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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

First Edition Cycling News, April 15, 2008

Edited by Greg Johnson and Laura Weislo

A High Road to Schoten?

By Bjorn Haake in Gent, Belgium

Mark Cavendish sprinted to victory last year and is eager to repeat it for Team High Road
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

British rider Mark Cavendish has shown in the recent past that he is comfortable on the Belgian roads, having won two stages in the KBC-Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde. So the High Road rider will be eager to defend his title at the Scheldeprijs, which he earned by beating Robbie McEwen of Silence-Lotto in a bunch sprint last year.

Chances of a sprint involving most riders of the peloton are good in Schoten, where the race traditionally finishes. After a loop of more than 150 kilometres, the peloton faces three local laps of 16 kilometres, not involving any climbing at all. The likelihood of a sprint finish is emphasised by High Road's line-up. In addition to Mark Cavendish, fast men like Bernhard Eisel, Gerald Ciolek and Edvald Boasson Hagen will try to help secure another win for the American team.

"Mark was a little disappointed after missing out in Gent-Wevelgem but he's been training hard since and wants to make up for it with a second win in Sheldeprijs," said Team High Road sports director Tristan Hofmann. "We've got a good team of experienced and young riders who can win the race in lots of ways, so we won't ride exclusively for Mark from the start, but if the race ends in a sprint you can bet we'll work hard to set him up. He's one of the fastest finishes in the peloton and is on form right now."

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It was Erik Zabel who won the race back in 1997, riding for High Road's predecessor team, Telekom. The German will take to the start once again, albeit with the German Milram team. He will have support from Aussie Brett Lancaster, who can keep the pace high in the closing kilometres of a race.

"We expect a typical belgian one-day race with lots of wind and rain," said Milram sport director Raoul Liebregts. "You have to be very attentive in this race. It is always possible for an escape group to come through and for the peloton to be held back because of the strong wind."

But both Cavendish and Zabel will have to watch out for versatile Tom Boonen, who comes from having a good Ronde van Vlaanderen and an even better Paris-Roubaix, which he won in a three-up sprint against Fabian Cancellara (CSC) and Alessandro Ballan (Lampre). Boonen's team looks already very familiar for these kinds of races, with Cretskens, De Jongh, Hulsmans, Rosseler, Steegmans, Tosatto and Weylandt. The latter has good chances himself, having won Nokere Koerse recently. Gert Steegmans is usually pretty fast, too, but missed Paris-Roubaix due to his ongoing problems following a crash in Dwars van Vlaanderen.

Continue to the full preview.

Sleepy Martijn rocks on towards fourth place in Roubaix

By Brecht Decaluwé in Roubaix, France

Martijn Maaskant (Slipstream Chipotle Presented By H30) rode to a brilliant fourth place
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

His team-mates might call him 'Sleepy Martijn' for his tendency to oversleep and his relaxed demeanor off the bike, but young Dutch rider Martijn Maaskant (Slipstream Chipotle Presented By H30) showed he knows exactly when to use his energy and when to conserve when he rode to a brilliant fourth place in Sunday's Paris-Roubaix.

Maaskant put in strong performances in the semi-Classics and in the Ronde van Vlaanderen, but he was not the Slipstream team's main player in the 'Hell of the North': that honour went to 2004 winner, Swede Magnus Backstedt. However, the heavy-lidded youngster was the one that survived the selection in the 'Trouée d'Arenberg', while Backstedt suffered a mechanical setback in this critical point of the race.

The 24 year-old Maaskant took over the role of leader, riding well above his age and experience. As more and more pavé sectors were flying past, the Dutch man was still featured in the front. When Johan Vansummeren jumped away deep into the finale he was only joined by seven other riders, including most favourites as well as Maaskant.

When this group solidified into the winning move, Maaskant didn't shy away from doing his part of the work in the group. Eventually, the Dutchman had to pass when Boonen, Ballan and Cancellara attacked but still, he managed to sneak away from 2006 winner Stuart O'Grady, Leif Hoste and Ronde van Vlaanderen winner Stijn Devolder in the final kilometres of the race. "I sneaked away from them in a Zoetemelk-way," the Slipstream rider smiled when he referred to one of the best Dutch cyclists ever, Joop Zoetemelk.

"This race is really a big deal," Maaskant pointed out that Paris-Roubaix is the most heavily followed one-day race by the U.S. audiences. "A lot of people that support Slipstream flew in from the U.S. to follow this race. Some of them even rode over the cobbles during the last couple of days. It's the only one-day race that has some name abroad and for them this is really sensational."

