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The classics specialists will be battling in Belgium this weekend, while the stage racers will focus

The classics specialists will be battling in Belgium this weekend, while the stage racers will focus
PIC © TIM DE WAELE Big Belgian weekend looming The Belgian classics season is now in full swing, with two important semi-classics programmed for this weekend. Saturday's E3 Prijs Vlaanderen is an important form tester for next weekend's Tour of Flanders, while Sunday's Brabantse Pijl is a hillier race that usually produces an exciting finish. Tom Boonen (Quick.Step) has won the E3 Prijs for the past three years, and is definitely one to watch after his win in Dwars door Vlaanderen last Wednesday on his new bike. The Quick.Step team also includes world champion Paolo Bettini, 2003 winner Steven de Jongh, Gert Steegmans and Peter Van Petegem. Traditional rivals Predictor-Lotto will not have Robbie McEwen in their lineup. The Australian was suffering from the after-effects of his crash in Milan-San Remo, and has decided not to race. But the team can rely on Leif Hoste, who has recovered after his fall in Tirreno-Adriatico last week. "It's going well with Hoste, I'm sure of that," said team director Herman Frison. "He knows his role and that there is pressure on his shoulders, but he'll take that on board." T-Mobile will be missing its top classics specialist Andreas Klier, who broke his cheek and suffered concussion after hitting a tractor earlier this week. But the magenta team will still be able to count on Marcus Burghardt, Bernhard Eisel, Servais Knaven and Roger Hammond in the E3 Prijs, and Kim Kirchen, Jakob Piil and Axel Merckx in the Brabantse Pijl. "Kim has shown top form with his performances in the past couple of weeks," said T-Mobile director Valerio Piva. "At Tirreno he showed that he's in his element on shorter climbs. Axel knows the parcours here like the back of his hand, and he has twice placed third in this race." Team CSC is always hungry for success in Belgium. After strong performances by Stuart O'Grady, Fabian Cancellara, Lars Michaelsen and Matti Breschel recently, they are due for a win. Alessandro Ballan (Lampre-Fondital), Niko Eeckhout (Chocolade Jacques) and Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank) are others to watch on the weekend. Routes Saturday's E3 Prijs starts and finishes in Harelbeke, in north west Flanders. The route is 203km long and includes 12 climbs. The Paterberg, Kwaremont, Knokteberg and Tiegemberg all come in the last 40km, making a bunch sprint unlikely. Sunday's Brabantse Pijl starts in Zaventem, on the outskirts of Brussels, and ends on top of the Alsemberg in Beersel after 200km. It features no real cobbled sections but has 19 climbs, most of which are concentrated in the five laps of the 16.6km finishing circuit. Tour riders on show in Critrium International This weekend's Critrium International in north eastern France is typically raced by those targeting the major tours, rather than the cobbled classics. The two-day, three-stage event has something for every type of rider: a flat stage, a hilly stage and a time trial. Saturday's 179km leg is between Asfelt and Charleville-Mzires and should suit the sprinters. Sunday is split into a hilly 98.5km stage in the morning between Les Vieilles Forges (Les Mazures) and Montherm and an 8.3km time trial around Charleville-Mzires in the afternoon. Team CSC has had a mortgage on the race for the last three years, with Jens Voigt, Bobby Julich and Ivan Basso all winning. Both Julich and Voigt are in the team for the weekend, along with Luxembourg talent Frnk Schleck, and CSC should again be the team to beat. Astana has a formidable line-up that includes Alexandre Vinokourov and Andreas Klden, while Alejandro Valverde will captain the Caisse d'Epargne team and Lampre is bringing Damiano Cunego. Two golds for Britain on day 1 of Track World's Great Britain showed itself to be the strongest nation at the end of the first day of the track cycling world championships in Mallorca, Spain. Britain won two gold medals and a silver thanks to Bradley Wiggins (men's individual pursuit), Victoria Pendleton and Shanaze Reade (women's team sprint) and Ross Edgar, Chris Hoy and Craig Maclean (men's team sprint). France won the gold in the men's team sprint by just 0.002sec with Gregory Bauge, Mickal Bourgain and Arnaud Tournant, while Czech rider Alois Kankovsky won the men's omnium, a new event for the world championships. Results Men's individual pursuit 1 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) 2 Robert Bartko (Ger) 3 Sergi Escobar Roure (Spa) Men's team sprint 1 France (Gregory Bauge, Mickal Bourgain, Arnaud Tournant) 0:43.830 2 Great Britain (Ross Edgar, Chris Hoy, Craig Maclean) 0:43.832 3 Germany (Robert Forstemann, Maximilian Levy, Stefan Nimke) 0:44.240 Women's team sprint 1 Great Britain (Victoria Pendleton, Shanaze Reade) 0:33.63 2 Netherlands (Yvonne Hijgenaar, Willy Kanis) 0:33.97 3 Australia (Kristine Bayley, Anna Meares) 0:33.81 Men's omnium 1 Alois Kankovsky (Cze) 19 pts 2 Walter Fernando Perez (Arg) 28 3 Charles Bradley Huff (USA) 37 Historic flavour for US Open Cycling Championships courses The courses for the first US Open Cycling Championships (April 7) have a distinct historical flavour. Located in Virginia, they visit a number of sites that were of importance to early settlers. The men's race (112 miles/180km) starts in Williamsburg at 8:10 a.m. on Francis Street in front of the colonial powder magazine. The course will then head past Jamestown, which this year is commemorating the 400th anniversary of its founding, and follow the first westward expansion into the New World by the English settlers. The James River Plantations, the Charles City County Courthouse, and the Civil War Malvern Hill Battlefield are all part of the route. After 65 miles of racing, the course enters Richmond where the pro men will do eight laps of a tough 5.5 mile circuit. The circuit includes a steep climb over cobblestones in Libby Hill Park, a passage by the Governor's Mansion, and an uphill finish at the Library of Virginia. The men are expected to finish at approximately 12:00. "The climb up Libby Hill is brutal," said TV commentator and Tour de France veteran Frankie Andreu. "This race is a true test and with this course, only a real champion can win." The women's circuit race starts at 9:00 a.m. in Richmond in front of The Library of Virginia, and will finish at about 10:15 a.m. The women will race nine laps on a challenging 3 mile circuit that shares the western section of the men's course. More information: Got a comment? Discuss this in the Procycling forum. What else is new? Check out the Procycling blog.
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