First Edition Cycling News, April 14, 2008
Edited by Ben Abrahams
Boonen picks up much needed victory in Roubaix
By Brecht Decaluwé in Roubaix
A second Roubaix cobblestone
Photo ©: AFP
When Tom Boonen crossed the finish line in the Roubaix velodrome for
the second time in his career as a winner, a lot of things must have gone
through his mind. Until today, the Belgian had struggled to find the winning
legs that brought him the legendary treble of the Ronde van Vlaanderen,
Paris-Roubaix and the world championships in 2005. A good 2006 also followed
with wins in the Tour de France, another Ronde triumph, not to mention
a bunch of semi-classics. But 2007 was a much leaner year for the Quick
Step star, as even the Tour de France green jersey and two stage victories
did little to hide the fact that he couldn't win one of the sport's big
For a rider's entire season to be judged on two races during the most
important week of the Spring Classics may seem a little unfair, and Boonen's
reaction at the finish line was clearly one of relief. "Phew!"
he said, "I can go on again for a little while." The 27 year-old
had been made to endure weeks of doubting in the media, but answered his
critics in style today.
"It's fantastic to win a race under a lot of pressure," he
said, "but the only person who didn't need to have doubts was me.
Doubts aren't good and today I wasn't in doubt, otherwise you can't win
here. Criticism? If I win there is criticism, but also if I don't win,
so in the end I shouldn't care about that. I didn't announce [that I would
win], I only said that I would be good, but then the question is if that
will be good enough to win."
He then explained that he was fed up with the mind games that have been
played out in the Belgian press. "By saying that I want to be good
in this week I'm not picking up extra pressure, because that pressure
would be there anyway. The problem is that if I say that I want to be
good, it turns out to be 'Boonen wants to put on a show' in the paper.
My words are easily taken as the truth, or more easily changed to make
them true," he stated.
"I shouldn't be saying that I will not try to win the Ronde van
Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix. And if I try - I repeat - try to win them,
then that turns into 'Boonen puts all his money on two races', or 'Boonen
is a pompous twit'. Going for those two races is just the normal run of
affairs, but now everything is considered good again," he said with
a sardonic smile on his face. "I won, so ... good.
"These are the two races that I really like," he continued,
"and I've never been hiding that. It takes a lot of energy as you
have to live and train for it for so long. I've been thinking about these
races for almost three months now. I went through all possible scenarios
and that's what you think about during the race."
To read the complete feature, click
Cancellara graceful in defeat
By Brecht Decaluwé in Roubaix
Photo ©: AFP
After casting doubt on the form of Tom Boonen in the days leading up
to Paris-Roubaix, Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC) was happy to admit that
the Belgian was the strongest man today, and deserved his second Roubaix
victory. "I think you need to win something before you can win a
big race," were his words before the race, but Boonen proved that
he didn't need wins in the Belgian semi-classics to capture victory in
the 'Hell of the North'.
"I'm a little bit disappointed which is normal when you don't win,"
said Cancellara afterwards. "In the end I can be very happy with
a second place in Paris-Roubaix. Besides one or two bad races I have never
been bad in Hell. Today I'm satisfied as well, especially if you look
at the two other guys in the breakaway, and especially Boonen who demonstrated
he was the strongest. Now I'm happy to have a break."
The Swiss had enjoyed the rivalry between himself and Boonen, and was
happy to see that both riders lived up to expectations. "If one of
us would attack, the other one would chase him down. We were the two big
favourites and the fact that we were there in the finale meant a lot to
me. It proved that I was 100 percent, which I needed to be up there. In
Flanders I wasn't that strong and I made a lot of mistakes, but the team
and I reacted in a great way."
Team tactics proved to be all-important when the finale reached its decisive
moment with 50 kilometres to go. Quick Step's Stijn Devolder attacked
and ended up riding in the front with last year's winner from Team CSC,
Stuart O'Grady. It was up to Silence-Lotto to close the gap for Leif Hoste
and Johan Van Summeren, and by doing that big guns Boonen, Ballan and
Cancellara were offered the ideal platform to jump away when the leaders
came back together.
"That's the great thing about cycling," noted Cancellara. "When
O'Grady and Devolder were up front, it was up to Hoste and Van Summeren
to do the work. That tired them out and then it was up to Tom and me to
attack. That's the game and sometimes it works in your advantage, but
like in Flanders it might work the other way around as well. It shows
that you need a strong team to win a race like this."
