By Andrew Hood
Boogerd to retire
Holland will lose another one of its biggest stars to retirement at the end of this season after Michael Boogerd says his days as a professional are winding down.
The big-toothed Rabobank rider, who turns 35 next month, told Dutch journalists Thursday this will be his last season in the peloton. Erik Dekker, who along with Boogerd carried the Dutch torch in the peloton for much of the past decade, retired last year.
“It’s a special moment, emotional but not dramatic,” Boogerd said at a press conference. “I want to finish this season in style starting on Sunday.”
Boogerd decided to announce his retirement ahead of Sunday’s Amstel Gold Race, that race that’s seen his biggest successes. He won in 1999 just a hair in front of a resurgent Lance Armstrong and finished on the final podium no less than six times in the Dutch classic.
Once fancied as a Tour de France contender after finishing fifth in the 1998 Tour, Boogerd could never quite stay with the climbers or go head to head with the time trial specialists. Two Tour stage victories (stage 16 in 2002, stage 6 in 1996) are among his 25 career victories.
Valverde primed for Ardennes
Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d’Epargne) rolls into next week Ardennes classics with a balance confidence and caution, knowing that a repeat of his Flèche-Liège double will be hard to equal.
“The Ardennes classics are the first big goals for my season,” Valverde said in a team release. “I chose to prepare myself at the Vuelta al País Vasco and I think I chose well. The race was very hard, with mountains every day and long stages, hard-fought and at a high rate of speed. I think it’s been ideal preparation ahead of the three classics. I took advantage of this week to rest and to recover.”
Last year, Valverde used the Ardennes double to catapult into the ProTour leader’s jersey and eventually ended up winning the title despite crashing out of the Tour de France with a broken collarbone.
“Balaverde” already has a nice collection of victories in the bag and could even afford to play kingmaker last weekend at the Klasika Primavera in Spain when he eased up at the finish line to allow teammate Joaquin Rodriguez to claim the victory.
Coming into the trio of Ardennes classics – Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallone and Liège-Bastogne-Liège – Valverde knows history doesn’t often repeat itself in the hilly, explosive courses.
“To do as well as last year will be very difficult,” he said. “It’s going to be very difficult, but I have the luck to count on very strong team at my side and I hope to win at least one of the three.”
Caisse d’Epargne for Amstel Gold RaceChente García AcostaDavid LópezFran PérezJoaquín RodríguezLuis León SánchezJosé Joaquín RojasAlejandro ValverdeConstantino Zaballa,br>
‘Administrative error’ for Horrillo
Spain’s Pedro Horrillo has tested positive for Formoterol, a drug used to treat asthma, during Fleche Brabanconne cycling race in Belgium, his Rabobank team confirmed Thursday.
Rabobank said the result was “an administrative error” as the cyclist has a prescription to use asthma medication since 1996, but had not informed the UCI when he changed his treatment in February.
Rabobank said that for this reason Horrillo would not be asking for a B-sample and the team did not expect heavy sanctions to be taken against the cyclist whom they would not be suspending.
Horillo’s biggest win was a stage in the 2004 Paris-Nice race.
Agence France Presse
Ballan no, Zabel yes
Tour of Flanders champion Alessandro Ballan (Lampre-Fondital) will skip Sunday’s Amstel Gold Race after his team reported the Italian is suffering from a fever.
Erik Zabel (Milram), who crashed hard at Flanders and was forced out of Ghent-Wevelgem and Paris-Roubaix, will start Amstel Gold, his team reported. Zabel returned to competition with seventh place at Wednesday’s GP de l’Escaut.
Championship of Zurich canceled
Failure to find a major sponsor has led to the cancellation of the 92nd edition of the Championship of Zurich, one of cycling’s ProTour events.
Zurich, one of the richest cities in the world, is unable to host the October 7 race, one of the oldest on the international calendar, because a sponsor can’t be found, according to Swiss agency Sportinformation.
Last year’s race, held over 233.7km, was won by Spaniard Samuel Sanchez. Swiss racers have dominated the race, with 40 victories in 91 editions. —Agence France Presse