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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News, April 6, 2008

Edited by Laura Weislo

Nothing but quality for McEwen

Australian Robbie McEwen (Silence-Lotto), 35, is looking toward quality wins as he advances in his career
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Some might start minimising the abilities of Australian sprinter Robbie McEwen as the 35 year-old is still without a victory in 2008, after four months of competition. In doing so one wouldn't be considering the lack of bunch sprints in the run-up races towards the Spring Classics season so far, nor the fact that his real goals are still to come. Still it is odd and, on the eve of the Spring Classics, Cyclingnews' Brecht Decaluwé talked with McEwen in Gent about his season so far and his goals for the 2008.

"It was a difficult start of the season as I was ill, and afterwards I crashed in the Algarve [Portugal]. It was only from the Tirreno-Adriatico on that things started rolling again," commented McEwen early in April.

The Milano-Sanremo, which is the traditional opening Classic of the season, proved to be too hard for the Australian. In previous editions he had tried desperately to claim the flowers on the Via Roma, trying different tactics like avoiding the bunch sprint in the descent. "During Milano-Sanremo I fell short. I had a bad moment at a bad time; I got dropped on the new climb, Le Mànie, and had to chase for 25 kilometres; on the Poggio I couldn't follow.

"The past few years I always won my stage [first win - ed.] in the Tour Down Under. Back in 1999 I had to wait until June before my first victory, but then I won a stage in the Tour de France, which made up for that. It doesn't make me annoyed or nervous. It would be different if I would be riding well without capturing a win, but now I know why I haven't won just yet. I do what I have to do. I've caught a cold, but that shouldn't keep me away from a good performance in the upcoming races," McEwen noted.

When asked where he picked up the cold the Australian smiled. "My children caught a cold, and thus daddy couldn't stay behind," McEwen laughed.

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He continued to explain the reasons behind the lack of successes. "It's not the easiest time of the season, and you don't see a lot of bunch sprints. I could've opted to be in form a little earlier, because it's easier to keep on the top form than to reach it. That crash in Portugal was far from ideal, but I wouldn't have been with the first 12 over the top of the Poggio anyway; Milano-Sanremo was too tough for me."

Continue to the full feature.

Wesemann aiming for Roubaix

By Brecht Decaluwé

Steffen Wesemann
Photo ©: Brecht Decaluwé
(Click for larger image)

2004 Ronde van Vlaanderen winner Seffen Wesemann might be getting on in years, in terms of being a professional cyclist, but the time doesn't seem to be taking its toll on the Swiss rider just yet. Although some gray hairs might be hiding underneath his helmet, the Cycle-Collstrop rider is gunning for the Spring Classics one las time before he retires after the Olympic Games.

The two-time podium finisher from Paris-Roubaix rode for the former German Telekom team from 1993 until 2006 before moving across to the Team Wiesenhof Felt in 2007. He had originally signed for the British Pedaltech-Cyclingnews-Jako team for this season, but he was released from the squad in order to pursue the Classics on the Professional Continental Cycle-Collstrop team, which evolved from the former team.

Wesemann's run-up to the Spring Classics wasn't perfect, as one of his preparation races, the Rund um Köln, was cancelled. "It was a bit strange because we didn't do Köln; it was snowing and we lost four days," he explained that the lack of racing days has impacted his form. "Now it's going better for Flanders, but I'm sure I'll be 100% in Roubaix." Wesemann doesn't want to choose one above the other, but one would think Wesemann's current abilities should come more to its right on the pavé in France. "There are 2 or 3 more percentages that I'm missing for Flanders but I'll do my best."

Cavendish pleased with form

By Shane Stokes

The 'Manx Express': Mark Cavendish (High Road)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Mark Cavendish has had a special run of success, winning the madison race with Bradley Wiggins at the world track championships last Saturday week and then taking consecutive stage victories in the KBC Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde on Wednesday and Thursday.

"I am really happy to follow on from the worlds with two wins," he told Cyclingnews. "This is great, I didn't think my form would be so good. But it was okay, I had the speed there and I had such a strong team behind me to get me there for the sprint.

"I did this same race last year. It is ironic that I was nearly last every day then, so to come back and do good is quite promising. Especially with Scheldeprijs and Wevelgem coming up."

Taking victories on both road and track is a welcome boost for the rider, who made a sensational pro debut last year with 11 wins and is still only 21 years of age. "It wasn't expected, but it gives me confidence on how versatile I can be," he stated.

Next up for Cavendish is Gent-Wevelgem on Wednesday, then Scheldeprijs, the GP de Denain, the Tour of Romandie and the Giro d'Italia. He and the team will decide after that if he will ride the Tour de France.

