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Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

First Edition Cycling News, March 23, 2008

Edited by Ben Abrahams

Swiss timing: Cancellara strikes in Sanremo

Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC) savours a brilliant solo victory in Milano-Sanremo.
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

A marked man heading into the 99th edition of Milano-Sanremo, Fabian Cancellara overcame the climbs, the sprinters' teams and the odds to win the Monument known as La Classicissima. Cyclingnews' Gregor Brown was in Sanremo to witness an incredible performance from the man they now call 'Spartacus'.

Such has been Fabian Cancellara's outstanding form this season, that even with its status as a sprinters' Classic firmly established, victory in Italy's most prestigious one-day race was still considered within the 27 year-old's capabilities. "I started as a big favourite," he admitted, "but then I was able to give my most for the win. People thought I could do something. But the climbs are there and then the sprint is there. This race is full of stress, but I remained calm and tranquil.

"My attack came from the gut. It was similar to the one I made in Compiègne [to win Stage 3 of the 2007 Tour de France]," he added of his winning move in the final kilometres. Still, the odds were stacked against him, Paolo Bettini being the last to win from a true escape group in 2003, while you have to go back nine years to get the last rider who won solo.

"If I had waited it would not have worked," he explained. "I understood that there were the metres to make the difference when I looked back. To win a Sanremo, like I did... I think the last rider to do that was Andrea Tchmil [in 1999]. He did 800 metres, whereas I rode two kilometres."

The Swiss powerhouse credited his early season training sessions in California for his much improved climbing ability, which paid handsome dividends today. "For me it was the training in USA," he said. "We did climbs and the training was how I liked it to be. I started to think that I could stay with some of these guys on the climbs, and I knew to remain calm. I have lost a lot of races because I was nervous, so I have learned to stay calm and relaxed, but giving the maximum I need to win.

"I think that I fought to the end for my win. I thought that the new climb [Le Mànie - ed.] would change the race somewhat. I wanted to see the sprinters tired, and I was also fighting to keep myself intact," he said of the climb that was added to the parcours this year. "There were still 100 kilometres left to race and I stared to think 'this is not possible'. On the Cipressa the men were already strong, you could see that. However, after Le Mànie I started to feel better. I radioed, 'guys, we have to close this gap' that had stared on the Cipressa.

To read the full winner's story from Milano-Sanremo, click here.

Milram's tactics 'just didn't work'

Alessandro Petacchi (Milram)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

A disappointing Milano-Sanremo for Team Milram ended with four-time champion Erik Zabel and 2005 winner Alessandro Petacchi coming home 17th and 18th respectively as the team's decision to bank on a bunch sprint proved their undoing. In the previous 12 editions of Italy's most prestigious one-day race, just three have ended without bunch finishes, but the addition of the 4km climb of Le Mànie this year may just have softened the sprinters a little more than expected.

"I am not angry," stated Petacchi. "My condition was good, but unfortunately not super, and so I chose not to respond to attacks on the Poggio. My only chance was if the break did not succeed and so I remained with my team-mates Zabel and [Fabio] Sabatini."

With Zabel working for Petacchi, the German gave his all to bring back the leaders in the final three kilometres, but against the firepower of Fabian Cancellara there was no answer. "Together with Fabio Sabatini I tried to close the gap to the leaders," said Zabel. "Unfortunately their lead was too big. We did everything we could, but this time our tactics just didn't work."

Rolling across the line 5'42 behind the winner was Christian Knees, his work done before the final ascent of the Poggio. "I could support Erik and Alessandro up to the last climb," said Knees. "It was a very difficult race today, and especially the new climb Le Mànie cost a lot of strength. Unfortunately we couldn't be involved in the finale as we had planned. After such a strenuous day of such an extremely long race, that is naturally disappointing."

Petacchi will return to competition on Monday at the Rund um Köln in Cologne, Germany before starting his build-up for Gent-Wevelgem on April 9.

Rebellin 'tried everything'

By Susan Westemeyer

Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Italian Davide Rebellin showed no sign of fatigue after his Paris-Nice victory last week, playing a major role in the finale and narrowly missing out on a podium spot by finishing fourth. "I tried everything," said the Gerolsteiner leader. "Sure I would liked to have won, but only one man can win. And I am very satisfied with my results. I feel good. My form is good."

Gerolsteiner directeur sportif Christian Henn was also satisfied with a successful showing. "Our plan worked," he said. "We made the race hard and helped to bring about the fact that an escape group made it to the end. That was a great race, with an outstanding performance by Davide, who really gave everything."

Equally satisfied was Rebellin's team-mate Andrea Moletta, who finished in 62nd place, still only 25 seconds down. Last year he didn't even make it to the end, crashing dramatically on the Poggio descent and suffering injuries that kept him out for a number of months. The memories of last year didn't haunt him this year, though. "I never had a bad feeling," he told Cyclingnews. "My back hurts a a little from my crash in Paris-Nice, but otherwise everything is ok."

Belgian drought continues in Sanremo

Tom Boonen (Quick Step)
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Not since Andrei Tchmil in 1999 has a Belgian triumphed in Milano-Sanremo, and before that one must rewind all the way back to 1981 and Alfons DeWolf to find the next Belgian winner. That drought continued today as neither Tom Boonen (Quick Step) nor the in-form Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux) were able to bring home the victory. After struggling on the Poggio, Boonen never figured in the finale although Gilbert fared much better, sprinting home with a select group for third place behind Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC) and Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas).

