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Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

Latest Cycling News, April 22, 2008

Edited by Bjorn Haake

Experienced Rebellin ready for Ardennes and beyond

Davide Rebellin explaining to Cyclingnews his compassion for the Ardennes classics.
Photo ©: Brecht Decaluwé
(Click for larger image)

Sunday in Valkenburg, Italy's Davide Rebellin proved he was on target for his beloved Classics of the North: Amstel Gold, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Gregor Brown of Cyclingnews talked with the 36 year-old about the Ardennes and his plans for the future, which includes hopes of Worlds gold.

Even if the rider known as 'Tintin' did not capture the 43rd Amstel Gold on Sunday he did issue a threat that he is on form to potentially blast his rivals in Wednesday's Flèche Wallonne or, more importantly, Sunday's Liège-Bastogne-Liège. And the thing is, Rebellin has the relaxed demeanour that will carry him calmly to the arrivals in Huy and Ans.

The relaxedness comes from his win in the Tour du Haut Var and, greater still, Paris-Nice. He slipped the dagger quickly into his opponents when he struck in the prestigious French race's penultimate stage, 206 kilometres to Cannes. "Normally, Paris-Nice serves for preparation – the best preparations for arriving at the Ardennes Classics on form. Maybe my condition arrived a little early this year, and I found myself in a position to win the race," he stated with some modesty at the team's headquarters for the Ardennes Classics, in Belgium's Riemst.

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In 2007, he was close to winning, but he was out-classed by Alberto Contador (who, you may remember, went on to win the Tour de France). This year, Rebellin did not disappoint, and it was he who out-classed with ease – namely over Rabobank's Robert Gesink.

"I never have won that race, it is surely a great race to win," added Rebellin. "Now, I am able to come here to the classics a lot calmer and this will allow me to race even better. You make fewer mistakes this way – when you are always on the hunt and worried for wins you can feel the pressure and you become nervous."

Rebellin powers to Cannes, with the 2008 Paris-Nice on the line
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Even though Rebellin does not get as nervous as some of the first-year professionals, he explained that "There is always a bit of nervousness, even if it appears that I am not nervous. A bit of tension is normal. If everything is going well then you are calmer. Moreover, inside I know that I have already accomplished some good things in my career and this allows me to approach the races with a kind of tranquillity."

Rebellin did not feel all that calm with only a slight advantage heading into the final stage of the 'Race to the Sun' – a stage that finished close to his home base in Monte Carlo. "There is always the worry of a mechanical or a crash. However, you have to always stay concentrated and that equally applies to these races [Ardennes Classics - ed.] here. You have to focus and remind yourself to stay at the front and out of trouble.

Read the full feature as Rebellin heads into the final two Spring Classics.

Ryder Hesjedal building for Giro d'Italia

By Gregor Brown in Valkenburg, The Netherlands

Ryder Hesjedal (Slipstream Chipotle - H30) is looking forward to the Giro d'Italia this year
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
(Click for larger image)

Canada's Ryder Hesjedal is building for the Giro d'Italia with a week of full-throttle racing in The Netherlands and Belgium. The 27 year-old of Team Slipstream Chipotle - H30 will re-evaluate his objectives for the Italian Grand Tour, May 10 to June 1, once the dust has settled in Ans, the arrival town of Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

"It was an awesome day with the weather," said Hesjedal to Cyclingnews after finishing the Amstel Gold Race on Sunday. He came across the line in 82nd, it was his second time to finish the Dutch one-day in three participations. "I finished with Discovery in 2005."

Hesjedal knows that the tough racing will pay off when he arrives in Sicilia for the start of the Giro d'Italia. "I did not feel super today, but I was pleased that I felt better as the day went along. The final here is the top of the top of the [riders], and it was realistic I was not at the front today. I sort of felt that would be case coming into the race. Many of these guys are coming of País Vasco, and I am really using these races for the Giro build up.