Cornu will be back on the road in Turkey

By Jean-François Quénet

The 2006 U23 world champion for time trial Dominique Cornu is a big traveler this year. After failing to qualify for the Beijing Olympics in the individual pursuit, the 2008 road season will start for the Belgian at the Presidential Tour of Turkey (April 13 to 20).

"So far I've done a lot of track," the Belgian explained. "I did the World Cup in Los Angeles in January and in Copenhagen in February. With the Belgian national team, I went for a training camp in South Africa for three weeks prior to the track world championship in Manchester.

Despite not getting an Olympic berth, Cornu was pleased with his performance on the boards. "In the individual pursuit I rode my new best time with 4.22.36 [it was the 12th best time, ed.]. It was four seconds faster than my previous best time, I tried my best to qualify for the Olympics but it just didn't work."

There is still one possibility for Cornu to qualify for Beijing with the individual time trial for which Belgium will have two representatives. "I'm not there yet," he said. "I have to produce good results first. There are a lot of nice races and who knows? Maybe I can go to Beijing. My goal is to do well at the Giro d'Italia.

"I'll go to the Tour of Turkey for gearing up for that. I know this country, I've been there already. It'll be a good race, I think. I'll see day by day what I can do. I hope to improve my condition as the race goes.

"I was happy with my condition at the Giro del Capo that I rode in March [he won a stage and came 3rd in another one, he also ran 2nd in the uphill time trial, ed.] and I was going well in Manchester as well," Cornu added. The Presidential Tour of Turkey doesn't include any time trial this year but there will be more opportunities for the 22-year-old Belgian to shine this season. "If I cannot qualify for Beijing, I also want to do well at the world championship for time trial at the end of the year."

Martin and Hansen in "Hell"

Martin may have crossed the line
Photo ©: Dion Kerckhoffs
(Click for larger image)

It turned out to be a High Road day in the "Hell of the Mergelland" Saturday. Adam Hansen and Tony Martin took off only 15 km into the race and managed to stay away until the end. The two crossed the finish line hand-in-hand, with Martin taking the win. Hansen insisted that his younger team-mate take the win, his first professional victory. "Adam said I should win after he punctured and I waited for him," Martin said.

"Adam and I attacked, found there was just the two of us out there and decided to keep going. For a good 50 kilometres we had to really fight to convince the bunch to let us go," the 22 year-old said. "Then afterwards the bunch cracked and the gap just grew and grew. We had no idea whether we would stay away or not, so we just hoped."

"We decided together that I would win," he continued. "It was dangerous because there were cobbled sections to try and sprint in any case, plus Adam is a good friend and we are team-mates, too. It's a very special, memorable victory - my first for High Road, too!"

Directeur Sportif Tristan Hoffman was more than happy with the race. "I honestly can't remember anything like this happening before in a bike race, two team-mates going away so early and staying away right to the finish." he said.

"It's a really exceptional victory after an exceptional race. They fought like animals to get their break away. First they only had a minute, then 90 seconds but they kept going until the bunch split into four."

"I'm very pleased for the team, but I'm also pleased because it's good to see when two riders -- any riders -- are so aggressive in a race and they get the right reward: a great win."

Martin recently finished second in the closing time trial of the Criterium International, behind team-mate Edvald Boasson Hagen. Hansen, who finished tenth in that time trial, is returning after recovering from injuries in a crash during Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne.

A deal for Ullrich?

Jan Ullrich has indicated that he has reached an agreement with German investigators, and has agreed to let Swiss authorities turn over to German investigators documents taken when his house was searched in September 2006. According to the Swiss newspaper, St. Galler Tagblatt, various documents and other information has remained in the office of the Berziksamt Kreuzlingen, while Ullrich's attorney's contested their turnover to the Germans. Hans-Ruedi Graf, head public prosecutor for the Canton of Thurgau, told the newspaper that the material, including electronic data, would be turned over next week.

Graf said that earlier this year, Ullrich had filed a suit in court in Bellinzona, Switzerland, to prevent the material being turned over to German investigators, but that he case was never heard. "After two or three weeks I was suddenly told by the responsible prosecutor in Germany that there would likely be an out-of-court settlement." Shortly thereafter, the newspaper reported, Ullrich's Swiss attorney confirmed to Graf that Ullrich had reached an agreement with the Bonn, Germany, prosecutors and that the material could be released.

Chief German prosecutor Friedrich Apostel wouldn't confirm that. "There is no conclusion, but things are moving now," he said, according sid. "We will close our investigation soon. Then we will have something to say." Ullrich's manager Wolfgang Strohband indicated the he was unaware of an agreement.

The German prosecutors have been investigating Ullrich for deceiving his employer. They have matched his DNA to blood found at the offices of Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes, and said that back records showed that Ullrich had wired money to Fuentes. Ullrich has consistently denied having used doping products.

