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Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

Latest News for April 3, 2007

Edited by Gregor Brown

Cunego progresses in Critérium International

Damiano Cunego
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Damiano Cunego of Lampre-Fondital is progressing in form for his season goal of winning the Giro d'Italia. Sunday, the 25 year-old rider from Verona finished the Critérium International in seventh overall.

The three-stage, two-day race was largely based on Sunday morning's 98.5 kilometre run from Les Vieilles Forges to Monthermé, where the riders had to start at an early 8:10. "It is a little unusual," Cunego said to La Gazzetta dello Sport. Il Piccolo Principe (the Little Prince) had to wake up at 5:45 to prepare the day, beginning with stage two.

CSC's Jens Voigt ruled and took out his third win in the French classic. "I tried to attack but the climbs were too short and to make the selection was not easy," he commented on the stage that consisted of nine côtes. Cunego went on to finish the stage in fifth, 48 seconds back.

The afternoon's 8.3 kilometre time trial confirmed that Cunego is progressing towards the Giro, and also April's Ardennes Classics. "Last year we would have lost about five seconds per kilometre," said DS Giuseppe Martinelli after Cunego's run. Il Piccolo Principe lost three seconds per kilometre and arrived 16th at 28 seconds down to winner Thomas Lövkvist.

"I ended in seventh in the general classification," the rider confirmed. "Last year I probably wouldn't have arrived in 15th."

The little prince will re-appear in the País Vasco, April 9 - 14, where he will put the finishing touches on his Ardennes preparations.

Ardennes Classics are the Amstel Gold (Holland, April 22), La Flèche Wallonne (Belgium, 25) and Liège-Bastogne-Liège (Belgium, 29).

Freire thinks of Ronde van Vlaanderen

Freire after win
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Three-time World Champion Oscar Freire is thinking of the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders). The Spaniard had a successful run this last weekend in Belgium. He made his way over the numerous cobbled climbs of Saturday's E3 Prijs and then swooped in the next day to win the Brabantse Pijl for a third time running.

"I was good on Saturday but I didn't really know the roads," Freire said of the E3 Prijs. "I guess that will be different next week in the Tour of Flanders [Ronde - ed.]." The E3 is considered as an indicator for the Ronde van Vlaanderen, April 8, and the 31 year-old Spaniard now figures he knows the Hellingen (climbs) well enough that he could be considered a favourite.

"A hat-trick! Not bad, eh..." he noted of Sunday's win to Belgium's VRT. "A hat-trick in the Brabantse Pijl! Not bad, eh?. But then this course was made for me."

Rabobank dominated the finale by placing two of its men in the winning move. "I was still a bit tired from yesterday's E3 race but Michael Boogerd was brilliant. He really took control of the race during the last eight kilometres."

The Dutch squad, with the win, also made up for missing out in Saturday's E3. In contrast, Quick-Step, who won on Saturday, but missed out on the winning move in Brabantse Pijl.

Italians in Brabantse Pijl

Enrico Gasparotto
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

The Italians left their mark on the Brabantse Pijl. Team Liquigas showed its power by placing Italian Luca Paolini in an early move and saving team captain Enrico Gasparotto for the finale.

Young Gasparotto, 2005 Italian Champion, made the final cut and battled against Dutch squad Rabobank for victory. He parked himself on Michael Boogard's wheel in the closing kilometres before launching his sprint in the final moments. His Sprint was covered by Boogard's teammate, Milano-Sanremo winner Oscar Freire, which left him to finish fourth for the day.

"The trip to Belgian was not even in my program," Gasparotto confirmed to Cyclingnews the day before the race. "In fact, last Wednesday in Dwars [door Vlaanderen] I raced on pavé for the first time in my career."

Meanwhile, World Champion Paolo Bettini abandoned the race due to pains in his left thigh. He slipped in Saturday's E3 Prijs when his rear derailleur broke. Sunday evening he celebrated his 33rd birthday with fans in Belgium. Team Press Officer Alessandro Tegner confirmed to Cyclingnews that Bettini will return to Belgium on Friday for the Ronde van Vlaanderen two days later; going home to Italy again the following week before returning to race in Paris-Roubaix, April 15.

Three Days De Panne starts

Leif Hoste after 2006 win
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

The Ronde van Vlaanderen final pre-race, Three Days De Panne (KBC-Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde), kicks off today in West Flanders. The three-day, four stage race is typically the final tune-up for riders looking to win Sunday's Ronde.

On tap are four stages that will give the riders plenty of opportunity to test their legs over the Hellingen (Belgian's cobbled climbs). Today the riders will face 192 kilometres of racing from Middelkerke to Zottegem.

Wednesday, from Zottegem to Koksijde, could be the most taxing day; the riders will face 227 kilometres of racing towards the Belgian coast, where they will likely encounter plenty of winds. Thursday, the race will conclude with two stages; stage 3, 119 kilometres around De Panne, and stage 4, an 11 kilometre time trial.

Tom Boonen (Quickstep-Innergetic) is a clear favourite even though he has never taking the overall win. The Belgian will encounter a tough fight from 2006 winner Leif Hoste of Predictor-Lotto. Other favourites include Filippo Pozzato and Luca Paolini (Liquigas), Tomas Vaitkus and Stijn Devolder (Discovery Channel), Alessandro Ballan (Lampre-Fondital), Leon Van Bon (Rabobank) and 2001 winner Nico Mattan (DFL-Cyclingnews-Litespeed).