"For how I felt, I was really pleased to make the majority of the selection," he added. "I was in the group with [team-mate] Millar and Andy [Schleck of Team CSC] – not everyone can arrive in the front."

After finishing 10th in Eroica and eighth overall in Tirreno-Adriatico in March before taking a racing break, he is pleased with his form. "I feel a big shift, even if I am not super, I am finishing feeling well. It is a good sign for me. ... It was full gas out there, a race of six hours and there is not even a moment of cruising. It is epic sensory overload, I am sure tonight we will still feel the corners and everything tonight in the bed."

Hesjedal will be back for the Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday and Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday.

"I had a successful early part of the season and the idea is to arrive at the Giro in the best way possible, it is for the benefit of the team and me. I did it in 2005, but I crashed really badly on the fifth stage [stage six - ed.], and it got worse from there – I only made it 14 days."

The USA-based team will prioritise its Giro d'Italia plans after the finish of Sunday's race and the on-going Tour de Georgia. "The clear goal is the opening team TT and then for me to have a solid Giro," he stated. "We will look after Liège and the other guys come back from Georgia."

Sutherland back again

Rory Sutherland brings his exclusive diary once again, reporting from each stage of the Tour de Georgia
Photo ©: Kurt Jambretz
(Click for larger image)

HealthNet-Maxxis rider Rory Sutherland is back in action both on and off the bike. At daytime, he is racing in the Tour de Georgia, while after the stage (and the shower, massage and dinner) he is off to bring his exclusive diary to the Cyclingnews readers. Here is his stage 1 report.

Off and running again in another of the three big tours in the United States of America. What's great is that this race seems to be getting bigger, and actually, more fun. The organisation is great, weather is about 100 percent better than the Tour of California (not hard considering it rained the whole week!), and the riders are a lot more relaxed than in California, too. The first day is always interesting, today being no different. 113 kms of fast, pancake-flat racing. Just what the doctor ordered. Today was not one of my best days on the bike, but I survived, and 'should' get better day-by-day, if history is anything to go by.

To get here to the Tour de Georgia has been an interesting trip. I had to race in Sea Otter first on Saturday, jump on a red-eye flight in San Francisco, fly through the night, get to Atlanta, then another flight down to Savannah, a few media things, little ride, massage, sleep, and go. Maybe not the greatest preparation for the tour, but you know what, that's life. I'm paid to ride my bike, so that's what I do. Not opposed to a pay raise, though? Wink, wink...

The run into Georgia has been a pretty good one. I've been living in Santa Barbara for the last few months, enjoying the sun, and good friends. I figured something out, 'apparently' if you are happy, then you ride well... I know, I'm a smart one, only seven to eight years of being an apparently pro rider, and I only just figured that one out. Tim (room-mate supreme) gave me a blank look like "you're a retard, I've been telling you that forever."

The full diary entry is available here.

Pfannberger up for Ardennes challenges

Austrian Christian Pfannberger, who rides for the Barloworld team, had a very good showing in the Amstel Gold Race. He went after Serguei Ivanov of Astana. While the duo was caught, they were able to stay with the break up until the Cauberg. In the final few hundred metres Pfannberger had to pay for his earlier efforts, but was able to hang on for sixth place.

His next race will be Wednesday, at Flèche Wallonne and he will be trying to repeat a great performance. Barloworld will use the same line-up as in Amstel Gold. So the team will consist of Christian Pfannberger, Marco Corti, John-Lee Augustyn, Carlo Scognamiglio, Giampaolo Cheula, Moisés Dueñas Nevado, Chris Froome and Hugo Sabido.

Grabsch out with knee problems

Ralf Grabsch (Team Milram) cannot race for now, as a knee injury is sidelining him
Photo ©: Elmar Krings
(Click for larger image)

Team Milram will have to do without veteran Ralf Grabsch in Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège . The 35 year-old injured his knee in Paris-Roubaix and then again a few days later in a training accident.

