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2006 Spring Classics
February 26: Geelong Women's World Cup
The world's best women's cyclists headed to Geelong, Australia in for the opening round of the International Cycling Union's road cycling World Cup, the final event in a week-long cycling extravaganza including the three-day Geelong Women's Tour. For T-Mobile's Ina Teutenberg an extended trip over from Europe was rewarded with teh chance to train in Australian sunshine and nab a World Cup victory and series leader jersey.
March 5: Wellington World Cup
The world's top women spent a second weekend Down Under as the action moved to New Zealand for a tough circuit of Wellington. Local hero Sarah Ulmer proved that her change of career from track to road is well on course when she powered away from the field and soloed to an unstoppable and hugely popular victory.
March 18: Milano - Sanremo
The first of the spring classics, the opening round of the men's World Cup, the longest one-day race of the season and the race every Italian wants to win, Milan - San Remo marks the moment when the racing season goes into overdrive after the 'serious warm-ups' of Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico. Filippo Pozzato (Quick Step) took the top step on the podium in 2006 to general rejoicing in the Quick Step camp.
April 2: Ronde van Vlaanderen / Tour of Flanders
If there was proof needed that Tom Boonen is a superstar you need to look no further than his win in the 2006 Ronde van Vlaanderen. His performance was so dominant, particularly on the Koppenberg where the race was won with a powerful surge ahead of a flailing pack. On home turf he's already become an immortal, which has been helped by these back-to-back Flanders wins.
April 2: Women's Ronde van Vlaanderen
Like the men's Ronde van Vlaanderen, the women's race saw a double for last year's winner, with Mirjam Melchers-Van Poppel scoring another Flanders crown against one of the strongest fields for a women's world cup race. With the likes of Judith Arndt and a fit Nicole Cooke behind her, Melchers-Van Poppel won a two-up sprint against Christiane Soeder after what was a tough test for the ladies
April 5: Gent-Wevelgem
Credit Agricole's Norwegian sprinter Thor Hushovd got his share of spring glory when he powered his way to a win in Gent-Wevelgem, outmuscling David Kopp (Gerolsteiner) and Alessandro Petacchi (Milram). Despite plenty of breaks trying their luck off the front all day, the decisive split came with about 35km remaining, and it was this group if 40 riders that fought it out for victory in Wevelgem.
April 9: Paris - Roubaix
'C' is for controversy, and it wasn't lacking in the 2006 edition of Paris-Roubaix, with powerful riding, crashes and disqualifications turning the race on its head. Fabian Cancellara won convincingly to maintain CSC's great record this season but not before three riders were disqualified and two promoted to the podium in a decision that caused an uproar amongst fans and teams alike. A notable incident was George Hincapie's steerer tube failure which put the perennial Roubaix contender out of contention and out of action for several weeks.
April 16: Amstel Gold Race
The spring got even better for Team CSC as Frank Schleck proved his class to win an action-packed edition of Amstel Gold Race. He was up against an in-form Stefan Wesemann, who was very strong on the day, but a well-timed attack in the finale provided Luxembourg's national champion with the space he needed to win atop the Cauberg and become only the second Luxembourger in history to win the race
April 19: La Flèche Wallonne/Women's La Flèche Wallonne
Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears' Alejandro Valverde confirmed what many knew - that he's a star of the near future - when he secured the first leg of a spring double with victory in La Flèche Wallonne. The Spaniard was easily the strongest on the demanding course, making the finale look far too easy as he held off countryman Samuel Sanchez and Karsten Kroon in a sprint finish.
In the women's race, Nicole Cooke (Univega) dominated in the final stages to take a Fleche trible, adding to her wins there in 2003 and 2005. No one had an answer to the Welsh powerhouse's super sprint and composure in the finale as she held off Judith Arndt and Trixi Worrack for an excellent win.
April 23: Liège - Bastogne - Liège
How do you stop a green bullet? Well, with great difficulty, particularly for the field in the 2006 edition of Liège - Bastogne - Liège; Alejandro Valverde secured a double a la Danilo Di Luca in 2005 with a win in Ans when he beat home Paolo Bettini, Damiano Cunego and an all-star field keen to make one last attempt at spring success. Once again he showed his fantastic sprinting pedigree on a slightly uphill finish and like Di Luca last year he became Pro Tour leader with his win.