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Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

Latest Cycling News for April 17, 2007

Edited by Hedwig Kröner, with assistance of Susan Westemeyer

Gilbert uncertain for Liège

Gilbert in L-B-L last year
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Française des Jeux's Philippe Gilbert will not ride the Scheldeprijs on Wednesday this week, nor the Amstel Gold Race this coming weekend, his team has announced. The Belgian Classics contender will participate in the Flèche Wallonne on April 25, but "It's not one hundred percent decided whether he will ride Liege-Bastogne-Liege yet," team manager Marc Madiot told Sportwereld. "We will decide on it after Flèche Wallonne."

After the Ardennes Classics week, Gilbert will take a break, his next scheduled race being the 4 Jours de Dunkerque, May 8-13.

Nuyens to Amstel

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New Cofidis Classics leader Nick Nuyens has decided to participate in the upcoming Amstel Gold Race in the middle of next week. After dropping out of Paris-Roubaix with 30 kilometres to go, the Belgian wants to make up for his lost efforts in the Netherlands.

Nuyens suffered from respiratory problems due to the dust in the 'Hell of the North', and couldn't resist the temptation of abandoning the race when he saw the camping car of the squad he was with as an amateur on the side of the road, according to L'Equipe. "He told us he was sorry for his messed-up race," Cofidis team manager Eric Boyer said. "I don't hold it against him. He really had bad breathing problems. He assured me that in terms of recuperation, he felt much less tired that on the day after Flanders - this proves that he has good legs."

Cunego recons Giro stages

Following the good performance showed in the Vuelta al País Vasco, where he finished fourth overall, Lampre's Damiano Cunego will spend two days doing stage reconnaissance in view of the Giro d'Italia. The young Italian, winner of the 2004 event, will see the 15th stage (Trento-Tre Cime di Lavaredo) this upcoming Thursday, and the 17th stage (Lienz-Monte Zoncolan) on Friday. Cunego will be with teammate Paolo Tiralongo, sport director Martinelli and masseur Inselvini.

Eisel focuses on Tour de France

A happy Bernhard Eisel at the 2006 TdF
Photo ©: Giorgio Masnikosa
(Click for larger image)

Bernhard Eisel of T-Mobile was one of the favourites going into Paris-Roubaix on Sunday, but "two flat tires, a broken handlebar and a crash were just too much." Still, the Austrian sprinter wasn't disappointed with his 65th place finish, 12.21 minutes after winner Stuart O'Grady.

"First I had to give Marcus Burghardt my front wheel and catch back up with the field," he said in an interview with "I joined up with the big chase group after Arenberg. Then Boonen attacked, just at the moment that I was getting water bottles. At some point your oven goes out. I couldn't do any more."

Looking to the future, Eisel is sure of a place on T-Mobile's Tour de France team this year, but knows he has to deliver. "It's pretty sure that I'll be there," he said. "Gerald Ciolek is too young, Andre Greipel is still injured and has a lot of catching up to do, and Greg Henderson won't ride it. So I'm the only sprinter who is set. The Tour is my big goal, but it won't be easy. I have to win a stage, otherwise I will certainly not be there next year. Then 2007 would be my last Tour in a T-Mobile jersey."

Still, the Austrian isn't nervous. "My form is better than the results show," he concluded. "I don't have to learn anything more, just get stronger. I'm always there when it matters, when the race is decided. Nothing can surprise me any more. A little more luck wouldn't hurt. The rest will come. With success, my self-confidence will come back, and then it will happen."

Roubaix too much for Austrians

Paris-Roubaix didn't quite turn out the way that Austrian riders Paco Wrolich of Gerolsteiner and Rene Haselbacher of Astana had hoped.

After the tenth section of cobblestones, Wrolich had a big problem. "The palms of my hands were totally scraped off. I have two huge blisters on the right hand," he wrote on his personal website. "The conditions were extreme. When I finished I felt as if had smoked four packs of cigarettes, the dust was so bad. I couldn't ride with the leaders because of the blisters, and part of the time on the last cobbles I couldn't even hold the handlebars."

He finished 49th, about nine and a half minutes down of winner Stuart O'Grady. Wrolich returned to his native Austria for a few days before he will return to the Benelux for Amstel Gold and perhaps Flèche Wallonne.

Rene Haselbacher of Team Astana had hoped that his fourth start at Paris-Roubaix would turn out better than his previous attempts - but it didn't.

"Like in my former three appearances, when I was sick each time, I didn't have any luck this year. I had two mechanicals before the forest of Arenberg, which I went into as fifth. And then, two kilometres later, the tire blew again for the third time. With the hellish tempo that was being ridden there, you have no chance to come back. I had to wait very long for a new tire." Haselbacher eventually dropped out, and decided, "This race will never see me again!"

Azanza to be operated

By Monika Prell

Last Saturday, Euskaltel-Euskadi could have been the only team that reached the last finish line of the Vuelta al País Vasco in Oiartzun with the complete team, but in the last kilometres, Jorge Azanza crashed into a wall. He had to abandon the race and to undergo medical examinations, that detected a fracture of his left collarbone, also affecting the ligament.

Azanza will undergo surgery tomorrow and rest for at least one month. "I don't want to set myself a time limit, I will go step by step," he told Diario de Noticias. "First, I'm going to recuperate and then I will train again to return to competition in May or June."

