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First Edition Cycling News, Friday, April 6, 2012

Date published:
April 6, 2012, 00:00
  • Vroomen fears cycling is losing momentum in doping fight

    Gerard Vroomen made an appearance
    Article published:
    April 4, 2012, 23:20
    Daniel Benson

    Loss of Ashenden from passport panel a step backwards

    Gerard Vroomen has lamented the news that Dr. Michael Ashenden has resigned from his position an independent member of the UCI's panel of experts that reviews the blood passport data.

    Both Vroomen and Ashenden have raised similar questions regarding the UCI’s biological passport in the past, with both gentlemen querying gaps in passport testing last year.

    While Ashenden was just one member of an 8-strong panel, he was by far the most vocal in term of talking to the media. His departure - based over a confidentiality order - coupled with the fact that the UCI has failed to launch a single passport case in two-years has led Vroomen to suggest cycling has lost momentum in the fight against doping.

    "It would be absolutely amazing if the passport was perfect the first time around, but the whole sport has taken a step back since 2009," Vroomen told Cyclingnews.

    The former Cervelo TestTeam boss was referring to a period in 2008 to 2010 when a number of breakthroughs were made. Riders were caught at the 2008 with CERA EPO pumping through their blood and the first biological passport cases were launched. For the first time doping and cheats appeared to be on the back foot.

    "2009 was a perfect year. Everybody was scared because of the CERA test and everything that happened in 2008 and 2009 was fantastic. Not everybody in the sport may have decided to push through at that time maybe some people were too scared about the negative publicity and that’s a shame because it was a golden opportunity to really, really push through.

    Ashenden’s move has left Vroomen wondering where the sport is heading.

    "It’s sad. If you want to have a believable anti-doping programme then you need to be able to accept criticism and be able to improve it. Not pretend it’s perfect.

    "Over time you have a worse system because you’re not capable of accepting criticism. Even if the passport was perfect right now it would still need improvement in order to stay perfect in the future. You need criticism in order to keep it in shape. I don’t know how good or not it is. I know there are gaps in testing for certain riders which is not good, but they’re nowhere near like they are in sports like tennis. It’s not like we need to wait a year and half to test someone."

    Despite all this Vroomen, who has not been directly involved with a team for almost a year, believes that the sport is still in a better state than 10 years ago, when the biological passport was merely a pipe dream. And while much of the passport’s momentum is down to the UCI, Vroomen does acknowledge that a collection of bodies and organisations shoulder the responsibility.

    "I still think we’re much better off in the sport than we were ten years ago but maybe it could have been a little bit better if some people hadn’t taken their eye off the ball. To be honest, it’s probably a combination of all sorts. It’s easy to say UCI, UCI, UCI but I don’t think that at all. It’s a combination of races, teams, federations to solve these problems.. It’s not something the UCI can solve as the others sit back and relax."

  • Boonen tests his legs at Scheldeprijs

    Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma - Quickstep)
    Article published:
    April 5, 2012, 08:55
    Barry Ryan

    Show of force from Omega Pharma-QuickStep ahead of Paris-Roubaix

    Tom Boonen and Omega Pharma-QuickStep's remarkable winning streak may have been interrupted at on Wednesday, but the Belgian delivered an ominous message to his Paris-Roubaix rivals with a significant show of force in the final 50 kilometres of Wednesday's Scheldeprijs.

    Managing one's reserves in the week between the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix is often a delicate balancing act, and many of the main contenders for Roubaix glory opted not to line up for Scheldeprijs. After two days of recovery from his Flanders victory on Sunday, however, Boonen was determined to give his legs a midweek test ahead of the Hell of the North.

    Boonen's long surge the first time through the cobbles at Broekstraat strung out the peloton, and the former world champion was a constant presence at the head of affairs until the closing stages of the races. His efforts and those of his Omega Pharma-QuickStep team succeeded in significantly whittling down the bunch, but as the heavens opened on the final lap of the finishing circuit in Schoten, Boonen opted to relent rather than risk compromising his Roubaix challenge.

    "I took it easy in the first part of the race," Boonen said. "Then I worked for the team but when it began to rain, I went in the back of the peloton to avoid problems. I didn't take risks even in the final because with the rain it was dangerous. The road was really slippery, but I'm happy about my day."

