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First Edition Cycling News, Sunday, February 27, 2011

Date published:
February 27, 2011, 0:00 GMT
  • Franco Ballerini’s body to be exhumed for insurance investigation

    Franco Ballerini says Worlds course suits sprinters
    Article published:
    February 26, 2011, 10:20 GMT
    Stephen Farrand

    Police investigating if a neck brace played a part in his death

    An Italian judge has ordered an autopsy on the body of Franco Ballerini more than a year after he died in a car rally accident near his home in Casalguidi, Tuscany.

    The former professional and highly respected Italian national coach died of multiple injuries, while the pilot of the car survived. Italian police will exhume his body next Thursday and carry out  adetailed autopsy on his neck in an attempt to understand if the special Hans neck brace Ballerini was wearing was fitted correctly and if it worked as designed. No autopsy was done before Ballerini’s funeral last year.

    According to a report in Saturday’s Gazzetta dello Sport, the Ronde Larciano rally was the first time the Hans neck brace was used in a rally in Italy. The outcome of the investigation could have major implications for the on-going insurance claim against the race organisers and regarding accusations of manslaughter against the pilot Alessandro Ciardi.

    Ballerini’s widow Sabrina revealed she was told of the plans to exhume her husband’s body by police.

    “When I was told, I thought ‘poor Franco’,” she told Gazzetta dello Sport.

    “The police were mortified to have to tell me. The children were at home and so I came up with the excuse that I’d been given a traffic fine. The first thought that came to mind was to leave Casalguidi that day so that I won’t see the cemetery closed. Matteo’s school is opposite the cemetery and we have breakfast at the bar every morning and then I go in to see Franco. This time it won’t be like that.”

  • On the start line at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

    Cyclingnews catch up with Eisel (HTC-Highroad)
    Article published:
    February 26, 2011, 10:51 GMT
    Cycling News

    Photo gallery at the first major Belgian race of the seaon

    The Belgian cycling season is officially underway. 171 riders have left the centre of Ghent for to tackle the nine climbs and nine sections of pave that make up the 204.4km Omloop Het Nieuwsblad race.

    It was raining in Ghent at the start but that will only add to the excitement and drama of the first race of the year on the twisting country roads of Flanders.

    The 66th edition of the 'Omloop' began at 11:30, with the women’s race starting a few minutes before. Both races will finish back in Ghent’s St Peter’s Square later today.

    The men’s start list includes almost all the best classics riders in the sport with only Fabian Cancellara and Heinrich Haussler and Tyler Farrar missing from the start list. The first two are saving themselves for later in the spring, while Farrar will focus on Sunday’s Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne race on Sunday, as world champion Thor Hushovd leads the Garmin-Cervelo team in Omloop.

    Cyclingnews was at the start to capture the special atmosphere of Flemish cycling with a unique photo gallery.

    There is also live coverage of the race throughout the day, and  a full race report, racing photograph gallery and rider interviews after the finish.

  • Denk and Heppner leading Team NetApp step by step up the ladder

    Team manager Ralph Denk and Eric Baumann share a laugh
    Article published:
    February 26, 2011, 14:29 GMT
    Susan Westemeyer

    A look at the management of Germany's only Professional Continental team

    Ralph Denk, the general manager of Team NetApp, started out on the road and made a very successful detour to mountain biking before returning to the road with Germany's only Professional Continental team. He is shepherding the team along, with the hopes of one day in the not-too-distant future of receiving ProTeam ranking.

    Denk, 37, rode at the elite level, but stopped at age 23, "when I realized that I wasn't good enough to go further," he told Cyclingnews. In 2000, he created his first team, over on the mountain biking side of things.

    It started as the Ralph Denk Cycling Team, an amateur group, but it grew into the Giant Racing Team, one of the best. It led the world rankings for 23 months in 2005-2006, won the overall World Cup, took second and third places in the world championships, then lost its sponsor.

    Denk, who had never raced on a mountain bike, returned to the road. "I have always loved road racing. Founding a mountain bike team was pretty much coincidence."

    His first road team, in 2007, was an U-19 team, "which we still have. It is our own developmental team, and Michael Schwarzmann, now with NetApp, came from there."

    In 2010 he joined forces with former pro Jens Heppner and brought out Team NetApp as a Continental team. From the very beginning, the two had the idea of a base in Belgium as an important part of the team.

