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Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

Latest Cycling News for March 1, 2007

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

Paris-Nice to decide Tour de France teams?

The bosses of the Grand Tours
Photo ©: AFP
Click for larger image

Pro Cycling may be on the edge of its biggest schism in the history of the sport. On Wednesday, UCI president Pat McQuaid re-iterated that the ProTour teams were not allowed to participate in the upcoming Paris-Nice stage race as it will this year be a national event, and threatened them with "heavy sanctions" if they chose to start. One day later, it's Tour de France organiser ASO's turn to threaten the teams - this time going one step further: the participation in Paris-Nice might affect the teams' entry in all ASO-organised events, including the Tour de France.

Patrice Clerc, ASO president, has now made rumours come true and retaliated, saying that he might consider not inviting the teams to the Tour de France if they chose not to come to Paris-Nice. Speaking to the Telegraaf, Clerc commented, "All 18 teams reacted promptly when they received our invitation. If they cancel their participation now, it's because they're not allowed to start under the pressure of the UCI. If these teams now refuse to come to Paris-Nice, then they will have the same stance on our other competitions. In that case, I don't see why I should invite them to the Tour. I will only reconsider this if they have a very good reason to call off Paris-Nice."

Cyclingnews' recent coverage of the ProTour-Grand Tours split

October 4, 2008 - New ASO chief to maintain values
September 26, 2008 - UCI declares peace, appoints new VP
August 30, 2008 - UCI re-signs five ProTour races
August 22, 2008 - ProTour: Bouncing back or lame duck?
August 19, 2008 - Stapleton analyses 'world calendar'
August 18, 2008 - Feedback on 'world calendar'
August 18, 2008 - UCI announces 'world calendar'

Cyclingnews' complete coverage of the ProTour-Grand Tours split

Nuyens, the new challenger

Nick Nuyens (Quick.Step) in Kuurne last year
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

2005 Omloop Het Volk and 2006 Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne winner Nick Nuyens has stepped out of the shadow of Tom Boonen and his former team Quick-Step this season and opted for a new squad, Cofidis. This will make the battle between him and fellow Belgian Boonen particularly interesting this weekend, especially since it was Boonen himself who protected Nuyens' breakaway last year, paving the way for his teammates' victory.

At Cofidis, Nuyens naturally has the role of leader for the Northern Spring races, and he feels confident in his abilities. "People tend to still doubt me, but I know better," he told Sporza at a press conference in Gent. "My medical tests have been the best in years. Winning the Etoile de Bessèges made me accept my leadership role faster. As of Saturday, I'll show that I'm right up there. My team and teammates have confidence in me, and I'm not going to deceive them."

The battle will thus be on in Flanders, particularly against his former team Qick-Step. "On Saturday [Het Volk], Quick-Step will be the team to beat, but I surely won't wait until they take the initiatives," Nuyens added. "I'll ride my own race. Boonen said that Cofidis was a bit weak - that motivated my teammates even more. All they want now is to prove him wrong."

Cofidis' Spring Classics contingent (Nuyens, Lequatre, Farrar, Minard, De Weert, Elijzen, Hejboer and Scheirlinckx) has reconnoitred the course of Het Volk on Wednesday despite the bad weather conditions. "They rode 150 kilometres under the rain and the wind," said directeur sportif Alain Deloeil. "If the weather remains the same, it'll be a difficult race."

Pink knights ready for the battle

Predictor-Lotto presented in Belgium

By Brecht Decaluwé in Sint-Niklaas

The three team leaders of Predictor-Lotto
Photo ©: Brecht Decaluwé
(Click for larger image)

The manager of Omega Pharma, the company that own Predictor kicked off the presentation of the Predictor–Lotto team with a wink towards their product. "Nine months after getting the idea to change the team's name, the baby has been born." The team has created a structure to get Belgian talents into its ranks; it works together with two continental teams and a handful of youth teams.

"I truly believe that we have the best cycling pyramid of the world, every year we allow young riders to move up. Cycling is one of the few sports in Belgium where we are one of the best in the world, the only way to benefit from that massive base is to build on it," Coucke said. "We have three team leaders who have the aura that is needed for that position. Next to them we hope that two younger riders can take the step forward," Coucke expressed his hope on a successful 2007 season.

