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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

First Edition Cycling News, April 1, 2008

Edited by Greg Johnson & Paul Verkuylen

Petacchi unsure about Gent-Wevelgem

By Jean-François Quénet

Alessandro Petacchi (Milram)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Alessandro Petacchi (Team Milram) may have only one race left on his calendar before the Giro d'Italia starts in Palermo, Sicily, on May 10. The Italian has been in bed instead of racing, sick with the flu.

"I still don't know if I'll be able to take part in Gent-Wevelgem on April 9 but for sure I'll be present at the Tour of Turkey," said Petacchi. "This will be my last race prior to the Tour of Italy and I need to race as much [I can] as I need to win."

Petacchi couldn't contest the E3 Prijs and the Brabantse Pijl, the races he had chosen to prepare for Gent-Wevelgem, which is the only classic he had planned to target after Milano-Sanremo. While Gent-Wevelgem is in doubt for the sprinter, he is certain to start the Presidential Tour of Turkey from April 13 to 20.

"I'm sick with a flu at the moment," the Tuscan sprinter explained. "I'm taking antibiotics."

Petacchi, who with six wins has claimed more wins than any other professional this season, usually rides the Niedersachsen Rundfahrt at the end of April to prepare for the Giro, but the German race will not be run this year. Instead the Tour of Turkey will give him the opportunity to accumulate a solid number of days of racing in ideal conditions.

"I've been told that the landscapes in Turkey are fabulous," Petacchi said. "It should be sunny as well. I'll benefit from all of that but above everything I intend to work on my sprinting with my team-mates. It'll be very useful for getting used to do the job together."

At the inaugural criterium in the streets of Istanbul on the same day as Paris-Roubaix, he'll be surrounded by his faithful domestiques Alberto Ongarato, Marco Velo, Brett Lancaster and Fabio Sabatini who form the famous successful blue train of the team Milram.

Clearly, the Italian has already set his mind onto the Giro, where he is a 25-time stage winner. After warming up in Turkey, Petacchi will take part in his favourite race not only to add to his impressive win tally, but also as a warm up for the Tour de France, where he will race for the first time in four years. Petacchi last appeared at the Tour in 2004, where he claimed four stage wins before pulling out on Stage 6.

Steegmans appeals to sticky spectators

Gert Steegmans (Quick Step)
Photo ©: Brecht Decaluwé
(Click for larger image)

Belgian cycling fans have found a unique way to get closer to their heroes on the roads; place advertising stickers on them as they pass by. Quick Step's Geert Steegmans is not impressed with the practice and has asked the fans to stop.

During the recent E3-prijs Steegmans was hampered on the Taaienberg when a 'VIP' sticker was stuck to his helmet by a spectator. "Never before have I experienced so many slaps on the back," Steegmans told Belgian newspaper, Gazet van Antwerpen. "The people are becoming more and more brutal each year.

"My appeal is clear: 'Don't touch us'," requested the rider. "I understand the euphoria, and contact with the riders is the charm of the sport, but it is dangerous."

Steegmans is hoping that the "real fans" will understand and act against those who attempt to disturb the riders. "Perhaps the real fans have to take the responsibility and take action against the offenders immediately," he suggested. "Because if this continues to happen we will need to get the police involved. If they have to make the climbs a no-go zone, it will be the fans who will become the victims."

The 27 year-old claimed several victories during 2007, the most notable when he stole away a Tour de France stage victory at last year's Grand Tour. The Belgian led out team leader Tom Boonen, who couldn't get around. While Boonen initially thought he had won the stage, it was Steegmans who claimed victory on Stage 2.

Steegmans: a Triskaidekaphobic?

Proving that some riders are still supersticious when it comes to using the number 13, Quick Step's Steegmans has asked the organisers of the Driedaagse de Panne to swap his start number 13 for 19. After a week of bad luck, which included an altercation with a tractor during the Dwars door Vlaanderen and a close call with a spectator in the E3 Prijs, Steegmans has decided not to tempt fate any more than he has too in his build up to the Tour of Flanders.

