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Photo ©: Schaaf

Latest Cycling News for February 12, 2007

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

Freire back to winning

Happy to be on top again: Oscar Freire
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

Triple World Champ Oscar Freire has started his 2007 season with a victory at the first race of the Challenge Mallorca, the Trofeo Mallorca this Sunday. The Spaniard haunted by injuries and successive come-backs had been suffering from saddle problems in 2005, which required an operation and made it impossible for him to participate in the Vuelta and the World's that year. Last season, Freire was again unlucky and had to fight with spinal cervical problems throughout the year, even though he was able to show the wealth of his talent in early August when he won the Hamburg Cyclassics.

The Rabobank sprinter spent the whole of his off-season consulting doctors in a bid to recover his health. "I went from doctor to doctor during three months," he told Spanish media. "I stopped counting the treatments that I started, as it worsened every time. I got fed up with the doctors, so I chose to stop any kind of therapy. I just rested and laid out a training schedule not as aggressive as the last years. This way, I came to Mallorca feeling fresh."

Of course, Freire still feels pain in his neck. "You never get used to it, but I conditioned myself so that it doesn't affect me too much," he continued. "After my best moments, I've always experienced pain. I'm sure I would have been a much better cyclists if it hadn't been for all of these injuries."

But his victory in Palma de Mallorca boosted Freire's confidence for this year. "This triumph gives me lots of morale," he commented. "I clearly beat two of my greatest rivals this season, Boonen and Zabel. I'm happy!"

Nuyens confirms leadership

Nick Nuyens
Photo ©: Régis Garnier
(Click for larger image)

Belgian rider Nick Nuyens, who switched from Quick.Step for Cofidis this winter, has already proved his leadership competence at the first French stage race Etoile de Bessèges by taking a stage and finally winning the overall event. The change of teams was very much influenced by Nuyens wanting to be a team leader in spring, which was not possible at his previous squad due to the presence of Tom Boonen, a confirmed Classics specialist. At Cofidis, however, Nuyens is confident he will be able to peak at the right moment and be a serious threat to his former teammate.

"To become the leader of a great team and to have my teammates at my service has always been a great motivation for me," the 29 year-old told L'Equipe. "To win here [Etoile de Bessèges] was also a way for me to make known that I can keep this rank as a leader and that people can be confident in me to win races."

With the Belgian Classics season only one month away, Nuyens now wants to fine-tune his form to challenge the favourites. "I want to be amongst the best during the Classics campaign," he continued. "I don't know yet if it'll be enough to win, especially since we'll have to count on guys like Boonen and Bettini again this season, but I want to try and get on the same level as they are."

Eager to be a major contender as soon as Het Volk on March 3 ("I want to be a contender right from the start"), Nuyens feels that he can still progress, also in view of the years to come. "I'm convinced that I haven't reached my maximum yet," he added. "Every winter, I feel stronger and stronger. I have a margin compared to other riders. I'm 27 years old, and if some riders reach their maximum form around 30 years, I tell myself that I'll be able to go beyond that. I think I have a few beautiful years ahead of me."

Vinokourov to omit Paris-Nice

Alexandre Vinokourov (Liberty Seguros)
Photo ©: Hedwig Kröner
(Click for larger image)

Two-times Paris-Nice winner Alexandre Vinokourov will again not return to the event in 2007. According to L'Equipe, the 2006 Vuelta a España winner has changed his early season programme because of the uncertainty surrounding the Vuelta a Murcia, planned to take place on March 7.

Instead, Vinokourov will make his return to racing at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana (February 27-March 3) before travelling to Italy to Tirreno-Adriatico (March 14-20). "I wasn't sure about Paris-Nice," said the Astana leader, who is well known to otherwise cherish the 'Race to the sun' as one of his favourites. "But I think the parcours would have been too hard for me at this time of the year," he explained, pointing at his objectives later on in the season like he did last year.

After that, the Kazakhstani's race programme will continue with the Critérium International in France (March 31-April 1), followed by the Ardennes Classics (Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège), well suited to his riding style and physical capabilities.

