First Edition Cycling News, April 5, 2008
Edited by Laura Weislo and Sue George
Ronde weather to select true Flandriens
Boonen predicts a race of attrition
By Brecht Decaluwé in Brugge, Belgium
Fans who thought that global warming had ruined the Classics and all the hard men of Flanders had grown soft, have no fear. This Sunday's 92nd Ronde van Vlaanderen is shaping up to be a race of epic proportions, the likes of which have not been seen since the 1989 edition. Instead of the nearly summer like conditions seen last year, this season's Ronde should evoke memories of the legendary 70 kilometre escape of Eddy Merckx in the wind and rain of 1969.
Riders will be chilled by temperatures between 2°C and 6°C, and with rain, hail and a possibility of even snow, Sunday's battle will provide a true Classics spectacle unlike anything the current crop of professionals has experienced in the one-day race.
Two time Ronde van Vlaanderen champion Tom Boonen feels that the foul weather will change the race, and in his view this isn't a bad thing. In the past ten years, the event has run under predominantly dry conditions, with last year's edition quite like summer. Boonen pointed out that none of the current generation of riders have ever witnessed a Ronde van Vlaanderen with the forecasted rain and cold, at least not as a rider. "I've never done a Ronde van Vlaanderen in such weather conditions. During my first Paris-Roubaix it was bad and Milano-Sanremo from last year in the rain was tough as well.
"It cuts the chances of some riders in two, but whether I can take advantage of it will be seen after the race. The winner will always be happy with the weather, while the loser will be raging about it in Meerbeke. Personally I don't think I need to be afraid of it, as I'm the type of rider that can stand the cold pretty well," the former world champion mused.
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"If you go out for a training ride of one hour then it's maybe possible to stay dry. But raincoats, gloves and all sorts of caps... moisture seeps through and it cannot get out of it, so after a while that makes it even colder," he explained. "These are just tough conditions and even in these modern times [no clothing] seems to exist [to guard] against really foul weather. It will be an experience of course as I think such weather conditions didn't occur since Edwig Van Hooydonck won for the first time [in 1989], but it's not for every year though," Boonen joked.
"Last year wasn't good either. During Paris-Nice, Milano-Sanremo and the E3 Prijs Harelbeke the conditions to ride a bike were good, but not for a Spring Classic," Boonen pointed out that he prefers some help from the weather in his Classics. "Last year in Flanders it was a fast race, but no real selection could be made. Besides that the Koppenberg wasn't featured and it turned out that a group of 50 riders arrived on the Muur [the penultimate cobbled climb in Geraardsbergen]. Everybody had suffered, but nobody had reached a moment in which they got dropped or almost got dropped. If it is bad weather and the wind is blowing out of the right direction then the gaps are automatically created."
During the races that were held in Flanders ahead of the Monuments in the past weeks, many riders have been crashing when trying to make it to the front on the footpaths, or by hitting some obstacle during the nervous build-ups towards the small cobbled climbs. Boonen felt the predicted weather conditions would make the race more stressful during the first hours. "It will be more dangerous in the run-up to the finale. Everybody knows it's going to be bad weather, and everybody knows crashes will occur, so that will be very nervous.
"But once the selection has been made the racing will be less stressful; then it'll be 'normal' suffering, and just kicking the pedals. It will certainly create an early selection as a lot of riders will be abandoning prematurely. Nobody continues for the 25th place in foul weather, so I don't expect a lot of riders will make it to the finish," the Belgian predicted.
Hoste not afraid
Three time runner-up in Meerbeke Leif Hoste reacted more laconically on the weather forecast, possibly because he is more worried about his own current health status at the moment. "It's good to have a change once in a while," he laughed. "I've never had foul weather in this race, so for me, it doesn't matter."
