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EuroTrash Thursday!

It’s only a week to go until Flanders which means just about everyone with designs on this Spring’s cobbled Classics has migrated to Belgium to get ready for the Big Ones. This weekend will see the much anticipated (and much over-hyped) match up at the Criterium International between two of last season’s biggest headlines. What a weekend!

Focus On Belgium
At this time of year, every year, I tend to get a bit carried away with all things Belgian. Since first seeing a pirate video copy of Jacky Durand giving the bunch the slip at the 1992 Tour of Flanders, I have always looked forward to this time of the season.

Before we get to Flanders (and as I am heading to Belgium next week, I mean this both literally and figuratively) there are more than a few other races that we need to look at first, both in Belgium and elsewhere. We’ll have a look at the Spanish, French and Italian stage races in a moment, but they were racing across Flanders yesterday so lets check in with the Hard Men up north.

Dwaars Door Vlaanderen
Saxo Bank showed how it is done yesterday with a clever double team move that saw an ominously ‘in form’ Fabian Cancellara play the perfect team mate to help Matti Breschel take the win.

The Belgian Boys from QuickStep and Omega Pharma were again shit out of the podium, but a display of force by the national champ Tom Boonen showed he is heading into this weekend’s final Flanders tune up with great legs.

SaxoBank can always rely on Cancellara to deliver the wins, but the squad itself has had a run of near misses so fat this season, so to take Dwars door Vlaanderen was a welcome relief that will play an important backdrop to Bjarne Riis search for a new sponsor for 2011 and beyond.

Matti Breschel was the man to deliver the goods, slipping away in one of those ‘roll off the front’ attacks, while most of the guys looking to contest the finish where keeping their eyes on Cancellara.

“We knew we had to stay in front in the final 20km,” Breshel told Belgium’s Sporza program after his victory. “It was Fabian and I who were the strongest of the whole team and he came to me and said ‘I’ll do this for you’. I didn’t really attack, but went away easy and go the gap.”

In fact, as Cancellara was signalling frustratedly to the bunch to see who was going to help work at the front and help the leaders stay away, his team mate put the head down and rolled off up the left hand side of the road.

When asked if his win would change the team orders fro Flanders or create conflict with Cancellara who was to be the team leader, Breschel discounted this immediately, saying, “No, no problem for the Tour of Flanders. Fabian and I are good friends and it is always good to have more than one card in your hand. As long as you are loyal to each other, it’s not a problem for the team.”

After his 20km solo ride to the finish, Breschel was followed home by Bjorn Leukemans (Vacansoleil) and Niki Terpstra, giving Milram another great result to go with their start to the season. See what a few good wins do for a team? We start referring to podium places as “great results” and not “another near miss.”

Speaking of near misses, Tom Boonen finished with the same time as Leukemans, but the result sheet shows the first QuickStep rider only finished in 20th place. On a purely ‘finishing order’ basis, Omega Pharma Lotto fared slightly better, (but still not close to the podium) with Greg van Avermaet placing 11th. Both teams will be hoping for more this weekend.

Dwars Door Vlaanderen Results
1. Matti Breschel TEAM SAXO BANK 4:26:00
2. Bjorn Leukemans VACANSOLEIL PRO CYCLING TEAM 0:00:07
3. Niki Terpstra TEAM MILRAM 0:00:07
4. Steve Chainel BBOX BOUYGUES TELECOM 0:00:07
6. Luca Paolini ACQUA & SAPONE 0:00:07
8. Tom Veelers SKIL – SHIMANO 0:00:07
9. Stijn Vandenbergh TEAM KATUSHA 0:00:07
10. William Bonnet BBOX BOUYGUES TELECOM 0:00:07

There’s plenty more to come this weekend in Belgium with the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen semi-classic on Saturday (over 203km) and then Sunday’s newly revamped and relocated Gent Wevelgem.

For the run down on what you can expect this weekend, check out all the Belgian Bits from Whit Yost, who has taken time out from his PavePavePave blog to share his thoughts with PEZ. There’s also Jered’s look back at the Gent Wevelgem course , which he rode last year while he was in country and on the ground doing the Spring Classics RoadSide.

OK, Let’s talk stage races…

Vuelta a Catalunya
There have been some fairly news-worthy events going on in Spain at the Veulta a Catalunya this week .

