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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest Cycling News, February 26, 2009

Edited by Bjorn Haake

Quick Step scouting out Omloop

Sylvain Chavanel gives it some stick on the Molenberg
Photo ©: Tim Van Wichelen
(Click for larger image)

On Wednesday Quick Step scouted out the route of the 64th Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (formerly known as Het Volk). The team that will ride the opening Classic on Saturday checked out a good 160 km of the course. The only member not present was Tom Boonen, who is still recovering from jet lag after the Tour of California.

The team checked out the decisive climbs, including the Molenberg. The Molenberg is the last of the 11 hellingen of the day in the Omloop. The rise is 460m long with a maximum gradient of 14 percent and has some pretty bad kasseien, the Flemish word for the cobble stones.

Quick Step has a slight handicap, with not having defending champion Steven de Jongh and Sébastien Rosseler. With Boonen and 2008 Ronde van Vlaanderen winner Stijn Devolder the team is still in a good position. Devolder told that he expected the biggest threat from rivalling Silence-Lotto.

Devolder himself does not expect to be at his best yet. "Due to my knee problem in the winter I am a little bit behind. It is not too bad, as I have a good base." Devolder added training kilometres in the Volta ao Algarve and the Ruta del Sol earlier in the month.

Devolder said he can do a good race, "but not pull a number like Gilbert did last year." Philippe Gilbert (Silence-Lotto) rode the last 50 km solo to clinch his second Omloop title.

Devolder added that one of his teammates will be very motivated. "The race is in Wouter Weylandt's area." Weylandt lives near Gent and knows the parcours by heart. "Wouter is in good form and he can count on his burst of speed"

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Bartoli favours Silence-Lotto's Van Avermaet for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

By Gregor Brown

Michele Bartoli tips Van Avermaet
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Michele Bartoli favours the team of defending champion Philippe Gilbert, Silence-Lotto, for this Saturday's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in Flanders, Belgium. The 2001 winner believes that the Belgian team may rely on its young charge Greg Van Avermaet for victory.

"I have heard that Silence-Lotto's Greg Van Avermaet is going very strong at this moment," Bartoli said to Cyclingnews. "Plus, with Leif Hoste and Philippe Gilbert the team has a lot of cards to play."

Saturday's race, formerly known as Het Volk, is 203 kilometres long and contains many cobbled climbs. It is a gauge of form for the upcoming Northern Classics of April.

Bartoli also noted that Belgium's biggest star, Tom Boonen (Quick Step), is always a factor. The race is one of the few one-day Belgian classics that Boonen has not won, but Bartoli counted him as a top favourite.

Bartoli took his win in the Italian national champion's jersey eight years ago. He ranked the win high despite haven already won the Ronde van Vlaanderen in 1996.

"It was one of my most beautiful victories. There were a lot of Italians, more than in the Ronde van Vlaanderen or Liège-Bastogne-Liège. At the arrival I saw how many of us there were and so I dedicated my win to them.

"You have to be a rider who wants to suffer. That course is tough, more so with it being so cold now. You have to be determined and physically adapted to win."

Bartoli, who retired in 2004, planned a comeback this season. He was training hard with professionals near his home in Pisa and he was impressed with his level of fitness.

"The time has passed on my return. It was linked to another sponsor entering the sport. They needed more time to decide, but I did not have the time."

Bartoli raced for 13 years as a professional. In addition to the 1996 Ronde van Vlaanderen and 2001 Het Volk, he won the 1997 and 1998 editions of Liège-Bastogne-Liège, plus the 2002 and 2003 editions of the Giro di Lombardia.

Ciolek gives Classics a shot

By Bjorn Haake

Gerald Ciolek (Team Milram) has already one victory under his belt this season
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Gerald Ciolek of Milram will be racing the Classics programme this spring. He starts Saturday in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (formerly Het Volk) and also races Sunday's Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne. His goal is to learn about the races.

"This year I am intentionally racing some of the Spring Classics," the 22-year-old told Cyclingnews. "I want to get experience and test myself to see if these races suit me."

Ciolek doesn't know the roads very well yet, which is an important factor. Milram's Team Manager Gerry van Gerwen told Cyclingnews that it is exactly why Servais Knaven was added to the team. "Servais can ride the course blind-folded and knows where the cobbles and the dangerous cross winds are. He is a really important rider for us."

Van Gerwen was a little more aggressive in the team's goals for the weekend than Ciolek. "I expect Gerald to contest for the victory." But the manager added that he knew how difficult things could become. "For the Belgians, this is like a World Championships. It is more difficult for a German team."

Milram will arrive with a strong team to put them in contention. Besides Knaven, there are Niki Terpstra and Martin Velits. "If there is only one rider from each team left in the end it will be difficult to control, but if you have two to four riders in the front group, you can do something."

Ciolek knows the Belgians will be motivated, but so is he. "These races you can do only 100 percent motivated, otherwise nothing will come out of it under the often wet and cold conditions." Ciolek had this in mind when he didn't go training in the really warm climates this winter. "I was on Mallorca, where it is mild, but not really warm."

