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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

First Edition Cycling News for March 5, 2007

Edited by Steve Medcroft

Boonen's spring campaign

Everyone loves Tom
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

Referring to Tom Boonen as a sprinter is justified but everybody knows that he is much more than that as he excels in all the Spring Classics. The popular blonde from Balen is known and - dare we say it - loved by everyone in Belgium. Cyclingnews' Brecht Decaluwé caught up with 'Tommeke' at one of the first semi-classics of the 2007 season; Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne:

The young Quick Step leader is so popular with fans in his home country in fact that he is mobbed everywhere he goes. Was the apartment he bought in Monaco last year as much for him to get a break from the fans as a sunny base for long winter training rides? "Actually I'm enjoying all of this attention right now," Boonen said on Sunday in Kuurne. "It feels good to be back at the start of these races."

Boonen was relaxed while autograph seekers and reporters scrambled for his attention. We referred him to the 'groupies' that wander around him, some trying to catch his eye just before we talked with him. "Which nice girls do you mean, I didn't see any," Boonen laughed. "Ah, this is all just fun, anyway it's better to enjoy it than to dislike it."

The conversation switched immediately to racing. On Saturday, in Omloop Het Volk, Boonen scratched his way back into contention after a strong Stuart O'Grady and Juan Antonio Flecha stayed away for the last hour of the race. "That was a pleasant tension," Boonen said. "I like that atmosphere not only during the race but also outside of it. I had a lot of fun yesterday although I used four to five cartridges - especially when I tried to decide the race by bridging up with O'Grady and Flecha in one effort. It was a breaking point that I couldn't catch them and even with four guys we almost didn't make it. They must've been riding extremely hard."

Read the complete Tom Boonen interview here.

Ulmer searching for answers to cryptic injury

By John Michael Flynn

Kiwi Sarah Ulmer
Photo ©: John Veage
(Click for larger image)

The Geelong Women's Tour and World Cup turned into something of a tough outing for the visiting New Zealanders, who brought two teams; the Bike NZ New Zealand National Team and a second 'Team Kiwi' across the ditch (Tasman Sea for non Aussie / Kiwi readers) for the start of the international race season.

The New Zealanders suffered one setback with the loss Marina Duvnjak, who injured her shoulder in a crash during stage three of the Geelong Women's Tour, while the biggest name in New Zealand women's cycling, Sarah Ulmer, continues to struggle with a cryptic injury. Ulmer finished officially in 45th place at this weekend's Geelong World Cup, 52 seconds off the lead group.

The Olympic track pursuit champion remains totally focused on the road for 2007, but her race program will be a week to week proposition as she struggles to get one top of a nerve related injury which is compromising her power output. "The mind's willing but the body's just not quite as keen at the moment., not particularly flash at this stage of the game," a still upbeat Ulmer told Cyclingnews. "Still carrying a niggling injury that I'm battling trying to get over; a few nerve problems. We haven't had too much progress on that unfortunately."

With teammate Melissa Holt in the breakaway, Ulmer stayed close to the front of the bunch for most of yesterday's World Cup race. But the power which helped Ulmer become a World and Olympic Champion in the individual pursuit is still missing. "The year is geared around trying to get on top of whatever the hell it is that's given me a dead leg, we're not thinking past that at the moment," Ulmer said. "It's hard to know how much in terms of performance, it's definitely contributing to a loss of power, exactly how much I don't know."

With no Wellington World Cup in 2007, Ulmer will spearhead the Trusthouse New Zealand team in this week's UCI Trust House Tour of New Zealand which begins on Wednesday - her team including Joanne Kiesanowski, who finished sixth in yesterday's World Cup race.

The start list for the event includes six international teams, most notably T-Mobile and a double strength lineup of two Australian teams - one under the banner of the AIS, the other - an Australian National Team. New Zealand's most high profile sports woman, honest in the appraisal of her form. "Yeah it's always good to be able to give it a nudge in your home country , but shit this is cycling man," Ulmer said, clearly frustrated.

Flecha finds form in Omloop Het Volk

By Gregor Brown in Kuurne

The last two men
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank) has come into the Spring Classics season with good form after the 29 year-old Spaniard tested himself Saturday, in the 62nd Omloop Het Volk. Departing from Gent, the race travelled south and back north before finishing in Lokeren, where Flecha finished second to a very strong Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) .

He bridged to an attack by Aussie Stuart O'Grady (Team CSC) in the last 20km of the race and the Spanish-Aussie duo worked to hold off an attempt by Tom Boonen (Quick Step - Innergetic) to join them. Unfortunately for the duo, Boonen was joined by a powerhouse trio of Nick Nuyens (Cofidis), Pozzato and Baden Cooke (Unibet), who worked to only let the gap extend to 15 seconds.

But then the course did a U-turn into the final two kilometres, directly into a headwind on a wide open section of road, and this gave the chasers their target and opportunity to spring the final surprise. With less than 500m to the finish line, a clearly slowing Flecha and O'Grady were caught by Boonen, Nick Nuyens (Cofidis) and the eventual winner, Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas).

Do you still consider it a success, after being nabbed so close to the finish? "Yes. Also the way I raced was the way I wanted to go, so I am happy for that." "I was satisfied," Flecha said to Cyclingnews. "Yesterday was my first season goal, and I did a really nice race, so I am happy."

The duo seemed to be keeping about its business and concentrating on making it to the finale, even if their teamwork didn't look too well coordinated, with Flecha surging a little as they took turns in their breakaway. Were you two talking at all as the race neared Lokeren? "We were just talking about helping each other to arrive to the finale together," Flecha maintained.

