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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest Cycling News, March 25, 2008

Edited by Bjorn Haake

ASO names teams for Classics

The Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) announced the teams for the upcoming Spring Classics Paris-Roubaix, La Fléche Wallonne and Liège - Bastogne - Liège, and as expected the list does not include Astana. The team of the 2007 Tour de France winner Alberto Contador was refused entry to all of the ASO's events in February, and it was recently announced that this would indeed extend to the Tour de France.

All 17 of the other ProTour teams made the cut on the list of 25 teams. Professional Continental teams Slipstream, Skil-Shimano, Barloworld, Agritubel, Tinkoff Credit Systems, Topsport Vlaanderen, Landbouwkrediet - Tönissteiner and the Cycle Collstrop team, formerly known as Unibet.com round out the squads for the Classics.

Notably absent was LPR Brakes, the team of defending Liège-Bastogne-Liège champion Danilo Di Luca. The Italian is also a past winner of Flèche Wallonne, but recent doping investigations might have played a role in ruling him and his team out. Mitsubishi-Jartazi, the team of Frank Vandenbroucke and Allan Davis, was also not amongst the invitees.

Teams: AG2R La Mondiale, Agritubel, Barloworld, Bouygues Telecom, Caisse d'Epargne, Cofidis, Crédit Agricole, Cycle Collstrop, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Française des Jeux, Gerolsteiner, Team High Road, Lampre, Landbouwkrediet - Tönissteiner, Liquigas, Quick Step, Rabobank, Saunier Duval-Scott, Skil-Shimano, Slipstream-Chipotle, Silence-Lotto, Team CSC, Team Milram, Tinkoff Credit Systems, Topsport Vlaanderen.

Unbelieving Pooley thrilled with World Cup win

By Susan Westemeyer

A smiling Emma Pooley on the top step of a World Cup race
Photo ©: WomensCycling.net
(Click for larger image)

Emma Pooley of the Swiss Team Specialized Designs for Women was more than thrilled to win her first World Cup race, even if she was having doubts the next day as to whether it really happened. "I still can't quite believe it, I suspected I might wake up in the morning and it's all been a dream!" she told Cyclingnews. "Unexpected wins are the best and when it happens to be a World Cup race, that's even better."

Explaining how it happened, she said that when two riders got away on the climb, "I bridged across to them, but the bunch caught us again fairly soon. I thought another attack was bound to go so I pre-empted it and somehow ended up on my own. It was too early to go it alone really, but I thought I might as well keep riding – if I got caught then there would be others from my team who could cover the attacks and get into the breaks. And probably if it hadn't been foolishly early I wouldn't have been able to get away."

The win gave the 25 year-old the leader's jersey in the World Cup and she is prepared to fight for it. "We're now looking forward to Vlaanderen and the other World Cup races even more! Having the leader's jersey will be very special, if a little scary too. I think we can make a good effort to defend it, the team is strong this year and we're really well-motivated."

Centrum Ronde van Vlaanderen – at the Heart of the Tour of Flanders

A genuine Flandria team car reminding us of former times
Photo ©: Ben Atkins
(Click for larger image)

The pretty market town of Oudenaarde sits at the heart of the scenic Flemish Ardennes, just a stone's throw from many of the region's legendary bergs – and the start point of the women's Ronde. Just off the main square sits a museum dedicated to the race that puts this region on the map each spring. Cyclingnews' cobble-aholic Ben Atkins takes us on a tour.

The Centrum: Cycling's cathedral

According to the museum's director Rik Vanwalleghem: "Bike racing is a religion in Flanders: If bike racing is a religion, then the Ronde Van Vlaanderen is the main service of the year." So, in the early 1990s, various journalists and local politicians had thoughts about a permanent exhibition on the race so that people could enjoy it the whole year round. In 1991 a book was published about the history of the Ronde and it won an award for the best sporting book of that year.

That prize – of approximately €2,500 – became the beginning of a fund specifically to pay for the building of a centre. To extend Vanwalleghem's simile a little further: If bike racing is a religion, it now has its cathedral.