    During his own active career, Heppner had seen the importance of location, not only for training but also for the ease of transportation. Traveling for several hours before even reaching an airport made racing difficult "and I would never have been so successful in my career if I had stayed in my hometown of Gera, Germany," he told Cyclingnews. He made his new home in Kelmis, Belgium, right across the border from...

  • Hushovd encouraged by Het Nieuwsblad performance

    Thor Hushovd's rainbow jersey stands out in the dark and dirt
    Article published:
    February 26, 2011, 18:00 GMT
    Daniel Benson

    World champion building for Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix

    Although he only showed flashes of form in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, World Champion Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervélo) believes that his best is just around the corner. The 33-year-old Norwegian finished 33rd, 5:05 down on winner Sebastian Langeveld (Rabobank) but in a group containing many of the pre-race favourites.

    "It was really cold, freezing but I was okay. In the Tour Oman I wasn't exactly super so I was happy I was up there today. I didn't have the legs to follow the best ones but I was always there, which was nice," Hushovd told Cyclingnews after the race.

    During the second part of the race, as Boonen made is customary move on the Taaienberg, it was Hushovd, in his rainbow jersey, who did the grunt of the work and led the field back up the Belgian's wheel. Over the next set of climbs he was a constant presence near the front of the bunch but when Langeveld flew and a counter-attack responded, Hushovd was forced to sit up.

    "On the important parts I was there and that's important for the first race. I just didn't have the legs to follow the best ones when they attacked."

    The fact that he was able to mark Boonen pedal stroke for pedal stroke will give the him encouragement, especially with several weeks before the two will almost certainly clash in the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.

    "It looks like we're at the same level. I've seen him in better form than this and he told me that, too. It's still a long way off for the big goals, six or seven weeks in fact, so we've still got time."

    Garmin-Cervélo's first Belgian test

    Omloop marked Garmin-Cervelo's first test on cobbles since...

  • Langeveld confirms his Classics pedigree

    Yeah! Sebastian Langeveld (Rabobank) celebrates
    Article published:
    February 26, 2011, 19:34 GMT
    Brecht Decaluwé

    Dutch rider happy to race in foul weather

    After a great duel with Juan Antonio Flecha (Team Sky) in a rain-soaked Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, 26-year-old Sebastian Langeveld (Rabobank) grabbed the biggest win of his career.

    Before the race the likes of Tom Boonen (Quick-Step), Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) and the Sky-duo of Juan Antonio Flecha and Edvald Boasson Hagen were the big favourites. However with an aggressive attack on the Eikenberg climb, more than 50km from the finish line, Langeveld outshone everyone, showing his excellent form and pedigree in terrible conditions.

    “It's one of the most beautiful days of my career. Tonight when things will have calmed down, I'll realize what I've done. I know that several people did a lot of hard work for me and that they are happy for me. It's great to know that,” Langeveld said.

    “The team leaders usually wait until the Molenberg [climb] or the [cobbles from] in Paddestraat to attack. I didn't race with that tactic in mind. I wanted to race on whatever climb I wanted to and show that I would play my role in the Spring Classics this season. I wasn't thinking about the win but attacking to ride the finale,” Langeveld said.

    Langeveld does not like to boast but a lacklustre season last year resulted in people asking questions about his ability.

    “Despite a miserable season I did my work for the team. In terms of results and performances though it was one of the worst years in my career,” he admitted.

    “I don't know why I underperformed. I knew this spring season would be crucial for my career and that it had to happen. Knowing that I had to get the results, I entered the winter with the desire to do better than ever. Last year my build-up was troubled by some...

  • Quinziato delivers BMC top-10 finish in Het Nieuwsblad

    Manuel Quinziato, right, made his BMC debut at the Tour of Qatar.
    Article published:
    February 26, 2011, 21:50 GMT
    Daniel Benson

    Italian confident for the Classics

    Marcus Burghardt and Greg Van Avermaet may have had off-days in Saturday's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad but Manuel Quinziato was in fine form, securing BMC an eighth place finish in the first Belgian road race of the 2011 season.

    The 31-year-old Italian, who signed from Liquigas at the end of last year, attacked with John Degenkolb (HTC-Highroad), Matthew Hayman (Sky), and Martijn Maaskant (Garmin-Cervélo) just after eventual race winner Sebastian Langeveld broke clear on the Eikenberg. Despite being joined by several other riders, Quinziato rode strongly and although he was unable to respond to attacks in the finale, he finished 8th.

