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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

First Edition Cycling News for March 17, 2007

Edited by Laura Weislo and Sue George

Gerolsteiner fends off attack to hold Paris-Nice lead

Italian David Rebellin (Gerolsteiner)
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Paris-Nice leader Davide Rebellin received his second yellow jersey in stage five, finishing well up in the bunch on the difficult uphill run-in to Manosque, but the race could have gone quite differently in the closing kilometres had his Gerolsteiner team not been assisted in the chase by Caisse d'Epargne.

Gerolsteiner's Markus Zberg went with the early breakaway with eventual stage winner Yaroslav Popovych, and could not hold the pace on the Col de Murs. Still, Zberg spent nearly another 20km chasing with three others before eventually being caught at km 55. His team leader, Davide Rebellin felt he should have been in the peloton helping to defend the leader's jersey.

"We didn't need him to pace at this time of the stage," said Rebellin. Popovych held a gap of more than one minute with four kilometres to go, and the effort to close that gap was tremendous. "It wasn't a surprise that we had to face such an attack." said the Italian, "Today, it was Popovych, tomorrow it might be another one. Physically but also nervously, it's very hard to defend the yellow jersey."

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The effort of the long chase meant that Gerolsteiner's polka dot jersey wearer Heinrich Haussler arrived last, just inside the time cut. The exhausted German kept his climber's jersey, but was spent. "This was the worst day of my life. I've done 60 kilo meters by myself, and I'm dead. I didn't recover from the day I was away. Three of us had to ride in front of the bunch right at the beginning. I had no energy left."

Director Udo Bölts admitted the race was hard, but was proud of the team effort. "That was surely a hard day for us. But the team handled the task outstandingly. And also Davide was strong," said Bölts, who also indicated that the team won't give up the jersey without a fight. "We will try everything to keep it in our hands."

Why did Caisse d'Epargne help?

The Caisse d'Epargne team put in a great deal of effort to help keep Popovych's gap at a minimum, and this led to some question about why they were assisting Gerolsteiner at all. According to the team, the effort was to benefit David López, who, thanks to his fourth place on the stage, is ninth overall, 43 seconds back.

"We worked a lot in the final", commented López after the finish, "and in the last kilometres we really gave it our all! Personally, I felt very good and I stayed in front to avoid any problems. The last two stages are not easy, but I believe in my chances."

Ukrainian Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery Channel)
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Meanwhile, the Discovery Channel team was celebrating their second consecutive win, with Alberto Contador claiming victory on stage four, and Popovych on the top step on stage five. Contador held his second place overall classification, just six seconds back of race leader David Rebellin. Team director Johan Bruyneel, said, "Our team in Paris-Nice has been very impressive. To have won back to back stages shows that our guys are in good shape and very motivated."

Former Discovery Channel rider Michael Barry, now riding for the T-Mobile team, withdrew from the race. According to T-Mobile director Brian Holm, Barry wasn't feeling well. "We took Michael out of the race this morning. He hasn't fully recovered from a viral infection that's been affecting him for a while. Riding a tough stage like today's col has made things worse."

Another rider who had a bad day was Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank). Flecha was not affected by any crashes, but lost more than 17 minutes from sheer exhaustion. "We think Flecha bonked, but we will still need to keep a close eye on that. I am going to discuss this with the doctor later," said assistant director Frans Maassen. "There is nothing left to win for Flecha in Paris-Nice. Milan-San Remo next week has more priority. We will, therefore, not take any risks. Perhaps there is nothing wrong with him, and he will be fine again on Saturday. We will just need to a keep a close eye on him."

Stage win for 23 year-old in Tirreno-Adriatico

Riccò on the podium
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Riccardo Riccò, the young Italian riding for the Saunier Duval-Prodir squad took his second victory of the year in the third stage of Tirreno-Adriatico, holding off big names like Alexander Vinokourov and Andreas Klöden. Riccò also won the fourth stage of the Tour de San Luis earlier this year.

Riccò, Tirreno-Adriatico overall leader 24 year-old Alexandre Arekeev (Acqua & Sapone), and the leader on the road for 164 kilometres of stage three, 23 year-old Dimitri Champion (Bouygues Telecom) represent a new generation of talented young stars who are outshining their elders in the Italian ProTour event.

Arekeev lost a little time on the difficult run-in, and held a 21 second lead over Riccò in the general classification at the end of the stage. Sitting in third just ahead of Alexander Vinokourov is a surprising name - Rabobank sprinter Oscar Freire.

Freire did well to climb with the leaders, finishing in the front group, but couldn't quite pull out the win. "The finale was a little too difficult for Oscar," said Rabobank director Erik Breukink after the stage. "[There were] a couple of very steep parts on that final climb. He, therefore, had used too much of his energy, which made it hard for him to fight for the stage victory."

Breukink noted that Thomas Dekker and Michael Boogerd seem to have recovered from their crashes on stage one. "We can leave that behind us now. We will start the decisive phase with a strong and sharp team."

Basso and Bettini crash in Tirreno-Adriatico

The peloton passes through
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Crashes have plagued all of the early season races, and stage three of Tirreno-Adriatico was no different. With less than 40 kilometres to go, a large group of were caught up in a wreck, including World Champion Paolo Bettini (Quickstep) and Tour de France hopeful Ivan Basso (Discovery Channel). While Bettini got through the wreck without injury, Ivan Basso went to the hospital after finishing the stage, complaining of wrist pain.

