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Milram's Alessandro Petacchi and Erik Zabel have both been named in their team's line-up for this Sunday's Tour of Flanders. Zabel, fourth last year, is a perennial contender in the Belgian Classic, but Petacchi, who believes be can compete with the best at Flanders, has only ridden twice before, quitting in 1997 and 2002. They are joined in the Milram team by Ralf Grabsch, Martin Mller, Simone Cadamuro, Alessandro Cortinovis, Fabio Sacchi and Maarten den Bakker.
- Grammont mayor Guido de Padt is taking a stand against the most obvious litter-bugs at Sunday's 'Ronde' by asking riders taking part to desist from throwing away water bottles and other unwanted items as the race passes through his municipality. His aim is not only to reduce the amount of litter left by pro riders, but to put an end to amateurs imitating them by deposing of their own rubbish in the same manner.
"I hope Tom Boonen will be the first to set an example," said De Padt. "I call on every rider's good sense, because there will be no sanction or fine. How can young riders understand that it is not good for the environment to throw stuff away willy-nilly if they see pro riders doing exactly that. On Saturday, when the cyclosportif event takes place, 13,000 riders will pass through Grammont and I can guarantee that afterwards the Muur and the area around it will resemble a public tip."
Riders have long disposed of their water bottles with a quick heave onto the roadside, where eager fans often fight to get their hands on what are much-valued souvenirs. However, farmers in Flanders and elsewhere have regularly complained about plastic bottles, food wrappers and other packaging being thrown into their fields, where they need to be tidied up before livestock can damage themselves by attempting to eat them.
- Runner-up at Flanders in 2004, Discovery Channel's Leif Hoste gave his 'Ronde' hopes a significant boost with victory on opening stage of the Three Days of De Panne on Monday. Hoste went clear of a breakaway group with Bernhard Eisel and Gert Steegmans 51km from the finish and surprisingly beat his two faster-finishing rivals in the final sprint. Eisel went too far from the finish, while Steegmans had nothing left in the tank to respond to Hoste's winning burst from 50 metres out.
Second in the recent time trial at Tirreno-Adriatico, Hoste must now be the favourite for overall victory at De Panne, which concludes with an 11km TT on Thursday, especially as former Belgian junior TT champion Steegmans crashed out of the race on Wednesday. "The team is going to help me defend this position because you can't let success in race like this slip away," said Hoste. "I know that everyone is already talking just about Flanders, but there will only be one winner on Sunday."
For most people, that winner is likely to be defending champion Tom Boonen, but Hoste is not overawed by the world champion. "Tom is strong, for sure, but it would be wrong to say that he will win before we have even started. We must try to beat Tom."
Stage 1, Middelkerke-Zottegem
1 Leif Hoste (Bel) Discovery Channel 194km in 4.39.55 (41.58kph)
2 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Franaise des Jeux
3 Gert Steegmans (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto
4 Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa) Liberty Seguros 0.12
5 Luca Paolini (Ita) Liquigas 0.42
6 Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Quick Step 0.48
7 Danilo Napolitano (Ita) Lampre
8 Roberto Petito (Ita) Tenax
9 Baden Cooke (Aus) Unibet.com 0.58
10 Daniele Colli (Ita) Liquigas
Flanders news: Milram, Grammont, HosteClose
ilram select Petacchi and Zabel for De Ronde, mayor of Grammont makes appeal to riders to avoid lit