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First Edition Cycling News, Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Date published:
March 02, 2010, 0:00 GMT
  • Mattan: Flecha won Omloop for Vandenbroucke

    A happy Juan Antonio Flecha (Team Sky)
    Article published:
    March 02, 2010, 9:38 GMT
    By:
    Peter Cossins

    Former rivals united in respect for fallen friend

    Acqua & Sapone directeur sportif Nico Mattan has revealed that Team Sky’s Juan Antonio Flecha told him during the early stages of Saturday’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad that he was aiming to win the race in memory of their mutual friend Frank Vandenbroucke. Just hours later, Flecha claimed a solo victory in the opening race of the spring Classics season.

    Speaking to Belgian newspaper La Dernière Heure, Mattan said the pair had spoken during the early part of the race. "He had just suffered a puncture and was riding back up to the peloton through the team cars. He was really surprised to see me in the Acqua & Sapone team car. He joked about it, especially when he saw it was Bruno Cenghialta who was driving! You have to remember that Cenghialta was his directeur sportif at Fassa Bortolo during that famous edition of Gent-Wevelgem in 2005…"

    Flecha and Mattan disputed a controversial finish at Wevelgem that year. Flecha attacked close to the finish and seemed to have the race wrapped up, but Mattan stole through to claim victory having been sheltered by race motorbikes. However, it seems that controversy has been forgotten by the pair, who were both close to Vandenbroucke, who died in October last year.

    "When we were talking, Flecha told me: 'You watch. Today I will win and it will be for Vandenbroucke,'" Mattan said. "It was a really beautiful gesture that really touched me. Flecha got on really well with Frank. They rode together for a year at Fassa Bortolo.

    "Frank often used to say to me at that time that he didn’t know how he would be able to cope at races when we weren’t there – his teammate Flecha nor me."

    He added of Flecha: "He’s a real gentleman because there aren’t many riders who would have said that and then carried it off… He really deserved that victory and it gave me real pleasure because he’s so often been well placed but rarely a...

  • Baumann undergoes surgery in Germany

    Eric Baumann (Team NetApp)
    Article published:
    March 02, 2010, 10:27 GMT
    By:
    Richard Tyler

    NetApp sprinter out for up to eight weeks, team continues this week at Murcia

    German Continental squad NetApp has confirmed that Eric Baumann faces up to eight weeks out of competition after undergoing surgery to repair a fractured tibia suffered at the Beverbeek Classic on Saturday.

    The German sprinter suffered a displacement and fracture of his right tibial head in a crash towards the end of the Belgian event. He was transferred to Aachen University Clinic in Germany, where the injury has been stabilised through the insertion of a metal plate.

    "This is just about the worst thing that could have happened," said NetApp Sports Director Jens Heppner. "If everything proceeds according to plan then in about one-and-a-half weeks Eric could be able to begin doing very light training with a maximum of 80 watts on the stationary bike."

    Baumann, 29, is will spend a week at the clinic in Aachen before returning to his home in Leipzig, Germany.

    Squad headed for Spain

    Baumann's exclusion is a blow for the NetApp team, who are still searching for their first victory after joining the professional peloton this year. The squad will line up at the Tour of Murcia on Wednesday, where they hope to play an active role against their ProTour rivals throughout the five-stage race.

    "We want to show what we can do there and prove our worth in the individual stages," said Enrico Poitschke, the team's sports director for the Spanish event. "We will always try to keep pace with the breakaway groups."

    Team NetApp for the Tour of Murcia: Nico Keinath (Germany), Andreas Schillinger (Germany), Huub Duyn (Netherlands), Jan Barta (Czech Republic), Daniel Schorn (Austria), Timon Seubert (Germany), Cesare Benedetti (Italy)
     

  • Wiggins and Armstrong go head to head in Murcia

    Bradley Wiggins answers questions
    Article published:
    March 02, 2010, 12:57 GMT
    By:
    Stephen Farrand

    Briton targets Saturday's time trial

    Bradley Wiggins will race against Lance Armstrong for the first time since last year's Tour de France this week, as both riders continue their early season racing.

    Armstrong made his debut with Team RadioShack at the Tour Down Under and then spent time training in Hawaii before traveling to Europe last week.

    Wiggins rode the Tour of Qatar, helping Team Sky win the opening time trial, before heading to Spain for last week's Ruta del Sol. He was beaten by Alex Rasmussen (Saxo Bank) in the time trial but then went on the attack to test his form during the final road stage.

    Both were perhaps surprised to see Tour de France rival Alberto Contador perform so well at the Volta ao Algarve and win overall but both seem on track as they build up for the summer.

    Wiggins told Cyclingnews in Qatar that the five-day Tour of Murcia was a possible overall objective.

    His overall result will perhaps depend on the form of other big names such 2009 winner Denis Menchov (Rabobank) and Dave Zabriskie (Garmin-Transitions). However Wiggins is surely the favourite for Saturday's flat and fast 22km stage.

    The Tour of Murcia will see British directeur sportif Rod Ellingworth make his debut in the first team car. He has worked closely with Wiggins in recent months during training camps.

