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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News, April 4, 2008

Edited by Laura Weislo

Flying Dutchman surprises in De Panne

By Bjorn Haake in De Panne

Joost Posthuma (Rabobank), 27, won KBC Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde overall by taking the final time trial
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Joost Posthuma (Rabobank) rocketed to the overall victory in the Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde, achieving something that he didn't think was possible - making up a 27-second deficit to leader Enrico Gasparotto. In the 13.7-kilometre time trial, Posthuma was hoping for a possible podium finish, but instead won the stage, putting 35 seconds into the Italian to steal the overall win.

The 27-year-old Dutchman, who finished second in last year's edition of the event, felt that the time trial was too short to gain enough time to overtake Gasparotto. The Italian led from the first stage and has had a strong start to the season. "Gasparotto has been going very well this year," Posthuma admitted. "He was very strong in Tirreno."

However, the Rabobank rider found the course to be in his favour. "There were a lot of turns and the wind kept coming from the front, from the back," he explained that the conditions were constantly changing. "It favoured the strong riders." Posthuma certainly showed that he was one of them, and liked the way the race turned out. "Last year I was down a few seconds, this year I am ahead a few seconds."

Posthuma rejected the idea that the win would put him among the favourites for the upcoming Ronde van Vlaanderen, explaining that Sunday's event is a race of a different level. "Sure, I have done one of the best time trials in my life, but the Ronde is 260 kilometres," he insisted that there was no comparing the two."Our captain will be [Juan Antonio] Flecha."

However, Posthuma left a little door open. "If I want to win I have to be in an early escape." He explained that he expects "a very weird race," due to the weather forecast, which predicts temperatures not much more than five degrees centigrade, rain, hail, even snow. A true hard man's Flanders. This could be the chance for the Dutchman, who noted, "if you look at recent races, attacks had been successful." He will draw strength from that and of course it will help the team, making the others work harder for their money.

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Posthuma added, "If I want to win, I have to anticipate the race and be ahead of Boonen," and the other favourites, stressing the need for an early attack for him. "Then I just have to make it over the Muur." The game plan is ready, but of course a race never is made on paper.

Posthuma has somewhat of a love-hate relationship with the races in Flanders. He doesn't like the nervousness before the climbs. "[When] the climbs start, everybody wants to be at the front," which can be tricky when 200 riders trying to squeeze into a three-metre wide road. However, being at the front is essential if one wants to win the Ronde. Posthuma explained, "I lack the explosiveness," that defines riders like Boonen. Instead, he would describe himself as "a diesel" that is hard to kill. .

The fact that he likes the races came through when he talked about the safety of the courses. Many riders had complained about the dangerous conditions brought on by the wind, the little traffic islands and the parked cars. But Posthuma begged to differ. "It's racing in Belgium. It's different, but I don't think it's more dangerous than anywhere else."

His time trial performance is encouraging him to try to seek a spot for the Beijing Olympics. The criteria set forth by the Dutch federation has already been fulfilled by his team-mate Thomas Dekker and Stef Clement (Bouygues Telecom), who finished third in the world championships in Stuttgart last year. "I will fight for a spot," the Dutchman emphasised the fact that everyone wants to go to China. With the determination he had shown on today's course he may well achieve the Olympic dream as well.

Quick Step retools for the Ronde

By Brecht Decaluwé in Koksijde

Tom Boonen was already in thought
Photo ©: Bjorn Haake
(Click for larger image)

Quick Step director sportif Wilfried Peeters was on hand at the final stage of the Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde to announce the squad's line-up for Sunday's Ronde van Vlaanderen. With Tom Boonen keen to join an elite list of riders who managed to win this cycling Monument three times, the Belgian squad's formulation is a bit of a departure from last year's two-pronged attack, which featured World Champion Paolo Bettini alongside Boonen.

