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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for March 29, 2007

Edited by Sue George

Boonen's back

Boonen takes the sprint
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

Tom Boonen took a commanding win in the 62nd Dwars door Vlaanderen Wednesday thereby ending lingering questions about his form and his health, particularly concerns about his back. Boonen's victory came on the heels of a near-miss in Milano-Sanremo and no stage victories in the recent Paris-Nice.

Two early breaks, one long solo one with David Boucher (Landbouwkrediet-T÷nissteiner) and a later one with Matthé Pronk ( and Wim Vansevenant (Predictor-Lotto) characterized much of the stage, but Quick-Step was clearly lined out and working to control the day for Boonen.

The later duo was brought back to terms with the aid of Liquigas. The Italian team had three men in the thinning front group, including Enrico Gasparotto, Murilo Fischer and Roberto Petito. Gasparotto was most active, leaving Brazilian Fischer to save himself for the sprint.

A final move with six riders launched with 48km to go, but a lack of cooperation within the group doomed it to failure when chased by Quick-Step and Team CSC. After 200km of racing, a field sprint ended the contest.

The front group was more or less back together near the end and was set for an O'Grady versus Boonen showdown. The Quick-Step men steamrolled to the finish and left Boonen to open his sprint on the heels of fellow Belgian Nico 'Rambo' Eeckhout. The former World Champion easily succeeded and crossed the line pointing at his Specialized machine, a new bike which had been recently developed for the big sprinter.

As reported Monday, Boonen's new custom-built bike was aimed at improving the back problems he has suffered for four years. Quick-Step's team director 'Fitte' Peeters had told Sportwereld. "Tom's back problems started in Gent-Wevelgem four years ago, when he crashed into a photographer. It remains a delicate issue, but we have it under control." Boonen's new bike is 13mm longer than his old one.

Today, Boonen proved that his back problems are indeed under control. He told L'Equipe, "I am very content but especially I am obviously reassured on my condition and on the state of my back. The form is there. And it is the case for all the racers of the team. It is really very reassuring to be able to count on such teammates." Look out for Boonen and the rest of his Quick-Step team at the coming Spring Classics.

Scarponi ends winless period

Michele Scarponi
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Michele Scarponi (Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo) ended a winless streak today in Stage 2 of the Settimana Ciclistica Internazionale Coppi-Bartali. The Italian finished in Faenza ahead of compatriot Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Prodir) and Aussie Michael Rogers (T-Mobile) after 175 kilometres of racing.

Scarponi last won several stages and races during the 2004 season when he was riding for Domina Vacanze.

Following a fast start Wednesday that broke apart the peloton on the climb up Monte Carla, Scarponi spent much of the race off the front, with others or by himself. Over the last climb of the day, he formed part of a group also containing Kanstantsin Siutsou (Barloworld), Morris Possoni (Lampre-Fondital), Massimo Giunti (Miche), Rogers, and Riccò.

The group worked in harmony for the next 20 kilometres, but upon arrival in Faenza, Scarponi attacked solo with one kilometre to go. He held off his chasers until the end and finished six seconds ahead of Riccò and Rogers.

Scarponi's first win since 2004 moved him up to second in the general classification, which is now lead by Luca Pierfelici (Aurum Hotels). Pierfelici took over the general classification from overnight leader, Russian Pavel Brutt (Tinkoff Credit Systems).

Kopp rebounds from crash

David Kopp (Gerolsteiner)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

On Saturday afternoon, David Kopp lay flat on the pavement in Milano-Sanremo, bleeding heavily from the face, surrounded by worried Gerolsteiner teammates and an anxious public which waited to see whether he could move his arms and legs.

On Wednesday afternoon, Kopp joined the leading group in Dwars door Vlaanderen with eight kilometres to go and powered his way to a fifth place in the final sprint.

"Under the circumstances, that's a really super result, when you consider that David was riding with a broken nose," said a pleased Director Sportif Christian Henn.

"He has obviously gotten over the crash," Henn said. "That gives us hope for the upcoming races in Flanders. After something like that, there's always a little angst the first time back. It was important for him to see that he could do it." And, he concluded, "We can all be happy with this result."

