Latest Cycling News, April 28, 2008
Edited by Bjorn Haake
Fränk Schleck leaves Ardennes 'satisfied'
By Gregor Brown in Ans
Luxembourg's Fränk Schleck left the Ardennes Classics satisfied with his run. The 28 year-old of Team CSC made the key three-man winning move in yesterday's Liège-Bastogne-Liège, but had no answer to the accelerations of Spain's Alejandro Valverde and Italy's Davide Rebellin, who took first and second.
Schleck matched his third place of 2007 and added to his podium spot in the Amstel Gold, where he was out-duelled by Italy's Damiano Cunego in the last metres. His chances slimmed after the summit of the Côte de Saint-Nicolas at 5.5 kilometres remaining, as he noted that "I saw that I could not drop them on the Saint-Nicolas. So, I decided not to attack into Ans and just wait for the sprint. The problem is that Valverde and Rebellin were just too strong - it was a complicated situation.
"Two podiums in one week, I walk away satisfied," he added, referring to his second place at Amstel Gold one week ago.
"Of course I wanted to win," Schleck stated. "I have to be satisfied with this week. I was second at Amstel. I was there at Flèche [Wallonne] until the cold caught my legs. We made a great race today. My brother [Andy - ed.] and I were animating the race, Andy did a great job for me today. He is a great rider with a big future."
The only blemish was perhaps the pushy behaviour from a local police officer at the finish. Schleck, who just finished third in one of the toughest one-day races, was doing his part by answering questions from journalists, all the while being hampered from behind by the officer. Schleck reacted with a swing of his hand as he turned around.
Cunego suffered from heat and cramps
By Gregor Brown in Ans
Italy's Damiano Cunego, winner of the Amstel Gold Race last week, found the task of winning hotter and harder in the 94th Liège-Bastogne-Liège. The 26 year-old formed part of a key escape in the 261-kilometre race in Belgium, but backed off with only five kilometres to remaining.
"It was a difficult day, above all because of the temperatures...,” confirmed the 2004 Giro d'Italia winner following his post race shower.
Cunego was in the top eight, working in a group with Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto), Joaquím Rodríguez (Caisse d'Epargne) and Christian Pfannberger (Barloworld), but the final climb of the day, the Côte de Saint-Nicolas, put paid to Il Piccolo Principe. "I went hard pretty much all of the day, but then on the last climb, the Saint-Nicolas, I had cramps. At that point I thought, 'ah, maybe it is better to let this one go today.' Maybe I paid a little with the heat."
He acknowledged the race winner, Spain's Alejandro Valverde, for his work in obtaining Liège-Bastogne-Liège victory number two. "Compliments to Valverde," continued the rider from Verona. "He had a great race. Also, [Davide] Rebellin, [Fränk] Schleck. They stayed up front – very good for them."
The Côte de la Roche aux Faucons and the damage done
Going into the race, voices were heard from all quarters regarding the new penultimate climb of Côte de la Roche aux Faucons. The 1.5-kilometre rise did the trick – it punched Cunego and his companions, leaving them to be collected by the chase group.
"It is a shame that I did not take advantage of the climb," Cunego noted of the rise, which replaced the Côte du Sart-Tilman. "I would say that with this change Liège has become even harder."
After the Roche aux Faucons, Cunego's group lost time to the leaders. "It seemed like there were a lot of us without legs in our group; it was a difficult task for us to try to renter the group."
Cunego was not only hit with the new côte, but the long-range attack of Luxembourg's Andy Schleck. The move on the Côte de la Redoute, 35 kilometres remaining, was one that put the favourites on the defence.
"What was different with this year was the attack early on by Andy, on the Redoute. Maybe it did not seem so strong on TV but for all of us, we were already at our limits," confessed Cunego.
"I saw that all of the guys were going all out and [were] tired. I think there was a head wind. A lot of riders were tired, but those [four] were feeling good could not wait for the moment to go on the last climb."
Summing it up and heading forward
Cunego can leave the northern run happy – first on Amstel's Cauberg and third on Flèche Wallonne's Huy – and look ahead to the summer, where he will be skipping the Giro d'Italia for the Tour de France.
How does he rate his performances? "It is hard to give myself a vote, but surely, I give myself a ten for the first two races, Amstel and Flèche. Today, I don't know... I felt like I was not at my best.
"I am sorry because, well, overall we had a great campaign in the north," he added, referring to Alessandro Ballan's Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix. "I would have preferred to do something more here in Liège, the desire was great but it did not work out."
He did get a chance to view his competition for France's Grand Tour dates. "I think that Evans was also having a little bit of a hard day," he commented. "I think that, yes, you can see some of the Tour competition here in Liège, but the adversaries are always there, [Fränk] Schleck, Valverde, Evans. We were all there.
"I will try to prepare in the best way, there is a lot of time in front of me to prepare. Now, I will rest."
