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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News, April 11, 2008

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

Paris-Roubaix: Tricky train schedules, again

Mind the railway barriers!
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Remember the fatal train track passage in the Paris-Roubaix finale two years ago? A railway crossing only ten kilometres away from the finish, which later blocked Tom Boonen, Alessandro Ballan and Juan Antonio Flecha, had already turned to red lights as Leif Hoste, Vladimir Gusev and Peter Van Petegem crossed it. The three riders were relegated by race commissaires - a controversial decision as the Boonen group did not wait for the barriers to lift, either.

Again, there will be several railway crossings on the course this Sunday, amongst which one with 95.5 kilometres to go, right at the entrance to the Arenberg forest sector. Using the fastest average time (42 km/h), the riders could arrive at the crossing at 2.54pm. But that is exactly the same time a regional passenger train is expected to pass the road. And just a few minutes earlier, at 2.45, a French high speed train (TGV) is scheduled on the same crossing.

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Race organiser ASO tightly coordinates the freight train schedules with the French train company SNCF, but passenger train schedules cannot be modified prior to the race. However, race director Jean-Francais Pescheux will be in contact with SNCF officials during the event.

The race règlement stipulates that riders are not allowed to cross a railway track once the barriers are down. If groups come together at a crossing, they are required to re-start on according to the time gaps they had prior to the incident.

More team line-ups for Roubaix

AG2R La Mondiale

Martin Elmiger looks to a top ten placing in Paris-Roubaix this year
Photo ©: Yoni Peeters
(Click for larger image)

The French ProTour team is highly motivated to do well in the country's biggest one-day Classic. "We're looking for a placing within the top ten for Martin Elmiger, which is perfectly realistic as he has been very regular in the Classics," team manager Vincent Lavenu said about the team's objectives. "We'll aim at having one or several riders in the breakaway as was the case last season with Stéphane Poulhiès, who did it even though he had no experience." At the Roubaix velodrome, Elmiger came in 18th in 2006, and 24th in 2007.

Poulhiès, 22 years of age, finished the race as best Frenchman last year in 22nd position. Lavenu hoped that his youngster can show off his possibilities on the pavé once again in 2008. "He's a little bit behind this year in terms of preparation, but he could take up the opportunity in Paris-Roubaix to jump back into the limelight," added Lavenu, who is also hoping for his new Belgian recruit Stijn Vandenbergh to confirm his talents.

"As every good Belgian rider, he like the pavé," said the team manager. "I discovered him last year in the Belgian semi-classics. He was capable of racing from the front, well-placed, so I'm waiting for him to show his abilities.

"Because of its historic aspect and media impact, Paris-Roubaix is a very important race for our team, and we have to honour the high level of this event."

The full AG2R La Mondiale team line-up is: Martin Elmiger, Renaud Dion, Yuriy Krivtsov, Laurent Mangel, Lloyd Mondory, Jean-Patrick Nazon, Stéphane Poulhies and Stijn Vandenbergh.

Tinkoff Credit Systems

The Italian Professional Continental team Tinkoff received a wildcard invitation from race organiser ASO and is therefore highly motivated to show the quality of its riders, even if sports director Orlando Maini knows that his men will probably not be in contention for a victory.

"Our riders' condition is very good," said Maini. "But we don't have any men of reference in this important event. The invitation of the organisers would definitely justify a victory! So we will not be beaten before competing and are looking forward to stir up the race to show the high quality of our riders."

The full Tinkoff line-up in Paris-Roubaix includes: Pavel Brutt, Ilya Chernetsky, Nikita Eskov, Alexander Gottfried, Mihkail Ignatyev, Alberto Loddo, Bernardo Riccio and Alexander Serov.


The Belgian team, also kindly invited by the organiser, will bring an experienced squad of Flandrian hardliners to the 'Hell of the North', most notably 36 year-old Tom Steels and 37 year-old Filip Meirhaeghe. Steels finished third in Paris-Roubaix 1999.

The line-up of Landbouwkrediet-Tönissteiner is: Filip Meirhaeghe, Kevin Neirynck, Tom Steels, Jan Kuyckx, David Boucher, Ian Stannard and Dirk Bellemakers, with one slot still empty on Friday.

