Latest Cycling News, March 24, 2008
Edited by Bjorn Haake
Rund um Köln cancelled
Rund um Köln celebrated two things today: it was the 100th year of the race which was first held in September of 1908, and it was the first time that it had to be canceled due to snow. While the two world wars have already led to cancellations in the past, this was the first weather-related one. The race had the bad luck that it is held on Easter Monday, which is earlier this year than usual and moved the race from its normal April date up into March.
The race was delayed s hortly before the peloton was due to take off at 10:45 from the BayArena football stadium in Leverkusen this morning. The teams were to meet again at noon with the possibility of a 12:15 start on a modified 150-kilometre course which would have left out most of the hills. However, Altig decided to cancel altogether after going out on the course for a final check of the conditions around noon to find snow showers still falling and road covered in snow and ice.
Initially, the organisers had decided to celebrate the anniversary by making the race a little harder than in previous years. For the 100th edition on Easter Monday, 2008, the riders were to face a hilly parcours of 205 kilometres, with the Bensberg climb coming approximately 23 kilometres from the finish.
But what the organisers hadn't planned for was the weather. After an extremely mild winter, snow has finally arrived in Germany, making for a white Easter and tying up traffic over the weekend. The icy conditions which caused so many accidents on the famed 'Autobahn' over the weekend, has now caught up with the cyclists as well.
The last-minute cancellation of Alessandro Petacchi (Milram) due to illness meant the Italian did not travel in vain, meaning his team-mate Erik Zabel, who has won the race twice, in 1996 and 2004, would have been the lone team leader for the squad.
Defending champion Juan José Haedo (Team CSC) also didn't make it to the start, but the cancellation left Haedo's team-mate Jens Voigt without the possibility of his trademark breakaway on home soil. The riders did not even make it to the start, staying in the warmth of their hotels until the cancellation was officially announced around 12:30.
The unusually late winter storm has been affecting races all across northern Europe. Snow fell on the racers in the Ronde van het Groene Hart yesterday, and with Belgium also receiving some snowfall last night, the start of the Dwars van Vlaanderen on Wednesday has become uncertain.
Vaitkus takes another win for Astana
Lithuanian Tomas Vaitkus of the Astana Cycling Team was the fastest rider in the second Campina Ronde van het Groene Hart in the Netherlands. Vaitkus was the strongest sprinter of the remaining 51-rider peloton in Woerden, after harsh conditions with cold and even snow saw only the toughest survive. The podium featured Vaitkus on the top step, with last year's winner Wouter Weylandt (Quick Step) in second and Bobbie Traksel (P3Transfer - Batavus) in third.
The win signals a timely return to form for the former U23 World Time Trial Champion, who scored his second season victory after a stage win in the Tour of Algarve. "I was really motivated but I had a good feeling, the whole day long. I'm a bit surprised that I felt this well since I had to travel by car from Spain to Holland. I think this confirms that I'm ready for Waregem [Dwars door Vlaanderen, March 26] and Harelbeke [E3 Prijs Vlaanderen, March 29]."
"If this can help, we will send Tomas back to Spain – by car – the days before the Tour of Flanders," joked team director Viatcheslav Ekimov.
"The entire Astana Cycling Team worked hard the whole day," said Ekimov after the 204-kilometre long race. "Michael Schär was the first attacker of the day. In the last kilometres, René Haselbacher and Michael Schär neutralized an escape of Steven de Jongh. Our seven riders were very attentive during the day, as the peloton broke constantly into many parts. Tomas' win is a real team victory."
CSC's Gustav Erik Larsson tried a late attack and stormed ahead of the peloton for several kilometres. Directeur sportif Torsten Schmidt explained on the team's website, team-csc.com that "We didn't have any sprinters in this race so we had to try something else. It looked really good for Gustav, when he first escaped, but all of a sudden the sprinters' teams had more riders at the front and it didn't work out for him after all, but it was a decent and gutsy attempt."
Schmidt added that "The route was almost totally flat so we knew it would be difficult to win without a sprinter. Towards the end we were just happy to get through without crashes because the roads were very wet and narrow. It will probably be better in Rund um Köln, where we have an almost identical line-up, but with extra power in the shape of Jens Voigt and Andy Schleck, who should both be able to make a difference on the hills around Köln."
Sastre feeling well ahead of Vuelta Castilla y León
Carlos Sastre (Team CSC) used the weekend to fine-tune his conditioning for the Vuelta Castilla y León which starts today, and is feeling confident going into the Spanish race. "I am arriving at Castilla y León [in] better [shape] than last year," Sastre said. The race runs from March 24 to 28th. Sastre will toe the line along with his team-mates American Jason McCartney, sprint star Juan José Haedo, Iñigo Cuesta, Chris Anker Sørensen, Karsten Kroon, Jurgen Van Goolen and Vladimir Gustov.
