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First Edition Cycling News, March 2, 2008

Date published:
March 02, 2008, 0:00 GMT
  • Kupfernagel previews Olympic courses

    Hanka Kupfernagel on the Great Wall of China
    Article published:
    March 02, 2008, 0:00 GMT
    By:
    Bjorn Haake

    By Bjorn Haake World time trial and cyclo-cross champion Hanka Kupfernagel recently travelled to...

    By Bjorn Haake

    World time trial and cyclo-cross champion Hanka Kupfernagel recently travelled to China with partner and coach Mike Kluge to preview several courses for the Beijing Olympic Games in August. The couple found the weather quite different to that expected this summer with temperatures hovering around freezing. While not ideal for training purposes, the cold air did make Beijing's notorious pollution more bearable. "Everybody has been talking about the air pollution, but when we were there it was no so bad," said Kluge.

    In August last year, International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Jacques Rogge said that some endurance events at the Beijing Games may have to be postponed, unless the city could significantly reduce its serious smog problem. The Australian Olympic Committee has already stated that its athletes won't arrive in Beijing until the last possible moment, in order to avoid potential respiratory problems.

    Worse than the weather was the traffic, and as the two rode through the city they got into several dicey situations. With China's rapidly expanding economy, the bicycle appears to be losing out against a fast growing car market. "The car drivers there do not have much respect and they will often cut you off," added Kluge.

    As for the road course itself, Kupfernagel was content with what she saw. "It's OK," she said. The versatile German can potentially medal in three different disciplines this summer. She has good chances in the time trial, the endurance track events and also the mountain bike race. However, with the places for each nation rather limited, expect some more controversy to unfold in the German national team over the next few months.

    Kupfernagel is currently in South Africa for a training camp.

  • Kemmelberg and a motivated McEwen in Museeuw Classic

    All the organisers and sponsors
    Article published:
    March 02, 2008, 0:00 GMT
    By:
    Cycling News

    By Brecht Decaluwé in Brugge Last week the organisers of the Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen - Johan...

    By Brecht Decaluwé in Brugge

    Last week the organisers of the Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen - Johan Museeuw Classic (Three days of West Flanders) presented their 2008 edition at the auditorium of the province West-Vlaanderen. Attended by Johan Museeuw, who has his name linked to the race, the presentation used TV footage from previous editions to show that the race is gaining attention from teams and sponsors year after year.

    First run in 1945 by the organisers from Ichtegem as a one-day race, the event retained this format until 1998 when Jesper Skibby was the winner. The following year Ichtegem joined forces with neighbouring Bellegem to form the Guldensporentweedaagse, a two-day race that was held until 2002. From 2003 onwards the organizers added a further day to their event, a format it has retained ever since.

    In 2005 the race was cancelled due to snow, coming back in 2006 with Niko Eeckhout as victor while Johan Museeuw allowed the organisers to use his famous name. Last year West-Vlaanderen decided to support the race financially as all the stages were held in the province. Jimmy Casper - who tumbled out of competition on the Kemmelberg in Gent-Wevelgem a couple of weeks later - won the 2007 edition.

    "We've tried to make our organisation even more professional and with eight Pro Tour teams at the start - three more than last year - I think we accomplished that goal," said organizer Bert Pattyn. "There are no better available slots, so we can't improve ourselves," added Pattyn when asked if the organisers might prefer a different date on the UCI calendar.

    "Maybe if the Tour de France ceases," he joked. "For us, the problems of the UCI with the big organisers were a good thing since we've got better teams in our race."

    Pattyn was of course referring to Astana. The Kazak sponsored team led by Johan Bruyneel didn't receive an invitation to compete in Paris-Nice nor Tirreno-Adriatico, and they will line...

  • UCI says Paris-Nice agreement not unanimous

    Article published:
    March 02, 2008, 0:00 GMT
    By:
    Brecht Decaluwé in Brugge

    After the announcement on Wednesday from the International Association of Professional Cycling Teams...

    After the announcement on Wednesday from the International Association of Professional Cycling Teams (AIGCP) that a unanimous agreement had been reached with all member teams for participation in Paris-Nice, the UCI has said it believes several teams were not consulted about the decision. The dispute centres around Paris-Nice organiser Amaury Sports Organisation's (ASO) decision to run the event under sanctioning of the French Cycling Federation, and outside of UCI regulations.

