First Edition Cycling News for April 4, 2007
Edited by Greg Johnson & Ben Abrahams
Italians on song at De Panne
By Brecht Decaluwé in Middelkerke
The first stage of the Three Days of De Panne offered spectators lots of Italian spectacle but their local Belgian heroes were less visible. De Panne is known to be the ultimate preparation race before the Tour of Flanders although many big guns choose to take it easy and save their legs for Flanders on Sunday.
Defying conventional wisdom, Alessandro Ballan (Lampre-Fondital) and Luca Paolini (Liquigas) threw caution to the wind on stage one, clearly intent on testing themselves. The Italian pairing first bridged up to the breakaway group with Frederik Willems (Liquigas) and Sergiy Matveyev (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare), Ballan then continued alone with six kilometres remaining and was soon joined by his compatriot from Milan.
Besides testing their form, the Italians had different reasons for their offensive racing style. "I went for the stage win and Ballan for the overall classification; we worked together very well and made it happen," Paolini explained. "I had a little cough after Milano-Sanremo and wasn't running smooth since then, this is morale boosting for me.
"There were three candidates for the overall victory in the breakaway group," Paolini continued. "Surely Ballan, also [Joost] Posthuma and that tall guy [Bert Roesems]. My first goal was to excel in the Three Days of De Panne but now my heart beats for the Tour of Flanders."
Asked about his favourite for the win on Sunday, Paolini didn't hesitate and referred to his friend and former teammate, Paolo Bettini. For that prediction to come true, the world champion must firstly be selected by Quick-Step management. "[Bettini] is in the provisional twelve-man selection," said Quick-Step manager Rik Van Slycke. "During the week we'll decide if the world champion starts in Bruges or not."
For his part, Ballan admitted he was eyeing the overall win in De Panne on Thursday. "Paolini is a fast rider, I knew that," he said. "I tried to get a good GC and for that I needed to set back Posthuma, it worked out well. Now I can take it easy during the next stages and then need to ride a strong time trial.
"After my crash in the GP Chiasso it seemed unlikely I would be ready for the Tour of Flanders, but this result makes me suppose something else."
The Belgian big guns were silent on stage one, but that wasn't a surprise. Quick-Step's 'Tommeke' Boonen made clear he would use this race purely for training. The former world champion thanked his teammates for their work throughout the year by working as a domestique for them. Team leader for one day was Kevin Hulsmans, who easily won the sprint for third place beating Sergiy Matveyev. "Tom [Boonen] was the ideal domestique today, carrying the water bottles for us," Hulsmans laughed. "On Sunday we will be the ideal domestique riders for him."
Quick-Step's arch rival, Predictor-Lotto, is unsure about its sole leader for the Tour of Flanders as Leif Hoste is currently returning from injury. Directeur sportif Marc Sergeant told Cyclingnews that the team isn't comparable with Quick-Step. "Besides Hoste there is no team leader so we have to count on other riders to stand up, like Roy Sentjens and Björn Leukemans," he said. "Robbie [McEwen] will do an intensive training ride on the course tomorrow to get ready as well."
Hoste crashed twice on his pelvis earlier this season and his participation in Flanders remains uncertain. "His pelvis was sloping to one side, and even after medical assistance you can't recover in one day," explained Sergeant. "If he's not ready for Flanders, we will get him ready for Paris-Roubaix."
Muchas mountains in País Vasco
By Antonio J. Salmerón
The opening event on the Spanish ProTour calendar, the Vuelta al País Vasco (Tour of the Basque Country), promises to provide plenty of suffering with an incredible 17 climbs in the first two stages of the six-day event. Starting and finishing in the northeastern town of Urretxu, the first stage of 139 km features nine categorised climbs including an uphill finish. Stage two is more of the same, eight climbs over 191.5 km finishing with a category two climb to Karrantza. Stages three and four add six mountains apiece while stage five includes the infamous category one Alto de Jaizkibel, often a decisive climb in the Clasica San Sebastian.
As the recent winner of both Paris-Nice and the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon, Discovery Channel sensation Alberto Contador is certainly amongst the favourites, given the exceptionally lumpy parcours. "I have not wanted to study in depth the Vuelta al Pais Vasco route," said Contador to local newspaper El Diario Vasco. "I prefer to isolate myself in that sense."
Asked to pick a favourite for this year's event, the Spaniard replied: "There are many, too many. If I must choose only one, it would be Alejandro Valverde, but also José Ángel Gómez Marchante and Koldo Gil. Frank Schleck was at a very high competitive level in the Criterium International. Samuel Sanchez is another important rival."
Contador explained that his breakthrough wins this year have been the result of a reduced, yet more scientific training program adopted since joining Discovery Channel. "I have worked less [in the winter] than previous years, but I am working harder in the time trial," he said. "I am working much more on cadence and Watts, and this work is being seen."
Caisse d'Epargne leader Alejandro Valverde - also riding the crest of a wave after placing third overall in the Criterium International - finished second at País Vasco last year and will be looking to continue fine tuning his form for the Ardennes Classics. Last year's winner José Angel Gomez Marchante will be counting on strong support from Saunier Duval teammates Iban Mayo, Gilberto Simoni, Leonardo Piepoli and Koldo Gil.
