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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for March 23, 2007

Edited by Gregor Brown

Freire ready for spring-time Worlds

Oscar Freire looks to Sanremo double
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Spaniard Oscar Freire is a man that can never be counted out of any one-day race, especially La Primavera, Milano-Sanremo (or Milan-San Remo). The 31 year-old Rabobank rider has always been in the mix in the race's finale on the Via Roma. He won in 2004 but that victory was backed by many important placings in the Italian dominated event; third in 2000, fifth in 2002, seventh in 2003, fifth in 2005 and sixth last year.

"I started my career by racing three years with Mapei and there were a lot of Italians on the team that always talked of Sanremo," said the likable rider to La Gazzetta dello Sport on Thursday. "This was one of the reasons I developed my love for the race. It is the Worlds of the spring. To define it in one word? 'Difficult.' But, 'La Classicissima,' like they call it in Italian, is a race I like a lot."

The three-time World Champion has his objectives for 2007; his main goal is to make history with a fourth rainbow jersey, but right below that is Sanremo, a Monument* that every sprinter dreams of but only few can capture.

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"Winning the Worlds for the fourth time is my principle objective for 2007, but just below that is to get my second win in Sanremo." His words are spoken with confidence that was built in last month's Ruta del Sol, where he won two stages and the overall, which he captured on the final day.

"Everything that I needed to do I have done. What have I done in the last days? I took a break!" laughed Freire. "I have a good team; with me is Leon Van Bon, he is going strong and also is additional threat." Freire will also have the backing of one-day hard-men Max Van Heeswijk and Juan Antonio Flecha.

The complete Rabobank team for Sanremo is Jan Boven (Ned), Juan Antonio Flecha (Spa), Oscar Freire (Spa), Bram De Groot (Ned), Pedro Horrillo (Spa), Mathew Hayman (Aus), Leon Van Bon (Ned) and Max Van Heeswijk (Ned).

*The five Monuments of cycling are Milano-Sanremo, Ronde van Vlaanderen, Paris-Roubaix, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Giro di Lombardia.

Gilbert - Belgium's other Sanremo hope

By Susan Westemeyer

Gilbert rides in Paris-Nice
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Belgium hopes to produce the winning rider in Saturday's Milano-Sanremo, and if it isn't superstar Tom Boonen, it might just be up-and-coming Philippe Gilbert of Française des Jeux. The young Belgian on the French team has had a number of top finishes already this year.

Only 24 year-old, he has already raced Sanremo (Milan - San Remo) three times, finishing 14th, 6th and 32nd. "Milan-Sanremo, it's crazy, you go at a crazy speed," he told "Before you realize it, the rush to Sanremo is past. Once you are on the top of the Turchino, you go insanely fast, you ride with a constantly high pulse."

"It is a very individual race. The course has always remained the same. You can compare yourself to Eddy Merckx, to Zabel and the other champions. At the start, everybody thinks he can win, but in the last 40 kilometres only the potential winners are still there."

After Paris-Nice, Gilbert remained in the area rather than returning home to a cold Belgium. He also wanted to train on the Sanremo parcours. "I did that on Wednesday. The Poggio twice, the Cipressa once. It is a very special finale. You have the feeling you know it and in fact you do not know it."

Gilbert knows that it will not be easy to win a sprint finish in this race. "A sprint after 294 kilometres is of course not the same as a sprint after 180 kilometres. You sprint with your last strength in Sanremo. In the best circumstances I would end up fifth or sixth."

"I have to make use of a moment of doubt, like Andrei Tchmil or Pippo Pozzato. In Milan-Sanremo it is very simple: you can use your energy in a killing attack, or in the final sprint. It is a gamble, but if you gamble on the escape, you can forget the sprint."

Cipollini cast Sanremo vote: Bennati

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Ex-sprint god, Mario Cipollini, celebrated his fortieth birthday yesterday and had the opportunity voice to his opinion on this Saturday's Italian one-day Classic, Milan - San Remo. The 2002 winner and former World Champion is leaning towards his fellow Tuscan but thinks the race will be unusual.

"I am expecting an atypical Sanremo because in the first races of the season there has not been a true dominator," said Cipollini, who retired in 2005 and used to control the sprints with an iron fist. Paolo "Bettini, with the crash in Tirreno-Adriatico, will be an unknown. For [Alessandro] Petacchi something is not quite functioning. [Tom] Boonen did not win at Paris-Nice and then he retired. ... [Daniele] Bennati is the only one that has a little something more than the others."

Cipollini finished by giving a nod to Oscar Freire. "When he is going well he has another leg."

Euskaltel line up for Sanremo

By Monika Prell

Koldo Fernández after Tirreno win
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
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Euskaltel-Euskadi will head to Italy confident after the victory of Koldo Fernández in the last stage of Tirreno-Adriatico. For Milano-Sanremo the team will be directed by Jon Odriozola, who is optimistic one day before the start. He noted the secret is "to pass Cipressa and Poggio with the least amount of effort possible. The race is almost 300 kilometres long, and the more you can conserve the better. You have to be in a very good competition form and have a good base to arrive with chances."