The Silence-Lotto rider recalled that he performed well in comparable weather conditions during Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne. "That was real cold, foul weather. But ok, I've never experienced almost 270 kilometres in the rain, but that's the same for everybody. I'm not afraid of it," the Belgian stated. He did emphasize that luck had to be on his side, which is something he had during the winter and his build-up races from January until March. But that all changed this week when he was afflicted by a crash during the Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde. "The luck factor will be slightly more important than under normal conditions with crashes etcetera; things you can't really take in hand.
"For instance on the cobbles: the first pavé section in Wannegem-Lede [after 125km] will be extremely important right away. In dry conditions you can easily enter such a section in twentieth position and being at your leisure, but if it rains that will be completely different."
Hoste continued to stress that some riders would be de-motivated right from the start. When asked if he meant Italian glamour boy 'Pippo' Pozzato, Hoste smiled and said, "Pozzato? He will be wondering whether to get his shoes dirty or not. [I'll] watch out for anybody who is motivated to ride in the Ronde van Vlaanderen, wherever he's from."
Cancellara welcomes a 'real Ronde'
One team of foreigners who will be a threat on Sunday will be the CSC squad of Milano-Sanremo winner Fabian Cancellara and last year's Paris-Roubaix champion Stuart O'Grady. The Australian admits he prefers the summer-like weather conditions which heralded his arrival in the Roubaix velodrome. "As you saw in Paris-Roubaix last year, I think I prefer the heat over snow. Certainly some riders adapt well to colder conditions, while I'm more the heat type of person. But we'll deal with it as we've got jackets and all sorts of clothes," the sun-freckled CSC-rider said.
O'Grady will be riding in support of Cancellara and the Swiss rider seemed not to care much about the weather conditions. "In the end it doesn't matter what weather it's going to be. If you want to win, or if you want to do the best, you don't care. I can ride on my bike and know how to handle everything," Cancellara asserted.
"This year I already did some races in good weather, but also in bad weather," he continued. The time trial world champion soldiered through dismal conditions in the Tour of California. "Maybe for our team it will be easier. If it's a bad weather race, then maybe there will be an early selection," the in-form Swiss rider said. "Maybe we'll finally have a real 'Ronde' as the last few years the weather wasn't too bad and it turned out that it wasn't always the race the people wanted to see.
"Everybody, and especially me knows what to do. I'm not afraid about this," stated 'Spartacus' with confidence in both himself and his troops. "After all, we picked up a lot of things while doing the famous CSC winter camps. That experience should help us to stay warm during the race. What the trick is? That's a secret," Cancellara smiled, hoping that the team building and suffering of those camps will come in handy this weekend.
Kroon doesn't like the cold
One of the soldiers in 'Spartacus'' army is the experienced Dutchman Karsten Kroon. He told Cyclingnews that the weather conditions will be extremely important. "The last 100km in the race are so hard that you will not get really cold," Kroon joked, "but it will be more difficult to eat. Possibly you will no longer be able to move your fingers and it might get difficult to get into your pockets to grab food.
"It will be an enormously hectic, but it will be a great race, maybe not for us or the team, but certainly for the fans. And what we already accomplished as a team can't be taken away from us."
Dutchman Karsten Kroon has been going well in the Ronde van Vlaanderen during the past few years, but those races were always in reasonable weather conditions. "For me personally it isn't in my favour that it will be so cold. Rain can't do anything to me, but once I get cold, it is over. I'm very lean, so I can't stand it as well as some other riders," Kroon explained.
"On the other hand, I've got the experience of seven 'Rondes' and I know every corner, every stone, and now from which side the wind will blow on every part of the course. The form of the day is all important, but the weather will be a decisive factor." Kroon pointed out that it will be a unusual race, and strange things could happen.
"It will be ideal to be in a breakaway, although it will not be me who will be in the first escapes. It will be a war, that's for sure. It's going to be completely different to what we've seen the last couple of years and for sure there will not be a group of 50 riders going to the Muur. Anything can happen, and that's what makes this race so beautiful."
See also Cyclingnews' full coverage of the Ronde van Vlaanderen.
