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First Edition Cycling News, Sunday, February 7, 2010

Date published:
February 07, 2010, 0:00 GMT
  • Nolf's parents still mourn son's death in Qatar

    Frederiek Nolf died in his sleep
    Article published:
    February 06, 2010, 8:55 GMT
    Susan Westemeyer

    One year on from Topsport Vlaanderen professional's passing

    The Tour of Qatar starts on Sunday, and for one family in Belgium the 2010 race will mark a sad anniversary. One year ago Friday, in Doha, Topsport Vlaanderen professional Frederiek Nolf passed away at the age of 21, suffering a heart attack while he slept.

    His parents, Freddy Nolf and Mimi Vandekerckhove, are still trying to come to terms with the death of their only child. “We aren't able to deal with it, “ his mother told “The year has passed so quickly. It is as if it happened yesterday.”

    She continued, “I don't show it, but inside I am shattered; for the rest of my life. We are glad that he is not forgotten.”

    The fifth of February is only the first traumatic date. His body was flown home on the 10th, which would also have been his 22nd birthday, and his funeral was held on the 21st. “I still wonder why we are so punished,” said the mourning mother.

    The family still has contact with their son's former teammates and friends, including Stijn Devolder. “Stijn has a heart of gold. After the death, he promised us that he would win one of the two Classics,” said the Nolf's father. “It show what a man is when he wins the Ronde van Vlaanderen and then comes to your house that night to think of your son.”

    Despite it all, the parents “[We are] are not angry that he was a cyclist. It was his dream, ever since he was six-years-old.”

    His father says he still cannot bring himself to attend a race in person, but is looking forward to watching the races on TV this season. The mother has further to go to cope with her loss. “It is a nightmare. Sometimes I hear him come home, his bed creaking. If only it were true.”

    Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator withdrew from last year's Tour of Qatar immediately after Nolf's death. The Belgian squad have returned to Qatar for the 2010 edition of the...

  • Brad Wiggins targets first win with Team Sky

    Bradley Wiggins (Sky) is hoping for his first win with his new team in tomorrow's team time trial
    Article published:
    February 06, 2010, 11:10 GMT
    Stephen Farrand

    Brit speaks out after recent criticism from David Millar

    Bradley Wiggins and Team Sky arrived late on Friday night in Qatar, leaving them with just one day to acclimatize and get ready to race. Yet the new British team is still targeting success in Sunday's opening 8.2 kilometre team time trial.

    Wiggins was the first race leader at last year's Tour of Qatar after Garmin won the team time trial. This year he is back with Team Sky after an acrimonious split with Garmin and with the added responsibility of being a team leader and Tour de France contender.

    Wiggins seems at ease with the added pressure and expectation and is simply happy to finally be getting his 2010 season underway. However, he is not afraid to speak his mind about what he describes as his 'divorce' from Garmin and recent criticism from former team mate Dave Millar.

    "I’m just keen to get out there in the jersey. There's been so much talk up to now and I'm edging to get out there. All the deals have been done, all the talking has been done and now it's time to just get out there and get into the year," Wiggins said before heading out on a training ride.

    "Last year we didn’t have a super-strong squad with Garmin, but we beat the favourites and that’s the goal again. Every race we go to now that’s what it’s all about for Sky. The expectation is always there with Team Sky, to stand here and say we’re not that bothered would be a lie. It’s a big objective for us tomorrow."

    Strong team, strong rivals

    Team Sky has a powerful roster for Qatar, with Edvald Boasson Hagen, Juan Antonio Flecha, Kurt-Asle Arvesen also in the squad. However they will go up against a strong Quick Step squad, a Fabian Cancellara-inspired Saxo Bank team and a Garmin-Transitions squad that includes sprinter Tyler Farrar.

    “We haven’t had a great deal of preparation," Wiggins admitted. "But we haven't spent a lot of time together but we've come here and started to...

  • Merckx reveals cancer history

    Eddy Merckx speaks to the audience.
    Article published:
    February 06, 2010, 14:58 GMT
    Cycling News

    Belgian cycling legend has battled intestinal cancer

    Eddy Merckx revealed that he has battled cancer in an interview with the Sud Presse on Saturday. The Belgian retired pro cyclist said he began fighting the disease several years ago, though he is doing well now.  He provide no details regarding his illness.

    "Since my intestinal cancer, I just have to be careful what I drink or eat," said Merckx to Sud Presse. "No more champagne and white wine."

    "Everything is going well. I get regular check-ups."

