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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest Cycling News for March 30, 2007

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

Ballan departs for Northern Classics

By Gregor Brown

Lampre's Alessandro Ballan
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Alessandro Ballan is once again ready to tackle the Northern Classics. Second in E3 Prijs Vlaanderen in 2006, the 27 year-old rider from Veneto will be one of the favourites for tomorrow's 203 kilometre race in Flanders (northern Belgium).

"After Sanremo I feel good, it went well. All my problems seem to have passed. Now we will see for the next races," said the Lampre-Fondital rider Friday morning to Cyclingnews. He was preparing to board the plane that will take him from Italy to his Classics campaign in Belgium.

He finished Milano-Sanremo (Milan - San Remo) 15 seconds down after working for Daniele Bennati and Danilo Napolitano. "I did not think it would go so well in Sanremo. I had a good level of fitness but I didn't feel at a 100 percent. However, I felt more competitive than the week before, in Tirreno-Adriatico. All in all, it is a good sign for the next races."

Ahead of Italy's big hope for the Northern Classics is E3 Prijs (Saturday), Ronde van Vlaanderen (April 8) and Paris-Roubaix (15). He will base himself in Belgium for the next few weeks in hopes to add his name to the annals of one of these famed races.

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"Compared to last year I feel good," he noted. In 2006 he was in the winning move with Tom Boonen; the duo struck free at 38 kilometres to go and was not seen again until the finish, where Ballan was standing one step down on the podium from his Belgian rival.

"My problems seem to have passed. I had a bit of a fever on the Thursday before Sanremo, at 38°C, but now I am feeling really well. I believe I will be competitive but then we will have to see how my rivals are going."

Ballan knows the main rivals will once again be Tom Boonen and his Quick-Step team. "According to me Boonen will be the favourite. He won the other day [in Dwars door Vlaanderen] and he was the winner last year in Harelbeke [E3 Prijs]; it was his third or fourth win in that race [third - ed.]. Then there are his teammates, like [Peter] Van Petegem. Another rider who is going strong is Leif Hoste [Predictor-Lotto]."

One danger-man will also be Daniele Bennati, Ballan's close friend and teammate. "I will meet up with Bennati this afternoon when I arrive in Belgium. He will be with me for the following races... Flanders and Roubaix."

Boogerd recons Flanders finale

Together with directeur sportif Erik Dekker, Rabobank's Michael Boogerd trained on the last 130 kilometres of the Ronde van Vlaanderen parcours on Wednesday. Dekker, who was in the team car following his former teammate, thought that the reconnaissance was necessary for the Spring Classics veteran.

"It was very useful - that new climb on the parcours, the Eikenmolen, was surprising," said Dekker, who was quite satisfied with Boogerd's condition. "Michael was going strong, I assure you!"

Boogerd, winner of the 1999 Amstel Gold Race, has an impressive list of podium placings in this event and Liège-Bastogne-Liège on his palmarès, but he was not able to score a Spring Classics victory ever since. The Dutchman will be racing the E3 Prijs Harelbeke on Saturday, as well as the Flèche Brabançonne on Sunday, just like his teammate Oscar Freire.

Track World's: 'Cyclones' open medal account, Kersten ill

Kristine Bayley hands over to Anna Meares for the final lap
Photo ©: CJ Farquharson
(Click for larger image)

Australia has opened its medal tally at the 2007 Track Cycling World Championships with a bronze medal in the women's teams sprint on day one of the event. Queensland's Anna Meares, 23, and West Australian Kristine Bayley, 23, combined to post a time of 33.810sec, almost a second faster than their French rivals. Great Britain won the gold in 33.631 with silver going to the Netherlands in 33.974.

"You can't be too disappointed with a World Championships bronze medal, and yes - we could have gone into final and picked up silver. But the fact of the matter is we didn't and we raced really well for the bronze medal so I'm really happy with how we went," said Meares, noting their time was faster than that of the Netherlands who rode against Great Britain for the gold medal.

Meanwhile, Sydney's Ben Kersten, 25, withdrew from the omnium competition after needing an intravenous drip to treat dehydration after this morning's first three races of the five race event. The reigning Australian Omnium Champion had spent the previous 48 hours in bed battling gastroenteritis and despite his best efforts in the morning's racing was too sick to continue in the evening of the first day.

Illness also dealt a blow to Australia's hopes in the men's 4km individual pursuit with the reigning Australian Champion, Phil Thuaux, unable to start. The 27 year old was struck down with gastroenteritis during the team's final training session on Wednesday night and did not recover in time for Thursday morning's qualifying round. Australia's other two starters, Mark Jamieson and Zakkari Dempster, finished eighth and 16th respectively.

