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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest Cycling News for April 6, 2006

Edited by Anthony Tan

Saul Raisin in a coma

There is sad news concerning American cyclist Saul Raisin (Credit Agricole), reports Jean-Francois Quenet from the Circuit de la Sarthe. Raisin is now in a coma at Angers hospital. It happened last night, some 30 hours after being admitted because of his crash with 2 km to go in stage 1 of the race. He has cerebral edema (swelling in the brain), and is in a serious condition.

Raisin's parents are on their way from America, and will be with him on Friday morning. Crédit Agricole team doctor Dr Ménard has left the Vuelta a Pais Vasco to assist him as well.

Raisin's crash happened because of an epilepsy attack, according to DS Jean-Jacques Henry from Crédit Agricole, something he had three years ago in the Trans-Alsace. He was rescued then by Lionel Marie, who was DS for Crédit Agricole TT3. However, Crédit Agricole's team doctor, Dr. Joel Menard, has denied that Raisin has epilepsy.

WWIII: La Trouée d'Arenberg is back

By Anthony Tan

Can anyone challenge the might that is Tom Boonen?
Photo ©: Jon Devich
Click for larger image

Dating back to its first use in 1968 and with a history of creating the first decisive split in this race of epic proportions, the return of the 2,400 metre-long section of pavé, otherwise known as the La Trouée d'Arenberg (The Trench of Arenberg), will bring the riders back to the front line of war as they tackle the 104th edition of Paris-Roubaix.

L'Enfer du Nord, or more commonly known as 'The Hell of the North', does in fact receive its name from a wartime era almost a century ago when the race was first run. And just like this year's edition will, the parcours of earlier Paris-Roubaix races followed many of the front lines used in the First World War, passing through the path of destruction created during four years of bloodied battle.

Under a joint initiative between race organiser A.S.O. (Amaury Sport Organisation) and the Conseil Général du Nord of the Community of agglomeration of the Porte du Hainaut (and almost a month's work), the Trouée d'Arenberg has now been restored, damaged during the past few years due to a water run-off problem. Coming after 163,5 kilometres, by the time riders leave La Forêt d'Arenberg, there will be just under 100 kilometres left to race.

"It is now possible to guarantee to the cycling teams that the riders will not go through a trap when entering the Arenberg forest," said race director Jean-François Pescheux upon inspection in late February. "But be careful: the improvements brought to the Trouée do not mean that it'll be a boulevard - Arenberg remains one of the tricky portions of the race; it will still be important to leave it in the leading group to hope and win the race on the Roubaix velodrome."

Indeed, after the organisers' inspection of the parcours on Monday (see route details), Pescheux and his team have bestowed the highest (or worst, depending on whether you're riding or watching) rating to La Trouée d'Arenberg - five out of five stars.

See also:
Full preview
Route details
Map
Start list
Past winners

A route to 'Hell': The Paris-Roubaix parcours

By Anthony Tan

The Paris-Roubaix parcours: a route to 'Hell'
Photo ©: www.letour.fr
(Click for larger image)

Like its Belgian half-brother, the Ronde van Vlaanderen, racing does not commence for real until almost 100 kilometres of racing has been covered. Beginning at Compiègne's Place du Palais, approximately 80 kilometres north of the nation's capital, the official start time is 1100 hours Sunday morning, although the Départ fictif is 10 minutes beforehand.

Heading direction nor'-nor'-east, the first of 27 cobbled secteurs comes after 98 kilometres at Troisvilles à Inchy, a 2,200 metre-long stretch of pavé to loosen up the legs... and pretty much everything else on the bike and body! Inspecting each of the secteurs last Monday, race director Jean-François Pescheux rated each based on three criteria: length, state of repair (or in some cases, disrepair) and its position in the race (see classification below). Troisvilles was awarded 3 out of 5 stars, or medium difficulty.

Then in descending order, the remaining 26 secteurs of pavé follow in quick succession with little respite. As mentioned in the preview, the first key secteur comes almost 66 kilometres later as the riders enter secteur 17, or La Forêt d'Arenberg at km 163,5, the 2,400 metre stretch not the longest but awarded 5 out of 5 - the severest of all.

The next key secteur arrives after 210,5 kilometres. 3000 metres in length, Mons-en-Pévèle is the second longest, and coupled with its position in the race, roughly 50 kilometres from the Roubaix velodrome, Monsieur Pescheux has also given it the five-star treatment.

If the race has not taken a definitive shape after Mons-en-Pévèle, it will by the time the riders exit Le Carrefour de l'Arbre, the fourth last secteur and the only other to receive a five-star rating. When one reaches Le Carrefour de l'Arbre, it is the culmination of 242 kilometres' racing and a trio of four-star pavé secteurs only 10 kilometres before it. Numbness, frailty and exhaustion are likely outcomes.

