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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

First Edition Cycling News, April 13, 2008

Edited by Sue George

High Road makes it two World Cups in a row

By Ben Atkins in Hoogeveen, Netherlands

Chantal Beltman (High Road) hung on to her dimishing lead
Photo ©: CJ Farquharson

Team High Road's breakaway specialist Chantal Beltman took a magnificent solo victory in the Ronde van Drenthe World Cup on Saturday. She broke away with Sarah Düster (Cervelo Lifeforce Pro Cycling Team) and last year's second place finisher Elodie Touffet (Gauss RDZ Ormu) at the end of the final cobbled sector with 70 kilometres still to race, and stayed away when those two faded in the final kilometres. She finished comfortably six seconds ahead of what remained of the peloton as led home by former World Champion Marianne Vos (DSB Bank) and High Road team-mate Ina Teutenberg.

As in the Ronde Van Vlaanderen last weekend, the race was dominated from the start by the High Road and Cervelo Lifeforce teams. They put pressure on at the first cobbled section after 38 kilometres, which had the affect of splitting the peloton and putting several favourites into difficulty. It was at this point that current World Cup leader Suzanne De Goede (Equipe Nürnberger Versicherung) punctured and her whole team was forced to work to bring her back to the front. This cost the team dearly and she spent most of the rest of the race on her own.

It was another supreme display of team riding from both the High Road and Cervelo Lifeforce teams: both placing a rider in the break, allowing the rest of their riders to relax in the peloton and block the chase of other teams. As happened in Vlaanderen last week, it was High Road that managed to turn that dominance into victory. With a breakaway specialist off the front, and a sprinter waiting in the rear, they had an ideal situation in the closing kilometres.

"It's another victory for the team I think," said Beltman after the race, "because I just could go because I knew they were just so close after me, and all were still there. So I could go, and if they caught me I knew Ina [Teutenberg] could be ready for the sprint."

Beltman's victory was made all the sweeter by the fact it was in her home nation, in front of so many of her compatriots. "That's so cool," said the 31 year-old Dutchwoman, "so many people, so many fans along the road. It was extra motivation for me, yeah, that was good."

The three riders had worked very well together, right up to the final climb of the VAM-berg, but just a few kilometres further on, Beltman realised that the time had come to go it alone. "They got weaker and they couldn't push anymore and I thought I can't wait any longer;" she told Cyclingnews, "we have to go full on, and so I gave it all and I was away on my own. I didn't think anymore and I just [was like] 'go go go'."

Despite only holding a dozen or so seconds over the chasing bunch behind, she held no fear of being caught and the team behind her spurred her further: "No, [I was not worried]", she continued, "because we had Ina for the sprint ready and all the girls were still there, so they all shouted to me [over the radio] 'Go go go!' and I thought, 'Yeah, I go.'"

Suzanne De Goede didn't have the luckiest day, but still managed to collect fourth place and more points towards retaining her lead in the World Cup standings. "Well, the problem was: I got a flat tyre in tenth position on the first cobbles," she explained to Cyclingnews on the way to the podium, "and one of my team-mates gave me a wheel and worked so hard today to get me back in the bunch. I think I was in group five or something – really far away – they all worked really hard to get me to the front. So this was a great result for the whole team, and good to keep the jersey still.

"So, a good result for bad luck on the first cobbles, and a really good team result I think."

The next round of the World Cup will be Flèche Wallone on April 23.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the Ronde van Drenthe World Cup.

Contador doubles on final day in País Vasco

By Monika Prell in Orio, Spain

Spain's Alberto Contador (Astana)
Photo ©: Monika Prell
(Click for larger image)

Astana's Alberto Contador overcame a week of personal challenges and continued his dominating performance in the Vuelta al País Vasco to win the final stage and the overall classification. In the stage six 20 km time trial, the Spaniard won by 22 seconds over Australian Cadel Evans, from Silence-Lotto. Rabobank's Thomas Dekker was third, 27 seconds back . Evans and Dekker also finished second and third in the overall.

Contador was ecstatic in the press conference. "The win ... has a prestigious value for me. The victory has not been easy, neither for the profiles nor for the climatic conditions." He was surprised about the gap between him and Evans. "I beat him for 22 seconds? That is really surprising to me!"

He dedicated the victory, his sixth ever in a stage race, to his grandmother, who died during the race some time ago as well as to his grandfather Avellardo. "It was so hard," he said. He also struggled with a molar infection, something that he only told Benjamín Noval. "Nobody knew it, but I slept so poorly this week, also because of dental problems. On Thursday, we had to look for a dentist after the race. Yesterday, I felt so bad but I could hide it from the other riders."

"I did not want to say it as the rivals could have heard about it and tried to attack me even more."

Contador also thanked members of the Basque public, whom he said cheered him on to victory.

See full coverage of the Vuelta al País Vasco.

