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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for April 11, 2009

Edited by Sue George & Peter Hymas

Devolder ready for the double

By Brecht Decaluwé in Kortrijk, Belgium

Devolder jumps on his way to a Tour of Flanders win
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

The Belgian Quick Step formation holds most favorites in its ranks for the win in Paris-Roubaix on Sunday. On Friday the team trained on the most important sections of the course in order to check out the condition of the cobbles.

In Paris-Roubaix, the team will be protecting Tom Boonen, Sylvain Chavanel and winner of last Sunday's Ronde van Vlaanderen Stijn Devolder. After taking his second consecutive win last weekend in Flanders, Devolder can relax going into the "hell of the north". The pressure is off.

"It's true. I'm somewhat more relaxed than the others," said Devolder. "Then again, I'm as motivated as always. Whenever cobbles come in sight I'm eager to start racing."

When asked about the magic involved in riding fast over the cobbles, Quick Step's big guns gave different answers to Cyclingnews. While Boonen claimed it was all about talent, team manager Patrick Lefevre said that one should handle the bike like a woman. "You just have to let her go, while holding the reins gently," Lefevre said.

Devolder agreed and couldn't understand why some seem unable to ride the cobbles smoothly. "I have never gotten blisters on my hand. Are they holding their wheels maybe?" Devolder wondered.

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Just like his teammate Boonen, Devolder has won the Tour of Flanders on two occasions. However, Boonen has also won Paris-Roubaix twice while victory in the nothern French Classic has thus far eluded Devolder, who finished seventh last year. "The Ronde is on top of my wish list, but I haven't won Paris-Roubaix, and I certainly want to have it on my palmares one day," Devolder said.

Quick Step's other big gun, Sylvain Chavanel, could turn out to be one of Devolder's biggest rivals for the victory. "We didn't discuss this topic. We never talk about cycling outside the races. Of course, we're talking during the race," said Devolder. "We all know that Tom is good, which he made clear last Sunday [Ronde van Vlaanderen]. Champions always want to win but much will depend on how the race unfolds."

During the Gent-Wevelgem race on Wednesday, the Quick Step team did not feature in the leader's group of more than thirty riders. Boonen had an excuse - he punctured - but the other Quick Step riders were not having a good day. "On Wednesday, we failed as a team, and it shouldn't have happened. Maybe it was good for us as it might have woken us up in time to take revenge in Roubaix," said Devolder, who is hoping for dry conditions on Sunday.

"We've been soaked enough this season," he said, "although I'll be ok if it's not dry. In the road book they talk about la dure des dures (the hardest of the hard - ed.) so it's going to be hard no matter what."

After the reconnaissance of "Hell of the North" on Friday, the riders of the Quick Step team know what awaits them on Sunday. Devolder is expecting the race to develop similarly to the others of the season: fast from the start.

"I'm expecting a fast race, just like during the Ronde van Vlaanderen. Our team will be one of the strongest forces in the race. We are riding for each other, not against each other," said Devolder, dismissing any speculation about rivalry within the team.

"Anyway, it's not obvious that we're going to win the race. We're not changing tactics, and I'm not going to focus on someone else; that is the most stupid thing to do," Devolder said. He noted his picks for the day, other than his teammates, include Filippo Pozzato and Leif Hoste.

"My season's already good by having won Flanders," said Devolder. "If I were to win in Roubaix, I would be extremely pleased, but if someone else on the team wins, that would be just the same."

Pinotti solos to Basque country win

Marco Pinotti shows off the trophy
Photo ©: Susanne Goetze
(Click for larger image)
Marco Pinotti soloed to a classy victory in stage five in the Tour of the Basque Country, Columbia-Highroad's second victory in the race in as many days.

Pinotti broke away on the final climb of Beci and then took a close but well-deserved lone win in the finish town of Zalla. The Italian rider's first place on Friday follows Michael Albasini's victory for Columbia-Highroad on stage four of the Tour of the Basque Country. Combined with Edvald Boasson Hagen's win in Ghent-Wevelgem on Wednesday, Columbia-Highroad's men's team has now taken three victories in as many days.

