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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News, May 2, 2008

Edited by Paul Verkuylen

Number 1 for McEwen

Robbie McEwen (Silence Lotto)
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Australia's Robbie McEwen (Silence Lotto) took his first win of the season after outsprinting Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) on the second stage of the Tour de Romandie in Fribourg. Danish one-day specialist Matti Breschel (CSC) took third after the 172.1 km race between Moutier and Fribourg.

"There was no one team that could control this sprint. It came down to choosing the right wheel," a happy McEwen told Sporza. "I waited a long time to accelerate, because I had cramps all the way to my ears. But I finally have the victory!"

McEwen has been uncharacteristically short of victories this season after a series of crashes and injuries prevented him from reaching his usual early season form.

"It's great to get my first win of the season. It's also good for the morale," said McEwen, whose last win goes back to September 2007 when he won the tough Paris-Brussels classic.

"I am relieved, as it has been a while since I have won anything. I have always remained calm and never panicked. I knew that good form was on its way. Now that I have the first one [victory], I am looking forward to the Giro."

Switzerland's Michael Albasini (Liquigas) remain the race leader going into Friday's 18.8km time trial which starts and finishes in Sion.

Kazakh champion Maxim Iglinsky (Astana), winner of Wednesday's second stage is second overall just one second down.

Kroon repeats in sunshine

By Bjorn Haake in Frankfurt a.M

Karsten Kroon (Team CSC)
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

When Team CSC's Karsten Kroon was asked about his Henninger Turm win in 2004 at the sign-in for the 2008 edition, he looked over to his right and smiled. "It was only 10 metres from here where I got a great victory," he said. His smile quickly turned to a look of scepticism, as he realised that with just five team-mates – out of a possible eight lining up today – repeating that victory was going to be tough.

"Back then, the weather was very different," he explained that his previous win near the Henninger tower was in part made possible when most of the favourites decided they didn't want to race in such horrible conditions. It was pouring rain all day and the temperatures were anything but warm.

Yet, around five hours later, the Dutchman, with the help of his team-mate Andy Schleck, once again crossed the line as victor of the German Haute Category event. This time, the sky was sunny and, one small shower aside, the predicted afternoon rain held off long enough for the race to finish in fine conditions.

This time, according to Kroon, it was the strongest that made the cut after 100 kilometres of racing, when 21 riders escaped from the peloton.

Schleck was pivotal in Kroon's success, as the pair worked perfectly together to set up the win for Team CSC. After explaining to his team-mate that he had recovered for the finale, Schleck knew exactly what had to be done. With the finish coming after a very tough and hilly parcours through the Taunus, Kroon was perfectly suited to taking the victory.

"We decided during the race that I would try for the sprint," Kroon, whose strength lies in small-group sprints, explained.

Schleck controlled the group in the final three laps of the 4.5-kilometre circuit, keeping the ever-aggressive Gerolsteiner riders at bay. Davide Rebellin and Fabian Wegmann tried, but eventually it came to the showdown in the shadow of the Binding brewery, whose tenure as sponsor of the event ends with this year's edition.

Rebellin, a strong man under the given circumstances, was Kroon's biggest threat to the title, but there was a simple reason why the Italian didn't have enough left in the tank.

"Davide had to work much harder today," Kroon explained. "I was taking fewer pulls. Everybody was looking to Gerolsteiner. It was a difficult race for them [as the home team]. For seven years I did the Amstel Gold Race with Rabobank. It is a very difficult situation and we took advantage of that today."

With a lead-out man of the calibre of Schleck it was hard to get around the Team CSC riders on the finishing straight, which grinds uphill for the good part of 500 metres. Wegmann was leading out Rebellin, but he too had done a tremendous amount of work to ensure that the break stayed away. Schleck put Kroon in position and the Dutchman launched his final move on the right-hand side of the road. Showing that there is no jealousy within the CSC ranks, Schleck crossed the line with a big grin on his face and was visibly happy with the outcome of the day's work.

Gerolsteiner had raced as it predicted the day before, and its tremendous effort left High Road behind. The successor team of T-Mobile would have loved to win in the country where its roots are, but it wasn't meant to be. High Road's Michael Barry, André Greipel and Andreas Klier were put on the front to try to bring back the Gerolsteiner-led move, but to no avail. The sprint for 2006 runner-up Gerald Ciolek never materialised and CSC was able to take advantage of the sparkling mineral water team.

Kroon was unstoppable today - even a recent crash couldn't hamper him. His left knee featured a bandage that covered the remnants of a recent encounter with the pavement, but if there is any pain left in his knee, it is surely forgotten by know.

Verbrugghe: I want to win a stage of the Giro

Due to sickness Cofidis' Rik Verbrugghe was forced to miss the hillier classics like Amstel Gold and Liege - Bastogne - Liege. But the Belgian believes that his condition is good enough to make an assault on the Giro, according to Sporza.

Verbrugghe , who wore the leaders pink jersey in the Italian race in 2001 after winning the prologue feels that a number of the stages suit him. "The first week is pretty hard and there are definitely chances for a break to go clear," he explained.

"The mountains are really hard, but in between there are some interesting stages. There are plenty of chances."

"I am hoping for a stage win," he wrote on the Vélo Club website, the club where he is a member.

