Recently on Cyclingnews.com

Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Liège-Bastogne-Liège Cycling News for April 23, 2006

Edited by Jeff Jones

Coming up on

Cyclingnews will cover the 60th edition of the Dauphiné Libéré live as of stage 4 on Wednesday, June 10, at approximately 15:00 local Europe time (CEST)/ 23:00 Australian time (CDT)/ 9:00 (USA East).

WAP-enabled mobile devices: http://live.cyclingnews.com/wap/

An interview with Alexandre Vinokourov

One hundred percent for the Tour

Alexandre Vinokourov is widely regarded as one of cycling’s great attackers, a rider you can rely upon to stir things up with his swashbuckling salvos that blow bunches and breakaways to pieces. His fans are hoping he can use that attacking flair to good use in this weekend's Liège-Bastogne-Liège where he's the defending champion. Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes made his way to Liège for Vino's pre-race press conference.

Alexandre Vinokourov waits
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

Although his accelerations in last year’s Tour de France sometimes led to implosions of sorts, his aggression was welcomed after years of more controlled racing, whereby the US Postal/Discovery Channel team set a high pace before Lance Armstrong put the hammer down on the final climb of the mountain stages. Vinokourov’s caution-to-the-wind jumps earned him much admiration last July, and when he surged clear in the final metres of the concluding stage on the Champs Elysées, robbing the sprinters of their traditional queen stage, the press room erupted in rare applause.

Yet this year, things may be different. Granted, Vino is a natural attacker and he'll probably always spike the adrenaline of those watching big races. But in a bid to turn him into a Tour winner, new boss Manolo Saiz is following a different formula, limiting his racing as he prepares for July’s big rendezvous and working with the Kazakhstani on improving his consistency in the big mountains. He'll be holding back more, meaning that his aggression may be more controlled and planned in the future.

Gone are the days when he wins big early-season races such as Paris-Nice; he won the Tour de Castilla y Léon in March, but the Spanish race isn't quite on a par with the 'Race to the Sun' earlier that month, and this reflects his change of focus. Vino estimates that he'll have about 20 days of racing prior to the Tour this year, as opposed to the 55 he competed in during 2005. As he says, everything is "100% for the Tour."

Click here for the full interview

An interview with Chris Horner

Speeding in Belgium

Chris Horner (Davitamon-Lotto) was one of several riders present at the Ridley bike press day at the Zolder racing track on Thursday. And in between near-deafening roars of the high powered cars blasting by, the 34 year-old American took the time to chat to Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes about his new team, his current form and his plans for the Tour.

Chris Horner
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

American rider Chris Horner is settling into what is a two year deal with the Davitamon-Lotto squad, and so far seems to be enjoying his time with the Belgian team. After finishing 19th in the Flèche Wallonne this week, he relaxed on Thursday afternoon with a Ridley bike press day at the race track in Zolder. Horner and teammates such as Nico Mattan and Leon van Bon, plus several riders from the Unibet.com team, spent time with their bike suppliers and the media, having a chinwag, unwinding in the mild weather and also have a couple of high-speed laps of the track in the racecars. Ridley had organised for those present to co-drive (sit back, strap in and enjoy the ride) either a Porsche, a souped-up Mini or a powerful black Corvette, and to see Horner emerge from the latter with a big smile on his face was proof that he was having a ball.

Cyclingnews: First off, what did you think of your laps on the track?

Chris Horner: It was nice! I was in the Corvette and that was pretty impressive. It is a big car, a comfortable ride, but also very, very fast. It was great.

CN: How are things going for you this year?

CH: Things are good, the team is treating me nice. I like all the guys on the team, we have good riders, good staff, good directeurs, so it is going well. For me, it has been the easiest time ever in Europe. I was actually scheduled to go home right after Liège, but then I heard there was a spot open for [the Tour of] Romandie, so I said 'I'll do that!' It is the first time when I could go home, but I am happy to stay in Europe. Normally I am only good for a month or a month and a half in Europe, then it starts taking a toll on me, but now I am so relaxed with the team and with living in Spain that it is fine.

Click here for the full interview

Italian stallions ready for pre-Giro battle at Liège-Bastogne-Liège

By Tim Maloney, European Editor

With less than two weeks before the start of the Giro d'Italia in Seraing, Belgium, just a few kilometres south of Liège, the 92nd running Liège-Bastogne-Liège should be an interesting battle between the top Italians looking for Giro victory. 2005 ProTour winner Danilo Di Luca, who was 6th in Fleche Wallonne last Wednesday, is now riding into top form with his sights set on a good ride in L-B-L and hopefully a win in the upcoming Giro.

"I'm ready to go for the win (in L-B-L) and even if I get a good place, I'll be happy," said Di Luca to La Gazetta dello Sport. "It will be important to not make any mistakes tomorrow. The most dangerous adversary will be Ivan Basso, who can even win by himself. We're friends and this year, we both want to win the Giro...we'll be looking at each other so it's natural that our rivalry has grown. Basso is really strong right now and I don't believe that he can get much stronger."

