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Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

First Edition Cycling News, March 10, 2008

Edited by Sue George with assistance from Susan Westemeyer

Paris-Nice off to wet start with all invited teams, despite UCI threats

By Jean-François Quénet in Amilly

Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole) claimed the win
Photo ©: JF Quénet
(Click for larger image)

Changing weather played a key role in the result of the prologue at Paris-Nice, the race that was the subject of much controversy all last week in the ongoing battle between organizers ASO and the UCI. Euskaltel-Euskadi's Markel Irizar was one of the first 40 riders who started before the rain came in. At the end, it was dry again for the last 40 riders.

Despite continued threats from the UCI to sanction both teams and riders if they took part in the event, the event got underway with all invited teams on the start line. In the lead up to the event the UCI's Pat McQuaid threatened riders who start Paris - Nice with a six month suspension and possible sanctions against their teams.

Organisers of the race, Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) has opted not to participate in the ProTour and instead of running the event under UCI sanctioning, Paris-Nice is being run under the rules of the French federation. After a meeting held on the Friday before, the teams defied the UCI (see reports) and decided to take part in the race. It is not yet known whether the UCI will follow through on threats they made to sanction riders and teams.

Already a winner of the prologue of the Tour de France – 2006 in Strasbourg – Thor Hushovd was the only rider able to beat the performance of Irizar, who came close to what would have been a huge surprise win in the inaugural 4.6-kilometre time trial of Paris-Nice in Amilly. The 30 year-old Norwegian took the yellow leader's jersey with four seconds over the Spaniard and five over German Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) .

"When I saw it yesterday, I realised it was a good course for me," the winner explained. "This morning, my team manager, Roger Legeay, added that the rainy weather was also in my favour. I hadn't prepared myself for winning that prologue. I came here mostly in preparation for the Classics with the idea of winning a stage on Monday or Tuesday."

With a stage win at the Tour Méditerranéen and a third place at the Het Volk, Hushovd is having a much better start for the 2008 season than he had last year with no win until stage four in the Tour de France. "Last year, I waited with the idea of peaking for Milan-Sanremo, but I got sick and I was always in search of my form. I've had no problems this year. I also trained with more intervals earlier than usual. I did it again this week and it pays off now."

Bradley McGee (Team CSC) took fourth for the day
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

"The rain made the course technical," Bradley McGee explained after coming fourth. The winner of the 2003 Tour de France prologue was back in business on the road after training for the pursuit with the Olympics in mind. "I didn't feel at my best, but I was really calm and physically, I delivered a good performance. I'm in a much better condition than two years ago when I finished third in the prologue of Paris-Nice, and I had to go home two days later; I don't expect anything like that this week."

"These short prologues are always weird because they end up so close with tiny margins deciding the outcome," added McGee according to "But I actually felt really good out there so I'm very satisfied with today's result. It's a good platform for the rest of the season. I didn't get any rain, but the roads were wet and I think it was the same for everyone."

Hushovd was optimistic about stage one Monday with its 184.5km from Amilly to Nevers. "I know about the final 800 metres uphill with a gradient of seven to eight percent, but I think I can make it. Philippe Gilbert is the main danger if he attacks with 200 or 300 metres to go. I'm still here for winning on Monday or Tuesday."

See Cyclingnews' complete coverage of the Paris-Nice prologue.

German teams happy with Paris-Nice prologue

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Stefan Schumacher of Team Gerolsteiner finished third in Sunday's Paris-Nice prologue, five seconds behind winner Thor Hushovd. Five seconds aren't much, but they are enough. "Of course it is a little irritating, when you are only five seconds back and know that maybe you didn't take one or the other curve with full risk," Schumacher said. But he held himself back a bit on the wet streets, especially since just before he started he saw team-mate Andrea Moletta return to the bus after crashing during his run. "That makes you automatically a bit more careful," the German said.

"I am very satisfied with the results," he continued. "I simply didn't really know how good my legs already are. But they were good. I hope it goes on like this. At least this kind of result gives you self-confidence."

His boss, team manager Hans-Michael Holczer, echoed the sentiments. "I can accept that. To be five seconds behind a specialist is really ok. In any case, Stefan gave notice that he is here."

Moletta finished next-to-last on the day, 1.16 behind the winner. The Italian caught the worst of the bad weather, strong winds and driving rains, and crashed on the 4.6 km course. "At first he was very shocked because he went down on his 'bad' leg," spokesman Mathias Wieland told Cyclingnews. "But he is fine, he only lost some skin." Moletta broke his right femur in last year's Milano-Sanremo.