Georgia's dark horse win
by Kirsten Robbins in Atlanta, Georgia
Finishing the Tour de Georgia's stage four team time trial in third place may have been the blessing in disguise that camouflaged High Road's eventual race winner from Belarus, Kanstantsin Siutsou, enough to climb atop Brasstown Bald and take the four seconds needed to seal the triumph over a tactical match between the two race favourites Trent Lowe from Slipstream and Levi Leipheimer from Astana.
"We brought him here with the hopes that he could put on a good show and be competitive for the overall and he came through big time," said Team High Road owner Bob Stapleton regarding finding the Belarusian climber late last season. "He had a lot of help from Hincapie these last two stages, who rode with him for the first part up the mountain and coached him on the important parts. I think it helped that people were not focused on him and it has been encouraging to know that if you plan right and you have good fitness you can win."
Taking the overall race win was not as unexpected as Tour de Georgia competitors and followers may have thought going into Brasstown Bald and according to Siutsou it was utilizing his good form to perfection that lead to a team success. "I feel that I had great legs this week and yesterday was a difficult day and after a hard day like that today was really about concentrating on keeping the jersey intact. I had George helping me do this and so it was not just my victory, it is a victory for High Road."
"In the beginning of the week I did not think I would win this race overall," continued Siutsou, who spent the majority of the earlier stages working for his sprint leader and double stage winner Greg Henderson. "After helping during the sprinters' stages the team felt that the hills were a good place for me and the teamwork has been great all week."
High Road team director sportif, Alan Peiper believes that while his team played off of Siutsou's top level climbing over Brasstown Bald, their win was partially attributed to the tactical errors over the decisive climb between both teams Astana and Slipstream. "I think firstly Astana did make a tactical error because they knew who Kanstantsin was," said Peiper regarding the racing history between Astana's director Ekimov and the Belarusian. "However, Lowe was the race leader that day and he was staying on the wheel of Leipheimer, forcing him to do all the work. When Kanstantsin attacked it wasn't up to Leipheimer to respond, it was up to Lowe."
Peiper analysed that "I think it may have been a miscalculation, maybe Lowe didn't know who he was, or maybe he had all his focus on Leipheimer and totally underestimated Kanstantsin. Primarily, a rider who is winning the race should know who's close to him, especially after riding with them all week."
Slipstream director sportif, Jonathan Vaughters offered his insight into the quick change in GC lead from his team to High Road as less of a case of tactical error and more of a case of Lowe's gutsy climb turning up short in the end. "Trent knew that Kanstantsin was six seconds behind and he did everything he could," said Vaughters. "I communicated that I didn't think Levi was looking that great and that Kanstantsin would have been the rider to watch. Trent did a good little sprint to get away from Levi in the end but I don't think he quite had it during the moment when Kanstantsin went. I think he did what he could on a steep climb and couldn't go with Kanstantsin."
Siutsou, who is currently living near Bergamo, Italy, where mountain training is incorporated into his daily routine, substantiated Vaughters' comments by confirming Brasstown Bald's difficulty. "There was no way to use tactics on this climb because this mountain is very steep," said Siutsou. "It was all about who was fit, strong on a steep climb like that and able to win. I think George's help was very important for me. It was all about who had better legs in the last kilometre. I followed Levi's accelerations and then I found one opportunity to attack in a place I could accelerate."
Despite the decisive Brasstown Bald, according to Siutsou he is honoured to win his first American race for his US-based team and feels prepared to start the Giro d' Italia in GC contention. "I am happy to have this jersey for my team, myself and Bob," said Siutsou. "This is a dream to represent my team like this. I knew I was riding well, I'm here training for the Giro and then to work for Kim Kirchen in the Tour de France."
Duggan talks about his recovery
Timmy Duggan of Team Slipstream is recovering from his crash in the third stage of the Tour de Georgia, even if he doesn't remember anything about it. "That was one of those race days I'd just as soon forget. Which, fortunately, is turning out to be pretty easy to do," he wrote on the team's website, slipstreamsports.com. "All I know is I woke up sometime that night in a strange bed wondering what the heck happened, where I was, and why I was so sore. Never a great sign, by the way."
He suffered a broken collarbone and scapula, as well as head injuries, and underwent surgery on his collarbone. Since then, he followed the remainder of the Tour from his hospital bed. "It's not been much fun, I can assure you. Especially when you add the fact that it will be pretty difficult in my current condition for me to start my biggest event of the season, the Giro d'Italia. That makes things feel even worse. But if I have learned anything from cycling, it's that to enjoy the highs in sport and in life, you have to endure the low points as well."
The 25 year-old thanked his family, friends and fans for their support, and said, "I also want to assure everybody that I am healthy and will be back racing at 100% very soon and that there is nothing to worry about!"(SW)
Bruyneel "does not want" Vinokourov
By Susan Westemeyer
"It is one hundred percent certain that Johan Bruyneel does not want Alexander Vinokourov in our team," Team Astana spokesman Philippe Maertens has told Cyclingnews. Recent press stories have indicated that the suspended Kazakh rider is back in training, with the possibility of returning to ride in the Olympic Games in Beijing or even returning to the peloton.
