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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

Latest Cycling News, May 1, 2008

Edited by Hedwig Kröner and Gregor Brown

Burghardt is no couch potato

By Bjorn Haake in Frankfurt a.M.

Marcus Burghardt is back
Photo ©: Bjorn Haake
(Click for larger image)

Marcus Burghardt of High Road had a very tough year so far. The 24 year-old was eager to defend his title at Gent-Wevelgem, which he won thanks to great team tactics (racing for High Road's predecessor, T-Mobile back then) and a gutsy last couple of kilometres, where he ended up beating Oscar Freire, among others. But a recurring knee injury has taken him out of the entire classics season.

Now, he is back and eager to race at the Henninger Turm event in Frankfurt. He really wanted it, too. "If I would have had to watch the race at home on my sofa, it would have been really tough. To watch it on TV would have been hard. I think I would have had to tie myself down!" At the sign-in he confirmed that "There is nothing better than having the comeback in Germany and especially here in Frankfurt." He echoed the sentiments of some of the other German riders when he said that "Frankfurt is one of my favourite races in Germany."

Burghardt had a knee surgery two and a half weeks ago. It is somewhat amazing that he is already back in the saddle. "I have been training for a week now," he revealed his quick recovery period.

And while he "really wants to win this race," he was realistic enough to say that "I won't be able to go for a win. My form is just not good enough." So he will try to help the team as much as he can. "We will try to control the field, and be represented in the breakaways. Then, if a bigger group goes with Gerald [Ciolek] in it, where he is the strongest sprinter, we should have a good chance."

Gerald Ciolek wants to improve
Photo ©: Bjorn Haake
(Click for larger image)

Ciolek himself had the same sentiments. "Yes, if there is a bigger group getting to the finish, I would like to improve on my second place from 2006."

If Ciolek fails to deliver, High Road's hopes may shift to the other sprinter, André Greipel. But he, too, had some health problems recently and will have to see how well he is going. At any rate, High Road knew that Gerolsteiner and Milram will try to prevent a sprint at all costs and will try to use the hilly Taunus area to send riders in breakaways. Gerolsteiner has only Peter Wrolich for a potential sprint and Milram has to make do without Alessandro Petacchi and Erik Zabel, who are out with pneumonia and crash injuries, respectively.

It is unlikely that someone from Team High Road can slip out of the bunch unrecognised, but Burghardt certainly noticed a change in the public, riding for a different team this year. While the infrastructure evolved from T-Mobile, the jersey and the name are different and the team is now registered in the United States. "Yes, I think there is a difference. I think the team is not as recognised. Maybe part of the reason is ... that people don't really know what High Road is. But when there will be sponsor on the jersey soon, it may change," Burghardt noted a difference from the days when the fans in Germany would mob the "magenta troupe."

A win in Germany would certainly help recognition along with the locals. Watch out for full results, report and pictures later on Cyclingnews.

More pictures of the pre-Henninger Turm press conference can be found here.

Milram's game plan may propel Roels

By Bjorn Haake in Frankfurt a.M.

Dominik Roels is part of Milram's game plan
Photo ©: Bjorn Haake
(Click for larger image)

Milram cannot rely on its super sprinters Erik Zabel and Alessandro Petacchi at Rund um den Henninger Turm, so the milk team had to change its game plan. They will now try to get into breakaways and hope to evade the bunch sprint, where High Road would be the big favourite. The team can look to experience in the form of Christian Knees or to the youth, with Dominik Roels.

Two years ago, Roels was celebrating his 19th birthday while training on Mallorca, with no other than Jan Ullrich. Lots has happened since. Ullrich announced his retirement, still facing some questions about doping from the Swiss federation. And Roels, who was still doing a lot of U23 races last year, caught the eye of Milram, who secured the young German for its line-up. Roels has shaken of the bad news in cycling. "If I would see the future of cycling negatively ... I don't think I would have the motivation to concentrate my life on cycling."

At only 21 years of age, he emphasised that "I hope I can still be a professional for a long time, so I hope that the situation will be getting better again in cycling. I hope the emotions can be again like in the years, when Jan Ullrich caused the cycling boom [in Germany]."

The youngster is aware that "I still could do two years of U23 races. I started riding for a ProTour team at a very young age and I think I still need a little time to reach the same level with the pros as I had it in the U23 category." But he emphasised he is also happy with his performances so far.

