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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News, April 8, 2008

Edited by Bjorn Haake

Symmetrics feeling financial pinch

By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor

Christian Meier finished second in the
Photo ©: Rafael Gómez Alonso
(Click for larger image)

An article last week in the British Columbia newspaper The Province reported that the Canadian continental Symmetrics team is currently undergoing financial woes due to sponsors pulling out, affecting the team's plans for this season that could result in the team dissolving after its fifth year of existence. The paper reported that Coast Capital, B.C. Hydro PowerSmart and FarmPure have all ended their sponsorships. Members of the team told Cyclingnews that the current budget would only last until mid-June, when the Canadian Cycling Association will choose the Beijing Olympic team, unless a new sponsor is secured.

Team co-owner Mark Cunningham, who owns the team with his brother Kevin, told Cyclingnews that the all-Canadian rider team supported by Canadian companies is hurting from the weak U.S. dollar. "What has happened is the Canadian dollar has gotten really strong so it affected Canadian business and their sponsorship," he said. The Cunningham family owns one of the supporting sponsors that makes plywood, and the bursting bubble of the U.S. housing market has taken its toll. As a result the team has significantly reduced its budget from $1 million to $650,000 for 2008, despite remaining sponsors increasing their commitments.

Subsequently the team has curtailed many plans for the season, including a major trip to Europe to compete in four UCI races. The invitation came after the team rode strong at the Vuelta a Chihuahua in Mexico last October. The Spanish promoter offered to cover all of the racing expenses for the team – but with a slashed budget, the team could not afford the airfare.

"The Vuelta a Chihuahua organizers invited us to four races – Christian Meier placed high there and so they invited us to all these races," said Mark Cunningham. "It would have been great racing and a chance for UCI points for our riders – there were three 2.1 and a 1.1. We were going to be there for 22 days and racing for 14 days. But we would have to pay for air fare and the days in between, plus staff over there. Any other year we would have gone."

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The sponsorship woes could not come at a worse time for the team, with the main goal of qualifying riders for the 2008 Olympics – with the Canadian Cycling Association using UCI points as the metric. "Racing wise the team is doing remarkable," said Mark Cunningham. "We had a phenomenal 2007 and we just won San Dimas. Obviously, we love going to big races but it is important for our riders to get points for Olympic selection, and that closes on June 15.

"The CCA is taking 2007 results plus 2008 results up until June 15," Mark Cunningham continued. "Zach Bell qualified in the points race, and we are hopeful for a Madison team – but then it is getting riders into the road race. So going to races with UCI points is really important for guys like Svein Tuft. The CCA is really screwed up in how they pick the national team – it's four guys picking the team with little to no criteria other than points."

Find out more about the dire situation here.

Euskaltel comfortable at home

Egoi Martínez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) did a great race and secured the mountains classification
Photo ©:
(Click for larger image)

Egoi Martínez of Euskaltel-Euskadi went into the break of the day in the first stage of the Vuelta al País Vasco, together with Iban Mayoz (Karpin Galicia), thinking that "they would let us go ahead a little further." But the lead never went past four minutes and on the hilly day it proved not enough to stay away for the duo. In the beginning of the stage, the two were accompanied by Mickael Buffaz (Cofidis), but the first time up the Deskarga, the Frenchman could not follow the Spaniards.

Martínez was happy, stating that "thanks to the escape, the team was very present in the stage. We showed the competitiveness of our formation and that is very important at a home race, with all our fans 'in the gutter.'" Martínez received the leader's jersey in the mountains classification and that was very important to him, too. He described that in the break "Mayoz and I worked well together, but it was impossible to get a bigger margin on the big group." The most important for him now is "to recuperate and go ahead as we intended."

Martínez' team-mate, Igor Antón, was equally happy. "It was a special day after what happened this week. There was doubt until the last minute. The first day was very important for me. I am happy on how the stage went." Antón found himself in the lead group at the end "felt good all day." He was happy to be able to follow the big guns. "When Contador attacked I didn't move, but when Cunego and Evans accelerated, I went behind their wheels and made it up the Deskarga very well."

