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Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

First Edition Cycling News for April 6, 2007

Edited by Sue George & Steve Medcroft

Two stages conclude De Panne final day

Stijn Devolder on winning ride
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

Discovery Channel's Stijn Devolder set the bar high and early during Thursday afternoon's 11km time trial in the Three Days of De Panne. His ride in the final stage on this two-stage day initially put him more than a minute ahead of anyone who had already ridden today, and his time stood until the end. Two hours later, and the next closest rider was David Millar (Saunier Duval-Prodir), eight seconds back.

"De Panne is a training ride for our team but in the TT I gave all I had," Devolder said. "Beating guys like Millar and [Leif] Hoste makes me very happy. It's clear that I'm ready for the Ronde [van Vlaanderen], it'll be something else than what we've seen during the last three weeks. I'll try to finish as close as possible," Devolder said after his win.

Italian Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) went into the day with a ten second deficit to Luca Paolini (Liquigas). But Ballan made up enough time on Paolini, who suffered problems at the start, to take the overall victory in this 31st edition by six seconds over Joost Posthuma (Rabobank).

"I did all out," said Ballan after the time trial. "I did not expect to go so strong as I am not a specialist but I was able to play my cards. There were some strong adversaries, like Joost Posthuma." Asked about what this win means, the man from Castelfranco Veneto was clear. "This is good for my morale, after a season that started with a crash. This is the proof that I am at the top. I am almost 100% and I am very happy with my condition."

With this win, Ballan goes into Sunday's Ronde van Vlaanderen as a clear favourite, something he doesn't mind. "I was up there in the past, sixth and seventh," Ballan said. "I just hope to be strong against someone like Boonen." Regarding the end of the Ronde Ballan wasn't worried too much. "I have not seen the finale of the Ronde yet this year, but I hope to have a look at some key muren [hills] tomorrow with the team. The course is different but it will be like the last years, hard."

Gert Steegmans (Quickstep-Innergetic) won the Thursday morning's stage three which ended in a bunch sprint.

No Melchers-Van Poppel for Ronde van Vlaanderen

Team Flexpoint will start the women's Ronde van Vlaanderen World Cup without the winner of two past editions, Mirjam Melchers-Van Poppel. She is recovering from a serious crash at the end of the last season, and this race comes too early to fit into her program.

Instead, the Dutch team will include the following riders: Swiss Champion Annette Beutler, Dutch national time trial Champion Loes Gunnewijk, Danish winner of the Omloop het Volk Mie Lacota, Swedish champion Susanne Ljungskog, American winner of the Tour de L'Aude Amber Neben, and the winner of the first race of the year on Dutch soil - Iris Slappendel. They will ride under the direction of Jean-Paul van Poppel and Klas Johansson.

The cobblestone sections and climbs will make the 122km race from Oudenaard to Meerbeke and exciting one.

Liquigas starts Settimana Lombardia with win

Liquigas enjoyed a successful start to the Settimana Lombardia Thursday when they took the 3km team time trial stage win, their seventh victory of the year, and put Francesco Falli into the leader's jersey.

Liquigas won today by three seconds over Team Barloworld in the opener which ran from Bergamo Centro to Città Alta. The six rider team included Falli, Magnus Backstedt, Eros Capecchi, Dario Cataldo, Roman Kreuziger, and Alessandro Vanotti. Falli got the jersey because he was the first rider on the squad to cross the line.

"Our group is competitive and strongly united: we proved it in such occasions," said team manager Mario Scirea. "Even thought they didn't have great reference points, since Liquigas was one of the first team to start (the fifth one), the guys have raced fast since the beginning." Scirea noted especially Backstedt's performance. "The team veteran sacrificed himself for the group racing at full stretch in the first thousand metres."

Racing continues Friday with the 146.1km Stage 2 starting and finishing in Vertova - Vertova.

Women's Prestige Cycling Series showcases emerging talent

Webcor Builder's Abbot claims lead in Best Young Rider and Overall

Mara Abbott (Webcor Builders)
Photo ©: Mitch Clinton
(Click for larger image)

Going into the Redlands Bicycle Classic, the first race in the 2007 Women's Prestige Cycling Series, Webcor Builder's Mara Abbott was not the favourite for the Best Young Rider, much less the Overall Series lead. She'd won the U23 National Time Trial and US Collegiate Nationals, but she was racing with seasoned professionals at Redlands. But when the dust settled after the final stage at Redlands, the Whitman College economics major had claimed both the Overall and Best Young Rider jerseys and had led her Webcor Builders team to a dominating first place Series ranking.

Abbott will wear the Series leader's jersey going into the Nature Valley Grand Prix in June. Her competition will come from teammate Katheryn Curi, a former US National Champion, in second followed by Felicia Gomez (Aaron's Cycling), Leigh Hobson (Team Cheerwine) and Kori Seehafer (TEAm Lipton) in third through fifth.