    "If he has a good week, Brad cold get a result and the time trial is definitely an objective," Ellingworth told Cyclingnews.

    "He's now out of his conditioning phase and so this month, both Murcia and Catalunya are about racing and making the most about each day. Of course, it's also about the big picture and thinking ahead of the summer. We got some good information from the Ruta del Sol and when he went on the attack on the last stage. It's all good."

    "If he goes well the team will ride for him but if not then guys like Morris Possoni, Chris Froome and John-Lee Augustyn will have their chance. They're all going well...

  • McEwen to continue as planned at Eroica

    Robbie McEwen (Katusha)
    Article published:
    March 02, 2010, 16:18 GMT
    By:
    Richard Tyler

    Cautious, but Omloop knee injury nothing serious says Australian sprinter

    Despite Robbie McEwen's decision not to start Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne last Sunday, the Katusha sprinter will continue with his planned race schedule at this weekend's Montepaschi Strade Bianche (Eroica Toscana).

    McEwen chose to withdraw from Kuurne after banging his left knee heavily on his handlebars in the early stages of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday. It was the same knee which the Australian shattered at last year's Tour of Belgium.

    "About 12 or 15 kilometres into the race there was nearly a crash," McEwen told Cyclingnews on Tuesday. "Two riders almost came down and one of them ended up on top of my handlebars, which flicked them around and into my knee.

    "It hurt a lot straight away when I tried to pedal. I went back to the race doctor's car, they gave me some paracetamol for the pain, but I think the biggest benefit was just to hang on to the car until I could pedal again."

    Although not listed on official results, McEwen did finish the 204-kilometre event. However, swelling around his knee prompted a decision to return home, rather than risk further damage on Sunday. It was a decision that was given further credence as wild storms across Belgium saw only 26 riders' names recorded at the finish line in Kuurne.

    "I finished [Omloop Het Nieuwsblad] but the knee was pretty bruised and swollen so I made the call not to start in Kuurne," he said. "When I saw the weather it definitely turned out to be a good decision. It was one of those special days when only the guys who are good in the cold were finishing, and even some of those pulled out."

    After surgery and a long lay-off last season McEwen, 37, is understandably vigilant about his left knee. His wholesale return to competition this season got off to a strong start last month...

  • Rohregger and Roberts lead Milram's Murcia debut

    Luke Roberts (right) and Thomas Rohregger are first over Wickhams Hill
    Article published:
    March 02, 2010, 17:36 GMT
    By:
    Richard Tyler

    German squad to fight on two fronts, Belgian campaign continues at Le Samyn

    Milram's Thomas Rohregger has been named as a co-captain of his team's line-up for the Tour of Murcia, which begins in Spain on Wednesday.

    Murcia will mark the young Austrian's return to competition after several weeks of recovery from an inner ear infection. He will share leadership duties with Australian Luke Roberts.

    "Right after the Mallorca Challenge, I was unfortunately thrown back by an inner ear infection," said Rohregger. "But I've been able to train well and I'm looking forward to this challenge of this race."

    It will be the second time Roberts and Rohregger have raced together this year after both commenced their respective seasons at January's Tour Down Under. Roberts finished fifth overall at the ProTour event, while Rohregger sealed the mountains classification.

    Milram's Directeur Sportif for the Tour of Murcia, Ralf Grabsch, is hopeful the duo can once again combine to bring home a result as the German team embark on their debut appearance in the five-stage race.

    "We don't want to put Thomas under any extra pressure after his illness," he said. "Luke Roberts is an experienced professional, who can take on the responsibilities. With those two as our leaders, we'll be well prepared for the coming work."

    The pair will also be joined in Murcia by in-form sprinter Roger Kluge, as well as Dominik Roels, Dominik Nerz, Björn Schröder and Peter Wrolich.

    Germans kick-on in Belgium

    Milram will also continue their presence in Belgium with Markus Eichler and Wim de Vocht to lead the squad at one-day race, Le Samyn, in the Walloon region of the country on Wednesday.

    Eichler, who finished fourth at the 2009 edition of the UCI1.1 event, started in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne last weekend. He was one of just 26 riders to complete the latter event, and the only member of his team to do so.

    Eichler and De Vocht will line-up at Le Samyn...

  • Bruseghin backs Valverde at Caisse d'Epargne

    Marzio Bruseghin (Caisse d'Epargne)
    Article published:
    March 02, 2010, 17:38 GMT
    By:
    Cycling News

    Italian rides the Giro del Friuli with new Spanish team

    Italy's Marzio Bruseghin continues his early season racing on home roads at the Giro del Friuli on Wednesday but is happy to line up with the Spanish Caisse d'Epargne team despite leader Alejandro Valverde's being banned from competing in Italy.

    Valverde cannot race in Italy after he was found guilty of being involved in Operacion Puerto by Italian anti-doping investigators. The Spanish courts have failed to get to the bottom of the huge doping investigation, meaning that Valverde is allowed to race in the rest of the world until the Court of Arbitration for Sport issues a final verdict.

