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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

Latest Cycling News, April 23, 2008

Edited by Bjorn Haake

Gilbert says he can't win

All things considered Gilbert doesn't think he can repeat a victory pose today in Belgium
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Philippe Gilbert will have to try something before the famous Mur de Huy, which he judged "too hard" for him to go head to head against the favourites.

After the Amstel Gold, the Belgian returned home to Havelange, which he enjoyed a lot. "It is great to return home, because I am gone a lot," the Française des Jeux rider told La Dernière Heure. "I manage better at home. I feel better than at a hotel, where it is more difficult to control your nutrition and to rest correctly."

It wasn't until the day before the race that the rider from the Liège area met up again with his colleagues in Gembloux. Two more races and Gilbert will take a rest after a long spring campaign, with his highlight coming early - a win in Het Volk, with a super-impressive solo run of almost 50 kilometres. He scored three other victories (Mallorca, Soller and Samyn) and got third in La Classicissima. And he scored second place in the Brabantse Pijl, so even if the two final spring races don't pan out for him, he can be happy with his 2008 so far.

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Last year, Gilbert finished 19th at Fléche Wallonne. Gilbert said that "La Flèche, it's special," about the race that is 'only' just a tad under 200 kilometres long and ends with one of the toughest walls in the classics, the Mur de Huy. "It's a short climb, but it is too hard for me. Normally, I cannot win. To achieve that, I will have to be on an exceptional day and I have to anticipate the race."

He gave an example of how it would have to be done and said that for him to win, it need to be done "like when Rik [Verbrugghe] won." The Belgian won in 2001 with five seconds over Ivan Basso, by going solo and hanging on. But that is not easy these days, as Gilbert explained. "The teams of the favourites lock up everything. If I arrive with the best at the bottom, I am beaten. I spoke to Jelle [Vanendert]; at 300m to go he finds new resources, but my legs are just dead." Vanendert finished as the best Belgian last year, 23 seconds behind winner Davide Rebellin. His 13th raised eyebrows with the French team and Vanendert, racing for Chocolade Jacques last year, is now Gilbert's team-mate.

It will be interesting to see if either of the two will win the title of best Belgian this time around and into what final total ranking that would translate to.

Women's showdown at Mur de Huy

By Ben Atkins

Marianne Vos is the defending champion
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

The Women's World Cup rolls on this week, back into Belgium for the eleventh edition of the Flèche Wallonne for Women. Like the Ronde Van Vlaanderen earlier in the month, la Flèche piggy-backs the equivalent men's race, using the same infrastructure and finish line as the more established event. The 103.5km course will cover the exact route of the final loop of the men's race. Starting in Huy, it takes in eight categorised climbs to finish at the top of the last of them: the legendary Mur de Huy.

If everything goes to plan, we should finally be treated to the first showdown this season between three-time winner Nicole Cooke (Great Britain) and last year's victor, Dutch wunderkind Marianne Vos (DSB Bank). This race – like the men's equivalent – has become a mano a mano battle to see who can get up the legendary slopes of the Mur de Huy the quickest, and these two were head and shoulders above virtually everyone else 12 months ago.

It seemed for a while as though Cooke – the British champion riding for her national squad this week – was invincible on the up-to 25% gradients, but then World champion Vos shocked the world and proved that there was more to her game than just a phenomenal sprint. She bided her time as Cooke piled on the pressure and sped past her in the closing metres to take a victory on the famous climb.

Cooke's Great Britain team will be bolstered this week with newly signed team-mate Sharon Laws. Emma Pooley's Specialized Designs for Women team is not invited to this race and so the Trofeo Alfredo Binda winner joins Cooke and Laws in what should be a preview of the GB team for Beijing. Pooley's inclusion is the main reason that the team will be riding in red, white and blue, instead of the orange and black of Halfords-Bikehut.