Click here to read the full route details.

Boonen only human

"Maybe I'll have to skip Gent-Wevelgem in future"

It's been a turbulent last few days for Tom Boonen. In between winning Vlaanderen's mooiste last Sunday, riding yesterday's semi-classic Gent-Wevelgem, numerous press conferences and the odd bit of sensationalism, with the Belgian press wanting to ignite some fire between him and Alessandro Petacchi, the world champion has little time for recuperation.

"During the first passage of the Kemmel I already felt that I didn't have the legs to win," Boonen admitted to HNB. "Vlaanderen was still in my legs, but on Sunday I'll be the one to beat again.

"The second time we went over the Kemmel I sat in the back and didn't even push anymore. I already predicted that there was little chance of me being good here. It would have been a shock if I still didn't have that performance of Sunday in the system. It's the Ronde van Vlaanderen, the hardest one-day race there is. Maybe I have to consider not riding Gent-Wevelgem in the future; I'm only human," he said.

"Gent-Wevelgem was still a stressful day for me, and the 30 races that preceded it are starting to take their toll. Yes, I'll be happy when the Scheldeprijs is over and done with. I think I'll drink a few beers after... actually, a lot."

The end of his spring campaign may be in sight, but Boonen is still hunting for more wins: "It's not that I suddenly can't motivate myself enough. But I won't be doing too much for the rest of the week," he said, planning to go for a light spin today before scouting the parcours of 'the Hell' one last time on Friday. "But that last bit is really only to please the photographers," he joked.

Courtesy Sabine Sunderland

Davitamon-Lotto expecting victory in Roubaix

After his ferocious attack in the finale of Gent-Wevelgem, Bert Roesems has big expectations this Sunday, and is confident that he will be one of a select group of riders battling it out in the finale of 'the Hell of the North'.

"I wouldn't say that I am a new team leader," said Roesems to Flemish web-TV after the finish of Gent-Wevelgem. "To show ourselves in the race and battle for the win is the only thing we can do to answer the load of criticism we have had poured over us in the press the last few weeks. This way we can show that it's not justified to be criticised like this. I don't expect anything less for the team than victory in Paris-Roubaix."

About yesterday's attack with 12 kilometres to go that only saw him caught just before the kilometre kite, Roesems simply said to HNB: "I gambled and lost.

"A win in Wevelgem could have turned the tide. But Paris-Roubaix is the classic which suits me the best. I'm getting a special bike; I really look forward to that. I'm finding confidence in this latest performance and the one I made in the Hell last year. There I stayed with Peter [Van Petegem] for five minutes when he punctured and I was still entering the velodrome in the group which was riding for twentieth place."

Explaining the various moves and the strategy adopted by Davitamon-Lotto, team manager Marc Sergeant began by saying: "After the late forfeit of Robbie McEwen we started Gent-Wevelgem with a group of 'freebooters.'"

"My players were full of goodwill and tried several times to open up the race. [Wim] Vansevenant looked at succeeding but he didn't get the ideal companions on his side in the attack. When the race exploded after the second climb of the Kemmel, we missed the presence of Tom Steels in the front; the conclusion is quickly made then.

"We were good, but fell through on the Kemmel. The performance of Bert Roesems was grand: on his own he sliced the whole Milram train into pieces. But this race leaves me with a good feeling. In Paris-Roubaix we can score; there's no 'bergskes' [hills] there."

Davitamon-Lotto's PR officer Filip Demyttenaere also took his chance to respond to the criticism the team has received of late: "We are very happy to have participated in Gent-Wevelgem. The team received heaps of criticism in the press lately; We didn't win [Gent-Wevelgem] but made beautiful publicity and that's why we do it. Bert is really the man in form at the moment. I'm happy about that, as he might be the one behind the scenes on Sunday; everyone will be watching Van Petegem but Bert might be the one who can lead the force for Davitamon."

Courtesy Sabine Sunderland

Gerolsteiner's big day out

By Susan Westemeyer

Team Gerolsteiner can now claim to be the number one team, not only in Germany, but also in the ProTour. Moving out of the shadow of Team T-Mobile and currently surpassing them in terms of both ranking and results, the boys in blue showed their consistency on Wednesday with two second places and two third place finishes.

Gent-Wevelgem

Said an overjoyed David Kopp, who finished second and outsprinted Alessandro Petacchi: "I really had great legs. The second place in this Classic makes up for my bad luck Sunday on Koppenberg. But it gave me a lot of self-confidence that the team set up the sprint for me."

Added team-mate Rene Haselbacher on www.haselbacher.com: "In the finale I worked for David Kopp, and brought him into position in the last few kilometres. It worked out, he finished second. The whole team worked very well. I was happy, to be near the front in a Belgian classic again. It was really fun."

