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Latest Cycling News, April 28, 2009

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

Recovering Boonen eyes green

Eager to put his racing glasses back on: Tom Boonen
Photo ©: Nicolas Götz
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Three-times Paris-Roubaix winner Tom Boonen is currently recovering from a foot injury he sustained in a crash in the Scheldeprijs earlier this month, but he is already contemplating his next objective this year. After an impressive start to the season and a historical Paris-Roubaix triple, the Belgian sprinter can't wait to get back on the bike to target the season's greatest Grand Tour.

"I want to ride again as soon as possible," Boonen told Sporza. "I can appreciate a few days of doing nothing, but now it's driving me up the wall."

But the Quick Step leader needs to wait a few more days until he can begin training again. "I can't put on my racing shoe yet without pain, and I also can't put any pressure on the foot. I need to wait until I'm pain-free. It won't be long," Boonen said.

With the Tour de France roughly two months away, Boonen is beginning to focus on his next big goal: the green jersey. "The green jersey is a target in itself," he said. "I want to try once again and give it everything. It may be one of the last years that I can compete for the green. I've never been a pure sprinter."

The Belgian, who won the maillot for the best sprinter in the 2005 Tour, is conscious of the growing class of his rivals. "I have beaten everybody already and I can do it again, but not every time," he added. "You have to take into account that it becomes more difficult mentally."

According to Boonen, the biggest threat in the fight over the points classification is Mark Cavendish. "To beat Cavendish is a challenge. He is the fastest sprinter in the world. That is for sure. How am I going to beat him? Just sprint faster," Boonen said.

Rabobank not satisfied this spring, expiring contracts put on pressure

The Rabobank train did not deliver as wanted this past month
Photo ©: Bert Geerts
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Team Rabobank finished the month of April with no wins, and only one third-place finish to show for the Spring Classics. Team director Harold Knebel is not satisfied with that balance and p, "It might be the team composition. There are all kinds of matters to discuss."

Despite some aggressive tactics, the Dutch ProTour team has only scored six wins all season, compared to the 18 taken by Team Columbia-Highroad. Four of the Rabobank victories have come from sprinter Graeme Brown, with Denis Menchov and Joost Posthuma each contributing one. But the team hasn't stood atop a podium since March 18.

In April, the team took second and third overall in the Driedaagse De Panne - Koksijde (without winning any stages), and Robert Gesink finished third in the Amstel Gold Race.

"It would be going too far to say that the spring was a failure," directeur sportif Erik Breukink told the ANS news agency. "But if you say that you want to win one of those races - and the team must want that - then you cannot help but conclude that it was not a success."

This lack of good performances may come back to haunt some riders later in the season, with 18 of the current 30 contracts expiring at the end of the year. "In this period I had expected more from those riders behind our top guys," Knebel said. "I had thought that riders lower down on the team would perform better this month." He indicated that he wants to not only reduce the size of the team for 2010, but also bring up some young riders currently with the Rabobank Continental Team.

Knebel added that Oscar Freire's absence for much of the spring was also a major factor. The three-time world champion was seriously injured in a crash at the Tour of California and was out for nearly two months. "He brings in seven wins a year, so you can deduct those." (SW)

Katusha's close in on Giro roster

Filippo Pozzato will be one of Katusha's leaders in the upcoming Giro d'Italia
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
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Russian ProTour team Katusha has a list of ten riders of which the squad's management will select nine to take the start in the upcoming Giro d'Italia, with one of them acting as a reserve.

The team has organised a training camp in Desenzano close to Brescia, at which seven riders will prepare for the team time trial in Venice on May 9: Christian Pfannberger, Ben Swift, Mikhail Ignatiev, Pavel Brutt, Serguei Klimov, Nikita Eskov and Luca Mazzanti. "During the training camp, we will work specifically on the time trial bikes with a view to the team chrono on the first day of the Giro," said directeur sportif Serge Parsani.

The three other riders scheduled to participate in the Centennial Giro - Italian Filippo Pozzato, Australian Robbie McEwen and Russian Evgueni Petrov - are racing the Tour de Romandie this week.

Sanchez the star in Vuelta a Asturias

Olympic Champion Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) is the favourite in Asturias
Photo ©: Susanne Goetze
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The Vuelta a Asturias gets under way on Tuesday in Northern Spain, with the hilly five-day stage race fielding two ProTour teams with Euskaltel and Fuji-Servetto, competing against 13 other teams including American Continental squad Rock Racing.

The race's favourite is Olympic champion Samuel Sanchez, who despite a lack of wins, comes off a relatively satisfying Spring Classics campaign. Sanchez finished 14th in Amstel Gold Race, fourth in Flèche Wallonne and tenth in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and the Euskaltel leader now wants to prove he can win the stage race. Sanchez finished runner-up in the event in 2005 and will be supported by teammates Aitor Hernandez and Amets Txurruka.

