Latest Cycling News, April 14, 2008
Edited by Bjorn Haake
Pozzato frustrated by Northern campaign
By Gregor Brown in Roubaix
Filippo Pozzato's Northern Classics campaign ended on a low note in Roubaix's velodrome, following the 259.5-kilometre Paris-Roubaix in northern France on Sunday. The 26 year-old Italian of Team Liquigas was involved in a crash two kilometres before one of the race's key pavé sectors, and, although he finished the race, he left disappointed.
"I was calm heading into the race and for this reason I believed there would be no problems. ... I did not see who caused the crash; maybe it was a High Road rider. It was stupid – I was up on the sidewalk," said 'Pippo' Pozzato of the crash, two kilometres before the Trouée d'Arenberg, near kilometre 161. The 2400-metre pavé sector is the race's first deciding sector.
The winner of the 2006 Milano-Sanremo continued, "I went sliding on the sidewalk in the middle of the group. I was able to come to a stop but there were others crashing from behind. I was hooked by my handlebars; my right leg [with open shorts and gash] is fine, but the pain is here [inside of left thigh - ed.]. All of my muscles there are causing me pain. Afterwards I was not able to put in the force."
Pozzato won the first race of his season, a stage and the overall of the Giro della Provincia di Grosseto, and built his form well heading into one of his key season objectives, Milano-Sanremo. He finished second in Italy's one-day race and headed north with confidence; however, the results did not come. He had a lackluster Ronde van Vlaanderen ("Flanders was a little bit of a let down"), redeeming Gent-Wevelgem ("I saw that my legs are still good") and a crash yesterday in France. Pozzato, from Italy's Veneto region, indicated he is not pleased with the results and will skip Amstel Gold next Sunday.
He showed professionalism and a desire to continue strongly in one of cycling's most prestigious events, as he chased back on to the group of favourites for the following 33 kilometres. "I did a few sectors, but I knew I would not be able to continue with the pain."
Many wondered why Liquigas did not send back Murilo Fischer or Manuel Quinziato to help Pozzato. The former protected the team's position at the front of the group through Arenberg, while Quinziato's wheel suffered broken spokes in the same crash with Pozzato, although he was able to re-join immediately. "I called them, but I was not able to hear anyone or anything on the radio," Pozzato continued. "Quinziato did well for himself."
Pozzato continued his chase ("After about 20 kilometres I changed my bike. It was a quick bike change and it did not take me long to re-enter.") and finished the race, after being dropped from the favourites during the final round of artilleries, 15'42" back.
Quinziato's day dashed by crash
By Gregor Brown in Roubaix
Team Liquigas not only lost Filippo Pozzato in the pre-Trouée d'Arenberg crash, but key domestique, Manuel Quinziato. The 28 year-old Italian from Bolzano has showed superb formed in the last month and was looking forward to a good day in 'Hell' at the 106th Paris-Roubaix.
"Today, I am very angry because I broke my rear wheel just before the [Arenberg] Forest," stated Quinziato after Sunday's race, where he finished 5'12" (with George Hincapie and Juan Antonio Flecha) back on Belgium's Tom Boonen. The spokes in Quinziato's rear wheel were damaged as a result of his team captain, Pozzato, crashing at kilometre 161. "When he crashed, he crashed on me and broke the spokes," Quinziato confirmed.
He faced a long chase before he could re-enter with the favourites, where his chances were hampered. "I had to ride the whole [Trouée d'Arenberg] section with a broken wheel and then I had to stop and change it afterwards. I had to chase alone; I continued that way for 20 kilometres.
"I made it back to the front group, but I had used all my energy. It is a pity because I had felt great leading into the race."
Overall, Quinziato felt the day was ruined by bad luck, as so often is the case in the 'Hell of the North.' "I chased too much today, it's a pity because I really felt I had the legs to stay in the front group."
Ignatiev's first Paris-Roubaix
By Gregor Brown in Roubaix
One of the most powerful up and coming riders, Russian Mikhail Ignatiev, had a hard day in the 106th Paris-Roubaix. Flats and hand cramps ruined his chances for a high result, although his Tinkoff Credit Systems team-mate, Alexander Serov, featured in the early escape of three in the race that was attended by team owner Oleg Tinkov.
"Oleg Tinkov flew in from Russia and arrived 10 minutes before the start," 22 year-old Ignatiev, 2004 Olympic Points Race winner, noted to Cyclingnews at the start of the day. "We talked, and he believes that if I can stick on the wheels I can get in the top ten."
Even though the team enjoyed early success with Serov, Ignatiev flatted twice. "Two times my tire flatted. The first time it was right after the race started and the second time was in the Arenberg Forest. I was alone and chased back to the group, but then I was very, very tired. After that it was no longer possible for me to contend with the top riders."
