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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News, April 1, 2008

Edited by Bjorn Haake

Flanders form tuner

By Gregor Brown

Italian Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) won the 2007 Three Days of De Panne before going on to win the Ronde van Vlaanderen
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

The KBC Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde (Three Days of De Panne) is expected to give those riders who are in with a chance for Ronde van Vlaanderen a last opportunity to polish off their form. The three-day, four-stage race, run in West Flanders, was in fact won last year by Italian Alessandro Ballan, who three days later went on to win the big daddy of Flanders.

The parcours for the four stages of De Panne, located on Belgium's North Sea coast, is similar to that of 2007, with the final day consisting of two semi-stages.

On Tuesday's stage one, the riders will race inland 192 kilometres from the coastal town of Middelkerke to Zottegem. It was here last year that Italians Luca Paolini and Ballan got the critical 11-second gap that decided the overall race. Wednesday, from Zottegem to Koksijde, the riders head back towards the coast with the longest stage of the race at 228 kilometres. However, the finale of the stage is flat and should suit the sprinters that can handle the winds coming off the water.

The race will conclude with two stages on Thursday: stage three, a 119-kilometre circuit starting and ending in De Panne, and stage four, a 13.7-kilometre time trial in the same city.

Tom Boonen has never won this race, but will not be ruled out as the favourite for the race's white jersey. His Quick Step team-mate, Gert Steegmans, should also be considered. Other riders who will be honing their form for Flanders and have a good chance in De Panne include Ballan, Leif Hoste (Silence-Lotto) and Stijn Devolder (Quick Step). Hard man-type sprinters who could win the overall are Robbie McEwen (Silence-Lotto), Tomas Vaitkus (Astana) and Luca Paolini (Acqua Sapone-Caffè Mokambo).

Cyclingnews will be in De Panne for daily coverage of this Flemish classic.

Klöden will skip la Sarthe and resume racing in Turkey

By Jean-François Quénet

Andreas Klöden (Astana) will escape the doping discussions and race in Turkey
Photo ©: Régis Garnier
(Click for larger image)

Andreas Klöden will not defend his title next week at the Circuit de la Sarthe where he won the time trial in Angers ahead of Bradley Wiggins prior to the overall classification in Le Mans in 2007. Last week he was forced to pull out of the Vuelta a Castilla y León because of the flu. Nevertheless, his team-mate Alberto Contador claimed another victory. But the runner up of the 2006 Tour de France had to take antibiotics and rest for a while.

Previously, the German hesitated between the Circuit de la Sarthe and the Vuelta Ciclista al País Vasco when he discussed his program with the staff of Astana. Now the decision has been taken that he'll resume racing at the Presidential Tour of Turkey (April 13-20). "I don't feel that I'm able to defend my title next week in the Circuit of la Sarthe", Klöden explained. "Therefore, the Tour of Turkey will come at the right time for me. It will help me to prepare for the Tour de Romandie that will take place ten days later. I've seen that the course in Turkey follows the Mediterranean seaside for one week without any transfer. The weather should be nice. Really, it's ideal. There will be many teams of a good level. That will make the race interesting."

ProTour races like the Tour de Romandie and the Dauphiné Libéré have become some of Astana's main goals this year since the Luxemburg-registered team didn't get invitations for the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France. In addition, Klöden doesn't hide that he's sick of the rumours of doping surrounding his past years with T-Mobile. That's why he's excited about doing his job in Turkey, which will lead him to a new environment quite far away from the cycling controversies.

Voigt with fourth Critérium International win

By Hedwig Kröner

Germany's Jens Voigt (Team CSC) won the Critérium International for the fourth time, equalling Jacques Anquetil
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Riding on the very comfortable time advantage he had achieved in the morning stage, German Jens Voigt had no problem saving his leader's jersey over the final time trial stage to score his fourth overall victory of the event. In the race against the clock, technical skills on a rainy day ruled and Norwegian specialist Edvald Boasson Hagen (High Road) was the one to navigate best around the 8.3 kilometre course.

"This afternoon, my primary objective was not to crash," admitted Voigt, who now equals Jacques Anquetil's four victories in the event. "I knew I had a sufficient gap I didn't have to worry about, so I went for it calmly. I almost took some corners standing still, to not take any risks."