The other German ProTour team, Team Milram, was also happy with the day's results. 24 year-old Andrey Grivko finished eighth, which gave him the young rider's jersey. "I am very happy with my top ten placement. That was a very good day for me," the Ukrainian said. "Everything went perfectly despite the wind and rain, and I will try to defend the young rider's jersey in the next few days."

Crashes mar Sunshine Cup round four

Sabine Spitz (Central Ghost Pro Team) was seriously injured in round four of the Sunshine Cup
Photo ©: Armin M. Küstenbrück
(Click for larger image)

Two of the favorites for the women's race at the Sunshine Cup round four on Sunday suffered crashes, and both happened at the same place, albeit during different laps in the race.

On the first lap, Sabine Spitz, who was then leading the women's race, tried to pass a male rider that had started before her. In a gently descending, but fast section before the first downhill, she took a passing line which resulted in a bad crash. She went over her handlebars and landed on some stones with her back with abrasions to both her knees, arms and right elbow, and with fear of more serious injury, she withdrew from the race. Initial medical examinations found a lot of abrasions and contusions but no broken bones; however, she was scheduled to undergo further testing.

"Today ended in such a way I naturally had not imagined," she said after the initial shock of the crash wore off. "I felt actually quite good. As the rider in the men's field tried to hold me off, I was forced on to another line [to pass]. I only know that my front wheel washed out; everything happened so fast. For the moment, everything hurts and burns." Whether she will stick to her remaining program on Cyprus remains to be seen in the next few days. Her physiotherapist Volker Teubler said that Spitz was lucky and probably suffered no more serious injuries.

At the same spot on the final lap, Tereza Hurikova also went over her bars, but fortunately with less severe consequences. Having just been caught by eventual winner Petra Henzi, Hurikova tried to pass her back to be first on the following downhill. "With my pedal, I hit a stone and I hurtled over my handlebar. I think I was back on my bike fast, but Elisbeth Osl caught me," said Hurikova, who then used the last downhill to leave Osl behind on her way to second place with a margin of two seconds over Osl and 38 seconds behind Henzi.

Roel Paulissen won the men's race with a solo ride that lasted for the entire race. Czech racers Milan Spesny and Jaroslav Kulhavy finished second and third. Kulhavy and Christoph Soukup took turns trying to catch the powerful Paulissen, but each blew up just as he was about to make contact with the leader

"The pace I took was too hard. So I had to recover," Kulhavy explained after the race.

Referring to the two failed attempts to catch him, Paulissen said, "So I had to ride the whole race without a companion. That was hard – just like the course." He finished 13 seconds ahead of a third chaser Spesny.

Sastre leaves Murcia satisfied and looking ahead

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Sastre at the sign-in
Photo ©: Susanne Goetze
(Click for larger image)

It would be hasty for any rider to draw conclusions about the racing season after just six days of competition, but the season is underway with some major competitions already finished and more on the horizon. Thus far, it's looking good for Team CSC's Carlos Sastre.

"I wanted to come to the Vuelta a Murcia focusing on the stage four time trial, and the truth is that the race has proved to be very positive in all aspects," said Carlos Sastre to Cyclingnews from Murcia. "It was a very demanding route, with top competition. Everything went as expected for me. I left the race happy." Sastre finished ninth overall in the five-stage event and seventh in the time trial of stage four.

The CSC climber, who will turn 33 years-old on April 22 said, "I am in an ideal moment in my professional cycling career – having reached full maturity and a fullness of condition, with sufficient experience and hampered by few past problems, and most importantly, I'm surrounded by a highly competitive team with very clear ideas."

Sastre is looking toward the Tour de France with more optimism than in previous years should he get the chance to go, but he first has to decide whether to race the earlier Giro d'Italia. "That decision will come if, after competing in the Vuelta al País Vasco, I am still short on form and in need more competition. I do not want to arrive as in other years. This time I want to be at the Tour in the best possible shape."

"This year's Tour de France has fewer time trialling kilometers, something which very important in that it favors me. Whether the Alps or the Pyrenees comes first does not matter to me – the order doesn't change the overall effect. The roads and profiles of the Pyrenees in the final week would make the race very hard."

Sastre said that if he does the Giro, he will not also be at the start of the Vuelta a España. "I will not do the three Grand Tours back to back," he said, sharing the opinion of a majority of riders.

With regard to the ongoing dispute between some race organizers and the UCI, Sastre said, "I am not going to show a preference for either the Grand Tour organizers or the UCI. We, the cyclists, are the ones who are losing. It is necessary, once and for all, that somebody establishes the same rules for all."