The first, came in the opening prologue TT which saw Paul VoЯ and Dominik Nerz put the RadioShack pair of Levi Leipheimer and Andreas Klцden in a somewhat surprising, Milram Sandwich. VoЯ beat the more fancied time trial specialists by one and two seconds respectively.

“When I heard that I had won, I was totally surprised and overwhelmed. That’s how it is when you win the first ProTour race of your career,” VoЯ said straight after the finish. “I think I won’t really realise it until I am at the start tomorrow wearing the leader’s jersey. I actually didn’t feel that great during the race, so the win is that much more of a surprise.”

After the significant downturn of interest in Germany, from both fans and sponsors, following the doping revelations of the past few years, Milram has found itself the only top flight team left in the country. Last year they didn’t have the greatest of season and with no one else to share the media attention, came under a lot of scrutiny both at home and abroad. This year, even with illness and injury taking its toll so early in the season, the German squad have had some significant morale boosts which they hope to build on in the coming Classics season.

The second event that made the cycling world take note of the racing at Catalunya, came on stage two when Mark Cavendish finally shook of the bad luck that has been following him this season and picked up his first win of the year. With six win already at this point of the 2009 season, Cavendish said it had been frustrating to have no wins to show to date. A run of both illness and bad luck had contributed to a lack of racing meaning the HTC Columbia rider was has not been on top form for the races he did start this year. Despite the belief in some quarters that the squad could have played their ‘other’ sprinter card at Milan Sanremo, Cavendish said that his form had been improving and he has now been able to capitalise on the faith the team has shown in him.

The young HTC Columbia squad at the Vuelta a Catalunya reflects the rebuilding phase that Bob Stapleton’s team has had to undergo this year, but Cavendish said the riders had done exactly what was needed to give him the victory.

“We’ve got a young squad here and they’re still learning the ropes, they stayed together and gave it 100 percent. Without them I wouldn’t have been able to do my sprint. I wouldn’t have been there.”

Number three on the Points of Interest list, is again a stage winner, with yesterday’s third stage picked up by Cervйlo Test Team’s ‘Xaiver Tondo on what were essentially his hoime roads.

“It was really important for me to win today as this stage is just seven kilometres from my home,” Tondo said. “When I was young I dreamed of winning at the Catalunya, I know these roads very well. For me today it’s like a dream.”

Why is this newsworthy? Well Tondo, you may remember was in the results back in Paris Nice, where he won stage six and appears to be right on track to not only play his role in support of his team leader Sastre at the Grand Tours, but also take on responsibility himself as a stage winner and potential GC leader.

Stages So Far
Stage 1: Lloret de Mar, 3.6km: VoB continued to add to the Milram trophy cupboard with a surprise win in the opening TT.
Stage 2: Salt to Banyoles, 182.6km Mark Cavendish finally got his season under way with a bunch sprint win ahead of JJ Haedo of SaxoBank.
Stage 3: La Vall d’en Bas to La Seu d’Urgell, 185.9km Tondo shows that the CTT stage race squad has every bit the depth that their Classics team has and rides onto second place overall.

Remaining Stages:
Stage 4: Oliana to Ascу, 209.7km
Stage 5: Ascу to Cabacйs, 181.2km
Stage 6: El Vendrell to Barcelona 161.9km
Stage 7: EsportParc / Sant Cugat del Vallиs – Circuit de Catalunya, 117.8km

GC After Stage 3
1. Joaquin RODRIGUEZ, KAT 09:04:12
2. Xavier TONDO, CTT at 10
3. Luis Leon SANCHEZ, GCE at 48
4. Nicolas ROCHE, ALM at 01:20
5. Kristijan KOREN, LIQ
8. Roman KREUZIGER, LIQ a 01:22
9. Michel KREDER, GRM a 01:24
10. Janez BRAJKOVIC, RSH a 01:25

Coppi e Bartali
The riders at the Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali are preparing themselves for today’s toughest stage of the five day, six stage tour. Already, Liquigas-Doimo have taken two stage wins with the 80odd kilometre opener going to their sprinter Francesco Chicchi who then pulled on the skin-suit in the afternoon the help the full team record the fastest time in the afternoon TTT over 15.6km.