"Gert has spent too much time on the ground recently," said Quick Step sports director Rik Van Slijcke. "That is why I have asked the organisers if he could use the number 19 in the place of 13."

The number 13 will not be used at all in this year's edition of the race.

No pressure for Hoste

Silence-Lotto has the last Belgian winner of Driedaagse de Panne on its roster in Leif Hoste, but the ProTour team is placing no pressure on its team leader to perform. The Driedaagse de Panne is traditionally the last chance for riders who are targeting the Tour of Flanders to hone their form before the big day.

"We have the following two Sundays for that," said Silence-Lotto sports director Herman Frison to "I would prefer to have Leif on the highest step this Sunday in Meerbeke, than now in de Panne.

"We should not put everything on Hoste in de Panne," he added.

Frison is relying on the other strong riders on the Silence-Lotto roster to perform well in the race. "With McEwen and Van Avermaet, we have other aces in our hand," he said. "Also Gorik Gardeyn is on antibiotics, but he is ready and that is but three of our rider," he said referring to the number of quality riders on their roster.

Gilbert: Getting sick is the biggest danger

Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux) on the loose.
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux) once again displayed that his form is right on target for Tour of Flanders during the Brabantse Pijl. Gilbert openly claimed that if it wasn't for Carlos Barredo's crash, which brought him down as well, he would have been part of the winning attack with eventual winner Sylvian Chavanel (Cofidis) in the weekend's race.

Add to that a string of good results, including wins in the Belgian season opener, Het Volk and Le Samyn as well as a third place at Milano-Sanremo, and he is among the hot favourites for Sunday's Spring Classic.

"I am banking on Guesdon, just like in Milano-Sanremo," he said. "Sunday's race [the Brabantse Pijl] was first and foremost meant as a tough training ride in preparation for the Ronde. So I wasn't disappointed with my second place there. I was on the podium, just like in almost all of the races I have ridden [this year].

"It is a sign that my condition is better than good," he added. "Now it is important that I take good care of myself over the next week."

Gilbert has opted not to take part in the Driedaagse van De Panne, instead he will do a reconnaissance of the Tour of Flanders route on Wednesday, weather permitting. "Getting sick the week of the Ronde is the biggest danger there is," he said. "I still can't ride up the climbs blind folded. The Flemish can do that, but I am a Waal [Wallonian]. I do know the critical places."

Gilbert signaled that even the Koppenberg climb doesn't faze him. "It is part of the show and every rider has to ride over it," he said.

Team support

Unlike a number of other Flanders favourites, who are able to rely on strong team support, Gilbert is hopeful of having at least one or two team-mates at his disposal as the race nears the crucial stages.

"I will be happy if I have one or two team-mates with me after the crucial phases," he said. "[Française des Jeux] are unable to take the race by the horns, like CSC or Cofidis. CSC has the strongest team and a great team spirit. If there are for CSC guys in the finale, then it is going to be tough.

"But La Française is stronger this year than it was last year," he added. "Frédéric Guesdon dropped me off at the Poggio in the ideal manner, during Milano-Sanremo. In Flanders I will be relying on Guesdon for the same."

Gilbert will be one of the most watched riders in the peloton, which he admits is the down side of his success. "My first priority is to stay away from crashes and punctures," he said. "Then I will automatically be in the finale."

Teams announce Driedaagse de Panne rosters

Various professional teams have announced the rosters each team will start the Driedaagse de Panne with later today. ProTour team Milram's Classics specialists will use the Belgian three day, four stage race as their final preparation for the first big Belgian Classic, this weekend's Ronde van Vlaanderen.

"The coming three days will be very challenging and are a good last test for next Sunday," said director sportif Jochen Hahn. "The first two stages are marked by constantly changing between flat and hilly. On Thursday there is a flat stage followed by an individual time trial."

Milram's roster includes team newcomer Markus Eichler, who finished eighth at the event with last year, as well as Australian Brett Lancaster and German duo Markus Eichler and Ralf Grabsch.

