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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

First Edition Cycling News for April 16, 2007

Edited by Hedwig Kröner and Laura Weislo

Post-Roubaix quotes: Flecha, Petito, Cancellara

By Jean-François Quénet in Roubaix

Flecha a happy loser

Flecha follows Wesemann
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank) again hopped on the podium of Paris-Roubaix on Sunday after getting third already in 2005, but he was a happy man at the end of the race, at least after he managed to recover from his final sprint against Steffen Wesemann (Wiesenhof). "I had no more strength at the end," the second-placed said. "I was shouting to myself because of the pain and I collapsed on the grass after I crossed the line. I couldn't breathe anymore."

Having lost so many classics by now, the Spaniard is not exactly a sprinter, but he had listened to the advice of his teammate and fellow countryman Pedro Horrillo who had won a sprint - albeit not for the win - on the velodrome of Roubaix previously. "He taught me the exact tactic for starting sprinting, where and how," Flecha said.

"It's wonderful to be second here, although it's not my first time on the podium, but I felt an exceptional emotion again on stage. I love this race. My mother and my sister were here and I wanted to make the win a gift for both of them but there was nothing to do against O'Grady, he was really the strongest today.

"Do I deserve to win Paris-Roubaix because I've finished twice in the top 3? I think everyone who finishes Paris-Roubaix deserves to win it once! Personally, I've never raced in the worst conditions with rain and mud but today, with the heat, I've realised what the Hell of the North means."

The Spaniard will continue his campaign of the classics for his Dutch team. "The Ardennes classics don't suit me as much as this one, but I'll give a hand to Rabobank."

Petito to decide in August

Roberto Petito (Liquigas)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Roberto Petito, aged 36, has created a bit of a surprise with finishing fifth in Roubaix, although he's been known for riding well in the classics for years. He's also no stranger to the north of France. After winning the Four Days of Dunkirk last year with the Pro Continental outfit Tenax, he decided to go on for one more season under the condition of finding a place in a ProTour team again, which he did with Liquigas.

He received the warm congratulations of Filippo Pozzato in the pitch of the velodrome. The veteran is still highly admired in the world of cycling and his performance in Roubaix might motivate him to carry on. "I'll decide in August whether or not I go for one more season", he stated.

Cancellara to ride the Giro

Fabian Cancellara hasn't won Paris-Roubaix twice in a row but the Swiss powerhouse was happy that he didn't lose it, either, since his teammate Stuart O'Grady took over. "Now I'll take some rest and you'll see me in action again at the Tour of Italy." The Swiss rider was extremely disappointed to be left out of the Team CSC for the Tour de France last year, but he acted as a real professional and worked successfully on his next goal, which was the world championship for time trial.

Wiesenhof makes the podium

By Brecht Decaluwé in Roubaix

Steffen Wesemann (Wiesenhof)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Having finished on the podium in Paris-Roubaix in 2002, Steffen Wesemann was expected to do well in this years' edition despite his having taken a 'step down' from T-Mobile this year to the Professional Continental team Wiesenhof-Felt. But the Swiss/German 'Flandrian' did better than even he expected, and nabbed another podium spot, taking third.

After his transfer from the ProTour team, some cycling experts probably expected Wesemann to fade away. "I'm extremely happy with this result. I didn't get a contract with T-Mobile so to tell you the truth this is ego-boosting," Wesemann laughed.

With 35km to go, Wesemann was in the Boonen group behind the major front group with Leukemans. On sector 7 - the pavé de Templeuve - Wesemann set out to bridge up towards the leaders. Boonen tried to follow him, but didn't quite get on terms. Stuart O'Grady, however, didn't miss the successful ride up to the head of the race.

In the finale, Wesemann couldn't compete with the CSC supremacy. "The CSC team had really good tactics," Wesemann said to Cyclingnews. The Wiesenhof team certainly didn't disappoint the organisers who had given the squad a wild card for Paris-Roubaix. "We were there all day long, first with Pollack and then with me. Wagner managed to support me for a while," Wesemann explained, saying that the team had performed to their best.

Wesemann was one of the strongest men in the race, so we asked him if he wasn't disappointed with the third place. "Of course I thought about winning but what could I do?" Wesemann wondered. "Maybe I could have brought back O'Grady but then Michaelsen would probably have had a go. It was better to focus on bringing home second or third," Wesemann explained.