Hincapie ready for Roubaix win

A confident George Hincapie (High Road) is readu for Sunday, rain or shine
Photo ©: James Huang
(Click for larger image)

USA's George Hincapie was near the top step of the Paris-Roubaix podium three years ago, and has seen the race slip out of his hands in numerous other editions. However, as Gregor Brown of Cyclingnews discovered, the 34 year-old rider is ready to conquer Hell as part of his new Team High Road.

The most vivid memories fans have of the rider who resides in Greenville, South Carolina, are of him slipping into a muddy ditch in 2002 and of his steer snapping in 2006, but they are wise not to forget 2005. Three years ago, he nearly won the 'Hell of the North' when he made the winning move of four, only to be bettered in the sprint by his former team-mate, Tom Boonen.

Last year he was side-lined from his favourite event due to a wrist injury sustained in the Tour of California. However, the new year promises many changes for Hincapie, thanks to switching from Discovery Channel to High Road.

"We have a great team, guys that can work, guys that have won Paris-Roubaix before. I hope that I have good legs and that the team will work for me so that I can remain in the front and finally win," said a confident looking Hincapie in his new team gear.

"The team is great," he confirmed while readying to go on a training ride with his mates, the day before Sunday's 259.5-kilometre Paris-Roubaix. "The riders are fun to be with – strong riders, experienced riders. I am really enjoying my time with Team High Road."

Hincapie proved his form was on target in Three Days De Panne and then in the Ronde van Vlaanderen. In the latter, he rode aggressively and had the team support he needed, notably from Bernhard Eisel.

My confidence is "not really higher [after Ronde]. I had planned on being good this week. In Flanders, I did not have a super day but I rode good – I rode aggressively. I hope I have a super day tomorrow, and I can do that much better."

He downplayed his race in Belgium last Sunday even though he had suffered with the favourites in conditions that included snow and hail, eventually going on to finish fifth.

To read the full interview, click here.

Klasika Primavera to end Basque week

By Monika Prell

For Basque cycling fans, a week full of exciting racing and high emotions is drawing to a close. Last Saturday, Gerolsteiner's Fabian Wegmann took his second win in the Gran Premio Miguel Indurain and throughout this week, Spaniard Alberto Contador rode to an emotional victory at the challenging Vuelta al País Vasco.

One more event remains – the Klasika Primavera, a race where traditionally most of the ProTour teams that participated in the Vuelta al País Vasco will start. Teams that did not find victory during the first two races have another chance.

The race consists of two parts, the first 92 of the 171.6 kilometers are flat. The peloton will pass three times through the small village of Amorebieta before going for the second part, in which six mountain classifications await the riders: three on the Alto de Autzagane (category three) and three on the Alto de Muniketagane (category two).

Caisse d'Epargne will send a strong team with last year's winner Joaquím Rodríguez, Alejandro Valverde and David López. Euskaltel - Euskadi will participate with their team from the Vuelta al País Vasco plus Dioni Galparsoro and Aitor Galdos. CSC, Liquigas, Lampre, AG2R and Saunier Duval will also send their País Vasco teams, profiting from the early start at 9:15 am, before flying home.

Flanders second place finisher worried about knee

By Brecht Decaluwé in Compiegne, France

Nick Nuyens
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
(Click for larger image)

Nick Nuyens (Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone), runner up in the Ronde van Vlaanderen behind Belgian champion Stijn Devolder, captured his first podium result in a Monument, but he wasn't completely satisfied.

"I ought to be happy with my second place, but it's possible to go one better. I shouldn't be too easily satisfied, should I," Nuyens asked Cyclingnews. The Belgian confirmed that he is one of the men with the potential to win a Monument one day, but said luck has to be on his side. Nuyens, a rider outspoken against doping, has had a hard time in the peloton, but this year his true value is shining through. His second place in Flanders last weekend reflected the result of his hard work in the past.

Going into Paris-Roubaix, Nuyens wasn't feeling very confident as he worried about his left knee which has been troubling him. "It has been bothering me since the Ronde van Vlaanderen. The weather conditions caused it I think," Nuyens said. During the Ronde van Vlaanderen the riders were confronted with true Belgian weather – including rain, hail, snow and a bit of sun while riding from Brugge to the finish in Meerbeke. "My knee has not been getting better, but I hope it can still improve a little before Sunday," said Nuyens, who was had his knee taped this week and hoped it would improved further before Sunday's race.

When training on the pavé sections the riders are often get blisters on the insides of their hands, due to the constant shaking over the cobbles. Cyclingnews saw Nuyens' sore hands two years ago ahead of the start in Compiegne, but this year the Belgian was happy to show that he didn't have any blisters after the team's reconnaissance of Hell on Thursday. Perhaps it was a sign of Nuyen's maturity and experience - both necessary for a great performance in Hell.