Joining 'Tommeke' will be Belgian champion Stijn Devolder, as well as compatriots Wilfried Cretskens and Steven De Jongh, but some other names are a bit unexpected. "An important day is coming up on Sunday and that's why we've tried to set-up a team that is strong breadthways to support Tom Boonen," explained Peeters. "It's a selection where Tom will start as leader and Stijn Devolder will play the role of vice-leader."

One surprise in the selection is 25-year-old Maarten Wijnants, who placed 11th in Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne. Belgian Gert Steegmans, who was plagued by back injuries after a crash during the Dwars door Vlaanderen, did manage to make the team after a satisfactory return in the E3-Prijs Vlaanderen. The team also decided to inject some Southern blood into the squad with Carlos Barredo and Matteo Tossato.

27-year-old Boonen opted to talk with the press instead of participating in the final stage time trial of the Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde, and the two-time winner of the Ronde expressed his faith in the squad. "There are some unexpected names, but I strongly believe in this team. They are all guys of which I believe they can ride a good race," said Boonen.

"Last year I was the sole leader with Paolo [Bettini] in support for a possible interplay. This year we didn't have to search that long to set up a strong team," Boonen explained.

The selection of men like Wijnants, Tosatto and Barredo wasn't really expected before the season got underway, but Boonen felt they deserved their selection. "Due to circumstances these guys are in the selection, mainly because they are in the form of their life. But some people don't know that Barredo has a past in Flanders. He doesn't know the course that well, but he's still young.

"Wijnants is a much underestimated rider who can do more than everybody thinks, I hope he'll show that on Sunday," the former World Champion continued. "Tosatto is always of golden value and he's been rising far above his normal level. Tosatto has had a great year and we've got to exploit that because you maybe have two or three years like that in your career, and he's currently in such a zone."

The Belgian helped a little to make the selection but he pointed out that often things fall into place by themselves. "There aren't a lot of difficulties until you reach the last name. There's a natural selection due to crashes and illness but again, I think these are the best possible names to start the Ronde van Vlaanderen for us," Boonen confirmed his belief in the squad.

Belgian domestiques like Kevin Van Impe, Kevin Hulsmans and Sebastien Rosseler are not on the kind of form needed for the demanding event, and did not make the cut.

Peeters continued to explain why some riders were dropped, and other weren't. "I shall not deny that it is two weeks too early for men like Kevin Van Impe and Sebastien Rosseler to start in the Ronde van Vlaanderen. We regret that, because with them we would've had a stronger team breadth-wise. That why we opted to bring over Carlos Barredo and organize a training ride on the course today to make sure that Tom has someone that can be aside him as long as possible."

Wilfried Peeters will be supporting his riders out of the team's first car. But since none of his riders grabbed ProTour points in the Tour Down Under the team isn't ranked in the top ten. As a result he will have to hope the lottery on Saturday grants him the best possible spot after the first ten cars.

Team manager Patrick Lefevere added, "There are some surprises but you should compare it with a football team. There's the selection on the pitch, but three men need to stay ready on the bench. Wijnants showed that he was in form while some others aren't as good as expected. For some it is a surprise, not for us."

Slipstream on target

By Bjorn Haake in De Panne

2004 Paris-Roubaix winner Magnus Backstedt appears to have overcome years of setbacks due to injury in illness, regaining his form just in time for his favourite event on the cobbles of Northern France. The Swede took second in the final time trial in the Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde, and was delighted with the result. "It's a week and a half until Paris-Roubaix, and the condition can only get better," he told Cyclingnews,

Backstedt felt that the time trial signaled that his form has arrived, saying that the event "was a very good test". The tall, big-legged rider leapt from 17th overall after stage 3a into eighth overall with the effort. Backstedt was just 15 seconds behind the stage and race winner Joost Posthuma (Rabobank) in the time trial, and on par with other Classics specialists Stijn Devolder and George Hincapie in the 13.7 kilometre test.

