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Photo ©: Swift

Latest Cycling News, June 2, 2009

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

Boonen returns today in Belgium

By Richard Tyler

Quick Step manager Patrick Lefevere believes Tom Boonen is ready for competition again
Photo ©: Tim Van Wichelen
(Click for larger image)

Troubled Quickstep star Tom Boonen will make an earlier than expected return to racing today at the 65th Gullegem-Koerse in Flanders, Belgium. The race will be Boonen's first since he was suspended by his team following a second out-of-competition positive test for cocaine.

"Tom is racing today," Quickstep team director, Patrick Lefevere told Cyclingnews on Tuesday morning. It had been expected that Boonen would make his return to the peloton at the Dauphiné Libéré later this month.

Boonen will race alongside a strong Quickstep team including Ronde van Vlaanderen winner Stijn Devolder, Kevin De Weert, Kevin Hulsmans, Steven De Jongh, Wouter Weylandt, Maarten Wynants, Kevin Van Impe, Sébastien Rosseler and Jurgen Vandewalle.

"It is not a very big race but if Tom Boonen is there everybody wants to be there," said Lefevere of the Belgian team's line-up.

"Obviously, we are not happy with what has happened," he added, referring to the controversy that has surrounded the three-time Paris-Roubaix champion since his suspension was announced on May 9. The news of Boonen's second out-of-competition positive for cocaine was followed by reports that the star sprinter had returned a third positive result for the drug, in addition to the party drug ecstasy, during an International Cycling Union (UCI) out-of-competition test in November 2007.

"Yes, I think so," said Lefevere when asked whether he felt Boonen had put his ongoing problems behind him and was prepared for a return to competition. The former world champion is following a rehabilitation programme to put an end to his party drug use.

Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme announced earlier this month that there was no chance Boonen would be allowed to start when the race begins in Monaco in five weeks time. Lefevere also confirmed that he had received no response from Tour de France organisers Amaury Sport Organisation after his requests that the ban on Boonen's participation be overturned. The team manager is considering taking legal action if the French race organiser refuses to welcome Boonen in the event.

Danielson building form

By Richard Tyler

Tom Danielson (Garmin-Slipstream) and his teammates had a good time at the Giro
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

American Tom Danielson (Garmin-Slipstream) has already experienced his fair share of bad luck this season. Speaking to Cyclingnews the day before finishing the Giro d'Italia in 78th place, Danielson hoped to have turned the corner in what has been a disrupted season.

"It was okay, but it was a difficult stage for sure," said Danielson of the Giro's stage 19 finish atop Mount Vesuvius. "All day it was really up and down and along the coast, it was quite stressful with a lot of fighting for positions. Really, the whole peloton had to ride hard for most of the day. The last climb was obviously very challenging, a big climb pretty steep in sections and pretty unforgiving, so I was happy, I went up steady."

Danielson admitted that he was lucky to be included in the Garmin-Slipstream team for the Italian race, having been struck down by a parasitic infection in April. "I got behind a little bit," he said. "I got quite sick with giardia. I was supposed to do País Vasco, but I got sick there so obviously I fell behind in my preparation. I was fortunate enough that the team took me to the race here even though I wasn't 100 percent."

The American thus focused on working for his team and rebuilding his form. "I worked hard for the team," he continued. "I gave my all in the team time trial and then I gave my all in the sprint stages for Tyler [Farrar], so I was just really happy to be here doing that stuff. At the end of the race I was told I could go up the climbs a little bit faster so I just went at my own pace trying to build form for the future."

The Giro d'Italia was a mixed race for Garmin-Slipstream. A narrow loss in the race's opening team time trial to rival American squad Columbia-Highroad and the stage three exit of team leader Christian Vande Velde were contrast with the consistent performances of sprinter Tyler Farrar and a third-place finish for Danny Pate on stage 18.

"The morale is good, it's a great group of guys. Obviously it's disappointing to lose Christian and hopefully he's okay but in terms of the other guys I think everyone's improving. Danny [Pate] did a good performance, he's in a good mood and the staff are in a good mood so the morale's quite high," said Danielson of the feeling amongst the Garmin-Slipstream squad.