Van Avermaet: "I deserve to be a captain"

Belgian Greg Van Avermaet (Silence-Lotto) won the points jersey in the Vuelta
Photo ©: Unipublic
(Click for larger image)

Greg van Avermaet of Silence-Lotto will be one of the big favourites in the Spring Classics campaign. Despite good results last year he didn't ask others to ride for him, but this has changed over the winter. His season will start with the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad this Saturday.

His change of mind came during the Vuelta a España last year, he told Sportwereld. "In such a strong field to win a stage and the points jersey, that was something. In addition I also rode a good World Championships, despite the fact that I spent a lot of energy in Spain."

Last year, Van Avermaet didn't want to ask for the leader's role, despite having good results already. He finished third in the E3 Prijs and eighth in the Ronde van Vlaanderen. "I didn't have a great preparation and it wasn't up to me to say 'ride for me'."

But Van Avermaet feels comfortable now to lead his teammates. "I became stronger, especially through the three weeks in the Vuelta." The Belgian added that he noticed it in the winter. "When I went mountain biking with my friends, they had to let go earlier," he said with a smile. "But I also noticed in the team's training camps."

Van Avermaet said he deserves to be a captain. "I have the capacities to win." He doesn't expect clashes with his teammate Leif Hoste, either. "His results speak for itself. His only problem is that he needs to try and win solo." Van Avermaet didn't see a coexistence problem because the two are different types of racers. "It gives us two totally different options in the final. Look at Quick Step with Boonen and Devolder last year. They complemented each other perfectly."

Besides Van Avermaet and Hoste, Silence-Lotto also has Philippe Gilbert and Jürgen Roelandts. "It is true there are few teams as strong as ours." But he knew that it could be dangerous to have too many captains. "One rider has to attack and the others have to sacrifice themselves."

Van Avermaet emphasised that he has no problem supporting the others in certain races. "If Gilbert tells me in Milano-Sanremo that he has great legs, I will help him." But he made it clear that in certain races he expects to have the green light. There will be no repeat of last year's Ronde van Vlaanderen, where he rode in support of Leif Hoste. "In these [Spring Classics] races I am not the man anymore to wait for someone. I will now seek my own chances."

Rodríguez prepares for Tirreno

Joaquím Rodríguez (Caisse d'Epargne) is a former national champion
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Joaquim Rodríguez of Caisse d'Epargne is preparing on the Canary islands for his next race, Tirreno-Adriatico (March 11-17). Rodríguez started his season at the Challenge de Mallorca, where he raced twice. He then finished 22nd in the Vuelta a Andalucía.

"I felt very much to my liking in Andalucía. For the few days of racing I have in my legs, I went pretty well." He chose the island on advice from other people. "I was told many times that it is the ideal training ground. The Parador del Teide is 2,200m high and has all the necessary facilities for a cyclist," Rodríguez said.

The Spaniard will stay on the island for two weeks and be accompanied by his wife and son. "It is like a little family vacation, but I will train hard every day. The other day I climbed La Orotova and Wednesday I did six and a half hours with 4,200m of climbing."

Rodríguez went high enough that he was surprised by snowfall. "I came here for the sun and the mountains, but currently I have only encountered mountains..."

Beikirch out again after crash

Andreas Beikirch has crashed out of a Six Day race for the second time this season. He fell in Hasselt, Belgium, last week and sustained injuries to his ribs and his knee. He will be out for about two months.

Beikirch crashed on the second day of the race at 50km/h, according to Beikirch, who rides for Nutrixxion Sparkasse on the road, plans to start back up in May.

The German rider crashed in the Six Day race in Bremen in January and suffered a partial fracture to a vertebrae. He was out for four weeks then and Hasselt was his first race back.

Backstedt's coffee comes with home delivery

By Peter Cossins

Almost all pro riders have a taste for coffee, and recently retiree from the Garmin team Magnus Backstedt is no exception. The Wales-based Swede has relaunched his brand of beans to boost financial backing for his Continental team, to which the bulk of proceeds from sales of this coffee are given. Some cash also goes to charity, in the shape of the US-based Forza G team, which raises money for cancer research.

Backstedt created the blend of beans himself, and describes it as a "designer" coffee. Talking to Procycling last week, Backstedt said the blend should appeal to new coffee-drinkers as it is not overly bitter, but has a kick that should appeal to regular java devotees. "Once you've tried it," says Backstedt, "you'll never want to drink anything else." For those who really do love their coffee, the Magnus Maximus experience encompasses a subscription service so you need never go without.

For more details on Magnus's coffee and his subscription service go to the Magnus Maximus Coffee website.

Scharping gets competitor for German cycling president's elections

The new president for the BDR, the German cycling federation, will be voted on March 21 in Leipzig. Rudolf Sharping holds the position since 2005, but now an opposing candidate has emerged. Dieter Berkmann, a former track professional, has submitted his candidacy.