The third stage was won by Jose Rodolfo Serpa, giving the Androni team another win for their great season start (pre-Tirreno Adriatico doping problems aside, of course).

There is also plenty of attention being paid to a rider who hasn’t won a stage and isn’t leading the overall. He’s back from suspension and sitting in fourth place overall.

Today’s stage inclusdes the testing 1217m climb to Valico del Barigazzo and concludes with the climb to Valico di Gaiato, which includes sections of 9% along its 5km ascent.

Stage 1a: Riccione – Riccione 81.2km: Chicchi for Liquigas
Stage 1b: Riccione – Riccione (TTT) 15.6km: Liquigas
Stage 2: San Lazzaro di Savena – Faenza 175.1km: Serpa
Stage 3: Pavullo – Pavullo 185.3km
Stage 4: Rovigo – Finale Emilia 183.8km
Stage 5: Fiorano Modenese – Sassuolo 178.3km

GC After Stage 3
1. Oliver ZAUGG (SUI) LIQUIGAS – DOIMO 6:26’02
5. Damiano CARUSO (ITA) DE ROSA – STAC PLASTIC at 9 sec
7. Mauro FINETTO (ITA) LIQUIGAS – DOIMO at 12 sec
8. Josй RUJANO GUILLEN (VEN) ISD – NERI at 13 sec
9. Daniele RIGHI (ITA) LAMPRE – FARNESE VINI at 15 sec

First 2010 Track Champions Decided
Plenty of people were watching the opening day of the World Track Championships yesterday in anticipation of Britain’s Sir Chris Hoy adding to his nine world track titles to become the most successful male track rider in the history of the sport. No Gold so far for Sir Chris, but another rider has started added to the great start he made in 2009, in his quest to be one of the greats,

Aussie Cameron Meyer has gone back to back in the points race in a dominant style that left the rest of the field wondering what they could do.

Taking a lap on the field actually means extra points, rather than a ‘one lap lead’ like it did in the ‘old days’ and after lapping the field twice (once in a group at around half distance and one by himself late in the race) no one could even come close to the Garmin-Transisitons pro’s 70 points.

“I had a really good night and I was very confident going into it,” said Meyer. “I had very good legs and I kept to my tactics. I knew the second half of the bike race I was going to one of the strongest there and knew I just had to be confident going into that second half and that’s what I did.”

Meyer also won four of the 16 sprints that were contested during the race, but it was his superior strength rather than his sprinting that saw him take the win.

“I was told by my coach [former world madison champion Matt Gilmore] on the sideline all the other guys were tired and I still had a lot left in me so I sort of rolled away and looked behind and there was no-one with me so I thought ‘Righto this is the time to go again’,” Meyer explained. “I went again and while I was out there I just controlled my breathing, controlled myself, took points while I was out there and took the lap. I knew from there all I had to do was cover the rest of the riders from 30 laps to go and I had it won.”

Australia also picked up another gold with Anna Meares posting the fastest time of 33.381seconds for the 500m time trial to beat defending world champ Simona Krupeckaite (Lithuania) with Olga Panarina (Belarus) taking the bronze.

Opening Night Results:

Team sprint, Men
Gold Final
1. Germany 43.433 sec.
2. France 43.453 sec.
Bronze Final
3. Great Britain 43.590 sec.
4. China 44.002 sec.

Women’s individual pursuit
Gold Final
1. Sarah Hammer (USA) 3.27.826 min.
2. Wendy Houvennaghel (Great Britain) 3.30.377 min.
Bronze Final
3. Alison Shanks (New Zealand) 3.31.259 min.
4. Vilija Sereikaite (Lithuania) 3.31.905 min.

Points race, Men
1. Cameron Meyer (Australia) 70 points
2. Peter Schep (Netherlands) 33 p.
3. Milan Kadlec (Czech Republic) 27 p.

Result, W 500m T.T.
1. Anna Meares (Australia) 33.381 sec.
2. Simona Krupeckaite (Lithuania) 33.462 sec.
3. Olga Panarina (Belarus) 33.779 sec.

Keisse Crashes Out
After putting his horror 2009 behind him and signing for one of his home countries two Big Teams in Quick Step, Iljo Keisse will not be able to line up for his first big target of the season after breaking his collarbone while training on the track in Copenhagen.