Astarloa and Celestino at Tour Med

Team Milram has announced its eight-man rider roster for the Tour Méditerranéen from February 14-18, 2007. The UCI cat. 2.1 stage race in the south of France will be the start of the season for Igor Astarloa and Mirko Celestino, who will lead the otherwise young team.

Last year, Milram scored a victory at the 'Tour Med' with Elia Rigotto winning the fifth stage - a similar success is aspired this year. The Tour Méditerranéen starts on Wednesday with a team time trial over 26.2 kilometres in Gruissan. The event then continues through the south of France and ends across the border in Sanremo, Italy, after six stages.

The German-Italian team will be composed of: Igor Astarloa, Mirko Celestino, Andrey Grivko, Brett Lancaster, Mirco Lorenzetto, Elia Rigotto, Fabio Sabatini and Carlo Scognamiglio.

Diary Watch: Getting ready for the season

Grischa Niermann of Rabobank and Thomas Ziegler from T-Mobile joined forces for some altitude training on the Spanish island of Tenerife off the West African coast, but ended up getting a lot of exercise in changing their clothes. They had snow at their hotel up at 2100 meters for a few days, but when they rode down the mountain, it was 25° Celsius at sea level. So, Niermann wrote on his personal website,, "In the mornings we dressed warmly in order to ride down, only to pack everything in our jersey pockets underway so we could enjoy the warmth. When we returned to the hotel it started getting cold again and we had to put it all on again."

Niermann is starting in the Tour of California, and will know by then "whether I can transform this good feeling from training into good racing form."

Gerolsteiner's Sebastian Lang has been on Mallorca for nearly four weeks and has put in 3100 km on the island. He concentrated on his basic training, he said on, with his last training ride covering 230 km in 7 hours and 40 minutes, but he has also put in some time climbing.

Lang is starting the season with the Mallorca Challenge, and noted that "The uncertainty and the many questions about the future of cycling are still with me! My heart hopes for a new generation which will make many changes and make our sport credible again."

Kopp crashes in Mallorca

It surely wasn't the way Gerolsteiner's David Kopp had planned to start his 2007 season. Only 16 km into the first race in the Mallorca Challenge he hit the deck and had to drop out of the race. He wasn't seriously injured, though, and will be at the start again on Tuesday.

The crash was caused by another rider falling into his front wheel while Kopp was taking a drink, so he had no chance to react, explained Gerolsteiner spokesman Jörg Grünefeld. The crash happened at 55 km/hour, so it could have ended up being a lot worse, according to Kopp.

Australian Teams for Manchester World Cup

Cycling Australia has announced the teams to contest the fourth and final round of the UCI Track World Cup Classics series being raced in Manchester, England from February 23-25.

For Team Australia, the cyclists chosen are: Kristine Bayley, Jack Bobridge, Mitchell Docker, Daniel Ellis, Mark French, Belinda Goss, Leigh Howard, Ben Kersten, Bradley McGee, Anna Meares and Travis Meyer.

Development squad will send the following riders to the event: Ryan Bayley, Shane Perkins and Scott Sunderland.

22,000 to Cyclassics Cyclosportive

The 'Jedermann-Rennen' ('Race for everyone') of the Hamburg ProTour one-day race Cyclassics scheduled to take place on August 19, 2007, has announced a new record of entries: 22,000 cyclists will tackle the course inside of the Northern German city this year, compared to 20,000 last season.

Moreover, the speed in which the available spots were taken was impressive: Within 24 hours after the online registration opened, 13,000 slots were already taken, and the total number of possible participants was taken within one week. Three distances will be ridden: 55 km, 100 km and 155 km.

"This proves very nicely how popular this event is amongst cyclists and that the Vattenfall Cyclassics [race] enjoys high importance for the city of Hamburg," said Peter Poppe, communication director of the event's sponsor, Vattenfall Europe Hamburg AG.

Spanish federation VP injured in ATV crash

Angel Sainz Terroba, vice-president of the Spanish cycling federation, was injured in a crash with an all terrain vehicle this Saturday, according to Marca. He was riding on a track in a forest in Robres del Castillo when his vehicle left the path and somersaulted several times. His injuries include four fractured ribs, a punctured lung, and various bruises.

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