Paco Wrolich wasn't able to help with the sprint, however, as he was hanging out further back with another super-sprinter. "After we rode the Kemmelberg for the second time, I found myself in the second group with Tom Boonen. We just barely missed making it up to the first group," he said on www.eterwrolich.at.

Vuelta al Pais Vasco

Yesterday, Davide Rebellin provided the team with another second place finish in the third stage of the Vuelta a Pais Vasco and is now third overall, just two seconds behind leader Samuel Sanchez.

Like Kopp, Rebellin also benefited from the help of his teammates. "The race developed the way we hoped it would," said Christian Wegmann. "The decision fell on the last climb and the guys did super work to bring Davide there, but Davide did the rest himself. Only Sanchez was a little stronger."

Wegmann was optimistic about Rebellin's chances: "Davide can look forward, not just here in the Basque country. He's on his way to being in top form for the Ardennes Classics next week."

Circuit de la Sarthe

Across to France at the Circuit de la Sarthe, Robert Förster was able to defend his leader's jersey Wednesday morning, but relinquished the lead after the afternoon time trial, with the stage won by an ever-improving Ivan Basso (Team CSC), who shares joint leadership with his team-mate Brian Vandborg.

However, Gerolsteiner still came away with two podium finishes - in a sprint finish, Förster took third in the first half stage, while Stefen Schumacher also placed third in the time trial. "Robert did everything he could again, and it was very close," said a satisfied team manger Hans-Michael Holczer. "And you have to respect Stefan. How he rode today was very impressive, in light of his crash on Tuesday."

Saunier to Roubaix

Saunier Duval-Prodir will send the following line-up to this Sunday's Paris-Roubaix: Charles Dionne, Aaron Olson, Peter Mazur, Francisco Ventoso, Ángel Gómez Litu, Carlos Zárate and Luciano Pagliarini.

Strongman Osa out of Pais Vasco

Although Liberty Seguros-Würth rider Alberto Contador is on equal time with yesterday's stage winner and overall leader Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) in the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, the team lost one of their strongest men in Aitor Osa, who fractured his wrist in a high speed crash earlier in the day.

The mishap occurred on the descent of the Alto de Ortzuarte after approximately 20 kilometres, which also brought down Team CSC's Fränk Schleck and Frenchman Maxime Monfort (Cofidis, le Credit par Telephone). Osa continued and re-caught the peloton, while Schleck abandoned with concussion and Monfort was diagnosed with a broken clavicle.

A number of pundits believed Osa to be the strongest rider in this year's race, and although the 32 year-old finished the stage to Lerín in 12th place, only eight seconds behind Sanchez, he was taken to a hospital in Pamplona for observation, where it was revealed he suffered a fractured wrist on his right arm.

Hong Kong-Shanghai Tour in doubt

Less than a month before the start of the inaugural Hong Kong-Shanghai Tour, organisers are faced with the prospect of cancellation after a proposed route for one of the stages was knocked back.

The Hong Kong Cycling Association (HKCA), organisers of the event, had planned a 80 kilometre criterium at the new AsiaWorld-Expo in Chek Lap Kok, adjacent to Hong Kong International Airport, on third day. However, the airport authorities in charge of the land have notified the HKCA that a seminar will be hosted two days after the planned stage, and the roads will need to be closed in the lead-up to the event.

Fredrick Chan Chun-hung, general secretary of the Hong Kong Cycling Association, believed there to be ample time to conduct both events without disruption: "A seminar will not involve too much move-in work compared to a large scale exhibition," he said to the South China Morning Post. "I remember we had an international race outside the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai when there was one of the biggest toys shows inside the centre a couple of years ago and we could still make it."

The Hong Kong-Shanghai Tour was to have begun on May 2 with road races in Shanghai and Kunshan, Jiangsu, before moving to Hong Kong with two criteriums in Chek Lap Kok and Sha Tin. Chan added it's too late to find an alternative route for the May 6 criterium in Chek Lap Kok. "We will try to talk to the Airport Authority again and see if we can work out a win-win situation," he said.

Irish racing review

Howard and Ryan serve up the competition

By Tommy Campbell

The last fortnight has seen back-to-back weeks of competition between neighbouring cycling clubs in Co Louth and Co. Meath.

Last week hosted Balbriggan, two very competitive days of racing. Pity that efforts of the local cycling fraternity were not rewarded with better weather; it was the spoilsport, but the competition was superb with Paul Healion successful in the Harry Reynolds and on Sunday last it was the turn of Niall Delahaye when he won the Ben McKenna Trophy. Possibly, Niall could have won both events, if it wasn't for a strange twist of fate: he turned up on Saturday and indicated his willingness to participate, but just before the race started he withdrew because he had left his racing gear at home.

