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First Edition Cycling News, Thursday, February 25, 2010

Date published:
February 25, 2010, 0:00 GMT
  • Injuries will not keep Steegmans, Vaitkus from Belgian openers

    Gert Steegmans (RadioShack)
    Article published:
    February 24, 2010, 20:14 GMT
    Cycling News

    RadioShack announces its team for this weekend

    Despite being injured in last week's Volta ao Algarve, RadioShack's Gert Steegmans and Tomas Vaitkus will take part in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne this weekend.

    Both riders were in doubt of being able to race after being injured in Portugal last week. Steegmans suffered a concussion after crashing on his head on stage 3, but after serveral days of rest he was able to resume training at full strength today.

    "Since Monday I have had no headaches. The nausea has disappeared too," said Steegmans. "The doctors advised me to wait an extra day and to stay in the dark to take no risks. Though – as everyone joked – I could not have a concussion because of a lack of brains in my head!

    "The two training rides have convinced me that I am able to play a role in both weekend races. My good condition cannot be completely gone. The only thing that worries me a bit is the stiffness in my neck and upper leg but that is not the end of the world. I can deal with it."

    Vaitkus injured his shoulder in a separate crash last week, but after having it immobilized for a few days he is still in some pain but is ready to risk a start.

    "In Russia there is a saying: ‘One who doesn't take a risk, will not drink champagne'. So I will start," Vaitkus said. "In the past two-to-three days I have less pain, but it is still present. On the other hand, I was able to ride 180 kilometers today on the bike. I am confident of a better 2010 than 2009, certainly with less crashes anyway."

    In last year's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Vaitkus was up in the front group at the final sprint but went down in a crash and broke a bone in his right elbow.

    RadioShack for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne: Fumiyuki Beppu, Sam Bewley, Daryl Impey, Gregory Rast, Sébastien Rosseler, Bjorn Selander, Gert Steegmans and Tomas Vaitkus; Director: Dirk Demol

  • Vogondy cleared to race after cardiac scare

    Nicolas Vogondy (Bbox Bouygues Telecom)
    Article published:
    February 24, 2010, 22:05 GMT
    Cycling News

    French champion will return to competition in mid-April

    Former two-time French champion Nicolas Vogondy has been cleared to resume competition after spending weeks fretting about his health following a diagnosis of irregular heart rhythms.

    The 32-year-old Bbox Bouygues Telecom rider was found to have a cardiac arrhythmia during a routine medical examination in December, and last month was denied a racing license by the French federation until he could prove healthy enough to compete.

    After two weeks of complete rest, Vogondy was cleared to ride after a normal MRI and stress test.

    He told L'Equipe that he spent the past seven weeks in doubt and incomprehension. "It's a great relief," Vogondy said. "I will take my place in my new team Bbox Bouygues Telecom for the first time and hope to be competing by mid-April."

    Vogondy joined the team after racing three years with the now defunct Agritubel squad.

  • Meares to return at Revolution 6

    Anna Meares (Australia) during the women's 500m TT
    Article published:
    February 25, 2010, 1:20 GMT
    Greg Johnson

    Kiwis sending stong lineup

    Anna Meares will return to racing at Saturday evening's Revolution 6 in Melbourne, Australia, after skipping the Australian Track National Championships due to fatigue. Blood work Meares underwent prior to the Beijing UCI World Cup round revealed she was feeling the impact of a heavy training block, so it was decided to rest Meares in the interest of her UCI World Track Championships bid next month.

    Meares' team sprint world championship teammate Kaarle McCulloch will also use Revolution 6 as preparation for the championship event in Copenhagen, Denmark. McCulloch claimed an impressive four gold medals at the Australian Track Championships in Adelaide, South Australia earlier this month.

    Meares McColluch and Emily Rosemond will go up against the Under 19 men in one-on-one sprints at this weekend's event. The trio will face off against Nathan Corrigan-Martella, Jaron Gardiner and Aaron Cooper. It won’t be the first battle of the sexes held at Revolution, with the event holding a keirin battle at its last event.

    New Zealand will also have a strong presents at Saturday’s race. Hayden Godfrey will contest his first event since being hit by a car after the Beijing track World Cup. He will be joined by compatriots Tom Scully, Shane Archbold and Myron Simpson.

