First Edition Cycling News for March 19, 2007
Edited by Hedwig Kröner and Laura Weislo
Thrilling finale in Nice
By Hedwig Kröner
The 65th edition of the 'Race to the Sun' promised to be a spectacular one even weeks before the event, and finally fulfilled the expectations - fortunately not because of the ongoing row between the UCI and the Grand Tour organisers, but because of some real racing action.
Discovery Channel's Alberto Contador delivered a great show in the last stage around Nice, taking his second stage win at the event and the yellow jersey from Gerolsteiner's Davide Rebellin. Merely six seconds had separated the two men before the stage, and Discovery Channel had to make the race as hard as it possibly could from the start - which it did.
Tom Danielson, Levi Leipheimer and Yaroslav Popovych did the bulk of the murderous pacemaking on the famous Col de la Porte and Col de la Turbie, and put Contador in perfect attacking position at the foot of the Col d'Eze. "We saw that Rebellin was left without teammates and had trouble following, so that was the strategy," said the young Spaniard in the finish. "I knew I had to go flat out, and fortunately our tactics were succesful."
The 24 year-old then made up his missing seconds on Rebellin on the last climb, and was able to hold his advantage in the descent and the final flat kilometres in Nice. For Contador, who already escaped death in 2004 when he fell into a coma because of cerebral aneurysm, his fearless descent to victory was a dream come true.
"This is my first victory of a ProTour race, in which I have moreover won two stages, so it's complete fulfillment - the most important victories of my career so far," he added. The Discovery Channel rider is the second Soaniard to win Paris-Nice after Miguel Indurain - an indication of his great class as a rider? After Sunday's achievements, Contador sure looks like he has a very bright future ahead of him.
No ProTour ceremony in Nice
UCI ProTour manager Alain Rumpf was present in Nice for the end of the first supposed-to-be ProTour race of the year. He had a leader's jersey in his back pack for Alberto Contador, but the winner was taken by ASO officials to the anti-doping control and to the press conference without any mention to the ProTour.
"It's not an important issue to have a specific ceremony for the ProTour," Rumpf explained. "At the end of the race ceremony, it would be too late for the TV anyway. The most important is to have the jersey worn by the leader in Pro Tour races and we have agreed on that."
An official picture of Contador with the UCI ProTour jersey was supposed to be taken after the press conference, but the Spaniard had to rush for his plane and couldn't do it. Taking as references the first two years of the ProTour, Rumpf reckons a rider like Contador who goes well in short stage races and hilly classics has the characteristics for contesting the overall win of the series this year.
A name for the future: Roman Kreuziger
By Jean-François Quénet in Nice
On May 6th, the final day of the Tour of Romandy, Roman Kreuziger will celebrate his only 21st birthday. To put it mildly, he speaks the same way Lance Armstrong did at the same age. "I want to win at least the white jersey of Paris-Nice", he said after coming 2nd in the prologue. He didn't wind up achieving that in the end. "I'm a little bit disappointed about that but Alberto Contador was too strong for me", he admitted.
Kreuziger finished 18th overall. "For a 20 year-old, it's not bad, he said. This was my first big race and I'm happy." He actually spoke about the race prior to the start of the last stage on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice and he didn't want to make a conclusion. "I'm going to attack again today", he promised. And he did! It was early in the race though, and unsuccessful, but this young rider absolutely has the character of a champion.
"I come from a very sport-oriented family," he said. "My sister is a champion of cross country skiing, and my Dad was a professional cyclist as well - only for one year, but he won the Tour of Austria twice. It was always a hard race with the Grossglockner to climb."
Roman Kreuziger Jr. hails from Pilzen, the home of a famous brewery in the Czech Republic which has a strong cycling culture, and has big ambitions. "I think I can improve again. I don't have a goal for this year really. I race for gaining experience. I'll do the classics and the Tour of Romandy for the first time. I'll start Amstel Gold Race and Flèche wallonne, maybe Liège-Bastogne-Liège as well. If I'm well, I'll have some responsibilities in the team in Romandy." We'll surely hear again of the former Junior world champion.