Marc Sergeant is the sportive manager of the Predictor team and he hammered on the team's pyramid system as well. "Our team is now stronger even though we rejuvenated, thanks to the pyramid system," Sergeant said. During the first ProTour year the team finished fourth in the team's ranking and last year they were sixteenth. "Our place is somewhere in between," Sergeant said. The Predictor team has no less than four neo-pro's, they all have the Belgian nationality: Dries Devenyns, Geert Steurs, Dominique Cornu and Greg Van Avermaet.

Read the full presentation feature.

Teams for Belgian Classics starters: T-Mobile, Milram, Wiesenhof

The spring season will be started in Belgium this weekend with the semi-classics Het Volk and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne events on Saturday and Sunday respectively. For T-Mobile's leading cobblestone specialist Andreas Klier, it’s a first real form test in the heartland of the big spring challenges to come: Tour of Flanders (April 8) and Paris-Roubaix (April 15).

"These races are an important indicator of what kind of shape the riders are in, and what they need to work on to get into absolute peak condition," said T-Mobile sports director Allan Peiper, who expects to see his riders "riding at the front, where they can control the race tempo".

Klier will be joined by the experienced Dutchman Servais Knaven and the Austrian newcomer Bernhard Eisel, who took out the team's first season win at the recent Volta ao Algarve. "These three could make all the difference on Saturday," added Peiper, who will send his riders into Het Volk without a designated leader, preferring instead to keep the team's options open.

Classics specialists Markus Burghardt and Roger Hammond will also test their legs on Saturday at Het Volk, while all-rounders Lorenzo Bernucci and Bert Grabsch and sprinter Eric Baumann round out the eight-man roster. Six of Saturday's eight starters are back on the saddle Sunday for Kuurne- Brussel-Kuurne, with just the New Zealander Greg Henderson and the Czech Frantisek Rabon slotting in to replace Knaven and Eisel.

Het Volk is the first HC-ranked race of the year and takes the peloton on a 202km route through the damp fields and stiff climbs of Flanders. One day later, the peloton takes on a gruelling 193km loop from Kuurne to Brussels and back.

A dose of the Belgian winter can make these among the hardest races of the season. Hoffman rated Het Volk as particularly tough: "The demanding 'Muur' and 'Oude Kwaremont' climbs also feature in the Tour of Flanders and they are sure to shake things up in the field," said the Dutchman, who also expected a real battle of attrition on the numerous cobbled passages along the route.

The Belgians will be the ones to beat in their own backyard, and riders like Tom Boonen (Quick Step), Leif Hoste (Predictor), Stijn Devolder (Discovery Channel), Nick Nuyens (Cofidis/Kuurne) and Philippe Gilbert (Fdjeux/Het Volk) are seen as favourites.

T-Mobile will line up the following riders:

Het Volk: Eric Baumann (26/Germany), Lorenzo Bernucci (27/Italy), Markus Burghardt (23/Germany), Bernhard Eisel (26/Austria), Bert Grabsch (31/Germany), Roger Hammond (33/Great Britain), Andreas Klier (31/Germany), Servais Knaven (35/Netherlands).

Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne: Eric Baumann (26/Germany), Lorenzo Bernucci (27/Italy), Markus Burghardt (23/Germany), Bert Grabsch (31/Germany), Roger Hammond (33/Great Britain), Greg Henderson (30/New Zealand), Andreas Klier (31), Frantisek Rabon (23/Czech R.).

Italian-German team Milram is also sending a contingent to Belgium for the weekend. Team director Gianluigi Stanga selected the following riders: Alessandro Cortinovis, Fabio Sabatini, Carlo Scognamiglio, Ralf Grabsch, Marcel Sieberg, Martin Müller, Sebastian Siedler and Niki Terpstra.

Team Wiesenhof-Felt is looking to Classics specialist Steffen Wesemann in the two Belgian races this weekend. Wesemann finished second in Het Volk last year and hopes to repeat his success.

"Since our team is built around the Belgian races, we will show ourselves and surely not hide," said directeur sportif Ronny Lauke. Wesemann said, "In this kind of race you have to focus directly on the best riders and ride with them from the beginning. That way we could get a top ten finish. And maybe it will be even more than that."

The German Professional Continental Team will be sending the same line-up to both races, namely: Steffen Wesemann, Bas Giling, Robert Wagner, Stefan Van Dijk, Andre Schulze, Torsten Schmidt, Olaf Pollack and Jörg Ludewig.