  • Sun Tour to commence route planning next week

    The Herald Sun Tour trophy
    Article published:
    February 25, 2010, 3:45 GMT
    Greg Johnson

    Owner looking forward to increase in field quality

    A meeting between the Jayco Herald Sun Tour stakeholders will take place next week, where planning for the 2011 event will commence. Cycling Australia announced yesterday the event would move from its October date for the first time in its 57 year history, which should improve the level of riders the event is able to attract, according to The Herald Sun's strategic partnerships director Tom Salom.

    “I think it will certainly make for a better Jayco Herald Sun Tour from 2011 onwards,” Salom told Cyclingnews. “I think it was extremely important. We felt the current date was restricting the event rather than promoting it, because of the availability, or lack of availability, of top quality riders. So it was pretty significant for expanding and growing the event.”

    The Jayco Herald Sun Tour requested a move to February in the hope of retaining some of the ProTour teams in Australia for January’s Tour Down Under. The ProTour race’s director Mike Turtur moved to prevent two HTC-Columbia riders from competing in the Australian Open Road Championships this January, who were brought in from Germany to compete specifically at Tour Down Under. While there’s potential for a similar situation to occur with Tour Down Under and Jayco Herald Sun Tour next year, Salom hasn’t spoken to Turtur or entered public debate on the matter, saying it wouldn’t be in the sport’s best interest.

    “I think that would be to the detriment of the sport and that’s something for Mike Turtur to consider,” he said. “I thought he was about promoting the sport, so that’s all I’d say on that.”

    International Cycling Union president Pat McQuaid raised concerns a move by the Jayco Herald Sun Tour to a February date could leave the two races competing for the ProTour license during his visit to Tour Down Under in January, a situation he was keen to avoid. In response...

  • Downing excited ahead of his first crack at the Classics

    Russell Downing has settled in the ProTour ranks
    Article published:
    February 25, 2010, 8:00 GMT
    Richard Tyler

    Arvesen's unlucky break gives Briton his chance at Omloop and Kuurne

    Great Britain's Russell Downing will make his Classics debut this weekend as he forms part of a powerful Sky squad determined to deliver Edvald Boasson Hagen to victory at the start virtuel of the Belgian season.

    Downing will line up alongside Boasson Hagen at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday and Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne on Sunday. The 31 year-old and has been busy re-acclimatising to European conditions after starting his season in the warmer climes of Australia (at the Tour Down Under) and the Middle East (at the Tour of Qatar).

    "I'm feeling good, excited obviously. The Classics are something I've always really wanted to do and it's great to finally have the chance," he told Cyclingnews on Tuesday. "I've spent the last couple of days getting back to grips with the [European] weather."

    Despite the jet-set start to his first season in the ProTour, Downing indicated that his condition was improving as he gets ready to embark on the European season proper.

    "The legs are feeling pretty good [after Qatar]. I had the same recovery as I did after the Tour Down Under; three days riding easy. I did a five hour ride in the snow yesterday which was good."

    Adding poignancy to his first appearance at the Classics is the fact that his team will contain one of the main contenders. "[Edvald Boasson Hagen's] going to the main guy for us on Saturday. I'm hoping to be there to help him in the end."

    Bookmakers have installed Boasson Hagen alongside Tom Boonen (Quick Step) and Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) as the short-priced favourites for success this weekend. Sharing the peloton with the trio in Qatar gave Downing a similar impression of the riders who will present the stiffest challenge to his team leader.

    "Boonen looked to be in quite good shape. He and Gilbert went on to Oman too. The Belgian races are obviously really important for them, but everyone will be going for it and most of the guys will have...

  • Devolder hoping for rainy weekend

    Stijn Devolder on the last cobblestone section of the race: De Lange Munte. Very windy today.
    Article published:
    February 25, 2010, 10:57 GMT
    Cycling News

    Quick Step co-leader gears up for Flandrian starters

    Stijn Devolder is ready to take on the Belgian season opening races this weekend, the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne on Sunday. The Belgian Quick Step rider will be supporting his squad's leader Tom Boonen together with Sylvain Chavanel and is eager to race, even in the worst of conditions.

    "Boonen is our leader, and together with Chavanel we are protected riders," Devolder told La dernière Heure after the team's reconnaissance ride of the Omloop course this week. "It's actually easier to win a real classic than the Nieuwsblad, because of the shorter distance and lesser difficulties.

