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Photo ©: Swift

Latest Cycling News, April 10, 2008

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

No Roubaix for Chavanel

France's Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) can be happy this season
Photo ©: Bert Geerts
(Click for larger image)

Frenchman Sylvain Chavanel, on a wave of good form this Spring since his stage victory in Paris-Nice, will not be racing Paris-Roubaix despite his recent successes in the Dwars door Vlaanderen and the Brabantse Pijl.

The Cofidis rider was tempted to see what he could do in the 'Hell of the North' after helping his team-mate Nick Nuyens to a second placing in the Ronde van Vlaanderen, but team manager Eric Boyer preferred not to take any risks. "It wouldn't have been very professional to give in to that temptation," he told L'Equipe on Tuesday. "I prefer to regret not lining him up than doing so."

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However, Chavanel modified his racing programme slightly: After racing in Paris-Camembert on April 15, he will not be participating in the Tour du Finistère but instead going to the Amstel Gold Race on April 20. It will be his seventh participation in the Dutch Spring Classic. "This is a coherent choice as he is not adding anything to his programme," added Boyer. "It's an intelligent way of surfing on the wave of good form he has been on for a few weeks now."

In May, Chavanel will go for a third victory of the Quatre Jours de Dunkerque (May 6-11), a race he won in 2002 and 2004.

120 metres of additional cobbles in Roubaix

This is what it's all about: Pavé
Photo ©: Brecht Decaluwé
(Click for larger image)

Although the route of this year's Paris-Roubaix has not been changed compared to last year, adding up 28 sections of cobblestone trenches for a total of 52.8 kilometres, the riders will have to battle an additional 120 metres of pavé next Sunday.

As part of the continuing efforts by several associations to restore the cobbled sectors of the 'Hell of the North', students of a Raismes school have dug up a stretch of macadam to unearth the ancient cobblestones of the Verchain-Maugré sector in Quérénaing. "We were very surprised to find that the pavés underneath it were in perfect state," school director Jean-Marie Dubois told L'Equipe. "We replaced only one of them!"

During the last year, the non-profit association 'Les Amis de Paris-Roubaix' has restored 27 tons of pavé (each cobble weighing about one kilogram), moving them from one location to another. As an example, the stones on which Jean Forestier rode to victory in 1955 had been taken away from Péronne-en-Mélantois long ago, and were now replaced on the sector of Bourghelles.

"The parcours seems in good shape compared to what I have seen some years," commented race director Jean-François Pescheux on Monday, while reconnoitring the course. "The work that has been done for several years now bears fruit. We managed to restore a good, rideable parcours so that Paris-Roubaix remains a cycling race."

Haussler erases bad memories

By Bjorn Haake in Wevelgem

Heinrich Haussler (Gerolsteiner) scored a stage in the 2007 Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

Heinrich Haussler of Gerolsteiner wanted to use Gent-Wevelgem to wipe out some bad short term, as well as long term memories. Exactly one year ago he crashed on the Kemmelberg, along with many others, in dry conditions. "I don't have good memories on the Kemmelberg," he reflected before the start. "But today (Wednesday) is a bit different," confirming that the asphalt downhill should be better to handle for everyone. "If we are lucky we will get through it alright."

His directeur sportif, Christian Henn, concurred. "Something had to be done, after the crashes in the previous years. Even when it is dry, the riders lose the bottles, which will open and make the roads wet. Then, when somebody brakes in the back, there are going to be crashes." Henn was well prepared, having studied video footage from the recent Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen , where they rode down the same way.

The short term memory to be erased stemmed from the Ronde van Vlaanderen. Haussler told Cyclingnews that "Flanders was a disappointment for me," and he wanted to use Gent-Wevelgem to redeem himself. "Today I am feeling well [and] I want to show something. In Flanders, my legs were OK, but not super great." At least he didn't have much trouble with the weather on Sunday. "I don't like it [hail and rain], but I have less trouble than some other riders... Some will have bad legs and lack the desire to ride in such conditions. "

This should be good for Paris-Roubaix, where the weather is expected to be somewhat the same as in Flanders. But the 24 year-old cautioned that "I have to be realistic. I can't be in the top five. But if I get into the first 20, I'd be happy. For me, Roubaix on Sunday is important."

A quick learner, Haussler knew exactly where it went wrong for him in Flanders. "I hit the Kwaremont too far back. I had to get off and walk because of others in front of me who walked. I had overshoes on, which loosened when I walked up. Then I couldn't get into my pedals at the top and had to take off the overshoes. That took some extra time." He reflected that "if you don't hit the Kwaremont with the first 30, it is over, except when you are as strong as someone like Cancellara."