This Saturday and Sunday it is the turn of Stamullen to go to post. A former mountain biker-turned roadie, Delahaye has certainly come to the notice of the selectors for his style of racing, which, since the start of the season, has yielded good results - particularly last Sunday, when he was out front for over 30 miles in conditions not suitable for solo attempts. This Sunday, he could be in line for another success in the Joey Whyte Cup, which is over 72 miles.

The Bill Hyland Memorial is the mainstay of the competition in Clonmel, Co. Tipperary also on Sunday. Holding the reins here will be John Ryan. "As you know, this town has a long tradition with cycling. The club was very instrumental in attracting the best cyclists from at home and abroad as far back as the '60s. I can guarantee top class racing this Sunday and everybody is being catered for," he said. Defending champion is Timmy Barry from the Dan Morrissey/Carrick Wheelers CC. Barry can rely on support from his team, but if the race pans out in favour of another of the Morrisseys, then he will toe the party line.

Last week's winner of the Silver Pail Trophy, Michael Hennessy, will be keen to add another win prior to the upcoming Credit Union Ras Mumhan, which takes place in the Killorglin over the Easter weekend, where members of the Sean Kelly team will debut in Ireland. The team has been comparatively quiet since their launch in late January and Tim Cassidy's crash last weekend in Belgium is not doing their prospects any good.

However, it was better news for Martin Munroe last weekend when he went to Aigle in Switzerland to further his career on the bike. The week previous in the Atlantic Coast/Sheeffrey Grand Prix, he had to bear the humiliation of losing the event because he took his eye off the line before he crossed it and Derek Burke literally stole the race from underneath him.

Spring Classics Fantasy Game 2006 - check this booty!

Specialized's Roubaix Pro is the big prize
Photo ©: Specialized
(Click for larger image)

OK - are you having trouble keeping up with the awesome range of prizes on offer in the 2006 Spring Classics Fantasy Game? Well, that's understandable, because it's a real booty of some of the finest cycling products on the planet. So, let's re-cap and help you decide whether you'd make a better directeur sportif than Patrick Lefevere or Johan Bruyneel.

We are offering a total of 19 prize packages for the Spring Classics, ranging from the super Grand Prize of the Dura-Ace and FSA compact carbon crankset-equipped Specialized Roubaix Pro bicycle (and a team replica Decibel helmet, plus funky Specialized eyewear), through to the per-race prize of Smith Optics Limited Edition Team CSC replica Reactor Max eyewear.

So with three races run and won, there are still four races to be held: Paris-Roubaix, Amstel Gold, La Fleche Wallone and finally, the oldest of them all, Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

The complete prize list is as follows:

A pair of beautiful Bastogne wheels worth over $600 USD
(Click for larger image)
HED's Bastogne wheels are named in honour of the Belgian town of Bastogne
(Click for larger image)
Craft are giving away ten of their Pro Cool Mesh Sleeveless Baselayers
(Click for larger image)

Grand Prize: One Specialized Roubaix Pro bicycle (complete), with a Specialized Decibel team replica helmet and your choice of one Specialized optics from their eyewear range. Total value - US$4700;

1st runner-up: One set (pair) of HED's 'Bastogne' wheels, worth US$600, plus a Craft Pro Cool Mesh sleeveless baselayer (yes, exactly like what the pros choose to wear), plus a set of Maxxis high-performance Columbiere road tyres and a pair of Reactor Max Smith Optics, the original Team CSC racing glasses;

2nd runner-up prize packages: there are three '2nd runner-up' prize packages on offer. Each has the following prizes - a Giro Atmos Helmet in your choice of colour, a Craft Pro Cool Mesh sleeveless baselayer, plus a set of Maxxis high-performance Columbiere road tyres and and a pair of Reactor Max Smith Optics;

3rd runner-up prize packages: and the goodies keep coming as there are three '3rd runner-up' prize packages on offer. Each has the following prizes - a set of Speedplay 'Zero' stainless steel pedals from the Californian company that equips ProTour teams like Team CSC and Phonak with their super-light, and super-adjustable pedals, plus a Craft Pro Cool Mesh sleeveless baselayer, plus a set of Maxxis high-performance Columbiere road tyresand and a pair of Reactor Max Smith Optics;

4th runner-up prize packages: there also three '4th runner-up' prize packages on offer. Each has the following prizes - a ultra-comfortable yet high-performance fi'zi:k saddle from the team issue - limited edition range, such as the Di Luca Killer & Cunego Piccolo Principe, plus a Craft Pro Cool Mesh sleeveless baselayer, and a set of Maxxis high-performance Columbiere road tyresand and a pair of Reactor Max Smith Optics.

So, in all, there are 19 separate prizes on offer in the 2006 Spring Classics Fantasy Game. To find out how to enter your team, go the Fantasy Game's information page and get behind the wheel of your own team-car! For more details on how to play go to the rules section of the site for more info. To register your teams for the game go to fantasy.cyclingnews.com.

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