Latest Cycling News for March 19, 2007
Edited by Hedwig Kröner
Contador Indurain's successor?
By Monika Prell and Hedwig Kröner
The Spanish media are today full of praise about the young Alberto Contador, who won Paris-Nice yesterday as the only second Spaniard after Miguel Indurain - a fact he did not know. According to Spanish newspaper AS, the Discovery rider said: "I didn't know it, but for me it's a big honour to follow him as Spanish winner."
Contador was grateful for the support and great performance of his team throughout the week. "The team was tremendous. The day before we noticed that Rebellin went a bit slow and that we had to take advantage of this. I could not let my teammates down."
The 24-years old confessed that it was not easy for him. "Two kilometres before the finish line I still had many doubts. I began to enjoy at 500 meters before the finish. I can't express with words the joy I felt in this moment."
Discovery Channel sports director Dirk Demol was of course very happy that his squad finally managed to tire out Gerolsteiner and Davide Rebellin on the 'Promenade des Anglais'. "After four days, we finally had Rebellin on his knees," he told Sportwereld. "Although I didn't understand the objectives of some other teams on Friday and Saturday - it was like at the Tour de France, where some defend already a seventh placing."
The disappointment of not having turned around the situation to his advantage on Saturday had also passed - as well as the anger Contador felt towards his former teammate Luis Leon Sanchez, who counter-attacked him in Cannes to take the stage victory even though the cyclists had an agreement.
"He called me the very same evening," Contador said. "He said he was sorry but that it had been a decision of his team directors, and that he didn't have a choice but to attack. I was angry at the time, but I understood that it wasn't his fault."
"He's a fantastic guy," continued Demol. "We wanted him four years ago but Manolo Saiz was faster. Our plan was clear: to make the race as hard as possible on the climbs to isolate Rebellin. Popovych and Leipheimer put Contador in a perfect position on the Col d'Eze - the plan worked out perfectly."
The young Madrilenean considered the victory as his most important. "Paris-Nice is a very mountainous race, and look at the cyclists who participated this year." Asked about the Tour de France - Indurain won his first one the year after his second Paris-Nice win - Contador answered "you can dream of it, but it's something enormous."
Bittersweet Sunday for Gerolsteiner
There were some bad, but also some good news for German team Gerolsteiner this past Sunday. While Davide Rebellin lost his maillot jaune in the very last minute in the final stage of Paris-Nice, the team's Stefan Schumacher soared to a stage win at the Tirreno-Adriatico time trial, taking the leaders' jersey almost at the same time.
While the Italian Classics specialist was of course disappointed to have lost out against Alberto Contador (Discovery), he took the race outcome with a shrug: Rebellin knew that his team at the French stage race could not have possibly been as strong as the Spaniard's, and that Contador was by far the better climber on longer ascents - he was mentally prepared that this could happen.
Team manager Hans-Michael Holczer agreed. "There was nothing much to do," he said. "Contador was the strongest rider in the field. But Davide showed that he's a great rider - if somebody had told me before the race that he would get second, I would have happily betted on it!"
Holczer was still very content with the teams' results at Paris-Nice. "Second on GC, three days in Yellow, three days in the polkadot jersey with Heinrich Haussler," he listed. "The team rode flat out, giving its very everything."
Now, Gerolsteiner directeur sportif Christian Henn will try to do better on the other side of the Alps, where Stefan Schumacher is now in the position of defending a yellow jersey. "Stefan showed a great performance," he said in Civitanova Marche Alta. "We're enjoying the moment and will try to defend the jersey."
Just like Rebellin, Schumacher has only a slim lead in front of Andreas Klöden and Alexander Vinokourov (both Astana), with many more riders all within one minute on GC. With Monday's stage finishing on a mountaintop in San Giacomo Monti della Laga, the race is far from over and promises to be as exciting as the finale of Paris-Nice.
Klöden's good news
By Susan Westemeyer
Andreas Klöden had "good news" out of Italy - after finishing the Tirreno-Adriatico time trial in second place, just one second off the winner Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner), "I can say that it is going very well for me here."
Writing on his website, andreas-kloeden.com, he said that he "originally only came here to see where I stand now, and of course had hoped that it would be better than in the past two years. The training of the last weeks and months has been good for me."
But the Astana rider is also pleased with things off the road. "The team is a lot of fun. Everyone on the team is doing a great job and we harmonize together really well."
López a "rough diamond"
By Monika Prell
Iban Mayo, the big Basque star, abandoned Paris-Nice in the last stage due to a crash. But there was an other Basque who called attention: David López. The 25 year-old Caisse d'Epargne rider finished sixth in the overall classification, only 18 seconds behind his teammate Luis León Sánchez, finishing third.