"When my lead rose to about 30 seconds, I thought it would be possible to stay away," Pinotti said afterwards. "It was a very tough day, raining hard and through hilly terrain, so you had to fight hard to open up a gap. Afterwards it was a question of time trialling to the finish, and that's something I'm good at, so I thought I had a chance."

"I came here with the idea of getting a stage win, and I got it. Thanks to Michael winning yesterday, the team will go away with at least two."

Former Giro d'Italia leader and time trial winner Pinotti does not rule out going for a second stage win in Saturday's final race against the clock. "It's certainly possible, we'll just have to see how it goes. I feel quite tired now, so it depends on how well I recover. For now, in any case, I just want to celebrate what has been a win victory for me and for my team."

Pinotti brings Columbia-Highroad's win tally to 17 for the season, thanks to the successful efforts of 10 different riders. Adding in the women's results, Columbia-Highroad boasts 34 wins from 15 different riders.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the 49th Vuelta al País Vasco.

McQuaid critical of AFLD

Pat McQuaid, president of the International Cycling Union (UCI), weighed in on the conduct of the Agence Française de Lutte contre le Dopage (AFLD), the French anti-doping agency, regarding its March 17 out-of-competition doping test of Lance Armstrong where, the AFLD claims, he disobeyed procedures.

"The French authorities decided to make up a report on the testing procedure, forward it to the UCI, knowing the UCI has no jurisdiction on the case, and at the same time that report has leaked to the press," said McQuaid as reported by BikeRadar on Friday.

"I would have to question why that is the case.

"Normal proceedings between institutions such as national anti-doping agencies, the international federation and the World anti-doping agency (WADA) are normally done in a professional and confidential way until a decision or sanction has been taken," he continued. "In this case it was leaked to the press and I do find that disturbing."

Lance Armstrong reiterated in a video on Friday what he stated in a previously released statement, that the tester had an opportunity in the paperwork to state if there were any irregularities in the testing procedure and the tester indicated "no".

Armstrong said on video, "I suspect this will escalate, and we'll see even more antics out of the AFLD in the near future. There's a very high likelihood that they will prohibit me from riding the Tour (de France)."

Zabel mentors Columbia-Highroad youngsters

By Bjorn Haake

Germany's Erik Zabel is retired after over 200 victories, mostly obtained in sprints
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)
Erik Zabel retired as a professional cyclist last year but has stayed close to the sport, becoming a coach for Columbia-Highroad. Focusing initially on Mark Cavendish, his role expanded soon, and he was literally behind Edvald Boasson Hagen's success in Wednesday's Gent-Wevelgem.

General Manager Bob Stapleton said that Zabel's close connection with the riders was essential. "He gets huge respect from the riders themselves. Everything he says is a gem of wisdom for them, and they hang on his every word."

Zabel started with a specific focus. "Erik's charter was to work with Mark tactically and specifically for Milano-Sanremo." But Zabel's role soon expanded to Boasson Hagen (who also still has his Norwegian coach) and Tony Martin.

"They were top young talents and could use a little extra guidance, a little extra push on how to expand their physical range, so they could do these longer and harder races. Erik could also give them more confidence what to do tactically."

But for Stapleton the tactical aspects weren't the most important. "It's the personal discipline and the volume of training he does, the focus on what he eats and how he looks after himself."

Boasson Hagen is eager to listen to the former professional who scored over 200 career victories. "He is interested in what Erik has to say, he pays attention and that's what a young rider should do."

When Boasson Hagen was in the final Gent-Wevelgem break with Aleksandr Kuschynski (Liquigas), he was almost secured the win already. "Erik was in the car with Brian Holm and that's a pretty good car to have behind you," Stapleton said.

Young talents to the front

Boasson Hagen makes his jump in Gent-Wevelgem
Photo ©: Tim Van Wichelen
(Click for larger image)
The team puts quite an emphasis on recruiting young talent. "Edvald was on a really good programme with his Maxbo-Bianchi team. They develop the young talents patiently, they give them all the tools and not a lot of pressure. It's a team we constantly looked at to see who on the roster makes sense for us," Stapleton said.

