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Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

First Edition Cycling News, April 12, 2008

Edited by Laura Weislo

Boonen and Devolder lead Quick Step into hell

By Brecht Decaluwé in Kortrijk

Tom Boonen and Stijn Devolder
Photo ©: Stijn Vercaemer
(Click for larger image)

After a tremendous performance in the Ronde van Vlaanderen, the Belgian Quick Step team is ready to conquer Hell next Sunday. Paris-Roubaix has been a race that was dominated by the Belgian team in the past, until more recent editions where CSC took over control of the pavé.

Both Tom Boonen and Stijn Devolder explained to the press in the Kennedy hotel in Kortrijk, that they are ready to conquer the cobbles in the North of France. Once again, we can expect Devolder to demolish the opposition simply by leading the peloton. Meanwhile Boonen will be sitting back to exploit his sprinting skills when a group of favourites reaches the final stretches of pavé near Roubaix.

The team's line-up for Roubaix changed a little with Barredo and Steegmans being replaced by Kevin Hulsmans and Wouter Weylandt. Popular Boonen was clearly a relaxed man as he tried to joke around the most casual questions. "How the team is going? I think they are bad," Boonen tried to sound serious. "Everybody is riding at the expected level. Maybe some people were surprised by the performances from Barredo and Wijnants, but not me."

The Quick Step riders did a reconnaissance of the Paris-Roubaix course on Friday. The riders started at the Trouée d'Arenberg and rode until the pavé section number six in Cysoing. Directeur sportif Wilfried Peeters then drove the rest of the course with newbies Maarten Wijnants and Wouter Weylandt.

Boonen produced another one of his jokes when asked about how the cobbles were. "They have been there for about 200 years, and they are still the same as they used to be; they remain cobbles." Boonen laughed. The weather situation will decide on how the cobbles will present themselves to the riders. Peeters explained that, in his opinion, the Madiot pavé section and those from Mons-en-Pevele are the worst to ride over.

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The team's leader reminded the press about another factor. "The wind will play an important role. If it's a headwind then the peloton will be riding like brats and we will all wait as long as possible to start the finale. With a tailwind it will be a tougher and faster race, which I prefer as the selection will be easier to make," Boonen explained.

"The favourites? They are the same from last Sunday," 'Tommeke' continued. A lot of riders can be ranked among the favourites as it seems that this year nobody is dominating the peloton. "Not much has changed, but all the good riders are in top form and that's why so many guys can battle for the win," Boonen explained. "During the Ronde van Vlaanderen I noticed that Cancellara is no longer the super strong man from three or four weeks ago."

Continue to the full feature.

Agritubel "outsiders" captained by Casper

By Gregor Brown in Compiègne

Jimmy Casper (Agritubel)
Photo ©: James Huang
(Click for larger image)

Team Agritubel does not have the most powerful of line-ups for the 2008 Paris-Roubaix, however, that does not keep Jimmy Casper from dreaming that something is possible for him and his 'mates. The 29-year-old Frenchman, a winner of a stage in the 2006 Tour de France, came off the Circuit Cycliste Sarthe a little tired, but ready to go for a top ten result in Roubaix.

"Today went okay," Casper noted to Cyclingnews after he finished his reconnaissance ride in Mérignies. "I put in two hours. My legs are feeling okay."

He had just came from the Circuit Cycliste Sarthe, where he helped his team-mate win stage one, finished in the top ten and then pulled out of stage four the same morning of our conversation.

Casper outlined his modest preparations for Sunday's 'Hell of the North': one that was heavy on sleeping. "I was a little bit tired today because I just came back from racing Circuit Cycliste Sarthe. Today and tomorrow, I will sleep."

Following some relaxation, he will head out on a quick spin Saturday afternoon. "My hotel is in Sanlies, I will ride out, around there for one hour, going slowly."

Casper is known as a sprinter and has many wins to his name. He rocketed to fame when he won a stage in the 2006 Tour de France into Strasbourg. And although he is leading the team for Sunday's Paris-Roubaix, he admits the best he can hope for is a top ten in the race where he has finished 23rd and 25th.

"I am the team leader, but Agritubel does not have a big leader for Paris-Roubaix, just me, Benoît Sinner and Kevin Ista, who is a young rider and has a good feel for the pavé. We are just outsiders."

He explained that the team would look to animate the early portions of the 259.5- kilometre race while he bides his time. "Some of the team riders will attack to make the first group, whereas I will wait for the finale. My dreams are the top ten."