Farrar tuned up for Roubaix

Tyler Farrar was happily chatting away
Photo ©: Bjorn Haake
(Click for larger image)

Backstedt's young team-mate Tyler Farrar felt right at home racing in the Driedaagse De Panne. The American's home in Europe is in nearby Gent, Belgium, and while he is fond of the area, he agreed with those who thought the race was a bit on the dangerous side. "It's a very nervous race. Everyone wants to test themselves for Flanders and here on the coast there is always a lot of things on the road: islands, roundabouts, cars."

Riders make a habit of jumping onto the bike paths that parallel the race route to advance, and often meet the obstacles head on or cause a crash dodging them, and the result can throw a wrench in a rider's plans. Farrar is no stranger to that feeling, having missed Paris-Roubaix the past two years due to crashes, but this week (fingers crossed) he has been lucky enough to avoid hitting the tarmac.

The 23-year-old was one of only three Slipstream riders who were able to finish the race, with Stephen Cozza exiting with a broken collarbone. Farrar explained, "It's the reality of this race, and that's why some teams kind of avoid it." But this was a tactic Slipstream was not eager to adapt. After all, for the race is good preparation for the Tour of Flanders both mentally and physically. "It is perfect, you know," explained Farrar. "It gets the body going. Now we have two days to just kind of relax and take it easy."

Farrar thinks the team is ready to pull off a good result in the "the big one" on Sunday. "We are knocking on the door and eventually the wins are gonna start coming," he said. "We had second places, third places. It's gotta be close that we finally start winning some bike races." Slipstream had done well in some of the early spring classics, like Het Volk, where Michael Friedman got 12th .

Farrar described his finish Thursday (18th place, 46 seconds down) as "an OK ride." But with Backstedt in second, he was happy and felt it showed that Slipstream is justifying its invitation to the Tour. Who knows, maybe a week from Sunday they will start carrying around a large cobble stone, the traditional winner's trophy presented in Roubaix.

Cobbles and Bergs for World Cup's next stop

By Ben Atkins

Emma Pooley (Specialized) will wear the World Cup leader's
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

The fifth running of the Ronde Van Vlaanderen will take place once again on the same day as the men's race, starting in the town of Oudenaarde. The race will be run over a 114km course that starts with a circuit based around Oudenaarde, then follows the same final section as the men to finish in Meerbeke.

The course features three long flat cobbled sections: Paddestraat (2400m), Mater-Kerkgate (3000m) and Haaghoek (2000m), and also 10 of the famous climbs - the hellingen - that pepper this area of Flanders. The women will tackle the Molenberg, Wolvenberg, Berg Te Stene, Leberg, Berendries, Valkenberg, Tenbosse, Eikenmolen, Muur-Kapelmuur, Bosberg; the first one and last two of those being cobbled.

Just like the men's version, the Ronde for women's course suits powerful riders and those whose teams are able to control things on the twisting lanes and crosswinds of northern Belgium. It will be tough from start to finish, and if anyone's on a bad day there's no hiding in the bunch when the hammer goes down.

Ordinarily we should be looking forward to another chapter in the epic battle between last year's winner Nicole Cooke (Halfords Bikehut) and Marianne Vos (DSB Bank), but with both riders looking to preserve their form for this summer's Olympic road race in Beijing this looks unlikely. On top of this Vos is currently only listed as a reserve by her team, and so may not ride. Third last year, the 2006 world road race champion has been concentrating on the track for the early part of the season including a victory in the World Championship points race last week in Manchester, England.

Aside from these two, any number of riders could be the first to Meerbeke this year. 2005 and 2006 winner Mirjam Melchers-Van Poppel (Team Flexpoint) returns after missing last year's race while recovering from injury, and the other former winner Zoufila Zabirova (Team Bigla) will be keen to better her second place behind Cooke last year. If Zabirova is not on top form - she had to miss the Alfredo Binda, the previous World Cup round due to an ear infection - she has any number of team-mates ready to step in, most notably Nicole Brandli and Noemi Cantele, who was in winning form in Italy last weekend.

Continue to the full preview.

