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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest Cycling News, June 30, 2008

Edited by Bjorn Haake

Tour favourite Evans relies on a strong team

By Jean-François Quénet

Evans attacked the favourites in the Dauphiné and showed good form
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Tour de France favourite Cadel Evans was worried about his knee but the week of racing at the Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré reassured him about his chances to be at the peak of his form in the Tour de France next week. Cadel Evans seemed pretty relaxed at the end of the mountain stages in the Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré. He came in second overall again – a position he claimed last year behind Christophe Moreau, before getting the same result at the Tour de France behind Alberto Contador. He was not afraid to attack Alejandro Valverde while climbing up to La Toussuire, although the headwind didn't give him much hope. "I'm climbing well but not well enough for the win," was his first comment after the stage.

Quickly, he admitted: "I don't want to be getting too good too soon." Evans likes the Dauphiné, the format of the race – one week of competition comprising sprints, mountains and time trials – and the environment of the French Alps. Race organiser Thierry Cazeneuve testified, "Cadel is the only rider who came and thanked me, it was after the podium ceremony last year. He said the race was perfect." This is just an example of how polite the Australian is and how much he is appreciated in the world of cycling. The image of an individualist he carried when he switched from mountain-biking to road racing is no longer valid.

He came back to the Dauphiné this year with a different approach and a lot of worries. As a runner-up in the Tour de France last year, he's the logical hot favourite in the absence of Alberto Contador and Michael Rasmussen. "When I look back at last year's Tour, I think I rode a really good Tour. I got there on the results board, I avoided mishaps and so on. I'm happy with that. It's done. I don't have to bother about it now. I'm thinking at 2008 only." Still, had he kept a steady pace when Rasmussen and Contador went for ballistic attacks in the Pyrénées, instead of trying to follow them, he could have saved the 23 seconds missing in the end.

Evans is a very organised champion. He likes to plan everything but his Tour preparation was interrupted by a knee injury. "The last few weeks have been rough for me," he explained during the Dauphiné. "It was kind of a worrying period for me. I don't like not being in control of my progress and training, especially when it comes close to the Tour. I had to take a bit of a diversion from my program. Now I'm happy, I'm back at a good level. It's going well. So far, so good."

Capitalising on his image as a polite guy, he said: "I have to apologise. Many journalists were calling me, emailing me, but I was concentrating on [treating] my injury and getting back on track towards the Tour."

Read the full feature.

De Schrooder shines on home soil

By Brecht Decaluwé in Knokke-Heist

Local boy Benny De Schrooder was in the breakaway
Photo ©: Brecht Decaluwé
(Click for larger image)

It was a glorious day for Benny De Schrooder from the An Post - Sean Kelly team at the Belgian national championships in Knokke-Heist. The 28 year-old lives in Heist, a formerly independent municipality of Knokke-Heist, and the 13.4-kilometre long course passed the bike shop of his parents in the town centre. Before the start of the race De Schrooder pointed out to Cyclingnews that he was keen on a good performance as he felt he was in excellent shape.

A fourth place in the Belgian 1.1 one-day race Halle-Ingooigem where he was in the successful breakaway with winner Gert Steegmans, was proof of his good form. At the Belgian championships, the man in the green outfit was able to get in a breakaway as well, and although it proved not to be as successful as in Halle-Ingooigem, it still offered the Belgian under Irish employment a lot of media attention.

While being in the breakaway that went off 60 kilometres from the finish line, the 'Heistenaar' enjoyed a lot of cheers from the fans along the road near the North Sea. "I don't know how many fans I have, but we wanted to do something special today and last week we decided to send out a letter for a barbecue. To much surprise it turned out that yesterday there were already about 150 people who had confirmed their attendance," De Schrooder proudly said. "All along the course I head people shouting my name, and actually I only heard my name," the 28 year-old laughed. "I want to say 'thank you' to all the people who supported me."

With about twenty kilometres to go it was clear that the breakaway wouldn't make it, and Cyclingnews asked De Schrooder if there was a moment in the race where he thought they would make it to the finish line. "Early on I believed in it until I saw through that behind us they were just controlling the breakaway. We couldn't fight up with the four of us against the big teams who were taking pulls with ten riders, and what type of riders," De Schrooder realised.

When asked what he was planning to do tonight, the local boy pointed out that he wasn't going to party at all. "Resting, mainly resting, I think. I'll drink one along and then I'll eat something but I'll hit the sack early. Then there's Willebroek [on July 6] and normally I'm doing the Vuelta de Madrid [from July 16-20] as well."