    After Niki Terpstra won Dwars Door Vlaanderen, Sylvain Chavanel took the Three Days of De Panne and Boonen himself carried off the Tour of Flanders, E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem, Omega Pharma-QuickStep's startling string of recent victories in Belgium – a stark contrast with their showing on home roads this time twelve months ago – finally came to an end at Scheldeprijs.

    Francesco Chicchi was the man charged with leading their challenge in Schoten, but when a crash forced the Italian sprinter onto the verge on the final lap of the finishing circuit, he was eliminated from contention.

    "I had to ride on the grass on the side of the road to avoid the riders lying on the ground. It's a pity, because I lost a good chance," Chicchi said.

    Ultimately, however, Matteo Trentin was the only Omega Pharma-QuickStep rider to make the final 35-rider split, which formed after a crash with two kilometres to go. The Italian neo-professional came across the line in 11th place behind winner Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano).

    Trentin was also caught up in the crashes that occurred on the rain-soaked zebra crossing after the finish line, but he emerged without serious injury. "Fortunately, it's nothing serious," he said. "After the finish, the guys in front of me hit their brakes and I did it too. I slipped on the ground, but nothing serious."

    Scheldeprijs Vlaanderen
  • Photographer seriously injured in Scheldeprijs post-finish crash

    A photographer takes a tumble on a day of spills
    Article published:
    April 5, 2012, 10:10
    Cycling News

    Riders also hurt in various crashes during rainy finale

    Multiple injuries resulted from the many crashes in Wednesday's rain-soaked finale of the Scheldeprijs, with a photographer being the most seriously injured. She was hit by riders after they crossed the finish line.

    Taz Darling, of Rouleur magazine, was standing closed to the finish line to photograph the riders as they crossed. However, the rain made the painted logos on the road slick, and a number of riders lost control of their bikes. Several of them, coming in at speed after the mass sprint, hit her and started a chain reaction, with a number of riders subsequently hitting the ground.

    Darling was originally said to have broken a cheekbone., however, quotes Rouleur managing editor Ian Cleverly as saying her injuries include “collarbone, ruptured spleen [and] eye socket.”

    The most seriously injured rider in that incident seem to be Jonathan Cantwell of Saxo Bank. He was taken to hospital for possible rib fractures.

    Earlier in the race, Wouter Mol of Vacansoleil broke his collarbone in crash eight kilometres before the end.  He has already had surgery, with a titanium plate and screws being installed. Or, as he tweeted, he “has been repaired”.

  • Lotto-Belisol and Greipel still searching for first Flemish success

    Germany's Andre Greipel
    Article published:
    April 5, 2012, 11:31
    Cycling News

    Sprinter to hospital for x-rays instead of riding Paris-Roubaix route with team

    Things have not been going Lotto-Belisol's way in the spring classics, and the team's luck may have taken another turn for the worse. Star sprinter Andre Greipel headed to the hospital on Thursday to have his left hand x-rayed.

    Greipel finished 12th in the Scheldeprijs, and was involved in the large crash which occurred immediately after the finish line. It was announced on Thursday morning that the rest of the team had gone to recon the Paris-Roubaix route, while he went to hospital.

    The loss of the German would be a major one for the Belgian team, who were counting on him to lead them in Paris-Roubaix. Not that they are expecting top results in any case.

    Team manger Herman Frison said that Greipel might have finished 15th in the race last year, had he had more luck, and didn't expect much more in 2012. “But we're not going to count anyone out. Everyone must ride for what it's worth and we will try to have riders in a break.”

    Frison refused to call it a crisis, but is aware that things are reaching a critical point. "We had made this Scheldeprijs an important goal," Frison told Het Nieuwsblad. “Gent-Wevelgem, De Panne and now this. It's not good and we must look at things. But we do everything. I can hardly reproach the riders.”

    The team is new this year and is still putting together its sprint train. Things worked well at the Tour Down Under, but since then, Jurgen Roelandts, Lars Bak and Joost Van Leijen have all been injured, and Vincente Reynes, Adam Hansen and Greg Henderson have been ill.

    “We strengthened our train for Greipel and in Australia found that it worked,” Frison said. “But since then then we haven't been able to ride together once.”