Cadel Evans not desperate
Finishing 7th overall in Paris-Nice, Cadel Evans was one of the most active riders in the four last hilly stages of the race. "I'm happy with my condition," he commented. "But the race did not go quite as well as I would have liked. I've tried to get a better result but it didn't work. It's still early in the season though. I'm not desperate for winning yet."
Evans' fifth place at the Tour de France last year has definitely put him on the list of the contenders for the podium. "I plan to be at my best at the end of April and in July, that's what I'm on the team for", he added. The way they ride with Chris Horner taking the responsibilities of the pace in the hills, Predictor-Lotto have big ambitions for the former mountain biker this year.
World Champion Bettini crashes again
By Gregor Brown
Bettini's reflexes were working on stage four, but perhaps too well; when he saw Martin Elmiger (Ag2r Prévoyance) lose control in a turn he reacted and ended up in the gutter trying to avoid the Swiss rider and collided with a pole. Bettini ended up with bruises and cuts to his left arm and leg.
After the stage, he was taken to the hospital in Ancona where he stayed for two hours according to La Gazzetta dello Sport. Doctors took x-rays of his chest, knee and arm, and then ruled out any fractures. Moreover, an MRI was performed on his left knee, which Saturday night he was not able to bend completely.
On Sunday, he decided to continue Tirreno, hoping to build his form for Milan-Sanremo on Saturday, a race he won four years ago. "I am upset because this is my third crash in one week, and also because the poles on the curve were not protected well enough," complained the World Champion. After the time trial he added, "I am not able to abandon, in the next two weeks my entire season is played out."
Basso returns in Vuelta Castilla y Leon
By Gregor Brown
Discovery Channel's Ivan Basso returned to his home in Cassano Magnago on Saturday, leaving the 42nd Tirreno-Adriatico after having crashed in stage three with forty kilometres remaining. "I could not stand up on the pedals and I was not able to control my bike," described the 29 year-old Italian to La Gazzetta dello Sport before going home. "There could be another crash, and to continue like this would be irresponsible."
Basso will seek the security of his home roads for training, skipping the Milano-Sanremo on Saturday. "In one week the problem should be resolved. Now I will train intensely at home, where I know the roads, and potholes."
Ivan started Saturday's stage 4 with his left wrist bandaged, after being visited by the UCI for a surprise blood test, only to abandon after 48 kilometres. "There was not a fracture, and that is important. If the pain is bearable I want to continue and not change my schedule leading up to the Giro." Basso will make his return in the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon, March 26-30.
Words of encouragement came from his formal rival and, now, mentor, Lance Armstrong. "Lance sent me an SMS of encouragement that said 'Go, calmly push ahead.'"
Riccò doubles up in Tirreno
Young Modena rider fights for overall
By Gregor Brown
In the final 3.7 kilometre run -in to Offagna, he survived the double-barrelled blast from Astana. First Vinokourov, winner of the 2006 Vuelta a España, and then Klöden, launched attacks against the Italian youngster of Saunier Duval-Prodir, but Riccò said 'ciao' to his rivals with 800 metres to go the line in the medieval city.
"This time I waited a little longer before taking off," Riccò explained to La Gazzetta dello Sport. "I really have extraordinary condition; in these types of finishes I have been the strongest. Here in Tirreno-Adriatico there are many champions, and to face-off with them is very beautiful."
However, his glory did not last, and in Sunday's 20.5 kilometre time trial, Riccò finished 2'06" down on Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner), slipping down to 17th placing on GC. Still, Riccò believes that he can be a threat again on the 164 kilometre stage six to San Benedetto del Tronto. "On Monday finish, with the condition that I have, I will attack again. I am not satisfied; I will fight to the end."
