Latest Cycling News, March 30, 2009
Edited by Bjorn Haake
Ronde van Vlaanderen: Flanders' World Championships
By Gregor Brown
The Ronde van Vlaanderen is the world championships of Flemish cycling. The winner of the 260-kilometre Northern Classic, run April 5 in western Belgium, will be crowned king in a country known for its beer and frieten.
The cobbled sectors and climbs that form the Ronde van Vlaanderen ('Tour of Flanders') develop and make champions in the sport of cycling. And the Belgian fans, some of the most devoted in the world, remember all the names of the past winners: from Paul Deman to Stijn Devolder.
Riders like Rik Van Looy, Tom Simpson, Eddy Merckx and Johan Museeuw have gone on to tame the course, while others have died a thousand deaths, trying to make the top step of the podium. Riders like Francesco Moser, Sean Kelly and Leif Hoste came close, but - apart from the latter, who is still riding - never won the Ronde.
In recent years, the race has been the stomping ground of team Quick Step. Tom Boonen pulled off back to back wins in 2005 and 2006, the second win coming in the World Champion's jersey. Just as memorable was Stijn Devolder's win last year in the Belgian national champion black, yellow and red top. Alessandro Ballan, 2007 winner, is ruled out through sickness and will miss the opportunity to fly the world champion's colours in Flanders.
The course varies a bit each year, but there are some key climbs (or 'hellingen') that make up the race route: Oude Kwaremont, Paterberg, Koppenberg, Steenbeekdries, Taaienberg, Eikenberg, Varent, Muur - Kapelmuur and Bosberg. This year the organisers dropped out the first two climbs of the 2008 parcours - Kluisberg and Nokereberg - and added in the Eikenberg and Varent.
Read the full preview for the Ronde.
Discuss your race favourites in our forum.
Steegmans out of the Ronde
Gert Steegmans (Katusha) will not ride in the Ronde van Vlaanderen on Sunday, and could face surgery. The Belgian is suffering from back pains that have extended to his left leg.
Despite his physical problems, Steegmans lined up for the Brabantse Pijl yesterday, but it was merely so his team could even start the race - six riders are required - he told Belgian paper La Dernière Heure.
Steegmans rode on one kilometre before turning around. "I have had this pain since the Tour Down Under," he said. "I will stop riding now until we can find the exact reason for this so that I can have an efficient treatment. We will do some scans on Tuesday. The doctors I consulted think it's an inflamed nerve."
The healing process is not quite clear yet. "Maybe some medication will do, but in the worst case a surgery may be necessary."
Despite not having an exact diagnosis, Steegmans was certain he will miss the Tour of Flanders. "It's not worth doing it in the state that I am currently in. In training everything is fine, but as soon as I have to follow the race rhythm, I lose all my power in my left leg."
"It starts with tingling in my thigh, then my muscles harden. The pain becomes so bad that I think my thigh will explode."
After Dwars door Vlaanderen last Wednesday it was particularly bad. "On Thursday night I could hardly walk."
Gilbert gets his groove on
Philippe Gilbert (Silence-Lotto) seems to be finally finding his legs, winning the sprint for ninth place in yesterday's Brabantse Pijl. Even though he was unable to follow the leaders in the race's decisive moments and couldn't repeat his second place from last year, Gilbert was happy to have found some form.
"Today was better," he told Belgian paper La Dernière Heure. "For the first time the fun on the bike has returned. That makes quite a difference!"
Since the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Gilbert was suffering from muscular problems and was in a lot of pain. A rainy and cold Samyn didn't help and he was hampered all the way through Paris-Nice, where he abandoned on stage 5.
He missed out on his big spring objective, Milano-Sanremo, where he finished 23rd. "The last few days and even today I have suffered a lot. I am still not at my best."
His is now trying to make up for missed race days at all costs, even riding the KBC-Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde (March 31 to April 2). "It's a dangerous and nervous race. I have only done it once, but to find my form I will have to ride it."
Schleck diary: Time to reflect for 'Dancin' Andy'
From reminiscing over Abdoujaparov packing heat with his dad to anonymous teammates dancing to the Step Up 2 on the Saxo Bank bus, it's been another action-packed month for the younger Schleck as he manages to find time to reflect and build his form despite more setbacks.
No matter how much I try and look to the future as a bike rider, there's always a part of me that's looking into the past. As a child I remember Djamolidine Abdoujaparov coming to stay with my family, as he and my father were friends. I'd watched the sprinter on television so many times - the way he'd sway across the road, stomping through the opposition, before throwing his bike towards the line. I must have been around 11 or 12 years old and I was so awestruck seeing him in our house.