His next race will be the Tour de Suisse. The American remains unsure whether his improving form will be enough to secure a place on his team's Tour de France line-up. "I just try to look at it race by race. My next race is the Tour de Suisse. I can't even think about that [the Tour de France] right now," said Danielson.

Schleck brothers stars at Tour du Luxembourg

The five-day Tour de Luxembourg is starting tomorrow, Wednesday, June 3, with a 2.7-kilometre prologue in the city of Luxembourg. The small Grand Duchy will once again welcome an international field of riders to its stage race ending in the country's capital on Sunday.

Star riders of the event will of course be Fränk and Andy Schleck, leading a strong Saxo Bank squad also including Fabian Cancellara and Stuart O'Grady. Another big name riding the race won last year by Joost Posthuma (Rabobank) is Andreas Klöden (Astana).

The event will see a total of 15 teams take the start: Astana, Bbox Bouygues, Cofidis, Euskaltel, Katusha, Saxo Bank, Agritubel, Barloworld, CSF, ISD, Landbouwkrediet, Skil, Vacansoleil, Vorarlberg and CT Differdange.

The stages outline as follows:

Prologue - June 3: Luxembourg (2.7 km)
Stage 1 - June 4: Luxembourg - Mondorf-les-Bains (157 km)
Stage 2 - June 5: Schifflange - Differdange (187 km)
Stage 3 - June 6: Wiltz - Diekirch (185 km)
Stage 4 - June 7: Mersch - Luxembourg (160 km)

Voeckler satisfied with Giro

Thomas Voeckler (Bbox Bouygues Telecom) led a seven-man break off the front for most of stage five.
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

French rider Thomas Voeckler, known for his hearty breakaways, has lived up to his reputation in the centenary Giro d'Italia, which finished on Sunday in Rome. The captain of Bbox-Bouygues Telecom went off the front many times during the three-week Grand Tour through Italy, and even though he wasn't rewarded by a stage win still found the race satisfying.

"Generally, the outcome [of the Giro] is positive," said Voeckler. "With a stage win, of course, it would have been magnificent. But only seven teams won a stage at this Giro, so we shouldn't be ashamed."

The 29-year-old came close in the penultimate stage of the event last Saturday, where he had to settle for second just a few metres behind Belgium's Philippe Gilbert. In a Classic-like finale, the Silence-Lotto rider and Voeckler jumped away with one kilometre to go and battled it out between themselves.

"Sometimes, like at Paris-Nice [stage five - ed.] this year, I get second because of a tactical error. But today [Saturday], I rode the perfect race.Philippe Gilbert was simply stronger than me. He's one of the best riders in the world – not me, even if I'm not too bad. So hats off to him."

Voeckler was part of at least five successful breakaways in the Giro (stages 2, 3, 5, 18 and 20) and thus showed off his Bbox jersey well. "I said before the start that we could be successful in the Giro without winning a stage. Moreover, our youngsters proved themselves," added the Frenchman, who led a relatively young team in the Giro.

Voeckler's next goals will be the Tour de Suisse, the national championships and the Tour de France. He is happy with his current form and hopes to win soon. "Of all the Grand Tours that I've raced, I think this is the one where I'm the least tired in the end, even if I still feel knocked out. One thing is for sure, If I don't race well in the Tour in July, I won't say it's because of the Giro."

Henrion Belgian champion again

Ludivine Henrion (Red Sun Cycling Team) claimed the Belgian women's elite road championship on Sunday in Hooglede, Belgium. The national title was Henrion's second in three years.

"It's better than my first," she told Het Nieuwsblad. The 25-year-old admitted that the victory was the result of an opportunistic rather than a planned strategy.

Henrion attacked a small group coming into the finish in Gits and sprinted away to take a victory. It was a one-two finish for riders from the Dutch registered Red Sun Cycling Team as Latoya Brulee claimed second place ahead of Topsport-Vlaanderen rider Kelly Druyts.

Sunday's triumph repeated the Belgian national championship Henrion claimed in Zemst in 2007. (RT)

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