Terpstra: The last step is the hardest

By Susan Westemeyer

Photo ©: Nikki & Brian O'Connor
(Click for larger image)

There is more to Team Milram than just superstar sprinters Alessandro Petacchi and Erik Zabel, with the German team putting a lot of focus on its young riders. That strategy is bearing fruit this season, as Dutch youngster Niki Terpstra is proving. The 23 year-old is going into Sunday's Paris-Roubaix as a joker, with all chances open to him.

His main goal, however, is simply to improve on his performance from 2007. "Last year I made my debut in Paris-Roubaix and I finished 72nd," he told Cyclingnews on Friday. "My main goal that year was simply to finish the event and to learn in the race."

Terpstra first gained attention in his first ProTour year when he won the mountain competition in the 2007 Deutschland Tour. This season, the young talent has shown a consistently strong performance, being very active in Paris-Nice, for example. He then turned on the gas in the Driedaagse von De Panne. He finished fourth in the first stage, an overall ranking he was able to hold on to until the end, missing the final podium by only eight seconds despite a strong showing in the closing time trial.

Terpstra then went on to finish 14th in the Ronde van Vlaanderen, which earned him praise from team manager Gerry van Gerwen. "That was a super performance from Niki Terpstra. He has surprised all of us with his results in the last races. He showed great morale in the finale and is earning the trust of the whole team. He will do a lot for us in the future." This kind of challenge could be too much for some, but not for Terpstra. "I think I can handle the pressure, for sure in the Spring Classics," he said.

The Dutchman knows the reasons for his good first part of the season. He rode the Vuelta a España last year and gained additional stamina in the three-week Grand Tour. "I'm a lot stronger now," he added. Terpstra also rode a lot of track events over the winter, which helped him get in shape. "Over the winter I keep the speed in my legs by riding on a warm track."

Terpstra sees himself as a "Classics rider with a good time trial in my legs," but he likes the Grand Tours, too. "I hope I can make it into the selection of the Tour de France," he noted, but when asked if he saw himself as a future Tour winner, he answered with a resounding "NO!"

He would like to ride the Olympics and Worlds this year, but noted wryly that "It's not a question of whether they are on my agenda, but on the national coach's agenda." The youngster knows that while he has come a long way, he is not yet at the top. "The last weeks I have shown I'm on the way, but the last step to the top is the hardest one."

Young Thurau faces steep learning curve

By Björn Haake

Björn Thurau at last year's Regio Tour
Photo ©: Jochen Haake
(Click for larger image)

Björn Thurau stood at the finish of the first part of the third stage in De Panne. With the resemblance to his famous father, Dietrich, the Elk Haus-Simplon rider was quickly recognised. "Didi, Didi!" the spectators shouted. He didn't mind that. "I am proud of it. My father has lots of supporters here in Belgium. It's a recognition of his accomplishments. It's great!"

The 19 year-old is still learning the ropes. "Sure, I am getting suggestions from the other, more experienced riders on the team," Thurau told Cyclingnews. But he recognised that theory is different than practice. "You can get as many advice as you want, but you will have to make your own experiences." Which, in Belgium, includes knowing positioning in the wind. "Today, I got dropped from one of the echelons that form here in the cross wind. It's so hard. It may only be five metres, but it is enough to lose the contact completely."

A bit disappointed about not being able to make it into De Panne with the main group, he also didn't make the cut of the 120 riders who were allowed into the second part of the split final stage, time trial. "Ah, I would have liked to ride the time trial. Oh well," he shrugged. He is hopeful races like this will help his development as a rider. "I want to learn, learn, learn," but with the German U23 championships he also has an ambitious goal for the early summer on the horizon.

The positive aspect of the racing was that he didn't crash. "It's certainly dangerous here in Belgium. You have the wind, the parked cars, the nervous racing," Thurau echoed the sentiments of other racers. Some teams don't even show up for those events, because of a fear of crashing, but smaller teams like Elk Haus-Simplon will gladly accept the invite. Their problems are on a different level anyway. Thurau and his team-mates were riding around the finishing area, looking for the showers. Eventually they were told there aren't any. Those are some of the challenges the smaller teams face.

