Latest Cycling News, April 2, 2008
Edited by Bjorn Haake
Driedaagse De Panne only Ronde training for Boonen
By Gregor Brown in Zottegem
Two-time Ronde van Vlaanderen winner Tom Boonen is participating in the Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde solely for race preparation. With only five days to go until Flanders' biggest race, the 27 year-old Belgian from Mol noted that "Everything is okay."
Looking down Driedaagse De Panne's roll of honour one can see the names of Michele Bartoli and Peter Van Petegem, but nowhere does the name of Tom Boonen appear. The Quick Step rider known as 'Tommeke,' who rocked to stardom thanks to wins in de Ronde, Paris-Roubaix and the World Championships in 2005, doesn't seemed bothered that he has not left his mark in the three-day race.
"I am not going to try," he stated to Cyclingnews. "This race is possible [for me]. It is possible to do good in this race and then go on to do well in Flanders, but it is not necessary." Boonen is clearly relaxed heading into Sunday's appointment in Brugge and prefers to prioritise his objectives.
However, many riders wish to make a mark in De Panne so they don't walk away from their Classics campaign empty-handed. "It does not matter and doesn't make a difference," Boonen continued – words easily coming from a rider who has such a strong palmarès. "A stage win or something is always nice," he admitted, but added, "I think I only sprinted one time in seven years at this race, so I really don't mind."
After a Classics campaign that includes Ronde van Vlaanderen (April 6) and Paris-Roubaix (April 13), Boonen will re-focus on the Tour de France.
McEwen enjoying Flanders
Robbie McEwen was out and about on Monday, checking out the course of the Ronde van Vlaanderen. It is common for the professionals to ride as much of the course as they can before the big Flanders weekend. But when Cyclingnews spotted the Australian, he was going the other way on the course.
Of course, McEwen won't be riding the Ronde on Sunday, preferring to "do some training that day, watch the race go by and then catch the end on TV." McEwen lives virtually on the course and knows all those roads "like the back of his hand." About the Koppenberg back in the race he joked at a recent press conference that "I'll watch it on TV, so it's all good."
When McEwen was out on Monday, he was on his last ride before the start of the Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde and gave a chance for all those amateur riders to see their heroes up close. Other fans opted to wait on the famous climbs of the Koppenberg or the Muur de Grammont with their cameras in hand, hoping to get a good shot of the professionals who are out training this week. Chances are that a potential photograph may be more in focus, as some of the riders are only doing slower recovery rides, resting from all the race efforts in the lead up to the big one. There is also more of a chance to see the riders, as the climbs aren't packed with spectators four, five or more deep, as will be the case on Sunday.
McEwen still enjoys the sport very much and can't quite understand people asking him about the end of his career. "I still have a contract for two years," he emphasised and didn't show any sign of wanting to quit now. The question may be on some people's mind as McEwen admitted to not having the best beginning of the year, usually starting his winning affairs in January in Australia. He couldn't even exactly remember the last time he didn't win a stage in the Tour down Under. But while acknowledging that "it hasn't been easy this year," he made a point of saying that "really, my months have always been June, July and August." You can never count out someone like McEwen, so don't be surprised if you see his name on top of the leader board again soon.
Look for a feature on more of the Silence-Lotto riders soon.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Bjorn Haake/Cyclingnews.com
De Panne crashes
The crashes and injuries that have plagued the peloton this season have continued in the Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde. Silence-Lotto's Leif Hoste ended the day with a bloody knee and pains in his back and ribs, but he told Sporza.be, "I will certainly start tomorrow".
Frédéric Amorison of Landbouwkrediet-Tönissteiner had less luck as he was taken to the hospital with a suspected broken collarbone.
On the other hand, Kurt Hovelijnck of Topsport Vlaanderen was the best Belgian finisher, coming in 29 seconds down in 10th place, despite some serious toothache. He went to the dentist immediately after the stage. "He couldn't take the pain any longer. He was getting treatment last week but the problem came back today," Directeur Sportif Walter Planckaert told sporza, and laughingly added, "I wonder how well Hovelijnck would have ridden without the toothache!"