Writing on his personal website, ralf-grabsch.com, he said that in Paris-Roubaix he banged his kneecap on the handlebars so hard that the knee became very swollen. He was able to do some light training with some pain over the next few days. On Thursday, however, he was training in Germany's Eifel region and hit some sand in a curve on a descent. "I slid away and in doing so, banged my left kneecap again, this time on the end of the handlebar."

Grabsch is now doing only the lightest training and is undergoing treatment on the knee. He does not yet know whether he will be able to ride the Rund um Henninger Turm on May 1 in Frankfurt. (SW)

Knee surgery for Rosseler

Another rider with knee problems is Sébastien Rosseler of Team Quick-Step, who will undergo knee surgery on Wednesday. Knee problems have caused him to miss most of the races so far this year. He is expected to need three weeks of recovery.

The team announced as early as January that the 26 year-old had pain in his right knee, which might prevent him from riding.

He rode the Driedaagse De Panne and said at the time on the team's website that he was pain-free, but the pain has evidently returned. (SW)

Quick Step with minor changes for Flèche

Quick Step is making some adjustments to its Flèche Wallonne line-up. Carlos Barredo will be back in the team. The Spaniard had to pull out of País Vasco due to the flu, but is now fully recovered. The other rider who wasn't at the start in the Netherlands, but will be racing tomorrow is Russian Alexander Efimkin. Mauro Facci and Maarten Wynants will not take the start in Charleroi.

Barredo is happy to be back racing, saying that "Unfortunately I was struck with a bout of flu at the Vuelta al País Vasco – meaning that I couldn't train for a few days. At present I can't tell exactly what my form is compared to that of my companions but I feel good and I'll be looking to ride a great race on Wednesday. The Flèche Wallonne will be an important passage for me in light of the Liège-Bastogne-Liège."

The team will consist of Carlos Barredo, Alexander Efimkin, Ad Engels, Leonardo Scarselli, Hubert Schwab, Andrea Tonti, Jurgen Van de Walle and Giovanni Visconti. Directeur Sportif is Dirk Demol.

Gerolsteiner, Rabobank, Milram for Flèche

Team Gerolsteiner plans to be at the head of the pack Wednesday, as it climbs the "Mur de Huy" at the end of the Flèche Wallonne. Davide Rebellin, who won the race in 2004 and 2006, and finished fourth on Sunday in the Amstel Gold Race, will look to stand atop the podium again this year. He will be supported by his two team-mates who also finished well in Amstel, German champion Fabian Wegmann (11th) and Stefan Schumacher (15th).

Team Rabobank will send six of the eight riders who rode in the Amstel Gold Race to Belgium for the mid-week race. Youngster Bauke Mollema will make his Classics debut, and Theo Eltink, who has a bad cold, will be replaced by Laurens ten Dam.

Gerolsteiner's line-up consists of Markus Fothen, Johannes Fröhlinger, Andrea Moletta, Davide Rebellin, Ronny Scholz, Stefan Schumacher, Fabian Wegmann and Peter Wrolich.

Rabobank will bank on Thomas Dekker, Oscar Freire, Mauricio Ardila, Robert Gesink, Bauke Mollema, Laurens ten Dam, Bram Tankink and Paul Martens.

Milram puts its hopes on Andrey Grivko, Christian Knees, Erik Zabel, Igor Astarloa, Martin Velits, Peter Velits, Matej Jurco and Sebastian Schwager.(SW)

Lampre makes small adjustments to line-ups

The Lampre team, which was successful with the win of Damiano Cunego in the Amstel Gold Race, had to make a change to its Flèche line-up. Francisco Vila is out with a fever. He will be replaced by Mauro Santambrogio, who was scheduled to start in the Giro del Trentino today. Santambrogio will not be replaced by another rider in the Italian build-up race to the Giro d'Italia.

(Additional reporting and research provided by Susan Westemeyer)

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