By Andrew Hood
Tom Boonen has been enjoying some quality training sessions around his new home in Monaco and hopes to roll into Sunday’s start of Paris-Nice ready to pop for a win or two during the eight-day “Race to the Sun.”
“The weather is great and the area in and around Monaco is perfect for this important training as there are some good up hill sections,” Boonen said in a Quick Step-Innergetic release. “My teammates Kevin Hulsmans, Kevin Van Impe and Steven De Jongh have also joined me here in Monaco. It’s certainly more fun and stimulating training together.”
The reigning world champion will head early to Paris to receive the Velo D’Or award from the editors of Velo magazine. Then he will appear in Eurosport studios as a guest, all part of the busy schedule for the young Belgian.
Boonen admits that this year’s Paris-Nice route leaves fewer chances for the sprinters.
“Last year’s Paris-Nice left me very satisfied, but I think this year’s route will be harder. The prologue certainly will be a bit too tough for me but I’ll still do my very best,” he said. “Then there are a few stages where I should be able to look toward a win. I’ll be taking part in the Paris-Nice in function of the classics that will follow shortly after and in particular the Milano-San Remo. Winning a race is always great for morale, but at the moment, is not absolutely necessary. One thing I’m certainly hoping is that the weather is better than it was during last year’s race.”
Quick Step teammate, Paolo Bettini, said he’s on good form as he nears the spring classic kick-off at Milan-San Remo as he lines up for the Giro della Lucca on March 6.
“I’m glad to be racing in Italy, above all in Tuscany too on my home ground,” Bettini said. “After the final uphill section, there are lots of kilometers of riding on the flat before reaching the finish line and for that reason I believe there will be a final sprint finish. As far as I am concerned I’ll be trying to make the most of any situation that arises during the race. I’m on good form. Earlier on in the week I tried out the Monte Serra ascent finishing with a time of 15:55. Cunego all for Giro
Damiano Cunego – competing in this week’s Vuelta a Murcia in Spain – said he wants to forget his troubled 2005 campaign as he focuses on another Giro d’Italia title.
“My entire season is going to be focused on arriving in good shape for the Giro. For my team, Lampre, the race is very important,” Cunego told El Diario Vasco. “After that, I’ll race the Tour with the idea of getting to know the race for future years to come.”
The 24-year-old suffered through much of 2005 with health problems that forced him to miss the Tour de France. He’s confident he can return to form he enjoyed in 2004, when he won four stages en route to overall victory at the Giro.
“I want to start the Tour to see it. I couldn’t race it a year ago because of mononucleosis,” Cunego said. “The only regret is that I couldn’t race with Armstrong in the Tour. We are from distinct generations and I only raced with him once in the 2003 Setmana Catalana.”
Cunego also explained he’s feeling less pressure that last year, with less media attention and other off-season sponsor obligations. He’s also changing his style of racing, trading in his win-all-the-time attitude for one more focused on the grand tours.
As far as the departure of Gilberto Simoni for Saunier Duval-Prodir, Cunego said only good things will come from the separation of the two stars that sometimes knocked heads the past few seasons.
“For me and for Simoni, it’s better to be separate on distinct teams,” he said. “Each one can do the things as they like. The situation is clearer and it’s going to be beneficial to everyone.”
Astarloa wins Milan-Turin
Spain’s Igor Astarloa (Barloworld) won the 91st edition of Milan-Turin on Saturday.
Astarloa, the world champion in 2003, crossed ahead of Italians Franco Pellizotti and Mirko Celestino after 199km of racing. —Agence France Presse
T-Mobile ready for P-N
T-Mobile enters Sunday’s start of Paris-Nice with Patrik Sinkewitz, Kim Kirchen and Linus Gerdemann “capable of aiming for the GC.”
“We are looking forward to this first big race of the season,” T-Mobile sport director Mario Kummer said on the team’s web page. “For us the race is an indicator of where we stand.”
Paris-Nice has always served up good memories for T-Mobile, with former rider Alexandre Vinokourov scoring wins in 2002-03 and Andreas Klöden winning in 2000 to mark his arrival in international racing. T-Mobile for Paris-Nice
Marcus Burghardt (G)
Linus Gerdemann (G)
Bas Giling (Nl)
Kim Kirchen (Lux)
Jörg Ludewig (G)
Eddy Mazzoleni (I)
Patrik Sinkewitz (G)
Thomas Ziegler (G)
Frans van Looy
Chicchi scores first win
Former U23 world champion Francesco Chicchi (Quick Step-Innergetic) won his first race in the elite ranks after taking the opening stage Friday of the Drieddagse Van West Vlaanderen race in Belgium.
Chicchi beat Jeremy Hunt (Unibet.com) and Gerald Ciolek (Wiesenhof-AKUD) during the final sprint of the stage that started in Kortrijk and finished in Bellegem.
“I am over the moon. Belgium has brought me good luck once again,” said Chicchi, referring to his world championship win in Zolder in 2002. “I’ve been waiting for this win for a long time. The finish line was situated about 500 meters after an up-hill section. Weylandt made his move at the foot of the ascent with both Pozzato and myself hot on his wheels. I was able to find a small gap in order to pass him and went on to launch myself into the final sprint.”
UCI to challenge doping case
The UCI Anti-Doping Commission announced it will challenge a doping case issued against track cyclist Barry Forde by the Barbados Cycling Union.
Forde, a world championship silver medalist in the keirin, was dropped from Barbados’ Commonwealth Games cycling team this week after Forde tested for high levels of testosterone at a track event in October while competing in France.
Testosterone is produced naturally in the body and can be taken to treat medical problems, but elevated values can also trigger a positive doping test.
“Having studied the case, the UCI Anti-Doping Commission does not agree with the arguments raised by the Barbados Cycling Federation,” a press release said. “Consequently, the International Cycling Union will lodge an appeal against this decision before the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne.”
Forde became the first cyclist from Barbados to win a world championship medal. At the 2003 Pan American Games, he was stripped of two gold medals after testing positive for ephedrine.