In 2006, the race was shaped by a vibrant duel between Valverde and Gomez Marchante with the latter eventually coming out victorious in the final stage time trial.
Euskaltel Euskadi rides País Vasco route
Spanish-registered ProTour squad Euskaltel Euskadi has completed a training session in the Basque country where next week's 47th Vuelta al País Vasco will take place. During the training ride the team passed over the final 55 kilometres of the second day's stage from Urretxu - Karrantza.
Spanish riders Samuel Sanchez, Mikel Astarloza, Iñigo Landaluze, Aitor Hernandez, Gorka Twig, Jorge Azanza, Rubén Perez and Venezuelan Unai Etxebarria all took part in the training ride ahead of next week's six-day ProTour event.
"A already knew the layout previously," said Sanchez after the ride. "It is very winding, many dangerous curves, slopes…as it rains it can be a stage with many alternatives and very exciting."
The team's general manager Miguel Madariaga and team managers Igor González de Galdeano, Jon Odriozola and Gorka Gerrikagoitia worked together on formulating and supervising the training day in order to have the riders completely prepared for the Basque event.
"Valverde, by the quality that he has, is another safe value," said Sanchez of who he thinks will be the rider to beat. "As for me, I am well, I have trained hard and now I must demonstrate it on the highway. To always win is difficult, we do not forget it, but the equipment plays a great role and we are ambitious. After all, it is our race."
González de Galdeano said he believes Sanchez is in good form and will have a chance of winning at the event and also outlined the importance of the race to the squad.
"It is the most important competition in the first fourth month period [of the season]," he explained. "Therefore, we want to do it well in front of our fans. We have worked to arrive at a good moment and with a square of guarantees, with safe values like Etxebarria, Astarloza, Landaluze or Verdugo and young people like Azanza or Hernandez ."
Madariaga added: "This year we have prepared with more illusion and more force than ever. We are making a great work that I hope is compensated by a good performance in the round before our partners and our public. For us it would be very important to play a great role and to continue consolidating the new course of this project (team) that was born in 1994 and continues growing ".
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Euskaltel Euskadi
Cooke delighted with strong season start
British rider Nicole Cooke is delighted with her season to date, after taking her fourth victory of the year at last weekend's Trofeo Alfredo Binda in Italy. The 23 year-old rider started the season on a high note in Australia where she took victory in both the Geelong Tour and World Cup Race before going on to claim the top spot at the Trofeo Costa Etrusca.
"I could hardly have hoped for a better start to the season, with one tour and three one day victories by the 1st of April," said Cooke following her win on the weekend. "But as you know road racing is very complex and tactical. It's nearly impossible to win as a lone rider against other teams, so my wins are victories for the Raleigh-Lifeforce team."
"This was an outstanding performance from the whole team and I'm just delighted that I can reward their efforts with the win," she added.
Cooke rode home alone at the Trofeo Alfredo Binda, some 42 seconds ahead of nearest rival Giorgia Bronzini of Safi-Pasta Zara Manhattan.
In addition to her own performance, Cooke said she was pleased with the overall effort her squad as put in to date, particularly the efforts of two fellow British riders who are following in the reigning World Cup champion's footsteps.
"We have some new riders this year including two Brits Tanja Slater and Anneliese Hurd who are learning about road racing," noted Cooke. "They have settled in very well and I am very impressed with both of them. They are applying themselves as proper professionals and living the life correctly."
Pendleton to appear at Good Friday meeting
Just one week after taking three gold medals at the 2007 World Track Championships in Majorca, Victoria Pendelton will appear at this week's Good Friday International Track meeting in London. While the British rider wont compete at the event, she will carry out a lap of honour and be on hand for prize presentations throughout the day.
While Pendleton, who took gold in the women's individual and team sprints as well as the keirin last weekend, may not be competing fellow British rider and world championship gold medalist Bradley Wiggins will be taking to the bike. Wiggins, who won gold in the individual and team pursuits in Majorca, will mix it with the locals in the 10 minute pursuit at this Friday's event, to be held at the Herne Hill Velodrome in South London.
Backstedt to lead Liquigas babies at Settimana Lombarda
He may only be 32 years-old, but Liquigas rider Magnus Backstedt will be the captain and veteran of the Italian ProTour team's roster at the Settimana Ciclistica Lombarda. Backstedt and 26 year-old Alessandro Vanotti head to the Italian event with the job of nurturing their younger teammates through the UCI 2.1 race.
Joining the pair will be Eros Capecchi, 20, Dario Cataldo, 21, Francesco Failli, 23, and Roman Kreuziger 20.
Relax-Gam announce GP Miguel Indurain roster
Spanish Professional Continental squad Relax-Gam has announced the 10 riders which it will enter in this Saturday's GP Miguel Indurain. The squad's roster for the UCI 1.HC event will be lead by Óscar Sevilla and Paco Mancebo.