“Months and months of work for this event and then in a moment it was all over.” was the way Keisse summed up the fall which saw him break his left collarbone.

“We were training on the track in Copenhagen. I was on Jonathan Dufrasne’s wheel. We were pedalling at over 60kph when all of a sudden he fell. We were going too fast and there was nothing I could do to avoid the crash. I knew right away my collarbone was broken. I’m really sad and disappointed. Everyone knows how much these World Championships meant to me. I’d been working up to them for a long time. What’s important now is to turn the page, recuperate as best I can and concentrate on the rest of the season with team QUICK STEP. I hope my team mates have a great World races and obtain some significant satisfactions.”

An assessment was to be made in Belgium as to whether Keisse would need an operation to help speed up the recovery process.

Criterium International Heads To Corsica
While plenty of folk are hoping to see sparks fly between Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong in their first meet-up this year, the two riders will be more likely to be looking long term, with their big appointment in France still three full months away. One rider who has ambitions a little bit sooner in the season is Cadel Evans. While he (and his team) will be looking to impress ASO to try and secure a spot at the Tour de France in July, this race in Corsica will be one of the key test races ahead of BMC’s assault on May’s Giro d’Italia.

“The big day will be the mountain stage on Saturday,” BMC Racing Team Director Sportif Lelangue said. “It has two nice climbs, plus the one to the finish. I think everyone wants to test themselves on those kinds of top climbs because there aren’t many opportunities like this before the Giro d’Italia. You can understand why we are going there with Cadel and why Alberto Contrador changed his plans to be there, as well as Lance Armstrong.”

2010 Criterium International Stages
1. Saturday 27 March, Porto-Vecchio Col de l’Ospedale, 175.5km
2. Sunday 28 March, Porto-Vecchio to Porto-Vecchio, 75km
3. Sunday 28 March, (ITT) Porto-Vecchio to Porto-Vecchio, 7.7km

ASO’s Ardennes Appointments
ASO released their teams for Liege Bastogne Liege and La Fleche Wallonne this week and while all of the “Big Names” are there, as usual, it is the wild card selections that are generating the most talk.

Just like with Giro (and MSR) organisers RCS, participation in the smaller one day events is often seen as a good indication of how a team chances might be in that particular organisers Grand Tour. This of course also depends on whether or not a team wants to go to a Grand Tour too. Some of the recent goings on with invitations and non invitation are a bit reminiscent of primary school and “your dumped” vs “no way, I dumped you last week.” But… back to the story.

One of the unluckiest (or is there something we don’t know that has made them the “unwanted-est”) teams around at the moment is Skil-Shimano. The Giro starts in the Netherlands, but no invitation. This year, the Tour de France also starts in The Netherlands, so the Dutch team would have been keen to impress ASO with a good showing at LBL or Fleche Wallonne, but alas, they aren’t invited there either.

Does it mean anything for summer? The guys at Skil will be hoping it doesn’t.

Here are the squads for the two races, La Fleche Wallonne on April 21 and Liege-Bastogne-Liege on April 25.

Belgium: Omega Pharma-Lotto (OLO), Quick Step (QST), Landbouwkrediet (LAN), Topsport Vlaanderen – Mercator (TSV)

Denmark: Team Saxo Bank (SAX)

Germany: Team Milram (MRM)

Spain: Caisse d’Epargne (GCE), Euskaltel – Euskadi (EUS)

USA: BMC Racing Team (BMC), Garmin-Transitions (GRM), Team HTC-Columbia (THR), Team RadioShack (RSH)

UK: Team Sky (SKY)

France: AG2R La Mondiale (ALM), Bbox Bouygues Telecom (BBO), Cofidis, le Crйdit en ligne (COF), Franзaise des Jeux (FDJ)

Italy: Acqua & Sapone (ASA), Androni Giocattoli (AND), Lampre-Farnese Vini (LAM), Liquigas-Doimo (LIQ)

Kazakhstan: Astana (AST)

The Netherlands: Rabobank (RAB)

Russia: Katusha Team (KAT)

Switzerland: Cervйlo Test Team (CTT)

Redlands Field Packed With Talent
PRESS RELEASE The seventh edition of the Women’s Prestige Cycling Series gets underway this week when the Redlands Bicycle Classic begins Thursday in Redlands, Calif.

