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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for June 4, 2007

Edited by Gregor Brown and Bjorn Haake

The rise of another Schleck

Andy Schleck (Team CSC) is a third generation
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

The third generation of Luxembourg's Schleck cycling family seems to be the best yet. At the Giro d'Italia, Andy Schleck, second overall and best young rider, indicated that he's got an even brighter future than his older brother Fränk, reports Cyclingnews' Jean-François Quénet.

The Schleck name first hit the international cycling scene over 70 years ago, when Gustav Schleck contested events in the 1930s. "He was an independent," recalls his son, Johnny, who himself has raced professionally for teams like Pelforth and Bic, "racing against the professional riders without a team." Johnny rode the Tour de France seven times between 1965 and 1973, at the service of '68 winner Jan Janssen and '73 victor Luis Ocaña. "I hardly rode for myself, always for captains," he surmised of his career, although he managed to finish in the top 20 twice: 19th in 1970 and 20th in 1967.

"I've never wanted my sons to become bike riders," he pretends. But now he supports the pair as much as he can. Johnny's oldest, Steve, rode the political route rather than becoming a cyclist, but Fränk and Andy are die-hard racers, a part of the new wave of champions.

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The pair's presence in the professional peloton prompts cycling fans to remember their tiny home of Luxembourg, with all 460,000 inhabitants squeezed between France, Belgium and Germany, has given the world three Tour de France champions: François Faber in 1909, Nicolas Frantz in 1927 and 1928, Charly Gaul in 1958.

The next could just be Andy Schleck.

Fränk stunned the world when he won the Amstel Gold Race in 2006, but he sent out a stern warning of things to come as he claimed the victory: "But you haven't seen my little brother, Andy, he's more talented than me," he said.

Fränk's comments are probably true. While Fränk's position at the height of world cycling is a reward for much hard work, Andy's talent is pure and god-given.

Read the rest of The rise of another Schleck.

Wegelius misses Liquigas party

By Jean-François Quénet in Milan

A few minutes after the completion of the Giro d'Italia, World Championship bronze medallist Luca Paolini tried to rejoin the bus of his teammates to share the celebrations for Danilo Di Luca but had some troubles explaining to the local policemen that his pass was valid for him to enter behind the barricades. With some typical Italian hand gestures, he managed to go where he wanted, not because he got an authorization to do so, though.

Paolini wasn't a member of the Liquigas team for the Giro, he's scheduled for the Tour de France instead. One Liquigas rider of the Giro was missing; Charly Wegelius who had to pull out in stage 18 because of fever and diarrhoea. "I've decided to stay at home and follow the invitation to join my teammates at a party in Brescia organized by the president of Liquigas instead of going to the celebrations in Milan," said the Englishman, still bitter that he couldn't stay with the rest of the team and enjoy the collective win till the end.

"I've been unable to eat for two days and it wasn't fun at all but I'm fine now." He had worked so hard before that he deserved to be a part of the final party and he missed seeing the crowds on the Corso Venezia in Milan.

The black cat: Oscar Gatto

"Malabrocca... Malabrocca... I am not strong up the climbs, or in the history of cycling," said Oscar Gatto at the end of the 90th Giro d'Italia to La Gazzetta dello Sport. The 22 year-old Gerolsteiner rider had just finished the three week Italian tour 141st, three hours, 41 minutes and 39 seconds behind winner Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) and was awarded the Maglia Nera ('black jersey').

There is not an actual jersey or a competition this year but is an honour nonetheless that goes to the last rider on the general classification. "Wasn't Malabrocca the Maglia Nera of the Giro?"

The black jersey came about in the 1950s and many riders would fight for the honour of finishing last. One winner was Giovanni Pinarello, who later founded the famous bicycle company based in Treviso. The jersey presentation stopped in 1979 because some had thought it was an insult.

"Everyone remembers the first and the last, the second and penultimate are remembered by only the actual riders, even if they might want to forget about it, and no one remembers the riders from third to the third to the last. For this reason I fought to arrive last," half-jokingly noted Gatto.

"I started off really bad, 152nd of 197 riders, four minutes from German [teammate Volker] Ordowski. The day after, Ordowski abandoned, I was already third from the last at 21 seconds better than Frenchman [Cyrille] Monnerais. After that point I only had two rivals, Basque Antton Luengo [Euskaltel-Euskadi] and American Aaron Olson [T-Mobile]."

Just as Monte Zoncolan helped secure the Maglia Rosa for Danilo Di Luca it helped put Gatto in Nera. "On the Zoncolan," he affirmed as the location where he won the battle. "Luengo had a mixed day, 44th at 8'27". Olson went so so, 91st at 13'55". I was 129th at 17'08", it was a triumph. From then on I managed my 'advantage.' The ultimate risk was the time trial in Verona. I did not have any references because I started first; Olson was at my back and then he caught me, so it was no longer a problem."