After turning professional in 2004 at the Vlaanderen-T-interim team, De Schrooder rode three years for the Chocolade Jacques team. Despite a victory in the GP Lillers in his first year the Belgian seemed to stagnate a bit. In 2008 he had to take a step down and he joined the An Post team.

De Schrooder is feeling good within the team. "Like I'm riding this year... I'm in good shape and I'm allowed to ride for myself solely. I know that I can do it. I'm very happy at the team. I will be allowed to stay, and maybe if they can give me a nice offer I will stay," De Schrooder said of the team guided by Irish cycling legend Sean Kelly. "But if a big team comes knocking at your door... I hope that this has been the prove to the bigger teams that I can do it. I did it in Halle-Ingooigem a few days ago, and as well in Bessèges earlier this year where I captured a nice overall result [seventh]."

And off went the man from Heist for another interview after the finish of the Belgian championships on home soil.

Wegmann another year easy to spot

Fabian Wegmanngets to wear the German champ jersey for another year
Photo ©: Bjorn Haake
(Click for larger image)

After 210 kilometres, Fabian Wegmann became the German National Champion for the second year running. The Gerolsteiner rider crossed the line in Bochum two seconds ahead of Erik Zabel and Gerald Ciolek, both former champions themselves. Wegmann's team-mate Stefan Schumacher finished fourth, while Jens Voigt completed the top five.

"It was hard work. But I am super happy. I knew I was going well. It is great that it worked again. Winning again is something really special and just as nice as the first win. It gives me motivation for the upcoming Tour de France," Wegmann said after the finish.

When Wegmann won the German championships last year, he joked that his girlfriend liked the distinct white jersey with the black, red and gold stripes "so she could better see me in the peloton." A year later a smiling Wegmann confirmed that "I will be more visible on TV again."

After the race Wegmann also received news that he was nominated for the Olympic Games in Beijing. A good day for the German, but the defence of his title was a close race. Only 400 metres from the line did he know that he could win it. "On the last climb I went for broke, as I knew in a sprint I wouldn't stand a chance against the others." Wegmann attacked and created a gap. "The last ten kilometres I only looked ahead. I just did not turn around. One kilometre from the finish I thought it wouldn't work out. But I kept giving it my all and at the 400 metre to go sign I was relieved. I knew it was going to work," the 28 year-old described the final phase of the race.

Gerolsteiner was the favourite, with having the most riders at the start. Directeur sportif Christian Henn confirmed that "We took on the role of being the favourite. We dominated, we made the race tough through constant attacking and in the end we were rewarded for our hard work."

From Zberg to Zberg

Markus Zberg rode in support
Photo ©: Elmar Krings
(Click for larger image)

Markus Zberg snatched the Swiss jersey from his brother Beat, although the latter did not put up a fight – Beat Zberg retired from professional bike racing at the end of last season. After 168 kilometres around Gansingen, Markus won the race in a sprint of a six-man group. Martin Elmiger (AG2R La Mondiale) stormed to second, while Zberg's team-mate Mathias Frank finished off a successful day for Gerolsteiner in third place.

Two days after his birthday, Zberg gave himself a nice present. "I am really happy. Already at the Tour de Suisse I was on the front a few times. That the victory happened here at the championships is of course very nice," the happy winner stated. It was Zberg's second title, after winning in 2000. That triumph came in the same town, Gansingen. "It appears this is a good terrain for me. And I want to represent the jersey in the best possible way."

Initially, Zberg was part of a 25-man breakaway. He attacked with another rider, but his companion couldn't keep up, so Zberg dropped back, as he didn't value his solo chances too high. He then attacked on the last climb. Five men went with him, including team-mate Frank. Zberg acknowledged that Frank "worked very well and prepared the finale very well for me."

Both received a compliment from their directeur sportif, Theo Maucher. "Sensational what Markus and Mathias did. When you start the race with two riders and get places one and three, then that's superb."

Besides the wins in Switzerland and in Germany (via Fabian Wegmann), Gerolsteiner missed the podium in Italy only narrowly, with Davide Rebellin taking fourth place.

New fund to aid seriously injured cyclists

By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor

While there will always be crashes in cycling, rarely do they result in life-altering injuries. However, a few serious injuries this year alone has prompted the creation of a new charitable fund, dubbed the Professional Cycling Catastrophic Injury Fund. It is designed to act as a financial safety net for professional and elite amateur cyclists who suffer career-ending injuries on the bike.

Rock Racing team owner Michael Ball has spearheaded this initiative, organising the charity and bankrolling the endowment. The horrific crash by Fausto Esparza (Tecos-Trek) occurring on the final stage of the Tour of the Gila, leaving him paralyzed.