Last year, Sastre made the Vuelta Castilla y León his first race back after a crash in the Vuelta a Murcia put him on the sidelines for a short time, and with just one week of preparation he had a mediocre race. This year he intends to fare better after taking ninth place in Murcia. "Yes, I think I am in better shape than last year. The injuries and the problems of last year are mostly gone and my sensations are better. Everything is going well, as anticipated," said Sastre, but cautioned that he doesn't have a real objective. "Those first races are a test for me, to see how it is going overall. I haven't planned anything special. I prefer to take it day by day, measuring myself as the race goes on."
Sastre had nothing but praise for the route. "In my opinion it is very good for the preparation that I want to do. There is a short time trial [9.7km - ed.], one flat stage and the rest is on difficult terrain; what we call rompepiernas [leg breaker - ed.]. Those are are very good requisites to go after those results that I am looking for."
In this tour in northern Spain he will encounter competitors that will be his direct rivals in the Tour de France. But Sastre said that there won't be any conclusions made for the big event in July. "No, I don't think there will be anything to see, because it is one thing how we are in this last week of March, but it is something completely different how we will go in July." He added that "of course it is always a good feeling if you are going well and that the other riders, against which you will race in the biggest race in the world, are more or less at your level. Then you know everything is going well."
Contentpolis-Murcia heading to northern Spain
New Spanish team Contentpolis-Murcia was off to a good start this season, with winning a stage in Valencia. For the upcoming Vuelta a Castilla y León, Julián Sánchez will be the leader of the team. He will be accompanied by Oleg Chuzhda, Rafael Rodríguez, Rafael Serrano, Alberto Rodríguez, Rubén Reig, Jorge Sánchez Pimienta and Eloy Teruel.
The directeur sportif of the team, Ginés García, explained that "until now there was a block of riders that has competed a lot and others who have ridden less. For that reason, in Castilla y León I want the riders who didn't compete in Valencia or Murcia, so that they can also get used to the race rhythm." García added that he wanted a balanced team and therefore nominated "Julián Sánchez Pimienta, who has to be our leader and who certainly can be with the best in the mountains. He already was at the Vuelta a Murcia, and I am sure that he will arrive in great form."
García is not just looking at this week's race, but already planned "the rest of the season and in Alentejo [Volta ao Alentejo, Portugal, April 9-13 - ed.] we will present a great team. It is the first time we are racing in a foreign country, and we want to do it well." He is also hoping for an invite to the Spanish national race, the Vuelta a España, in September. He sees it as an obligation to continue to race well, so that "our team would be among the chosen ones."
Cunego likely to skip Giro
Damiano Cunego (Lampre) is likely to skip the Giro d'Italia this year and concentrate on the Tour de France instead, according to www.tuttobiciweb.it. The winner of the 2004 Corsa Rosa thinks that the course in Italy doesn't suit him as well as La Grande Boucle in neighbouring France. He still will have to talk it over with his team management. Cunego won the white jersey (young rider classification) in the 2006 Tour.
Stalder is ready for the hills in Italy
The Settimana Internazionale Coppi Bartali will take place from March 25 to 29. Florian Stalder (Team Volksbank) has good memories on the race, as he got two top ten rankings there last year. The 25 year-old said that "that's the target for 2008. This stage race is really difficult, but I am in good shape again and ready for a power struggle in the mountains." He warned that "The top teams are coming directly from Tirreno or Paris-Nice," and will have advantages in their race conditioning. Stalder expects "that they will make the races very fast. It's necessary to stay in contact."
Stalder will be accompanied by his mountain-experienced compatriots Andreas Dietziker and Elias Schmäh. Harald Morscher will also be there and said "Those Italian races in the spring are really good for me. Top fields and a fantastic setting. Then it is easy to go to your limit. And that is what we likely will have to do here, if we want to get the odd good result." The team is complemented by Christoph Sokoll and Alexander Gufler. Team captain Gerrit Glomser can not start the race, as he is still recovering from a virus infection.
Team-Manager Thomas Kofler lowered expectations by emphasising that "In our first tough multi-day race in the current season we can't expect too much. We won't hide ourselves, but we won't overdo it, either ... We will get our form up slowly."
Directeur sportif will be the Italian Mario Beccia.
Fleeman back on course
After completing 170 kilometres of the Nokere Koerse in Belgium last week, British professional Dan Fleeman (AnPost-Sean Kelly Team) finally saw a doctor, after some weeks of breathing difficulties. Fleeman was diagnosed with asthma, brought on by a virus.