Team CSC directeur sportif Scott Sunderland was also satisfied with his
team's efforts. "Although we didn't win this year, I still think
we rode a great race," Sunderland told Cyclingnews. "Luck
wasn't exactly on our side today with Marcus [Ljungqvist] crashing and
a very strong Kurt [Asle Arvesen] puncturing at the worst moment when
he arrived on the Arenberg.
"Fabian started to cramp after his attack and wasn't able to recover
before entering the velodrome. Against a fast Boonen there was no possible
tactics. Fabian won a lot already this year, Kurt won a semi-classic...
I think team CSC came out to play in all races we started in so far this
season. We are satisfied."
Ballan happy with second Roubaix podium
By Gregor Brown in Roubaix
Alessandro Ballan (Lampre)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
As a relatively unknown rider, Italy's Alessandro Ballan raced to a third
spot on the Paris-Roubaix podium in 2006. Two years on, he was back again,
this time after joining the day's power move with Tom Boonen and Fabian
Cancellara, both past winners of the cobbled Monument.
Ballan successfully worked with his two companions over the 36 kilometres
to the finish and went on to lead out the duo on the Roubaix velodrome.
He explained after the race that he was satisfied just to be with the
key escape to the finish.
"I thought that it would be hard, because with two riders like that
I knew it would be that way," said a tired Ballan metres after finishing.
"I worked well with Fabio Baldato in the Arenberg Forest. I left
the Forest in fifth or sixth, so it was going very well.
"I followed the right men," he continued. "I had a little
bit of fear when Stijn Devolder and Stuart O'Grady went and in the finale
I was tired. With the first round of attacks I started to have cramps,
so for this reason I am content to just finish on the podium."
Ballan bided his time over the final pavé sectors but did appear
to be the weakest of the trio. He confirmed, "The finale was long
and hard. Even in our group of three I was having trouble staying on the
wheels of Ballan and Cancellara."
Ballan opened up the sprint from the front with 300 metres to the line.
"I tried but they were far superior," he said.
With two third places in one of the most respected one-day races, Ballan
is even more confident that he can some year win the Queen of the Classics.
"I know I can," he said. "Not to forget that the other
time I arrived on the podium and this time it was a similar result. I
hope to return and do well."
Unlucky Roubaix for Milram
Team Milram were hoping for top-10 finish at Paris-Roubaix, but several
crashes involving riders from other teams put an end to their challenge
with Ralf Grabsch ending as the team's best placed finisher in 26th, over
seven minutes behind the winner. "I was good today, but not good
enough," said the German. "Pozzato's crash held me up, and I
used up a lot of strength getting back to the peloton. Unfortunately that
was when the group with Boonen took off. I kept on fighting and felt good,
but didn't have a chance."
Despite the setbacks, team manager Gerry van Gerwen was satisfied with
his team's race. "The first half of the race went as planned,"
he said. "Unfortunately we had some bad luck in the Arenberg Forest,
when there was a crash directly in front of Niki, which caused him to
lose contact with the peloton. And then Ralf was held up by Filippo Pozzato's
crash. That was it for our hopes for a top finish. But I am still satisfied
with our aggressive performance."
Valverde building for Ardennes Classics
With the northern Classics all but over after Sunday's Paris-Roubaix,
riders' thoughts now turn to the Belgian Ardennes and next Sunday's Amstel
Gold race in The Netherlands. This is followed three days later by the
La Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège on April
27. After placing second behind Damiano Cunego (Lampre) in the Klasika
Primavera on Sunday, Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) appears
to be showing some of the form which saw him place second in both Flèche
and Liège last year.
Speaking at the finish of the Klasika Primavera in Amorebieta, northern
Spain, Valverde said: "At less than 10 kilometres to the finish,
in the climb to Muniketa, I found myself in the lead together with Cunego.
The gap seemed sufficient to go together to the finish but at two kilometres
from the line, the Italian refused to take over and remained in my wheel.
As a consequence two riders came back from behind at 300 metres from the
line: Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel) and Kjell Carlstrom (Liquigas) and there
was no way for me in the sprint.
"I finished second, just like last year, but in 2007 the win went
to my team-mate Joaquím Rodríguez," he added. "But
we have to consider the positive aspect of the situation because my result
today is proof that I have prepared myself well and that is an encouraging
prospect for the Classics. On Tuesday I will take part in Paris-Camembert
in France and after that I will come back in Spain to train for some days
before flying to Belgium."