    Greipel himself is naturally unhappy with the status quo. “He is frustrated on the team bus. His form is good and we continue to believe in him," Frison said.

  • Punctured lung for Cantwell in Scheldeprijs crash

    Jonathan Cantwell (Team Saxo Bank) was involved in a nasty crash
    Article published:
    April 5, 2012, 12:26
    Cycling News

    Saxo Bank rider sidelined for an unknown amount of time

    Jonathan Cantwell sufferd a punctured lung in the crash after the finish line in Wednesday's Scheledeprijs. The Saxo Bank rider is out of this weekend's Paris-Roubaix and it is not known when he will ride again, the team said.

    Riders lost control of their bikes on the rain-slicked logos painted on the roads immediately after the finish line and crashed. Cantwell went down when he was unable to avoid several crashed riders in front of him.

    Most seriously injured was photographer Taz Darling, said to have suffered a fractured collarbone and eye socket, as well as a ruptured spleen.

    When Cantwell finally got up from the pavement, the team thought he was not injured. “But as he started complaining about increasing chest pain we called for an ambulance that brought him to the hospital where they reported that his lung had collapsed. Luckily, there are no fractures but he has to take a break from training and racing for an unknown period of time,” said sports director Nick Gates on the team's website. 

    Cantwell has the team's only two wins this season, winning stages at the Tour of Taiwan last month.

  • Kittel proud of Scheldeprijs sprint win

    Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) wins the 100th edition of the Scheldeprijs
    Article published:
    April 5, 2012, 14:08
    Daniel Benson

    Argos-Shimano rider eager for direct sprint against Cavendish

    Marcel Kittel made further strides up the sprinting pecking order with a fine win to claim the 2012 Scheldeprijs on Wednesday. The race is typically decided by the best sprinters in the world and although world champion Mark Cavendish was absent, Kittel (Argos-Shimano) still had to contend with Andre Greipel and Tyler Farrar. While the Lotto rider has been off form in recent weeks and Farrar has yet to win this year, the race was a hotly contested affair and an opportunity for the pure sprinters to test themselves during the cobbled season.

    "My team worked a lot and tried to bring me into position and I had the chance to sprint and I think that's very important here because it's very difficult and hectic to stay in front in the rain and I'm really proud to win this race," Kittel said at the finish.

    "First I was on the wheel of Rabobank together with Farrar. Then with 300 meters to go Farrar went to the right and I was on his wheel and followed him. We both had a free way to the front."

    Scheldeprijs is a race that has been won by Tom Boonen and Mark Cavendish in the past, and Kittel was well aware of its importance on his ever-growing palmares.

    "I think it's a very important race especially for sprinters. They said to me that it's the unofficial world championships for sprinters so if you look there are a lot of big names and its makes me very proud."

    Kittel's upward trajectory in sprinting means that certain questions are never far away. Comparisons with Cavendish come as quickly as his pedal revolutions in sprints and with Greipel without a win in several weeks, Kittel has been asked whether there's a rivalry between him and the Lotto leader. But Kittel has taken it all in his stride, neither arrogant or petulant, he has carried himself well.

    At the finish in Scheldeprijs he deflected questions surrounding who the best sprinter in the world is by asserting that ambitions were subservient to his own targets and no one else.

    "I had a good year in 2011 and this year I have also big goals and so far everything has worked out," he said.

    "My plan is to set a few goals for each year that I want to reach but I don't think about a peak in my career. I take it step by step. In general the whole team is very motivated. If I look to the last races that we did like Milan-San Remo the whole team was very strong and there's a big team spirit. Everyone is working hard and I think that's our big advantage still."

    But although Cavendish was absent , Kittel knew that the world champion is the standard for modern day sprinting - his rainbow stripes and Tour stage victories constant reminders how far Greipel and co are presently behind him.

    "I'm waiting to have a direct sprint against him. This year we've not had that opportunity but I'm looking forward to the rest of the season. I want to test myself against him. Then we'll see what's possible."

    Such a sprint can't come soon enough.

  • Leipheimer sidelined with fibula fracture

    Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) and Tejay Van Garderen (BMC) on the attack.
    Article published:
    April 5, 2012, 17:39
    Cycling News

    X-ray reveals injury sustained from being hit by car

    The Omega Pharma-QuickStep team of American Levi Leipheimer announced today that the 38-year-old American sustained a fibula fracture in his left leg due to the accident that occurred the day before the start of Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco, in which he was hit from behind by a car.