    Bruseghin left Lampre to join Caisse d'Epargne for the 2010 season. He rode with the same Spanish management set-up between 1999 and 2002 when the team was sponsored by Banesto.

    He shrugs off the tension between Italy and Spain and has no qualms about praising Valverde.

    "I'll be honest. I like Valverde. He's a real rider, who's proved it by the way he's raced and won big races time and time again. I know he's been accused of a lot of things but he's always insisted he's innocent," Bruseghin told Cyclingnews as he got ready to race close to his home in the northeast of Italy.

    "Valverde's banned from racing in Italy but not in the rest of the world. Sadly, every country seems to have different rules and that's not fair for anyone. For example, Colonel Gaddafi has been banned from going to Switzerland but he's allowed to travel to Italy. There's no uniformity and that's not right whoever they are. It's such a complicated case and I don't feel I'm the one who should decide if it's right or wrong. Lets leave that to the judges."

    Giro d'Italia leader

    Whatever happens to Valverde in the next few months, Bruseghin will lead the Caisse d'Epargne team at the Giro d'Italia in May.

    He finished third overall in the 2008 Giro d'Italia, but at 35 he is now happy to share the leadership with...

  • Paris-Nice contenders to face Col de Vence challenge

    Nicolas Roche (AG2R La Mondiale)
    Article published:
    March 02, 2010, 18:28 GMT
    By:
    Cycling News

    Penultimate stage could prove decisive

    The 68th edition of Paris-Nice will serve up a potentially epic stage on the second to last day, punishing riders with eight classified climbs including the category 1 Col de Vence crested just over 30km before the finish in Tourrettes-sur-Loup. The climb returns to the race for the first time in eight years, but then the mountain was placed early on in a largely flat stage.

    While the distance from the top to the line may allow contenders to regroup before the finish, the length of the stage, 220km, will make it difficult for anyone left behind on the climb to summon the energy to regain the lead.

    It's a scenario that 1981 Paris-Nice champion Stephen Roche recounted on the LeTour.fr web site. He recounted the heartbreaking moment on the climb in the 1987 edition when he lost the leader's jersey due to a puncture on the slopes of the Col de Vence.

    "It wasn't the toughness of the climb that did it. It was a burst tyre just before I reached the summit," the Irishman explained. "I had to stop at the top and wait for assistance. I then embarked on a kamikaze descent to catch up with the pack, but in the meantime there had been a split in the peloton.

    "At the front, Sean Kelly, Charly Mottet and Jean-François Bernard had already started to open up a gap. I found myself out on my own trying to close the distance, but they never slackened the pace, they knew that the race had changed. I lost the lead in the overall standings, but I still look back on it as a good memory because it was a great battle. What's more, I won the final time trial stage that same afternoon, in great style."

    Roche, who's son Nicolas will be contesting the race with the AG2R La Mondiale squad, tipped the Col de Vence to be one of the decisive points before the final stage to Nice.

    "There's no doubt that any of the favourites who are slightly weaker will get left behind at the Col de Vence. It's a really tough climb and you need...

  • O'Brien's Asian odyssey

    Cooling off: Australian Mark O'Brien (Letua Cycling Team) found himself a fan even before racing began in Kota Baru.
    Article published:
    March 02, 2010, 21:00 GMT
    By:
    Les Clarke

    Young Australian back in Langkawi with LeTua

    After missing last year's Tour de Langkawi, Australian rider Mark O'Brien has returned to Malaysia for the 15th edition of the event, albeit in quite a different setting to his previous visit in 2008.

    The 22-year-old from Horsham, Victoria, is riding his second edition of the race as part of Malaysian squad LeTua alongside Spaniards Edgar Nohales, Alexis Rodriguez and Raul Castano, plus local lads Yong Li Ng and Mohammad Hafiz Rozli.

    Late last year he found himself without a team for the 2010 season after unforeseen circumstances denied him a proposed ride in Italy, as he explained at the start of this year's Tour de Langkawi in Kota Bharu, Malaysia.

    "Shayne [Bannan] organised a ride with a team in Italy but around December last year it folded. I was fortunate to get the opportunity to get the ride with LeTua, which came about earlier this year," said O'Brien. "I'd been with Drapac-Porsche for the last three years but when I found out about the collapse of the team in Italy, Drapac's roster was already full.

    "Before the [Australian] elite nationals Shayne Bannan told me about the possibility of doing the Tour de Langkawi. Jef [French journalist Jean-François Quenet] asked me whether I wanted a team to ride the race with and there was the chance of doing it with LeTua. I said I have to take the opportunities as they come and here I am," he continued.

    It's a race with which O'Brien is familiar and he's no stranger to being in the limelight in Malaysia. "I did the race two years ago when Mitch Docker was close to the yellow jersey, so we rode for him and I didn't really get any opportunities to have a go," he explained.

    While he will look for his opportunities this week, Europe remains the desired final destination for O'Brien's cycling career, where he'll be able to demonstrate the skills he has cultured on the road and the track. "Ideally I want to be riding in Italy - the racing suits me there - but if that...