As well as donations from individuals and fundraising events, they also sought money from the local government. After all, in an area seeking to promote itself to the world, "the Ronde Van Vlaanderen is a big ambassador for Flanders". For this reason, the Centrum receives funding from the Flemish Tourist Board – although they'd obviously like more! On top of this, the Centrum is also a genuine educational resource for the schools in the area. As well as the bike racing, the culture, geography, geology and even the botany of the area are explored within the exhibits – we never had field trips like this when I was at school!

Choose your hero

With your admission ticket, you choose one of twelve Flandrian heroes as an "alter ego" to take you around the various exhibits. The choice is between Johan Museeuw, Walter Godefroot, Rik Van Steenbergen, Edwig Van Hooydonck, Eric Leman, Briek Schotte, Eric Vanderaerden, Eddy Merckx, Gaston Rebry, Jan Raas, Rik Van Looy and Henri Van Lerbergh. More recent heroes Tom Boonen and Peter Van Petegem are to be added soon, as if the choice wasn't tough enough. As he was the directeur of our own Pro Continental team last year, this Cyclingnews correspondent felt duty bound to select Eric Vanderaerden this time.

A thirteenth legend is also present at the Centrum these days. Since the early part of this year, former double World Champion, and Flemish legend Freddy Maertens has become part of the museum's staff. He had worked at the National Museum of Cycling in nearby Roeselare for many years, but recently moved across to the Centrum Ronde Van Vlaanderen – incidentally one of the few major Flemish races that he never won, but he probably doesn't need reminding of that!

To read the full feature, click here.

Niermann's first ride over 300 kilometres

Grischa Niermann (Rabobank) rode 300 kilometres for the first time on Saturday
Photo ©: Hedwig Kröner
(Click for larger image)

Due to some detours this year's Milano-Sanremo was a little bit longer than in the past years, 298 kilometres to be exact. Or is it? Not according to Rabobank's Grischa Niermann. His cycling computer showed 302 kilometres, "and that's without the ten-kilometre neutral start." Niermann wrote on his website, grischa-niermann.de, despite the fact that he had never before ridden that far, the "race went by very quickly."

He did acknowledge that "it's a funny feeling when you take over at the front after 50 kilometres and there are still 250 left to go." Niermann's job was to lead the peloton from kilometre 50 all the way to the new climb of le Mànie (kilometre 200). He did that together with compatriot Martin Müller (Milram) and the two ensured that the gap of the break never grew to much more than 16 minutes.

With the work for the team and his captain, Oscar Freire, accomplished, Niermann wanted to get to the finish nonetheless, partially because of getting the miles in. But there were a few times where he had to scramble to stay in touch with the peloton. Finally, "after 275 kilometres, going up the Cipressa, I paid for the work on the front and finished the race in a group behind." Until then, things went well for the team. Freire was in the decisive group coming down the Poggio. "But when you are the top favourite it still doesn't mean you can win in the end," explained Niermann and added that "even Freire didn't have an answer to the decisive attack by Fabian Cancellara." Niermann concluded that "maybe it'll work next year again. I really had fun at the race and I surely will be back here."

Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali underway

The 8th Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali was off to a quick start, with the sprinters battling it out in the unusual morning hours. Francesco Chicchi (Liquigas) was the most awake of the fast men, taking the victory ahead of his two Italian compatriots, Mattia Gavazzi (Preti Mangimi) and Danilo Napolitano (Lampre). Robert Förster (Gerolsteiner) finished fourth. Chicchi is showing good form, having also won the last stage of Tirreno-Adriatico recently.

The reason for the early stage is the 'double-dose', with a team time trial over 11.8 kilometres scheduled for the afternoon.

Astana hungry for more

The Astana team let the results do the talking
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

After the win in the Netherlands via Tomas Vaitkus on Sunday, Astana also dominated the prologue of the Vuelta a Castilla y León. 2007 Tour de France winner Alberto Contador won the 9.7-kilometre long race against the clock, with a time of 11 minutes and 39 seconds. That's an average of close to 50 kilometres an hour!

His team-mate, American Levi Leipheimer, got second, four seconds behind the Spanish Tour champ. With another Astana rider, Andreas Klöden, in 12th, they also took the teams win for the day, 43 seconds ahead of Slipstream Chipotle Presented by H30.

The first non-Astana rider was Thomas Dekker (Rabobank) in third, who was 13 seconds back, while Jason McCartney, a former team-mate of Leipheimer and Contador, who now rides for CSC, finished in fourth, at 15 seconds.