Defending Women’s Prestige Cycling Series individual champion Alison Powers (Team Vera Bradley Foundation) will be a starter at Redlands, as will 2007 Series champion Mara Abbott (Peanut Butter & Co TWENTY12), last year’s runner-up and Peanut Butter & Co TWENTY12 teammate of Abbott, Katharine Carroll, and Katheryn Mattis (Webcor Builders), who was third in the standings last year. Also on the start list for Redlands is past national road champion and 2008 world time trial champion Amber Neben, who will guest ride for the BMW-Bianchi squad.

The retirement of national criterium champion Tina Pic means there will be a new champion in the Sprint competition. Chasing the red jersey are some of the riders who finished in the top five last year, including Joanne Kiesanowski (Team TIBCO/To The Top Pro Cycling), Gina Grain (Webcor Builders) and Powers.

Returning to defend her Best Young Rider jersey is Rebecca Much (Team TIBCO/To The Top Pro Cycling). Abbott, who claimed this title in addition to the overall crown in 2007, will also contend for the white jersey in her final year of eligibility in the competition that rewards riders whose racing age is 25 or younger.

Traditionally, the teams vying for the Series team classification are among the top squads in the nation. This year shapes up to follow that pattern, with defending Women’s Prestige Cycling Series champion Team TIBCO/To The Top Pro Cycling returning, along with Powers’s Team Vera Bradley Foundation and the well-rounded Webcor Builders and Peanut Butter & Co TWENTY12 squads.

“With all the roster changes in the off-season, the only thing that’s certain is that the competition this year will definitely be fierce,” Women’s Prestige Cycling Series co-founder David LaPorte said. “Like last year, I expect several of the classifications will not be decided until the final event.”

Four events in four different states comprise the Women’s Prestige Cycling Series. The other three are: SRAM Tour of the Gila, April 28-May 2 (New Mexico), Nature Valley Grand Prix, June 16-20 (Minnesota) and Bend Memorial Clinic Cascade Cycling Classic, July 20-25 (Oregon). The Series awards the top overall individual, best young rider, best sprinter and top team. Clothing manufacturer Champion System provides special jerseys to identify the leaders in the individual classifications.

For more information about the Women’s Prestige Cycling Series, visit the official website, www.WomenCyclists.com or send an e-mail to: [email protected].

Charities Announced For Maynard Sportive
A few years back, while hanging around the roadcyclinguk.com forum pages, I heard about the death of Reading Cycling Club member, Anthony Maynard. Maynard’s clubmates decided to start a cycling sportive event to honour their friend and this week the organisers announced the charities that would benefit from the funds raised in the July ride.

The four charities to be supported by the 2010 Anthony Maynard Sportive are Helen & Douglas House, RoadPeace, the Thames Valley & Chiltern Air Ambulance and the World Society for the Protection of Animals. All four will receive all proceeds from the event being promoted by Reading Cycling Club on Sunday July 18th.

“As well as enjoying a fantastic day of challenging cycling, everyone riding the event will know that all profits from the day will be going to very worthwhile causes, I am delighted that we can continue to support charities that reflect Anthony’s interests.” announced Event Director John Hollands. He continued “The 2009 event was a great success; we had superb feedback from the riders and raised over Ј6000 in support of the event charities, it really was fitting tribute to Anthony and his love of cycling. This year, we want to it be even better. The tough 110km and 195km courses will show everyone just how good Berkshire and Wiltshire Downs riding can be. Pre and post event, we have also enhanced the facilities available at our Theale Green HQ with more space for riders, additional parking and new changing rooms.

The entries are rolling in, so I would urge riders to enter now to guarantee a place – they will also be helping a good cause just by entering the event.”

Organised by his club mates, the event is being held to honour Reading Cycling Club’s Anthony Maynard who, aged 25, tragically lost his life in July 2008 when struck by a vehicle whilst cycling in an evening club ride.

Further details and online entry can be found at www.anthonymaynardsportive.org

Details of the event charities can be found at www.helenanddouglas.org.uk, www.roadpeace.org, www.tvacaa.org and www.wspa.org.uk

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