    In the early 2000s, Merckx had appeared to become noticeably thinner. At the time, Belgian media speculated about whether he was ill or undergoing a voluntary weight loss program.

    Merckx, who retired in 1978, won five Tours de France, five Giros d'Italia and one Vuelta a España. He also has three World Championship titles and several dozen victories in Classics such as the Milan-Sanremo, Ronde van Vlaanderen, Paris-Roubaix, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and other races. He set the hour world record in 1972 after completing 49.431 km. The record was not broken by another rider on a a "traditional" bike for 28 years.

    Merckx has run his own bicycle manufacturing company and is currently in Doha for the Tour of Qatar, which he helps organize along with Amaury Sport Organization.

    Merckx is one of several high-profile cyclists who have battled cancer. Recently, another cycling legend, Frenchman Laurent Fignon, has been fighting intestinal cancer. Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong overcame testicular cancer that had spread to his lungs, early in his career.

  • Boonen confident and on form for Tour of Qatar

    Tom Boonen (Quick Step) gets a custom Belgian national champion's jersey.
    Article published:
    February 06, 2010, 16:14 GMT
    Stephen Farrand

    Quick Step leader wants TTT success on Sunday

    Tom Boonen will be chasing a third consecutive overall victory at the Tour of Qatar. His Quick Step team will start last in the Sunday's opening 8.2km team time trial, and he is confident that he has the early season form to go for another overall victory in the Gulf.

    Boonen has been through two difficult years after failing three out of competition tests for cocaine. He seems to have lost some of his sprinting speed, but he won Paris-Roubaix last year and remains a huge sports star in Belgium.

    As he approaches his 30th birthday, he seems more melancholic and reserved, but like everyone who races a bike, he still gets excited about starting a new season.

    "I'm looking forward to finally starting racing. It's been a long winter," he said to Cyclingnews in an exclusive interview the day before the Tour of Qatar.

    "This year, Qatar is a week later and the 10 days at home after our training camp and team presentation has made me really hungry to race again."

    Some riders are worried about their lack of form after the terrible winter in Europe. Not Boonen. He is confident that he'll have the legs for Sunday's team time trial and for the expected sprint finishes on the other five days of racing in Qatar.

    "I know what I did this winter. After nine seasons as a professional, there aren't any surprises. You know that if you put the work and the right amount of energy into, you're always good," he says.

    "I spent a lot of time in Spain between December and January. I went home a few times, but I was there for almost five weeks. I did almost everything I'd planned and didn't miss a lot of training. The last test I did was really good and on schedule. I know I'm on a good level and up there with the other guys. I'm not afraid to start the season. I'm looking forward to it."

    TTT key to Qatar success

    Boonen knows that a strong ride in the opening team time trial is the foundation for success...

  • Merckx denies having had cancer

    Eddy Merckx is always a star, wherever he goes.
    Article published:
    February 06, 2010, 19:17 GMT
    Cycling News

    Stomach issues were not cancer according to former Belgian cyclist

    Responding to media reports from earlier on Saturday, Eddy Merckx denied later the same day that he had had intestinal cancer several years ago.

    "I've never in my life had bowel cancer," Merckx said to reporters and family members while in Doha according to the AFP. Merckx arrived in Qatar for the Ladies Tour of Qatar and is still there for the men's version, which begins Sunday.

    The Sud Presse had reported that Merckx had had cancer, but had recovered and was now in good health, only having to watch his diet somewhat as an aftereffect.

    Merckx gave other media sources such as Le Soir and Het Nieuwsblad a similar rebuttal to the reports of a history of cancer. "[I had] stomach problems a few years ago, which are recurring in my family, but there was never any question of cancer," he said.

    Merckx, who retired in 1978, won five Tours de France, five Giros d'Italia and one Vuelta a España. He also has three World Championship titles and several dozen victories in Classics such as the Milan-Sanremo, Ronde van Vlaanderen, Paris-Roubaix, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and other races. He set the hour world record in 1972 after completing 49.431 km. The record was not broken by another rider on a a "traditional" bike for 28 years.

  • Molmy wins Etoile de Bessèges stage

    Arnaud Molmy (Team Roubaix-Lille Métropole)
    Article published:
    February 06, 2010, 22:39 GMT
    Cycling News

    First man across the finish line, Dumoulin, relegated by race jury

    After the man first named the winner of the Saturday stage of the Etoile de Bessèges was relegated, Arnoud Molmy (Roubaix - Lille Metropole) became the victor. Yesterday's stage winner, Samuel Dumoulin (Cofidis), was the first man across the line in Alès, France, and was declared the initial winner, but he was later relegated as officials sorted through the events of a chaotic finale.