Melchers returns to Flanders
Dutch woman Mirjam Melchers-van Poppel, the winner of two editions of the women's Ronde van Vlaanderen will return to the race this year after sitting out the 2007 edition due to injuries. The Team Flexpoint rider will lead her squad for the fifth edition of the event, which is also the third race of the World Cup.
Team director Jean-Paul van Poppel selected a strong group of women to ride alongside Melchers, with fellow Dutch riders Saskia Elemans, Loes Gunnewijk and Loes Markerink being joined by Norwegian Anita Valen-de Vries and American Amber Neben.
The women's race starts at 1100 CET from Oudenaarde for a total of 114 kilometres of racing, taking in many of the famous bergs which make up the men's race.
See also Cyclingnews' full coverage of the women's Ronde van Vlaanderen.
Juan Antonio Flecha: "Trusting that the victory comes"
Admired for his combativity, Juan Antonio Flecha is one of the first names that springs to mind when listing the Classics specialists. This non-typical pavé-craving Spaniard – born in Junin, Argentina – is eager to end his victory drought. Cyclingnews' Hernan Alvarez caught up the 30 year-old while he was in his hometown Castelldefels following the first round of spring races.
Flecha was second in the 2007 Paris-Roubaix, finishing behind Stuart O'Grady and showing he can produce great performances in spring Classics like the Hell of the North. He is aiming for revenge on France's harsh tracks this April 13.
"I started racing at the Majorca Tour, Vuelta a Andalucía and Paris-Nice," he began, describing his first months of racing. "I also did Het Volk and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne. The sensations were pretty good, especially in Vuelta a Andalucía. I did a good race, I had a lot confidence for Het Volk, but I was sick that week and the truth is that I did very badly in Het Volk. I wasn't feeling right. In Kuurne I was up at the front, but I wasn't totally recovered yet. It wasn't exactly disappointing because I knew the reason; I knew I had a good condition, but having a sore throat added to add to the cold really hurt my possibilities.
"Then came Paris-Nice" – Flecha continued in an upbeat tone – "and I was truly happy with my performance. We had to work a lot for Robert Gesink, which did not allow me to shine at all. There were a couple of stages when I had hoped to do well. But I had to work [for the team leader] and my goals in the season are yet to come."
His main targets are the Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix. "In terms of personal sensations, I am pretty satisfied about how I am, about how I felt at those races. Indeed, I would liked to be able to say that I have already achieved a good result – to gain confidence and to go into the coming races calmer... The days I had to work for the team; I consider they went well, and that gives me confidence," stated Flecha.
Continue to the full feature.
Cape Epic leaders reflect on survival through partnership
By Nic Lamond in Oak Valley, Elgin
"On my own – in a normal race – I would have pulled out for sure," confessed a laughing Roel Paulissen (Cannondale Vredestein) when asked about the sacrifices made to complete the Absa Cape Epic. But he didn't pull out; instead he chose to complete the last gruelling hours of stage six on the bare rim of his rear wheel. And the reason? The man riding right by his side over the past eight days, U23 cross country World Champion Jakob Fuglsang.
As a result, Cannondale Vredestein now sits atop the podium, cautiously eyeing the nearest competitors from the relative comfort of a nine-minute lead. "Having a good partner is the secret – you can also kill your partner," he mentions quietly, casting his mind back to the spectacular withdrawal of Christoph Sauser's young protégé Burry Stander (of Team Songo.info) after just three days of intense racing.
The Belgian is a happy man on the eve of his second Cape Epic victory. All that lies in the way is a 62km ride over the last mountain range, before the field drops into Lourensford Wine Estate and the finish line – 966km from the start in Knysna nine days ago. It's a calm end to the frenetic pace with which the two began and have hammered ever since.
