By Andrew Hood
Big guns lining up for HEW
Cycling’s top sprinters top the list of favorites Sunday for the 10th HEW Cyclassics in Hamburg, Germany.
Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo), Tom Boonen (QuickStep), Tour de France green jersey winner Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole) and defending champion Stuart O’Grady (Cofidis) are some of the big guns lining up for the 250.5km race to kick-start the final third of the 2005 season.
Also back in action this weekend after skipping the Tour will be ProTour leader Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas-Bianchi), Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner), Paolo Bettini (QuickStep) and Peter Van Petegem (Davitamon-Lotto).
Jan Ullrich and Erik Zabel will lead T-Mobile’s effort while Robbie McEwen (Davitamon-Lotto) isn’t expected to take the start.
The hilly race starts and finishes in the bustling city of Hamburg and rolls out in circuits pushing south and west of town. The principal difficulty of the course, the Waseberg climb with ramps as steep as 16 percent, could spring a breakaway. The course passes four times over the short, but steep climb, with the final passage coming 16km from the finish line.
Twenty ProTour teams plus wildcards Wiesenhof, Ag2r and Mr. Bookmaker will participate in the event sponsored by Hamburg’s electric utlitiy, the Hamburgische Electricitäts-Werke.
Kashechkin to join Liberty
Kazakh climbing sensation Andrei Kashechkin is poised to join compatriot Alexandre Vinokourov at Liberty Seguros.
According to a report in L’Equipe, the 25-year-old rider will sign a two-year contract to ride alongside Vinokourov, who signed a deal with the Spanish team earlier this week.
“I’m going to ride with Alex to help him win the Tour,” said Kashechkin, who finished 19th in the Tour and second in the young riders competition.
“I’m still young, I want to learn before striking out on my own,” he said. “It’s a sentimental decision because all of the offers I received were financially identical.”
The news further solidifies Liberty Seguros’ new Tour base that’s being built around Vinokourov. After two dismal Tour showings by three-time Vuelta champion Roberto Heras, the Spanish team is placing its bets on the attacking Kazakh.
Heras, meanwhile, has already said he’ll skip next year’s Tour to race the Giro d’Italia.
Valverde, Ullrich to race Clásica
Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) and Alejandro Valverde (Illes Balears) are both confirmed to start the Clásica de San Sebastián set for Aug. 13. Other confirmed starters including ProTour leader Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas-Bianchi) and defending champion Martín Perdiguero (Saunier Duval).
Four wild card teams – Comunidad Valenciana, Relax, Kaiku and Barloworld – will line up with the 20 ProTour teams.
Cooke to miss hometown world cup
A knee injury will keep Nicole Cooke out of next month’s World Cup race on home roads in Newport.
“The World Cup in Newport was one of my big target races this season and I am devastated to miss racing in front of my home crowd,” Cooke told BBC. “I had hoped my knee would recover but the medical advice is that more recuperation time is needed.”
Konecny on mend
Tomas Konecny will race next week’s Tour of Denmark, his first race in nine months since breaking his femur while playing ice hockey last November.
Konecny, 31, underwent a second surgery in May to replace a screw in the bone that was hampering his ability to train on the bike.
“After such a long break, I can’t expect any miracles,” said Konecny, a winner of 20 races in his career. “I am just happy that I will finally be back racing again.”
No extra team for Vuelta
Efforts by Vuelta a España organizers to expand the list of starting teams to 23 has been shot down by ProTour rules that only allow 22 squads to start a grand tour.
Vuelta officials wanted an extra slot to accommodate Kaiku, one of Spain’s top continental teams, but Spanish media reports the UCI has shot down the proposal.
According to ProTour rules, the size of the peloton shouldn’t be larger than 200 riders. The addition of an extra team would push the peloton to 207. Currently, the 20 ProTour teams and two continential teams – Comunidad Valenciana and Relax-Fuenlabrada – are scheduled to race the Vuelta (Aug. 27-Sept. 18).