Clearly Maaskant realized he had pleased his sponsors more than a little with his exceptionally strong performance. "Silently I hoped for a top-15 result but I didn't expect this," said Maaskant after coming in as fourth on the vélodrome in Roubaix. While his directeur sportif Jonathan Vaughters had presaged a strong performance from his young charge, Maaskant surprised more than a few with his finish. In hindsight, the pundits could have looked back to his results earlier this month where he had been showing glimpses of his talent in the rainy semi-classics. In the Ronde van Vlaanderen Maaskant finished twelfth, and in the Monte Paschi Eroica he finished fourth behind some familiar names: Cancellara, Ballan and the now injured Linus Gerdemann.

"In the Ronde van Vlaanderen last week I lacked course knowledge. Today was different because I've ridden here three times in the U23 version of Paris-Roubaix," Maaskant explained that he knew how to ride the cobbles. The U23 race, to which Maaskant refers, is a race that offers team scouts a good look at many young riders' talent. Former winners in the mini Paris-Roubaix are current professionals such as Yaroslav Popovych and Koen De Kort. On the other hand, two-time winner Tom Boonen has never won the U23 version of Paris-Roubaix. So clearly, we shouldn't focus on the winners only. Maaskant from his side had his best result in 2004 when he finished ninth. "That was in the rain, so for me it wouldn't have been bad if it rained," Maaskant smiled.

Maaskant came to Slipstream from the strong Rabobank Continental Team where riders like Sebastian Langeveld, Robert Gesink, Laurens Ten Dam and Thomas Dekker all had their home. When he wasn't offered a contract on the Rabobank ProTour team, he didn't hesitate to take Slipstream up on its offer.

Next week the Dutch young man will enjoy a home race, with the Amstel Gold Race featuring as next Spring Classic. "I'm very happy with my fourth place as it offers me prospects for the future. I'm busy taking one of the last steps, and the one that lacks is winning. I'm going for it!"

Prosecutor claims "Ullrich doped"

By Susan Westemeyer

Embattled cycling star Jan Ullrich accepted a settlement on Monday which would allow him to end the fraud case against him without having to admit any guilt, however the prosecutor in charge of the case is certain the rider doped, but had been punished enough by the loss of his job and image. Ullrich paid a "six-figure" sum to have charges that he defrauded his employer, the T-Mobile team, settled.

Prosecutor Fred Apostel told the dpa that he was certain that the rider had resorted to doping during his career. "Our over 21 months of investigation have shown [that] Jan Ullrich doped," Apostel said. "The investigation looked into whether Ullrich had defrauded his employer by using doping practices.

Apostel's statment did not sit well with Ullrich's attorney, Johann Schwenn, who called it an "audacious statement." "If there is enough suspicion of him having committed a crime, then the state attorney should file a legal complaint," Schwenn argued. "It is not for Mr. Apostel to spread malicious gossip."

The prosecutor conceded, "Ullrich was an oustanding talent," but added that he thought Ullrich had come to the conclusion that he would have to dope to be competitive. He added that Ullrich "had been punished enough" through the loss of his job, livelihood and financial losses, "not to mention the loss of image."

The settlement in the case only applied to Ullrich, and an investigation of Ullrich's former mentor Rudy Pevenage is still underway, and there may be further investigations of other members of the former Team Telekom/T-Mobile management as well.

In a statement published on his personal website,, Ullrich proudly claimed, "In my whole career I have never cheated and never damaged anyone. I was always a fair athlete." He added, "My successes were the result of hard work and a passion for my sport - and I am proud of my long and successful career."

The news of the settlement was welcomed by Jörg Jaksche, who was suspended after confessing to his own doping practices. He supported the action, saying, "It is surely correct that the fraud charges be dropped, because he didn't defraud anyone since doping was so prevalent. But after reviwing the record, everyone can draw their own conclusion about Ullrich and the theme of doping."

Despite the resolution of the fraud case, Ullrich's legal difficulties are far from over. Since he held a Swiss license, he is still under investigation by Swiss Olympic, which handles doping cases for the Swiss cycling federation. That investigation is predicted to be finished before the summer, and could involve a lifetime ban for Ullrich as a two-time offender. He was suspended for six months in 2002 after having tested positive for amphetamines.

Ullrich must also answer to German anti-doping crusader Werner Franke statements that he paid Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes 35,000 Euros as part of the Operación Puerto blood doping ring.

As part of the settlement, Ullrich reportedly waived a seven-figure claim against former Team Coast owner Günther Dahms. Ullrich rode for the team in 2003, and had sued to recover unpaid bonuses and salary, rumoured to amount to a total of up to 1.5 million Euros, after the team went bankrupt.