DFL-Cyclingnews: Preparing for Het Volk

Robby Meul showed his strength
Photo ©: Herbert Krabel
(Click for larger image)

Team DFL-Cyclingnews-Litespeed hit the road for a training ride yesterday ahead of this weekend's Omloop Het Volk race in Belgium. With DFL-Cyclingnews-Litespeed riders Gert Vanderaerden and Hamish Haynes sidelined due to injury and final team rosters requiring confirmation three days prior to the event, a high priority of the day was to decide on replacements for the pair.

Director sportif Eric Vanderaerden left the team's house in Booischot with riders Evan Oliphant, Matti Helminen, Cameron Jennings, Kane Oakley, Dave Harrigan, Rhys Pollock, Dan Fleeman, Bernie Sulzberger and Jeremy Vennell to meet Robbie Meul and Nico Mattan in Kluisbergen. Starting out in Kluisbergen allowed Vanderaerden the opportunity to give his squad a firsthand view of the climbs and cobblestone sections of the Omloop Het Volk course.

The DFL-Cyclingnews-Litespeed squad took advantage of its highly experienced new signing of Nico Mattan on the ride. Mattan, a former Davitamon-Lotto rider, shared his knowledge with the squad's younger riders throughout the ride, ensuring they know what to expect and look out for this weekend.

British neo pro Dan Fleeman said after the ride that Mattan's experience and advice was helpful in boosting his confidence level ahead of this weekend's race.

Read and view the full feature.

Milram and Tinkoff for Swiss one-day races

Igor Astarloa will be leading Team Milram in two one-day races in Switzerland this weekend, the GP Chiasso and the GP Lugano on March 3 and 4 respectively.

Milram's full line-up for both races will be: Igor Astarloa, Andrey Grivko, Matej Jurco, Mirko Lorenzetto, Alberto Ongarato, Björn Schröder and Sebastian Schwager.

Italian team Tinkoff also sends its riders to the Swiss one-day races, placing its hopes on the young Russian riders Mihkail Ignatyev and Ivan Rovny, as well as the experienced Evgueni Petrov. The full line-up for the GP Chiasso will be: Salvatore Commesso (Ita), Steffen Weigold (Ger), Mihkail Ignatyev (Rus), Evgueni Petrov (Rus), Ruggero Marzoli (Ita), Pavel Brutt (Rus), Daniele Contrini (Ita) and Sergey Klimov (Rus). Ivan Rovny (Rus) will replace Weigold on the next day in Lugano.

Bikes for Cambodian landmine workers

Thirty-two landmine clearance workers in Cambodia now have a quicker, safer way to get to work thanks to some of Canberra's competitive cyclists. The mostly female landmine de-mining group from the Banteay Meanchey province of Cambodia work full-time clearing land mines from high traffic areas like river banks and roads. Many reported feeling tired from walking up to 14km a day to and from work.

After hearing about their plight, Paralympic champion and Austcare Ambassador Michael Milton asked Canberra Cycling Club's help to raise the $1200 needed to buy bicycles. Milton is the world-record holding speed skier and also set a new national record in the LC3 individual pursuit at the National Track Cycling Championships recently.

"Obviously fatigue is no good when you're a de-miner and, although a bike costs the equivalent of a month's food for a family of four in Cambodia, it's only about $30 to us. It was pretty much a no-brainer," explained Milton who began working with Austcare after visiting Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya and seeing first-hand some of the projects funded by the humanitarian aid organisation.

Canberra Cycling Club doubled the entry fee for its annual club championship at the new Stromlo Park Criterium Course, called for donations and hosted a celebrity race. In one night they raised $2212, well above the target.

Michael Smith, CEO of Austcare, said it was a perfect example of how the generosity of a small group of people can make such an enormous difference. "The power of a simple bicycle cannot be underestimated. They are safer going to and from work, they are safer at work and they can spend more time at home with their families.

"We really are so grateful to the Canberra Cycling Club and everyone who helped raise the funds. They just didn't hesitate and I'm sure they will be pleased to see the results," said Smith.

Austcare's landmine program in Cambodia is expanding in the coming months and, thanks to the additional funds raised by the Stromlo Park racers, the new workers will receive their bicycles immediately. "That extra money will help to create more employment which in turn means better health and education. These types of projects have a ripple effect with flow-on benefits for people and communities," added Smith.

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