The CSC rider was delighted to get a fourth trophy of the prestigious race. "It's important to have won it a fourth time, but I don't really look at the records. In fact, I was more touched last year when I equalled the score of Sean Kelly, one of my childhood heroes.

"This event is made for me. Throughout the years, I learned that I'm much more effective on short distances. If it's too long or too hard, I always lack something to make the difference. But here, I can defend my position on three stages – it is a format that suits me perfectly. I'll definitely come back next year!"

Then Voigt can try to equal the record of Raymond Poulidor, who won the Critérium five times (1964, 1966, 1968, 1971, 1972).

In the race against the clock, Team High Road had the upper hand for a long time, passing on the hot chair from Adam Hansen to Tony Martin, then to Edvald Boasson Hagen. The Norwegian TT champ had put such a good time on that even more experienced specialists like Bobby Julich (CSC), David Zabriskie or David Millar (both Slipstream) could not pass him. High Road placed three riders in the top ten.

Gustav Larsson completed the good result for CSC, finishing third on the stage and ending up in second overall.

Settimana Ciclistica Lombarda Internazionale kick off

The Aussies will race in Italy
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

The Settimana Ciclistica Lombarda Internazionale, which starts today, April 1, is set to run until Sunday, April 6. Today, the teams were presented in Bergamo. Among the participating squads is the Australian South Australia - AIS outfit, riding with Zakkari Dempster, William Ford, Josefski Haiden, Matthew King, Simon Klarke, Travis Meyer, Wesley Sulzberger and Johnnie Walker.

Other teams include LPR Brakes, with Danilo Di Luca and Paolo Savoldelli, Team Volksbank with Andreas Dietziker and Gerrit Glomser and Tinkoff (Daniele Contrini).

The race will start out with a flat team time trial over 18.3 kilometres in Brignano. Then it is off to the road races with stage 2, heading from Brignano to Costa Volpino. This again is a fairly flat affair, with the highest point being 300m, early in the race. The day's racing is concluded with five local laps in the finishing town.

Stage 3 is again something for the sprinters, with six flat, local laps in the middle of the race, before stage 4, from Vertova to Vertova, will offer three GPM's, all on the 632-metre high La Forcella. After the seven flat laps that kick off stage 5, there is again a battle for the mountain points, over the roughly 800-metre high Passo Cavallo and the Colle Maddalena. The final stage is also a mix of a flat first part, with four laps of around 10 kilometres, before the Colle Gallo Samuario (763m) and the Selvino (962m) mostly conclude the hilly part. After the descent form the Selvino there is another GPM in Bergamo, but it is a very short ascent and a potential breakaway will certainly not slowed down enough to get caught – if they have a sufficient lead already.

The stages:

Stage 1 - April 1: Brignano - Brignano TTT, 18.3km
Stage 2 - April 2: Brignano - Costa Volpino, 163.8km
Stage 3 - April 3: Dalmine - Dalmine, 174.4km
Stage 4 - April 4: Vertova - Vertova, 192.6km
Stage 5 - April 5: Flero - Flero, 163.5km
Stage 6 - April 6: Bergamo - Bergamo, 162.7km

Photography

For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Roberto Bettini/www.bettiniphoto.net

Grand Prix du Portugal a roller coaster

Portuguese rider Vitor Rodrigues has won the Grand Prix in his home country, 53 seconds ahead of Frenchman Antony Roux. Before taking the overall classification, Rodrigues had to endure a bit of a roller coaster.

Winning stage 1 in decisive fashion, he had a lead of 1'17. Rodrigues bridged up to the duo of Simon Geschke (Germany) and Jacques Van Rensburg (South Africa). Geschke had attacked at kilometre 83, with Van Rensburg bridging up shortly thereafter. Rodrigues made his move 20 kilometres from the line and won with 1'17 over Luxemburger Ben Gastauer.

On stage two, Roux took over the GC lead, with a second place, 10 seconds behind Estonian Rein Taaramae. With his margin of 1'38 over Rodrigues, Roux had now a three-second lead over the Portuguese rider. Hardly a comfortable gap and sure enough, Rodrigues had recovered for the final stage.

But it was Taaramae again, who took off solo and while his advantage over the Portuguese rider vanished in the end, he kept 11 seconds to win his second stage. The Estonian finished third overall. Roux could not follow the acceleration of Taaramae and Rodrigues 36 kilometres from the line. Taaramae then attacked Rodrigues and got a maximum advantage of 48 seconds over the home-country rider. Eventually, Rodrigues closed the gap down to 11 seconds.