No 'Samueldependence' at Euskaltel – Euskadi
Jon Odriozola will lead the team Euskaltel-Euskadi as sports director during the Vuelta al País Vasco. He talked to Noticias de Gipuzkoa about the team's goals for its home race, where this time the best rider of the team, Samuel Sánchez, won't be present as he is focussed on the Tour de France. Odriozola admits that "Samuel is not here, and his absence will be perceptible. He is our goalgetter." At the same time, he is confident about the others. "Mikel [Astarloza] is in a good form and Igor Antón is in an important moment of his career, he will mature…We don't have a 'Samueldependence'."
Odriozola defines the team as the most important thing, explaining that "We have a team, that is the keyword, a very competitive team, with Egoi [Martínez] and [Iñigo] Landaluze, both very strong; [Iñaki] Isasi, the experienced one; Rubén Pérez or Amets [Txurruka], who will have their opportunities. Mikel Astarloza is very animated and aims to race. He is strong and he will have a great team."
He considers the race as "perhaps a bit less hard, but it is full of traps from the first day on, and particularly in the two stages of Orio [fifth and sixth stage]. Furthermore, much depends on the weather. If it rains, the descents will be more decisive than the ascents, and the tactics will also change."
About the favourites for the races, he sees it clear: "[Alberto] Contador has shown his class, he just won a good race [Vuelta a Castilla y León - ed.], even if it was not a race of the level of Paris-Nice or Tirreno-Adriatico. [Cadel] Evans and the Italians, like [Davide] Rebellin are also very strong, but I confess that I see Mikel [Astarloza] and Igor [Antón] as strong as them. It will be really an examination for us," finalised Odriozola.
CSC team doctor sees less doping in cycling now
There is less doping usage in the peloton now, but the problem will never be eliminated, according to Joost De Maeseneer, team doctor with Team CSC. In an interview with the belga press agency, he noted that, "Doping will never go away entirely. First there were the amphetamines, then the anabolic steroids, followed by EPO and now blood doping. You can be certain that there will be something new; genetic doping, for example. I can only hope that it stays away a long time, so that we will be armed against it."
Increased out-of-competition controls have been successful, he said. "The chance of being caught is much larger, and as a result, the peloton has become cleaner. A few years ago, someone like Greg Avermaet would have had no chance as a 22 year-old in a race like the E3 Prijs." The doctor added, though, "I'm not saying that they have all become saints. We hope that those who aren't clean will be caught."
De Maessener said that uniform controls are needed. "Let's take Flanders as an example. The Vlaamse Gemeenschap, the courts, the Belgian federation, the UCI, the World Anti-doping agency: all of them can do doping controls."
The Belgian doctor would give some riders a second chance. "I would divide the 'doping sinners' into two groups. I don't find it possible that Basso, who personally betrayed me, should be suspended for life, when there are riders here in De Panne who have never been punished but have more to hide."
Some of the undeserving riders include Alexander Vinokourov and Andrey Kashechkin, retired and/or suspended. "With a smile," they signed the UCI's "Commitment to a new cycling", in which they pledged not to "commit any infringement to the UCI anti-doping rules". Both were later tested positive for blood-doping, Vinokourov during the Tour and Kashechkin shortly thereafter.
Vandenbroucke to be questioned in cocaine case
Frank Vandenbroucke continues to have major problems. His name has come up in a drug case being heard in a court in Ieper, Belgium. HLN.be reported that various sources confirm that VDB bought cocaine the beginning of this year.
Investigators in West Flanders have been looking into gang drug dealers, and came across Vandenbroucke's name on the dealers' customer list. The court wants to question Vandenbroucke, who is scheduled to return to Belgium today after a training period in Italy.