His time loss, at almost four hours, is near the equivalent of 150 kilometres from Di Luca. "It would be like saying that Di Luca is in Milano and I am in Genoa!" He noted that he was happy to finish the Grand Tour. "To finish the Giro is always better than abandoning. ... Thinking back, the stage to Fiorano Modenese I was in a major crisis."

Gatto does take cycling seriously and likes to win. "In the three years of under-23 racing I won 26 times, 13 in the third year; I had the most wins for an Italian. Half of them came from bunch sprints, half from small group sprints and one solo, it was the most beautiful and difficult. To be a sprinter you have to suffer and then have that final kick." He compared himself to Alessandro Petacchi. "He has 137 wins to my 0. I dream of winning a Classic in Belgium. Flanders, for example, or Paris-Roubaix, even if it is in France."

The Gatto ('cat') is still in his first year as a professional and has a lot to learn. "For now I am only a kitten, but soon I will have my day as a lion."

Schleck ready to celebrate

Young Andy Schleck of CSC could hardly believe that he had not only won the best young rider's jersey in the Giro d'Italia but also finished second overall, only 1'55" behind winner Danilo Di Luca.

"It hasn't quite sunk in yet just how big this is. I was training towards the Giro hoping to just be able to make it to the end of my first Grand Tour, but after my eighth place in the Tour de Romandie I realized that I might actually be able to get some good results," the 21 year-old said on his team's web site,

"But an overall second place was more than I'd dreamt of for sure. I'm totally happy and I'd like to thank everyone on and around the team for their support. They're all part of this," he added.

"Now I'm gonna revel in the excitement for a while until I come back down to earth again. I'd really like some time to enjoy this."

Boonen surprises himself in Belgium

Tom Boonen (Quickstep - Innergetic) wins
Photo ©: AFP Photo
(Click for larger image)

"To be honest, I didn't think I'd be ready to try my luck in the final sprint," Tom Boonen said Sunday. But try he did -- and won the final stage of the Tour of Belgium, despite a serious training accident only two weeks earlier.

"This morning I asked my teammates to take me up to the sprint," he said on the team's website, "I wanted to force myself to my limit in order to see how things would go after breaking the big toe of my right foot and badly bruising my shin. I am still in a lot of pain and I am not at 100 percent but I'm still able to push myself to the limit.

The Tour of Belgium has given him the chance to get back into the racing rhythm, and he is "very satisfied" with his success. Now he is off to continue preparations for the next highlight of the season. "On Tuesday evening I'll be flying to Monte Carlo where I'll be training for the Dauphiné Libéré, which is another important step towards the Tour de France."

Zabel winning and fighting

Erik Zabel (Team Milram)
Photo ©: Hans Will
(Click for larger image)

It has been a rough time for Erik Zabel of Team Milram. It started with Jef d'Hont's book about doping at Team Telekom in the mid-1990s and continued through his tearful confession at the T-Mobile press conference the end of last month. Only one week later, he won stage two and stage three in the Bayern Rundfahrt -- his first wins of the season, but even those wins didn't have the significance they once did.

"I can't even raise my arms in victory," he told the "I don't feel the instinct to celebrate." He is having trouble gauging things at the moment. "I have a big problem. I absolutely can't evaluate what is going on in me and around me."

He is thankful, though, for the fan support he is receiving. "The people who are applauding me are probably like you and I - people who have made mistakes in their lifes and understand what I'm going through."

His return to racing wasn't easy, even if the choice of the race itself helped. "I wouldn't necessarily have ridden any XYZ race on the calendar, and, instead, probably opted to train at home for one or two weeks." However, he has a long and successful history with the Bayern Rundfahrt, and race director Ewald Strohmeier specifically invited Zabel after his confession.

Now the sprinter is looking to the remainder of the season; Tour de Suisse, national championship, Tour de France and Deutschland Tour. And does he think he has a chance to be nominated to the German World's team? "That's a long way off. A lot can happen until then."

Bayern not challenging enough for Klöden

Andreas Klöden (Astana)
Photo ©: Andrea Hübner
(Click for larger image)

The Bayern Rundfahrt was a disappointment for Astana's Andreas Klöden, not because he only finished fifth, but because it wasn't challenging enough. "Only the time trial brought me any important indication about my form and technique in competitive conditions.

"It is irritating when the stages end in a sprint almost every single day," he added on his website, "It would have been more exciting if an escape group would have had a chance to make it."

He is not worried, though, that his next race won't be challenging enough. He is scheduled to ride the Tour de Suisse, "where the profile will be difficult. The important thing is to get in the right form for the Tour de France."

CSC interested in Di Luca

Danilo Di Luca is the happy winner of the Giro d'Italia, but his contract with Team Liquigas runs out at the end of this season. He has indicated that he would like to stay with the Italian outfit, but that won't stop other teams from expressing their interest as well.

Team CSC is one of them, even though they just won second place in the Giro with young Andy Schleck. wrote that Bjarne Riis is aware of Schleck's potential as a future superstar but he needs someone for immediate successes.

The Belgian website reported that the Dane has allegedly offered "the Killer" two million euros to join his team next year.

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