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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest Cycling News, April 17, 2008

Edited by Gregor Brown

Boven says goodbye, hello

By Bjorn Haake in Schoten, Belgium

Holland's Jan Boven, 36, retired from professional bike racing after yesterday's Scheldeprijs Vlaanderen – he will form part of Rabobank's team management
Photo ©: Bjorn Haake
(Click for larger image)

Rabobank rider Jan Boven finished his last race as a professional when he arrived 91st in the Scheldeprijs Vlaanderen, 90 places behind winner Mark Cavendish. The 36 year-old Dutchman tackled the Belgian race with the same emotions as always.

"It feels normal, like every other race I go to," he confirmed to Cyclingnews before the race, where he donned dossard number 41, indicating him as a team leader even though he was at the service of Graeme Brown. "Maybe at the finish it'll be different, but even the days before it was the same as any other days before a race."

The hardworking rider received a little more attention than usual in his last race, especially by the Dutch and Belgian press. He has been a solid and constant factor in the orange team. "I started with Rabobank when they were starting; that was my first year as a pro."

He stayed with the team throughout his 13-year career, conceding, "Nobody asked me [to switch to another team]. But I was riding with really great riders like Erik Dekker, Michael Boogerd, Oscar Freire and [Juan Antonio] Flecha. That was for me the perfect team."

Realising his past tense sentence, he emphasised "It is the perfect team for me," Boven added. He will form part of the team management. "Now, I can continue, doing almost the same, although not on the bike." He will not have much of a break. "I start a new job next week. I go to a training [camp] with the guys. I go the Tour de Romandie as second team manager." Moreover, stressing that the day is neither unusual nor special for him, he added, "For me it's not a big deal – stopping."

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The Scheldeprijs Vlaanderen passed his Belgian residence in Minderhout, 50 kilometres from the start. "Yes, we come almost by my house." However, he was quick to point out that there wouldn't be any temptation to step off the bike, even if it had been raining. "I never stopped so easy in a race. For sure, I am not stepping off today, at least not under normal conditions."

It is that attitude that made him such a useful team worker for Rabobank. All the captains that have come and gone over the years appreciated Boven's labour, always putting back his own ambitions. His career started out with a win in the 1996 Teleflex Tour. "I beat Tyler Hamilton," he laughed. This was to be his only win in his long career that was marked more by his team support than his victories.

Cavendish can't stop winning

By Bjorn Haake in Schoten, Belgium

Mark Cavendish (Team High Road) sneaks past Tom Boonen (Quick Step)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Mark Cavendish of Team High Road came out of nowhere to silence the crowd at the Scheldeprijs that had already started celebrating the victory of local hero Tom Boonen, arriving fresh off his Paris-Roubaix victory. Cavendish was so fast in the final metres that neither Boonen nor the crowd realised he was closing in.

The cheers increased in volume as Boonen approached the line and even started to lift an arm in a celebration salute. What followed was the transformation from a roar of cheering into a much quieter grunt of disappointment. A dejected-looking Boonen crossed the line in disbelief that he let this one slip out of his hands and into the Manxman's.

Cavendish couldn't believe he almost let it slip out of his hands, admitting "I was too far back", and thinking the team would have been mad at him if he lost it on such a rookie error. Boonen wasn't the only one who let up too early, forcing the Briton to zig-zag through a splintered peloton. "Some riders sprint until the 300-metre mark," said an astonished Cavendish. "It was like dodging traffic islands. [But] anybody has the right to sprint. It's a one day race.

"I am not mad at those people," he added. "I am just justifying why I am so far back."

Cavendish, who claimed his second consecutive victory at the event, clarified his outburst after last week's Gent-Wevelgem, where he was visibly upset after the finish. "Last week, I couldn't even sprint, because there were so many people in front of me that were coming back [towards me]," he said.

Read the full interview with Mark Cavendish.

Simoni and Bettini headline star-studded Trentino

Gilberto Simoni, 36, will race the Giro del Trento – a race he won in 2003
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

The 32nd Giro del Trentino will feature two-time Giro d'Italia Champion Gilberto Simoni and World Champion Palo Bettini in its startlist when it runs this Tuesday through Friday – April 22 to 25. The race in northeast Italy, won in 2007 by Italian Damiano Cunego, is considered a key warm-up event for the country's Grand Tour, the Giro d'Italia, May 10 to June 1.