Di Luca also evaluated his other adversaries, saying "(Gibo) Simoni is also going for the Giro and he will be one to watch, especially on the climbs. Cunego is coming in today from Italy and he may be tired after his win in Trentino. Valverde may not be ready for the longer distance of Liège. Everything will be decided on the climb of St.Nicolas..."

Basso is ready to rock Sunday, confidently saying that, "This is my last race before the Giro d'Italia and I don't want to go back home with bad feelings from Liège. Even if I didn't go that well in the finale of Fleche Wallonne, Liège is a different story, with a longer distance and longer harder climbs more suited to me. I want to be a protagonist Sunday, and if I can win, that will be fantastic. But I don't want to take anything away from (CSC teammates) Schleck or Kroon. I have nothing to lose and I'd rather that my rivals are watching me than I'm watching them."

Among Basso's most likely rivals are last year's L-B-L winner Alexandre Vinokourov and Damiano Cunego, fresh from a solid victory in Italy's Giro del Trentino. "I think Cunego can win (L-B-L)... He's coming into top form now as he showed in Trentino and his explosiveness can hurt you, like he showed at Lombardia two years ago."

Cunego arrives in Liège Saturday fresh from his Giro del Trentino win and is looking forward to the Ardennes battle to come Sunday. "I'm feeling relaxed and looking forward to Liège," he said. "I raced it for the first time last year and was 9th. It's a beautiful race but more than anything, I want to use it as a long training session, another step towards the start of the Giro on May 6th in Seraing."

Cunego's diesse Beppe Martinelli has another idea, saying that "maybe we will come up with something else on Sunday."

But no matter who rides over the finish line in Ans first in Sunday's 92nd running of Liège-Bastogne-Liège, many will be looking closely at these three Italian stallions to see who has the best legs with the Giro d'Italia starting in only thirteen days.

Etxebarria looking at improving

David Etxebarria has been Liberty Seguros-Wurth's best rider in the last two classics, Amstel Gold Race and La Fleche Wallonne, where he finished 14th and 7th, respectively. In tomorrow's Liège-Bastogne-Liège, he is aiming for another consistent result in a race where he has finished second (2000), third (2001) and sixth (2005). But Etxebarria has no problem admitting that his team leader will be Alexander Vinokourov, but he warns that it can give him a tactical advantage because he won't be watched as closely.

"In Amstel I did not have very good sensations, but in La Flèche, finally I had the sensations I was looking for, and I hope that it will be the same tomorrow," said Etxebarria on the eve of La Doyenne. His consistency "makes me happy that it is something good for the team, but my intention is only to do well. I believe that the team will be even better in Liège, and besides, here we will have Vinokourov, who is a clear chance of victory."

"[Liège] is a race good for me, although not always. It's clear that Vino is the strong man of the team and we are going to ride with this aim, but for me also it can be a favourable factor tactically, because he will be watched more, and I will be able to move with more ease."

Etxebarria picks Paolo Bettini as his top favourite. "He has already won here two times, and this week we have seen him in good shape. Then there is Boogerd, who is always on the podium, and finally the Spaniards, with Valverde, if he adapts well to the distance, and Perdiguero, who is also always there."

David Etxebarria's tips for doing well in Liège? "To have tranquility, to see how your rivals look and to wait for your moment. There are key places like La Redoute and Saint Nicholas, but last year the race was done before then. Every year is a different race."

Team CSC ready for spring classics finale

On Sunday, the Spring Classics are drawing to an end with the legendary Liège-Bastogne-Liège, one of the toughest classics in cycling. Team CSC goes into 'La Doyenne' with big ambitions, after winning two of the big classics already this spring, and having Jens Voigt come so close in Liège last year.

"After our recent results, it's only natural for us to be considered among the favourites, and we're ready to prove ourselves worthy of this honour," said Bjarne Riis on the team's website. "But we must not forget that Liège-Bastogne-Liège is one of the toughest races in the world and it's a very strong peloton this year. I would single out three CSC riders as potential winners: Karsten Kroon and Fränk Schleck, plus Ivan Basso as a possible outsider.

"Of course a lot depends on how the race unfolds, but I expect Ivan to be up front in the finish and then anything's possible. We have previously won in Liège, and there's no doubt we have very specific strategy for this race.

"We have a strong team and of course we have to take advantage of the fact that we have several riders, who are capable of being up front during the decisive part of the race. And then we'll just have to see how far that takes us. I believe we're in for a great Liège-Bastogne-Liège".

Peña back for Liège

After a five-week break, Phonak's Victor Hugo Peña will return to the team for Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday. The Colombian has been training in his home country and taking part in the national championships there, among other races. The Swiss squad will compete at the Tour de Romandie, starting next Tuesday, with him.

Phonak has named Miguel Angel Perdiguero as the leader for Liège-Bastogne-Liège. The Spaniard placed a good seventh last Sunday at the Amstel Gold Race and then withdrew from La Flèche Wallonne to prepare as best as possible for the race on Sunday. Also returning to the action is Uros Murn, who injured himself during Paris-Roubaix. Koos Moerenhout, who suffered a bad crash at La Flèche Wallonne, is recovering, but will have to sit out of the race on Sunday. Finally, Phonak announced that Swiss Champion Martin Elmiger will replace him on the squad.

Previous News    Next News

(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2006)