The team put a lot of time and effort into the Norwegian. "He was hard to recruit. But we didn't push him in one direction and wanted to support him to explore whatever race he was interested in. We are patient." The lack of pressure could have played a role in edging out teams like CSC. "I think he wanted to get into a team on its way up. CSC would have been a huge jump for a young kid to make."

Timing was also on Columbia-Highroad's side. "We were more stable at the time. CSC was fighting to keep the sponsorship at the time. We were lucky to get our hands on him early. I think there will be a lot of interest in him going forward, obviously."

His contract expires at the end of the year and the negotiations have been going on since the middle of last year. "He has a good representative," Stapleton said. Boasson Hagen's lack of signing early has literally paid off already. "He sure did win much money [in Gent-Wevelgem for a new contract], and that will be our biggest challenge," said Stapleton.

Everybody will be after him, but Stapleton said that the team treated him well. " We show every bit of good faith and confidence in him," something that may play a role for the family-oriented man. " He is going to have a great career and hopefully with us," Stapleton said.

Things are easier with Martin and Cavendish. Martin has still two years on his contract left. Cavendish is bound to the team until 2011, even though there are always rumours of Cav negotiating. "Let me be very clear on this, until 2011 Mark is going nowhere."

Slipstream and Highroad back USA Cycling National Development Team

Three of the USA Cycling National Development Team riders
Photo ©: Casey B. Gibson
(Click for larger image)

The Columbia-Highroad and Garmin-Slipstream teams, the only American-based UCI ProTour squads, have partnered with USA Cycling to back the governing body's ongoing efforts to develop and support young racers. The newly-created partnership represents a substantial financial investment by the Amercian professional cycling industry to ensure that the US will produce future generations of international cycling stars.

Created in 1999, the USA Cycling National Development Team is celebrating its tenth year, and it has played a crucial role in the successful development of junior and Under 23 riders. During this time, the program has provided the support, experience and instruction necessary to make the transition to a professional career for a number of American riders.

"We won't have a fixed national team," said USA Cycling spokesperson Andrea Smith to Cyclingnews. "We'll support 40 or 50 total racers during the season. They will take turns racing for the development team. Taylor Phinney is a good example. He's part of his trade team, but he'll race eight weeks with the US National Development team this year."

Smith said the program will involve Under 23, junior 17-18 and junior 15-16 men and senior women.

While competing as part of the National Development Team, racers will wear USAC National Team jerseys, in a traditional stars and stripes design, with Slipstream and Highroad logos on them.

Based at its headquarters in Izegem, Belgium and managed by former Belgian pro Noel Dejonckheere, the program gives young cyclists the opportunity to race in the world's most competitive cycling environment where the fields are larger and more aggressive, the speed is faster and the courses are technically more demanding than in America.

Out for a ride
Photo ©: Casey B. Gibson
(Click for larger image)

"During the past decade, our men's and women's development programs have been a key component in the tremendous influx of American cyclists into the professional ranks," said USA Cycling chief executive officer Steve Johnson. "These programs are paying tremendous dividends, having produced numerous Olympians, Olympic and world championship medalists, Tour de France stage winners and many of the sports' future stars. Our European-based development efforts are some of the most successful programs in the history of USA Cycling, and the support of Highroad and Slipstream will allow us to continue that trend and build on our current momentum."

The program has provided opportunities for dozens of developmental riders to live and compete in Europe for extended periods. The program has facilitated the pro careers of many, including 16 current or former UCI ProTour team athletes and countless Professional Continental and Continental team riders. As part of this expanded program, USA Cycling will work closely with various domestic-based junior and Under 23 programs to provide international racing experience for athletes who primarily race domestically with their trade teams.

"Slipstream Sports was founded to foster the next generation of American cycling champions, so we are incredibly proud to support USA Cycling's development program in partnership with Highroad," said Jonathan Vaughters, CEO of Slipstream Sports. "Several of our athletes, including Christian Vande Velde, David Zabriskie, Danny Pate, Will Frischkorn, Timmy Duggan, Steven Cozza and Tyler Farrar have had the benefit of working with USA Cycling as young Americans, and that is a tradition we will continue through this new relationship."