Aside from this, the race ought to feature another battle between the two big in-form teams of this season: Cervelo-Lifeforce and High Road. American Kristin Armstrong (Cervélo-Lifeforce) finished in fifth place last year and is showing some great form with her victory at the Novilon Eurocup Ronde van Drenthe last week. She will also be ultra-determined after being defeated on the line by High Road's Judith Arndt at the Ronde Van Vlaanderen earlier in the month.

Arndt herself is a perennial podium finisher here, as is her High Road team-mate Oenone Wood. The two of them working together in the final stages could prove devastating, and both are in fantastic form this month. The German-registered international super-team will – as usual – be totally united behind its two captains.

Read the full preview of the women's arrow.

Henderson inches closer to lead

High Road's Greg Henderson took second place in the second stage of Tour de Georgia. In a very close sprint finish, Henderson came in behind CSC's JJ Haedo. With the second place the New Zealander moved up to second place in the overall classification. Henderson goes into stage three trailing the overall leader, Ivan Dominguez (Toyota United), by only three seconds.

"It was close," said High Road's Directeur Sportif Allan Piper, "but it's not winning. The team rode really well," he added. "We only have seven riders here and they were on the front today for close to 100 kilometres, so they did a great job. We'll try again tomorrow [Wednesday - ed.]."

Henderson was a little disappointed with the finish, struggling to get the gear he needed for the final metres. "At 150m to go I thought I was going to pull it off but I couldn't get into the 11 cog," he explained. "I don't really want to blame my gears, though. At least I proved I have good speed and I've got another opportunity to go for it tomorrow [Wednesday]."

"The boys were great and rode really hard for me all day," Henderson added. "They did a lot of work to bring the break back and George [Hincapie] looked after me in the finishing circuits to set it up for the finish."

Stage three starts in the small town of Washington, Georgia, and covers 180 kilometres of undulating terrain to finish in Gainsville. It is likely to be another stage for the sprinters.

CAS case weighing on Petacchi

Petacchi is not sure yet if he can celebrate again soon, with the CAS case still pending
Photo ©: Tour of Turkey
(Click for larger image)

Alessandro Petacchi should be concentrating on his preparations for the Giro d'Italia right now, but instead he finds his thoughts straying as to whether he even has a future in cycling. The Milram sprinter is waiting on a decision from the Court of Arbitration for Sport as to whether he will be suspended for two years on doping charges.

"I'm trying to think only about the Giro d'Italia but the wait for the decision of the court is on my mind," he told the AFP press agency. "Anything could happen, I could even lose the desire to compete in the Giro or in the Tour de France, which I haven't been to since 2004. I'm trying not to imagine that everything will turn out well because the disappointment would be huge if I got an unfavourable decision."

During last year's Giro, the 34 year-old tested positive for Salbutamol, an asthma medication. He has permission to use the medication, but the test results were over the legal limit. The Italian Cycling Federation cleared him of doping charges, but the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) appealed that decision to the CAS. The CAS heard the case on April 2, but said that it would not announce its decision until some time next month.

Petacchi has indicated that he would retire from racing if found guilty.(SW)

Checking in from Georgia

Glen Chadwick and his Team Type 1 are hard at work in Georgia Emile
(Click for larger image)

Cyclingnews diarist Glen Chadwick is the second rider after Rory Sutherland to provide us with descriptions in the daily life of a professional bike rider, as the Team Type 1 rider checks in from Georgia. In the first two stages Chadwick tested the waters in the South, but found the temperature a bit cold.

"Well, the numbers have been pinned on, the pockets have been filled and we're off for Stage 1 of the Tour de Georgia.

Tybee Island is where we have been hanging out the last couple of days. As it's only about 20 kilometres from Savannah, we actually raced to and through Savannah over the finish line and headed out the other side for a further 80-kilometre loop and back into the finish.

The start was a pretty fast and nervous one, to say the least. Fabio's front wheel was a casualty of a slight twitch in the field, which resulted in several spokes being ripped out of his 404. But a quick Mavic change and he was back in the peloton, no worries.

Early on, I followed a wheel across to a small break, just off the front, to test the waters and as I found out it was a tad too cold for me just yet (icy, actually). As we were swept up by the field I started to suck in the oxygen as hard as I could, even felt a bit dizzy.