But while Paulissen looked relaxed at the hastily called press conference to catch up with the race leaders on Friday, team-mate Fuglsang was visibly uncomfortable. He is thinking of the desperately frustrating moments in the past few days racing where nothing was going right and victory was looking anything but secure. He may also be thinking about how close he came to winning last year's event, only to be denied by the German team of Karl Platt and Stephan Sahm (Bulls).
"You are never finished the Cape Epic 'til stage eight," the young Dane reminds Paulissen and the gathered media. At the same time the event has also taught him a patience he didn't posses at his last attempt. "You must keep on fighting," he offered, "this race isn't over after just one bad day!"
Also see Cyclingnews' full coverage of Cape Epic.
Cobo out, Fernández de la Puebla in for País Vasco
By Monika Prell
Last year's Vuelta al País Vasco winner, Juan José Cobo (Saunier Duval-Scott) will not be able to participate in this year's edition, his team announced Friday. After physical problems forced him to abandon in the Vuelta a Castilla y León, Cobo has just recently recovered and will not be on form to defend his title.
He will be substituted by the young Spaniard Alberto Fernández de la Puebla. Fernández will form part of the team that will consist of the Spaniards José Ángel Gómez Marchante – now the team's leader – David de la Fuente, Iker Camaño, Ruben Lobato, the neo professional Beñat Intxausti and the two Italians Riccardo Riccò and Leonardo Piepoli.
Moreno optimistic after debut
By Antonio J. Salmerón
Last Sunday at the GP Llodio, Daniel Moreno debuted with his new team Caisse d'Epargne after three and a half years racing with the Spanish team Relax-GAM. The 26 year-old has proven himself a climber, but he can sprint, too, as he demonstrated with his victory at the Escalada a Montjuich in Barcelona.
With the move, Moreno leaves behind three lengthy months of doubts about his professional future after the demise of Relax-Gam. "My feelings in Llodio were good, taking into mind that it was my first race this year. It was better than expected," he said. "I want to thank Eusebio Unzué for the opportunity given at Caisse d'Epargne – especially as the season is already underway. I want to do my work as well as possible, and also get some victories.
"I hardly know anything about my new team, but in the Gran Premio de Llodio, I witnessed the seriousness with which things are done here [on the team - ed.]"
Looking ahead to the rest of the season, Moreno considered his schedule. "I still do not know my calendar for this season, except my next races will be the GP Miguel Indurain, the Gran Premio de Amorebieta and Paris-Camembert. It's obvious that I came to Caisse d'Epargne to work for my colleagues, and if I have any chance, I will take it."
The Spaniard does not expect to race in the Tour de France. "For this race, all things are already planned by Caisse d'Epargne, but I would like to race the Vuelta [a España], which would be my main goal. Last year I had a great performance. Apart from that, Moreno highlighted the Volta a Catalunya as another target race at which he'd like to do well.
Contentpolis' Elías to debut at GP Induráin
By Antonio J. Salmerón
The debut of José Miguel Elías with his new professional continental team Contentpolis-Murcia was delayed by injuries sustained while training last November, but the 31 year-old climber is healed again and excited to return to competition at the Gran Premio Miguel Induráin.
"I have not been back training for long, and in this sense, I know that it will be very hard for me to adapt to the rhythm of competition, mainly because the season is already started," said Elías, who broke his radius and ulna last fall, to Cyclingnews, "but anyway, this has been something I have been waiting for."
His Contentpolis-Murcia squad will be led by Manuel Vázquez, who finished in the second in the general classification of the Volta a la Comunidad Valenciana, and also brought his team its first victory during that race's queen stage. Vázquez will be supported by Adrian Palomares, Eloy Teruel, Alberto Rodríguez, Oleg Chuzda, Rafael Serrano, Javier Etxarri, José Herrada and, of course, Elías – all under the guidance of director Ginés García.
Looking ahead, Elías, formerly of Relax-GAM, did not know his upcoming racing calendar. "After racing in the GP Miguel Induráin, I have to talk with Ginés García on the subject," he said. "I would like to reach a peak in May and am thinking of the Vuelta Ciclista Asturias, in which I finished fourth in the general classification in 2004."