But the first shock was the Molenberg. "I thought 'If they are already walking here than we will never be able to get up the Kwaremont'," Haussler commented on the traffic jam that formed through the narrow cobbled climb.

Haussler successfully erased the bad memories. For one, he didn't crash and looked comfortable and smooth, hitting the tight right-hand turn the second time down the Kemmelberg, safely tucked away in the single-filed peloton. Secondly, he cracked the top ten.

Henn had predicted a possible sprint finish to Cyclingnews before the race. "Today there is little wind and it looks like there may be a sprint. Of course that doesn't mean there will be a sprint, but the prerequisites are there that a bigger group will arrive and then we bank on Heinrich Haussler, sure."

After the race, Henn was happy. "This is a good result. In that sprint it was really difficult to position yourself well. Maybe with a better position a better result would have been possible. But the trend is definitely going upward." It was a welcome change from recent races. "The Tour of Flanders and also before, [in] Harelbeke [E3 Prijs], we weren't super bad, but it's just not our terrain."

In the end, the Aussie-German rider could be happy with having overcome his experiences from the past year and will now concentrate again on extending his palmarès.

Team line-ups for Paris-Roubaix

Gerolsteiner and Rabobank have announced their options Sunday in Paris-Roubaix. The German team noted that the 'Hell of the North' is nothing for sprinters, but for escapees and solo winners. It will therefore look to Australian-German rider Heinrich Haussler, who finished ninth in Gent-Wevelgem and 25th the first time he raced Paris-Roubaix in 2005, then only 21 years of age (see feature above). The German ProTour team will also feature Sven Krauss and Sebastian Lang, both of whom had ridden well there in the past.

Gerolsteiner for Paris-Roubaix: Thomas Fothen, Oscar Gatto, Heinrich Haussler, Sven Krauss, Sebastian Lang, Stephan Schreck, Carlo Westphal and Peter Wrolich.

Dutch squad Rabobank will be looking to Juan Antonio Flecha in the Queen Classic. The Spaniard finished second last year, and third in 2006 in the Roubaix velodrome. Flecha will count on the support of Jan Boven, Rick Flens, Matthew Hayman, Pedro Horrillo, Sebastian Langeveld, Tom Leezer and Joost Posthuma.

The team also announced that Boven will be racing his last Roubaix, with his active career ending after next Wednesday's Scheldeprijs. However, Boven will remain true to his team by becoming directeur sportif with immediate effect.

Hondo returns to Turkey 12 years after victory

By Jean-François Quénet

Danilo Hondo (Serramenti PVC) hopes to score more victories in his come-back season
Photo ©: Kurt Jambretz
(Click for larger image)

On the record book of Danilo Hondo, who became a professional cyclist with Agro Adler in 1997, prior to winning more than 60 races mostly with Team Telekom and Gerolsteiner, there are two stages wins and the overall classification of the 1996 Tour of Turkey, a race that is really becoming a big international event in 2008 with the participation of some of the world's best cyclists including Alessandro Petacchi and Andreas Klöden next week.

Hondo will be back in action in Istanbul on Sunday, where an inaugural criterium will take place at the same time of the start of Paris-Roubaix in Compiègne, France. The German will be lined up in Turkey by his Serramenti PVC-Diquigiovanni team that also features the winner of this year's Le Tour de Langkawi, Ruslan Ivanov from Moldova.

"I'll go there to improve my condition in view of the Giro d'Italia," Hondo explained. "But I also go to any race with the intention of winning something, that also goes for the Tour of Turkey."

This season marks his big return to racing, aged 33, after almost two years off following his controversial positive test at the 2005 Tour of Murcia in Spain. In February, his stage win at Le Tour de Langkawi in Batu Pahat, Malaysia, in front of a very competitive field of sprinters, saw him successfully come back, but three days later in Kuantan, the German was victim of a bad crash created 50 meters away from the finish line by CSF's Mauro Richeze.

"This accident didn't force me to have any break in my season," Hondo commented. "But my body was seriously affected by wounds and bruises. It had to work very hard for my immune system to be completely reactivated. Fortunately, it's all okay now."

After returning home from Malaysia, Hondo took part in the GP Lugano, GP Eroica, Tirreno-Adriatico, Milano-Sanremo and the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon, but couldn't renew his recent win. This generated some doubt in the cycling community about his ability of returning to the level he had some years ago. But Hondo himself denied this, even though he admitted, "I'm not very happy with my condition. I've done very hard training sessions and I've participated in these races. Sometimes, there is only a small line between being in good form and being too tired. Last week I also felt a bit ill. Maybe it's a good sign that my body is regenerating."