The last day was a hilly affair, and it was German Simon Geschke who ended up taking the mountain jersey. He had lots of help from team-mate Michael Franzl, who secured himself 10 points and moved up to eighth in the mountain classification. Franzl, in his first race for the German national team in 2008, secured a 23rd spot in the overall, while Geschke was in sixth, 2'52 down.

Evans out-does Rock by one second; Amaran stage victory

By Kirsten Robbins in San Dimas, California

Race winner Cameron Evans (Symmetrics) on the final podium
Photo ©: Mitch Clinton
(Click for larger image)

Rock Racing's Oscar Sevilla slipped from the top of the leader board on the final stage of the San Dimas stage race, losing the overall classification to Canadian champion Cameron Evans (Symmetrics) by just one second. Evans slipped off the front of the peloton in the criterium with eventual stage winner Luis Amaran (Colavita/Sutter Home p/b Cooking Light) to gain a total time of thirty-eight seconds, enough to knock Sevilla down to second overall. Third place in the overall was taken over by Ben Day (Toyota-United) who captured the first time bonus sprint for ten seconds.

The winning breakaway riders played a tactical game on the final lap to decide the stage victory, but after the close sprint Amaran emerged as the winner of the stage while Evans claimed the overall race victory. Emile Abraham (Team Type 1) won the field sprint for third place.

"It's certainly a good feeling to have won San Dimas especially because Sevilla is obviously a great bike rider," said Evans, who acknowledged that this was his first career stage race win. "With half a lap to go I was thinking about the stage win and the overall. I didn't want to get my hopes up too much and I was a little bit stressed."

Evans admitted that his breakaway goals were centred around collecting time bonus sprints to move further ahead in GC, but he did not anticipate gaining so much time on the peloton, given that Rock Racing had controlled the previous day's race to protect Sevilla's lead.

"I was kind of going into today thinking that the best way to get time back was to go for some bonuses, which is why I started a break," said a delighted Evans. "Amaran ended up being very strong and we worked well together. With fifteen minutes to go, I knew we were going to stay away. Although I was thinking about the finish of the criterium, I was also thinking more about moving up on GC, but I didn't think about actually getting the overall win so it worked out alright."

Evans initiated an attack after the first time bonus won by Day, who subsequently moved into second place, just nine seconds behind Sevilla on the GC. Day noted that his intention was to win the second time bonus as well and gain the additional seconds needed to win the overall. However, Evans, Amaran and Chris Jones (Team Type 1) rolled up the road, taking the additional bonuses on route.

Read all about the final day's racing.

Armstrong sixth in Italy

Noemi Cantele (Bigla Cycling Team) won the GP Costa Etrusca-Giro dei comuni Castellina M. MA- Santa Luce, a race over 108 km on the streets in the provinces Pisa and Livorno. US American Kristin Armstrong finished sixth, one day after taking the victory in the GP Costa Etrusca-Giro dei comuni Montescudaio-Riparbella.

Cantele soloed in three seconds ahead of Regina Bruins, from the Dutch national team, and Judith Arndt (High Road). Armstrong was in an elite group, eight seconds behind, led by Fabiana Luperini and Nicole Brändli.

Armstrong rides for the Cervélo-Lifeforce Pro Cycling Team and they will be heading to Belgium now, for the third World Cup competition of the season, the Ronde van Vlaanderen.

Miche Silver Cross ready to tackle Settimana Lombarda

Following their good racing in the Coppa e Bartali, where Miche Silver Cross finished third in the teams classification and placed three riders in the top-20 in GC ( Massimo Giunti 11th, Przemyslaw Niemiec 13th and Pasquale Muto 19th), the Italian outfit is now looking forward to the Settimana Ciclistica Lombarda Internazionale, from April 1 to April 6.

The core of the team will consist of the same riders that mixed it up well with the ProTour and Pro Continental teams in Coppi e Bartali. Giunti, Muto and Niemiec will again try get good results, while Lorenzo Cardellini, Enrico Degano, Stefano Usai, Eddy Serri and Krzysztof Szczawinski will be there for support or to try to get into the right breakaway.

Giunti's best result was a fourth place on the final stage.

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