Elías said his team's main goal is to earn a "wild card" for the Vuelta a España. "My team-mates have had a great beginning of their season. "They had a great performance in their first race, the Volta a la Comunidad Valenciana, as all we know perfectly. But they also showed a very combative spirit in the Vuelta a Murcia, as well as in [Vuelta a] Castilla y León. I think that we have to get into the Vuelta [a España]; that is very important for all of us".
France names Olympic track squad
With the end of the Track World Championships, the final criteria for the selection of riders for the track events of the Olympic Games has been completed. France has become the first nation to announce its provisional selection for the Beijing Games, naming twelve riders on Friday. According to AFP, National selector Patrick Cluzaud proposed the list of names to be considered by the national sport commission on May 22.
Men's team sprint: Grégory Baugé (US Creteil), Kevin Sireau (Cofidis), Arnaud Tournant (Cofidis). Alternate: Mickaël Bourgain (Cofidis)
Bajadali: Putting things into focus
Defending Redlands Classic champion Andrew Bajadali and his new team, Kelly Benefit Strategies-Medifast, are hoping for some revenge this week after being devastated by a virus during the Tour of California. The ever optimistic 34-year-old spoke with Kathie Reid about the race, his team, and his background.
You have got to wonder if Andy Bajadali (Kelly Benefit Strategies – Medifast) is experiencing a little déjà vu right about now. For the second year in a row, he is starting the Redlands Classic with a team that found out just weeks before that they were not invited to the Tour de Georgia. Last year, it was "kind of a shock" for his Jelly Belly squad, he told Cyclingnews at the Kelly Benefits team training camp in San Bernardino days before Redlands. He admitted that this year, with his new team, "We were a little devastated again" at the lack of an invite.
Anyone who knows 'The Baj' recognizes that throughout his career, when faced with professional challenges beyond his control, he has shown an uncanny knack for remaining calm, optimistic, and focused – perhaps especially when situations have demanded a shift in objectives. And he has consistently been insightful and savvy enough to surround himself with people who do the same.
Last year, Bajadali arrived at Redlands feeling like he "had a point to prove," given the Georgia snub. And prove his point he did. This year he is returning to Redlands to defend his 2007 overall title. This time around he is with a different team, but his good friend and former Jelly Belly team-mate Alex Candelario, will arrive in Kelly green with him.
Continue to the full feature.
Tour of Arkansas debuts
In a year where several American races like the Tour of America, Tour de Toona, and Tour of Virginia have either been canceled or are scaling back, several new events have stepped up their game. One such event is the Inaugural Tour of Arkansas. Two events, the former Tri-Peaks Challenge and the Celebrity Classic have joined forces to create the new event.
Organized primarily by the Mercy Cycling Team, the 2008 event will start three days after the Joe Martin stage race in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The Tour will be located primarily in Russellville – just 90 minutes from Fayetteville. These back to back events will enable the riders to participate in two quality stage races in the same state in the same week.
The race will include four stages over four days for elite men, and three stages over two days for elite women.
Official Event Site : www.tour-of-arkansas.com
New Jersey gets new stage race
Two existing races have merged to form a new stage race in central New Jersey. The 2008 Giro d'Jersey cycling road race will take place June 20-22, 2008. Grown out of the Rock Hill Cycling Classic and the Corner House Grand Prix, the new event has added a time trial to create the three-day stage race.
Events for Masters 35+ and Pro 1,2,3 men are Garden State Cup Team events. NJ Teams who would like to participate in these events should E-Mail the Garden State Cup committee EMG for a password.
Garden State Cup Teams must register before May 1st. After May 1st these events will then be open to registration to the local cycling community.
More Information on the stage race can be found at www.eventmg.com
(All rights reserved/Copyright Future Publishing Limited 2008)