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Photo ©: Schaaf

Latest Cycling News, April 15, 2008

Edited by Bjorn Haake

Team CSC: Boonen simply too good

By Greg Johnson

Cancellara in the break royale, but cramps in the end prevented him from taking a second victory
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Team CSC entered Sunday's Paris-Roubaix with the aim of taking its third consecutive win in the famed Spring Classic. The Danish squad entered the event with a double pronged strategy and a solid line-up, but it just didn't work out right for the team.

On the one hand the outfit had defending champion Stuart O'Grady, who was hungry to defend his title and take another victory on the cobbles, following a season-ending crash at the Tour de France last July. On the other hand was Swiss rider Fabian Cancellara, who claimed the team's first title at the event in 2006. Cancellara had already won Milano-Sanremo, but missed the rare Sanremo-Flanders double. The Swiss rider placed 23rd, coming home in a big group led in by Alessandro Ballan in fourth place, 21 seconds after Stijn Devolder.

O'Grady sacrificed his own hopes to set Cancellara up when he chased down an attack by Ronde van Vlaanderen winner Stijn Devolder (Quick Step). The South Australian exploded out of the front group in pursuit of the Belgian champion, in what originally looked like a race threatening move.

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"There was no point in me just riding behind and doing tempo - it would have just killed me anyway," O'Grady told AFP of the move. "I thought at least if I jumped ahead then it would have put the pressure on [Silence] Lotto and Lampre to chase me down and set up Fabian for a launch.

"That worked like a charm," he added. "We certainly blew Lotto apart, and took out a few of the opponents."

Despite the strength of its entry, the team had one thing standing in the way of a three-peat: Belgium's Tom Boonen (Quick Step). While Boonen was a threat from the outset, Team CSC stayed in with a chance of victory after O'Grady's move launched Cancellara into the decisive break with Boonen and Italy's Alessandro Ballan (Lampre).

Tornado Tom won the event in 2005 and finished second to Cancellara the following year, something the Belgian didn't want to repeat in this year's race.

Find out more about the team's take on Paris-Roubaix.

Peloton's elder statesman Baldato says 'ciao' to Paris-Roubaix

By Gregor Brown in Roubaix

Fabio Baldato (Lampre) in his last Paris-Roubaix, helping Ballan to third while getting 10th himself
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

The oldest rider in the ProTour peloton, Italian Fabio Baldato, rode his 14th and final Paris-Roubaix on Sunday while helping Team Lampre captain Alessandro Ballan reach the podium in France's one-day 'Monument.' The 39 year-old will retire at the end of 2008 and take with him fond memories, including second in the 1994 edition.

"It was a great satisfaction," he confirmed to Cyclingnews on the infield of Roubaix's Velodrome that traditionally marks the end of the 112 year-old race. Baldato, from Brendola (Veneto), is in his 18th year as a professional, a career that includes 42 wins (twice second in Ronde van Vlaanderen, three stages wins in the Giro d'Italia, two in the Vuelta a España and two in the Tour de France). His best result in the 'Hell of the North' came 14 years ago when he finished second, under snowstorms, behind winner Andrei Tchmil. On Sunday, he still finished a respectable 10th, just behind George Hincapie in the group that arrive a good five minutes after the winner.

However, since joining Lampre with the start of the 2007 season, Baldato has been at the disposition of compatriot Alessandro Ballan. He assured Ballan was in the proper position to be amongst the eight-man move that formed with 53 kilometres remaining. "It was a winning bet for me, to be a protagonist in Roubaix at [nearly] 40 years old.

"Thanks to my past teams, and Lampre. In the last two years the team has had faith in me; 39 and 40 years old is a lot for most teams, but they had faith in me, and I hope I have repaid them well, by giving my maximum."

Baldato spent many of his years riding for famed Italian directeur sportif, Giancarlo Ferretti. It was under his guidance that he made his Paris-Roubaix debut, with Team Del Tongo, in 1991. That year he remained at the head of affairs until the last 30 kilometres, there to help team captain Franco Ballerini. Over 17 years later, he was at the service of Ballan, who finished third.