Quick Step will have an all star line up for the event with Gert Steegmans, Tom Boonen, Steven De Jongh just a few of the names on its roster. Astana will also feature a strong team with Tomas Vaitkus and Vladimir Gusev while Landbouwkrediet-Tonissteiner's roster will be led by Tom Steels.

Team Milram's Driedaagse de Panne roster: Artur Gajek (Ger), Brett Lancaster (Aus), Christian Kux (Ger), Enrico Poitschke (Ger), Markus Eichler (Ger), Martin Velits (Svk), Niki Terpstra (Ned) and Ralf Grabsch (Ger).
Quick Step's Driedaagse de Panne roster: Tom Boonen, Steven De Jongh, Stijn Devolder, Kevin Hulsmans, Sebastien Rosseler, Dmitry Grabovskyy, Gert Steegmans, Wouter Weylandt.
Astana Vladimir Driedaagse de Panne roster: Vladimir Gusev, René Haselbacher, Sergei Ivanov, Aaron Kemps, Dmitriy Muravyev, Gregory Rast, Michael Schär and Tomas Vaitkus.
Landbouwkrediet-Tonissteiner Driedaagse de Panne roster: Tom Steels, Andy Cappelle, Frédéric Amorison, Jan Kuyckx, Filip Meirhaeghe, Kevin Neirynck, Ian Stannard and David Boucher.

Colavita/Sutter Home roster for Redlands

Luis Amaran (Colavita/Sutter Homes) celebrates
Photo ©: Mitch Clinton
(Click for larger image)

Colavita/Sutter Home has announced its men's and women's rosters for the Redlands Bicycle Classic. Alejandro Borrajo and Sebastian Haedo will lead the men's squad at the upcoming National Racing Calendar event, which begins on April 3, with The Sun Time Trial, and concludes on April 6 with the Beaver Medical Group Sunset Road Race. Joining Borrajo and Haedo at the starting line will be Luis Amaran, Gustavo Artacho, Anibal Borrajo, Anthony Colby, Davide Frattini, and Tyler Wren.

"California has been good to us," said men's team director sportif Sebastian Alexandre. "Alejandro's victories at the Merco Credit Union criterium and the San Dimas stage race this past weekend plus Sebastian Haedo's win at the Sequoia Cycling Classic criterium demonstrate that the team is really working together to execute our strategies successfully.

"With the depth of talent in our squad, I expect you'll see a lot of Colavita/Sutter Home on the podium at Redlands this weekend," Alexandre added. "Anthony Colby won last year's stage three road race and finished in the top five of the opening time trial. Luis Amaran gave us our second victory at San Dimas. And Alejandro isn't the only Borrajo making headlines this season. His brother Anibal finished third at the Sequoia."

Former Olympian Iona Wynter Parks will lead the outfit's women's team. Parks will be joined by Nichole Wangsgard, currently ranked fith in the NRC Individual Standings, Tiffany Cromwell, Andrea Dvorak, Shontell Gauthier, Kristin McGrath, Mackenzie Woodring, and newcomer Samantha Schneider.

"With its time trial, criterium, and road race, Redlands really showcases the range of skills resident in our squad, " said women's director Jack Seehafer. "Plus, we've got a great mix of experienced competitors and promising newcomers like Nichole Wangsgard and Samantha Schneider, who's 4th place finish at the US Criterium Nationals behind our champion Tina Pic, definitely puts her on the list of cyclists to watch."

Colavita/Sutter Home's elite men Relands roster: Luis Amaran (Cub), Gustavo Artacho (Arg), Alejandro Borrajo (Arg), Anibal Borrajo (Arg), Anthony Colby (USA), Davide Frattini (Ita), Sebastian Haedo (Arg) and Tyler Wren (USA).

Colavita/Sutter Home's elite women Redlands roster: Tiffany Cromwell (Aus), Andrea Dvorak (USA), Shontell Gauthier (USA), Kristin McGrath (USA), Iona Wynter Parks (Jam), Nichole Wangsgard (USA), Mackenzie Woodring (USA) and Samantha Schneider (USA).