The Series Sprint competition also had a surprising outcome. This leader's jersey will be worn by TEAm Lipton's Kori Seehafer, not known as a speedster. She'll be pursued by Martina Patella (ValueAct Capital), Christine Thorburn (Webcor Builder's), Seehafer teammate Laura Van Gilder and 2006 Series Sprint champion Brooke Miller (Team TIBCO).

Abbott's performance may have wrapped up the Series team title for Webcor Builder's since this competition awards bonus points for young riders. Her team has a commanding lead over second place Team Cheerwine (504 vs. 190 points), followed by TEAm Lipton (180), Aaron's Cycling (159) and Team TIBCO (111).

The Redlands Bicycle Classic also claimed its return to the Series as a win. "We were thrilled that the Redlands Bicycle Classic was selected as the kickoff for the Women's Prestige Cycling Series", said Redlands director Brian King. "The Series helped us attract the largest women's field in our 23 year history. This is proof that female cyclists support events that support them."

The Women's Prestige Cycling Series continues in June with the Nature Valley Grand Prix followed by the International Tour de Toona in July and the CD&P Bermuda Grand Prix in September.

Tour of Ulster consolidates in Omagh District

The Tour of Ulster confirmed its route and dates for 2007; the premier cycle stage race in the province, will take place on bank holiday weekend Saturday May 5- Monday May 7.

The significant modification for 2007 over the 2006 Tour of Ulster is the departure from point-to-point stages. With all of the racing being this year based on the Omagh District Council area, organiser Colin Boyle, having worked on the event for the last few years, is enthusiast about the sporting route he has devised. In particular, Boyle says Stage two, held on Sunday and finishing up a tough climb at Gortin before the riders tackle a short time trial the same evening is a highlight.

Despite the route changes, the 2007 event will follow the event's historic format of four stages over three days; 87-mile road stage on Saturday, a 59-mile road stage on Sunday followed by a 2.5-mile time trial that evening and finally finishing with a 65-mile road stage on Monday.

The winner of last year's event was former Irish Road Champion Tipperary's Ray Clarke (Dan Morrissey) with second place going to Monaghan's Conor Murphy (Murphy & Gunn) & third place Dublin's Paul Helion (Murphy & Gunn).Most of the top Irish riders are expected to make up the expected field of around 100 cyclists,

In addition to the Omagh Sports Forum being main sponsors, the race has also attracted support from the Sports Council for NI, Gallen Vehicle Hire, The Irish News, and NI Electricity.

Entry forms can still be downloaded on the race website

Zabel will lead Milram at Flanders

Zabel celebrates on the podium
Photo ©: AFP
Click for larger image

Erik Zabel and Marcel Sieberg will lead Team Milram in the season's fourth ProTour event at the 259km Ronde van Vlaanderen on Saturday. The long course, with its continuous steep ups and downs including the climbs of Flanders and Brabant, give Zabel and Sieberg a good shot. The experienced 36 year-old Zabel has yet to make the podium, but this year could be his chance, and Sieberg has already shown he is well suited for the tough Belgian Classics.

The rest of the team will include Alessandro Cortinovis, Ralf Grabsch, Brett Lancaster, Volodymyr Diudia, Alberto Ongarato, and Fabio Sacchi.

T-Mobile squads for Flanders

Kim Kirchen (T-Mobile)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

The T-Mobile organization announced the rosters for both the men and women's Ronde van Vlaanderen this week. Kim Kirchen and Marcus Burghardt will spearhead an experienced T-Mobile men's roster at Sunday's Tour of Flanders. The two riders have been at the top of their game in recent weeks and say they are well prepared for everything the 259-km cobbled classic can throw at them. Burghardt gave another glimpse of his emerging classics threat at last weekend’s E3-Prijs in Harelbeke - placing third behind reigning Tour of Flanders champion Tom Boonen and reigning Paris-Roubaix champion Fabian Cancellara.

Meanwhile, an in-form Kirchen has featured regularly on race podiums in recent weeks; Tirreno-Adriatico, Milan San-Remo and last weekend’s Brabantse Pijl. The team says Kirchen has made Flanders one of his top spring objectives. "I have enjoyed a great start to the season. My result in Brabant proved to me that I am in the right form to have a shot at this classic, even if ‘Flanders’ is a completely different kind of a race," said Kirchen, who thrives on short, sharp, punchy climbs. "My hard preparations were worth it - I'm in top shape for the Tour of Flanders," said the 28-year-old Luxembourger, who has spent the past week in light training.

Klier is something of a dark horse for Sunday. The 2005 runner-up has recovered enough from the fractured cheekbone and concussion suffered in a recent training crash and is currently adding race miles at the Driedaagse de Panne race. But it remains to be seen whether the 31-year-old can win his race against time to be fully competitive on Sunday.

