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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

Latest Edition Cycling News for April 10, 2007

Edited by Gregor Brown

Ballan's first bike

Ballan on the Ronde podium
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

"My brother had been given a new bike and I pouted, so then my dad came up with one for me." That is how the winner of the Ronde van Vlaanderen got his start in cycling, thanks to his brother's insistence and his dad's love. Alessandro Ballan's dad fixed an old bike that was left on its own in the garage.

"Why did he get a bike and not me?" Ballan said with a laugh to La Gazzetta dello Sport on Sunday evening in Meerbeke. "My dad found this rusty bike, maybe already half-dead, abandoned in the corner of the garage. He took sandpaper to it, repainted it [red - ed.] and then gave it to me. It was like new. From that day I have not stopped pedalling."

Ballan, 18 years later, pedalled his way to victory after 259 kilometres of racing in Belgium's biggest one-day race. His brother, Andrea, two years older, was there to witness his heroics. Andrea, professional for one year, 2002, with De Nardi, watched Alessandro form the race winning move on the Muur.

Read the review of Ballan's Wilier Le Roi bicycle, Ballan's Belgian machine.

The Lampre Family

Paolo Fornaciari
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
(Click for larger image)

"We form a good group. Alessandro won Flanders but it was a team victory," said Paolo Fornaciari to La Gazzetta dello Sport after his Lampre-Fondital teammate won on Sunday. Everyone gave something, even more than what was expected of them."

Fornaciari is a father figure amongst the Lampre-Fondital riders, and using his experience he helped direct the race from his bicycle. He oversaw Enrico Franzoi's escape, the ensuing kilometres and, finally, Daniele Bennati's super-domestique work on the Muur.

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"When Franzoi went in the escape I let out a sigh of relief that could be heard in Brussels," continued the 36 year-old rider.

"I was ready to go," recalled 24 year-old Franzoi, Italian cyclo-cross champion. "I tried numerous attempts, then, at kilometre 25, I went and was followed by another three riders."

He reflected to later in the race, when the escape was nearing its end due to the surge of Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC) and Gert Steegmans (Quickstep-Innergetic). "Cancellara and Steegmans joined us and I received orders [from the team car] not to take pulls but I still felt like I had energy. After the Muur and Bosberg I could not hold on to the front group, instead I finished with the second group, at one and a half minutes down.

Franzoi in the early breakaway
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

"I am happy because I demonstrated that I can handle a race of 260 kilometres. It is good. Now there will be Roubaix. My legs are there and so is the desire."

24 year-old Claudio Corioni did his share of work to ensure Ballan would win. He recalled how he began to celebrate early. "I was in the front up until 30 kilometres to go. I knew that Alessandro would win when there was only 10 kilometres left and at this point, alone, I started to party."

"I crashed before the Muur but it was not my fault," said 31 year-old Daniele Righi. "I kept on my feet and worked my way back to the front of the group. I gave a hand to Fabio Baldato to pull once Fabian Cancellara had escaped.

"I finished dead-tired but I did finish, and for me this was a victory."

Re-live the Ronde by reading Cyclingnews' race report, live coverage and the post-race winner's interview.

Ballan prepares for Roubaix

"It does not finish here," confirmed Alessandro Ballan to La Gazzetta dello Sport after winning Ronde van Vlaanderen. The 27 year-old rider from Castelfranco Veneto will skip Tomorrow's Gent-Wevelgem to focus on Sunday's Paris-Roubaix.

Lampre teammate and roommate, Fabio Baldato, advised Ballan to skip Gent-Wevelgem. "The best Roubaix I have raced has been when I skipped Gent-Wevelgem.

"Also, Alessandro is a little homesick. It is reason enough to break up the monotony of preparing and training for a race, skipping Gent, because his condition is there."

Benna and Pippo face-off in Gent-Wevelgem

Pippo in De Ronde
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Wednesday is the running of the 69th Gent-Wevelgem, a Semi-Classic that could see the head to head sprint of two Italians, Daniele Bennati (Lampre-Fondital) and Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas).

'Pippo' Pozzato will count on an in-form Luca Paolini but will be without the services of Manuel Quinziato and Murilo Fischer. The two riders were involved in crashes last Sunday in the Ronde van Vlaanderen; Quinziato fractured his collarbone and Fischer has wrist and left knee pains. Joining the green team for the race will be Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) and Magnus Backstedt (Liquigas).

"My condition is there," said Pippo to La Gazzetta dello Sport. "I will look to take advantage of the right moment."