Germans fire national endurance track coach

The Bund Deutscher Radfahrer (BDR, the German federation) announced Saturday that it has released Uwe Freese, who was the trainer for the national track team in endurance events. "After the failure of the men's pursuit team [a ninth place finish -ed] and the missed Olympic qualification, the responsibilities have to be regulated anew," the BDR said.

It will hold a special conference in June, "which will look at the perspectives for the Olympics in 2012 and 2016". In addition, the entire structure "from national schooling to international race preparations, as well as the cooperation between the individual disciplines, local federations and Olympic camps will be totally reworked. In connection with this, the BDR will also look to a re-make of the international track calendar, so that there will be more time before the World Cup races and the Six Day races."

The Beijing Olympics will be the first since 1952 in which the German men's pursuit team has not participated.

Phinney qualifies for Olympics

Father, Davis, goes under the knife

With the release of the final UCI track rankings after the World Championships in Manchester, American Taylor Phinney is in line to follow in his parents' footsteps as an Olympian. The 17-year-old is the son of 1984 Olympians Connie Carpenter-Phinney, who won gold in the women's road race, and Davis Phinney, who was the first American on a US-team to win a Tour de France stage. Taylor finished the season ranked third in the individual pursuit, earning his country a spot in the Beijing Games. He still must be selected for the team by USA Cycling, but as the country's fastest pursuiter, it's a likely just a formality.

On the same day the rankings were released, Davis underwent successful brain surgery in an attempt to alleviate some of the symptoms of Parkinson's disease. According to the Associated Press, Phinney's surgery at the Stanford University Medical Center in Palo Alto, California was without complications, and doctors expect the procedure to help ease the symptoms of the disease, which he was diagnosed with in 2000.

Thomas convicted in BALCO case

Former American track sprinter Tammy Thomas was found guilty of lying to a grand jury investigating the so-called BALCO scandal on Friday. Thomas was the first of several athletes to go on trial in connection to the illegal steroid ring operated by the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO). Thomas was found guilty on three counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice, but was acquitted of two counts of perjury.

The case will have been closely watched by the legal teams of several better-known athletes, namely baseball star Barry Bonds, whose case closely parallels Thomas'. Other figures have already taken guilty pleas, including Olympian Marion Jones, BALCO founder Victor Conte and chemist Patrick Arnold, who allegedly supplied the drugs to Thomas.

Thomas denied under oath that she ever received drugs from Arnold and claimed that she had never used steroids. However, Arnold had testified to the contrary.

Thomas was banned for life from the sport of cycling in 2002 after testing positive for the steroid norbolethone. She had begun to rebuild her life in recent years, and had been in school to become a lawyer. Her conviction of the felony offense, however, will now prevent her from earning a license to practice law. Thomas, enraged at the verdict, lashed out at the jury after the trial and stormed out of the courtroom.

Stevens Racing team for Irish Tour

Returning a year after competing in the event, the Stevens Racing Team is the latest to be confirmed for the 2008 FBD Insurance Rás. The German squad thus joins previously-announced teams Iran Team Azad and Bulgaria's Team Nessebar in the 2.2-ranked Irish race, which begins in Navan on May 18th and finishes in Skerries eight stages later.

The 24-year-old René Birkenfeld and 26-year-old Johannes Sickmüller return after previous participation in the event. Both are former German national cyclo-cross champions and will be joined by Sascha Wagner, Yannik Teidt and the promising eighteen year old Ole Quast.

Several other international teams are expected to be announced in the coming weeks.

UCI calls Manchester Worlds 'best ever'

The Union Cycliste Internationale has been delighted with last week's World Track Championships held in Manchester 26th – 30th March. The five day event saw Great Britain win nine gold medals and set two world records. The crowds filled the Velodrome in SportCity with the final four nights completely sold out.

"I can safely say that this was the best World Championships that the UCI has ever had," said UCI President Pat McQuaid: "In looking at that you bring many factors into consideration. Firstly there is the huge support from the public which has been here right from the very beginning. Even the afternoon sessions have been full and the public have been both enthusiastic and extremely knowledgeable.

"Secondly the performances of the athletes have been outstanding and the Great Britain team stands out above the rest with the number of medals that they won. Thirdly the media coverage has been fantastic. We have had a huge media presence at the event and of course we have had live TV from the BBC. The press coverage has been huge and a picture from the championships even made it on to the front page of the Sunday Times. All these things added together make this the best World Championships we have ever had."

"This bodes well for future events in Manchester too," McQuaid continued: "It's only natural that the cycling federations and the athletes want to come to venues where they are appreciated and where the public appreciate what they do."

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