After Koldo's triumph on Tuesday he sees the young rider as one of the favourites. "He bettered cyclists like Thor Hushovd and Stuart O'Grady, cyclists of the highest level. This Classic is very prestigious, for the Italian cyclists it's the most important of the season, and the struggle will be hard, but we have our chances. Our objective will be to protect of Koldo until the finish."

Koldo Fernández confirmed that "after the victory in Tirreno, I'm more self-confident. ... Riding a good Milano-Sanremo, cumulating experience and trying to be with the best motivates me."

The sprinter will be helped by his teammates Unai Etxebarria, Beñat Albizuri, Aitor Hernández, Aketza Peña, Jon Bru, Antton Luengo and IbanMayoz, the same team that participated in Tirreno-Adriatico.

Rinaldo Nocentini out of Sanremo

After the forfeits of Ivan Basso and Danilo Di Luca, Milano-Sanremo has lost another possible protagonist, Rinaldo Nocentini of Ag2r Prévoyance. The Italian would have played a captain's role on the French team but will have to sit out due to bronchitis, which, according to AGR, he hopes will weaken in a few days.

Nocentini will be replaced by Estonian Rene Mandri. Ag2r's other seven riders will be Sylvain Calzati (Fra), Renaud Dion (Fra), Samuel Dumoulin (Fra), Martin Elmiger (Swi), Yuriy Krivtsov (Ukr), Loyd Mondory (Fra) and Jean-Patrick Nazon (Fra).

T-Mobile's snowy training camp

By Susan Westemeyer

T-Mobile is holding a one-week training camp in Badenweiler, Germany, for those riders who aren't currently racing and had hoped to concentrate on time trialing and team time trialing. But Mother Nature had other plans.

"Here we are in snowy Germany and we are making the best of it!" says Australian Adam Hansen on his website, "Every day has been fully filled with many things to help us, and the snow here doesn't stop us."

Many riders are using the camp to let themselves be tested or checked by the nearby University of Freiburg clinic. 25 year-old Hansen had his sinuses checked out and sprinter Eric Baumann let them look at the leg he broke last year.

However, the team nearly lost Hansen and young sprinter Mark Cavendish to another sport. "The best fun here was cross-country skiing! I've never done it before and neither had Mark Cavendish, but we both have always wanted to try it." So the team management surprised them with skis. "It was heaps of fun, even knowing that I crashed more times today on the skis than I ever did on my road bike! It was a great workout. Some of us asked if we could do another day of it, but I think they might be afraid that some of us might change from cycling to cross-country skiing!"

Kohl working hard for Tour chance

By Susan Westemeyer

Bernhard Kohl is happy to have changed to Team Gerolsteiner, even if it means he has to work harder this year. "In two years with T-Mobile I never once had to help defend a leader's jersey, at Gerolsteiner I did that already in the first race. That says a lot," he told

He rode for Davide Rebellin in the recent Paris-Nice, and noted also that on the same weekend, teammate Stefan Schumacher took over the leader's jersey for a day in Tirreno-Adriatico. "When everyone just sort of pointlessly rides for good results, that's a different situation. But Gerolsteiner had the yellow jersey in the first two ProTour races, that's twice we almost won. That says something of the team and the internal understanding."

The Austrian is still riding himself into form. "As compared to last year, I am now a month later with my form. California and Paris-Nice were two super intensive training races. Since I'm not yet in form, I'm totally satisfied with my performance."

He hopes to come into form for the Vuelta Ciclista al País Vasco in April, where he has his eye on the overall classification, and then to hold his form through the Tour de Romandie. "At the latest, after Romandie, I should be assured of being on the Tour de France team and have proved that I can perform and be at the front on the climbs. That would be important, in order to prepare for France."

Liberty Seguros wants to stop sponsoring

By Monika Prell

The Liberty Seguros company does not envision sponsoring a professional cycling team or any other sport event again. Luis Bonell, the president of the insurance company in Spain, affirmed that the company will dedicate itself to advertising campaigns, where they will emphasize the virtues and the "personality" of the brand.

According to Bonell, the sponsorship of the team served to spread the name of the company in Spain. But after the investigation of Manolo Saiz in May of 2006, Liberty Seguros announced the termination of its sponsorship, and explained that "as a sponsor, Liberty Seguros always wanted a clean culture and no tolerance in doping matters." The company considered that the consequences Saiz's link to Operación Puerto "are damaging our name and the name of cycling."

According to the Spanish newspaper Marca, Liberty Seguros will maintain some sponsor activities in parts of Spain like Galicia or Alicante, but this will be more for the promotion of smaller sports events.

Administrator of Liberty Seguros Portugal, José António G. Duarte de Sousa, confirmed to Cyclingnews, the company will maintain the sponsorship of the Portuguese team Liberty Seguros, because they have nothing to do with the Spanish team or Manolo Saiz, so that the sponsorship is assured until the end of 2008.