Another shot for glory for Hincapie

Another shot for glory: USA's George Hincapie (High Road), 34, on his way to a promising spring – shown here winning a stage in the 2008 Tour of California
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

While browsing through the names of favourites for the upcoming Spring Classics the name of George Hincapie was almost forgotten by the European insiders. Despite great wins in semi-classics like the Omloop Het Volk, Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne and Gent-Wevelgem in the past – without forgetting his runner-up position in Paris-Roubaix and a third place in the Ronde van Vlaanderen in 2006 – the USA rider hasn't shown up in Flanders for a while. Brecht Decaluwé took a closer look at Hincapie's preparations for De Ronde.

Team High Road has been showing glimpses of its power during the semi-classics, with successfully breakaway efforts for Andreas Klier and Bernhard Eisel, but the USA-based team seems to lack a man that is able to get on the wheels of Tom Boonen or Fabian Cancellara when they attack on the famous cobbled climbs in Flanders. However, the man to do it could be 34 year-old George Hincapie.

Although nobody really knows how strong 'Mister No Chain' really is for this Sunday's Ronde van Vlaanderen and the following Sunday's Paris-Roubaix. His 2007 spring campaign was spoiled after a wrist-breaking crash in the Tour of California. This year, returned to California – where he won the ultimate stage – and then on to Tirreno-Adriatico and the first Classic of the season, Milano-Sanremo.

The former Lance Armstrong domestique, who makes his home in Greenville, South Carolina, decided to skip the standard build-up for the big races; he did not start in semi-classics like the E3 Prijs, but chose the Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde which ends only three days before the start of the Ronde van Vlaanderen on Sunday in Brugge.

"I missed this race last year because of my wrist. It's important to come back and do some racing in Belgium before the Tour of Flanders. I did California hard, I did Tirreno hard and then Sanremo. If I went to E3 it means that I'm away from home for three weeks, and sometimes in cold and shit weather, so for me it's just better to come here and do De Panne and Flanders," Hincapie explained why he opted to skip the semi-classics.

Continue to the full feature.

Pound's bid for CAS seat fails

Former World Anti-Doping Agency head Richard Pound lost his bid for the post of president of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). Italian attorney Mino Auletta won a vote by the court's governing body in Monaco on Thursday, and will take over as president of the organisation which handles much of the sporting world's legal appeals.

Auletta, who has been acting president of CAS since the January, 2007 death of CAS founder Kéba Mbaye, was chosen over Pound, Swiss lawyer Robert Briner and Sweden's Gunnar Werner. He will now fulfil the remainder of Mbaye's term, ending in 2010 at which point the CAS will hold another election.

Pound, Briner and Werner will remain members of the court.

Vandenbroucke denies cocaine charges

Frank Vandenbroucke of Team Mitsubishi-Jartazi has denied any involvement in the drug case in which his name has been mentioned. It was reported earlier this week that he was suspected of having purchased cocaine from a gang drug dealer the beginning of the year. The team announced Thursday that it was placing him on the inactive list in response to the case.

In a statement on his personal website, frankvdbroucke.be, the Belgian responded angrily to the charges. "I formally declare that I have never purchased products from the named drug gang and deny any involvement in this matter. Given my family situation, I would never risk my relations and contact with Margaux {his daughter} by doing anything like that. I am irate that my name has arisen in this case and I will do all that I can to see that the truth is told in this matter. When the appropriate judicial agencies question me, I will offer them my full cooperation."

Tour of Britain gains a day

The 2008 Tour of Britain was launched at the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden on Thursday, 3 April. The fifth edition added a day to this year's event, making it eight stages to become the longest UCI category 2.1 race in Europe.

The race will begin in London with a 8.5 kilometre circuit, and then head east for stage two and three before taking a northward journey to Scotland and then back down for the finish in Liverpool. The race will circumvent the more mountainous regions of Wales and the Scottish Highlands, making the rolling terrain and weather the major factors which will determine the race outcome.