Read the full diary entry.
Armstrong back on a bike
Lance Armstrong, who broke his collarbone in the Vuelta a Castilla y León, was back on a stationary bike on Saturday. Armstrong pedaled for half an hour, he announced on twitter.
Despite a fairly long scar from the surgery, Armstrong was smiling as he pedalled, just three days after his surgery. Armstrong still aims at participating in the Giro d'Italia (May 9-31), despite the loss of training.
The break was more complicated than initially thought.
GP Plouay in danger without TV
By Jean-François Quénet
Scheduled for August 23 this year, the ProTour race Grand Prix Plouay is in danger as France Television has denied them any exposure.
"We were in partnership with France Television since 1991," said Jean-Yves Tranvaux, who took over the role of race organiser after the death of Jean-Yves Perron. Perron managed to haul the World Championships to Plouay in 2000 but sadly passed away nine months before the event. "We thought we deserved media attention when we entered the premier world calendar but it's been the opposite: France Television has been ignoring us since we've been part of the UCI ProTour in 2005.
"We have contacted other TV channels," he said. "But they don't want to broadcast only one race of one sport while all the other important races are on France Television. We understand their point. A cycling season is like a series." France Television's schedule for cycling in 2009 includes Paris-Nice, the Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, the Flèche Wallonne, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the Dauphiné Libéré, the French championship, the Tour de France, the World Championship and Paris-Tours. It also broadcasts the Critérium International, even though this race isn't part of the world calendar - but is organised by Tour de France organiser Amaury Sports Organisation.
"Without TV exposure, we cannot find new sponsors and we already have spent our savings by producing the images at our costs for three editions without any compensation," Tranvaux said. "The GP Plouay is the only race from the world calendar organised by volunteers. We were maybe naïve to believe that reaching the top level of international cycling was the right thing to do but now, we have the impression that it jeopardizes our race."
Held since 1931, the GP Plouay is the oldest professional bike race in Brittany, the hot bed of French cycling. The organiser's ProTour dream was to share the cake of the TV rights with the teams, but this has vanished after five years.
Augé: French race is harder to win than ProTour event
Stéphane Augé (Cofidis) will race the Route Adélie de Vitré on April 3rd. He had big respect for the 1.1 French race that doesn't see all the big names, but is a hard race.
"It is a course for the tough men, and you constantly have to change gears, " Augé said in an interview with the organisers. "The côte de la Chesnelière is the most difficult part of the parcours."
Augé said despite being less known the race can be compared to other classics. "Everybody is fighting for position in the end and the tension really rises.
"You will have to be attentive at the front of the peloton, but it is also necessary to conserve energy. The winner here is always a strong rider."
Augé won the 4 Jours de Dunkerque last year, but the experience won't necessarily help. "I will be a marked man on Friday. In the French races there is a constant battle, with very good Continental teams. They are usually very active and we ProTour riders are usually under a lot of surveillance. That's why I think this race may be harder to win than a ProTour race, you are going all-out the whole time!"
Cooke still out after virus break
After Tirreno-Adriatico Baden Cooke (Vacansoleil) was off his bike for eight days, due to a virus. He was eager to get back to racing in the Dwars Doors Vlaanderen, which he won in 2002 but hasn't been able to race since.
The virus hampered his spring campaign and besides Dwars, Cooke also had to sit out this weekend, unable to start the E3 Prijs on Saturday or the Brabantse Pijl on Sunday.
Broken bone for Wrolich
Peter Wrolich of Team Milram broke a bone in his shoulder last week in a crash in Dwars Door Vlaanderen.
The 34-year-old was involved in a crash of the peloton about 100 metres before the finish line.
An MRI test last week showed a broken bone in the shoulder, "which is naturally bad news for me," Wrolich said on his website, peterwrolich.at. However, it was a clean break which didn't require surgery.
On Monday he was to meet with this doctor to see when he might be able to rider again. "I haven't entirely written off Paris-Roubaix. But a start at the Ronde von Vlaanderen seems to be more difficult."
Woman in critical condition after race accident
A woman from Waregem is in critical condition after being hit by a rider in an amateur race in Belgium last weekend. The rider went onto the bike path to get to the front of the peloton.
The woman was among the spectators on the side of the road, the Nieuwsblad.be reported. Both noticed each other, but tried to avoid the accident by going in the same direction.
Monday morning the woman was still in critical condition.
The upcoming KBC-Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde often has similar kinds of situations.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Future Publishing (Overseas) Limited 2009)