Astana is racing with quite a bit of anger these days, as their non-selection for the Tour de France leaves them without the possibility to defend Contador's title in the biggest bike race in the world. There may be some more wins coming up for the team in the coming weeks, as the global peloton stops in Belgium, France and the Netherlands next, with the northern classics on the calendar.

Stapleton happy with High Road's season start

By Susan Westemeyer

Oenone Wood (Team High Road) in her Australian champion jersey
Photo ©: Ben Atkins
(Click for larger image)

Team High Road got the season off to a spectacular start in January in Australia, with two national titles and André Greipel's dominance in the Tour Down Under. Things haven't quite continued at that rate over the first part of the season, and the U.S. based team has been struck hard by injuries and illnesses, but team owner and manager Bob Stapleton explained on the team's website, www.highroadsports.com, that he is very happy with how things have gone. "We've had a much better start than we could have hoped for."

Adam Hansen took the team's first win, with the Australian national time trial title, followed two days later by Oenone Wood taking the women's road title.

The team continued its Australian success with sprinter Greipel winning the unofficial prologue and four stages of the Tour Down Under to claim not only the overall title but also the UCI ProTour leader's jersey.

While the team has had some wins since then, it has made more headlines with medical reports. Illness hit the squad at the Tour of California, with intestinal problems wiping out half the members. A more serious illness sidelined team captain Michael Rogers, who is out with Epstein-Barr virus for a couple of months, while Linus Gerdemann, suffered a double leg fracture and knee injuries in Tirreno-Adriatico.

Marcus Burghardt, winner of last year's Gent-Wevelgem, will miss the entire Spring Classics season due to knee problems.

Meanwhile, the women's team has been holding up its end, with 14 wins already in the young season.

High Road was pleased to be assured of invitations to the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France, and all the other races sponsored by their organisations. "Our relationship with the organisers of both races, ASO and RCS, remains very important to us," Stapleton said. "In the past, ASO has seen our younger riders do very well – like in the Tour de L'Avenir, as well as Linus' great performance in last year's Tour de France."

Looking forward to July, Stapleton added, "This year, our roster and the Tour de France in general are going to be wide open. It will be a chance for our talented new faces to shine once again."

The team has continued to concentrate on its main philosophy of "focusing on the up-and-coming talent in cycling," Stapleton said on highroadsports.com. "Our veteran riders know they are here to be leaders for our younger riders, accelerating their learning curve, and sometimes sacrificing their own chances to do that. Teamwork, personal commitment and intense focus on the success of the entire team. That's our team's fundamental approach."

This focus will continue, he said. "We've taken another major step towards creating and developing the big future stars of the sport. That's what fans and the event organisers want to see and what makes our team attractive."

"We've got even more strong young riders on our roster than ever before. 21 riders from our men's and women's teams are under 26," the American noted. "High Road is focused on developing a sound athletic foundation for our team and the sport. Additionally, we've further extended our commitment to clean cycling and fair sport, based on a comprehensive program with ACE [Agency for Cycling Ethics]."

Team Kuota-Senges frustrated

The riders of Team Kuota-Senges imagined Easter Monday to play out differently. Instead of racing against a top-level field in Rund um Köln, they were frustrated that the race was cancelled. Team manager Markus Ganser said that "it's a pity for us. The race is a season highlight and the guys were well prepared. We would have liked to race." But Ganser acknowledged that in the end "the cancellation was the right thing to do."

Plan B was to race in the evening, in Ahrweiler, at a circuit race. All races were held – except for the elite race, due to snowfall... A frustrated Ganser added that "that was it for the weekend."

Another part of the team was in France and had more luck with the weather. They started at the Tour de Normandie, where the event was kicked off with a 5.8-kilometre time trial. In Mondeville, Dutchman Thom van Dulmen was the best-placed rider for Kuota-Senges, finishing 15th.

Milram youngsters to Belgium

Team Milram's youngsters had a "snow day" on Monday, and after their unexpected long weekend following the cancellation of Rund um Köln, they are "eager to race again," according to Directeur Sportif Jochen Hahn. He will take eight riders with an average age of 24.5 years to Wednesday's Dwars door Vlaanderen. They will be led by Classics specialist Markus Eichler.