Huff first American male medalist in 11 years

Bradley Huff (USA) took Bronze
Photo ©: Mitch Friedman
(Click for larger image)

Brad Huff (Fair Grove, Mo./Slipstream-Chipotle) won a bronze medal in the inaugural omnium event at the 2007 UCI Track World Championships on Thursday to become the first American male to medal at an elite track world championships in 11 years.

After ending the morning session ranked third after three events, Huff temporarily dropped to eighth place overall after the points race, but rebounded with a strong performance in the kilometre time trial to secure the first medal for the U.S. team as the only American in action on the opening day of competition. Huff's medal was the first for an American male since Marty Nothstein won the world title in the keirin in 1996. It was also the first men's endurance medal won by the United States since 1994 when the team pursuit squad won silver.

Huff finished the five-event competition with 37 points, tied with Aliaksandr Lisouski of Belarus, but won the tiebreaker with a lower cumulative time in the three timed events.

"I can't really believe I got third because I had such bad legs all day, but I'm excited that I was able to get third somehow," explained Huff. "It just shows that as much as you suffer in cycling and you have good days and bad days, you just have to get on your bike and pedal, and even if you get dropped you can get something out of it."

The Czech Republic's Alois Kankovsky won the event with 19 points and Walter Fernando Perez of Argentina finished second with 28 points.

Huff ended the morning session ranked third after competing in the 200-meter time trial, the five-kilometre scratch race and the three-kilometre individual pursuit, but his medal chances took a turn for the worse after the first event in the evening session - the 15-kilometer points race. In the points race, Huff failed to score any points and placed 12th in the event, dropping him to eighth place in the overall standings with just one event remaining.

"In the points race, I would set myself up and get in position for the sprints, but then I'd just drift through the pack. When there was a sprint or a move that went away, I just didn't have that deep sprint or that deep push of power. It was very frustrating to have such bad legs today, but I'm excited I was able to get third somehow."

In the kilometre time trial, Huff clocked a time of 1:06.319 to place fourth. At the end of the competition, Huff totaled 37 points, the same as Lisouski, but his total cumulative time from the kilometre time trial, the pursuit and the 200-meter time trial added up to 4:42.788 compared to Lisouski's 4:42.964. The quarter-second time difference was enough to give Huff the bronze medal.

"I just knew I had to go as hard as I could in the kilo. I knew I couldn't spin the gear because I was so far down, so I just put a bigger gear on and just manned up and tried to go for it," Huff concluded.

Spaniards against each other for medal

By Monika Prell

After reaching the bronze medal in the individual pursuit in the Track World Championships in Palma de Mallorca, the Catalan Sergi Escobar was "very satisfied" and considered the medal as a "fair prize after last year's failure." He stated that "the medal could not escape. Competing here in my home country and after last year's failure, I prepared myself differently and this was successful."

But to score the bronze medal, he had to fight against his compatriot Toni Tauler. "We know each other really well, we competed many Spanish championships together, but I managed to change the ‘chip'", Escobar said. According to Marca, the 32 year-old explained that he started "slower than normally, but lap after lap I became faster. With only four laps to go, I already felt that I had the medal very near and I preferred preserving energy for Friday's team pursuit."

His rival, Toni Tauler, was of course somewhat disappointed. "I would have been glad stepping onto the podium in front of my home crowd," said the Majorcan cyclist. "What a pity that at the end the nerves and the tension became important in this race. When you are already very high above, you want more and more, but I can't complain."

Tauler immediately congratulated his teammate. "His medal makes me as happy as if it was me who reached it", he said. "Now I have to work to take to their level in the next races", Tauler joked.

Di Luca strikes again

By Gregor Brown

Danilo Di Luca
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

In yesterday's Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali, Danilo Di Luca showed why he is known as 'The Killer.' The 31 year-old Liquigas rider lit up the road leading to the finale in Sassuolo; defeating an in-form Riccardo Riccò on home turf.

"With 2.5 kilometres remaining I said to my teammate [Francesco] Failli that we have to turn ourselves inside-out," described Di Luca to La Gazzetta dello Sport. "Francesco took off strong, with me on his wheel and another four on mine. The group paid for its moment of hesitation. But then it was forced to chase, and it rejoined with 600 metres remaining."

The rhythm had been set on the climb of Serramazoni, and the other riders got the sinking sensation that The Killer was about ready to strike. "Cédric Vasseur took off, out of the saddle. Also here, there was a moment of hesitation. Ruggero Marzoli launched his sprint from a far and I immediately took his wheel."