Paolini, third in De Ronde notwithstanding a crash, will race in Gent and Roubaix. "Then I will race Amstel, Flèche and Liège," said the rider from Milan.

Daniele Bennati, without Ballan racing, will be the clear captain of Lampre-Fondital. 'Benna' won a stage in the recent Three Days of De Panne and in last Sunday's Ronde proved spectacular.

"I am good, and Gent-Wevelgem will be more adapted to my style of riding than Flanders, even if this time, on the bergs I thought that I went well," said Benna.

His teammate Ballan attacked on the Muur before going on to win the race. Bennati explained how he played a key role in Ballan's victory. "On the Muur I took Boonen's wheel and I did not let go, then I tried to control the situation."

Line-ups for Gent-Wevelgem

By Susan Westemeyer

Gerolsteiner's David Kopp and Milram's Alessandro Petacchi will be looking to equal or improve their second and third place finishes from last year's Gent-Wevelgem. They will be leading their respective teams in the 2007 edition, this Wednesday.

Petacchi will be the sole captain in Belgium for Milram, after his co-captain Erik Zabel crashed out of the Ronde van Vlaanderen last weekend. Zabel is not seriously injured, but needs to rest and recuperate for a few days.

Milram for Gent-Wevelgem will be Alessandro Petacchi, Brett Lancaster, Marcel Sieberg, Alessandro Cortinovis, Marco Velo, Fabio Sacchi, Fabio Sabatini and Christian Knees.

Gerolsteiner field Oscar Gatto, Heinrich Haussler, David Kopp, Sven Krauss, Sebastian Lang, Tom Stamsnijder, Carlo Westphal and Peter Wrolich.

Predictor-Lotto race with Wim De Vocht, Bart Dockx, Björn Leukemans, Robbie McEwen, Fred Rodriguez, Bert Roesems, Roy Sentjens and Tom Steels.

New cobblestone sector for Paris-Roubaix

The pavé in 2006
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

This year's Paris-Roubaix features a new 1400 metre stretch of cobblestones, which was officially inaugurated this week. The stretch is on le Chemin de Moulin, between Beuvry-la-Foret and Orchies. It is at kilometre 194 of the 259.9 kilometre race, and is the 13th of 28 cobbled sectors, giving the race a total of 52.7 kilometres of cobblestones.

The stretch was named for Marc Madiot, who won Paris-Roubaix in 1985 and 1991. Madiot, who is now Directeur Sportif at Française de Jeux, cut the ribbon to open the stretch of road, and said, "I had never thought that one day a section of cobblestones would carry my name," according to Het Laatste Nieuws.

Overall, the race organizers declared themselves satisfied with the condition of the course and particularly the cobblestone sections, which are dry because of a lack of rain recently.

Short País Vasco for Menchov

Menchov in the 2006 Vuelta
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

The Vuelta al País Vasco turned out to be a short one for Rabobank captain Denis Menchov, who dropped out 18 kilometres into the first stage.

"We saw it coming. Denis had been suffering from it [bronchitis] the past couple of days but wanted to give it a try," said Directeur Sportif Erik Breukink yesterday, on the team's website, "He had to find a way to get through the worst part and then he probably would have been able to finish today, but he really could not do it. His shape is not yet good enough to make these efforts."

Breukink added that, "It is bad at the moment but it is better that it happens now than in May or June."

"The Rabo team did not really stand out in the first stage," as the team's website put it. Mauricio Ardila Cano and Pieter Weening both finished within a minute of the winner. 'Mountain man' Michael Rasmussen came in 2'43" down, "but there is no reason to be worried about the Dane at this stage of the season."

One Rabo rider was happy -- Grischa Niermann, who was making his return to the peloton after breaking his ankle in Tirreno-Adriatico. He admitted that an opening stage with nine mountains may not be exactly the right comeback after such an injury, but "At 154th, I still finished ahead of 25 others."

The good news was that his ankle didn't hurt during the race and the bandage he has to wear doesn't hinder him. "Besides, I've always had my problems with the first stage of this race (and this is already the ninth time I've ridden it!)," he wrote on his website,

Saunier Duval's strong País Vasco start

By Monika Prell

Saunier had a really successful day on the first stage of the Vuelta al País Vasco. Yesterday, Juan José Cobo won the stage, José Angel Gomez Marchante finished fourth and Koldo Gil seventh. But there was also a negative surprise, Iban Mayo did not fulfil the expectations and lost 9'28" minutes to the winner.