Grafton-Inverell gets McDonald's backing

McDonald’s Inverell restaurant has announced a three-year, naming-rights sponsorship of the highly respected Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic, a challenging one day race covering 228 km in New South Wales, Australia. In addition to the new title sponsor, organisers have announced that Heinrich Haussler, who rides for ProTour team Gerolsteiner, will be an ambassador of this year's September 13 event.

“I am excited about the sponsorship as I am personally passionate about cycling," said McDonald's Inverell licensee Chris Rodgers. "I have participated in the Ride for Sick Kids charity ride, a gruelling 600km bike ride from Armidale to Newcastle, for the past three years.

“I think cycling is a great form of exercise and promotes a healthy lifestyle amongst families," he added. "I hope the sponsorship encourages children and their families to get active, hop on a bike and enjoy the outdoors together."

The Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic was launched by local resident Harold Strahley in September 1961 and 47 years later the race has become a national and international race attracting top grade cyclists, including top professional rider Scott Sutherland.

“This is the first time a major sponsor has come on board and committed to a substantial sponsorship," said event committee president Michael Hoynes. “The sponsorship displays McDonald’s commitment to supporting local sporting events and also the increasingly popularity of cycling. With McDonald’s support, we are able to further grow the race and support local riders as they compete on the global scene."

Other changes for the 2008 Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic include a new race for women and Under 19s in addition to the A Grade division, Division 2 and Division 3.

Taylor awarded Amy Gillett scholarship

South Australia's Carlee Taylor
Photo ©: AGF
(Click for larger image)

The Amy Gillett Foundation has announced 18 year-old Carlee Taylor as the recipient of the 2008 Amy Gillett Scholarship. The South Australia-based was successful against some of Australia’s most talented rising stars from all parts of the country, including Junior World Champions and World Record holders.

"You’re joking, that’ fantastic," said Taylor when informed of the news. "Thank you so much."

Taylor her competitive cycling career in 2007 after crossing over from triathlon competition. Since taking up cycling, her impressive achievements include first place U23 Australian Women’s Road Championship, fourth place U23 Australian Women’s Time Trial Championship, first place U19 National Road Series and selection in the Australian Junior Road Team.

The Scholarship provides financial and in-kind support for the recipient, explined AGF General Manager Melinda Jacobsen. Recipients including assistance with travel, accommodation and expenses whilst competing overseas with the AIS Women’s team; a Giant road bike for training and competition; Oakley eye wear products, airfares and access to AIS clinical services during training camps at the AIS.

"Each year we look to support a well-rounded female athlete who is not only determined and capable of excelling in the sport of cycling, but who acknowledges the importance of continued further education and life off the bike," said Jacobsen. "We are thrilled with the phenomenal response from Australian women cyclists."

The Amy Gillett Scholarship, now in its third year, is well-established as an important avenue for developing women cyclists to get their chance to compete at the highest levels of the sport and is presented in conjunction with the Australian Institute of Sport High Performance Program. The dual emphasis on work and learning reflects the qualities successfully pursued by elite cyclist Amy Gillett before she was killed whilst on a training ride in Germany.


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by AGF

Bennett, Kintner claim American BMX crowns

Olympic Game hopefuls Kyle Bennett and Jill Kintner have claimed the American elite BMX titles as the sport prepares to make its Olympic debut in Beijing this August. Bennett claimed his victory in a tough race, that featured defending champion Donny Robinson. Kintner on the other hand rode away from the field with Arielle Martin and the pair fought for victory between one another.

"This is probably the most competitive national championship race in the world and that makes the title even more special," said Bennett. "Even though the track is very different from what we'll see coming up it is very good for my confidence."

In the other two championship classes, Denzel Stein and Terra Nichols earned national titles in the junior men's and women's races respectively.

The championship class athletes were also awarded points towards their USA Cycling BMX Ranking. For elite athletes, these rankings will determine the long team from which the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team will be chosen. In addition to the four championship class categories, USA Cycling distributed additional national championship jerseys as amateurs competed for both national titles and the right to represent the United States at the UCI World Challenge in China this May.

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