Cyclingnews' Brecht Decaluwé will be in De Panne for daily coverage of this Flemish classic.

Spanish teams preparing for the Vuelta al País Vasco

By Monika Prell

Teams Saunier Duval-Prodir and Euskaltel-Euskadi are preparing the Vuelta al País Vasco that begins on Monday, April 9, and ends Saturday, April 14. Today, the Euskaltel boys will train on sections of the second stage, which starts in Urretxu and finishes in Karrantza. Under the supervision of Miguel Madariaga and Igor González de Galdeano, the team will cover the last 70 kilometres of this stage.

The team Saunier Duval-Prodir, winner of the last edition with its rider José Angel Gomez Marchante, will also train on the route of the Vuelta al País Vasco. On Wednesday, team leaders Iban Mayo and Koldo Gil will examine the parcours of the last two stages together with their teammates Iker Camaño, Juan José Cobo and David De La Fuente.

They will train on the last sections of stage five, with the start in Lekunberri and finish in Oiartzun (the location of the final stage, an individual time trial). Friday's stage will take the peloton over four serious mountain passes in the last 80 kilometres, the Altos de Agiña (1st category), Aritxulegi (2nd category), Jaizkibel (1st category) and Erlaitz (2nd category).

Di Luca leads Italian Cup

Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) leads the Italian Cup (or Coppa Italia) after the conclusion of the Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali. The Cup is designed to track the progress of Italian riders in Italian races.

The rider from Abruzzo scored earlier this year with his win in the Milano-Torino and then, last week, garnered his second season win by beating Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Prodir) in stage three of the Coppi e Bartali. Riccò, winner of two stages in Tirreno-Adriatico and a stage in Coppi e Bartali, is third overall and leads the young rider classification.

Michele Scarponi (Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo) has come back on the scene after having his 2006 season cut short due to Operación Puerto. The rider from Le Marche rode superbly through Coppi e Bartali, winning a stage and taking the final overall classification. The overall win was taken from the young hands of Luca Pierfelici. For his efforts in the stage race the Aurum Hotels rider moved up the Italian Cup's classification and now sits fifth overall (second in the young rider classification).

1 Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas)                                 89 pts
2 Michele Scarponi (Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo)           83
3 Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Prodir)                     75
4 Mirco Lorenzetto (Milram)                                 66
5 Luca Pierfelici (Aurum Hotels)                            55
6 Daniele Bennati (Lampre-Fondital)                         52
7 Mauricio Soler (Barloworld)                               50
8 Daniele Pietropolli (Tenax-Menikini)                      44
9 Massimo Giunti (Miche)                                    43
10 Mikhail Ignatiev (Tinkoff Credit Systems)                40
Young rider
1 Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Prodir)                     75 pts
2 Luca Pierfelici (Aurum Hotels)                            55
3 Mauricio Soler (Barloworld)                               50
4 Mikhail Ignatiev (Tinkoff Credit Systems)                 40
5 Morris Possoni (Lampre-Fondital)                          40
1 Tenax-Menikini                                           143 pts
2 Barloworld                                               141
3 Lampre-Fondital                                          117
4 Ceramica Flaminia                                        102
5 Milram                                                    99
6 Ceramica Panaria-Navigare                                 84
7 Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo                              64
8 Liquigas                                                  64
9 Aurum Hotels                                              62
10 OTC Doors-Lauretana                                      53

Cycling Queensland ready for championships

Cycling Queensland is looking forward to hosting its most successful road cycling event, when it will host the 2007 Scody Australian and Oceania Road Cycling Championships in Murwillumbah in early May.

Over 250 elite cyclists from Australia, New Zealand and the Oceania Rim countries will converge on the Tweed Valley to contest the championships over three days. Pottsville will play host to the Australian Junior and Oceania Individual Time Trial Championships on Thursday, May 3, while the Australian Junior and Oceania Road Race Championships, the National Series second round and road race Selection events will be contested in Murwillumbah on Saturday and Sunday, (May 5 - 6).

Cycling Queensland's Events Manager, Haylie Lack said that the area and the courses are familiar as they have for many years now played host to the U19 National selection trials. However, this year's expansion of the event to include the Oceania Championships and Australian U19 Championships promises a larger and stronger field of riders, which warranted a significant transfer of the course start to Murwillumbah, in an attempt to further showcase the national and international riders that will take the stage.

Events Manager, Haylie Lack explained "We have had some exciting advancements in the past week which has aided our organization of the event. Scody have come onboard as naming rights sponsor, our course has been finalized, and local support has been fantastic."

The course, designed by Tweed local, Stan Brims, as mentioned starts in Murwillumbah and weaves throughout the surrounding villages including Mooball, Burringbar, Stokers Siding and Uki. "The terrain for this course is rather challenging for the cyclists, but it will be a great opportunity for residents of these small villages to witness these elite cyclists in their home towns," he said.

Cycling Queensland is urging the local community to get involved in this event. "It is something free for your whole family to enjoy."

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