While he cautioned that "I would say having left a good impression at País Vasco is relative, seeing that a rider like Alberto Contador is a few kilometres per hour faster than I," he was happy to have completed some "tough races." Asked about the differences between the U23 races and the ProTour races, he said that "the distances, except for races like Liège-Bastogne-Liège, are the same as last year. I did a few races that came close to 200 kilometres." But the difference is in speed, especially at the end of the races, "where the pros really put down the hammer."

Hailing from the Cologne area, he often trains with others from the dome city on the Rhine river, like Gerald Ciolek. "When we do longer sessions, we go out into the Eifel. There are some good climbs."

Roels used the climbing in the Basque Country and the training loops in the Eifel to bring himself into a good position. He is no stranger to the race – as many of the German professionals have done this race in the amateur or youth categories. Roels finished third as a junior, so he knows how to do well in Frankfurt. He acknowledged that "I am fully motivated and I am always good for a surprise," indicating that he will not just ride in a support role.

The more experienced Christian Knees said that he wouldn't have a problem to support Roels, if the situation would allow it. The main thing is a win for the team, which would be especially nice in light of the fact that cannot participate. Knees also confirmed that Roels is still very young and will need some time. For his own ambitions, he indicated that "so far I have been able to go up all the climbs in the Taunus area. And towards Frankfurt it's all downhill!" the 1.94-metre giant laughed.

Knees confirmed that "the tactics will be different this time. We hope to be in all the breakaways and of course especially in the final selection." It should be an interesting Labour day for the 'new' Milram team in Germany.

Recovered Korff back for Volksbank

By Bjorn Haake in Frankfurt a.M.

André Korff is hoping for a sprint in the Henninger Turm
Photo ©: Bjorn Haake
(Click for larger image)

André Korff was out of the action for three months. "I had a herniated disk and I have only been training for three weeks." So the sprinter is unlikely to mix it up in the sprint at the Henninger Turm race. But that doesn't mean Volksbank is without chances if a bigger group comes back to the Darmstädter Landstrasse for the third and final time, on the uphill finish. "We have two good sprinters, with Olaf Pollack and Daniel Musiol. Daniel also can get over the climbs well."

Korff acknowledged that signing the Movement for a Credible Cycling (MPCC) agreement was very important "not only for the Henninger Turm, but there are other races in Germany, like the Hamburg Cyclassics and the Deutschlandrundfahrt." Korff is looking forward to those races that he would like to do another time.

The 35 year-old is currently evaluating his career. "I realised this spring that at my age, recovery takes longer, so yes, you think a bit about the end of the career."

However, the sprinters will not be the only option for the Austrian team. Team Manager Thomas Kofler is especially looking towards Swiss Florian Stalder. "He has had a good program so far. He needs a lot of races." And that is exactly the program he followed. "Florian will bring a lot of activity to the race," Kofler was certain that Volksbank will likely to be in the breakaways.

With a few options available, the squad will be looking to make use of their outsider chance. And Stalder has some experience with a high finish. The Swiss finished eighth last year.

Tinkoff "ecstatic" with Vuelta invitation

Team Tinkoff Credit Systems is "ecstatic" to have been invited to participate in the 2008 Vuelta a España, its second Grand Tour of the year. "Tinkoff is a team composed of young riders, who are devoted to their sport, and they still have much to learn; however, the organisers of the Vuelta have deemed us worthy to race the most important race on the Spanish calendar, which is one of the most beautiful and important cycling events in the world," said team General Manager Stefano Feltrin.

It will be the Italian Professional Continental team's first appearance in the Spanish race. "We at Tinkoff are ecstatic to have been selected to participate," Feltrin said. "Despite the youth of the Tinkoff riders, they have illustrated skill and talent beyond their years during the Classics campaign. Following the Classics performance, and what we expect from the team at the Giro d'Italia, the team will be prepared to exhibit the same tenacity at the Vuelta."

The team sees the invitation to a second Grand Tour this season as a big step. "Two years ago, we entered into the sport of cycling as novices really, learning as we went," Feltrin explained. "We chose to be based in Italy, and to be close to Rome and the Federciclismo to illustrate our desire to eventually race in all the major races in cycling. With one pedal stroke, one breakaway, and one victory at a time this objective is coming to fruition. It is our desire that the Tinkoff team be viewed as a team comprised of both young and seasoned riders that hold the utmost value to the collaborative efforts and sacrifices of each other that led to victories and important placings."