"It is a question of credibility," Maertens continued. "We are working already since October last year on a new team. By accepting Vino in the team, we would have to start all over again. We proved already this season – unfortunately some organisers don't see it – that our team works super professionally and clean. We want to keep that." Astana has not been invited this season to any races sponsored by the ASO, including the Tour de France.
"Every rider deserves a second chance, but as organisers nowadays choose teams 'à la carte,' it is better to have only undisputed riders in the team." Vinokourov tested positive for blood-doping during last year's Tour de France and was given a one-year suspension by the Kazakh federation.
Maertens also dismissed rumours that the Kazakh sponsors may force the team to accept Vinokourov or any other rider. "Johan Bruyneel got 'carte blanche' from his sponsors to make this Astana Cycling Team. He will never be forced by sponsors to take certain riders."
The press spokesman said that while he has no direct contact with Vinokourov, he was in touch with someone who occasionally rides with him. "He is training, but it appears only to be a question of keeping his fitness. He confirmed to me that Vino has no plans to come back to competition. He is only working on his future. He will open a sports centre in the south of France."
Astana confirms in Georgia
Astana team has been winning left and right since being informed that they wouldn't be invited to this year's Tour de France, leaving Alberto Contador in the situation of not being able to defend his 2007 title.
While Levi Leipheimer came 14 seconds short of taking the victory and ended up in third, the team from Kazakhstan won the teams classification. They came ahead of CSC by 3'30. Team Type 1 was third – 4'56 back – while High Road, with overall winner Kanstantsin Siutsou, took fourth spot, 6'13 behind Astana.
Next stop for the team is the Tour de Romandie, which has become one of the bigger highlights of the season after the Tour and Giro non-invites.
Cavendish wins in unusual way
Mark Cavendish of High Road has added another win to his successful spring campaign. The Britain won the Profronde van Made on Sunday. It is not the fact that he won the omnium consisting of a 60-minute criterium, a 30-minute time trial, and a 20-minute elimination race. Cavendish and Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank) won the first two events – but surprisingly not in that order. Cavendish proved fastest against the clock, while Flecha won the criterium. Flecha's team-mate Sebastian Langeveld was the last survivor in the elimination race.
Through the win in the time trial Cavendish also took the overall title. Flecha ended in second, while Slipstream's Martyn Maaskant took third.
Rasmussen and Rabobank can't settle
Sunday was the deadline for Rabobank and Michael Rasmussen to settle their differences, following the Dutch team throwing out the Danish rider of its team during last year's Tour de France. According to Dutch paper De Telegraaf, the two parties were not able to reach an agreement and quoted Rasmussen's lawyer, Karoly Nemeth, as saying that "Rabobank made a financial offer that is unrealistic and unacceptable. It was way below what we expected. The offer was very, very, very far away from an acceptable amount for us."
Rabobank claimed that that wasn't the case.
The next step will be court procedures, which will likely mean that Rasmussen's plans to race by the end of May or early June are unlikely to pan out.
Vandenbroucke not ready to give up
Frank Vandenbroucke may be down, but he is certainly not out. "I want to be a racer again, I am not yet ready to stop," he said in an interview on the Belgian TV show, De Zevende Dag.
If the 33 year-old is unable to come back on his bike, he may have a new career as a fortune teller. In the TV show, which was filmed before Sunday's Liège-Bastogne-Liège, he accurately predicted that Alejandro Valverde would win the race. According to sportwereld.be, he had also predicted the winners in the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Stijn Devolder), Paris-Roubaix (Tom Boonen) and the Amstel Gold Race (Damiano Cunego), missing only on Milano-Sanremo, where he picked Filippo Pozzato instead of Fabian Cancellara.
The Belgian was reported to be seen on the Redoute climb, where he watched the race and checked on his predictions.(SW)
Photographer seriously injured
A press photographer was run down by the winning cyclist shortly after the finish line in Saturday's Arno Wallaard Memorial Saturday in Meerkerk, Netherlands. Freelance photographer Hans Roest was standing in the road, as allowed by race organisers, to get pictures as the winner crossed the finish line. Cornelius van Ooijen of the Asito Cycling Team won the race after a "tumultuous sprint," according to the "Algemeen Dagblad", and plowed directly into Roest.
The photographer slid across the street and hit his head on the curb. He had to be reanimated at the site and was taken to hospital in critical condition, which was later upgraded to serious.
Race organiser Jan van der Meijden said, "Nobody is at fault here. The photographers stood behind the line. Everything was legally in order."
Van Ooijen was also taken to a hospital to be checked out, and was discovered to have a bruised scapula. The 22 year-old could not really enjoy his win in the race, though. "I am mainly happy that the photographer has survived," he said.
The Arno Wallaard Memorial is dedicated to the former Skil-Shimano rider who died in February 2006 at the age of 26.(SW)
(Additional reporting and research provided by Susan Westemeyer)
(All rights reserved/Copyright Future Publishing Limited 2008)