The German never stopped training during his two seasons off, so he didn't consider a possible delay in his preparation compared to his rivals. "I don't feel any different than before the break", he insisted. "Everything is in the head and it's a question of circumstances at races. I'm sure that my time will be coming sooner or later."

Turkey might be a famous holiday destination for German people, but Hondo will pay a visit with some serious cycling in mind, strongly believing that he is still one of the world's best sprinters.

Estonia's future star to peak for Romandie

By Jean-François Quénet in Angers

Estonia's future star: Rein Taaramae (Cofidis)
Photo ©: JF Quénet
(Click for larger image)

Remember this name: Rein Taaramae. This is Estonia's future cycling star coming from the country left without a big champion since Tour de France former yellow jersey Jaan Kirsipuu retired from professional racing a little more than one year ago.

Taaramae, who will turn 21 at the end of this month, joined race leader Thomas Voeckler and stage winner Christian Vande Velde on stage for the ceremony following the time trial of the Circuit de la Sarthe in Angers. He scored the seventh best time and became the best young rider on eighth position on GC.

That result confirms his excellent debuts as a professional with Cofidis after being the rising star for two years in French amateur cycling under the colours of RO Saint-Amand-Montrond. Taaramae secured his pro contract one year in advance, so was he able to spend most of last season helping his team-mates and compatriots Kalle Kriit and Tanel Kangert to victories. Their partnership worked, as his friends joined Mitsubishi-Jartazi and Ag2r-La Mondiale respectively.

Being the leader of this new fabulous generation of Estonian riders, Taaramae proved to be competitive at the highest level as soon as in March when he finished 11th on GC at the Tour of Santarem in Portugal. Time trial is his strength, which he already proved last year when he became vice-European champion in the U23 category. In Santarem, he scored the sixth best time on a 21.5km course only 11 seconds behind Andreas Klöden and 16 seconds behind vice-world champion Laszlo Bodrogi, who came third and second respectively behind an amazing Maurizio Biondo from Flaminia.

Taaramae also joined a mixed team with a New Zealander, a Moldavian, a Tunisian and a South African for the GP Portugal, the first round of the UCI Nations Cup at the end of March. The Estonian won two of the three stages and finished third overall, proving once again that he's one of the world's best cyclists of his age.

"I'm quite happy with my condition but I'm not at my best yet", Taaramae said after his ride at the Circuit de la Sarthe. "But all of my first pro season is scheduled for being at my best at the Tour de Romandie. This is the race where I really want to go well this year. It'll be like the Tour de France for me." Cofidis is doing well with some of their established riders so far this season, especially Sylvain Chavanel, but the French team is also preparing the future with this exceptional young Estonian.


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Jean-François Quénet

Movement in Ullrich investigations

Investigators in Bonn, Germany, may be on the verge of reaching a deal with Jan Ullrich, but anti-doping crusader Werner Franke is rejecting that possibility. "On Monday we will say how we will close the proceedings," Bonn prosecutor Fred Apostel told the dpa press agency. "The possibility of an agreement still exists." The German prosecutors are investigating Ullrich's relationship to Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes on charges of deception.

In a separate case, Ullrich and Franke are in court in Hamburg over Franke's statement that the rider paid Fuentes 35,000 euro in 2006. "My attorney has received a draft of an out-of-court settlement," he said, but noted that he had rejected the idea. "I will not agree to it. I will only make an agreement based on the truth."

Ullrich's attorney, Markus Hotze, said that, "It is correct that we have suggested to Mr. Franke's attorney that he could spare further costs by not repeating those claims about our client. The claims that he makes are, and remain, untrue."

The German cyclist, who lives in Switzerland, is also the subject of an investigation by Swiss Cycling, which issued his license. Ullrich has consistently denied having doped or cheated during his career, which began with his second place in the Tour de France 1996 behind winner Bjarne Riis.

New route for London to Paris Cyclosportive

By Ben Atkins in London

Event organiser Sven Thiele
Photo ©: Ben Atkins
(Click for larger image)

Chelsea Football Club's Stamford Bridge stadium was the venue for a presentation of the 2008 route for the London to Paris Cyclosportive (L2P) event. Billed as "the professional event for amateurs", the L2P will be divided into three stages of around 200km on its journey between the two capitals from June 26-29.

Previous editions headed southwest to cross the English Channel from Portsmouth. This year's British stage however, will start from the grounds of Henry VIII's Hampton Court Palace and run in a south easterly direction to Dover; taking in the climb of Goudhurst Hill that featured in stage one of the 2007 Tour de France. The race will head for northern France via an overnight ferry to Calais.