While Flecha packs a good finish, he is hardly a match for a firing O'Grady, but the Australian was clearly running low on power when they hit that headwind and the long distance of the first big European race of the season started to take its toll. However, there was no final attack by the Spaniard, one similar to the one that almost won him the Gent-Wevelgem in 2005.

Were you thinking to rid yourself of O'Grady in the finale? "Well, It was a hard race," he concluded. "It was the first time this year for me to race 200 kilometres, so I was not really confident attacking in the finale with Stuey. And the other guys were really close behind, like by ten seconds, so there was not time to really try anything." Still, Flecha was able to respond to the sight of 'Pippo' flying past while he and O'Grady jockeyed in the final kilometre, and he had the power to hold off Boonen and take out second place.

Departing from Kuurne, Flecha went on to wrap up a solid weekend by finishing 30th in the 60th Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne. Expect to see him firing again in the Classics Ronde Van Vlaanderen, Gent-Wevelgem and Paris-Roubaix.

Aussie looking forward to trans-Tasman battle

By John Michael Flynn

Nikki Egyed
Photo ©: CJ Farquharson
(Click for larger image)

The two Australian teams to contest the Trust House Women's Tour of NZ will include three of the form riders from the Geelong World Cup (Kate Nichols and Carla Ryan featured in the break at the Geelong World Cup Nikki Egyed joined the final lap attack to finish third). The three riders will be part of the twelve-strong Australian squad, which, officially at least, will be split into two teams.

Ryan, who recently won the Australian women's time trial championship, is still a newcomer at international level. "It's the start of a big year for me, I'm pretty excited," Ryan said. "It's the next step up, I haven't raced in bunches like this."

Egyed, an experienced campaigner, who hails from the world of triathlon, can't wait to team up with one of her Gold Coast training buddies in Olympic champion Sara Carrigan. "It's really exciting going into a tour, you can see the kiwi team, they've got twelve riders here, for us it'll be nice to step up the numbers," Egyed said. "I'm really looking forward to riding with some of the girls on that team."

Australian teams for Trust House Women's Tour of New Zealand

Australian Institute of Sport
Nikki Egyed
Jocelyn Loane
Jenny Macpherson
Kate Nichols
Amanda Spratt
Candice Sullivan

Australian National Team
Sara Carrigan
Tiffany Cromwell
Olivia Gollan
Lorian Graham
Carla Ryan
Vicki Whitelaw

Shock at cyclists' deaths in New Zealand

Two cyclists were killed this week on New Zealand roads during a national cycling awareness week. Hilary Evelyn Howard, 57, of Hvelock North was killed instantly on Saturday in Taupo while riding with her husband according to the New Zealand Herald. An elderly cyclist from Matamata was killed Friday night.

"Both crashes occurred during what was otherwise a very successful Nationwide Bike Wise Week," says Cycling Advocates´ Network (CAN) spokesperson Stephen McKernon. "We cannot imagine how distressed the motorists concerned must feel. It is a great tragedy that a few seconds of inattention by motorists can lead to two cyclists deaths." Three other cyclists were injured in different accidents.

"The two of these cyclists were struck from behind in Taupo, during the week of a local campaign to educate motorists about sharing the road safely with cyclists. Another was struck from behind in Matamata,” says Mr. McKernon. "The problem is that motorists can forget roads are for everybody. Most motorists understand this and are treating cyclists with respect, as about a third of motorists are also cyclists. We can only hope that motorists and cyclists nationwide appreciate the tragedy and are reminded to share the road in safety.”

The New Zealand Rode Code reminds motorists that many vehicles are smaller and slower than today’s cars. It calls for special care around cyclists, who will always come off worse in a crash, and instructs motorists to leave a minimum gap of 1.5 metres when overtaking cyclists, and more on the open road. It also emphasises that if a cyclist can’t be overtaken safely, the motorist must wait behind until it is safe to do so, just as with any other slower vehicle.

Team Volksbank: 120 km in the lead in Lugano

By Susan Westemeyer

Team Volksbank's riders may not have had much to do with the finish at the GP di Lugano Sunday in Switzerland, but the team's two Swiss riders made their presence known. Florian Stalder made the first attack, and when he was gathered in, teammate and landsman Pascal Hungerbühler attacked. The 30-year-old managed to stay away for 120 kilometers before he was caught.

Lukas Zumsteg, Directeur Sportif for the Austrian Professional Continental team, said that the race went according to plan. "I am absolutely satisfied. We showed ourselves prominently and were omnipresent up until the finale. Especially Stalder presented himself well to his home public and showed that he has a great potential. This will be an exciting season."

Blood tests in Belgium

The UCI conducted blood controls on seven teams before the start of the Kurrne-Brussel-Kuurne race Sunday morning. The teams were Cofidis, Française des Jeux, Jartazi, Team Milram, QuickStep-Innergetic, Ag2R and Rabobank. No problems were found and all riders were allowed to start.

Two top tens for Wiesenhof in Belgium

By Susan Westemeyer

Team Wiesenhof-Felt had top ten finishes in both races in Belgium this weekend, much to the satisfaction of the German Professional Continental team. On Sunday, sprinter Olaf Pollack finished tenth in Kuurne Brussel Kuurne, while Stefan Van Dijk finished eighth Saturday in Oomloop Het Volk.

"We are fully satisfied with our performance in both races this weekend," said Directeur Sportif Ronny Lauke. "We could tell that the riders wanted to do wll and I am happy that we had a good beginning to the Classics season. It makes us want more."

The team had actually hoped to do much better, though. Captain Steffen Wesemann was a favorite for the race on Saturday, but a flat tire at a critical time stopped him. "I had just joined Jimmy Casper in a breakaway, when it happened," he said. He was unable to rejoin the leading group and eventually dropped out of the race.

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