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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for April 18, 2007

Edited by Gregor Brown

Franzoi hopes for future Classic success

Enrico Franzoi (Lampre)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Enrico Franzoi is proving to be a 'hard-man of the north' with his attacking style. The Italian from Mestre spent a total of around 442 kilometres, or 11 hours, off the front of the main pack in Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix combined. His goal was to help Lampre-Fondital team captain Alessandro Ballan but in the process he learned a little bit more about himself.

"I realized that I can return to win," he said on Tuesday to La Gazzetta dello Sport. "For [The Tour of] Flanders I need to drop from 73 to 70 kilograms."

He explained that his duties were clearly laid out. "I did not have to make the race I just had to make the escape. And afterwards I started to understand that I can return to try to win. Also, before I had the sensations that the races were suited for me but now I have the confirmation."

Franzoi finished the Paris-Roubaix in an amazing eighth place after being involved in the early escape, which went at kilometre 20. He almost collapsed from the heat and distance in Roubaix but then he hitched a ride on the Tom Boonen express train. The Belgian pushed forward like a madman in the closing kilometres to bridge to Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank) and try for podium place.

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Cyclo-cross helped Franzoi with his agility but he explained that the pavé of northern France is completely different than the circuits in Belgium. "Maybe if the pavé was wet and muddy, then maybe it would have helped me," noted the 24 year-old. "'Cross has taught me how to position myself with the most balance and maybe on a muddy curve that would be useful. But with the weather we had, no [it did not help].

"To ride your bike over that pavé is like trying to control a wild washing machine. ... And I really suffered in the hot weather."

The elements are there for Franzoi to take victory; in fact, he noted that he needs to slim down for the Classics. "I don't miss anything. I have a little more than I need," he said referring to his weight. "They say that I can eliminate another three kilograms, to be at 70 kilograms, but I am already very attentive at the table. I have to regulate my self a little better, to become more professional.

"It is hard because if you train a lot it becomes difficult to drop weight; it will be a slow metabolism."

Franzoi will complete his northern journey with this Sunday's Amstel Gold Race. He will then focus on building for the Tour de France, where he will line up with team sprinter Daniele Bennati.

"After a rest, I will return in the Volta a Catalunya [21 - 27 May - ed.] and then do the Dauphiné Libéré [10 - 17 June] before the Tour."

Lefevere with mixed emotions

Patrick Lefevere
Photo ©: Stijn Vercaemer
Click for larger image

Patrick Lefevere looks back on his team's performance in the Belgian cobblestone Classics this year with mixed emotions. The Quickstep manager told the Gazet van Antwerpen, "I have no bad words for Tom Boonen," but he was disappointed with Gert Steegmans and Peter Van Petegem.

"In the Ronde van Vlaanderen, Boonen was still handicapped from a fall near the start," Lefevere noted. "Sunday [in Paris-Roubaix] he was very good."

"I'm not complaining. Overall I am satisfied," continued Lefevere, who has seen to eight Paris-Roubaix wins. "Many people forget that the team is no longer the same. [Nick] Nuyens and [Filippo] Pozzato are gone," as are Luca Paolini and Cristian Moreni. "Of course I would have gladly kept all of them. But financially it was simply not feasible."

"We have already won 16 times this season and we took part in all the Classics. And don't forget that we have not been able to start any race with the eight riders that we had planned," he added.

Lefevere admitted that he had expected more from Van Petegem and Steegmans. "I was disillusioned with Peter on Sunday, and he was, too. If he had jumped with Wesemann on the cobblestones at Cysoing then he could have won."

Concerning Steegmans, Lefevere said, "He was strong in the Ronde, but was nowhere in Paris-Roubaix. We still have work to do there, because Steegmans has too little faith in himself."

Belgian experts look at Boonen's racing

How do the experts rate Tom Boonen's performance in the Spring Classics so far? "There was a clear difference between the Boonen of 2005 and 2006, and the Boonen of now. He is showing less strength than earlier," said Eddy Merckx noted to Sportwereld, who conducted a survey. "But we do not condemn him. He still has a lot of his career before him."

"Boonen has set himself very high standards," according to Eddy Planckaert. "He doesn't like to lose. Now he must win the green jersey at the Tour."