"Certainly, you could not hold yourself back from thinking that Alessandro [Ballan] could win Roubaix, and I wanted to be at his side," continued Baldato, who was Ballan's room-mate for the team's stay in Belgium. "Over the last weeks, I tried to help him out and give as much as I possibly could. You have to give him credit, a fourth in Flanders and third in Roubaix, means that the road ahead of him well paved and he will always be there as a protagonist."

Baldato will be joined by team-mate Paolo Fornaciari, 37, when he retires at the end of 2008.

Baldato's teams: Lampre (2008), Lampre-Fondital (2007), Tenax-Salmilano (2006), Fassa Bortolo (2005), Alessio-Bianchi (2004), Alessio (2003), Fassa Bortolo (2000-2), Ballan-Alessio (1999), Riso Scotti (1998), MG-Technogym (1995-7), GB-MG (1992-4) and Del Tongo (1991).

Hincapie's hopes dashed by more misfortune

George Hincapie was confident at the start, but bad luck hit the US American once more
Photo ©: Brecht Decaluwé
(Click for larger image)

George Hincapie's run of Paris-Roubaix misfortune continued at the weekend, dashing the American's hopes at the Spring Classic once more. The Team High Road rider suffered a puncture just as the peloton started to fracture.

"I am very disappointed with the outcome of the race on Sunday," he admitted on his website "I had great legs all day and was doing everything right. Unfortunately, I had a mechanical at a very critical moment."

Hincapie has a love affair with the 112 year-old French event; however, it has consistently dealt the 34 year-old cruel setbacks. In 2002 the blow came as he slipped into a muddy ditch, while in 2006 it was a snapped steering tube that brought down the US American.

"I eventually got a new wheel, but the leaders turned on the gas when they saw me stop," he lamented. "I worked hard to get back on, but at this level of competition, there is no room for bad luck."

The 2008 event was Hincapie's return to Roubaix after being forced to sit out last year's race with a wrist injury, sustained at the Tour of California. In 2005 the American nearly won the 'Hell of the North' when he was part of the winning move of four, only to be bettered in the sprint by his former team-mate Tom Boonen, who also won this year's race.

Hoste: I wasn't good enough

Leif Hoste (Silence-Lotto) didn't have the legs to stay with the winning break
Photo ©: Bjorn Haake
(Click for larger image)

Leif Hoste (Silence-Lotto) has admitted he wasn't good enough to be a contender at Sunday's Paris-Roubaix. The Belgian rider was aiming to make the decisive break at the Spring Classic's 106th running, but was unable to keep the pace of Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC), Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) and race winner Tom Boonen (Quick Step).

"I was not bad, but there were three better," the Belgian told "The conclusion is, therefore, I was not good enough to be entitled to enjoy the victory. If your goal is to participate sprinting for the victory and you [are up against] three trains, you are disappointed."

Hoste, who was Silence-Lotto's highest finisher in sixth place, was taken out of contention when a move by Stuart O'Grady (Team CSC) and Stjin Devolder (Quick Step) resulted in an increased pace at the head of the race. The duo's move was brought back, at which point Cancellara, Ballan and Boonen counter-attacked, riding off into the distance.

While the Belgian was out-raced by the podium getters, Hoste was able to stay with O'Grady to get his best finish at the French event. Hoste's previous highest ranking was in 2004 when he claimed 12th spot while riding for Lotto-Domo.

"Tom was especially super," said Hoste. "In recent weeks almost everyone said that he appeared to be less [prepared] than in previous years. I have also said that, but the other part does not surprise me, that he was complete today."

Flecha angry at team for lack of support

Juan Antonio Flecha is very angry at his team, saying he did not get the support he deserved as Team Rabobank captain. After crashing shortly before the Forest of Wallers-Arenberg, he said that the team management did not send anyone to help him back to the peloton.

More specifically, he told, he said that team-mates Sebastian Langeveld, Joost Posthuma and Tom Leezer were all in the lead group with him when someone drove against his rear wheel, causing the crash. "I asked team leader Adri van Houwelingen to have them wait for me. But what did he tell me [was] that there was no Rabobanker there. I called Posthuma myself, but it was too late."

The 30 year-old ended up riding 35 kilometres alone before catching the peloton. "If Sebastian Langeveld and Joost Posthuma had helped me immediately, I would have had the strength at the end of the race and not have used it up already. I am very disappointed in the team," the Spaniard told L'Equipe.