    "The first race in Belgium is never easy. Before going to the Tour of Qatar it had been nearly six months since I'd raced so I'm confident for the Classics now," he told Cyclingnews at the finish.

    "I think there were three or four stronger guys than me today but the aim is to get better and better between now and March."

    BMC director Mike Sayers had told Cyclingnews before the race that Burghardt and Van Avermaet were the two protected riders for the day but he added that the team had enough depth for most situations.

    After the race, with Quinziato too cold and tired to unclip one of his shoes from the pedal, Sayers had nothing but admiration for the Italian's ride.

    "It was pretty ugly out there. As far as the weather is concerned it was horrible out abut the guys rode well from the sections I saw. Manuel had a great ride and I think that proves why he came to our team and why we're happy to have him. He's another bullet in the chamber for the rest of the year."

    BMC are set to...

  • Van Petegem begins as Garmin assistant team director at Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne

    Race director Peter Van Petegem won the race three times
    Article published:
    February 26, 2011, 23:30 GMT
    Daniel Benson

    Belgian brings wealth of experience to cobbled Classics

    Peter Van Petegem will put his role as a race director aside tomorrow and go behind of the wheel as an assistant team director for the first time at Garmin-Cervelo. The 41-year-old Belgian will drive a team car with Johnny Weltz as the American ProTeam looks to kick start their spring campaign with a win in Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne - a race Van Petegem won 10 years ago.

    "Officially I'll start at San Remo but on Sunday I'll be in the car with Johnny Weltz as an assistant director," Van Petegem told Cyclingnews.

    Van Petegem was given the role as a "Classics Advisor" earlier this month but could not start earlier than Kuurne as he is the race director for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. He will help steer the team until Paris-Roubaix.

    "The have a really strong team and I liked the proposition Jonathan Vaughters gave me," he said.

    "I won a few races and Classics so I know how to ride these races."

    In fact Van Petegem is one of only a handful of riders to complete a Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix double (2003) and despite retiring from competitive sport in 2005, is familiar with a majority of the Classics riders at Garmin-Cervelo.

    "I rode with [Andreas] Klier, [David] Millar, [Thor] Hushovd so I know them well from my riding days. But now it's up to me to say something if they need to do something in a race so it's a different role and responsibility.

    "The most important thing is that the team is riding well and I will help where I can. I can bring my experience. I know all the roads so I don't need a book or a map to learn about these race. Everybody knows the climbs but it's the roads between the climbs that are just as important," he added.

  • Flecha falls 10cm short for repeat win

    Here Flecha does his turn on the front
    Article published:
    February 27, 2011, 8:04 GMT
    Brecht Decaluwé

    Takes second place after successfully bridging up to front

    Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky) was 10cm away from repeating last year's win in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday afternoon. The Spaniard fell just short in a two-man sprint with Sebastian Langeveld (Rabobank) after a rainy day of racing through Flanders.

    "Normally he's faster than me but today he was only 10cm faster than me," Flecha said with a smile after coming so close to the win. "I rode a nice race again and we both did a good sprint after such a long and hard race," Flecha said.

    While the Spaniard didn't have a problem with losing the sprint he did feel the sprint wasn't completely clean. "He's going to the left and that movement cost me the victory. After so many kilometres it's hard. I have to be honest and realize it's part of the game; it's quite simple. If I had to brake, then you have the right to talk but this was just a movement," Flecha said.

    Despite falling short of the win Flecha showed that he's ready for a good run at the spring classics this season. While most top favourites were holding back their horses in the remains of the peloton Flecha was the only one to play his cards. At that moment Langeveld was already alone in the attack. Behind him there was a group of five riders. Niki Terpstra (Quick-Step) and Tom Boonen (Quick-Step) were leading the peloton.

    Suddenly Boonen took his foot off the gas and Terpstra was gone, with Flecha quickly closing the gap alone. "I was always aware of the race situation and I knew we had Matthew [Hayman] in front. Maybe Quick-Step wanted to send somebody to the front. It was the right moment to start gambling. I went on the 53 and not on the 39. I had the legs to go there," Flecha said.

    Flecha bridged up to the first chase group and...