"My condition is down a little due to sickness, but the feeling in my legs is good again."

Verbrugghe also confirmed that he is down to skip the Tour de France in favour of riding the Vuelta. "I will ride the Tour of Spain this year. But I am not sure of what I will use in the build up."

"I will ride the Tour of Switzerland and the Belgian championships in Knokke-Heist. If I am going to the Worlds? I would love to. Hopefully the condition will be there after the Vuelta."

Verbrugghe's contract with Cofidis ends this year but the 34 year old hopes to continue after that. "I would like to continue for two more years. But the most important thing is that I avoid too many years."

Timmer takes a break from the breaks

By Bjorn Haake in Frankfurt a.M.

Timmer shared his sentiments
Photo ©: Bjorn Haake
(Click for larger image)

Albert Timmer is becoming a breakaway specialist. The Dutch rider for the Skil Shimano squad has been seen off the front at most of the races he has contested recently. Rund um den Henninger Turm was the latest in his 'off the front' adventures, when he took off with Gerolsteiner's Johannes Fröhlinger (who hails from Gerolstein, where Gerolsteiner has its headquarters), after the first break of the day by Björn Papstein was reeled in.

During the Scheldeprijs he was part of a long escape with Koen Barbe (Topsport Vlaanderen) and in the Amstel Gold Race he was away in a three-man move.

However, the Skil Shimano rider was not entirely happy with his escape in the German race. "The race was not so great. The beginning was good, but we didn't get enough of a gap. We stayed away for only 70 kilometres, I think."

Timmer was realistic about the break. He never thought that they would stay away until the finish, but still seemed surprised that they weren't allowed more leeway. "It was very hard in the beginning to get just to a two-minute gap," said the 23 year-old, emphasising that the peloton never allowed them a big lead, most likely due to his companion being part of the home team, Gerolsteiner.

He confirmed to Cyclingnews that his form is good, but acknowledged that "you have to be a bit lucky, too, to get into the break."

"I did a bit of jumping in the beginning and then I got into the breakaway," he explained.

Johannes Fröhlinger also had orders to be in the early breaks and Directeur Sportif Hans Michael Holczer showed his satisfaction during the race. "Johannes is doing exactly what we asked him to do. It's great!"

Timmer did end up with the mountains classification (and a giant beer mug) for his efforts, while Fröhlinger took the sprints classification.

One thing he was hoping for was more companions. "Two isn't enough. You have to have at least five, six, seven guys, then it's a lot easier." At least he scored the mountains classification, which became an objective once he was in the break. "At least it's something!" the Dutchman was happy with receiving a gigantic beer mug. The duo split the hot spots, with Timmer taking the mountains and Fröhlinger the sprints points.

Timmer is now taking a break from being in the breaks. His next race will be the Profronde van Fryslan, on May 14.

French teams still waiting on Tour prize money

Although it has been reported that the majority of the team who took part in the Tour de France have received their prize money, all the French teams are still waiting to see their money.

Due to the complexities of the French tax authorities, the payment to AG2R, Crédit Agricole, Bouygues Telecom, Agritubel, Cofidis and Française des Jeux has been held up, although Tour organisers Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) have paid out the money.

The ASO held onto the money for nine months due to the ongoing investigations of Alexandre Vinokourov, Cristian Moreni, Iban Mayo, Patrik Sinkewitz and Michael Rasmussen.

The CPA filed a complaint against the ASO six weeks ago, as the money was supposed to be paid out in October as per the rules outlined by the UCI.

AG2R for upcoming races

French squad AG2R has announced which riders it will send to the upcoming races, Trophée des Grimpeurs and the 4 Jours de Dunkerque.

The Trophée des Grimpeurs, scheduled to be held on May 4, has moved back almost two weeks in the calendar and is an important event for French teams. It makes up part of the hotly contested French Cup. The team will be headed up by Renaud Dion.

Just two days later, Cyril Dessel will lead the team in the 4 Jours de Dunkerque, which translates to 4 Days of Dunkirk, yet ironically is held over five days. The stage race is one of the highest classified events in May outside the Giro, and should see riders not participating in the Italian race use the event as an important stepping stone for races such as the ProTour classified Volta a Catalunya (19 - 25) in Spain and later the Bayern-Rundfahrt (28-1) in Germany.

AG2R for Trophee de Grimpeurs: Renaud Dion , Stéphane Goubert, Tanel Kangert, Julien Loubet, Christophe Riblon, Nicolas Rousseau, Jean Charles Senac, Blaise Sonnery

AG2R for 4 Jours de Dunkerque: Cyril Dessel, Renaud Dion, Stéphane Goubert, Jean Patrick Nazon, Cédric Pineau, Stéphane Poulhies, Christophe Riblon , Stijn Vandenbergh

Traksel wins again

Current UCI European Tour leader, Bobbie Traksel (P3 Transfer-Batavus) has taken yet another win this season, making him one of the most successful riders of the early season. On May 1 he took out the 1.2 classified Groote Mei Prijs Hoboken.

The Dutchman was the fasted from a lead group of 12 riders who contested the sprint after 184.4 kilometers of racing. Belgium's Thomas Chamon (PWS Eyssen) was second and The Netherlands Dennis Kreder (Van Vliet - EBH Elshof) third.

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