X-rays and examination showed no fracture, but according to the team's press release, it is still uncertain if Basso will take the start of stage four. The wrist pain gave director Johann Bruyneel a scare. He said, "It is very unfortunate what happened to Ivan, and I can only hope it is not too serious. It would be terrible if he would require a lot of time off the bike like we saw with George's crash in California."

Worst off in the wreck was Yannick Talabardon (Crédit Agricole), who went straight away to the hospital and was diagnosed with a fracture of his right wrist.

The crash comes just one day after three riders abandoned the race after crashing on stage two. Caisse d'Epargne's Iván Gutiérrez suffered a pneumothorax and Geoffroy Lequatre (Cofidis) fractured his collarbone in that accident. Moisés Aldape Chavez (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare) also abandoned.

Hunter takes Barloworld train to victory

Robert Hunter (Barloworld)
Photo ©: Mark Gunter
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South African Robbie Hunter won the second stage of the Volta Ao Santarém in Cartaxo, Portugal, taking the stage and the overall lead on the final time bonus. A group of four riders spent the day off the front, while Hunter's Barloworld team left the onus on overall leader Javier Benitez' Benfica team to control the gaps.

In the finale, the pressure of the Benfica-led chase proved too strong for the escapees, Amets Txurrka (Euskaltel), Emilien Berges (Agritubel), Jose Torres (Barbot) and Hernani Broco (Liberty), but the work did not pay off for Benfica. Benitez lost the wheel of his train on the run-in and came in a distant twelfth.

The win is Hunter's second of the season after he prevailed in Sunday's Cape Argus Pick'n Pay Classic.

Hunter's form appears to be coming along well, and he will be looking forward to Milan-Sanremo on March 24.

Sastre recovering

Carlos Sastre (CSC) wears the white jersey
Photo ©: Unipublic
(Click for larger image)

Team CSC's Tour de France hope Carlos Sastre is itching to be back on the bike after his spectacular wreck in the Vuelta Ciclista a Murcia, but his doctors are trying to keep him resting and patient.

"I've hurt the lower part of my spine, my hip and my backside, but there are no fractures anywhere. I've had x-rays done a couple of times just to make sure and there's nothing to see. But it hurts pretty bad at the moment so I have to be patient and give it time," explained Sastre, who, like all good professional cyclists do, tried to get back on the bike before the doctor's okay.

"It's virtually impossible for me to do more than an hour because my back hurts so bad. But the doctors say it shouldn't be too long before I'm ready again," said the Spaniard, who hopes to be ready for the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon at the end of the month.

Canada names track world's team

Super fast sprinter Gina Grain
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

Canada will send three representatives to compete at the 2007 UCI Track World championships in Mallorca from March 29 - April 1. The performances of team members Gina Grain, Zach Bell, and Travis Smith will be managed by Kris Westwood and coached by Houshang Amiri.

Last year's scratch race silver medalist Grain will only race the points race this year since the scratch race is not part of the program at the Olympics in Beijing. She is aiming for a top five finish as she uses this year to switch to a new priority event.

Smith will ride with a top eight finish target in the men's sprint or the keirin. On the endurance side, Bell is slated for the men's points race and the individual pursuit, but the latter event will serve as a warm-up for the former.

Fitchburg Longsjo Classic adds categories

Sarah Ulmer
Photo ©: Ed Collier
(Click for larger image)

Going into its 48th running, the Fitchburg Longsjo Classic expects nearly 900 racers to make their way to Massachusetts to vie for a prize list of US$53,000 from June 27 to July 1. Last year's event was won by Shawn Milne (Navigators Insurance) and Sarah Ulmer (Colavita/Cooking Light).

The Fitchburg Longsjo Class is the second oldest Pro/Am race in North America. It is held in memory of joint cycling and speedskater Hall of Fame inductee Arthur Longsjo, a Fitchburg native and also the first US athlete to compete in the Winter and Summer Olympics in the same year (1956).

The only older race still in existence today in North America is the Tour of Somerville, which Art Longsjo won in 1958. New for the race this year is a new time trial course and a separate men's Category 2 field. Masters 45+ and Women Category 4 riders will also enjoy special recognition with separate awards although they will still race the Masters 35+ and Women Category 3 events.

For more information, visit

Quad Knopf Sequoia Cycling Classic set for weekend

Pros will compete in the Quad Knopf Sequoia Cycling Classic in California this weekend with hopes of taking home more than $40,000 in cash and prizes.

Racing for the two-day NRC event kicks off at 8 am on Saturday at the local Exeter high school and 7:30 am on Sunday in downtown Visalia.

Leading up to the race, several of the racers were scheduled to visit four Visalia and Exeter, California, area elementary schools Friday to teach students about bike safety and encourage an active lifestyle.

"It's a chance to talk to students about bike safety and how important it is to wear a helmet and be safe," said Mike Camarena, liaison for the race's pro teams.

According to race director Shari Clark, the racers also told children about the importance of pursuing an active lifestyle, staying in school, and participating in healthy extracurricular activities.

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