It's not all healed yet for the Basque rider. "In the beginning of the stage my tendon was bothering me a bit, but later I did not have any trouble with it." As for the next stages, Antón hoped to recover well for stage 2. In the end "the truth is that I will have to take it day by day..."

Mikel Astarloza was equally satisfied with how stage 1 went. "It was the first day in the race, it was a difficult stage and I managed to come in with the first group. The truth is that I was feeling fine for the most part of the day, but I suffered a lot in the finale, due to the rain and cold. On the last time up the Deskarga I was pulling. The rhythm was good for me, but I was frozen." In fact, Astarloza thought that "I think for some riders the cold was a more decisive factor than the actual route."

Astarloza also had thoughts on the competition. "Contador has demonstrated that he is very strong, but we only lost eight seconds and there is still a long ways to go in this tour. His attack was no surprise, we know he is in form and is the man to watch. We have to be consistent and stay on the front. Any stage can produce a surprise. On paper, nothing significant should happen to the general classification in the day to Erandio, but the Vuelta al País Vasco is a very nervous race and one has to be very attentive."

Sarthe in search of a new champion

The 56th edition of the Circuit Cycliste Sarthe - Pays de la Loire will take place from April 8 to 11, 2008. The race is looking to crown a new champion, as title defender Andreas Klöden will not take to the start in France, preferring the Tour of Turkey instead. But his Astana team is riding with a vengeance these days, and winning left and right, so there is a chance that someone from the team will at least make it another victory for the team. Or some stage wins, for the minimum.

Strong competition is expected to come from the 'home' teams, Cofidis (Stéphane Augé), AG2R La Mondiale, Française des Jeux, Agritubel, Bouygues Telecom and Crédit Agricole. The American Slipstream squad is interested to get a win after racing well in Europe, while Gerolsteiner will bank on sprinter Robert Förster.

Caisse d'Epargne will be spearheaded by Oscar Pereiro and the field is completed by non-ProTour teams like Volksbank, Skil-Shimano, CSF Group Navigare, Ceramica Flaminia Bossini Docce and of course French outfits. Auber 93 and Bretagne Armor Lux will try to create surprises on home soil.

The stages

Stage 1 - April 8: Aizenay-Ligné - 182.4km
Stage 2a - April 9: Varades-Angers - 99.8km
Stage 2b - April 9: Angers-Angers (ITT) - 9km
Stage 3 - April 10: Angers-Fresnay-sur-Sarthe - 186.5km
Stage 4 - April 11: Saint-Léonard-des-Bois-Le Mans - 188.5km

Wegmann details Indurain victory

Wegmann wins.
Photo ©: Monika Prell
(Click for larger image)

Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner) has won the GP Indurain for the second time in his career, two years after his first win. The German champion detailed on his website how he already felt good "in the Brabantse Pijl and the whole week."

He realised about 40 kilometres from the finish of the 199-kilometre affair that it could be his day again in Estella. "I told my team-mates to not let get anyone away in the last 15 kilometres," as the reduced peloton of around 60- riders was heading towards the finish line. The race ends on a 900-metre climb and the Gerolsteiner team delivered Wegmann in fourth position. The German explained that "it was Riccardo Riccò who attacked first." But the Italian could not keep it up and Wegmann passed him, and could "win with one bike length ahead."

Wegmann beat Swiss rider Michael Albasini (Liquigas) and Spaniard Joaquím Rodríguez (Caisse d'Epargne). Wegmann was recovering on Sunday before "heading to the Tour of the Basque Country on Monday."

Buendía recovered for Amorebieta

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Jesus Buendía will give his debut
Photo ©: Antonio J. Salmerón
(Click for larger image)

The 54th edition of the Klásika de Primavera will take place in Amorebieta in the Basque Country on April 13. One of the teams on the start line will be Contentpolis-Murcia, for which Jesus Buendía will make his debut. The Spaniard was unable to ride so far due to a crash, together with his team-mate Eloy Teruel, last January. Buendía injured his adductor muscle. He stated to Cyclingnews that "I will be there [in Amorebieta] with more desire than kilometres because I started training only a little over two weeks ago, after a break of two months."