Full roster: Óscar Sevilla, Paco Mancebo, Ángel Vicioso, Santi Pérez, Raúl García, Óscar García, Jorge García, Julián Sánchez, Denis Kudashev, and José Miguel Elías
Giro del Friuli Venezia Giulia organisers left with tough decision
Organisers of the Italian Giro del Friuli Venezia Giulia stage race have an unusual problem: too many teams want to contest this year's event from May 9-13. Event organisers received the first entry for this year's event from Dutch team Van Vliet-Ebh-Advocaten last August, and since then a massive 48 teams from around the world have applied for an entry in the UCI 2.2 race.
In addition to the local Italian squads, some 23 international teams have applied to compete, including America's BMC Racing Team and Japan's Nippo - Meitan Hompo - Hasada.
Organisers are now faced with the task of cutting the 49 entries back to a more desirable number for this year's event.
Full list of entries for this year's race:
Fantasy Ronde van Vlaanderen - Play the Game!
The Ronde van Vlaanderen this Saturday marks the second of the Fantasy Spring Classics games on offer this year. There's still plenty of time to enter your team/s. All you need to do to take part is register and select eight riders before the real live race starts. The provisional rider list has been uploaded to our servers. If you've played the game before you'll notice we've also added some new features to the game this time around. We've improved the online stats so you can now see in detail which riders scored best in the game last year. You can also look up previous player's winning teams. We've also added new ways to communicate with your fellow players from around the world. Have a look and see now!
Why should you play this year? - You can win a Specialized S-Works Roubaix bicycle in Quick Step - Innergetic colors equipped with Shimano Dura-Ace components and S-Works FACT over-sized carbon crank and bottom bracket worth $6000 USD! That's not all you could win in this year's Fantasy games: to celebrate our fifth year of Fantasy games the Spring Classics will also be featuring some top runners-up prizes.
Maxxis join the prize line-up
We have 10 pairs of Columbiere tyre from Maxxis - named after the penultimate climb on the 2002 Tour de France, the Columbiere is designed for true road racing enthusiasts. It's the tire of choice for the Health Net presented by Maxxis professional cycling team in the USA, and on Cyclingnews.com, tech editor James Huang rated the tire 4.5 out of 5 stars in one his full-blown 'torture tests'. If Doc Jones can get over 4000km out of a lightweight racing tire, imagine what you'll get.
More Runners-up Prizes
The first runner-up prize this year is a Cycleops Powertap 2.4 (wireless) worth $1499 USD. Cycleops upgraded the world's most accurate, lightest power meter to be the world's first wireless meter, meaning you can easily switch it between bikes.
A pair of BBB's "Winner Team" glasses are on offer for the highest scoring Fantasy team in every Classic. You don't have to take part in all seven races to stand a good chance of winning this prize. The highest score per classic wins a pair of the official sports-glasses of the Quick-Step Innergetic professional cycling team 2007.
In reverence to a historic town... in honor of those that race there each spring... and designed and built by masters with over 20 years experience who realize that most of us don't have the luxury of a broom wagon or team car trailing us everyday; HED created the "Bastogne" wheelset. In our latest addition to the prize list, we have three pairs on offer for the lucky runners-up.
We are proud to announce the continued support from Speedplay in this year's game. We have three sets of Speedplay's Zero stainless steel pedals - the same style of pedal used by ProTour teams such as Team CSC.
We are also pleased to confirm that Descente will be joining the list of runners-up prize sponsors. Produced in conjunction with Team CSC, the Descente Optima Bib Short is the culmination of hundreds of hours of research and testing. Constructed of two different textiles, the main body features Aero-X fabric, a dual-denier Nylon with spandex for great moisture-management, durability, comfort, and fit.
Cyclists depend on good nutrition to meet the demands of the sport. That's why Nutra Fig developed the organic Cheetah Bar. It contains the right combination of carbs, protein and fiber to give you long lasting energy, it is moist and tastes great. Cheetah bars are loaded with potassium, sodium and calciumâ€"all found naturally in the ingredients so no chemical additives are needed. Cheetah Bar is the official energy bar of the Colavita/Sutter Home Pro Cycling Team. We have 10 boxes of Cheetah Bars on offer this year.
The proCOOL Mesh from Scandinavia's leading high-performance clothing company, Craft, is the professional's choice when it comes to base layers. The proCOOL Mesh is a warm weather base layer that combines the latest in fabric technology with Craft's signature fit. Even as temperatures soar, proCOOL keeps you dry and comfortable. For the 2007 Spring Classics Fantasy Game, we have 10 of these great base layers on offer.
In the next few days we will be releasing more details of the prizes on offer this season with 46 prizes available for 18 lucky winners, and some major improvements in the game engine coming soon, now is the time to sign up to the Fantasy Cyclingnews Games.
How to play
Yes, you too can be a professional team manager. Based on the live racing action, you will take up the challenge using your knowledge and tactical skill as a race team manager to compete with fantasy managers from around the world. Remember all you need to do to take part is to register and select 8 riders for each of the following races:
Ronde van Vlaanderen, April 8th 2007
It's a great way to follow the Spring Classics.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2007)