Backstedt returns in Vuelta Castilla y Leon

Magnus Backstedt (Liquigas) will return to racing after an operation to remove a melanoma and a season characterised by many accidents. He can start to compete again, starting with the Vuelta Castilla y Leon, March 26 - 30, the first step to the rider's preparations for the Paris-Roubaix, April 15.

Joining Backstedt in Vuelta Castilla y Leon will be Spaniard Manuel Beltrán, who will be racing for the first time this year on home roads. The other six Liquigas riders for the race include Michael Albasini, Patrick Calcagni, Kjell Carlström, Dario Cataldo, Vladimir Miholjevic and Alessandro Vanotti. Team manager will be Mario Chiesa.

Caisse d'Epargne for Castilla y León

By Monika Prell

Caisse d'Epargne will send a strong team to the Vuelta a Castilla y León, starting on Monday, March 26. Under the direction of the José Luis Jaimerena it will field current French champion Florent Brard, Russian Vladimir Karpets, veterans José Vicente Garcia, Joan Horrach and Constantino Zaballa, newcomer Alberto Losada, young Basque hope David López García and Tour de France runner-up Oscar Pereiro.

Only hours left to join Fantasy Spring Classics 2007!

Spring Classics Fantasy GameOnly hours to go before the Milan - San Remo Game kicks off the 2007 Fantasy season. There's still plenty of time to enter your team/s. All you need to do to take part is register and select eight riders for this the first of seven Spring Classic races.

Why should you play this year? You could win a Specialized S-Works Roubaix bicycle in Quick Step - Innergetic colors equipped with Shimano Dura-Ace components and S-Works FACT over-sized carbon cranks and bottom bracket worth $6000 USD! That's not all you could win in this year's Fantasy games. To celebrate our fifth year of Fantasy games the Spring Classics will also be featuring some top runner-up prizes.

Runner-up Prizes

Play this year's fantasy
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The first runner-up prize this year is a Cycleops Powertap 2.4 (wireless) worth $1499 USD. Cycleops upgraded the world's most accurate, lightest power meter to be the world's first wireless meter, meaning you can easily switch it between bikes.

A pair of BBB's "Winner Team" glasses are on offer for the highest scoring Fantasy team in every Classic. You don't have to take part in all seven races to stand a good chance of winning this prize. The highest score per classic wins a pair of the official sports-glasses of the 2007 Quick-Step Innergetic professional cycling team.

Speedplay is back behind the fantasy game
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We are proud to announce the continued support from Speedplay in this year's game. We have three sets of Speedplay's Zero stainless steel pedals - the same style of pedal used by ProTour teams such as Team CSC.

We are also pleased to confirm that Descente will be joining the list of runner-up prize sponsors. Produced in conjunction with Team CSC, the Descente Optima Bib Short is the culmination of hundreds of hours of research and testing. Constructed of two different textiles, the main body features Aero-X fabric, a dual-denier Nylon with spandex for great moisture-management, durability, comfort and fit.

The highest scoring Fantasy team in each classic
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Cyclists depend on good nutrition to meet the demands of the sport. That's why Nutra Fig developed the organic Cheetah Bar. It contains the right combination of carbs, protein and fiber to give you long lasting energy, and it is moist and tastes great. Cheetah bars are loaded with potassium, sodium and calcium—all found naturally in the ingredients so no chemical additives are needed. Cheetah Bar is the official energy bar of the Colavita/Sutter Home Pro Cycling Team. We have 10 boxes of Cheetah Bars on offer this year.

The proCOOL Mesh from Scandinavia's leading high-performance clothing company, Craft, is the professional's choice when it comes to base layers. The proCOOL Mesh is a warm weather base layer that combines the latest in fabric technology with Craft's signature fit. Even as temperatures soar, proCOOL keeps you dry and comfortable. For the 2007 Spring Classics Fantasy Game, we have 10 of these great base layers on offer.

In the next few days we will be releasing more details of the prizes on offer this season with 46 prizes available for 18 lucky winners, and some major improvements in the game engine coming soon, now is the time to sign up to the Fantasy Cyclingnews Games.

How to play

With a Specialized S-Works Roubaix bicycle up for grabs
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Yes, you too can be a professional team manager. Based on the live racing action, you will take up the challenge using your knowledge and tactical skill as a race team manager to compete with fantasy managers from around the world. Remember all you need to do to take part is to register and select eight riders for each of the following races:

Milan - San Remo, March 24, 2007
Ronde van Vlaanderen, April 8, 2007
Gent-Wevelgem, April 11, 2007
Paris - Roubaix, April 15, 2007
Amstel Gold Race, April 21, 2007
La Flèche Wallonne, April 25, 2007
Liège - Bastogne - Liège, April 29, 2007

For more details on how to play go to the rules section of the site for more info. To register your teams for the game, click here.

It's a great way to follow the Spring Classics.

Good luck!
The Fantasy Cyclingnews Team

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