Former world champion Judith Arndt
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

The T-Mobile women's team is as confident as their male colleagues of presenting a strong challenge at the women's Tour of Flanders on Sunday. The fourth women's edition of the Ronde marks the beginning of the racing season in Europe for the magenta team and forms the second leg of the women's world cup series. Starting in Oudenaarde and finishing in Meerbeke, the 120km Ronde van Vlaanderen is a tough and nervous race that shares many of the climbs and cobbled sections with the men's edition - including the infamous Muur des Geraardsburgen. But team director Anna Wilson believes T-Mobile is equipped to cope with the race characteristics. "There is no question that the race will be tough but we are going there to try and win."

The six-athlete roster arrived in Europe fresh off a successful block of racing in Australia, New Zealand and the US, where Judith Arndt, Ina Teutenberg, Suzanne de Goede, and Oenone Wood all notched up confidence-boosting race wins on the back of strong overall team performances. "The team has bonded exceptionally well and already demonstrated excellent teamwork and good instincts for each other during races," Wilson said. "Our race wins so far have all been the product of teamwork and every member of the team has contributed at every race."

As for strategy, Wilson feels that T-Mobile is ready to handle a variety of situations. "If it is an aggressive race, any one of our roster is capable of winning the race from a breakaway. If there is a bunch finish, we also have several very strong sprinters".

The T-Mobile men's roster for Ronde van Vlaanderen is Lorenzo Bernucci (Italy), Marcus Burghardt (Germany), Bernhard Eisel (Austria), Bert Grabsch (Germany), Roger Hammond (Great Britain), Kim Kirchen (Luxembourg), Andreas Klier (Germany), Servais Knaven (Netherlands).

The T-Mobile women's roster is Judith Arndt (Germany), Chantal Beltman (Netherlands), Suzanne de Goede (Netherlands), Ina-Yoko Teutenberg (Germany), Linda Villumsen (Denmark) and Oenone Wood (Australia).

G.P. Miguel Indurain counts on Valverde, Vinokourov and Mayo

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Leading up to the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, racers will contest the Gran Premio Miguel Indurain Saturday morning in Estella, Spain. Favourites for the race include Alejandro Valverde, Iban Mayo, and Alexandre Vinokourov.

The GP Miguel Indurain's 198km route includes three climbs: the Guirguillano (first category), the Lezaun (second category) and the Basilica de Nuestra Señora de Puy (third category).

The list of teams committed for the race are Gerolsteiner, Milram, Orbea, Caisse d'Epargne, Astana, Grupo Nicolas Mateos, Euskaltel, Relax, Extremadura, Saunier, Andalucia-CajaSur, Viña Magna-Cropu, Ag2r, Karpin-Galicia, Liberty of Portugal, Cofidis, and the Fuerteventura-Canarias.

Favourites on favourites for the Vuelta al Pais Vasco

By Monika Prell

Alejandro Valverde
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

With only four days until the start of the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, the stars were busy passing the role of favourite to each other. Wednesday, Caisse d'Epargne racer Alejandro Valverde named Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel - Euskadi), Alberto Contador (Team Discovery), Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas), Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner), Koldo Gil (Saunier Duval Prodir), and José Angel Gomez Marchante (Saunier Duval Prodir) as his favourites.

Today, Gil listed his to Diario Vasco. "I'm thinking of Contador, Valverde, and Di Luca, who showed in Italy that he has become competitive again." Gil said he does not "see a unique favourite. In principle, there is a big equality. Later, we will see what happens in the race."

Gil sees some weak points in his rivals. "Contador will be strong, but he was already in a very good competition form in Paris - Nice. For Valverde, perhaps this race has too many ascents. The race is better suited for a pure climber than for him." Gil considers the race "very open," which could be good for his Saunier Duval team.

Indeed, Gil does see himself as a favourite. "I'm a quite strong cyclist when it comes to races of six or seven days. In those, I prepare very well, so I have confidence in this Vuelta al Pais Vasco."

Meanwhile another Spanish favourite Samuel Sánchez, who finished sixth in the last year's edition, said he considered Contador and Valverde as his biggest rivals. "I competed together with Alberto Contador [in] Paris - Nice. He won and repeated his win in the Vuelta a Castilla y León. Valverde has a good quality; he's surely a favourite. And then there are always other cyclists who are competing well and who can fight for the victory."

Sánchez said he is in "good" form and has "trained very well." But now he has to show it in the race. His team is ambitious to do well in their home race.

Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast ready for Richmond

Fresh from a top ten overall place at Redlands, the first-year Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast team announced its roster Thursday for the US Open Cycling Championships April 7 in Richmond, Virginia.

American Dan Bowman, who finished seventh overall in the Redlands Bicycle Classic, will lead the team in the 112 mile road race. He'll be joined by Dominique Perras (Can), Martin Gilbert (Can), Reid Mumford (USA), Jonny Sundt (USA), Justin Spinelli (USA) and rising talents Nick Waite (USA) and Ryan Roth (Can).

"This is a big race for us," said Jonas Carney, performance director and former pro road racer. "It's a great, tough field to test our roster. With the TV coverage this race attracts, it's also a fantastic opportunity to show race fans all over the country at home exactly what a well-managed, first year team riding hard for the finish line can do." The race will be televised live from 2:30 to 5:00 pm on NBC.

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