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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

First Edition Cycling News for April 29, 2007

Edited by Hedwig Kröner, with assistance of Susan Westemeyer

La Doyenne: Big guns ready to fire

By Gregor Brown in Gent

Alejandro Valverde in 2006
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

There is a good reason why the Liège-Bastogne-Liège is referred to as La Doyenne ('the old woman' in French). The hilly Ardennes classic is the oldest of cycling's five Monuments, with its first edition dating back to 1894. The subsequent 115 years of racing have made for heroic stories and a race that every rider wants in his palmarès.

Liège is the last of the Spring Classics and a launch board for the Giro d'Italia (starting May 12). Many of the guns that will fire in the Grand Tour will be loading their ammunition on Sunday and even firing some test shots. The parcours is a great primer with its numerous côtes that the riders tackle as they push themselves over the 262 kilometres from Liège, south to Bastogne and back north to Ans (just west of Liège).

It is on this northern journey from Bastogne that the terrain really becomes demanding, with 10 of the total 12 côtes rearing up out of the Ardennes landscape. These are some of the same côtes that have produced legendary performances from riders like Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Moreno Argentin.

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La Doyenne
usually sees an escape go clear over the first half of the race, where there are only two côtes. The second half of the race is usually dominated by one or two strong teams that work to bring their captains to the front of the race to vie for victory over the concluding and famous climbs; the Côte de la Redoute, Côte de Sprimont, Côte du Sart-Tilman and Côte de Saint-Nicolas.

These côtes are all power climbs up smooth asphalt. Most riders usually hammer over these hills in their big rings. By themselves, these côtes would not be enough to crack the field, but the fact that there are so many climbs in rapid succession is more than enough to weed out all but the absolute strongest riders.

Click here to read the full preview of Sunday's Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

Hinault talks about Liège and ProTour

"I'm neutral, but I'm against the ProTour"

By Brecht Decaluwé in Liège

Five-time Tour de France winner and two-time Liège-Bastogne-Liège winner, Bernard Hinault, currently holds a place on the organising committee for L-B-L. In speculating about who might be on the podium in the 2007 edition of la Doyenne, Hinault remarked, "We can expect the same guys as in last Wednesday's Flèche Wallonne - why not the same podium with Rebellin, Valverde and Di Luca?

"Maybe we'll see Philippe Gilbert as well. He's a local and will be very motivated to perform well in front of his home crowds. He'll have to try his very best and probably he needs to anticipate, just like he did in the Flèche Wallonne. It's hard to fight against the favourites but they are specialised in these races," Hinault said.

The former all-terrain winner, who won both Paris-Roubaix and Liège-Bastogne-Liège during his career, maintained that victories like that are still possible. "Why not? Valverde can ride all kinds of races; some riders want to do well in the Tour de France GC and choose to skip the cobbled races but imagine that there's a stage with cobbles in the Tour de France, then they're in trouble."

"The Badger" Hinault commented on the recent problems between Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) and the Union Cycliste International (UCI). "I'm neutral, but I'm against the ProTour. The ProTour system just doesn't seem logical to me. Right now it is more important to have a lot of money than having a good team.

"Once you're in the ProTour, there's no risk of relegation like in football and that's not motivating the riders to fight for good results," explained Hinault. "Today the UCI is forcing the best riders to take part in an unknown stage race in Poland and organisers can't invite all the motivated teams they want to the start of their race. The ASO is fighting for open cycling, we want motivated teams at the start of our races," Hinault told Cyclingnews.

Schleck injured, but racing

Team CSC had bad news on Saturday evening: Fränk Schleck, one of the squad's leaders for the Ardennes Classics, has suffered a fractured vertebrae. A CT scan revealed the injury one day before Liège-Bastogne-Liège. The Luxembourger will nevertheless ride in the event, but he might have to skip the Tour de Romandie, according to his team.

Boogerd plans final Liège

By James Cavell

'Boogie', racing his home race for the last time
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Michael Boogerd is surprised at how quiet things have been since he announced his upcoming retirement. "This may be down to having a new mobile phone number," mused the Dutchman, "but it is also the busiest time of the season, and perhaps everyone understands how busy I am." In his latest column for Dutch newspaper de Telegraaf, he thanked the Dutch public for their "heart-warming" show of support for him at the Amstel Gold Race.

'Boogie' found his last attempt at the famed Dutch race a strange affair. "I realised I was riding up the Cauberg for the last time in race conditions, and I felt quite emotional, which was strange in the middle of a race!"

