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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition News for April 24, 2003

Edited by John Stevenson

Saeco celebrates Flèche victory

"We deserve this!" - Bontempi

Astarloa wins
Photo: © Sirotti
Click for larger image

Not surprisingly, the mood in the Saeco camp yesterday evening was nothing short of jubilant after the team landed the number one and three spots on the podium at Flèche Wallonne. "We deserve this," was the first comment of directeur sportif Guido Bontempi.

"We prepared our tactics meticulously for the race and then followed them perfectly. The lads were great!" said Bontempi.

Saeco has placed riders at several Classics this year, but Igor Astarloa's victory was the team's first 2003 Classics win - and also the first win by a Spanish rider at la Flèche.

Astarloa was a key player in the 15-man break that decided the race and while that break's margin never looked commanding, Saeco claims that the team protected the break by working to control the chasing bunch.

A Saeco spokesman said, "When the 15 rider break went clear, the rest of the team closed the bunch down, stopping the chase lead mainly by the Fassa Bortolo and Lotto teams. The riders carefully controlled all the moves and even when Rumsas tried a counter attack, Fabio Sacchi quickly chased him down."

Astarloa dedicated his win to his friends and his adopted country. "When I was an amateur nobody wanted to sign me in Spain and so I went to Italy. I rode with Bruno Leali for a year and then Giuseppe Martinelli gave me a chance to turn professional. Italy is my second home and I spend a lot of time near Lake Garda where I've got lots of friends. This win is for them."

However his greatest rival in the Flèche was a fellow Spaniard, Aitor Osa, who also hails from the Basque region of Northern Spain. "I know Osa really well, we live 20 kilometres away from each other in Spain. I knew he's a good climber but I felt really strong."

Danilo Di Luca was happy to see his team-mate take the victory and is now looking forward to Sunday's Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

"We raced perfectly," said Di Luca. "I'm happy for the team and for Astarloa. He deserved to win. I'm happy as well because I felt great and easily won the bunch sprint. I feel in form and can't wait for Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday. Saeco will be in the action there as well."

Cyclingnews coverage of Flèche Wallonne

Rebellin sustains fracture in F-W

Davide Rebellin, who crashed in the first hour of yesterday's Flèche Wallone, has been diagnosed with a microfracture of the head of his left humerus. Rebellin also sustained a dislocated left shoulder.

Sunderland on the up and up

Cyclingnews Diarist Scott Sunderland has been quietly improving on his form in the past few weeks. We spoke to him on the phone after the opening time-trial of the International Niedersachsen Tour which started in Germany yesterday.

"A few hiccups have been holding me back in my preparation during the first months of this season, but I'm feeling okay. The knee problem seems under control and I'm focusing on the coming races," Scott said.

"Also, my mind is at peace now that my youngest son Tristan [eight months] is back at home. He suffered big time with an intestinal virus - that one has been very active in Belgium this year. It forced him to be in hospital for observation and treatment for over a week. Keeping focus for Scheldeprijs and Amstel was quite a task for me, but I did feel my form improving.

"My physical condition is not at a hundred percent as yet, and actually, this morning I woke up with puffy and itchy eyes because of the pollen in the air here. My team director noticed the same thing.

"I have had very few race days so far this season - Amstel was only the 17th day of competition and I have done no stage races so far. The good thing about that is that I feel fresh and my race schedule should bring me to top form nicely."

How did he feel about the morning's time trial?

"Man, it was my first time trial of the season and as always, they hurt! I'm still coughing," he laughed. "But I'm not here to ride for 'classement'; this the last race in the build-up towards Rund Um Den Henniger Turm and Arhus which is a very important race for our Danish sponsors, and then it's on to the Giro."

That Scott is close to top form was noticeable in last Sunday's Amstel Gold World Cup race, where Scott lead the peloton home, and still looked comfortable and fresh after the difficult race.

"I felt I could have done a bit better than 40th place in Amstel last Sunday," he said. "Maybe that few percent I'm still lacking made the difference between being in the first twenty and finishing where I did now."

"But still I was happy to race that one World Cup this spring. It's a pity that the team didn't get a start in Luik-Bastenaken-Luik [Liège-Bastogne-Liège - Ed]. I've done well there before. But knowing that I felt stronger than what my placing in Amstel reflects gives me confidence for the coming months. Hey, the season is still long and there's enough races for everyone!"

South African Track Championships

The South African Track Championships starts today at the Belville Velodrome, and top SA riders Jean-Pierre Van Zyl and Madison partner Robbie Dale are looking for big wins.

Van Zyl, who will compete in the 1500m, 40km points and Madison events, rates the latter discipline as his top priority as far as qualifying for the World Track Championships in China (June 30 to July 3) is concerned. He intends to show his determination b wiping the floor with his domestic rivals in Saturday's Madison. "I honestly believe that Robbie and I can lap the Madison participants about five times in Saturday's race," said Van Zyl. After the nationals, he will travel to Sydney with Dale for the final round of the track World Cup action, in a bid to book a Madison place for SA at the World's.

"Robbie thinks I am being over- ambitious and reckons that we may only lap the field about four times," said Van Zyl.

Van Zyl showed fine form in winning the silver medal in the 15km Scratch race at the UCI Track World Cup Classic held at in Belville a fortnight ago, but it is the Madison event that counts for him, and the average Madison racing speed of 52km per hour in the World Cup event, held at Belville, compared to an expected SA Championship speed of around 44km per hour, is what puts Van Zyl and Dale in a class of their own.

"Robbie and I finished ninth in the Madison at the World Cup in Belville, but I felt that the racing was even tougher than what we experienced in the opening leg of the World Cup in Moscow in February," said Van Zyl.

"Robbie has shown improved form throughout the year and if there is an area in which we must improve in our build up to the Sydney World Cup event, it is to have the ability to ride the 2nd half of the Madison just as aggressively as we do over the first 25km of the race."

Young KZN sprinter Dean Edwards could be another of the riders to capture the limelight at the SA Track showpiece, and seems to have developed his cycling skills to a new level following his stint at a coaching camp in Germany last month.

Edwards can expect tough competition from the likes of National sprint champion Shawn Lynch and current SA junior champion Morne Blignaut.

Livingstone talks cycling

Not retired pro Kevin, but London mayor Ken Livingstone will be the top speaker at a major London cycling conference on May 10. Speaking on the theme 'Cycling: A Capital Solution', Livingstone will talk about the popularity of cycling in the British capital and how the levels of cycling have increased both before and since congestion charging was introduced.

Other topics at the conference include the National Cycling Strategy Board's plans to increase cycling in the UK; London's new Cycling Action Plan; raising the profile of cycling; and marketing cycling to a mainstream audience.

For more details call Cherry Allan on 01483 520735, email

(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2003)