Buendía believes that, "it is very positive to compete because it will give me a point of reference for future races." His schedule is in the air. "It will depend on the sensations. I would like to reach a good competitive level for the Clásica de Alcobendas[May 10-11 - ed.]". His team-mate Jose Miguel Elias also is targetting races later on.

The teams at the start include ProTour squads Caisse d'Epargne, with Joaquím Rodríguez and Alejandro Valverde, who crossed the finish last year hand in hand; Team CSC with Carlos Sastre and the Schleck brothers Fränk and Andy; Lampre with Damiano Cunego and Spaniards Patxi Vila and Marzio Bruseghin. There also will be Saunier Duval-Scott, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Liquigas and AG2R La Mondiale.

Other professional Continental teams beside Contentpolis-Murcia include Andalucia-Cajasur, Extremadura and Galicia-Karpin, as well as the five Continental outfits, Burgos Monumental, Orbea-Oreka, ULAN (Kazakhstan), Dinatek-Latvia (Latvia) and Katyusha (Russia).

A total of 120 riders will be battling for victory over a distance of 171.6 kilometres, with the traditional three ascents over the Muniketa climb (second category) and the Autzagane (third category). The only change compared to past years is the location of the start and the finish,which was relocated from Gudari Kalea to Nafarroa Kalea. The change causes the last ascent of the Autzagane to be one kilometre longer than last year's 3.5-kilometre climb.


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Antonio J. Salmerón

Vos takes win in Dottignies

Marianne Vos (Team DSB Bank) finished fifth in the Ronde van Vlaanderen on Sunday, but took revenge on Monday, when she beat Kirsten Wild (AA - Drink Cycling Team) in the Grand Prix de Dottignies.

The race was decided by a 16-strong group, from which Vos turned out to be the quickest. Last year's winner, Giorgia Bronzini, ridign for the Italian National team, ended up in fourth, one spot behind Estonian Grete Treier (Mixed team).

Willems Veranda riders unpaid

The Belgian Continental Willems Veranda Team did not ride in the Hel van het Mergelland Saturday, as the riders protested because they have not been paid. "I have heard of this matter and we will find a solution as soon as possible," said sponsor Luc Willems.

According to the Belga press agency, Willems said that the team had a budget of 500,000 euro. The money has apparently been paid by Willems' firm, but does not seem to have arrived, at least, not to the riders. "I think that the team management is responsible in this case," he said. "It must urgently be cleared up. The riders must be paid their salaries as quickly as possible in order to avoid problems."

Geert De Moor, team manager, said, "We are aware of this affair but I am confident that it will be cleared up soon. For the rest, I do not want to comment right now. When the time is ripe, we will come forward with the correct explanation."

Bad day at the office for Plowman Craven RT

The final stage of the Redlands Classic didn't quite end up as planned for Plowman Craven RT, despite Simon Richardson sitting comfortably on GC, close to the top 20, and with a course profile in front of him that was going to suit his style of climbing, and the possibility of moving up on GC.

But the team was affected by the two early crashes, having five of the six riders go down in one of them, including Richardson. Alex Higham, Tom Barras, Neil Coleman and Simon Gaywod were the other unlucky ones. Only Evan Oliphant could avoid it and stayed in the 20-man strong front group.

But Oliphant punctured right before entering a high-speed descent. Despite no team service vehicles allowed, Oliphant received a quick wheel change from the Mavic motorbike, and then buried himself to try and get back to the lead group. But the 80-km/h speeds through the technical and demanding descent, he was not able to return to the group.

The last day was hard, with only around 80 riders finishing. The next race for the team is the Garret Limere Crit in Ojai, California, next weekend.

(Additional reporting and research provided by Susan Westemeyer.)

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