This week, there has been one thought in Boogerd's mind: "How can I win Liège-Bastogne-Liège?" He explained that he did really well to locate himself in the elite group in Amstel, but "it was a shame that none of my team-mates made it to the break." However, Boogerd was realistic, "going with such great riders is not that simple."

He didn't spare his team-mates from complete criticism. "It really bothered me that there was no one up with Wesemann and Voigt," and then "they made the same mistake 30 kilometres from the finish", when a group of seventeen containing Rogers and Gilbert went up the road. "To miss a move like that isn't due to fatigue, it's down to not paying attention," lamented 'Boogie.' "I hope we will ride more attentively in Liège."

Indeed for La Doyenne Boogerd demands the full support of his team. He remembered the fantastic work done for him by Erik Dekker last year - "riding up la Redoute I didn't have to work any harder than necessary. That was a great feeling."

He gave further clarity on how he views his team-mates. "I want their unconditional support," he declared. "Some of them might think of riding for themselves, because Boogerd only ever comes second or third. I can understand that, but they should be up front and say that."

The popular Dutchman sees La Doyenne as his major goal for his swan song season. In considering his chances for victory, he reminisced over past editions.

"In 2003 when I attacked on the Côte de St. Nicholas, only Hamilton and Mayo could pull me back," he said proudly. "If I hadn't gotten dehydrated I would have won." In 2004 he hoped Rebellin would crack, but the tough Italian held on for glory. More recently he has excelled but just fallen short of the victory. "Last year, I chose to attack early," he continued, "and when they pulled me back on the Côte de St. Nicholas I was still able to stay with the best riders."

Boogerd is convinced that the right tactic is not made in advance but is dictated by how the race develops. He was certain about one fact though, "Guys like Rebellin, Di Luca and Bettini will be there at the finish."

Vinokourov at Kessler's service

Astana's Alexandre Vinokourov has made it clear that he wasn't going to be team leader at the upcoming Liège-Bastonge-Liège. "I'm not here to win," the Kazakhstani told Sporza one day before the last of the Ardennes Classics. Instead, he will be a first-class helper for his German team-mate 'Matze' Kessler.

"My form is on the right path, but I'll ride a 100 percent for Matthias Kessler," Vinokourov continued. "In the Flèche Wallonne, I felt that I had good legs. But this year, everything is for the Tour. That is my main goal. Of course you have to race to prepare for it, though - and Liège is a beautiful and hard competition."

'New' 1996 doping charges against T-Mobile team doctors

T-Mobile team doctors Andreas Schmidt and Lothar Heinrich with spokesman Christian Frommert, director Rolf Aldag and manager Bob Stapleton at the presentation of their 2007 anti-doping program
Photo ©: Susan Westemeyer
(Click for larger image)

T-Mobile team doctors Lothar Heinrich and Andreas Schmid gave Team Telekom riders, including Jan Ullrich, EPO injections during the 1996 Tour de France, former soigneur Jeff D'Hondt has alleged in his soon-to-be-published book.

Last month, D'Hondt claimed on Belgian television that the team doctors provided EPO and other doping products to the team riders during the Tour, including to the eventual Tour winner Bjarne Riis.

In next week's edition of German Spiegel magazine, excerpts of D'Hondt's book will claim that "The riders wanted it, even when team doctor Andreas Schmid was against it." He also specifically claimed that Heinrich personally injected the riders with the banned substance.

T-Mobile team manager Bob Stapleton had previously defended the team doctors, but seems to be changing his tune following the latest allegations. "If the claims about the Freiburg University prove to be true, then we will look for an alternative (source of medical care)", he said. T-Mobile communications director Christian Frommert told the dpa press agency, "We will speak with them, and if there is action to be taken, we will take it how and when we feel is appropriate."

A University Clinic spokeswoman said in March that "The accusations do not have any basis." Earlier this month, Heinrich denied the charges, calling D'Hondt's comments "inexplicable."

Schmid and Heinrich are also in charge of the team's new antidoping program.

Astana's line-up for Giro d'Italia

Vinokourov's team Astana has announced it's line-up for the Giro d'Italia, beginning in two weeks. Two-times winner Paolo Savoldelli will lead the squad in the Italian Grand Tour, with fellow countryman Eddy Mazzoleni being the captain's most important helper.

The team roster is completed by Steve Morabito, Benoit Joachim, Assan Bazayev, Maxim Gourov, Andrey Mizourov, Dmitiri Muravyev and Sergey Yakovlev.

Caisse d'Epargne for Romandie

Spanish team Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears has announced its roster for the Tour de Romandie, the next ProTour stage race scheduled to take place from May 1-6. The squad will be represented by: Florent Brard, David López, Oscar Pereiro, Fran Pérez, Nicolas Portal, Vicente Reynes, Joaquím Rodríguez and Xabier Zandio.