Clearly, there were a lot of cob webs that needed to be blown out of the system, so I decided to just sit in from then on. Breaks kept forming off the front but High Road and Astana seemed to be keeping everything in check. With around 30 kilometres remaining, a group of six went clear and the lead jumped straight out to one minute, but that was all they were gonna get this time around. Too many teams were keen for a bunch kick.

Railway lines seemed to be the focus on this stage, though, and funding the repairs to where they crossed the roads wasn't! Man, they were nasty. We crossed the lines on the way out and way back, with about 12 crossings in total all within a five-kilometre section."

Read on to find out more about stage 1 and two.

Jaksche still looking for a team

Jaksche may find it hard to find another team to continue with, when his suspension expires at the end of June Seguros
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

Jörg Jaksche can race again as of June 30. "I have been told that I can ride for a ProTour team and in ProTour races," he told "The UCI and the tour organiser ASO aren't putting anything in my way." He is in good shape to ride, too. "I have trained well and worked so hard that I can start racing immediately." The only problem for him is finding a team.

"The interest in me has not dramatically increased after the explanation of the legal situation," he noted, and he knows why. "No one wants someone who fouls his own nest," he said in reference to his confession last summer. "The past is not treated with honour. I did it for myself, confessed everything and want to start again at the bottom, but so far no one will let me – that is the wrong signal to send."

The 31 year-old had asked by Team Slipstream, "but unfortunately team manager Jonathan Vaughters has a full team of 25." He figures to have better chances in the German-speaking areas. "In Germany, doping and the fight against [it] are major sports-political themes, a German sponsor ought to be glad to have me. The theme is not so dominant in other countries."

He knows, though, that his time is running out. "If I don't find anything by July, then I will have to be honest with myself. I can't wait forever, nor do I want to."(SW)

No place for Boogerd at Rabobank?

Michael Boogerd retired from Team Rabobank last fall after 14 seasons, all with the same team. He then signed a contract to do unspecified duties for both the bank and the team, but new team manager Harald Knebel told him after the Amstel Gold Race that the team has no place for him, according to

The former rider had expected to do public relations work or to work with the younger riders. He will still work for the bank itself, but had hoped to find a job with the team.(SW)

Final Colombia tour preparation for Colombia Es Pasión

Jairo Hernadez won the Tolima
Photo ©: Colombia Es Pasión
(Click for larger image)

Colombia Es Pasión-Coldeportes-Alpina will be tackling Vuelta al Tolima, which serves as the final preparation race ahead of the Vuelta a Colombia. The race of Tolima will run from April 23 to 26. In the line-up of 10 riders is Jairo Hernadez, who won the event in 2006.

Directeur Sportif Luís F. Saldarriaga said that "This race will be a reference point at a higher level in our preparation towards the Vuelta a Colombia. The basic objective is a stage win, a top five in GC and to practice strategies and tactics. The cancellation of the Clásica de Guarne doesn't interfere with our preparation plans, because we only had intended to participate with three of our elite athletes, who lack some [race] rhythm right now."

The Clásica de Guarne, which was scheduled to run from April 30 to May 3, was cancelled due to difficulties with road closures, because of local festivities going on in the area. The race is rescheduled to June, likely after the Vuelta a Antioquia.

The stages for the Vuelta al Tolima:

Stage 1 - April 23: Ibagué - Líbano, 118.5km
Stage 2 - April 24: Líbano-Honda, 172km
Stage 3 - April 25: Honda-Ibagué, 131km
Stage 4 - April 26: Circuito Ibagué, 84km

The line-up for Colombia Es Pasión-Coldeportes-Alpina will be Iván Parra, Jairo Hernández, Wilson Zambrano, Juan Pablo Forero, Jairo Salas, Andrés Miguel Díaz, Edwin Parra, Manuel Mayorga, Robinsón Chalapud and Wilson Marentes.


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Colombia Es Pasión

(Additional reporting and research provided by Susan Westemeyer.)

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