    AIGCP president Eric Boyer signed the statement declaring that, "The conditions of participation proposed by the organisers Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO) will be discussed by a directing committee on Friday, February 29."

    But the UCI insists that not all team managers were present at the meeting, and some were opposed to the AIGCP's proposals. "After having consulted several team managers, the UCI notes that Mr Boyer's statements do not correspond to the actual situation: several teams were not consulted. It is thus false to assert that the teams unanimously decided to participate in the Paris-Nice," read a UCI statement issued on Saturday.

    "Not only did a restricted number of team managers attend the AIGCP meeting, but the majority of these declared that they were opposed to the contents of the press release of 27 February." added the statement. "The truth is thus that the teams did not come out in favour of participation in the Paris-Nice irrespective of the conditions. In fact, several teams contacted UCI seeking to take part in the Paris-Nice under UCI regulations."

    With less than a week before the start of Paris-Nice, the governing body is continuing its appeal to teams and riders to support UCI regulations, insisting that refusal to comply will have far reaching consequences, such as the lack of insurance for riders and potential suspensions of up to six months.

    "The UCI reiterates its appeal to...

  • It takes a little longer for Gerard

    Arnaud Gerard (Française des Jeux)
    Article published:
    March 02, 2008, 0:00 GMT
    By:
    Brecht Decaluwé in Gent

    By Brecht Decaluwé in Gent While Philippe Gilbert's superb solo ride in the Omloop Het Volk captured...

    By Brecht Decaluwé in Gent

    While Philippe Gilbert's superb solo ride in the Omloop Het Volk captured most of the day's headlines, a few cycling fans might recognise the name of his team-mate Arnaud Gerard, who finally came of age during the Belgian semi-classic today. Since becoming junior world road race champion in 2002, the Frenchman hasn't gained the kind of results expected after a promising early career, but proved his worth by setting up Gilbert's final decisive move on the cobbles of 'Lange Munte'.

    "Gilbert was the strongest man today. My job was to stay in front as long as I could, and on those last stretches on the cobbles I pulled at 100 percent. Philippe attacked well and off he was," Gerard told Cyclingnews after the race. A couple of minutes later the breakaway group was caught by the favourites, including Leif Hoste, who was spotted directing strong words at the youngster. But according to Gerard, "That was nothing. He only told me to stay on the wheels and stop disturbing the co-operation."

    At the finish team manager Marc Madiot gave his rider a big hug and whispered something in his ear. "He told me that I rode the best race of my life," said the 23 year-old with delight. "For some [riders] it goes quickly, for some it takes a little longer and I am one of those. Today I showed that I made it eventually," Gerard laughed. "Now I want to capture a win myself. Which race? That doesn't matter, as long as I can win something."

  • Française des Jeux makes best use of the Belgians

    Marc Madiot
    Article published:
    March 02, 2008, 0:00 GMT
    By:
    Brecht Decaluwé in Gent

    By Brecht Decaluwé in Gent The Française des Jeux team has a strong line-up for both the Omloop Het...

    By Brecht Decaluwé in Gent

    The Française des Jeux team has a strong line-up for both the Omloop Het Volk and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, the opening events of the Belgian road season. And while eventual Het Volk winner Philippe Gilbert was the clear team leader, there were some other Belgians ready to step up if necessary.

    Team manager Marc Madiot told Cyclingnews before the race on Saturday that his Belgians are doing great, referring to both Philippe Gilbert and Gianni Meersman but also to his other discoveries Tom Stubbe and Jelle Vanendert. "The Belgian crowd is discovering their compatriots only now, thanks to their French neighbours," Madiot laughed. "Tom is in good form already, although he caught a cold recently. Also Vanendert will be a surprise for the Belgian crowd: he's a good bloke and I expect him to go well this season," said Madiot of the talented young climber who recently turned 23.

    Team leader Gilbert was a relaxed man at the start of the race he won in 2006. "I know the course well," he said. "The return to Gent is nice; however, today there is a lot of wind, and it is a real race. I am happy to be back in Belgium racing; I live here, and I know so many people in this area... I think I have a chance to make a good result." And that certainly wasn't a lie - Gilbert dominated the race with a blistering attack 50 kilometres from the finish line.