    The race jury upheld a protest from Team Roubaix-Lille Métropole that Dumoulin, who crossed the line 20 metres clear of Molmy, had cut short his approach to the final straight. It decided that the Frenchman Dumoulin's significant advantage in the finale had been ill gotten through deviation from the race course going into the final straight and awarded victory to Molmy instead.

    "The finale was quite crazy," said fourth place finisher Dominique Rollin (Cervelo Test Team) "A few guys cut short the roundabout and created chaos in the run-in to the finish with about 400 meters to go."

    "With bad signaling on the last corner, most of the riders took the shortest route, which messed up the finish. I had great legs and was well placed, but with all the confusion I ended up losing spots."

    Having ended Borut Bozic's (Vacansoleil) two-stage run on Friday, Dumoulin was again the first rider to edge his wheel past the finish but was denied his own double upon relegation. Had he won the stage, he would have taken over the race lead, too.

    As a result of the relegation, Anthony Geslin (Française des Jeux) was promoted to second and Belgian Pieter Ghyllebert (An Post-Sean Kelly) to third for the stage.

    The Etoile de Bessèges wraps up on Sunday. Molmy goes into it as overall leader.

  • Andy Schleck out of Challenge Mallorca with knee injury

    Richie Porte, Andy Schleck and Matti Breschel share a joke.
    Article published:
    February 07, 2010, 9:39 GMT
    Cycling News

    Saxo Bank star returns to Luxembourg for tests, expected to return at Ruta Del Sol

    Saxo Bank's Andy Schleck will delay his season start after his withdrawal from Challenge Mallorca with a knee injury. Schleck will return home to Luxembourg on Sunday for tests and recovery.

    The 24-year-old confirmed the news of his withdrawal from the Spanish event on his twitter feed on Saturday night. "Looks like my season [will not] start not as planned I have a knee injury and will fly tomorrow home to [Luxembourg] and take some rest," he said.

    His brother, Fränk, 29, will take part in the Challenge Mallorca but expressed his disappointment at the news of his sibling's departure on Sunday. "I'm a little depressed! Andy is going home back to [Luxembourg] 'cause of his knee problems, he needs some rest [and an] ultrasound. He better look after it," wrote Fränk on his twitter feed.

    Fränk's own 2009 season was cut short by a knee injury which required surgery to correct. However, despite the delay caused to the younger Schleck's season start, he is expected make a rapid return to competition, at Ruta Del Sol on February 21.

    "Now I have to start my first race of 2010 without [Andy]; not cool," said Fränk. "But it's the best for him. We'll be back together in Ruta Del Sol."

    Challenge Mallorca begins on Sunday, February 7, and runs through until Thursday, February 11.

  • Italian coach Franco Ballerini dies in rally crash

    Franco Ballerini (Mapei) was the winner of the 1998 Paris-Roubaix
    Article published:
    February 07, 2010, 10:08 GMT
    Cycling News

    Former Paris-Roubaix winner passes away in Italy at the age of 45

    Italian national cycling coach and former Paris-Roubaix winner Franco Ballerini died on Sunday morning after being involved in a crash during a rally car event in Tuscany, Italy.

    According to La Gazzetta Dello Sport, Ballerini, 45, was competing in the rally within the municipality of Larciano as a navigator for pilot Alessandro Ciardi when their vehicle left the road and crashed.

    Both were rushed to nearby Pistoia Hospital where despite the efforts of doctors Ballerini passed away soon afterwards.

    Ballerini rode as a professional between 1986 and 2001. He won Paris-Roubaix twice, in 1995 and 1998. The cobbled Classic was also his last race as a professional when he retired in 2001.

    He quickly became the Italian national professional men's road coach and was in charge of the team that won the rainbow jersey with Mario Cipollini in 2002, Paolo Bettini in 2006 and 2007, and most recently with Alessandro Ballan in Varese in 2008.

    Paolo Bettini also won a gold medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics under Ballerini's management.

    Cyclingnews spoke to Pat McQuaid as the UCI President was about to board a plane for Vancouver, Canada. He hadn’t heard the news, and was stunned to hear of Ballerini’s passing.

    “What can you say - it is a tragedy for Italian and world cycling,” he stated. “He was a very good figure in the Italian team over several years now, creating an importance within the Italian cycling as regards to the title of World professional Champion.

    “[The World Championships] has been his biggest day every year with the Italian team. He had a very successful tenure as coach, and he was also a great cyclist too. It is a tragedy that he goes like this.”