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Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

Latest Cycling News, April 14, 2009

Edited by Bjorn Haake

World Champion Ballan on track in Roubaix

By Gregor Brown in Roubaix, France

Alessandro Ballan is recovering at home
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Alessandro Ballan was one of the first big names in the Roubaix vélodrome, Sunday in France. However, the Italian – sidelined by a virus last month – was in jeans and a jacket to see Tom Boonen’s third Paris-Roubaix victory.

"It was a great Paris-Roubaix and well fought. There were crashes in the finale, but none of which effected pre-race favourite Boonen," Ballan told Cyclingnews.

Doctors diagnosed Ballan with cytomegalovirus – a herpes-type virus that is accompanied by tiredness and fever. He dropped out of Tirreno-Adriatico after stage four on March 14.

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In last year's Paris-Roubaix, Ballan finished third in the winning escape of three. Despite a forced rest he could not resist travelling north to encourage his Lampre teammates and see his rivals compete in the cobbled Classic.

Two crashes marked the race's finale: the slide-out of Juan Antonio Flecha on the Camphin-en-Pévèle sector and, one kilometre later, Thor Hushovd falling on a left hand turn. Both instances held up Ballan's friend, Filippo Pozzato (Katusha).

"Without the crashes Pozzato could have been up front to battle for the win with Tom and Thor. It would have been a great sprint between the three, but unfortunately Roubaix is like this. Tom was going very strong, and maybe he would have won anyway in the sprint."

Ballan will need some time before he can battle again for big wins. He has set his sights on the Tour de France, July 4 to 26. He will race the Volta a Catalunya (May 18 to 24) the Tour de Suisse (June 13 to 21) and the Italian Championships (June 27) as lead up events.

"I was upset to miss Roubaix and a chance for victory myself, but I am going to get through this and it will give me more grit for next year."

Result not good enough for Silence-Lotto

Hoste and Van Summeren discuss the race in the vélodrome
Photo ©: Brecht Decaluwé
(Click for larger image)

Silence-Lotto came up short in Paris-Roubaix, getting fourth and fifth place only. Marc Coucke, the CEO of the team's sponsor company Omega Pharma, was quite disappointed that the team still was unable to come up with a better result and summed up the season so far as weak.

Directeur Sportif Herman Frison said before the race that Sunday was going to be "all or nothing." Nothing turned out to be the answer and Coucke was perplex. "Once again no victory, not even a podium," he said to Sportwereld. There was not much Coucke could complain about in Paris-Roubaix. "Our guys did a fantastic race. Forty kilometres from the finish we could say we are contesting, which hasn't happened this season."

Coucke recalled the moment when Hoste fell and Van Summeren only narrowly avoided his captain with a spectacular power slide. "What I said then is not printable," Coucke added with a smile.

Coucke explained that Paris-Roubaix was the last chance to save the spring season. "That we finished fourth and fifth is fantastic in comparison to the last two months. But really a team like ours can't be happy with that."

Hooligans rule the Carrefour de l'Arbre

Most spectators just cheer the riders on, but hooligans can cause trouble
Photo ©: Nicolas Götz
(Click for larger image)

The Carrefour de l'Arbre is the fourth-to-last cobble stone sector in Paris-Roubaix and with 17 kilometres to go one of the most important ones. There are quite a few spectators placed along the 2.1 kilometres of pavé, but it is also becoming a place for hooligans to hang out.

Hooligans are well known at football games and indeed there were so-called 'supporters' from a Belgium football club waiting for the riders. But they weren't there to cheer the riders on. "The spectators are vulgar and aggressive, without respect for the riders," said former French professional Martial Gayant to La Dernière Heure. "I had some guests in my car [following the race] and they were frightened."

Bjarne Riis had his rear-view mirror broken off and some cars in the caravane were hit with fists, beer and even rocks.

The riders didn't escape carnage either, as second-placed Filippo Pozzato (Katusha) confirmed to Cyclingnews after the race. "The Belgian fans were not very polite out there, I got spat on by someone."

Course director Jean-François Pescheux admitted that there is a problem. "The public shows a lack of discipline and the Carrefour de l'Arbre is becoming a critical sector," he said to La Dernière Heure. "We are looking for solutions but for the moment we haven't found any. Using barriers like in the Arenberg forest is almost impossible and without a doubt will only relocate the problem."

In bike racing it is impossible to close of the road completely and while most cycling fans are impartial and cheer for all the riders, incidents have always been around. In 1996 Basque fans blocked the road for the lead group with Bjarne Riis, as their hero Miguel Indurain was chasing several minutes behind.