Milram for Dwars door Vlaanderen: Artur Gajek, Dennis Haueisen, Elia Rigotto, Markus Eichler, Martin Velits, Marej Jurco, Niki Terpstra and Sebastian Schwager.

Quick Step to Dwars

'Home team' Quick Step will head to the Dwars van Vlaanderen with Tom Boonen heading the squad. He will have strong support by Wilfried Cretskens, Steven De Jongh, Stijn Devolder, Kevin Hulsmans, Sébastien Rosseler, Gert Steegmans and Wouter Weylandt.

Wilfried Peeters will be the directeur sportif.

German Bundesliga race held in snowstorm

The professionals stayed in the comfort of their hotel rooms as Rund um Köln got cancelled, but further north the racing was on. Cottbus-Görlitz-Cottbus was held, despite the conditions being pretty bad, too. The directeur sportif of Thüringer Energie Team, Jens Lang, explained that "The conditions were borderline. Partially, there was snow slush on the road." He joked that "Fortunately, we come from a winter sports country and regularly go skiing in our training camps," making reference to Thüringen as the home of many high-level cross-country skiers, biathletes and ski-jumpers.

But Thüringer Energie Team was happy overall, as they got off to a good start into the racing season. The defending Bundesliga champion won the teams classification for the day and took over the lead again in the standings. The race, which was shortened from 190 to 140 kilometres due to the ice and snow, was dominated by an 11-man breakaway. It developed quickly after the start and rode ahead of the peloton with a maximum advantage of over four minutes. By the end the field came close, but was still 29 seconds back at the finish.

Felix Rehberger of Team Bergstraße won the event, ahead of Marcel Barth (Thüringer Energie). Matthias Belka (LKT Brandenburg) was the one who started the sprint and managed to get third.

One more rider of Thüringer Energie was in the break, with Lucas Schädlich taking fifth. Philipp Klein won the sprint of the peloton and his 12th place got Thüringer Energie the teams classification. Lang explained that "we were always well informed, had two fast men in the break and our sprinters in the peloton," emphasising his previous point that the ban of the race radio for the under 23 races won't change the tactics.

Erik Mohs (Milram Continental) snatched seventh place, while his team-mate, Jacob Fiedler, was also in the break and finished 11th. Directrice sportive Sylvia Hauseisen was slightly dissatisfied, saying that "Too bad it didn't work out. Jacob led out Erik for the sprint, but it didn't quite work out." Milram Continental had five riders in the top 20 and finished fifth in the teams classification.

Inaugural Tour of Colorado set

The first Tour of Colorado will be a series of seven of Colorado's most important bicycle road races beginning Saturday, May 10th and concluding over the Labor Day Weekend. With races throughout Colorado, the Tour of Colorado brings a series of races together for not only the competitors but the spectators and host communities.

The 2008 Tour of Colorado will feature several Colorado State Championships events as well as The State Games of The West. Overall results will be kept for five of the most competitive categories and classes. The first race in the Tour of Colorado series will be the Excel Sports Sunshine Hill Climb on Saturday, May 10th in Boulder. There were well over 300 entrants in 2007.

The Iron Horse Bicycle Classic held in Durango over Memorial Day Weekend is now in its 36th year and entry space is limited. The Iron Horse features the famous Durango to Silverton Road Race, a downtown criterium and a time trial.

Several Colorado State Championship races begin the weekend of June 21 and 22 at the Fort Collins Cycling Festival. The Salida Omnium, July 25-27, is a Colorado State Championship event, as well as the State Games of The West event.

Gateway Canyons Resort will once again host the Gateway Canyons Road Cycling Festival. This August 8-10 weekend event features two popular road races, the Gateway Canyons Dolores River Classic and the Gateway Canyons Unaweep Classic. A State Championship Time Trial is also on the schedule as well as citizens rides and clinics.

The Tour of Colorado returns to Boulder on August 17th for the Excel Sports North Boulder Park Criterium. This is the only single day criterium in the Tour

Lamar will host the final event over the Labor Day Weekend, August 30-September 1st. The Santa Fe Trail Stage Race in Southeastern Colorado entails criterium, road race and time trial events.

Each Tour of Colorado event is owned, managed and sponsored separately. For specific event information go to www.tourofcolorado.com

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