"That's where this came about," Ball told Cyclingnews. "It broke my heart to read he has two kids and that racing is his only income. That needs to change, riders can be thrown out as easily as last year's trend. I had a motivation to help this guy with some financial and moral support – that grew into doing it for many athletes. So we established the foundation."

The 501(c)3 nonprofit organisation will be funded in part by team clothing sales, but Ball issued a challenge to the rest of the industry to put in their share. "All major league sports have these types of mechanisms for their players – cyclists have none of that. So let's turn to guys like me and the public who enjoy this sport, and companies that make money off these athletes and start giving back."

"I challenge every other cycling organisation, sponsor, and manufacturer – any entity that generates revenue from bicycle racing – to contribute to this fund and support these amazing athletes for the risks they take every day. The fund will create a truly powerful and viable resource that supports our sport and takes care of our athletes – any pro or elite amateur in the world, because those are the ones that take the biggest risks."

While the organisation is still being finalised, including the creation of a web site for donations, Ball said Esparza will be the first beneficiary. "He is going to be our first endowment and I'm really excited about that." While Esparza remains in a similar condition as when he left the hospital, Ball is hoping for more. "There is hope – I know some guys from the motocross world that have had some devastating injuries and have recovered."

Tornado warnings end Tour of Pennsylvania

Daniel Holloway (VMG/Felt) claimed the final stage, but it was neutralised and didn't count towards the overall
Photo ©: Scott Schaffrick
(Click for larger image)

Under dangerously wet conditions American national criterium champion Daniel Holloway (VMG-Racing) proved why he holds the title as he won the closing criterium. Holloway out-sprinted Canadian Keven Lacombe (Kelly Benefit Strategies-Medifast) and Eric Barlevav (Team Time Pro) to claim the final stage win.

"I love racing in the rain and our guys were so motivated at the start that stopping would have just lowered our morale," said Holloway, regarding the official's decision to neutralise and restart the event due to heavy rain and tornado warnings. "All the guys wanted to race and that just made me even more motivated. They believed in me, and to me they are the ones who won tonight."

Due to the dangerous conditions, race officials decided to exclude the stage from the overall classification and furthermore donate the prize money to local charity.

Canadian David Veilleux showed an outstanding week-long performance which saw him sew up the yellow leader's jersey. The Kelly Benefit Strategies-Medifast rider claimed a 12-second victory over South African Christoff Van Heerden (Konica Minolta) and was 18 seconds ahead of American Stefano Barberi (Z-Team), who took third place.

"I'm sorry for the outcome of the race tonight," said Veilleux, who also won the best sprinter's green jersey. "But, it means a lot to me to win these jerseys here at the Tour of Pennsylvania. I think I would not have been able to do this without my team-mates helping me and all of our strategy that took place."

Read the full report of the final stage.

Brett Lancaster a daddy, again

After Brett Lancaster skipped the Tour de France presentation of his Team Milram in Dortmund, Germany, on Wednesday, to stay at his home in Italy with his pregnant wife, it was finally time on Friday.

One week overdue, but just in time before the start of the Tour de France, Luca Lancaster was born. The son of the Australian Olympic Champion weighed 4500 grams. It is the second child for the Lancaster family, who lives in Monsummano Terme, Italy.

While his team-mates participated at their respective National Championships this week-end, Lancaster is able to enjoy this wonderful time with his family until the start of the Tour de France in Brest next Saturday. In Australia, the National Championships take place in January.

Euskaltel Euskadi gets traditional Tour send off

On Monday, June 30, Euskaltel celebrates the traditional Tour send off. The riders will be at the team's headquarters starting at noon. The event takes place in the Parque Tecnológico, in Zamudio. The nine riders who will be sent to Brest in France are Haimar Zubeldia, Samuel Sánchez, Mikel Astarloza, Egoi Martínez, Amets Txurruka, Rubén Pérez, Gorka Verdugo, Iñaki Isasi and Juanjo Oroz.

The team has high hopes for a good overall classification this year. The lack of time trialing kilometres and the squad having good showings in recent weeks gives them hope to finally be in contention for the podium.

AG2R Tour team announced

AG2R La Mondiale announced its official selection for the Tour de France, which starts this Saturday in Brest. Cyril Dessel will hope to continue his good form, while Vladimir Efimkin is a danger man in breakaways. Tadej Valjavec and John Gadret will be givng it a go in the mountains. Allrounder Stéphane Goubert can contest stage victories, while Swiss rider Martin Elmiger showed with his second place at the Swiss Nationals that he is on track.

The nine selected riders are Cyril Dessel, Vladimir Efimkin, Tadej Valjavec, John Gadret, Stéphane Goubert, Martin Elmiger, José Luis Arrieta, Christophe Riblon and Hubert Dupont.

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