Team manager Patrick Stallaert said "I have not yet been informed about this matter, and thus I cannot comment on it. I do not spend all my time with my riders. I have no idea what they are up to in their free time." He added, "What will the team do? We have to wait for the judicial investigation. I can't react based on just a newspaper article. First, I want to find out the truth. Then we can sit down with the team and make a decision with the other sponsors and managers. We don't want to react too hastily."
The Epic's hottest day ever takes its toll
Crossing the line in one piece becomes first prize for most riders
By Nic Lamond in Swellendam
I'm not sure if it is by design that the Absa Cape Epic mobile media centre crammed with journalists from around the world adjoins the race medical centre. But you'll forgive me for thinking so – it makes a pretty dramatic snapshot of the day's happenings for anyone armed with a camera and a dictaphone. I climbed off my bike, just happy to be safely in Swellendam this afternoon, after over six and a half hours in the saddle from Riversdale. The first thing I'm greeted by is a man taking a pee carrying his own drip under his arm!
The medical centre looks more like an army field hospital and bears testimony to the demanding conditions competitors struggled through on the 121-kilometre route from Riversdale to Swellendam today. Dusty patients still wearing riding shoes lie draped across the beds, drips feeding their spent bodies as team-mates offer moral support alongside.
The tricky grass-covered and high-speed technical descents today resulted in nasty spills, some with pretty severe consequences. The slippery terrain showed no prejudice, claiming victims from the professional ranks through to the backmarkers. Even one of the off-road motorbike riders and photographer teams slid their BMW down the treacherous face of a slope towards the end of the ride.
But it's the heat that poses the biggest threat to a rider's health out on the course, according to the man heading up the crack team of medical support on the Cape Epic, Dr Basil Bonner. With the mercury pushing 40C out on the trail, and over a hundred kilometres between rider and rest at the finish the body can get into trouble pretty quickly.
Already 119 teams of the 598 that registered five days ago in Knysna have been forced to abandon their plans of completing the 2008 Absa Cape Epic. That figure represents just under 20% of the total field. Thankfully, race rules allow for fit riders to continue riding without their team-mate, but they are not recognised as official event 'finishers'.
Despite the alarming drop-out rate Dr Bonner is quick to point out that the Epic's reputation has meant that fitness levels among participants seems to be better each year, and this year is no exception. But speaking from personal experience the problem is that fine motor skill – essential to staying in control of your bike through the harsh terrain – seems to abandon riders as the day wears on and fatigue sets in. Just remembering to drink enough… and breathe, took all my powers of concentration over the last 15 kilometres of today's stage.
It wasn't easy for anyone
I caught up with a hot Susan Haywood of Team Trek VW after her stage win today in the ladies' competition. Haywood was sad to say good-bye to Swiss rider Fabienne Heinzmann today, after a neck injury sustained two days ago eventually put the Dolphin team out of the running: "It's really unfortunate that they [Heinzmann and team-mate Katrin Schwing] are out because that is who we were going to keep battling with."
Haywood and team-mate Jennifer Smith held off the leading women's team despite the oppressive heat but it was sure that Rocky Mountain's Alison Sydor and Pia Sundstedt were having a quiet day. "Today we saw them at the start. The other days we haven't been able to keep up with them – they start much faster than us. Plus, we have come to the start boxes a bit late the past couple days! They are really experienced road racers – and of course great mountain bike racers – and they really can get with the fast groups right from the go, and stay on them.
"We were riding with an interesting group because it was the women's leaders and us, as well as the mixed team leaders and the second-placed South African mixed team. So it was like a neutral bunch because the leaders didn't have to do any work, and the second-placed riders weren't ready to do anything yet because it was such a long day. So everyone rode together nicely and it wasn't a crazy pace."
With about 25 kilometres to go the bunch split up and just the two women's teams remained. "It seemed to me that Rocky Mountain wasn't riding as hard as they were the other days. But Jenni and I, we were racing. So they appear to be much stronger than us. I don't know if you'd call it a gentlemen's agreement but they said that they weren't going to attack us. Jenni got a bunch of grass stuck in her cassette, and Alison [Sydor] just said, stop, we'll all stop. That's just the type of sportsperson she is: she'll never attack when her competitor has a problem."
