At 36, Voigt rides with the enthusiasm of a rider half his age
Cycling's master chef, Riis blends talent and tactics perfectly for big results throughout the season
When the cobbles come calling at Flanders and Roubaix, O'Grady will be ready
Voigt's fearless tactics are well-suited to the Criterium International
The contenders for the 2008 edition are many, some who have had some good early season results, and some that have been M.I.A. thus far in 2008. First up is Caisse d’Epargne’s “Green Bullet,” Alejandro Valverde, second overall in last year’s race. The Spaniard, dominant only two years ago, has been unheard of in 2008, and will hope for a good CI ride to announce his form ahead of the hilly Wallonian classics. Lampre’s “Little Prince,” Damiano Cunego, will try his luck again at CI in 2008 after a good 2007 that saw him take victory in the Tour of Romandy, a prestigious fall classic. Cunego will be targeting the overall at the Tour de France, and a good ride in the Criterium International will help his morale heading into the meat of the season.Cunego will race the "mini Tour de France" before the real TDF in July
Rabobank’s climber Robert Gesink will be present to do battle in stage two, but the young Dutchman probably won’t have the chops to contend for the overall. Francaise des Jeux’s Sandy Casar will be motivated on home soil, and Kim Kirchin of the High Road squad is always dangerous in a stage race with hills and a time trial.Two-time defending American time trial champ Zabriskie is a contender for 2008
Astarloza will give his best effort for the Basque fan base
Finally, for dark horses, consider Mikel Astarloza of the Euskaltel-Euskadi Basque team. Astarloza is a good climber and a decent time trialist, and if the weather cooperates, he could do some damage in the short stage race. Another underdog is Columbian climbing ace Mauricio Soler of the South African Barloworld team. Soler is a fearsome climber, and if he can take a minute or more on stage two, he may be able to limit his losses enough in the final time trial to net the win. More likely though is that Soler will use CI to continue to build his form for the July Tour de France.
Traditional Flemish cycling roads, the hallowed ground for aspiring one day specalistsSylvain Chavanal became the first ever Frenchman to win the Belgian semi-classic Dwars door Vlaanderen this past Wednesday, cementing his name forever into Flemish cycling lore. Long considered an enormous talent by the French public, Chavanel may be best known to Americans as the man who kept Chris Horner from having a chance to win a stage in the 2005 Tour de France. Now, Chavanel will forever be known as the first Frenchman to crack the true Belgian hard man's classic. He did it with help from his team and old-fashioned panache, riding away from a quality field for the semi-classic win.
Chavanel has been off the front many times, but in Dwars he made his break stick
According to race reports, Boonen, Cancellara, Ballan and the other torch-bearers of the cobbled-cycling classics played down their efforts in anticipation of Flanders on April 6. Really? Boonen won the event the last four years, this year he decided he wanted to save himself? Doubtful. And tell that to Chavanel and his teammate Nick Nuyens, who is showing excellent form in his own right. Nuyens had a down 2007 but seems ready to be at the front once again in 2008. He'll have full support at Flanders after having ridden himself into the ground for Chavanel at Dwars. The two riders combined to overwhelm the field at Dwars, and Chavanel can thank Nuyens for chaperoning him to the finish line. Nice to have a Belgian on your side in a Belgian race.
Cunego already has a Giro overall, he'll set his sites on Le Tour in 2008
Meanwhile, in Italy, "Il Piccolo Principe," Damiano Cunego, has destroyed the hearts of his loyal tifosi by announcing that he'll forego the Giro in 2008 in favor of trying for the overall in the Tour de France. Cunego, 2006 white jersey (young rider) winner of the Tour de France, likes that there are fewer time trials in this year's TDF than in the Giro. Plus, he already has an overall title in the Giro, having bested then teammate Gilberto Simoni in 2004. After a down year attributed to Epstein-Barr (heavy doping) virus, Cunego has built his form slowly back up and appears ready to contend again in the Grand Tours.
Cunego's tifosi come in all shapes and sizes
All in the family: The climbing-minded Schleck brothers will ride together at the Tour in 2008
Robbie McEwin, the 2004 winner, will toe the line once again, hoping for a win before the course becomes too difficult for the small Aussie. Stuey O'Grady will be on hand for CSC as he builds for his Parix-Roubaix defense, as will Boonen's teammates Stijn Devolder and Gert Stegmans, both youngsters on the rise capable of winning if Boonen falters.
For stage two the field will tackle a good climb before descending into Faenza following a winding downhill approach. This is a good stage for an attack, where Stefano Garzelli may have a go, or possibly Paride Grillo of the CSF Group Navigare team.
Stage three is one for the climbers, featuring several tough climbs, including the category 1 climb to Baragizzo, site of many great moments in the Giro d'Italia and the Giro d'Emilia. This day will be one for Gilberto Simoni, who is preparing for what could be his last Giro, or maybe Daniele Contrini, the 33 year old Tour de Georgia stage winner.