Riccò says his strength is based on increased maturity and preparations over the winter. "I am young and it is natural that with the years I am becoming better in both the legs and, above all, the head," said the second year pro, who he has a contract with Saunier through 2008. "This last winter I made more sacrifices in training and diet." Will the form from Tirreno help him for Milan-Sanremo this coming Saturday? "The distance will be an unknown but I will try to do well. The Poggio [the final climb - ed.] is where I will make my move if I am going good or bad. I will try to make a show."
After Sanremo, Riccò will train with two-time Giro winner, Gilberto Simoni. He will ride in support of his captain during the Corsa Rosa and also try for the young rider's jersey, Maglia Bianca. But it was only three years ago that Simoni went to the Giro with another young gun and after three weeks the two were screaming profanities at each other.
"Simoni has taught me a lot. We did the Tour de France together; he saw me worried at the beginning of every stage, but he told me to stay calm. ... I am not [Damiano] Cunego, I am Riccò. I have my character, and if there is a pact then I respect it."
The first of many more to come for Ignatiev
Mikhail Ignatiev blasted onto the road racing scene this year with a stage win in Tour Méditerranéen and victory in the prestigious Trofeo Laigueglia, but the 21 year-old Russian was already marked for greatness when he scored a gold medal on the track in the 2004 Olympic points race. "Misha" detailed his successes to Sergey Kurdyukov and Cyclingnews' Gregor Brown, and described what it will take before he considers himself an accomplished professional.
At the tender age of eighteen, Mikhail Ignatiev took Olympic gold for his country on the track in Athens. The Russian used sheer strength and force of will to follow every attack in the Olympic points race, in the end gaining four laps on the field and bested seasoned trackies like Juan Llaneras and Greg Henderson. Ignatiev has set out to prove that this magical day on August 24 was no fluke, and has continued to build himself on the road.
Ignatiev has used his immense power and huge tolerance for pain to great success in years after the Olympics, taking the 2005 Under 23 Time Trial World Championship title in Madrid, and continuing to pummel the competition with brute force on the track, where he and partner Nikolai Trussov won the Sydney world cup Madison in 2006.
Also in 2006, Ignatiev took his showcase style on the road, riding for Tinkoff Restaurants. He took "two wins and the final classification in [Volta Ciclista Internacional a] Lleida, Spain. Another win near Bilbao. And then I went well at the Under-23 Worlds in Salzburg [taking silver to Dominique Cornu in the time trial -ed.]," the rider from Saint Petersburg noted to La Gazzetta dello Sport.
Ignatiev showed obvious promise, and when Oleg Tinkov invested more money to bump the team from Continental to Professional Continental status, he ensured there was a spot for his young prodigy.
From the beginning of the 2007 season, 'Misha' did not disappoint. In the Tour Méditerranéen he caught the sprinters at the right moment and blasted off the hard-charging peloton with 11 kilometres remaining to Marseille. His track skills came in handy as he put his head down and barreled towards the line, holding off the bunch, lead by Daniele Bennati of Lampre-Fondital, by 14 seconds.
To read the rest of the feature, click here.
T-Mobile training camp
By Susan Westemeyer
T-Mobile has a team in France for Paris-Nice, a team in Italy for Tirreno-Adriatico, and a team in Germany for training. Thirteen riders who don't have a race at the moment have gathered in Badenweiler, Germany, for a training camp, led by directeur sportif Jan Schaffrath, through Saturday, March 24.
Adam Hansen is taking part and said on his website, adamhansen.com, that he assumes they will be spending some time on their time trial bikes, "which is something that I do need." But he was looking forward to the training camp for another reason - just to be back with the team again. "We had a great group of guys in Belgium. It was good fun. We have some good characters. Some real funny ones! Which is a great thing for the team, when the team members get along."
Participating in the training camp are Eric Baumann, Mark Cavendish, Scott Davis, Andre Greipel, Giuseppe Guerini, Adam Hansen, Serhiy Honchar, Andre Korff, Aaron Olson, Marco Pinotti, Frantisek Rabon, Michael Rogers and Stefan Schreck.
Fantasy Spring Classics 2007 game begins soon
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