But it wasn't all plain sailing to the line as Haywood and Smith held on for a slim one-and-a-half second victory. "I lost my granny gear for all of the last climbing – that really hurt! I'd rather soft-pedal up that stuff, but I had to grind up it all. It will be interesting to see where my legs are at tomorrow!"
Tomorrow is the longest stage in the event's five-year history and will take riders 146 kilometres to Bredasdorp. Thankfully, it doesn't include the intense climbs and descents that have characterised the past few days, but 146 kilometres of off-road racing can hardly be called easy.
"A month to remember" for CSC
March was "a month to remember" for Team CSC, with nine victories, including some of the biggest races of the month. And it was all due to the team's extended training camps, it says.
"Yeah, it's been a great month for us. We got off to a late start compared to some of the other teams, because we thought the training camps were more important and our results in March just go to prove that we had our priorities right," said sports director Kim Anderson on the team's website, team-csc.com. "But we do have a strong team and – knock on wood – haven't had any serious accidents or injuries so far."
Fabian Cancellara echoed those sentiments, saying "I've got no doubts that it's our training camps – especially the one in the States – which have made all the difference. I hadn't expected to win Tirreno, but it was still Milano-Sanremo which meant the most for me."
The past weekend was especially successful for the team, as Kurt-Asle Arvesen took the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen and Jens Voigt won his fourth Critérium International. But those weren't the only successes of the team in March. Sprinter Juan Jose Haedo won the Clasica de Almeria and a stage in the Vuelta Ciclista a Murcia, while Karsten Kroon took the second stage of the Vuelta a Castilla y León.
Caisse and Barloworld for Flanders
Caisse d'Epargne has announced its lineup for the Ronde van Vlaanderen. Despite not being the season highlight for Spanish teams, Caisse will arrive with riders like Iván Gutiérrez, Vicente García Acosta and José Joaquín Rojas. Additional team members include Arnaud Coyot, Mathieu Drujon, Imanol Erviti, Luis Pasamontes and Fabien Patanchon. DS will be José Luis Jaimerena.
Barloworld will tackle the cobbles with Diego Caccia, Patrick Calcagni, Baden Cooke, Enrico Gasparotto ,Robert Hunter, Daryl Impey, Paolo Longo Borghini and Carlo Scognamiglio. Valerio Tebaldi is the directeuer sportif.
Broom wagon forgets rider in E3 Prijs
Neo-Pro Maarten Neyens of Team Topsport Vlaanderen only made it 100 kilometres in the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen Sunday, before climbing into the broom wagon to ride out the race in comfort. A little later, the driver stopped at a cafe to let the 23 year-old take an "urgent sanitary stop". But when Neyens came back out of the cafe, he found he had been stranded – the broom wagon had gone on without him.
A helpful fan brought Neyens back to Harelbeke, according to sportwereld.be.
Tour de Perth to start
The Tour de Perth will be taking place from April 4 to 6. There will be races in the open and support category for both men and women. Registration is already open. A pasta night will be held on Friday night, with track racing as dessert.
Stage 1 - April 5: Roleystone-Brookton Hwy Stage 2 - April 5: Roleystone Circuit (ITT) Stage 3 - April 6: Kalamunda- Pickering Brook Circuit Stage 4 - April 6: Kalamunda CBD
A three-stage junior tour will also be held in the U13, U15 and U17 categories, again for both genders. The Saturday road race will be followed by a time trial, before another road race concludes the event on Sunday.
For the general public, the Lycopodium Hills Challenge will provide an opportunity to test oneself's fitness. It will be held on Sunday, April 6. Three routes of 25, 50 and 100 kilometres are available.
If you don't feel like racing you can help out as a volunteer. For more info go to www.tourdeperth.com.au
(Additional editorial research and assistance provided by Susan Westemeyer and Monika Prell)
(All rights reserved/Copyright Future Publishing Limited 2008)