Latest Cycling News for April 16, 2007
Edited by Gregor Brown
Stuart O'Grady: To hell and back
By Greg Johnson, in Sydney, Australia
The Australian cycling fraternity is celebrating following the first victory by one of its countrymen at the famed Paris-Roubaix monument race overnight. Down Under cycling enthusiasts who followed the race into the wee hours of the morning were well rewarded for their late-night commitment when reports flowed in that South Australian Stuart O'Grady was the first to roll into the Roubaix velodrome, some 52 seconds ahead of his nearest rival Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank).
"To tackle the 'Hell of the North' event and win is an outstanding achievement for any professional cyclist," said 1984 Olympic Gold Medallist and Tour Down Under event director Mike Turtur. "But for Stuart the victory is all that much sweeter as I know from a personal perspective that he had a burning desire to win the event."
O'Grady's victory claims the 33 year-old a unique piece of history: he's not only the first Australian to take victory at the event, but is also the first native English speaking winner since Classics legend Sean Kelly lifted the cobble stone trophy some 21 years ago.
"It's bigger than that," explained Cycling Australia High Performance manager Kevin Tabotta, "there's only a handful of guys who can claim to have won the Paris-Roubaix. It's arguably the biggest race in one day cycling other than the world championships. Some will say Milan-Sanremo, some will say Tour of Flanders, but there's no denying that the Paris-Roubaix is either first or second in anyone's mind."
Read the full O'Grady feature, To hell and back.
Ronde King suffers
Alessandro Ballan (Lampre-Fondital) went into the Paris-Roubaix as a favourite but he could only managed 61st after two crashes spoiled his day. The Italian, winner of last weekend's Ronde van Vlaanderen, went down once on the exit of the Forest of Arenberg and again after another rider crashed in front of him.
"What suffering," he said after the race to La Gazzetta dello Sport. "It happened at the exit of the Forest of Arenberg. I thought I had made it and then, in a moment of distraction, I touched wheels with my team-mates."
The 27 year-old was riding closely behind the wheel of Paolo Fornaciari when the crashed occurred. "I had a look around and at that moment my front wheel touched Fornaciari's rear wheel; and then I crashed.
"The time it took me to get back up and on my bike caused my race to be altered. I kept going. By chance I found myself near Fabio Baldato. He was there and pulled me for three kilometres at full speed, from the forest until we reached the head of the group.
"We were back in the group when another sector of pavé took me out. This time one rider crashed in front of me and I could not avoid him. I landed on the same part of my body as before. From that moment forward I just thought about finishing the race. I was really suffering."
Ballan will race in the next Classic, Amstel Gold. "I don't want to think about it, but only to heal my wounds."
Franzoi escapes again
Enrico Franzoi of Lampre-Fondital did it again. The young Italian used his cyclo-cross skills to conquered the pavé of the 105th Paris-Roubaix, spending another long day off the front of the peloton after last week's Ronde van Vlaanderen escapades.
Just like before, the idea was to put a Lampre rider in the front escape to ease the pressure on team captain Alessandro Ballan and his team-mates. Only this week it was a very large escape group, numbering 34 riders at one point.
"I wanted to enter the right escape and I did it," the 24 year-old recalled to La Gazzetta dello Sport. "But it was a strange escape, a large group of riders, an escape that was not destined to die."
Franzoi indicated to Cyclingnews one day before the race that this last winter he had been working on building his abilities over long distances. "This winter I worked on my distance, the kilometres, by going on long rides. At times I would go out on rides of 270 kilometres. It is obvious that now I have some difficulties with the distance but I hope that in the future, after I become more accustomed to these races, I can fight for victory."
The last two weekends combined added up to around 400 kilometres spent off the front of the main peloton. "I felt good up until Carrefour de l'Arbre, when there was the decisive attack, and then I could do no more, I was already all out.
"When Tom Boonen caught up [with Franzoi and Hammond - ed.] he asked me to help pull so that we could catch the next group. I did not have to respond, I was already having trouble just holding onto his wheel."
Thor Hushovd's outsider chances spoiled by flat tyre
By Katharina Schulz
Norwegian Thor Hushovd, who was counted among those riders with an outside chance of winning Paris-Roubaix, saw his dreams vanish into thin air when he had a puncture in the Forest of Arenberg. After that he merely struggled to make it to the finish line at all, and came in 43rd.