Rast shows Astana's strength in Turkey
By Jean-François Quénet in Istanbul, Turkey
Gregory Rast (Astana)
Photo ©: JF Quenet
Astana's Gregory Rast won the opening
stage at the 44th Presidential Tour of Turkey, after outsprinting
Italian Francesco Ginanni (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni) in a spectacular
opener. However Rast isn't leading the Tour, with the 76.2 km Grand Prix
of Istanbul not actually part of the UCI sanctioned Tour of Turkey. The
race proper starts today with a 132.7 km stage from Izmir to Kusadasi.
Astana directeur sportif Alain Gallopin noted that separating today's
criterium from the stage race was a good call by race organisers. "Otherwise,
the overall classification would have been decided today," he said.
Indeed it was very hard terrain leading the riders from the ancient hippodrome
where chariot races used to be held during the Byzantine empire down to
the Bosphorus Strait and back up towards the famous Blue Mosque in the
area of Sultanahmet. Saltanahmet is the most visited in the historical
city of Istanbul, a few blocks away from the Grand Bazar.
Cobblestones, uphill and downhill made the race a real spectacle, with
the riders also keen to put on a show as they went full-gas from the gun.
The Serramenti PVC-Diquigiovanni team showed their motivation early but
Astana was prompt to imitate them with Rast taking the initiative after
only 10 kilometres.
"When I came here, I didn't know what to expect," the Swiss
rider explained. "When I saw the course this morning, I realized
it was good for me. The uphill cobblestones made it look like the Tour
of Flanders where I finished 13th last week. I understood that I had to
catch the attackers from the first lap. As I became a part of the front
group, I only had to stay focused and observe my adversaries. I didn't
know them really."
The Astana team isn't exactly racing against their usual opponents at
the Tour of Turkey. "But people like us here, so we're happy to produce
a good show for them," Rast commented. "I was impressed by the
very big crowd here today. I don't do this job only for training but mostly
for racing and winning as much as possible. Today I've won a nice race."
Gustavo Cesar Veloso from Karpin-Galicia who had finished third in Le
Tour de Langkawi in February was Rast's biggest worry. "I reacted
very quickly when he attacked with five laps to go," said the former
Swiss champion and winner of the 2007 Tour of Luxemburg. "In the
final sprint, I didn't have any difficulty for winning. It's great to
There should be more to come from Astana during the seven-day Tour of
Turkey. "We came with a strong team," Rast added. "Andreas
Klöden will like the climbs here. But we have two or three cards
A few bunch sprints are expected too, although today's criterium was
a little too dangerous for Alessandro Petacchi who withdrew early after
seeing a spectacular crash on the fourth lap. But the Italian fast man
from Milram will be determined to win a few stages on the Turkish coast
later this week.
Vittel to become official water of the Tour de France
By Jean-François Quénet
Vittel will replace Aquarel as the official water sponsor of the Tour
de France, 40 years after the start of the race was held in the spa town
in the Vosges region of eastern France. The announcement was made by ASO
director Christian Prudhomme in Paris during the congress of the union
of French sports journalists (UJSF).
In 1968, Vittel was chosen as a symbolic starting point because of its
famous water. One year after the death of Tom Simpson on the Mont Ventoux,
the race was nicknamed 'Le Tour de la santé' (the Tour of the health),
and was the first one eventual race director Jean-Marie Leblanc took part
While it may be a change of brand, the sponsor essentially remains the
same since Vittel is also a part of Nestlé Waters. The same company
supplied the Tour de France with Perrier from 1923 to 1984 and with Aquarel
from 2001 to 2007. "We renew our confidence in the organisers of
the Tour de France for their courage and their determination. They are
serious in the difficult fight they conduct for a clean Tour de France,"
said Hubert Genieys, vice-president of Nestlé Waters. "We
still believe strongly in the power of the event and the faithful crowd
makes our investment worth it."
This is the first sponsorship deal announced by Prudhomme since taking
over the reigns from Leblanc as race director. "It's been exactly
five years since Jean-Marie approached me for the job," he told his
former colleagues from the union he used to be a member of. "Before
that day, I never imagined to quit the job of my life, which is journalism.
Only because the director of the Tour de France has always been a journalist,
I could fit into the job."
Despite all the troubles, the former French Television commentator apparently
does not regret his move.
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