Even if he does not have a chancing of conquering Roubaix, he is proud to compete in one of France's top events. "Paris-Roubaix and the Tour de France are two of the most important races for the French. This is my country and for me it is very important. I like Roubaix, I like the rumbling of the cobbles... It is very special for me."

His best memories of the race are of Italian Andrea Tafi's win in his national jersey. "I remember the images of Andrea Tafi and the strong Mapei team. They made a one-two-three. As a young rider, watching on television, it was incredible!"

Contador must go it alone in Basque Tour finale

Points leader Herrero's start uncertain

Contador got second
Photo ©:
(Click for larger image)

A cold, wet and miserable penultimate stage in the Vuelta al País Vasco on Friday saw overall leader Alberto Contador finish second from an elite group just behind Lampre's Damiano Cunego. However, the Astana rider enjoys only an eight second lead over nine strong men going into the final time trial, which is just 20 kilometres in length.

Contador was happy to finish the stage, even if he did take second place, as he managed to avoid crashes in the finale which took down points leader David Herrero (Karpin Galicia) and Riccardo Ricco (Saunier Duval), and which held up Cadel Evans (Silence Lotto). All riders affected by the crash were granted the same time.

Herrero was the worst affected by the wreck, and was sent for x-rays following the stage. Fortunately, he did not have any broken bones, but his start on Saturday is still in doubt. "We have to wait to see how the night passes, because currently unable to move his right leg," his team doctor said. "There is no fracture, but he has a very deep contusion on his hip," he continued, explaining that muscular injury may prevent the points leader from starting the final stage.

For Contador, what remains is a tough solo effort if he wishes to win the overall classification after having the luxury of a strong team over the past five stages. "Until now, my team did really a great job. Tomorrow it is I who will have to work," he said. "I am surely one of the favourites, but Cadel Evans and Thomas Dekker are not to be underestimated."

In addition to Evans and Dekker, Contador's slim lead extends over CSC's Frank Schleck as well as Paris-Nice champion Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner), all of whom are at the same time overall.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the Basque Tour.

Wide open World Cup heads to the Netherlands

By Ben Atkins

Last year Adrie Visser (DSB Bank) won
Photo ©: CJ Farquharson
(Click for larger image)

The Women's World Cup stays in northern Europe, moving further north and east to Hoogeveen in the Netherlands for its next round. 2007 winner Adrie Visser returns to defend her nation's World Cup race with the DSB Bank team, but will likely be working for the benefit of former World champion team-mate Marianne Vos. In truth, that's what she was doing in last year's race when her last gasp attack in the company of Elodie Touffet (then of Menikini-Gysko). Vos' rivals failed to chase down the pair of escapees, and Visser easily beat Touffet.

As Drenthe is one of the flattest parts of the Netherlands, the race organisers have to come up with other ways to make the course challenging. The first thing they did was to make it 135.6km long, over twenty more than last weekend's Ronde Van Vlaanderen. On top of the longer distance, there are four sectors of cobbles in the first half of the race, appealing to those who enjoyed themselves last week.

The major obstacle of the course though is provided by one of the larger man-made structures in the area. The VAM-berg exists courtesy of the fact that the Netherlands' government has only recently had its strict environmental policies changed; you wouldn't know to look at it, but it owes its existence to a massive landfill site.

The race will climb the VAM-berg three times; once early on after just 9.4km, and then twice in latter stages with 46.4km and then just 14.3km to go. The last of those ascents could prove decisive if a breakaway manages to get a sufficient gap so close to the finish. There are plenty of sprinters in the field though who will be keen to prevent this from happening and the flat run in gives them plenty of opportunity to get a well-organised chase together.

Last weekends Vlaanderen winner Judith Arndt starts with number 1 on her back and leads a High Road team with a number of cards to play. Arndt herself proves a hard woman to catch in a last ditch break and her team-mate Chantal Beltman proved last week that she likes the cobbles and steep hills. If it does come down to a sprint though, High Road has one of the fastest finishers in the business in Ina Teutenberg., who finished fourth here last year. Of course, Marianne Vos may have something to say here as the former World champion won the bunch sprint last year to take third.

Continue to the full preview.

Hayles, Ligthart cleared to compete

Track racers Pim Ligthart and Rob Hayles have been cleared to return to racing on Friday after being barred from the UCI World Track championships in Manchester in March for returning irregular blood values.

Hayles, a former World Champion had a haematocrit just over the 50-percent limit in a test the day of the first session, while Ligthart had irregular reticulocytes due to a virus, according to his federation.