    "That being said, even if the last climb is at 35 kilometres of the finish, one can take advantage from it - especially if in bad weather conditions," he added. "I'd rather have some rain and bad weather this week-end!"

    Speaking of which, the particularly cold winter has left its mark on the roads through Flanders, as the team discovered. With temperatures frequently well below zero degrees and lots of snow during the last two months, many roadsides are damaged, which will add further spice to the Flemish opener.

    "The roads are in a desastrous state, with potholes everywhere," said Devolder. "On the major road to Haaghoek [one of the cobbled sectors near Zottegem - ed.] you'd think that a bomb has exploded on the tarmac. This will make the race even more nervous, if that's at all possible. We have to be very attentive, especially before getting to these first difficulties."

    Last year, Devolder was put back by a knee injury, but this year, the two-time winner of the Ronde van Vlaanderen wants to fight for the victory. "This time, I want to play a role in the finale with the other favourites," he concluded.

  • Tour de Pologne honours Ballerini

    Franco Ballerini
    Article published:
    February 25, 2010, 11:17 GMT
    Cycling News

    Stage three dedicated to the memory of the Italian team coach

    The organisers of the Tour of Poland, or Tour de Pologne, have decided to observe a memorial to Franco Ballerini, the Italian national cycling team manager who died tragically on February 7 after an accident during a rally race.

    The third stage of this year's Tour de Pologne, from Sosnowiec to Katowice on August 3, will be dedicated to Franco Ballerini. The general manager of the Tour de Pologne, Czeslaw Lang, remembered his friend and former team mate form the late Eighties.

    "Franco began his brilliant career when mine was just coming to an end," Lang explained. "But we were lucky enough to meet and race together wearing the Del Tongo-Colnago jersey (1988) and the Malvor-Sidi-Colnago jersey (1989-1990). After that I became in 1991 his sports director on the Del Tongo-MG Maglificio.

    "I understood right away that he had talent and I knew he could do great things. Franco was an exquisite person both form a human and professional standpoint, who you could compare notes with and talk to even outside of the cycling sphere. He was a champion who had style both on a bike and in everyday life. I'm proud to have known him and to have been able to race by his side."

    The friendship between the two men continued until Ballerini's unexpected passing. "As a national team manager he always honoured our race as a useful phase for determining the physical fitness of his athletes as he vetted the national team for the world championships at the end of September. Now sadly Franco isn't with us any more, but his memory will stay with us as an example, especially to young cyclists who are just getting to know the bike world," Lang concluded.

  • Boonen ready for cold weather debut in Omloop

    Belgian champion Tom Boonen claims the third stage in Qatar.
    Article published:
    February 25, 2010, 12:29 GMT
    Stephen Farrand

    Belgian champion based in Monaco again, fresh from Qatar and Oman

    Tom Boonen will travel to Belgium today, ready for Saturday's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. The Quick Step leader is convinced he has done the right thing by avoiding the cold of northern Europe this winter.

    Boonen took part in the recent Tour of Qatar and the Tour of Oman, winning a stage in each race. Then instead of heading home to Belgium, he traveled to Monaco, to further avoid the cold weather that has affected many riders' training in recent months.

    His Quick Step team has recently revealed that Boonen has moved back to Monaco and apparently spent most of the winter there. He lived in the tax haven before testing positive for cocaine but moved back to Belgium in 2008 to be with his long-term girlfriend Lore. According to reports in Thursday's Het Nieuwsblad newspaper, she has now quit her job to be with Boonen in Monaco.

    Boonen did not check out the route with his Quick Step teammates on Tuesday but is confident he is on form thanks to spending most of the winter in Monaco or in training camps in Spain.

    "I'm good, I'm good. I don’t think it's possible to say if I'm better or worse in the years before but it's all looking good. So I've nothing to worry about," Boonen told Cyclingnews before heading home from Oman.

    "It's always difficult to say what's the best way to prepare for the season but I think riding the Tour of Qatar and then the Tour of Oman is the best way for now. It was better than staying in Europe. There was no stress about the weather and no need to change your training and racing programmes. We raced hard for two weeks but also had some good recovery. I don't think the guys who were training in the snow in Europe will be better than the guys who were racing in the sun."

    Boonen looked lean in Qatar and Oman after losing five kilogrammes. He is a natural favourite for Saturday's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad but rightly pointed out it is still early in the season. He wants to be at his...