Equipe Nürnberger rider comes back after one-year pause

Modesta Vzesniauskaite had to stop racing for nearly one whole year because of an illness, but the Equipe Nürnberger rider has finally recovered and returned to the peloton. In her first appearance in over 11 months, she finished sixth in the GP Brissago Lago Maggiore.

"We are all very happy, that Modesta is back. This appearance after a year's pause was really great," said Sports Director Jens Zemke. The 24 year-old's last race was the GP Alfredo Binda the beginning of April 2007. She was subsequently diagnosed with a virus which proved difficult to combat and which continually forced her to stop training. The Lithuanian rider has been able to train again since the end of 2007.

In the GP Brissago Lago Maggiore her team-mates Edita Pucinskaite and Claudia Häusler finished eighth and eleventh, respectively. Larissa Kleinmann was unable to race due to a cold. Both she and Regina Schleicher, who has a cold, were not able to ride in Sunday's GP Citta' di Cornaredo.

Klöden denies alleged Sinkewitz' charges

Andreas Klöden (Astana) at the 2007 Tour de France
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Andreas Klöden said that he was surprised at the statements that his former team-mate Patrick Sinkewitz allegedly made about him. The Astana rider noted that "I have already addressed this and have nothing more to add. But I have asked my attorneys to review the matter and take any necessary steps."

The German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung reported over the weekend that when Sinkewitz was questioned last week, he allegedly said that both Klöden and Matthias Kessler participated in a trip to the University of Freiburg Clinic for blood doping during the Tour of France 2006.

Klöden has consistently denied any involvement in the affair. He said that he was "astonished" to see such detailed information in the press and noted that the prosecutor refused to confirm the information.

He received support from his Astana team. "Klöden convincingly assured us that he has nothing to do with this matter," team spokesman Philippe Maertens told the German press agency dpa. "So there is not reason for us to impose any kind of sanction against Andreas. At the moment there is no reason to do that, but we will keep an eye on the matter."

Prosecutors said to offer Ullrich million-euro deal

Public prosecutors have allegedly offered Jan Ullrich a deal in their investigation that he cheated his former employer, Deutsche Telekom. They will drop the charges and close the case if he admits to having been a client of Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes and pays a fine of one million euro, according to the German news magazine Focus.

Ullrich was suspended by T-Mobile Team on the day before the Tour de France started in 2006 because of his involvement in Operación Puerto. He announced his retirement from cycling in February 2007. A few weeks later it was announced that blood bags take in Operación Puerto had been confirmed as his blood. Ullrich has consistently denied all charges.

Caisse d'Epargne for Tirreno-Adriatico

Team Caisse d'Epargne announced its line up for the upcoming Tirreno-Adriatico race on March 12-18. Riders will include Imanol Erviti, Vicente García Acosta, Iván Gutiérrez, Vladimir Karpets, Pablo Lastras, Luis Pasamontes, Joaquím Rodríguez and José Joaquín Rojas, all under the direction of José Luis Jaimerena.

Ohio Valley 'cross series looks to long-term growth

Mitch Graham, Director of the Ohio Valley Cyclo-cross Series, announced Saturday that the organization signed a six-year contract with business development company SpectaSport with the goal of continuing to grow the series.

"Right now, OVCX is an elite grassroots series," said Graham. "In only five years, we've grown to 15 races, including five that are UCI sanctioned. The vision for the series is that it continues to grow in baby steps up into a national caliber series – a focus point for Midwest 'cross racing. I want each race to be the Midwestern destination point on each weekend."

Graham said the region, complete with many metropolitan areas, has potential to serve a growing sports market. "The Ohio Valley Region has six semi-major metropolitan markets. From downtown Cincinnati, you have 14 million people within 90 minutes. The Ohio Valley racing region that we represent encompasses ... Indianapolis, Columbus, Lexington, and Louisville. Within that circle you [also] have Dayton."

SpectaSport President Ken Getchell thinks the region is well suited for cyclo-cross. "There's no other region in the US where racing sports carry as much prestige as in the Ohio Valley. Indianapolis is home to the most famous auto race in the world, the Indianapolis 500. Louisville is home to the Kentucky Derby thoroughbred race. And Madison, Indiana, has such an infatuation with powerboat racing that a Hollywood movie named "Madison" was released in 2005. This is a region with big cities and big-time professional sports teams, but where, culturally, it's an accepted norm to watch people race things."

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