Since Ullrich's possible involvement in Operación Puerto was made public, Dahms has refused to further the case on the grounds that Ullrich doped during this team at the team in violation of his contract. Ullrich clarified on his web site that he would give up the claims on bonuses, but, "I will continue to take legal steps to recover the salary which has still not been paid for my athletic services."

Nürnberger women planning a big year

Pucinskaite wants pink again, in addition to the Olympic and the Worlds title
Photo ©: Nicola Lanuele
(Click for larger image)

Equipe Nürnberger is going into its 15th year in the women's peloton with high hopes for another successful season. It will be looking to three of its star riders to shine again this year: veteran Trixi Worrack, former World Champion sprinter Regina Schleicher and Giro d'Italia winner Edita Pucinskaite. Cyclingnews' Susan Westemeyer caught up with the three speedy women when they took an evening off for the team's season presentation in, where else, Nürnberg, Germany.

The Equipe Nürnberger team has been a dominant force in women's cycling for well over a decade, building a reputation as a formidable squad which can contend in the sprints as well as the hills. From Regina Schleicher's World Championship in 2005 to overall wins in major stage races such as the Tour de l'Aude and Giro d'Italia Femminile, as well as armfuls of World Cup medals, the team has had plenty of success throughout those years.

The heart of the team may lie in the three riders interviewed here, but other women, like current World Cup leader Susanne de Goede and trackie Charlotte Becker, winner of the LA World Cup scratch race, the strength of the squad has been ensured for future seasons.

Edita Pucinskaite

Edita Pucinskaite has set herself a difficult task this year. The Lithuanian has three highlights for the season: the Giro d'Italia, the Olympic games and the world championships. That presents her with lots of problems, because, for one thing, a lot of other women are aiming at those goals, too. And how to maintain top form for three months? "I know it will be difficult for me," the 32 year-old said. "The most important thing for me for those three months is to stay healthy and to stay in top form."

"This is an important year for me," she said, "and like many others, my main goal is the Olympics." There she has one major advantage over her team-mates, as she is already assured of a spot on the Lithuanian team and does not have to qualify. "It is easier for me, easier than for the German girls. I don't have to knock myself out to qualify." Lithuania has three spots in the road race, and one is promised to her.

Continue to the full feature.

U.S. Bicycle Hall of Fame looking for new home

By Mark Zalewski

The U.S. Bicycle Hall of Fame, headquartered in Somerville, New Jersey since its founding, is in search of a new home. The hall was recently relocated to a temporary space when its original location was sold for redevelopment.

William Brunner, chairman of the search committee, told Cyclingnews that the redevelopment of the old space is an opportunity to find a new space that can handle the growing exhibits. "We were founded in Somerville and are part of a space that is going to be redeveloped," said Brunner. "Through that process we got bumped into a temporary space. So we decided to take a step back and think about what [the hall] should be."

"We've gotten inquires in the past from towns that want to host the hall of fame, or part of it - like at the ADT velodrome in Carson, California - they have a case of memorabilia right now," he added. "So we developed a request for proposal and sent it to the ones we think have the infrastructure - but we are also putting it out to other communities that might be interested."

The decision to find a new home is not a signal of trouble, said Brunner. This means the search committee is going to move slowly in order to find the best fit. "We're not in dire straights - we really need to get this out there and get some feedback from parties other than what we know about," he said. "That will determine our timeline."

More information about the hall and contact information for the search committee can be found at:

Beijing BMX starts in Madill's backyard

Luke Madill watching other riders
Photo ©: Evan Jeffery
(Click for larger image)

Australia's top BMX riders have had the chance to experience the Beijing Olympic Games BMX track without having to leave their home nation. Top male BMX rider Luke Madill has built a full size version of the Olympic track in his backyard in Penrith, Sydney.

Some of Australia's top riders having been practicing on the replica track, including Jared Graves, Kamakazi, Melissa Mankowski and Rachel Bracken. The track will undoubtedly give the Australian team an edge heading into the August Games, where BMX will make its Olympic debut.

The only way to get the height for the
Photo ©: Evan Jeffery
(Click for larger image)

"It's narrower than the Beijing track, so it can't fit as many people on it at once," Madill said. "The hill's the same height and angle, and the jumps are in the same position. The hill is eight metres high, which is the standard height for BMX now."

The track was constructed at the suggestion of Madill's personal sponsor Red Bull. "They asked what would be the best way to get me to the Olympics," he said. "They have been very supportive of me."

While the Australian riders are expected to hold a camp training at the new track in Madill's backyard soon, Madill says they won't be there all the time. Instead Madill will use the track, which is one of only four of its type in the world, to focus on his own Olympic preparations.

"They won't be out here all the time, though," he said. "This is a definite advantage for me."


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