Hammer to lead US team at track worlds

Sarah Hammer
Photo ©: Mitch Friedman
(Click for larger image)

Defending pursuit world champion Sarah Hammer (Ouch Pro Cycling) will lead the six-person strong US contingent in its medal hopes at the track world championships in Palma de Mallorca this weekend.

Last year, Hammer took gold in the women's 3km individual pursuit, and her chances for retaining her title are good. No American woman has successfully defended her rainbow jersey on the track since Rebecca Twigg accomplished the feat over twenty years ago at the 1984 and 1985 world championships, also in the pursuit.

Hammer begins her quest during Friday morning's qualifying session. The top two fastest times will earn a spot in the gold medal final ride. Since last year's worlds in Bordeaux, Hammer has been improving her times at all major competitions. Last year, she clocked 3:37.194, but since then she's been timed at 3:32.865, a time that broke an 11-year-old national record at US Nationals, and more recently at 3:32.058 at the third round of the 2006-2007 Track World Cup.

Unlike last year, Hammer goes to this worlds as a well-known favourite. "It's obviously a little different coming in as the defending champion," said Hammer. "There are more eyes focused on me compared to last year when I was kind of flying under the radar. I knew what I could do because of the times I was putting up in training, but others didn't know what to expect then. My training has been awesome though and the track is fast, so I think you will see some fast times this week."

Hammer's competition will probably include defending bronze medalist and 2004 Olympic silver medalist Katie Mactier and Kate Bates of Australia, two-time 2006-07 UCI World Cup winner Wendy Houvanhagel, Rebecca Romero. But she has a unique approach to relieve some of the pressure. "I don't like to look at myself as the defending champion, because that puts me on the defensive," said Hammer. "Instead, I just look at it as trying to be the next world champion."

Hammer also will be a contender in the women's points race. At the Los Angeles World Cup two months ago, she tripled victories with wins in the pursuit, points race, and scratch race. In the endurance events, she'll be backed up by Becky Quinn, whose best result this season was a silver medal at the scratch race in the third round of the World Cup series.

Other US team members will include Jennie Reed (sprint, keirin), Slipstream-Chipotle's Brad Huff (omnium) and Michael Creed (points race), and South Bay Wheelman's Neva Day (individual pursuit) Reed is the 2004 worlds bronze medalist in the keirin and this year she's already won two World Cup medals, one in Sydney and one in Los Angeles. Huff will be the first American to compete in the new track omnium which consists of a 200-meter time trial, a five-kilometre scratch race, a three-kilometre individual pursuit, a 15-kilometre points race, and a kilometre time trial all in one day.

Austria's track worlds team down to two

Christiane Soeder
Photo ©: John Flynn
(Click for larger image)

Austria has lost one-third of its team for the Track World Championships starting Thursday in Palma de Mallorca. Individual pursuit rider Christiane Soeder has had to stay home due to sickness.

She came down Sunday with a sore throat and fever. "At first I thought it lay on the intensive training in the hall. I often get a sore throat there because of the dry air," she said. But the fever got stronger." Soeder put off her flight to Spain until Wednesday, "but unfortunately I have to cancel. I am very disappointed, I wanted very much to start in the pursuit!"

Team Austria has two remaining riders, Roland Garber and Andreas Graf.

French sprinters ready for track worlds

Gregory Bauge leads the French team off
Photo ©: Larry Hickmott
Click for larger image

France will send a trio of strong sprinters to the Track World Championships in Palma de Mallorca: Grégory Baugé, Mickaël Bourgain, and Arnaud Tournant.

The sprinting trio represents Frances's best chances for medals at this year's worlds. The trio will contend with the likes of Dutchman Theo Bos, who's been dominating the World Cup this season. Baugé, who was eliminated early last year, will be looking for a big improvement. Bourgain took fourth last year.

Bourgain comes into the weekend a more mature rider. His former coach Daniel Morelon told L'Equipe "It is perhaps his year...He is stronger than ever and Bos, who feel a short time ago, does not seem so unbeatable." Gerard Quintyn has taken over from Morelon, who moved on to a position with the Chinese track team.