Already in the first ascent to the Santa Barbara, he could not follow the rhythm of the other favourites and saw himself at the end of the disintegrating peloton. In the first metres of the Alto de Gabiria, where his team attacked with David De La Fuente, he had no more strength and fell further back.

According to the Spanish newspaper Deia, the reason for Mayo's problems are his pains in the left knee, consequences of his fall in Paris-Nice. Even if on Saturday, after a medical control, the possibility of a fracture was excluded, Mayo still has problems and feels a lot of pain.

Now he will draw the curtain over his personal objectives and help his team leaders José Angel Gomez Marchante and Koldo Gil to win the Vuelta al País Vasco.

DNA comparisons on other Puerto blood bags?

Blood bags taken into custody during Operación Puerto have been identified as containing Jan Ullrich's blood. Do the other riders whose names have been associated with the doping scandal now have to fear that they will be next?

Yes, according to the dpa press agency, which says that the "German model" -- DNA comparisons brought about by civil or criminal suits -- could be used against those other riders.

"The attorneys are looking as to how things will proceed," said Gerolsteiner team manager Hans-Michael Holczer. "There is nothing more effective than pressure from the state -- the German example shows that." According to Crédit Agricole Team Manager Roger Legeay, "The Ullrich case has shown that it can very well be proved whose blood was found."

Cyclingnews' recent coverage of 'Operación Puerto'

May 18, 2009 - Valverde to start Catalunya
May 15, 2009 - Valverde not welcome in Denmark
May 14, 2009 - Spanish federation wants proof in Valverde case
May 13, 2009 - Spanish Olympic Committee defends Valverde
May 12, 2009 - Valverde responds to sanction
May 11, 2009 - Italian tribunal delivers Valverde two-year suspension
May 8, 2009 - Valverde case: Italian Olympic Committee defends Torri
May 7, 2009 - Valverde to take legal action against CONI prosecutor
May 5, 2009 - WADA and Spanish federation join CONI and UCI on Valverde
May 1, 2009 - International Cycling Union joins in on Valverde's hearing in Italy

Cyclingnews' complete coverage of Operación Puerto

Momentum Builds for Commerce Bank Triple Crown

The Pro Cycling Tour has finalized the events that will make up the Commerce Bank Triple Crown of Cycling, a three race professional cycling series this coming June. The event will include three international professional cycling races: the Tom Bamford Lancaster Classic on Sunday, June 3, the Reading Classic on Thursday, June 7, and the Philadelphia International Championship on Sunday, June 10. (See Cyclingnews' coverage of the 2006 edition.)

The 156-mile (251 km) Philadelphia race, held annually since 1985, is the longest and richest single-day professional cycling race in America.

While each race will have its own winner the "Triple Crown" will place emphasis on the rider and team capable of winning the overall series determined by adding up points scored in each race. Racers will be competing for more than $130,000 over the three-race series.

Taking a closer look at the three professional men's events we start with The Tom Bamford Lancaster Classic which follows last year's demanding 85 mile (136 km), 13 lap route through Lancaster's historic downtown streets. Riders will cross the start/finish line on Queen Street after tackling the short but tough Lancaster County Central Park climb as well as the many twisting and rolling streets along the classic course. Last year's race was won in a sprint by Jackson Stewart but this could be the year that an early break finally makes it to the line.

The following Thursday, riders will descend on Reading and be faced with a race that has been lengthened and significantly increased in total feet of climbing. At 75 miles (120 km) and 11 laps on a 7.6 mile course that connects Downtown with Mt. Penn, this stop of the Commerce Bank Triple Crown of Cycling will be dominated by the climbers. Riders tackling the challenging Mt. Penn climb on the final three laps, unlike last year, when riders only raced up Mt. Penn on the final lap.

The 23rd Philadelphia International Championship will once again feature ten laps of the classic 14.4 mile circuit through Philadelphia and along the Schuylkill River highlighted by the brutal ascent of the 17% Manayunk Wall. Last year saw Greg Henderson take his second win of the week in the series in a select field sprint.

Pro women will get a chance to show their strength in one of the most important races of the year at the 14th Liberty Classic. Competing on the same loop as the Pro Men, the women will complete four laps for a total of 57.6 miles (92.7 km) including the climb up Manayunk Wall. The women will also be scored over the three race series crowning a "Triple Crown" champion with the highest points awarded to the winner of the Liberty Classic. Last year German Regina Schleicher proved the strongest of the day but her compatriot Ina Teutenberg was the more consistent rider winning two of the three events and was awarded the Commerce Bank Triple Crown.

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