long-lasting. Stefan Behrens of the company refuted the criticism, saying "Three riders tested our wheels on the cobblestones in January and February," with no problems.

The bottle cage discussion is not a new one, but "nothing is being done about it," Museeuw said. He expects to see more of the same in Sunday's Paris-Roubaix. "I see the bidons jumping from all sides. But the difference is that on flat cobbles with low rims, you have the chance to make a correction, which isn't possible on the descent of Kemmelberg."

Race director Hans de Clerc came up with a unique solution to the Kemmelberg problem: ban the spectators. "Certainly at the second passage of the descent, the spectators were an involuntary cause of the crashes," he told Sporza.

"To make it safe, we would have to take away the cobblestones and pave over the descent. But it is a national monument, so that will never happen. For that reason I would rather have no spectators in the descent. Anyone who stands there is only there for sensationalism, anyway."

Tom Van Damme of the Belgian cycling federation thought "the Kemmel does not belong in a race." He told the Gazet van Antwerpen that the federation could force the elimination of the Kemmelberg in future races. "Gent-Wevelgem is a ProTour race and the ProTour license comes from the UCI. But we have to approve the race application. But I don't think it will come down to that, as I already suspect that the organisers will give a binding recommendation to take out the Kemmel. We don't want to responsible for more problems."

An interview with Nicole Cooke

Nicole Cooke wins Flanders
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

With five victories already this season - including both rounds of the World Cup - and having been at the top level of women's racing for a number of years now, it's difficult to believe that the young woman from South Wales is still in her early twenties. Cyclingnews UK Editor Ben Atkins caught up with British Champion Nicole Cooke to reflect on a phenomenal season so far.

She does, in fact, turn 24 today (April 13), but won't be celebrating in the same way as most 24 year olds tonight. Instead she'll be travelling from her home in Lugano, Switzerland to the Netherlands to see if she can further extend her World Cup lead in tomorrow's Ronde van Drenthe.

A highly amused "couldn't have started better!" is the slightly understated response to my initial question about how her season is going (we'd meant to catch up before she won the Tour of Flanders, but this was just after), but it couldn't be more true. With a 100 percent record in World Cup races, plus overall victory in the Geelong Tour and one-day wins at the Grand Prix Costa Etrusca and Trofeo Alfedo Binda, it's been an almost perfect start to 2007 for the Welsh sensation.

Sunday's victory at the Tour of Flanders clearly ranks as a high point in an already highly prestigious palmarès that features three wins at Flèche Wallonne, an Amstel Gold, and stage races like the Giro d'Italia - as well as an incredible seven British national championships. "Definitely one of the Classics." she says, reflecting on her favourite victory.

Click here to read the full interview with Nicole Cooke.

Rabobank and Milram suffering

Some of the ProTour teams must be wondering if there isn't an "illness and injury curse" working on them this season. The flu, bronchitis, crashes and other injuries are making a big dent in the peloton so far this year.

Rabobank will be happy to see the Vuelta al Pais Vasco come to an end this weekend. "We feel we have had enough misery this week. It has not turned out to be our lucky tour," said director sportif Erik Breukink.

The team suffered two abandons Thursday, after losing captain Denis Menchov to bronchitis in the opening stage. Yesterday, Michael Rasmussen had to drop out after coming down with a stomach bug Wednesday night. "He tried anyway on Thursday even though he was badly weakened," according to the team's website. "Unfortunately his attempt proved to be futile just a few kilometres into the race."

Thomas Dekker dropped out halfway through the stage because of hip pains. The hip had been hurting for a while, but he decided to call it quits when the pain spread down into his right leg. "It was just a precautionary measure to make sure he would not end up with a severe injury," said Breukink.

Meanwhile, team Milram received another blow Thursday when Dennis Haueisen had to undergo emergency surgery because of abdominal bleeding. The 26 year-old had complained of severe stomach pains during Rund um Köln on Monday, but thought it was just an upset stomach. Yesterday, an ambulance took him to the hospital in Gera, Germany, where he was operated on. The doctors indicated that the bleeding is the result of injuries brought about by a crash in last year's Benelux Tour.