"I was not super today, but well motivated," Gilbert told Belgian TV station Sporza. "It was always a headwind and therefore I waited until the last moment. I have given everything, but perhaps I waited too long. I was better here last year and also in the Omloop Het Volk I felt better, yet I've never done better in Milano-Sanremo."

Boonen's challenge was undone on the Poggio, when the 2005 world champion was unable to follow the high pace of the leaders. "I went out to win," said Boonen. "But just when we came to the Poggio, I tried to jump but just couldn't go."

Boonen's team-mate Paolo Bettini had already tried his luck on the previous climb of Cipressa, but was brought back on the run in to the Poggio. "That had been arranged," said Boonen. "I focused on the sprint with [Matteo] Tossato and Bettini would attack so that we did not have to ride."

Nys on the market?

According to reports in the Belgian press, cyclo-cross ace Sven Nys may be leaving his Rabobank team for another squad next season, and is supposedly facing a choice between remaining at Rabobank or moving to the Sunweb ProJob or Landbouwkrediet-Tönissteiner squads. Newspaper Het Laaste Nieuws has reported that Nys will move to Landbouwkrediet, although an official communication from the team confirmed its interest in the rider, but denied that a contract had been signed.

"I have signed for no one and also not given my word," Nys told SportWereld. "Landbouwkrediet-Tönissteiner, Sunweb ProJob and my present employer Rabobank are the teams from which I will choose. My manager has spoken with everybody and is now waiting to hear how Rabobank will react. The decision can still go each of these ways."

"I am just back from a holiday in Jamaica with the family," he added. "And on Sunday we depart for Austria to go skiing. It will be at least two weeks before a decision is made."

Gerolsteiner and Volksbank for Settimana Ciclistica Internazionale

Gerolsteiner is sending a mix of experience and youth to the Settimana Ciclistica Internazionale in Italy next week, which runs from March 25-29. Four youngsters and four veterans will contest the five-day race which goes over 835.5 km and features two Cat. 1 climbs, as well as a team time trial. The team will look to sprinter Robert Förster, who last year won the fourth stage as their leader.

Gerolsteiner for Settimana Ciclistica: Francesco De Bonis, Robert Förster, Mathias Frank, Johannes Fröhlinger, Volker Ordowski, Matthias Russ, Ronny Scholz and Peter Wrolich.

Team Volksbank have also been invited to the event and will travel from their base in Austria to Italy to take part. The Professional Continental team will look to Florian Stalder, who last year finished in the top ten in two stages, but will have to do without its captain, Gerrit Glomser, who is still recovering from an illness.

Volksbank for Settimana Ciclista Internazionale: Andreas Dietziker (Sui), Alexander Gufler (Ita), Harald Morscher (Aut), Elias Schmäh (Sui), Christoph Sokoll (Aut) and Florian Stalder (Sui).

SuperWeek announces 40th anniversary edition

SuperWeek, the oldest multi-day race series in the US, will celebrate its 40th anniversary this year from July 11-27. The tour begins in Chicago, Illinois and ends 17 days later in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on the same day as the Tour de France reaches the Champs-Élysées in Paris. Last year the event had over 7,000 entries from 20 different countries.

Otto Wenz, the event founder, expressed his delight at still being involved with the event as the Race Director. "I never imagined that we would be celebrating our 40th anniversary," said Wenz. "I look at the race as my baby that I have nurtured and built for 40 years. I also want to thank all of the people that have supported us over the years."

More information on the series can be found at:

Tour de Hood two-day recreational challenge

Organisers of the Mt Hood Cycling Classic are aiming to give spectators a taste of what it's like to conquer some of the same courses used by the pros, with a blend of participation and spectator event planned for Saturday, May 17. Riders will start from Cooper Spur Resort, a full three hours before the professional racers take to the road from the same start and can either aim to outrun the pro caravan over 89 miles or pedal to a prime viewing spot on the final climb to Mt Hood Meadows Ski Resort.

From there they can watch the race in person, Tour de France-style, just feet away from the racers as they fly past up the road. A barbeque courtesy of Mt Hood Meadows awaits at the top for all, and riders will transfer by bus back to the starting point or seal their toughness by riding the 14 miles back to Cooper Spur Resort and completing a century.

The ride continues Sunday morning with terrain featuring the Columbia River Gorge Historic Highway, portions of which are closed to traffic. The riders will depart in the morning from Hood River for 42 miles of challenging and breathtaking terrain and return in time for the stage 6 Hood River Criterium that afternoon.

"The Tour de Hood is a natural add-on for the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic Riders," said organiser Chad Sperry. "We've been meaning to do this for several years and we finally found in Kendra Wenzel the right director who has experience in multi-format events such as the Sea Otter Classic. At the same time we can use our existing infrastructure to create this ride, we can benefit a great cause like the Lance Armstrong Foundation and raise funds to ensure future editions of the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic."

The weekend event will feature rest stations stocked with local, high-energy foods, and mechanical support on the road. "I fully expect this ride to grow like crazy," said Wenzel. "We have a classic course in more ways than one, a great organization and we have the added excitement of the challenge of outrunning the top pro racers on the US circuit."

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