    As the designated first lieutenant to Gilbert before the start, Gianni Meersman was expected to be there with his team leader when the big guns fired in the hills near Oudenaarde. Meersman surprisingly joined the French team after Discovery Channel folded last year. "Two months ago my French was still in bad shape, but now it is much better," the Flemish-speaking Belgian explained after an interview in French that went without a hitch.

    "My job today is to support Philippe. I've got the same characteristics as him, and so I should be able...

  • Slipstream Chipotle opens spring season successfully

    Michael Friedman
    Article published:
    March 02, 2008, 0:00 GMT
    By:
    Gregor Brown in Gent

    By Gregor Brown in Gent American squad Slipstream Chipotle opened its Spring Classics season...

    By Gregor Brown in Gent

    American squad Slipstream Chipotle opened its Spring Classics season successfully thanks to the efforts of Michael Friedman. The 25 year-old American made the day's escape in the 63rd Omloop Het Volk - riding free at kilometre 15 to eventfully finish in 12th place. Huub Duyn and Christophe Laurent came in 30th and 32nd respectively, while Steven Cozza was recovering from jet lag and Tyler Farrar just content to roll into his adopted hometown of Gent.

    "It is a start, it is kind of unknown ground for our Slipstream team, and we are making ground quickly; it is a real honour to be a part of that," said Friedman after animating the day for the argyle squad.

    He mustered every bit of energy he had when the race went into the red to hang on and finish within the top 15 in one of Belgium's top races. Friedman was impressed when Gilbert passed by, but did not lose sight even though the lights were dimming. "I was a already in the hurt locker [when Gilbert passed at kilometre 173]. I was in the pain cave and I had dropped the flashlight, so it was pretty dark at that point," he laughed. "I was just hanging on. Like I said, it is an honour to be here and be a part of it."

    It was the first time Friedman had tested his legs in the semi-classic, and based on today's result he should be prepared for his date with the monstrous Paris-Roubaix. "I am one of the fat kids on the team," he said with a smile on his tired face. "I have a big job coming up in Roubaix for Magnus Backstedt, so I got to be prepared for it."

    Easy to spot with his moustache, Steven Cozza crossed the line in 93rd while looking forward to some jet-lag-free days. "It did not go so well for me. Halfway though the race I stared feeling better, but by then it was too late.

    "I am happy for Friedman, and [his ride] is good for the team. I hope for me that tomorrow [in

  • Gilbert does it the Merckxian way

    Gilbert produced a performance which drew comparisons to the legendary Eddy Merckx.
    Article published:
    March 02, 2008, 0:00 GMT
    By:
    Brecht Decaluwé in Gent

    By Brecht Decaluwé in Gent With a blistering attack on the Eikenberg, Belgian star Philippe Gilbert...

    By Brecht Decaluwé in Gent

    With a blistering attack on the Eikenberg, Belgian star Philippe Gilbert hammered away from a group including big guns Tom Boonen, Fabian Cancellara, Thor Hushovd and Leif Hoste, on what seemed an impossible mission: the Française des Jeux rider had 50 kilometres to bridge up to the breakaway, beat them and claim victory on a windy, hilly and cobbled course. Eventually, though, the French speaking Belgian succeeded and claimed his second career win in the Omloop Het Volk, also known as the mini Tour of Flanders.

    With a storm raging through Flanders the night before, the riders were heading for a tough race. Combine this with the new course, re-designed in part by triple Het Volk winner Peter Van Petegem, and it was clear the race would be a lot harder than in the past.

    "It was a weird race," said Gilbert. "The start was very nervous, but pretty soon I figured I was stronger than the others."

    The attack from Gilbert came just after some impressive work from the Quick Step team that reduced the amount of riders in the front rows of the peloton. "Just before we reached the Eikenberg there was a crash in the peloton and we were approaching the climb with only a small group of riders," he recalled.

    "I felt really good and as I looked around the only thing I saw was fatigue. I told [Mickael] Delage to pull hard until we reached the foot of the Eikenberg and from there on I took over and gave all I had until I reached the top."

    At first, Cofidis' Nick Nuyens was able to hold Gilbert's wheel, but as the Française des Jeux rider caught and passed early attackers Roy Sentjes and William Bonnet, Nuyens dropped back. At the top of the climb there was a huge gap behind but the eventual winner couldn't decide what to do next. "I looked back and realized it would take a while before someone would bridge up. Ten kilometres later I...