French teams finalise Giro line-ups

Slovenian Tadej Valjavec will be the team captain for AG2R La Mondiale during the 2008 Giro d'Italia. The new recruit to the French ProTour team finished ninth in the Italian Grand Tour in 2004, and will therefore again aim for a good placing on General Classification in the race that starts May 10 in Palermo, Sicily.

But AG2R does not only count on Valjavec to deliver. Belarussian sprinter Alexandre Usov is also hoped to shine in the fast finishes. Italian Rinaldo Nocentini, strong in the early season, is another asset to the team, while Sylvain Calzati, short of racing kilometres, was not included in the roster contrary to previous plans.

The full line-up of AG2R La Mondiale is: Philip Deignan, Yuriy Krivtsov, Rene Mandri, Laurent Mangel, Rinaldo Nocentini, Nicolas Rousseau, Blaise Sonnery, Alexandre Usov and Tadej Valjavec.

Another French team, Cofidis, also announced its rider selection for the upcoming Giro. Belgians Nick Nuyens and Rik Verbrugghe will be the leaders of the squad. Nuyens finished second in Het Volk as well as in the Ronde van Vlaanderen this season. Verbrugghe, already scored three stages in the Corsa Rosa: the prologue in 2001, as well as two stages in 2002 and 2006.

The full Cofidis line-up is: Mickaël Buffaz, Kevin De Weert, Bingen Fernández, Nicolas Hartmann, Mathieu Heijboer, Yann Huguet, Damien Monier, Nick Nuyens and Rik Verbrugghe.

Finally, Française des Jeux plans to test its young riders on the Giro, with four riders included in the roster who have never participated in a Grand Tour: Frenchmen Mickaël Chérel and Guillaume Levarlet, as well as Belarussian Yauheni Hutarovich and Belgian Tom Stubbe.

The full roster of Française des Jeux is: Mickaël Chérel, Timothy Gudsell, Yauheni Hutarovich, Lilian Jégou, Yoann Le Boulanger, Guillaume Levarlet, Jérémy Roy, Tom Stubbe and Jussi Veikkanen.

Cruz back to normal training

Tony Cruz (BMC Pro Cycling) powers up the climb in the Redlands prologue
Photo ©: Kurt Jambretz
(Click for larger image)

American Tony Cruz (BMC Racing) has had a first 2008 season of ups and downs. After racing the Tour of Qatar in good form, he fell ill with a chest cold and sinus infection. Bouncing back from that, Cruz attended the Redlands Bicycle Classic in top shape, but then he broke his collarbone at the GP Pino Cerami in Belgium and underwent surgery. Now, Cruz is back to normal training sessions, hoping that fate will be on his side again in the next few months.

"Everything has been going smoothly," the American said about his recovery from the crash. "I took a little under a week off the bike. After a couple days I rolled around my neighbourhood a little, but decided it didn't feel quite right. So not wanting to take any chances, I decided to give it almost a week. The first three days I rode I managed one and a half hours of training. I then took a day off and the next day was able to do 3 hours. Last Saturday I did six and a half. So now I am back up to my normal amounts. The only thing I am holding off on is sprinting: that intense of an effort still bothers me. Give it another week, and I expect to be up to full speed again."

Fortunately, Cruz has already experienced periods of top form this season, and will thus be able to come back to good shape more easily. "I have either been feeling really well or I have been sick or injured," the former Discovery Channel rider added about his roller-coaster first part of the season. "I was really going strongly at Qatar and felt like I was really competitive, and then I got so sick that I had trouble at California and couldn't race the early Belgian races that the team did. After I recovered, I was flying at Redlands and felt like I was definitely going to nail a couple of races, but then almost immediately I broke my collarbone. But at least I have had fitness peaks. Some seasons for whatever reasons, you never feel like you hit your stride. And this year I have already had two good periods. I know I will be able to build on those."

The next-up race for the sprinter, who considers himself a good all-rounder, will be the Tour de Picardie in France. Ambitions are high. "I'd definitely like to do well there and hopefully win a stage," Cruz said. "And then Philly week will be coming in the first week of June. That is a huge objective for our team and I have won there before, so I know I have a chance again. It is just a matter of being healthy."

(Additional research and reporting provided by Susan Westemeyer)

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