The Spaniard also noted that, "In that pursuit, I did not have the time to eat and drink. That helped to break me later."

It is not Flecha's first run-in with the team, as he has previously complained about not having the team management's confidence. He claims to have first talked to the management about the problem during the 2007 Tour de Luxembourg, in which he wore the leader's jersey for one stage, but said that little had been done since then.

Cyclingnews was not able to reach the other riders or van Houwelingen for comment.

German TV to air Tour de France live again

German fans will be able to watch the Tour de France live on public television again this year. Last year, the two public channels ARD and ZDF pulled the plug on their broadcasts after it was announced that T-Mobile's Patrik Sinkewitz had tested positive for testosterone.

Tour organiser ASO made the announcement on Monday, and ZDF confirmed it to the sid news agency. The ARD had previously announced its decision.

The broadcast rights are regulated by the Europäische Rundfunk-Union. That contract expires the end of this year, but ASO is already negotiating to extend that contract.

Nys to Landbouwkrediet in 2009

Cyclo-cross champion Sven Nys will be riding for the Landbouwkrediet-Tönissteiner team, starting January 1, 2009. According to the team, the Belgian has signed a three-year contract. Luc Versele, CEO of the company, said that "we have now the top cyclo-cross racer... We already did a step in the right direction with signing the young Rob Peeters; this paid off already in his first year as a professional, as he won the 'cross in St. Niklaas." .

Sven Nys' contract with Rabvobank, for which he had been racing since 1998, expires end of the year. The Belgian said that "for me the decisive factor was the whole package: A three-year contract with a Belgian team... And anyway, a bit of a 'fresh wind' can give some extra impulse to my career."

The 31 year-old has won five Belgian national cyclo-cross championships and two mountain biking championships, and was cyclo-cross world champion in the 2004-2005. Before changing teams, his big goal will be the Olympics in Beijing, where he will participate in the mountain biking events. He is already planning to focus on mountain bike races ijn the summer, as well making preparations to get acquainted to the climatic conditions in China.

Clearing the road for the Giro

The Kronplatz is being cleared for the arrival of the Giro d'Italia mountain time trial in late May
Photo ©: Press al plan
(Click for larger image)

April 13 was the last day of the skiing season on the Kronplatz, in South Tyrol. On April 14, workers got busy with clearing the forest roads that allow access to the top of the mountain. The earlier they start the better, to prepare for stage 16 in the Giro d'Italia, to be held on May 26. All 30 ski lifts have been closed as of Sunday.

Heavy machinery is used to clear the way, as there are still tremendous amounts of snow. Skiers who were looking for snow would be happy, with some areas have up to three metres. The last five kilometres of the road are between 1700 and 2275 metres of altitude.

One of the more difficult stages in the Giro's history, the riders will have to fight it out for themselves. Stage 16 is a mountain time trial, starting at the public swimming pool in St. Vigil di Marebbe and going up to the Kronplatz (Plan de Corones). This will be the first time the ride goes up there. In 2006, the stage got cancelled due to bad weather.

The time trial is 'only' 13.8 kilometres long, but the riders will have to tackle a maximum of 24% on their way up to the ski resort. The average gradient is 7.9 percent. The riders will face an altitude gain of 1080 metres. The first part is paved, but then the last five kilometres are marked by a very steep dirt road.

The riders will make a left and then immediately tackle the Passo di Furcia (20 percent), before hitting the final pitch at 24 percent.

The hope is that the weather cooperates this time as otherwise both skiers (for early closure of the lifts) and spectators (for missing yet another epic stage) will be unhappy.

The technical director of the local organising committee, Danny Kastlunger, is confident. "In a few days the road should be clear and then we just need a few sunny days. In about two weeks the course should be good to be ridden on." The manager of the organising committee, Willi Kastlunger, is equally happy, stating that "As always the responsible of the skiing area Kronplatz are precise like Swiss clocks. The organising machinery is started and heads towards the May 26 Giro stage. All we need is nice weather. We are all looking forward to the Giro."

(Additional reporting and research provided by Susan Westemeyer and Greg Johnson)


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Press al plan

  • The Kronplatz is being cleared from the masses of snow piled up in the winter – here in the Pantani switchback at 24% – to make room for the Giro d'Italia.

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