The team had slightly better news concerning its two riders injured Wednesday on the Kemmelberg. Fabio Sacchi, who had a severely bruised shinbone, left the hospital Thursday. Teammate Mario Velo also showed some improvement and it was hoped that he could be transferred to a hospital in Italy on Friday. He suffered a broken collarbone and ribs, and it is further suspected that he tore knee ligaments.

Landis wants 'B' tests done in LA

Dr Jacques de Ceaurriz, LNDD director - did his lab commit errors important enough to invalidate the test results?
Photo ©: AFP
Click for larger image

One day after the news came out that the arbitration panel appointed in the Floyd Landis case has approved USADA's request to test the seven 'B' urinary samples taken from the rider at last year's Tour de France, Landis has again opposed the idea. According to an AP report, the winner of the 2006 Tour de France, who tested positive on one occasion for an elevated testosterone:epitestosterone ratio during the event, said the tests weren't necessary because the 'A' samples had been tested negative.

However, if the tests must take place, Landis was reported to want them analysed at the UCLA lab that handles much of USADA's testing, and not in the at the Chatenay Malabry laboratory in Paris, where the initial adverse analytical finding was established. Landis' defense strategy has focused on discrediting the French WADA-accredited lab by questioning its practices. Yet, this was one of the very reasons for the arbitration panel to allow for the 'B' sample testing.

"The Panel’s expert will identify if there are flaws in the testing equipment. That expert will determine if the methodologies are flawed," it said in the ruling.

Still, the Landis camp objects the decision. "The UCLA lab is widely regarded as the best in the world, and I have full confidence that if these samples were tested there that they would come back negative, as would have my stage 17 test from the Tour de France," Landis said. "This is why I've requested that they test the samples at UCLA, a request that USADA has repeatedly denied."

But former UCLA head Don Catlin, who recently stepped down, said that the laboratory could not provide what Landis was hoping for, anyway. "We couldn't do (the tests)," he said. "It was very clear and the reason we couldn't do them is that we had one instrument, and it was down." The particular test method needed is an instrument able to perform 'IRMS' testing to show evidence of exogenous testosterone.

Furthermore, Catlin said that the laboratory of Chatenay Malabry was bound to the same procedure standards than UCLA. "A WADA lab is a WADA lab," he continued. "I know they're card-carrying, full-fledged members of the (World Anti-Doping Agency) system. WADA holds everyone to standards. They do that with an iron club."

Cyclingnews' coverage of the Floyd Landis case

May 29, 2009 - French authorities summon Landis and Baker
September 28, 2008 - Landis takes case to US federal court
September 10, 2008 - Landis signing with current Health Net-Maxxis team for 2009
July 1, 2008 - CAS delivers final blow to Landis legal challenge
June 30, 2008 - Landis loses final appeal
June 28, 2008 - Landis decision due Monday
March 12, 2008 - Landis' judgment day nears
October 21, 2007 - Landis files appeal with CAS
October 18, 2007 - AFLD takes another look at Landis case
Thursday, October 11 - Landis continues fight, appeals to CAS
Saturday, September 22 - UCI officially names Pereiro 2006 Tour champion, Landis case raises issues
Friday, September 21 - Landis' appeal denied, two year suspension levied

Cyclingnews' complete coverage of the Floyd Landis case

German teams for Ronde van Drenthe

The German women's teams are preparing for the third World Cup race of the season, the Ronde van Drenthe on Saturday. Equipe Nürnberger Versicherung will be lead by Trixi Worrack, who finished second in the 2006 World's, and was fourth in last weekend's Ronde van Vlaanderen. She will be supported by, among others, Regina Schleicher, who won the Drentse 8 race on Wednesday, and German time trial champion Charlotte Becker.

The T-Mobile women's team will feature Ina-Yoko Teutenberg, who last year won a stage in the race when it was held as a three-stage race. This year the three stages are being held as individual one-day races. The team will ride for Teutenberg if the race comes down to a mass sprint, otherwise it is up to every rider to seek her own chance.

Nürnberger for Ronde van Drenthe: Trixi Worrack, Edita Pucinskaite, Andrea Graus, Eva Lutz, Regina Schleicher and Charlotte Becker.

T-Mobile for Ronde van Drenthe: Judith Arndt, Kate Bates, Chantal Beltman, Suzanne de Goede, Ina-Yoko Teutenberg, and Linda Villumsen.

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