The Triptyque des Monts et Châteaux presentation
Photo ©: Casey B. Gibson
(Click for larger image)

"High Road Sports is focused on developing young athletes into the future leaders of the sport, and we are excited to support the future of American cycling through this powerful partnership," said Bob Stapleton, owner of Highroad Sports. "More than half of the athletes on Team Columbia-Highroad are under 26 years of age and are enjoying personal growth and success. The majority of victories so far this year have come from our youngest athletes including Edvald Boasson Hagen, Frantisek Rabon and of course Mark Cavendish. We look forward to working with USA Cycling in their mission to guide young American athletes to grow from aspiring amateurs to top-level professionals."

The Under 23 Tour of Flanders in Belgium this Saturday marks the first major international race for the National Development Team since the added support of Slipstream and Highroad. The roster includes Chris Barton (BMC Racing), Austin Carroll (BMC Racing), Kirk Carlsen (Holowesko Partners-Felt), Cole House (BMC Racing), Taylor Phinney (Trek-Livestrong) and Bjorn Selander (Trek-Livestrong).

Additionally, a group of 17- and 18-year-olds will open the junior calendar with the four-day Ster Zuid van Limberg stage race in the Netherlands, April 10-13. Alex Battles-Wood (Power Train), Nathan Brown (Hot Tubes), Lawson Craddock (Hot Tubes), Adam Leibovitz (Nuvo Cultural Trail), Connor O'Leary (FFKR Architects-SportsBaseOnline) and Jacob Rathe (CMG Racing) will attend the event.


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Casey B. Gibson / USA Cycling

Brandt gears up in Turkey

Christophe Brandt will captain the Silence-Lotto team during the Presidential Tour of Turkey to be held from April 12 to 19. The 32-year-old Belgian specialist of the Grand Tours is aiming to return to his former level in his career, which was derailed by a terrible crash during the Sels Cup in 2007.

That day in September, he was left in critical condition and had to undergo a kidney operation and treatment for perforated lungs. It took him one-and-a-half years to get back on track.; the Tour of Turkey will be a chance for him to continue to regain form and return to enjoying racing again

"Since that crash, I'm not exactly the same rider anymore," he said. "I'm fragile now. I had to pull out of the 2008 Tour de France on the second last day because of a bronchopneumonia I sustained during the first week of the race."

"I went beyond my capacities to ride over the Pyrénées and the Alps. I did it because you don't abandon the Tour de France just like that, but it wasn't enough. This year my goals remain the Ardennes Classics, the Tour of Italy and the Tour de France. I finished 14th in the 2004 Tour of Italy and I plan to reach that level back again. I'll use the Tour of Turkey to gear up."

Usually at this time of the year, Brandt rides the Tour of the Basque Country, but after listening to favorable comments from his teammate about the 2008 Tour of Turkey, he decided to try something new.

"I was told the weather is always good there. The courses are suitable for a solid workout. Accommodation is great. All this considered, the eight days of racing will be very good for me. I've looked at the race manual, I believe stage four from Bodrum to Marmaris and stage seven from Finike to Antalya suit me."

In Turkey, Brandt will lead the Silence-Lotto team with Pieter Jacobs, who finished third in 2008. Gorik Gardeyn, Tom Stubbe, Olivier Kaisen, Jonas Ljungblad, Michiel Elijzen and Bart Dockx will also be part of the team.

City of Davis lures US Bicycling Hall of Fame to California

Stage three of the 2009 Tour of California went from Davis to Santa Rosa.
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)
After fierce competition among 11 cities, the US Bicycling Hall of Fame will relocate to the city of Davis, California, from Somerville, New Jersey. The US Bicycling Hall of Fame Board of Directors narrowed the field down to Greensboro, North Carolina, and city of Davis before voting on April 8 to begin exclusive negotiations with the Davis-based California Bicycle Museum.