In the 2004 Alpe d'Huez time trial both Lance Armstrong and Jens Voigt were insulted and spat on.

Bike racing is also a common place to hold protests, such as the Continental tire Company did in Paris-Roubaix. The staff was protesting the planned plant shutdown and blocked the start at kilometre zero, after the neutral zone ended.

First Chinese rider in Paris-Roubaix

Jin Long (Skil-Shimano) was the first-ever Chinese rider participating in Paris-Roubaix. His history-making debut lasted for four of the 27 cobble stone sections. The rough terrain was a new experience for Long.

"I didn't have much experience with the pavé. I did some races in Belgium, but the cobbles there are not comparable," he said to Sportwereld.

His relatively early exit had a simple explanation. "I was working hard for the team early on. The first 100 km were ok, but of course then we didn't have to ride over cobbles yet. Afterwards it was tougher."

Despite the rough experience Long is ready to come back. "Next year I already know better what to expect."

Cervélo TestTeam with good Easter

Thor Hushovd's Paris-Roubaix podium place was just one of many Cervélo showings
Photo ©: ISPA
(Click for larger image)

The men's and women's Cervélo TestTeam spread itself thin over the weekend, contesting several races over the Easter weekend. Thor Hushovd's podium place in Paris-Roubaix and a win for Claudia Häussler in Germany were the best results. Two more top five places completed the good Easter showing. Heinrich Haussler took over the lead in the UCI world ranking.

Hushovd set the decisive attack in the Carrefour de l'Arbre in Paris-Roubaix, but he crashed a few moments later. That left him unable to get back to Tom Boonen (Quick Step) and Filippo Pozzato (Team Katusha). He still outwitted two Lotto riders for third place.

Haussler took over the UCI world ranking lead from Allan Davis (Quick Step). After another strong performance in Paris-Roubaix, Haussler leads the rankings with 197 points, ahead of País Vasco winner Alberto Contador (Astana) with 188 points. Davis slipped to third with his 183 points.

Häussler won her first race of the season with Rund um Schönaich. She beat Sandra Gockert (Harvestehuder RSV) and Bianca Purath (Equipe Nürnberger Versicherung) in the six-lap race. Emilie Aubry, the only other Cervélo TestTeam rider participating, took sixth place.

Dominique Rollin narrowly missed the podium spot in Monday's Profronde van Drenthe, where he finished fifth. The race was won solo by Maurizio Biondo (Ceramica Flaminia-Bossini Docce), ahead of the peloton led by Kenny Van Hummel (Skil-Shimano) and Grega Bole (Amica Chips-Knauf).

Rollin's Sports Director Jean Paul van Poppel Sports Director was happy with the squad's work. "Today we saw great team work. Dominique Rollin rode a great race, he had super legs and he was maybe the best rider. Rollin was also in a breakaway earlier in the race and always active."

In the Unive World Cup race Sarah Düster earned finished fourth, the same result she had two days earlier in the Novilon Eurocup. The World Cup race in the Netherlands was won by Emma Johansson (Red Sun Cycling Team) ahead of Loes Gunnewijk (Team Flexpoint) and Chantal Blaak (

"Today was a hard 140km race with some pavé and short climbs," said Sports Director Manel Lacambra at the end of the race. "After 30 km we put all the team to the front, to make a break before the start of the pavé." Things went well through the cobbles section. "After the pavé we tried to make some attacks but the other teams closed them down all the time.

"In the final we tried again and Sarah managed to go into the break of five. I thought that maybe the other teams like Columbia and DSB Bank would try to close it down for Ina-Yoko Teutenberg and Marianne Vos.

"It was pretty good, we all worked together and it was a hard finish," said Düster. "In the final me and Kirsten [Wild] tried to force a break. I was lucky to be in it with Johansson, Gunnewijk, Blaak, Verbeke and Lutz. I tried to go again because I am not as strong as Kirsten in the sprint. I didn't manage to get away, so I ended in fourth, which was good for me."

Soeder obtains first season victory

Christiane Soeder took her first victory of the 2009 season
Photo ©:
(Click for larger image)

Christiane Soeder (Cervélo TestTeam) achieved her first season victory on April 8 in Hungary, winning a 23.66-kilometre long time trial. Soeder's time was 32:48,53 on the very flat parcours, for an average of 43,34 km/h.

The race was held on the Pannoniaring, a motorbike race circuit. Soeder was able to win despite a difficult preparation for the race. She was racing in the Ronde van Vlaanderen just three days earlier, had a hard training session on Tuesday and a long transfer to the race site.