"It is an important step towards the Giro, and this year I want to battle for the win," commented Italy's Simoni of team Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli to Agr. The 36 year-old won the race in 2003 before going on to win the Giro d'Italia, which he had won two years previously, in 2001.

For more on Simoni's Giro d'Italia and mountain biking ambitions, read Gilberto Simoni's mountainous journey.

Bettini confirmed his Trentino participation after beginning forced to miss the Amstel Gold due to a crash in the País Vasco. "As a consequence of my fall in Spain I've not been able to train as much as I'd like, and I will not be able to take part in either the Amstel Gold Race or the Flèche Wallonne," Bettini stated yesterday.

"I only started riding again on Sunday, but I won't be able to carry out intense training until Friday due to the pain from my broken rib and due to the physiotherapy sessions I'm having in order to resolve this problem."

The Quick Step rider still intends on racing in Belgium's Liège-Bastogne-Liège, two days after the Italian race ends. "I preferred to opt for this change in my program as I want to take part in the Liège. La Doyenne is the race that launched me, I have a special connection with this race."

The 34 year-old Italian from La California (Livorno) is a two-time winner of Liège-Bastogne-Liège, 2000 and 2002.

"With regard to the Giro del Trentino – Bettini continued – it is a race that I'm more than happy to take part in, it is one of the first races I ever participated in as a professional back in 1997. ... I'll be looking to honour the race as best I can, but it won't be easy due to the problems I'm suffering with."

No kidney infection for Greipel

By Susan Westemeyer

Team High Road can breathe more easily now, knowing that it has not lost ProTour leader André Greipel for an unknown period of time to a kidney infection. The sprinter "was sick last week and took antibiotics for three days, but is fine now," High Road spokesperson Kristy Scrymgeour explained to Cyclingnews. "No kidney infection."

"André is fine and will ride in Georgia, as planned," she added. After that, he is expected to start in the Giro d'Italia, May 10 to June 1.

Weissinger enjoys racing in (sunny) Belgium

By Bjorn Haake in Schoten, Belgium

René Weissinger racing in the Scheldeprijs
Photo ©: Bjorn Haake
(Click for larger image)

Team Volksbank's René Weissinger was positively surprised to not find typical Belgian weather at the start of the Scheldeprijs Vlaanderen in Antwerp. The 29 year-old German went on to finished 25th during sunny day that was marked by Mark Cavendish's win.

"I kept checking the weather report in the last couple of days. There was talk about rain," stated Weissinger to Cyclingnews. The rain, prevalent in the last couple of days, didn't materialise.

"It's nice, don't you think? I think everybody is happy when it's not raining." Weissinger soaked up the sun before the start and, after the sign-in, removed his leg warmers to get ready for some serious pedalling. "The sun is out and there isn't too much wind. I think we could see a bunch sprint."

And that, of course, wouldn't be so bad for Weissinger and some of his colleagues. "We have three sprinters; [André] Korff, [Daniel] Musiol and myself. We will decide [who to sprint for] during the race. It will depend on who has got the best legs," Weissinger made clear that bike racing is very dependent on team tactics and honestly speaking with team-mates. There is a lot of intuition and last minute scrambling in order to get into a winning position in a race as prestigious as the Scheldeprijs.

The Austrian team got going little later in the season, but they have competed in a few races in Belgium already. Weissinger himself has raced in the KBC-Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde and in the Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen. "We lack a bit of race practice," the German admitted. Not having raced all too much in Belgium, Weissinger added, "we still were behind a bit." But things are changing. "It's getting better. We did the Sarthe tour," Weissinger emphasised that the form is coming along.

One thing that makes the racing tricky in Belgium is the narrow streets and the nervous racing. Weissinger hoped Scheldeprijs wouldn't be that bad, "but in De Panne, yes, it was dangerous. In general, there are a lot of sidewalks and street dividers in the Belgian races." In addition to all that, the general rule is that the further up front you are the safer it is. "Everybody is trying to be at the front. Then, it's chaos."

However, the Belgian fans make up for a lot of it. "There was a super ambiance at the market square. It is very impressive." And with that, a smiling Weissinger went on to start his work day.

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