"I haven't felt on top form since the Tour of the Algarve and my period of training down there. In the Nokere Koerse, I could just feel something wasn't right, so I pulled out and went to see a doctor." Fleeman was prescribed a course of antibiotics to help sort out the problem and get him back racing as quickly as possible.
"I'm happy to finally know that something was actually wrong and seem to have caught it at the right time before it developed further. My lungs were only working at about 80% so that makes me feel better. I was told it should clear up within seven days," he added.
Fleeman will rest before rejoining the Irish professional team for the Belgian Dwars Door Vlaanderen and Brabantse Pijl. Afterwards, he will head to the Tour of Majorca and then the Pino Cerami.
Astana announces Dwars Door Vlaanderen line-up
Astana has named its riders for the Belgian Dwars Door Vlaanderen, which takes place on Wednesday. Koen de Kort, René Haselbacher, Sergei Ivanov, Aaron Kemps, Dmitriy Muravyev, Gregory Rast, Michael Schär and Tomas Vaitkus will be directed by two sports directors, Alain Gallopin and Viatcheslav Ekimov. They will hope to get another win, after Vaitkus took the Ronde van het Groene Hart.
Miche Silver Cross to Coppi Bartali
After the adventure of Milano-Sanremo, with Italian team Miche Silver Cross being in the break for most of the day via Nicola D'Andrea, the squad is heading to the next race, Settimana Internazionale Coppi Bartali. It is held from March 25 to 29, in Emilia Romagna. The selected riders are Przemyslaw Niemec, Krzysztof Szczawinski, Pasquale Muto, Eddy Serri, Enrico Degano, Nicola D'Andrea, Lorenzo Cardellini and Massimo Giunti.
Marco Tozzi is the directeur sportif.
GPOA-Cannondale Team expands roster and mission
The Pennsylvania based GPOA-Cannondale Cycling Team will further expand its operation. Having been successful at the elite level, with championship titles in four states, BAR titles and numerous podium finishes, the team will now add an under 25 section, to make it a development team. The team is not only focused on road racing, but participates in track events as well.
The squad has also secured a new title sponsor, the Pennsylvania-based Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute. The team is registered with USA Cycling and will race under the name of Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute racing team. It will continue to promote six races in the Pennsylvania state.
Riders who comprise the category-1 U25 team include Chris Kuhl, a three-time US National Collegiate team time trial champion member, Elliot Gaunt, a three-time US National Track Champion and 2005 member of the Junior World Team, Turner Johnson, Brett Jacoby, a former US National junior team member, Justin Brown and Adam Farabaugh. Kuhl and Gaunt bring a wealth of NRC and European race experience to the squad. The U25 team's focus will consist of numerous U25 road events throughout the United States, as well as competing for U23 and Elite National titles.
The full team's focus will be selected NRC races, the Commerce Bank Triple Crown Series, Rochester Omnium (New York), the Southeast Crit Series in North and South Carolinas, US National U23 and Elite Road Championships in Orange County, California and the US National Elite Criterium Championships at Downer's Grove, Illinois.
There is also a women's team, led by returning elite rider Leeann Beatty, who earned third place overall in the 2007 Pennsylvania Elite Women's BAR. Adding to the team's climbing prowess is Whitney Serviano.
Team Director Dennis Dansak added: "The talented U25 riders will gain a vast amount of tactical experience from the current elite squad, which has earned a great deal of success over the past several seasons. Furthermore, the team has initiated a mandatory anti-doping policy. The anti-doping policy will be signed and agreed to by all team members. None of our team riders are involved with any banned or illegal enhancement performing substances. Our policy is simple- zero tolerance."
The team will again be competing on Cannondale bicycles with the entire elite and U25 riders being provided with Cannondale's race proven System SIX.
Get behind the scenes at three top US races
US race promoter Arlington Sports put out a call this week for volunteers to work at its three marquee events. Interested respondents will have the chance to get up close and personal behind the scenes of major US races, including the US Air Force Cycling Classic, the CSC Invitational (both in Arlington, Virginia) and the Priority Health Grand Cycling Classic (Grand Rapids, Michigan).
Positions as course marshals, registration and construction crews, aid and hospitality station attendants, sag and caravan drivers, and Breakaway Club and hospitality hosts are available. Volunteers will be given a crew tee shirt and all access passes to the event and team presentations To sign up for a true inside look at the highest level of racing in the US, visit the promoter's website at www.arlingtonsports.org.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Future Publishing Limited 2008)