Di Luca glanced around to notice it was hometown rider Riccò on his wheel, the same rider who one week ago showed himself so violently in Milano-Sanremo. "I re-started at 250 metres to go, with Riccò on my wheel. We passed Vasseur with about 70 to 80 metres remaining. [...] I kept going in the last curve and Riccò was dropped."

The win marked Di Luca's second of 2007, after he struck first blood in Milano-Torino. "At Milano-Torino I was gong stronger. I rested to recover for País Vasco [April 9 - 14] and then Amstel, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. [...] And then the Giro d'Italia. I have not abandoned my idea of winning the Giro. I remember 2005 well, and how I risked myself to win. 2006 was cancelled out, which is why I refuse to chance my path [for the Giro win]."

2007 Dauphiné unveiled

The organisers of the Dauphiné Libéré have announced the parcours of the 59th edition of the famous stage race in the Alpine south of France, taking place from June 10-17, 2007. Starting in Grenoble and ending in Annecy, the race named after its main sponsor, a regional newspaper, will be totaling 1,096 kilometres and serve as a final form check-up for many contenders before the Tour de France in July.

A highlight this year will again be a mountain top finish on the legendary Mont Ventoux in Northern Provence, preceded by an individual time trial in Anneyron. The penultimate stage from Gap to Valloire will be another decisive one for the final victory, with the Col du Bayard, Col d'Ornon, Croix-de-Fer, Mollard and Télégraphe on the program.

2006 overall winner Levi Leipheimer (Discovery Channel) has already announced his participation together with his teammate Alberto Contador, as well as Alejandro Valverde and Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne), Alexandre Vinokourov and Andreas Klöden (Astana), Cadel Evans and Chris Horner (Predictor-Lotto) and many more.

The 2007 Dauphiné Libéré unfolds as follows:

Sunday, June 10 - prologue: Grenoble, 5 km
Monday, June 11 - stage 1: Grenoble - Roanne, 219 km
Tuesday, June 12 - stage 2: Saint-Paul-en-Jarez - Saint-Etienne, 157 km
Wednesday, June 13 - stage 3: Anneyron - Anneyron, 40,7 km (ITT)
Thursday, June 14 - stage 4: Hauterives - Mont Ventoux, 197 km
Friday, June 15 - stage 5: Nyons - Digne-les-Bains, 195 km
Saturday, June 16 - stage 6: Gap - Valloire, 198 km
Sunday, June 17 - stage 7: Valloire - Annecy, 129 km

Astana changes weekend line-ups

Team Astana has had to change its line-ups for the weekend races, because René Haselbacher has come down with a light illness. He was to have been captain for the team in the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen, but will be replaced by Benoit Joachim, who was originally scheduled to ride the Criterium International. Thomas Frei will step in for him in France.

Astana for Criterium International: Thomas Frei, Andreas Klöden, Alexey Kolessov, Julien Mazet, Andrey Mizurov, Yevgeny Sladkov, Alexander Vinokourov and Sergey Yakovlev.

Astana for E3 Prijs Vlaanderen: Igor Abakoumov, Koen De Kort, Benoît Joachim, Sergueï Ivanov, Aaron Kemps, Gennady Mikhailov, Dimitri Muravyev and Michael Schär.

McDonald fund created

Australian company Data#3 has established an initiative to raise funds for the family of Damian McDonald, a former professional cyclist who died in a car accident in Melbourne last week.

To assist his family through this difficult time, the initiative has been endorsed by Cycling Australia's CEO Graham Fredericks through Data#3's General Manager, Laurence Baynham. To learn more about the life of Damian McDonald, and to support his family, go to

Battenkill-Roubaix draws near

The 2007 Battenkill-Roubaix Cycling Race - set for April 14 in Salem, NY - will be the largest Pro/Am cycling race in the Northeast of the United States with nearly 1000 racers from 20 US States and Canada expected to participate. In addition, more than 5000 spectators are expected to be in attendance in the various villages through which the race passes in Southern Washington County. The event benefits the public libraries of Southern Washington County and Farm Team Cycling - a regional cycling club for area youth.

Highlighting the competition will be the TargetTraining Women's Professional Cycling Team in the Jamis Bicycles Women's Elite Race. The Trade Manage Capital Men's Elite Race will feature the Team Nerac Professional Cycling Team as well as the Kenda/Raleigh Racing Team of Vermont.

The race is fashioned after the 100 year-old Paris-Roubaix race held in France and features 25 percent dirt roads, rolling countryside, direct passes through small villages, and an exciting finish in Salem. Juniors age 10-14 will race 6 & 12 miles; adults, Masters, and Elite Women will race 55 miles; the Elite Men will race 75 miles. Junior races start at 9 AM in Salem and are followed by 11 different adult races starting at 10 AM.

More information - including volunteer information, race maps and event information - can be found at

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