Last year, Wese managed to clinch an unexpected second place in the Amstel Gold Race after a sixth place in Paris-Roubaix. So what could we expect this year? "Amstel? First I'll need to recover from this race and then we'll see for Amstel," Wesemann said.

Leukemans sets the record straight

By Brecht Decaluwé in Roubaix

Leukemans leads the chasers
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

Four strong men made the front group in Paris-Roubaix: Juan-Antonio Flecha, Steffen Wesemann, Stuart O'Grady and Björn Leukemans from Predictor-Lotto, but on the podium there was only space for three of them and in the end it was Leukemans who missed out. "I think I was one of the guys that made the race but in the end... Flecha can pull some faces, he was stronger than I thought and maybe I was a bit too tempestuous. In the sprint I didn't have the power anymore to turn that big gear," Leukemans said to Cyclingnews.

The Belgian was in the picture all day long, and it was as if he wanted to set the record straight. "I didn't get a single star in the newspapers," Leukemans explained, saying that he was annoyed by the fact that the papers overlooked him when rating the riders. "If I see something like that, the way they write, it isn't true. That's why I pulled all the stops out right from the start."

When it became clear that the group behind O'Grady wasn't making headway, it quickly turned into a tactical fight for the remaining podium slots. "There was no longer dedication for the victory. O'Grady rode away on a two-part cobble section where Wesemann had just attacked. When Wesemann attacked I didn't hesitate to follow but when that CSC rider attacked, I wasn't worried as I thought it was Michaelsen or maybe Breschel. Suddenly I noticed the freckled legs of Stuey and I hoped Wesemann would react, but he was probably recuperating from his own attack," Leukemans explained.

Björn Leukemans used to be the team's man for the Ardennes classics, but this year he found out that he had to give it a go in the Northern classics. "Through the loss of Mattan and Van Bon the team was weakened for those races, and I was asked to fill up the blank," Leukemans said.

Motorbike ends race for Hoste

Leif Hoste (Predictor-Lotto)
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

An unlucky Leif Hoste (Predictor-Lotto) was riding strong in a group with Tom Boonen (QuickStep) during the race finale when he was inadvertantly taken down by a motorcycle. "Tom had to swerve to avoid the motorbike, but I couldn't avoid him anymore," Hoste told Belgian Sporza. "The race was over for me then. With Tom, we could have caught the chasers [Flecha, Leukemans, Wesemann and Petito - ed.], I'm sure of that. I knew that we weren't in for the victory anymore, but I could have gotten second..."

Predictor team manager Marc Sergeant was furious about the incident. "It is a scandal!," he told Cyclingnews at the finish. "Hoste is really upset and has not said much to me about it. It is sad for him because it would have been a big deal for him to stay in contact with Boonen. He was doing well at that before the moto came along."

QuickStep leader Tom Boonen, who ended up in sixth position, was a little annoyed that his chasing didn't bear fruit in the end. "Three times I accelerated the chase," he said in Roubaix. "But nobody wanted to come with me. I fought until the velodrome, but in order to catch O'Grady, the finish line should have been 10 kilometres further away. I did fight for the second place, but I wasn't successful. Still, I'm glad I was able to race here once again."

Boonen will ride his last spring campaign race on Wednesday, the Scheldeprijs in Belgium. "The balance is even," he concluded, looking back. "Hoste and Cancellara were good, too, but they haven't won a race."

Shower talk

By Brecht Decaluwé in Roubaix

Julian Dean (Crédit Agricole)
Photo ©: Brecht Decaluwé
(Click for larger image)

Directly after the finish of Paris-Roubaix, the riders hit the classic vélodrome showers, but even there, the riders aren't safe from reporters trying to find out what went on in the 'Hell of the North'. If it weren't for Paris-Roubaix the building would just be an old-fashioned bathing place, but history made this spot legendary. Each shower cell is given name of a past winner, and after the race, riders clean up in cells named after Eddy Merckx, Rik Van Looy, Fausto Coppi or Roger De Vlaeminck.

Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank) washed up in the Peter Post zone while Julian Dean (Crédit Agricole) decided to have a go at the Eddy Merckx private area. The champion of New-Zealand washed up and reflected on a rough day on the cobbles. "This is not my favourite race," Dean said cynically. "I was waiting for the bus to abandon... but it didn't come so there was no other option than continuing. I wanted to save my injured hand, but I had no other choice," Dean said quietly.

Bernhard Eisel (T-Mobile) spent the race being frequently mentioned on race radio, but not because of attacks, but because of punctures and crashes. The multilingual Austrian was full of energy after finishing his shower, and described his unfortunate day. "One of the crashes was very strange. I was taking something with one hand off the handle bars when I suddenly had to move over. I almost went over the handle bars but somehow I managed to stay on the bike," said Eisel, giving an expressive demonstration of his position.

"Someone else looked back and for some reason we touched bikes and I was on the ground. Just before the Arenberg forest Boogie punctured and I gave him my wheel, then I had to wait for ages before I could continue. The funny thing is that I entered the forest as one of the last riders but still managed to get out of it in the second group," Eisel laughed and walked his way to the team bus. illegal in Belgium, too

It looks like Swedish team will not be able to participate in the upcoming Ardennes Classics in Belgium, even if it would try to take legal action against race organiser ASO, who didn't invite the team to the events even though it has ProTour status.

According to Radsportnews, the Belgian public commission on gambling has now issued an official statement that "Unibet organises gambling games for which the company does not have a permission in Belgium. It targets a new group of clients through illegal advertisement, especially through the sponsorship of a cycling team."

Lefevere calls on EC to investigate ASO

Patrick Lefevere, QuickStep team manager and president of the association of ProTour teams (IPCT), has called upon the European Commission to investigate the ASO, organiser of such races as the Tour de France, Paris-Nice and Paris-Roubaix.

ASO has opposed the International Cycling Union UCI since the creation of the ProTour in 2005, he said, and the situation has gotten worse this year, with ASO refusing to allow to participate in its races, although it is a ProTour team.

In Sportwereld, Lefevere noted that the three Grand Tour organisers ASO, RCS Sport (Giro d'Italia) and Unipublic (Vuelta a Espana) "control 70 percent of the market. Whether they can abuse their dominate marketing position is a question for the European Commission," Lefevere said. "ASO wants to decide who will ride its races. That is a problem, because the first question that each new sponsor asks is: can we ride the Tour? It is now not clear who stipulates who can ride there. A decision must be made, and the European Commission must say what is possible and what is not possible."

Lefevere did not know exactly who should raise the problem at the EC. "The IPCT does not have money for such an expensive procedure. And the UCI doesn't have so much money after the lawsuits concerning Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis," he said.

The Belgian was also looking to the future of pro cycling and possible changes to come. "At the moment, there are approximately 160 ProTour racing days. That could be changed to 70 to 80. The Tour de France could be shortened to two weeks. And cycling is becoming more international. This year I have visited races in Australia, California, and China."

O'Neill returns in Tour de Georgia

Nathan O'Neill in 2006
Photo ©: Caroline Yang
(Click for larger image)

Nathan O'Neill has had his fair share of injuries, but this year, he's had two unfortunate incidents involving automobiles. He was lucky to escape both with minor injuries, and is set to finally start his season in the Tour de Georgia. Cyclingnews' Mark Zalewski sat down with the resilient Australian the day before the start of the race.

After winning his umpteenth time trial national championship, Australian Nathan O'Neill was set to return to racing in the States with his Health Net-Maxxis team - beginning with the Tour of California and then on for the California swing of races. However, the day before he was to fly to training camp in California, O'Neill was struck by a motorist near his home in Australia - fracturing his hip and taking him off the California rosters.

Having rehabbed at his home in Georgia, O'Neill was set to make his return in March at the Redlands Classic when another freak auto accident, this time while riding in a car at high speed, sent him to hospital again. Luckily he suffered only minor injuries and he is now set to start his season at his adopted home race, the Tour de Georgia.

Some may think Nathan O'Neill one of the unluckiest riders racing in 2007 - having his season delayed not once, but twice, by automobile-related incidents. However, O'Neill says that he actually feels lucky, when considering how bad the results could have been. "I say I'm really lucky because I came through both of them far better than it potentially could have been. I look at it in the short term and say 'Im still here and that I am having a good year. It sucks, but it could have been so much worse."

Click here for the full interview.

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