"Thor would have had a perfect race today if he could have hung on in there till the finish line. But he wasn't that lucky, and had to use up all his strength in order to reach the peloton again after the flat," Hushovd's trainer Atle Kvĺlsvoll said to NTB.
Kvĺlsvoll had already feared things might go like this, since Hushovd had not been able to train as much and get as many racing kilometres as would have been necessary after he suffered from intestinal troubles just before Milano-Sanremo. Hushovd is now planning a long training period to get in shape for the Giro d'Italia.
Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) had hoped for a better Paris-Roubaix but his 'motor' and experience let him down. The 25 year-old rider from Veneto was happy for his team-mate but wished he could have done better.
"I exploded early. My legs were good but the 'motor' did not go," he noted to La Gazzetta dello Sport after entering the Roubaix velodrome. "If you are not at your maximum then you don't go. It was also the case with Tom Boonen." 'Pippo' finished 35th, 8'29" back on winner Stuart O'Grady (Team CSC).
Pozzato's season started off with a bang when the 2006 Milano-Sanremo champion won in Haut Var and then the Omloop Het Volk but he explained that Roubaix is completely different. "The pavé of Roubaix is another story with respect to the bergs of Flanders, and I have yet to learn the secrets. I am content for the fifth place of [Roberto] Petito. If he had made it to the podium then it would have been like a victory for us."
Carrying the Discovery torch
Tour de Georgia pre-race favourite Tom Danielson has returned in an attempt to claim an overall victory that eluded him last year. This season he put forth a tremendous effort for his team-mate Levi Leipheimer to win the Tour of California. However, Danielson told Cyclingnews' Kirsten Robbins that the torch is in his hands this week.
Levi Leipheimer was undoubtedly Discovery Channel's outright leader at the Tour of California this past February. The team displayed an impressive amount of work to retain the yellow jersey from stage one through the finale, controlling the front of the peloton day in, day out.
This week, Discovery has decided to shift the focus from Leipheimer to Danielson with as much determination behind winning the race overall. Danielson won the event in 2005 and placed second to Floyd Landis last year. Since then he has been focused on the overall win and wants to take the opportunity to graciously provide it for his team who will be working in his support.
"Here at the Tour de Georgia I have been given the opportunity to start in a good position to race for the overall with a fantastic team behind me," smiled Danielson, while kicking back in the lobby of the race hotel. "It is based on my past [performance] because I have had a good record in the Tour of Georgia and the characteristics of the course suit me really well. Plus I just love this race and it has been a big goal of mine since the beginning of the year and the team is motivated with me on this goal."
However, Danielson did admit that Leipheimer is the overall team captain when it comes to calling the shots out on the road. "Obviously Levi is a very strong rider and more of a true captain when it comes to experience and race tactics, as do many of the others on this team. They will all be running the show out there and hopefully I can come through with my legs."
Read the full interview with Tom Danielson.
McQuaid says Fuentes active again
By Susan Westemeyer
Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes is allegedly active again in the pro peloton, and UCI President Pat McQuaid will talk this week to the Spanish Secretary of Sport Jaime Lissavetzky. McQuaid confirmed to Sportwereld that there are clear indications that Fuentes has resumed his activities.
"We don't need another doping matter around Fuentes. We will act as hard as we can," he said. "We will inform the Spanish government of the stories that have been communicated to us. Riders from several teams from several teams have spoken about his involvement."
Allegedly Fuentes is now offering an alternate to EPO which is not yet detectable.
Earlier this month, Quickstep team manager Patrick Lefevere said that he had asked the UCI to investigate Fuentes' current actions, and said "There are indications that Fuentes is active again.
The case against Fuentes was dismissed by a Spanish court last month, with the judge ruling that doping was not illegal in Spain at the time the charges were brought. That decision has since been appealed by the prosecution
Earlier this month the blood in nine bags taken in Operación Puerto was identified by DNA comparison as belonging to Jan Ullrich. The German rider announced his retirement the end of February, in light of the scandal.
Since then there have been calls to have the DNA of all the blood seized in the investigation compared to the DNA of riders' whose names have been associated with Dr. Fuentes.
Cyclingnews' recent coverage of 'Operación Puerto'
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