"I knew the test on Thursday would clear me," Hayles told the Guardian. "My haematocrit has been between 45 and 48 since the first test and I knew it was just a case of the UCI seeing the result and signing it off. Finally I heard that it had been approved. It's a massive relief."

Sainz sentenced to 18-month jail term

Paris court sentenced Bernard 'Dr. Mabuse' Sainz on Friday to three years in prison, 18 months to be served, for practicing medicine illegally and administering banned substances. Attorney Bertrand Lavelot, who was charged as an accomplice, was released.

Sainz' lawyer, Jean-Louis Pelletier, immediately announced his intention to appeal the verdict.

Sainz and Lavelot were on trial for offenses dating back to the late 1990's, when Sainz, professing to be a 'homeopath' prescribed banned substances to cyclists such as EPO, corticosteroids and amphetamines. Sainz also ran afoul of the law in 2002 when he was stopped for speeding and syringes and amphetamines were found in his possession. That arrest led to the search of Belgian Frank Vandenbroucke's house, where authorities found EPO, morphine, and clenbuterol.

UCI omits signatures on commitment

By Susan Westemeyer

Last summer the UCI introduced the "Commitment to a new cycling," which ProTour riders were to sign if they wanted to ride the Tour de France or World Championships. But a look Friday morning at the list on the UCI's web site showed that 28 riders' names were missing, which could be an oversight on the part of the UCI's web administrators, or a sign that the steam had gone out of the peloton's commitment to a clean sport.

Luckily, the mistake is on the part of the UCI, but the oversight has not escaped the Dutch press, who reported on the absence of names on Friday. According to the UCI, the only rider who has yet to sign on to the full commitment is World Champion Paolo Bettini, who made his objections to the document public before the World Championships last September. Bettini agreed with the ethics portions and to making his DNA available for testing, but strongly opposed being stripped of his wages should he test positive.

"Regarding Bettini it is true that he didn't sign, but I have to remind you that the commitment wasn't an obligation, but only a personal choice," UCI spokesman Enrico Carpani told Cyclingnews. "So, no sanction could be taken if a rider doesn't wish to accept it.

Some teams were more likely to have their riders names left off the list, with CSC leading absentees with an astonishing 11 names missing, including Stuart O'Grady and Jens Voigt, who drew notice from The team told Cyclingnews that all riders had signed the Commitment, and specifically that O'Grady and Voigt had signed before the Tour 2007.

UCI spokesman Enrico Carpani confirmed the signings and told Cyclingnews that the missing names would appear "shortly" on the list.

Liquigas told Cyclingnews that it had communicated with the UCI concerning its "missing" riders Maceij Bodnar, Alberto Curtolo and Ivan Santoromita.

Sanz misses mark in 24-hour pilgrimage

By Hernan Alvarez

Randonneur Julian Sanz missed his goal of completing the 745-kilometer solo challenge, the Camino de Santiago, in 24 hours earlier this month. The Spaniard set a time of 27 hours on April 6th on his second attempt at the event, starting in Roncesvalles at 10am on April 5th, and finishing in Santiago de Compostela at 1pm the next day. His route included Pamplona, Logrono, Burgos and Ponferrada and finished where the famous apostle Santiago stopped centuries ago.

"I thought a 24-hour time would be showy, a marketing thing, as Camino de Santiago is known to so many people," said Sanz to Cyclingnews. "24 hours was a good, round figure. After it was done and considering the good weather conditions, I now know it is very complicated to do it in 24 hours," Sanz admitted. "At least for me. I think I am able to do it in 26 hours but it is really difficult in 24 hours for me. It is not a failure; it is a reality."

Sanz had planned to complete the event without a single minute of sleep during his ride, but he had to stop for a quick 10 minutes nap as exhaustion overcame him. "I don't normally suffer sleep attacks in 24 hours. If I suffer them, I can control them and overcome them. But not this time. I had to stop 10 minutes, sleep 10 minutes. It is usual in our specialty to sleep for 10 minutes; I fixed the problem with that."

Sanz won the last Tour Ultime in 11 days, 17 hours and 27 minutes for the 4,183.4 kilometers. Now he is aiming to other extremely difficult goals. He will try to beat the 24-hour record in a completely flat 25-km circuit around Vitoria's (Spain) airport on May 3rd. Italy's Orlando Borini is the world record holder as he rode 870 amazing kilometers. "I will try to get the mark," said the Spaniard. Borini took the record on June 23, 2007 bettering Slovenia's Jure Robic by 30 kilometers.

Sanz will also participate in the Race Across America that starts on June 8. Sanz thinks that "every rider who finishes it is a winner because he was able to overcome all the obstacles that the race has."

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