Seehafer across the pond

Kori Seehafer left all knowns behind
Photo ©: Menikini-Selle Italia-Masters Color
(Click for larger image)

Cyclingnews' US Women's Cycling Development Program diary has a new entry with Kori Seehafer describing her feelings arriving in Italy for a full 2008 season of European racing. Seehafer signed with Menikini-Selle Italia-Masters Color directed by Walter Zini after winning the opening time trial of the 2007 Route de France, and can now prove her worth in the Euro peloton.

"I can't believe I'm finally here. I've been so nervous about planning for this trip that it's never occurred to me what I'm actually doing. I've just arrived in Italy, and it's the first time excitement has hit me; otherwise, I've been filled with trepidation.

"I've never been without my hubby for more than six weeks. I've never had my finances in limbo. I've never lived abroad. Now, here I am totally in the dark, ready to have new encounters in all facets of my life, all because I want to give myself every chance to try and reach for my dreams - to be in the Olympics. My husband has always given me support in trying to reach my goals, but now I have to stand alone with this choice I've made. It's hard to step away from those I know and love and to follow my dream; especially, when it doesn't include my dear ol' hubby!

"This is my first rendezvous with an entire European racing season and with a European team. It's time to see if all the preparation pays off. In October 2007, I signed a contract with a UCI European Team called Menikini-Selle Italia-Masters Color. Since then, there's been no time for any excitement because my life as I know it is changing. This off-season I've been trying to prepare myself for this great change and who knows when I'll digest the reality of my choices. I know it will be a hard road, but I'm ready for the challenges.

"In 1998, I graduated from College with a Math Education degree. I started bike racing in college and I really enjoyed it, but I never thought I'd race beyond the local level. I never actually knew what lied beyond the regional level of racing until I read about Tour de Toona and decided to try it for the first time in 1998. Once I saw that scene, I quickly learned that there was a National Circuit beyond local racing, so I wanted to try and get myself to other key National races.

"My focus was still school and teaching, but in my senior year of college I tried teaching eighth-grade students and it freaked me out. I have no behaviour management skills and it showed. Middle school is such a tumultuous time - a time for great changes - and I had a hard time dealing with this whirlwind. I decided to just race my bike during the summer, and then I'd decide later on if I wanted to enter the school system. I worked part-time (and currently work) for Sylvan Learning Center and began the sport that I now know and love during the 1999 year."

To read the full diary entry, click here.

US Open put back to 2009

Sports marketing company Red Five Sports Group announced on Friday that the U.S. Open of Cycling will not take place this year. The event was run last year in Richmond, Virginia, and brought professional cycling to a national NBC Sports audience of 1.5 million, the sport's largest single-day audience in several years.

Richard Durishin, of Red Five, cited the late change in venue (to Providence, Richmond) and lack of time for business development as the causes of the race not being run this year.

"Last year we really put North American pro cycling on the map. We had a national NBC Sports audience, a dramatic race through the snow and across the cobblestones and a beautiful television show. With the late change in venue for 2008, there just hasn't been time to fully develop the event. We will continue the development we have started as we look forward to the 2009 US Open of Cycling," Durishin explained.

Inaugural Chicago Crit announced

Chicago, Illinois, mayor Richard M. Daley has welcomed cycling's elite to Grant Park on Chicago's lakefront for the city's inaugural Chicago Criterium on Sunday, July 27. Racing will begin at 7am and continue through the day. The total prize money is $40,000 with $25,000 of that marked for the Pro Category 1& 2 race, the final race of the day starting at 2.25pm .

Spectators will have the opportunity to witness the race from several route locations including the grandstand at the start/finish area located on Columbus Drive in front of Buckingham Fountain (Columbus and Balbo). A sports expo, sponsor booths and vendors inside Grant Park have also been announced.

The Chicago Criterium starst on Columbus Drive heading north to East Jackson Boulevard, south on Michigan Avenue, east on Balbo Avenue, then back to Columbus Drive.

For registration information, a complete race schedule and prizes visit

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