The young López, born in Barakaldo (Bizkaia) became a professional in 2005 with the team Euskaltel-Euskadi, where he stayed during two years, showing his talent as a climber by winning the mountain classification of the Criterium International in 2006.
At the end of 2006, Euskaltel wanted to renew his contract, but in the end, López signed for Eusebio Unzué's Caisse d'Epargne team, who offered him a three-year contract. According to Sabino Angoitia, who was his sport director during the three years López rode for team Cafés Baqué, the young climber is "a rough diamond. He was very regular. He won races and in the stage races he was always in front. He went well in all terrains, except in descents and finishes," Angoitia told Spanish newspaper Diariovasco.
Hard times for Tinkoff in Tirreno
Italian Continental Pro team Tinkoff is experiencing some difficulties in Tirreno-Adriatico. The team's best rider on Sunday's time trial was Evgeni Petrov, placing a respectable fifth and a consecutive eighth on GC, but several riders of his teammates are suffering from flu-like symptoms, with two riders already out of the race.
"Unfortunately we lost some of our key men," said Dmitri Konychev, sports director of Tinkoff. "The last to call out of the race was Pavel Brutt, we decided not to risk the young rider’s health, as he was suffering from fever and cold symptoms. Apparently there’s a bug going around in the peloton, there are quite a number of ill people riding on. Ruggero Marzoli’s decision to stop was also taken for health reasons."
Meanwhile, Tyler Hamilton is also feeling ill, but decided to continue the race. "Although Hamilton has similar problems as Brutt, he insists on staying in the race, as he absolutely needs racing miles to open up in future tours," Konychev continued. "We still have three riders who can aim high in [today's] mountain stage: Vasyl Kiriyenka, Ricardo Serrano and, of course, Evgeni Petrov, who returned to Top 10 after an impressive time trial, an event he’s traditionally strong at."
But the team's woes do not 'only' include illnesses - bad luck a few days ago added up to the struggle. Nevertheless, the riders' spirits are not broken. "I can't help feeling amazed at the way how our brave Spaniards continue on after two heavy crashes," commented Konychev, who kept a positive outlook. "Rici found himself in hospital with suspected shoulder-blade fracture; he was utterly beat up, he still can't get out of the saddle and rides seated down - every rider knows what it means to pedal up short steep climbs like that. Yet Serrano says: 'I can't give up, the team believes in me.' I also think that we have good chances to go up a couple of positions in general standings with Petrov and contest the green climber’s jersey with Commesso."
Light health problems for Boonen and Bettini
With La Classicissima Milano-Sanremo only a few days away, Quick-Step stars Tom Boonen and World Champion Paolo Bettini are suffering minor physical setbacks. In Tirreno-Adriatico, Bettini crashed again on Saturday, hurting his left knee. Although nothing is broken, the bruise is painful.
"On Saturday night, I really didn't think I would be able to start again," Il Grillo told L'Equipe. "But I'm hanging on. At this point in the season, I can't allow myself the smallest gap in my preparation. It's hard to pull on the handlebars, and my knee hurts - especially at night - but my legs spin fine..."
As for his teammate Tom Boonen, the Belgian is reported to have flown back to Belgium on Monday after abandoning Paris-Nice before the last stage on Sunday. In his home country, he is to consult with a chiropractor for some back pain the sprinter is suffering from since the team changed bikes this season. Boonen will be back in Monaco on Tuesday for his final preparation leading up to the Italian Classic on Saturday.
Rabobank for upcoming races
Dutch team Rabobank has announced its roster for the next races on the calendar. At Milano-Sanremo, the team will be placing its hopes on triple World Champ Oscar Freire, who seems to have overcome his back problems at the moment. The Spaniard will be joined by: Juan Antonio Flecha, Jan Boven, Bram de Groot, Léon van Bon, Max van Heeswijk, Mathew Hayman and Thomas Dekker. Pedro Horrillo and Gerben Löwik have been named as reserves.
On March 21, the team will line up at the Belgian race Nokere Koerse with the following riders: Graeme Brown, Sébastian Langeveld, Dmitriy Kozontchuk, Marc de Maar, Rick Flens, Léon van Bon and Max van Heeswijk.
And at the Vuelta Castilla y Leon, the next-up stage race from March 26-30, the Dutch squad will be represented by: Denis Menchov, Robert Gesink, Pieter Weening, Marc de Maar, William Walker, Michael Rasmussen, Thorwald Veneberg and Koos Moerenhout.
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