Soeder won ahead of Sandrina Illes (Tri Stars Koma) and Elisabeth Reiner (ELK Haus NÖ).

In yesterday's World Cup, the Unive World Cup in Drenthe, Netherlands, Soeder played the domestique in a race she dislikes. "Today it was important to help the team during the attacks and to get some racing in after the long winter break," said Soeder.

BikeRadar Live: Magnus Backstedt confirmed

Former Paris-Roubaix winner Magnus Backstedt will be at BikeRadar Live
Photo ©: Brecht Decaluwé
(Click for larger image)

Ex-pro and Paris-Roubaix winner Magnus Backstedt is the latest star confirmed for BikeRadar Live. The Swede will post a time for the Procycling Hot Laps and is also planning to take part in the Cycling Plus Sportive in association with the Geoff Thomas Foundation.

"It's a cool concept to have the hot laps set up so the general public can come along and have a goal to aim for," Backstedt told BikeRadar. "Donington Park is also made for road circuit racing, almost like Belgian-style kermis racing. The track is quite undulating and it just makes it that extra bit harder than a flat track. We've got a lot of grand prix circuits in this country. Why not make use of them?"

Backstedt, who lives in Wales with his wife and two daughters, announced his retirement from professional cycling on 6 February. He had spent 13 years as a pro, with the highpoint being his win at Paris-Roubaix in 2004, but had been beset by injuries in recent years.

The 34-year-old is set to launch a new development squad,, on Thursday. He will also stay on as a consultant for Garmin-Slipstream's young riders.

"I think BikeRadar Live is a brilliant idea, as there are so many cyclists in the UK now," he said. "To gather as many as possible at the same place at the same time is awesome. It's only going to help bring the sport along."

About BikeRadar Live

BikeRadar Live is the biggest ever mass-participation cycling event to hit the UK, and will take place on the weekend of 30–31 May 2009 at Donington Park in Leicestershire.

The weekend will be packed full of races and challenges, with something for everyone, whether you want to compete, watch your friends and family or just check out some of the world’s best riders.

Entry into any of the events gives you full access to the festival’s many attractions including spectacular all-weather stunt displays, invitational dirt jump and dual slalom comps, a cycling film festival, live big top entertainment and the Scott Sunset DJ Sessions. Test yourself against pro and celebrity riders in the Procycling Hot Laps, post a time in the Wattbike comp or take the kids along to the Islabikes Children's Skills School. A purpose-built bikes and accessories expo will give festival-goers the chance to ride the latest bikes from leading brands and grab show-only deals on bikes and accessories.

Events include the Cycling Plus Sportive in association with the Geoff Thomas Foundation (100km and 100 mile), Whyte Night night-time enduros (12hr and 4hr), MBUK Eliminator dual-slalom and the Devil Takes the Hindmost circuit race. Click here to sign up.

BikeRadar Live’s world-class facilities include on-site camping with a kids and family area, secure bike lock-up, showers, bike wash, workshop, picnic area, medical centre, viewing stands and food and drink market.

BikeRadar Live is brought to you by Future, the makers of Mountain Biking UK, Cycling Plus,, What Mountain Bike, and Procycling. For more details, go to the BikeRadar Live website.

UCI Asia Tour hopefuls

By Tom Rodgers

The Aisan Racing Team is a young outfit that has been racing on the UCI Asian ProTour since 2006. For this year's edition general manager Kenji Nakane has assembled a squad of up-and-coming riders and combined it with a few more established names for experience.

Though the team just returned from a disappointing Tour of Thailand, the riders remain hopeful that their fine early season form will return as they begin preparation for the Malaysian Tour from April 19 to 26.

A realistic goal for the Aisan outfit is to grab a couple of stage victories in the Tour of Japan, which kicks off on May 17. The team also targets the Japan Cup in October.

So far, the team achieved good results through Taiji Nishitani and Masahiro Shinagawa.

Nishitani finished second three times in Taiwan and came home in fifth overall. Nishitani is a sprinter, with considerable success on the track as a youngster. He also represented Japan at the Track World Championships. The 28-year-old has worked hard to become a more complete rider.

Shinagawa was drafted into the Aisan team from the Japanese Skil-Shimano team in 2008. He recently won the West Japan Challenge Cup race, indicating his early season form. Shinagawa already has some Euro race experience, having done Gent-Wevelgem and Paris–Roubaix for the Skil-Shimano European team.

Shinagawa agrees he needs to get mentally tougher. "My greatest rival is myself," he told Cyclingnews.

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