According to AFP, the full French track squad is

Individual and team sprint: Grégory Baugé (Ile-de-France), Mickaël Bourgain, and Arnaud Tournant (Cofidis)
Keirin: Mickaël Bourgain, Kevin Sireau (Cofidis)
Kilometre: François Pervis (Pays de Loire), Didier Henriette (Pays de Loire)
Individual pursuit : Fabien Sanchez (Côte d'Azur)
Team pursuit: Matthieu Ladagnous (Française des Jeux), Kevin Lalouette (Picardie), Alexandre Lemair (Normandie), Nicolas Rousseau (AG2R), Fabien Sanchez
Points race: Matthieu Ladagnous
Scratch race: Scratch: Jérôme Neuville (Rhône-Alpes)
Madison: Andy Flickinger (Bouygues Telecom) et Matthieu Ladagnous
Omnium: Michaël D'Almeida (Ile-de-France)

Individual Sprint: Clara Sanchez (Provence)
500m and team sprint: Sandie Clair (Côte d'Azur), Virginie Cueff (Bretagne)
Keirin: Clara Sanchez, Sandie Clair
Individual pursuit, points race, and scratch race: Cathy Moncassin-Prime (Midi-Pyrénées)

Hunter back in action in France

Robbie Hunter (Barloworld)
Photo ©: Shane Goss
(Click for larger image)

A portion of the Team Barloworld squad not racing the Coppi & Bartali race in Italy is readying for this weekend's Criterium International in northern France on March 31 and April 1. Barloworld is aiming for a wild card entry into the Tour de France.

South Africa's Robbie Hunter will lead the team through the three stage event. Hunter comes to the race with three victories this year: a stage in the Giro del Capo, and a first stage and overall classification at the Volta ao Santarem. Last weekend, he finished tenth at Milano-Sanremo.

Hunter will be joined by teammates: Hugo Sabido, Fabrizio Guidi, Diego Caccia, Felix Cardenas, Gianpaolo Cheula, Paolo Longo Borghini e James Perry. Guidi is reportedly recovered from his crash last weekend at Milan Sanremo. Team Manager Claudio Corti will be directeur sportif.

Liquigas launches northern campaign

Team Liquigas has headed north for a series of races including the De Panne, Ronde van Vlaanderen, Gent-Wevelgem and Paris-Roubaix.

Luca Paolini, who had to withdraw from the Dwars door Vlaanderen due to the flu, will be racing with Enrico Gasparotto and Filippo Pozzato. Pozzato is also on track for the De Panne, Ronde van Vlaanderen, Gent-Wevelgem, and Paris-Roubaix. At the later race, he'll be joined by 2004 winner Magnus Backstedt.

Pozzato has recovered from a recent bout of nausea and dysentery; he returned to a bike Tuesday for an hour and half ride. "I didn't have a temperature so I hope not to have lost my last week's very good condition. Now I will start again working hard in view of the De Panne and, above all, 'Flanders.' That's my next goal."

Liquigas for E3 Prijs Vlaanderen (Harelbeke) and De Brabantse Pijl: Luca Paolini, Enrico Gasparotto, Mauro Da Dalto, Murilo Fischer, Aliaksandr Kuchynski, Roberto Petito, Manuel Quinziato, and Frederik Willems.

Liquigas for KBC - Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde, Ronde Van Vlaanderen, and Gent-Wevelgem: Filippo Pozzato, Luca Paolini, Mauro Da Dalto, Murilo Fischer, Aliaksandr Kuchynski, Roberto Petito, Manuel Quinziato and Frederik Willems.

Dilà - Guericiotti - Cogeas set for Trofeo Alfredo Binda

Team Dilà Guerciotti Cogeas is preparing for its Italian debut at the Trofeo Alfredo Binda on Sunday. This year's race has stepped up on the UCI rankings; it's now a 1.1 classification. The women will take on eight laps of a circuit slightly longer than 15km encircling Cittiglio in the territory Varesino.