When asked about his past performances in Paris-Roubaix, the Belgian had mixed memories. "I've never came to the start of Paris-Roubaix in optimal circumstances. There were always injuries or less form, but I should be able to go well over the cobbles," Nuyens said. Looking at the bright side, he added, "I've had some good moments in Paris-Roubaix, especially the first time I rode it. But then I crashed, punctured and all that kind of stuff. I had a lot of bad luck, but besides that it pleased me. Nuyens smiled at the thought of racing Paris-Roubaix, which he said he liked a lot despite negative sensations he encountered there in the past.

Nuyens still targeting Amstel Gold participation

Due to his injured knee, Nuyen's participation in the Amstel Gold race is less certain. Most of Nuyen's compatriots who ride well on the cobbles are not riding the Amstel Gold the week after Paris-Roubaix, but since the Belgian is riding for a French team, he is following a different path and in fact, is intending to participate in the Dutch race.

"That's it," Nuyens agreed his plan is more like that of a non-conservative Belgian cyclist. "Normally I would ride the [Amstel] Gold Race if my knee stands tall. It's not the goal to wreck it completely, but the Gold Race was one of my goals ahead of the season, so I'm planning to ride there."

X-rays reveal World Champion's injuries

X-rays at the General Hospital of Cecina revealed Saturday morning that World Champion Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) sustained a sustain a fracture during his crash earlier this week. The Quick Step rider crashed on a wet descent in the fourth stage of the Vuelta al País Vasco on Thursday, and was forced to pull out of the race after he attempted to race a further 20km. In addition to a severely bruised hip, Bettini fractured his eighth left rib.

"Yesterday, I was pretty sure that my left hip was broken," he said. "I suffered a lot in these two days, I have pain everywhere, but today I’m a little bit more optimistic. Last year I rode more then two weeks at the Giro with a broken rib; I've got the habit."

"I don't know if I will be able to ride Amstel, Flèche and Liège," said Bettini, who starts physiotherapy Monday, "but I want to do my best to come back as soon as possible."

Barack Obama a cycling fan?

By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor in Bloomington, Indiana

Obama shook every rider's hand
Photo ©: Mark Zalewski
(Click for larger image)

While there are many different types races happening around the world, from cycling to auto, the race to become the next President of the United States is usually at the top of the news. But Friday, cycling and campaigning came together at the Indiana University Little 500, when Barack Obama made a surprise visit for a photo op and to shake hands with all of the racers in the women's race.

When asked which was more exciting, meeting Obama or winning the Little 500, Delta Gamma sprinter Jess Lander had trouble coming up with an answer. "I'm not going to lie... but winning the race is better!" she said, reluctantly. "But it's pretty damn close – it was great that he came and shook all our hands."

Obama was in Indiana to campaign for the upcoming primary. He also reportedly visited Nick's English Hut, an infamous pub next to campus, before heading out to the track.

Obama did not make any public comment, but did circle the entire quarter-mile track, with security entourage and photographer mob in tow, to shake the hands of every racer as they warmed-up on their trainers. This alone set the race start back 25 minutes. And as it is the only cycling race in the U.S. that is televised live nationally, this is quite a feat.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the women's Little 500.

Ullrich agreement to be announced Monday?

Bonn, Germany, prosecutor Fred Apostel is preparing to announce an end to the investigation of Jan Ullrich this week, allegedly as early as Monday morning. German media reports speculate that he will announce a settlement involving a payment by Ullrich of anywhere from 300,000 to one million euros. It has also been announced that medications were taken into custody during the September 2006 search of Ullrich's house in Switzerland.

During that search, "not only electronic data and documents were taken, but also medications", Swiss public attorney Hans-Rüdi Graf told the Süddeutsche Zeitung. The newspaper addded that insiders said that the Germans who conducted the search would "surely not {have confiscated} aspirin", but that it was rather something "of significance".

Part of the alleged deal is said to be Ullrich's agreement last week to turn over to the German authorities those items taken during the search. Focus news magazine said that investigators have told it that the material indicated that the team management of the T-Mobile Team, which no longer exists, was involved in doping practices. This will entail further investiagtions, the magazine said.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung reported that the investigation will be closed with a payment of 300,000 euros, but no confession of guilt. However, Focus magazine said that "in total" Ullrich's costs would be one million euros.

Ullrich is also facing disciplinary action by Swiss Olympic, which handles doping investigations for the Swiss cycling federation. "There will be an indictment, possibly before the summer vacation, and because it is Ullrich's second violation, it will deal with a lifetime ban," Bernhard Welten, head of Swiss Olympic's Anti-doping Commission told the Süddeutsche Zeitung. "He obviously doped, or wanted to." Welten recently recieved some 1,500 pages of material, the newspaper reported.

If that wasn't enough bad news for Ullrich, he will be losing one of his commerical partners. In February 2007 it was announced that he had a sponsor and advertising contract with X-Bionic Sportswear, which makes clothing for competitive athletes. "The mood of our dealers has changed," Ranier Bommas, a spokesman for the Swiss company told the Süddeutsche. Therefore the company has most recently not used him in marketing or advertising. "The contract will be allowed to expire, it won't be extended."

(Additional reporting and research provided by Susan Westemeyer.)

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