Berkmann doesn't believe he is an outsider. "I think our chances are not so bad," he said according to Berkmann's supporters include Dieter Kühnle, the former vice president of the federation. Kühnle felt that not enough investigative work against doping practices were done under Scharping, prompting Kühnle to step down.

Berkmann explained that the lax fight against doping is the reason for his candidacy. "We cannot hold back information and have to be much more rigorous to sift through the things that damage the image of cycling," Berkmann said. The criticism is partially targeted towards sports director Burckhard Bremer.

Berkmann is a multiple German champion and participated at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal. His team besides Kühnle includes Olympic team pursuit champion Karl Link (1964), Gerhard Strittmatter, team pursuit world champion (1983) and Udo Hempel, Olympic team pursuit champion (1972).

Sharping is a former politician who was the German minister of defence between 1998 and 2002.

USA Cycling ranks Tour of Elk Grove top

Many people enjoy the Elk Grove races
Photo ©: Mark Zalewski
(Click for larger image)

USA Cycling, the national governing body for bicycle racing in the United States, has ranked the annual Alexian Brothers Tour of Elk Grove as the top multi-day cycling event in the U.S. among the 35-plus races in its National Racing Calendar (NRC).

The rankings of the top NRC races were determined on grading based on input from, among others, riders, cycling teams and team directors. Judged categories included: Management Experience, Timing/Scoring, Venue Quality, Quality of Course, Community Involvement, Sponsorship, Media, Bid Presentation and Prize List.

Tour of Elk Grove ranked first among the multi-day NRC races that were scored including the Tour of California and the Tour of Utah.

"For a relatively young cycling event, we're extremely proud to receive this accolade from USA Cycling and the nation's cycling community," says Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson.

The four-year-old Tour of Elk Grove will be held in 2009 between July 31 and August 1 in the Chicago suburb of Elk Grove Village. Total prize money for its 15 pro/am events this summer is nearly $200,000. This includes the largest prize money purse for a men's three-day, three-stage pro race in the world. In 2008, nearly 800 cyclists competed over the weekend. The overall winner of the men's three-stage pro race was Canadian David Veilleux.

USA Cycling created the NRC in 1997 to spotlight top U.S. pro-level road cycling events. NRC-designated races feature a ranking system and point structure that attracts top domestic and international athletes including professional cyclists and those in the Olympics.

Procycling's Classics special issue goes on sale

Procycling's Spring Classics edition
Photo ©: Procycling
(Click for larger image)

The March edition of Procycling has gone on sale, and this month's focus is very much on one-day action with a Classics special. The cover star is Fabian Cancellara, who talks about his main objective for this season, just what it is that makes Saxo Bank such a special team, and whether he sees himself as the future Tour de France contender many others believe he can be.

One of the best races of 2008 saw Tom Boonen edge out Cancellara and Alessandro Ballan at Paris-Roubaix. Procycling gets exclusive access to Belgium's cycling superstar, who reveals the secrets to winning "The Hell of the North", the most brutal race in the world. Recently crowned world champion Ballan also features in another exclusive interview; the Italian talks about life in the rainbow jersey and his strategy for Roubaix, the race he now wants more than any other. The Classics theme continues in interviews with Holland's rapidly rising one-day star, Sebastian Langeveld, and a Belgian rider hoping to light up his native Ardennes this April, Columbia's Maxime Monfort.

Also… Lance Armstrong may have won seven Tour titles but in eight attempts on cycling's most infamous summit, Mont Ventoux, he's yet to chalk up a victory. Procycling investigates his surprising record and analyses what makes "The Giant of Provence" such a unique challenge.

The March edition also sees Procycling unveil its Fab Four riders whose performances it will be following throughout the 2009 season. Two have captivating stories about emerging – not without some difficulty – from Eastern Europe. Columbia's Tony Martin trained as a policeman, has the all-round ability to challenge at the major tours and has a fascinating story of escape from East Germany. Belarus is Yauheni Hutarovich's home, and he tells how he escaped from a nightmare in Italy to emerge as one of the best young sprinters around with FDJ.

Garmin's Martijn Maaskant produced two of the best rides by a young rider last season, notably when finishing fourth at Paris-Roubaix. The precocious Dutchman known as "Sleepy" explains why he comes alive on the cobbles. Last, but by no means least, is Dane Jakob Fuglsang, already tipped by Danish legend Rolf Sorensen as 2010's Tour winner, who looks set to be the latest star uncovered by Saxo Bank.

In the bike test this month, Frankie Andreu reckons he's drawn his lucky number as he test rides Seven's V.II. Plus, there are exclusive columns from Garmin's Dan Martin, Saxo Bank's Frank Hoj and Gianni "The Prince" Savio, and the chance to WIN a Team Garmin Edge computer and Giro Ionos helmet.

For details on where to buy Procycling and links to subscription offers go to Procycling's website

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