Hondo's court case hearing delayed

Hondo at the Tinkoff team presentation - he hasn't raced yet this year
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
(Click for larger image)

The hearing of Danilo Hondo's court case has been delayed for one day. "At the request of the UCI's attorney, the hearings in my case before the Swiss 'Kantonsgericht' (cantonal court) has been delayed for a day, to April 18," he wrote on his website,

"If we get a positive decision from the judge as to the question of whether I can start, I could ride with my team Tinkoff as soon as Thursday in the Giro d'Abruzzo in Italy," he hoped.

A small amount of the prohibited drug Carphedon was found in Hondo's system during the Vuelta a Murcia in March 2005, while he was riding for Gerolsteiner. In June that year, the Swiss Cycling Federation issued a two year ban, but with one year to be suspended followed by a five year probation period. The Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS) ruled in January 2006 that Hondo deserved a two year ban, thereby extending his ban by one year per the advice of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

A Swiss court subsequently overturned that ban and allowed Hondo to return to racing, but the Swiss Supreme Court reinstated his suspension in January 2007. Earlier this month, the CAS issued a clarification that the ban must be 'effectively' served, and the UCI subsequently ordered the suspension to run through January 2008.

Hondo has now further appealed that decision in the Swiss courts.

T-Mobile, Milram for upcoming races

On Wednesday, April 18, T-Mobile and Milram will be two of the ProTour teams contesting the GP Scheldeprijs, Flanders' oldest race. The 197 km one-day race starts in the port city of Antwerp and takes the peloton over flat terrain in northern Flanders before concluding with three laps of a circuit in Merksem, on the edge of Antwerp.

Last year, Tom Boonen won the sprint of a 22-rider lead group. "We will be making sure that we are always represented in any groups that get away," said directeur sportif Alan Peiper of T-Mobile. "Each rider can ride his own race, attack or counter-attack." In the event of a bunch showdown, the Australian will be looking to the top-end speed of André Greipel and Mark Cavendish, with the likes of Greg Henderson, Bernhard Eisel and André Korff ready to lead out their teammates. Rounding out the roster in Belgium for T-Mobile are Scott Davis, Servais Knaven and Aaron Olson.

On Thursday, April 19, an almost unchanged roster moves southwards to the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France for the GP de Denain. Eric Baumann and the Briton Roger Hammond slot in to replace Bernhard Eisel and Servais Knaven, but tactically there are no changes.

After 99 km loop over pan-cake flat terrain, the peloton will tackle eight laps of 12.5 km circuit for a total of 199.4 kilometres well-suited to sprinters. Amongst many other squads, T-Mobile will be up against team Milram, which is sending Mirco Lorenzetto, Elia Rigotto, Alberto Ongarato, Sebastian Siedler, Niki Terpstra, Ralf Grabsch and Martin Müller to the French one-day race.

King sole US survivor of Paris-Roubaix Juniors

As the world's top professional cyclists stole the headlines Sunday with their performance in Paris-Roubaix, the "Queen of the Classics" and arguably the most prestigious single-day bicycle race in the world, the sport's future - including a five-man American contingent - contested the junior version of the race. USA Cycling's Junior Development Program fielded a team of five riders for the Paris-Roubaix Juniors, a shorter version of the pro race specific to 17- and 18-year-olds.

Ben King form Charlottesville, Virginia, was the lone American finisher in the grueling event, crossing the line in 81st place, 14.48 minutes back from the winner, Fabien Taillefer of France. The 130km course included 16 of the 26 treacherous cobblestone stretches that makes Paris-Roubaix the most sought after victory of the spring.

King's four teammates, Taylor Phinney (Boulder, Colo.), Ryan Zupko (Chandler, Ariz.), Nolan Froese (Colombia, Mo.) and Taylor Kuphaldt (Yuba City, Calif.) ultimately did not finish despite their strong efforts. All of the American youngsters rode hard in the day's dusty and unusually warm conditions, but crashes and punctures prevented additional results for the remainder of the American squad.

Prior to Paris-Roubaix Juniors, the U.S. team competed at the Ster van Limburg, a four-day stage race in Belgium. King was also the top finisher for the squad in that event, placing 28th overall, 38 seconds off the pace of winner Matthias Allegaert of Belgium.

Now, the Junior National Team will return home for a few weeks before heading back to Europe to continue their pursuit of international experience as they compete in the following events:

May 3: Wortegem-Petegem - Belgium
May 9-13: Course de la Paix - Czech Republic
May 18-20: Ronde van Axel - The Netherlands
May 26-28: Three Days of East Flanders - Belgium
June 3: Tour de Condroz - Belgium
June 7-10: Pays de Vaud - Switzerland

Should Ullrich stay or go?

Sports clothing company X-Technology is asking the public whether it should keep its newest employee - Jan Ullrich. It was announced in February that Ullrich would become the 'Bionic Man' for X-Bionic sportswear.

"Every day we hear reports about doping. But in the media, only one name is associated with doping: Jan Ullrich. Our products are among the best in the world. Egged on by the media, we are now being criticized," it was stated on the company's website.

The Swiss firm hired the now-retired cyclist because of his "25 years experience in training, strength and conditioning work, and competition." But now, "We are being challenged to not use Jan Ullrich as our 'bionic measuring instrument' and want to know what you think about this."

The company has posted a questionnaire on its website (in German, and asks not only for the reader's clothing and shoe size, but also seeks yes or no answers to such questions as "I would buy 'Jan Ullrich' products", or "I would purposely not buy a product, because it is a 'Jan Ullrich' brand product".

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