The second stage will head east along the coast before turning southwards to take in some of the cobbles featured in the legendary Paris-Roubaix. It will continue to finish in the Somme department capital of Amiens. Stage three, the next day, heads almost due south to Paris; passing the Arc de Triomphe to finish under the Eiffel Tower.

As a cyclosportive ride, the L2P is not a race, but will feature rolling road closures in the French stages and the peloton will be escorted by outriders from the National Events Group in Britain. Nevertheless, there will be jerseys awarded for best climber, best sprinter and an overall classification, although the overall competition will only begin once the event has crossed the channel. There will be four different groups on the road, divided by ability and experience, but only those in the front will be able to challenge for the jerseys.

After managing to attract classics legends Sean Kelly and Johan Museeuw, this year's event also boasts a bevy of stars. Steven Roche, the 1987 Giro, Tour and World champion leads an all-star cast that will also include former single-day specialist Max Sciandri and former British champion turned TV-pundit Brian Smith. As well as these names from cycling, Olympic champion rower James Cracknell – who since retiring has taken part in a number of cycling and other endurance challenges – will be riding.


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Ben Atkins/

Metlife Pro-Am Team's sponsorship strengthens

The Boston-based Psyclone Sports Pro-Am Cycling Team picked up an additional sponsor and a new name on Wednesday. The American team will now be called the MetLife Pro-Am Cycling Team presented by

The insurance company stepped up from presenting sponsor to title sponsor, citing cycling's positive impact on health, physical fitness and quality of life. "Our prominent alliance with one of the nation's leading cycling programs presents an ideal medium for us to connect with customers face-to-face and promote MetLife's brand and services through an exciting sport – which is undeniably gaining huge momentum in the United States," said Kim Taylor, manager, Global Advertising, Promotions and Blimp Operations at MetLife.

The team will donate a portion of all prize money to Boston's Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Lance Armstrong Foundation. "Our team members take nothing for granted, especially health," said team captain J. Alain Ferry. "Cancer has touched each of our lives in some way and we are inspired knowing our efforts are helping to win a greater battle."

The squad's experienced roster of category one and two racers will race primarily in the Northeast, focusing on larger National Racing Calendar events such as Rhode Island's Cox Charities Criterium and the Fitchburg-Longsjo Classic Stage Race in Massachusetts, both part of the growing New England Race Week series. The team will go beyond New England for appearances in races such as the USA Crits Speedweek (North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia), the AT&T Austin (Texas) Criterium and August's National Road and Criterium Championships in Orange County, California and Downer’s Grove, Illinois, respectively.

MetLife Pro-Am Cycling Team for 2008: Peter Bell, Nick Bennette, Thom Coupe, Chris Coutu, Scott Dolmat-Connell, J. Alain Ferry (Team Captain), Ryan Fleming, Graham Garber, Corey Masson, Charles McCarthy, Aaron Molloy, Brad Sheehan (Team Director).

New elite Canadian team sets sights on Continental status

Former Canadian Olympian Czeslaw Lukaszewicz presented a new elite Canadian team, called, for 2008.

Scheduled to participate in 50 to 60 races, including Tour de Beauce, Les Mardis Lachine, Coupe de la Paix, Canadian Championships, Montreal-Quebec, Tour de Welland, and the Tour de Quebec, the Cycling Team will open its racing season at GP Pont-Rouge on April 20 near Quebec City, Quebec.

The team will include Benjamin Martel, winner of the 2006 Coupe de le Paix Race Series, Maxime-Joly Smith, Olivier Savaria, Daniel Ceccato, Dominic Cantin, Ugo Lapierre, Pascal Bussieres, Pierre Boilard, Martin Picard and will be based out of Chateaugauy, Quebec.

"Having competed on the international stage with the Canadian National Team, and along with the rest of our management team, I hope to bring my personal experience and dedication to take this team to the next level," said Lukaszewicz. "I am confident that our young and ambitious riders will have strong performances throughout the 2008 season which will help the Cycling Team reach its goal of becoming a UCI Continental Team for 2009."

Bike film festival to Portland

Filmed by Bike, an annual film festival featuring bike-themed movie shorts, comes to the Clinton Street Theatre in Portland, Oregon, this weekend April 11-13. It opens Friday night with beer and a raffle and screenings continue Saturday and Sunday. All films are eight minutes or less. The festival celebrates bikes as an efficient and creative form or transportation. It includes animated shorts, mockumentaries, and inspiring footage of people riding their bikes.

No tickets are sold in advance. For more information, visit

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