Walter Godefroot noted that Boonen could use some more luck. "Nobody can be satisfied with a sixth place finish at Paris-Roubaix. In the big races, Boonen just came up short or he wasn't lucky." As to whether Boonen should ride Liège-Bastogne-Liège or Amstel Gold, Godefroot said, "Not a good idea."

Basso reconnoitres Monte Zoncolan

Monte Zoncolan
Photo ©: RCS Sport
Click for larger image

After the reconnaissances of Gilberto Simoni (Saunier Duval-Prodir) and Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Fondital), Ivan Basso has decided to have a go at what many consider the toughest climb in cycling. Today, he is set to test ride the Monte Zoncolan, which will be the last serious mountain stage in this year's Giro d'Italia.

Simoni commented in December that the climb was as tough as or tougher than the Mortirolo (at 10.5% average gradient over 12.4 km). "The last kilometre was the hardest I confronted in my life as a climber," he noted to La Gazzetta dello Sport regarding Zoncolan. From Ovaro, the 10.1 kilometre climb contains sections of 22, 20 and 18%, with an average gradient of 11.9%.

Yesterday, Discovery Channel's Basso tested his legs on the 42 kilometre Verona time trial, to take place on the penultimate day of the Giro d'Italia, June 2. Today, Il Varesino will ride Zoncolan two times, then Thursday and Friday he will tackle the Tre Cime Di Lavaredo.

As announced yesterday, Cunego will ride the Zoncolan on Friday, "We stopped with four [kilometres] to go," said Cunego last December after riding the climb with teammates. "The most difficult part will come in the middle, which we were able to cover. I have to say that I have never seen a climb so hard."

The 2007 Giro starts on May 12 from Sardegna.

Vandenbroucke returns to racing

Frank Vandenbroucke will return to racing this week, in the Giro d'Abruzzo. "I have a good plan," said the Belgian, who now rides for Acqua & Sapone.

"By that I don't mean that I start with the ambition to finish the race. If I can ride the competition, then the first step will be taken," he said on Sportwereld. "Afterwards we will make an assessment and see how it goes."

The Giro d'Abruzzo would be Vandenbroucke's first race since last autumn. He was questioned by the Belgian police in late January about possible involvement in the Ferdy Robyns doping case, and underwent knee surgery in February.

Wildcards for the Volta a Catalunya

By Monika Prell

The organization of the Volta a Catalunya has announced the five wild-card teams that, amongst the ProTour teams, will be able to compete this year's edition from May 21 to 27. According to Marca, the invitations are for the Spanish Pro Continental teams Andalucía-Cayasur, Relax-GAM, Karpin-Galicia and Fuerteventura-Canarias, and USA Pro Continental team Slipstream-Chipotle, which invitation is a surprise, but can be explained with the fact that the team's base is situated in the Catalan town of Girona and its good performance in the Critérium International.

The peloton will consist of 25 team, or 200 riders. The first stage will begin in Salou (Tarragona), where a team time trial will be held.

Skil-Shimano for Amstel Gold Race

Five Dutch riders will start for Skil-Shimano in the Amstel Gold Race. The five riders will be Maarten Den Bakker, Floris Goesinnen, Piet Rooijakkers, Maarten Tjallingii and Aart Vierhouten. The team will be completed by the German riders Christoph Meschenmoser and Paul Martens and the Japanese rider Yukihiro Doi who already performed well this season in Tour of Siam, Tour de Langkawi and Circuit de la Sarthe.

The most experienced rider in the team is Maarten Den Bakker. He finished second in the Amstel Gold Race in 1998 and fourth in 1999. Floris Goesinnen, last weekend the top-placing Dutch rider, 31st, in Paris-Roubaix, and Christoph Meschenmoser will make their debuts in the major Dutch classic.

Ullrich questionnaire misrepresented, company claims

X-Technology's questionnaire about its "sponsor partnership" with Jan Ullrich was an attempt to find out what people honestly think about the retired German rider, and not an attempt to find out whether the company should keep him on, it claimed today. Yesterday, it sent a questionnaire to "some 20,000 addresses" concerning its association with Ullrich and containing 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."

"There is no way at all, that the questionnaire puts the partnership in question or that the sponsor is 'plagued by doubts,'" the company claimed today on its website, "We do not understand why the media is calling for a witch-hunt of Jan Ullrich and condemns our decisions, in that they make claims that are not entirely right. It gives the impression that Jan Ullrich is to be 'sacrificed' and his economic foundation pulled away."

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