The fourth stage is a pancake-flat jaunt through the Italian countryside which will surely end in a sprint. Unless a large group gets away, expect an exciting bunch gallop to end the stage. The next day the climbs return, and riders will tackle the tough Montegibbio climb three times on the way to the finish. The climb, while only 1.9 kilometers, averages about 17%. Stage five should provide the fresh legs in the field with the opportunity to gain some time and perhaps the win in the town of Sassuolo.
Although it does not feature an all-star field, the Settimana Coppi Bartali is an important step for those riders looking to hone their form ahead of the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France. It is also an opportunity for riders to rebuild their form ahead of the hilly Ardennes classics. Finally, the race provides riders that don't excel in the chilly northern classics with a chance to get all-important race kilometers in their legs before the early season is gone.
Landis rode like a super human in the 2006 Tour, and then tested positive
Hamilton won gold in the Olympics and then was banned for dopingThe cycling world has watched Landis swim upstream over the last few years, and will no doubt shake their heads sadly when the CAS panel once again finds Floyd guilty. In cycling, once you are accused or found guilty of doping, you find very few friends within the cycling realm. Landis no doubt has learned this over the past few years.
Heras probably started doping with the Kelme teams in the early 90'sArmstrong won seven Tours de France. He was a world champion. He survived cancer. He beat known dopers by large margins, including Marco Pantani, Ivan Basso and Jan Ullrich. But he didn't dope? His former teammates Hamilton, Landis, Roberto Heras, Frankie Andreau, all admitted or were found to have doped. But did Armstrong? No, cries his fan base and huge legal team. Lance just worked harder than everyone else. Bullcrap. Total bullcrap. There is no way Armstrong could have defeated the likes of Rasmussen, Basso and Ullrich unless he had some sort of help. As a matter of fact, if he was doping, he was probably using blood transfusions as his method. But like Hamilton and Landis, Armstrong would never admit he doped, even if he did. He made far too many millions of dollars to admit the truth now.
Armstrong en route to his first Tour win in 1999And it's that same with Landis. He figures that if he continues to deny, public opinion will be on his side in the long run. Unfortunately, that's just not true. Real cycling fans, while not eager to admit it, realize that Landis et all did in fact dope. As a matter of fact, almost ALL riders in the 90's doped. It was a doping culture. But we, the American cycling public, are to believe that these Americans are being held to the fire unjustly? Maybe some fans will accept that line of bull, but not this one. Sad but true, Landis, Hamilton, and even those that have never been convicted, are guilty no matter what they may say over the years.
Cancellara has grown from a time trialer to an all-arounder over the last few years
Time trialing as the Swiss champ two years ago
He represents the raibow jersey well
Cancellara rode for the mighty Mapei team in the 90's
Oscar Friere is the favorite to repeat his 2007 success
San Remo scenery: Them's is some purty big palm trees!
Petacchi winning in the Via Roma in 2005. Thor Hushoved is to his left, who finished third, while Boonen is at far right
Wauter Weylandt did what many in the cyling world thought he would do yesterday in the Nokere-Koerse Belgian semi-classic, taking a bunch sprint victory for his Quick Step team. Weylandt bested the youngster Jürgen Roelandts of the Silence Lotto team, and Andre "Gorrilla" Greipel of team High Road. It was a great but expected win for the Belgian, who is making a name for himself early in his career as a man to watch in one day races.
The Rock team has been the glitziest everywhere it has goneBreaking news yesterday afternoon revealed that Rock Racing's Mario Cipollini is no longer under contract to the Rock Racing team, having severed ties with the flamboyant outfit lead by Rock & Republic CEO Michael Ball. Cipollini also denied rumors that he would be transferring to the Tinkoff Credit Systems team for a ride in Milan-San Remo. It looks as though the mighty Lion King has hung up the cleats for good.
Cipo' seems done for sure this timeCipolini explained in a statement what happened, saying "unfortunately I've had to end my relationship with the American Rock Racing team that started a few months ago, The idea of riding Milan-San Remo made sense if it was linked to a wider project of building and managing a new team and my return to racing was part of the project to create a dream team. Despite a contract, this hasn't happened for reasons out of my control."
Previously suspended riders Botero, Hamilton (center) and Sevilla have added a circus-like atmosphere to the Rock Racing teamMeanwhile, over in the Rock camp, tensions continue to rise within the fledgling franchise. Word out of SoCal says team riders are irritable and things seem to be melting down. In a prepared statement, Rock Racing and Michale Ball reacted to Cipo's exit: "From a business perspective and from an overall team standpoint, the relationship between Mario Cipollini and Rock Racing was not advantageous, and would not work long-term. We have terminated his contract and wish him luck in future endeavors."
Michael Ball has made quite an impression on the cycling world in 2008. Whether it has been a positive impression is up for debateHmmmmm. This sounds very similar to the resignation of former director sportif Frankie Andreau, who was less than satisfied with some of Ball's practices as a team owner. Cipo' too seems to have been burned by the LA clothing czar. What will happen next in the Rock Racing camp is any one's guess. Will they make it to Redlands this week or will they fold and disappear, a fluorescent green cloud mixing with the LA smog? If they do go it would be a shame, as the buzz around the Rock team has only helped cycling's publicity, for good or bad.
Andreau took the high road in parting ways with Rock Racing, and has been better off for his decision