The misfortunes continued for Ignatiev, who found the jarring of the pavé sectors too much for his hands. "Unfortunately, there were huge problems with my hands in the last three sectors. I had to let up, it was not possible to grip the handlebars."
It was Ignatiev's debut in the race known as the 'Queen of the Classics.' "This is a grand race," he confirmed.
The race traditionally ends with one and a half laps on the Roubaix velodrome. "I think that is beautiful here in the velodrome. It is my first time and I did not have a good understanding of all the problems that existed – now I understand. I will return in the next years better prepared."
Crashes crush Rabobank hopes
Things didn't work out at Paris-Roubaix the way Rabobank had hoped they would. Instead of a podium place, captain Juan Antonio Flecha finished over five minutes back, in 12th place. The team's other hope for a high finish, Sebastian Langeveld, lost his chance when he crashed into a ditch with some 50 kilometres to go – a crash which caused him to drop out with only 15 kilometres left in the race.
Flecha also crashed, shortly before the Forest of Wallers-Arenberg, and although he was able to get back near the front, he had used up so much energy catching up again, he had nothing left to go with any attacks. The leaders picked up the pace when he crashed, and team leader Adri van Houwelingen noted on the team's website, rabobank.nl, "If you can cause a potential winner like Flecha to fall behind, then some teams will be willing to put an extra man in the front to pick up the tempo."
The Spaniard fought back as best he could, with the support of his team-mates, but to no real avail. "He had to battle for 35 kilometers, while in the meantime they were not sitting still in the front. But, in this race you can only reload your gun once. When push came to shove, he was simply exhausted," van Houwelingen said. "But we already knew this the moment he fell and when they really started to run amok in the front."
Sebastian Langeveld was near the front when, with about 56 kilometers to go, he slipped on dirt in the road on a corner, and flew into a ditch. His bike was totaled, and it was a minute and a half before he could get a replacement. The Dutchman did what he could, but had to drop out eventually.
"He really could not compete anymore," van Houwelingen said. "'Sebas' had crashed hard. It was courageous that he wanted to continue on and that eventually he even ended up in the second group behind the three race leaders. However, the damage sustained turned out to be far worse than we thought after the crash. He really suffered some wounds and bruises during the crash." Langeveld is scheduled to ride the upcoming Amstel Gold Race, but it depends on his condition. "We are going to have to wait and see how this situation develops," added van Houwelingen.
Future Paris-Roubaix winner?
Overshadowed by the big guns battling it out on the cobbles in Paris-Roubaix, the juniors had their event as well. It was British rider Andrew Fenn, who won the 121-kilometre long ride – a decent distance for the juniors. Fenn won the exciting race by catching the Slovakian rider Peter Sagan just under the flamme rouge, indicating the last kilometre.
The event is in its sixth year. The last 86 kilometres were identical to the course ridden by the pros. There were sixteen sectors of pavé, totaling 27.7 kilometres. It also served as the first event of the newly created Coupe des Nations, an overall ranking of several UCI races. Some of the riders do go on to the pro ranks, such as Barloworld's Geraint Thomas, who won in 2004; Sebastian Langeveld (Rabobank) ended up in fourth in the first edition of the race, in 2003. Riders who have also done well in the event include Simon Spilak (Lampre) and Clément L'Hottelerie (Skil-Shimano).
The first move came just eight kilometres into the race, with the Swiss Samuel Horstmann, Spaniard Herrada, Belgian Jonathan Breyne, Swede Ahlstrand and Austrian Mair. But right at the beginning of the first sector of pavé, in Wandignies Hamage (for the pros, this was sector 16) at kilometre 40, it all came back together. It was there that Sagan made his bold move, breaking away solo some 80 kilometres from the line.
German rider Michael Hümbert went after Sagan and eventually caught him at kilometre 73. After 80 kilometres, when the riders were approaching the sector of Mérignies, the gap was down to less than one minute. That's when Sagan tried several attacks to shed the German, which initially did not work, as Hümbert fought back every time. But eventually, Sagan went clear by himself again.
It was at the famed Carrefour de l'Arbre (intersection by the tree) that Sagan started to show signs of weakness. The famous cobble section was less than 20 kilometres from the finish. Fenn, Frenchman Etienne Fedrigo and Danish rider Emil Houmand gobbled up the tired Hümbert. Fenn attacked the group and went solo after the lone leader. He caught him under the flamme rouge to enter the velodrome by himself. Sagan had entered every cobble section ahead of the field, even that last 300-metre stretch a little more than one kilometre from the line.
The Slovakian would end up in second, 12 seconds back. For his active racing he received the "Trophée des pavés" prize. Fedrigo and Houmand finished second and third, respectively, 46 seconds behind the winner. A further ten seconds separated Hümbert from the French-Danish duo, scoring fifth place.