"We're very excited that the Bicycling Hall of Fame will move to Davis, which hosted the first Tour of California stage earlier this year," said Caroline Beteta, president & CEO of the California Travel & Tourism Commission and the US Travel Association. "We believe it will be a wonderful new incentive for visitors to explore the Sacramento region... as well as access outdoor recreation such as winery hopping, horseback riding, boating, and of course, biking our scenic roads."

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger recognized the move and took the opportunity to tout his state's charms. "No other state embraces the fitness and environmentally responsible lifestyle of cycling more than the Golden State, which is why we host one of the most prominent cycling competitions every year - the Tour of California. Having the Hall of Fame here in California is yet another testament to why our beautiful state is the best place in the nation and the world to live, work and play."

In a brief statement by President Dan Kehew, the California Bicycle Museum Board of Directors thanked the Davis community, the City of Davis, and the University of California, Davis for supporting the relocation proposal, which will involve integration with the California Bicycle Museum and thus a relocation to a larger facility in Davis. City of Davis officials are still in negotiations with several local facilities and will announce the new location for the museums within the next several weeks.

Dawn Wylong, president of the Hall of Fame, said that overwhelming Davis support for cycling tipped the scales. "The Davis community is passionate about bicycles, at every level, in every aspect of cycling," Wylong said. "In Davis, the Hall of Fame will be celebrated and appreciated for what it represents."

Wylong added that Davis will enable the US Bicycling Hall of Fame to develop into a destination that represents the history, development and accomplishments of the sport of cycling, as a national organization.

The California Bicycle Museum expects to finalize the relocation agreement with the Hall of Fame and, in doing so, secure the long-term use of a city-owned building. Kehew and Wylong described the partnership of both organizations as a logical future step and the eventual outcome could be a major visitor attraction and learning center in Northern California. The California Bicycle Museum currently provides historical bicycle-related materials.

Cyclingnews weekly podcast: Episode 6

The revenge of Heinrich Haussler?

This week's Cyclingnews weekly podcast number 6 is coming to you from Ghent, Belgium, the nerve centre of the cobbled classics. editor Daniel Benson and European editor Gregor Brown analyse past, present and future: the Tour of Flanders, Ghent-Wevelgem and Paris-Roubaix.

Being fickle media types, we wrote off Cervelo Testteam's Heinrich Haussler in Episode 5. His performance in the E3 Prijs was sub-par and we figured he wouldn't return to full form in the Tour of Flanders. He was finished, done for, last week's news, we thought.

How wrong we were.

The Australian-born German-based rider proved that he's still got good legs by finishing second in Flanders behind winner Stijn Devolder (Quick.Step). Can he now challenge for the Paris-Roubaix crown?

And what of Edvald Boasson Hagen, surprise winner of Ghent-Wevelgem on Wednesday? Despite losing Mark Cavendish early on in the race, Columbia-Highroad still came away with the spoils in this mid-week classic with their man Hagen making light work of Aleksandr Kuschynski in their two man sprint. We spoke to Columbia-Highroad team manager Bob Stapleton just after the finish for his reaction to his talented Norwegian protégé.

We have all that and a little more in Episode 6 of the Cyclingnews weekly podcast.

You can subscribe to the podcasts via iTunes (or just go to iTunes and search for 'cyclingnews') or via this XML feed.

You can also download the podcasts directly by clicking on these links:

  • April 9: Tour of Flanders, Heinrich Haussler's return to form, Ghent-Wevelgem, Bob Stapleton air time and Paris-Roubaix
  • April 1: E3 Prijs, Heinrich Haussler's form slump, track worlds and Lance's metal implants
  • March 26: Jens Voigt, Milan-San Remo, Mark Cavendish, Heinrich Haussler, David Millar, Lance Armstrong and the track worlds
  • March 19: Tour de France teams, Paris-Nice, Tirreno-Adriatico, Milan-San Remo preview and Heinrich Haussler
  • March 12: Paris-Nice mid-race, Tirreno-Adriatico preview and Heinrich Haussler
  • March 5: Valverde summonsed, Belgian opening weekend and Heinrich Haussler

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