By Gregor Brown & Susan Westemeyer
Tinkoff Credit Systems has already succeeded this year in making its mark and proving its worth; the Italian-Russian squad has won a stage in Langkawi, a stage in the Tour Méditerranéen as well as the Trofeo Laigueglia and GP Chiasso and has now been selected to take part in the 91st Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) on April 8.
Tinkov and team manager Omar Piscina started off the season with the goal of ten victories and, thanks to Pavel Brutt and Mikhail Ignatiev, the team is well on its way to that goal. Already selected for the Giro d'Italia in May, Tinkoff will no doubt be happy with its invitation to the Ronde. The squad may now have a chance at wild card entry into Liège-Bastogne-Liège (also organised by the ASO), a race its new signing Tyler Hamilton won in 2003.
Along with the team of Oleg Tinkov, four other teams were selected for the cobbled Classic: Belgian teams Landbouwkrediet-Tönissteiner and Chocolade Jacques-Topsport Vlaanderen plus the Dutch Skil-Shimano team and German squad Wiesenhof-Felt.
"We are extremely happy, that we can be in the Ronde van Vlaanderen," said Wiesenhof-Felt team manager Raphael Schweda. "That is one of the season highpoints that we have been aiming for."
"We have to see this nomination as the result of our outstanding team performance at the two races last weekend in Belgium, where we did well despite the loss of our captain." That captain is Steffen Wesemann, who won the Ronde in 2004. "It is our goal to bring Steffen Wesemann into position at the deciding moment, in order to help him finish as high as possible," continued Schweda. "We will not just ride along, we will go to Flanders to show what we can do.