The Basque climber’s main rivals will include Oscar Sevilla and Francisco Mancebo (Rock Racing), Angel Vicioso (Andalucia-CajaSur), Santi Perez (Madeinox-Boavista), Hector Guerra (Liberty Seguros) and Igor Astarloa (Amica Chips-Knauf).

The race route has changed very little from last year, with a hilly profile set as the main characteristic of the event. On Thursday, a 14.2km-time trial will make a first selection amongst general classification favourites, and the penultimate stage on Friday - a mountain top finish on the Alto del Acebo (10.1 km with an average gradient of 7.7 percent) should decide over the overall victor.

The five stages in detail:

Stage 1 (April 28): Oviedo-Llanes (156.7km)
Stage 2 (April 29): Llanes-Gijon (182.2km)
Stage 3a (April 30): Gijon-Aviles (88.7km)
Stage 3b (April 30): Castrillon-Castrillon (14.2km)
Stage 4 (May 1): Cafés Toscaf-El Acebo (180.2km)
Stage 5 (May 2): Cangas de Narcea-Oviedo (177.7km)

The teams lining up a total of 120 riders in the 2009 Vuelta a Asturias are: Andalucia-CajaSur, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Madeinox-Boavista, Fuji-Servetto, Agritubel, Liberty Seguros, Xacobeo-Galicia , Rock Racing, Orbea-Oreka, Contentpolis-Murcia, Sean Kelly, Monumental Burgos, Boyaca Es Para Vivirla, Amica Chips-Knauf and a Spanish mixed team.

Strong KBS roster to Gila

After winning the Tour of Thailand and the Vuelta Ciclista del Uruguay, the Kelly Benefit Strategies pro team heads to the Tour of the Gila this week with a strong squad of athletes.

"Coming off two international wins, our team will have good form and a lot of confidence for Gila," said Jonas Carney, performance manager at Kelly Benefit Strategies. "Although our next big goals are not until a little later this season, we are fielding a strong team at Gila and I have no doubt that we can contest the GC as well as stages. It should also be a good indication of our team's progress looking toward May and June."

The KBS lineup for the 23rd edition of the Tour of the Gila features some of the key riders in the team's recent international success, including Reid Mumford and Scott Zwizanksi who both wore yellow at the Vuelta Ciclista del Uruguay with Zwizanski winning the overall. Jake Erker and Alex Candelario also join the Gila roster along with Neil Shirley, Clay Murfet, Dan Bowman and Andrew Bajadali, ready for the Gila's renowned climbs after winning the overall of the Tour of Thailand.

"The Gila is one of those races that really marks the early season calendar," added Carney. "We were thrilled to see our partner and sponsor SRAM pick up title sponsorship of the race this year and are ready to go."

What's hot on the forum

One hot topic so far this week has been the news that Lance Armstrong's Astana team was not allowed to start in the Tour of the Gila . The UCI enforced a rule that excludes ProTour teams from racing smaller events. But who should be more protected against the top teams? The race or the smaller riders/teams?

Here's a sample of the forum entries:

  • Like the global economy, cycling is also in a recession. A week doesn't go by w/out some bad news. We're living (surviving) in extraordinary times and we NEED to stimulate cycling and the economy. Article 2 of the UCI constitution states their purpose as: b) to promote cycling in all the countries of the world and at all levels. d) to encourage FRIENDSHIP between all members of the cycling world.

    I hope the UCI reconsiders their decision. They've hurt cycling and our small community.

  • Gila is not a ProTour race and the continental teams need to have their share of the pie. Any Conti team left out for a ProTour team is a loss for the local Conti teams. The ruling is fair and just, the race almost went bust and then they're going to give it to a ProTour team to win against the Conti teams, to take the money and run so to speak?

    No they did the right thing.

  • Cycling is popular in the US because of Lance. This race almost didn't make it this year because of the downturn in the global economy. Luckily, SRAM stepped in and saved it, but the presence of Lance and company would have been enormous to the community of Silver City. Who doesn't want to see a seven-time Tour winner race his bike in their event. Look at the Tour Down Under and the increased press coverage for that event. The UCI blew it on this one!

  • Sure Astana has a great effect on the profile of the race and attracts spectators. These are definitely good things but what about the amateur team that keyed this race? What about the continental team that might just get enough recognition at the normal level of the race?

    Yes I am sure there are more than a few cat 1 riders that would think it is pretty cool to ride with Lance or Levi but they won't be taking home any cash if the pro tour guys race hard. As a guy who generally sucked as a rider I know the fun just disappears at any race there was even 1 cat 2 in our group. They just make the race that much harder. I think it is a good rule and I'd guess I might be in the minority.

    Join the thread.

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