Milram to Henninger Turm

At the Rund um den Henninger Turm (1.HC) race on May 1, team Milram wants to continue its winning ways in Germany. With a strong selection led by Erik Zabel and Alessandro Petacchi, hopes for another win in Frankfurt after already having been victorious in the Niedersachsen-Rundfahrt.

"We hope to achieve something here," sport director Antonio Bevilacqua said. "We'll try to prepare the sprint for Alessandro and Erik. But we're also well lined-up in case of a break."

Milram for the Henninger Turm: Erik Zabel, Alessandro Petacchi, Christian Knees, Ralf Grabsch, Marcel Sieberg, Sebastian Siedler, Enrico Poitschke and Alberto Ongarato.

Race organisers follow ASO

The international association of cycling race organisers (AIOCC) has lined up with the Tour de France organiser ASO and will ask teams not to line up riders who have been named in Operación Puerto as long as there is doubt about their involvement in the matter.

According to the AFP press agency, the organisation met Friday in Liege, and issued a statement which said, "The AIOCC calls on all persons concerned with cycling for solidarity in the doping question and for the necessary recovery of the credibility of the discipline."

The action seems to bearing fruit already, as four riders who are on the Fuentes list and who were scheduled to ride Liège-Bastogne-Liège have been scratched from the race by their teams, reported Ivan Basso was suspended by Discovery Channel earlier in the week. The official start list, published Saturday, also omitted Giampaolo Caruso (Lampre), Koldo Gil (Saunier Duval) and Constantino Zaballa (Caisse d'Epargne).

"Things are going in the right direction," said ASO's Christian Prudhomme, race director of the Tour de France as well as in Liège. "I wouldn't have believed that we would take a step in the right direction so quickly. That was a constructive week. But everything isn't settled. We are not yet over the hill."

Riders sue Guardia Civil and Spanish federation head

Jörg Jaksche and at least five Spanish riders are suing the Guardia Civil and Eugenio Bermudez, the general secretary of the Spanish cycling federation, for violating their privacy and damaging their reputations, according to The case stems from allegations that the riders are involved in the Fuentes doping scandal.

Jaksche, Joseba Beloki, David Etxebarria, Isidro Nozal, the Osa brothers, and others unnamed at this point, claim that Bermudez illegally gave files concerning them to the UCI as well as the organisers of the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España. The Spanish judge who handled the case had allowed only very limited distribution of the material.

Bermudez must appear in court on May 4.

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

Kroon and Voigt plot book sales

By James Cavell

Karsten Kroon of CSC is not thoroughly enjoying the unseasonably warm weather in Europe. "Here in Limburg it hasn't rained for 24 days," he commented in his latest column for Dagblad van het Noorden. "For me this means one thing - hay fever alarm!"

The night before the Amstel Gold Race, Kroon found himself sharing a room with Jens Voigt, who is apparently "always up for a laugh." When Kroon warned him of his nocturnal sneezing fits, the German strong-man had a novel solution. "I'll just hold my pillow over your face until you stop," said the German menacingly.

CSC's Jens Voigt at the start of the Amstel Gold Race
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

Kroon was curious, and wondered if the race would go ahead should he be murdered in his sleep by a colleague. "Sure!" Voigt said. "There will be a minute's silence though, and if the police work out in time it was me who did it then I probably won't be allowed to start."

The following morning Kroon was relieved to find his sneezing had improved, and Voigt had not deemed it necessary to smother him to death. Thus the race went ahead, without a minute's silence, and with Voigt at the start.

Kroon desperately wanted to win the Amstel Gold race, "but that was not to be." However he is realistic, "that's what's so beautiful about sport," he explained. "It isn't science. If you could order your victories on demand it wouldn't be very interesting."

The Dutchman felt strong for most of the race, but the heat caused him to cramp in the finale. However, Kroon is rational in defeat, "That's it for [Amstel] this year, but there'll be more chances."

Kroon also revealed that there are not one but two biographies of Jens Voigt due to be released in the near future. The first book will cover his childhood in the East Germany and the second will detail his professional career.

"The intention was that there would be one book, with two authors, but they fell out with each other and now there are two books," he informed. On the morning of the Amstel Gold Race, he explained to Voigt that had he carried out his threat to murder the sneezing Kroon the sales of his biographies would have gone through the roof, and "seeing as you get a percentage of every sale it would be a double victory - rich and no sneezing Karsten anymore!"

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