Out of the approximately 100 starters 45 riders finished the event. The teams classification was won by Great Britain, ahead of France.
Germans close Ullrich investigation
"Six-digit" payment involved
The Bonn, Germany, prosecutors have closed their investigation of Jan Ullrich, agreeing with him to make a "six-digit" payment to community institutions and to the public treasury. The investigation looked into charges that the former cycling star had cheated his employer T-Mobile, particularly through a connection with Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes. The amount of the payment was not disclosed but reckoned to be 250,000 euro. Ullrich did not admit to any guilt, and is not considered, under German law, to have been found guilty.
Ullrich had consistently said that he had never cheated anyone. "This claim does not necessarily weaken the legal charges, but it shows a subjective philosophy, which ruled throughout Germany and Europe at the time of his active career, as the investigation has shown," the Bonn prosecutors said in a press release, issued Monday morning. "This had to be taken into consideration in this decision."
Ullrich "was forced to ultimately end his career" because of the results of the investigation and the reluctance of any teams to sign him because of those results. "In addition to the loss of his career, the accused had and continues to have grave financial losses, and has suffered other additional damages," the statement continued. "The facts which have been uncovered in the investigation have namely led to the fact that the accused has had a high loss of public recognition and that his reputation as an athlete has been badly damaged."
The statement continued that any criminal actions by Ullrich "are considered to be minor, that since results of parallel investigations and other occurrences during this investigation (the confessions of other cyclists), it must be assumed that doping in cycling at the time under investigation was widespread."
Last week it was announced that materials taken into custody during a search of Ullrich's house in September 2006 would be turned over to the Bonn prosecutors. Monday morning the press statement said that this "important evidence (computer data, etc.) would be of extreme importance for further investigations in the doping field."
Ullrich is still under investigation by the Swiss Olympic Committee, which handles doping investigations for the Swiss cycling federation, which had issued Ullrich's license.
On his web site, janullrich.de, the former professional cyclist wrote that "There can be no confession because I have never cheated anyone." He said that he accepted the settlement in order "to free my family from the public pressure of the matter," and he further noted, "financial considerations played a role." But, he emphasized, "the payment is not an admission of guilt. The public attorneys never challenged me to make one."
Spanish judge refuses to turn over blood to CAS
The Spanish judge in charge of investigating Operación Puerto has refused to hand over one of the bags of blood taken into custody in the investigation to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne. Judge Antonio Serrano said that the CAS was "a private association and was therefore not subject to agreements allowing the sharing of legal evidence in the European Union," according to the Spanish newspaper Marca.
According to the Reuters news agency, the CAS had requested the bag of blood in order to have a DNA comparison made. It is in connection with the appeal by the UCI and the World Anti-Doping Agency of the Spanish Cycling Federation's claims that Alejandro Valverde was not connected to Operación Puerto. The Spanish cyclist has denied any involvement in the doping scandal.
Cyclingnews' recent coverage of 'Operación Puerto'
May 18, 2009 - Valverde to start Catalunya
Cyclingnews' complete coverage of Operación Puerto
Colombia Es Pasión successful in Vuelta a Colombia
Sergio Luis Henao of Colombia Es Pasión-coldeportes won the Vuelta a Colombia for U23 riders. Henao battled with his team-mate Fabio Duarte in a mano a mano in the final stage of the race, a mountain time trial of 22 kilometres.
Duarte was slightly hurt, from a crash on Friday, but started out strongly and had the best intermediate time at the halfway point (km 11). He was closing on Henao, who had only a slim 21-second margin. But the latter fought back in the second half of the course, with a terrain more to his liking.
In the end, they were separated by only 7 seconds, with Duarte's time at 43'22 in third place, while Henao had 43'29 and finished fourth. The stage was won by Cayetano Sarmiento with a time of 42'54. Arley Montoya came in second, with 43'14
Colombia Es Pasión-coldeportes was able to defend the title. Last year, it was Oscar Sanchez who won. They also won the teams classification and Henao took out the mountains and points classifications as well. A very successful Vuelta in Colombia for these young riders.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Colombia Es Pasión
Kurth celebrates first season victory
Michael Kurth, new rider for the Team Kuota-Senges, won his first race of the season, in Düren-Merken, Germany. He decided the sprint of a six-man lead group in 80-kilometre circuit race. The move of the day came after initially 12 riders went clear. With Stefan Ganser and Matthias Bertling, Kurth had two team-mates with him. On the 2.3-kilometre long course, Kurth made the winning six-man break and proved strongest in the sprint.
(Additional reporting and research provided by Susan Westemeyer.)
(All rights reserved/Copyright Future Publishing Limited 2008)