The team, fresh of success at the Vuelta Ciclista Femenina a el Salvador will send five athletes: Five athletes will represent the team: Evelyn Garcia, Maya Adamsen Watt, Mette Andreasen Fischer, Emanuela Azzini, Marta Vilajosana.

New Zealand sets 2008 nationals' locations

Newly crowned Elite Men's TT champion, Glen Chadwick,
Photo ©: Craig Wadsworth
(Click for larger image)
The Ramblers Cycling Club in Hawkes Bay will host New Zealand's 2008 Elite and Under 23 national road championships while the ILT Velodrome in Invercargill will host the 2008 national track cycling championships.

The road race will be undertaken on a challenging Apley Road circuit (near Napier) in January. The men will race approximately 180 km while the women will do just over 100 km.

For Hawkes Bay, it will mean the cream of New Zealand cycling will compete on its door step on January 11 and 13, 2008. Ramblers Chairman Ivan Aplin said, "We will see the who's who of cycling right here in Hawkes Bay. It will be a huge boost for Hawkes Bay cycling and provide a great opportunity to showcase the region."

2008 will mark the second year the event has been set up so as to attract the professional riders when home from overseas. Bike New Zealand's Ted Jones expects considerable interest in both the elite road and national championships given that 2008 is an Olympic year.

Upper Hutt hosted this year's Elite and U23 road championships, which were won by Julian Dean (road) and Glen Chadwick (time trial). Otago's Ali Shanks won both the women's time trial and road race.

The 2008 track cycling championships will be held in February or March.

Seventh consecutive Boston Beanpot set

Hundreds of collegiate cyclists from throughout the northeast will descend on the Boston area for the seventh annual Boston Beanpot Cycling Classic on March 31 and April 1. The two-day and three race will draw over 500 collegiate athletes from 60 colleges and universities from Delaware to Maine.

Saturday's dual races include a team time trial and a road race on newly paved roads through Westborough and Grafton. On Sunday, Tufts campus in Somerville hosts the six-corner classic criterium.

The Beanpot is organized by Boston University, Harvard University, Boston College, Northeastern, MIT, and Tufts University. Conference director Mark Abramson calls the event, "a collaborative juggernaut of intercollegiate athletics. Student athletes from these six schools work hard every year with such professionalism and excellence. The races set the standard for event promotion nationwide."

In 2005, the Beanpot was the first collegiate race to introduce fields split by division which is now required throughout the conference once fields reach a certain size limit. The Beanpot incorporated this innovation initially in order to accommodate the growing numbers of racers in each race.

The 2006 edition was the first collegiate race to offer a coached "introduction to racing" category which is now standard at all conference races. In this category, the first half of the race is neutral while coaches and experienced cyclists ride along the competitors coaching them and offering racing tips then halfway through the race the coaches leave and it becomes a normal race to the finish.

High school racing heats up in Texas

The first-ever Texas High School Cycling League road series kicked off this spring with four events spread over two weekends. The high schoolers are getting a helping hand from Texas' higher institutions of learning. Five of the league's seven races are being hosted by collegiate teams in the South Central Collegiate Cycling Conference (SCCCC). Midwestern State University (MSU) and University of Texas are among the schools lending a helping hand to the fledgling league.

"We see it was a win-win and are happy to help grow the sport by supporting high school cycling," said MSU coach Gary Achterberg.

The director of the Texas High School Cycling League, Andrew Armstrong said, "As a former collegiate racer myself, I knew that the partnership was a great idea for both sides and gladly accepted the help. With five of seven events in this inaugural season promoted by SCCC schools, it has allowed the league to focus on things like recruiting, and establishing a solid structure rather than just simply putting on races."

Each race in the series offers individual and team points based on the same system used throughout collegiate cycling. At the end of the season a high school league champion will be crowned at both the team (school) and individual level.

The race series wraps up in Fort Worth with the high school state championships and USCF races on Sunday April 29. Witchita Falls ISD currently leads Birdville High School and Haltom High School in the overall standings.

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