Organisers will face a tough choice of teams, with 25 squads already vying for the 16 six-rider invitations. The only teams confirmed so far are the British squads Rapha-Condor-Recycling, team Great Britain, Plowman Craven and Pinarello RT. The full team listings will not be announced until six weeks before the start.

Stages:
Stage 1 - September 7 - London circuit
Stage 2 - September 8 - Milton Keynes - Newbury
Stage 3 - September 9 - Chard - Burnham-on-Sea
Stage 4 - September 10 - Worcester - Stoke on Trent
Stage 5 - September 11 - Kingston-upon-Hull - Dalby Forest
Stage 6 - September 12 - Darlington - Newcastle Gateshead
Stage 7 - September 13 - Glasgow - Dumfries & Galloway
Stage 8 - September 14 - Blackpool - Liverpool

Full details of the individual stage routes will be unveiled over the next few months.

Additional reporting by Rob Lampard, BikeRadar.com

Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast ready to defend title

By Kirsten Robbins in Redlands California

Andrew Bajadali
Photo ©: Mitch Clinton
(Click for larger image)

Coming off last weekend's San Dimas Stage Race, defending Redlands Classic champion Andrew Bajadali and his Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast took a few days in between events to get together and show off the squad to its supporters and get its strategy together to help its newly signed talent defend his title this weekend.

Team director sportif Jonas Carney explained, "We went through sponsor meetings, we had photos and general administrations stuff," he said. "It was nice to get everyone together, the entire team. We had our Redlands squad out here all ready but brought the whole team in together."

It was a tough start to the year for the team who began their season with the Tour of California. "Not only was it the first race and biggest in the northern hemisphere, but we were all sick so I can't say it was pleasant experience," admitted Carney who said his team's morale has significantly improved since February. "The team morale is really high now and we are all coming around and clicking with riders and teamwork. We had some good efforts on part of some riders this month. No one is sick - we are all strong and ready for the weekend racing."

Last year's Redlands Classic champion found a home with Carney's team based on his impressive resume and potential talent as a long term GC rider. "In the last five years he has been getting better and better," said Carney. "We have had an all North American team so we were trying to find a GC contender who also North American and who would fit in with the team and who can contribute in all styles of racing -- Bajadali fits in well with that program."

This year's Redlands Classic has gone through a major change, losing the major mountain top finish at Oak Glen which has been the decisive factor in previous editions. According to Carney the field will be competitive even without Oak Glen because of the high quality of field, which include full teams with riders Tom Danielson (Slipstream), Victor Hugo Pena (Rock Racing), Cameron Evans (Symmetrics), Javier Zapata (Caico), Scott Nydam (BMC),Dominique Rollin (Toyota-United), Rory Sutherland (Health Net), Alejandro Borrajo (Colavita/Sutter Home), Ben Jacque-Maynes (Bissell), and Matt Rice (Jelly Belly).

"It will be hard for everyone," said Carney. "We have a guy who has won it before and is capable of winning it again. He is riding at one hundred percent fitness and in good health and we have other riders who can support him in GC. That new Beaumont race will depend on wind, and will be really hard if the wind is strong. If it's not windy there will be a field sprint but it will be small."

Lancaster lives on

Despite being dropped out of the Commerce Bank Triple Crown this year, the Pennsylvania town of Lancaster will hold a new but smaller race on June 1st, two days before the new Triple Crown event in Allentown. Promoter Major League Cycling will host the Tom Bamford Classic Lancaster Criterium on Sunday, June 1, with categories of racing for both amateur and professional cyclists to continue the 16-year legacy of racing in downtown Lancaster.

The Pro/Elite Men Invitational race begins at 4:15 PM. There is a limit of 5 riders per team. Online registration will open on Thursday, April 17 at 7 PM. A race flyer is available at: www.bikereg.com/events/register.asp?eventid=5544.

(Additional editorial assistance provided by Susan Westemeyer. )

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