    X-rays confirmed the fracture and at the moment it's not believed that surgery will be necessary. Leipheimer, at home in Santa Rosa, California, will need to respect a period of absolute rest for two weeks and at that time more information on his recovery time will be announced.

    "After the crash, I understood immediately something was wrong when there was swelling, and I couldn't bear weight on that side," said Leipheimer. "Now I need to stay calm and recover as fast as possible to try to be competitive for the Amgen Tour of California. I am really disappointed, but the real victory here is that I survived the collision and that I'm alive to meet that challenge at all.

    "It's amazing that all I did was break my fibula. I was in a panic state after [the collision] happened; I couldn't calm down. I can't communicate how close I came to being killed and that was incredibly scary. More than anything, I'm really grateful for the chance to come back from this injury. This could be a good thing for me in events like the Tour de France and the 2012 London Olympics. While the Tour of California will be more of a challenge for me now, I still have my sights set squarely on a win again this year."

  • Ballan: Pozzato can’t beat Boonen in the sprint

    There was only so much that Ballan could do at the finish
    Article published:
    April 5, 2012, 21:07
    Barry Ryan

    Italian looks ahead to Paris-Roubaix

    Allies of circumstance in the winning move at the Tour of Flanders, Alessandro Ballan (BMC) expects Filippo Pozzato (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia) to have a different approach should the Italian pair find themselves in a similar situation in the finale of Paris-Roubaix on Sunday.

    The friends and sometime training partners agreed to work together to try and beat Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) on the run-in to Oudenaarde last weekend, but Ballan admitted that he was surprised that Pozzato opted to stake everything on a head-to-head sprint rather than take it turns to attack Boonen. The Belgian ultimately beat Pozzato in the sprint to claim his third Tour of Flanders victory.

    “I didn’t really understand his tactics,” Ballan said in Kortrijk on Thursday. “To beat Boonen we needed to attack him one at a time and look to drop him before the sprint, or at least tire him out before the sprint. Instead, it was just me attacking, and every time Boonen was quick to get onto my wheel.

    “We effectively brought him fresh to the last 400 metres, which meant that he was practically unbeatable. I think Pippo was thinking back a couple of years to when he beat Boonen in a sprint at Harelbeke, but Boonen has been really, really strong this year.”

    While Pozzato had agreed not to shut down Ballan’s accelerations in the finale, Ballan had expected his fellow countryman to try and counter-attack himself. To illustrate his point, Ballan cited the example of the previous weekend’s Gent-Wevelgem.

    “I want to understand just how convinced Pippo was that he could beat Boonen in the sprint because the week before at Gent-Wevelgem, Boonen had won a sprint of 30 riders and Pippo came 9th. I think he should have understood how much stronger Boonen was than him in the sprint.

    “I reckon that if we get to the finish in a three-man group like that again this Sunday, Pippo won’t wait until the sprint, he’ll try something beforehand himself too. I think he’s understood this now.”

    By his own admission severely limited in the sprint, Ballan wondered if his best chance of classics success this spring had already eluded him when he was unable to slip away from Boonen and Pozzato in the finale of De Ronde. While he managed to put Boonen in difficulty on the Kwaremont and Paterberg last weekend, the absence of such obstacles makes winning Paris-Roubaix a more complicated proposition.

    “That’s the nature of Paris-Roubaix, but at the same time in the finale, the pavé can become almost like climbs. If someone doesn’t have the legs anymore, then you can make the difference,” Ballan said. “The wind could be a big factor. If I come out of the pavé alone and I find myself riding into a headwind by myself, but with three behind chasing, then it’s logical that I would struggle to stay away. In any case, if it’s a similar situation to last Sunday, I’d certainly have to try and invent something before the velodrome.”

    Missing Cancellara

    There is general consensus in the peloton that the absence of Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) due to a broken collarbone will alter the complexion of Paris-Roubaix, but while many are breathing a silent sigh of relief that he will not be on the startline in Compiègne, Ballan said that he for one will miss the Swiss rider’s influence on proceedings.

    “Fabian’s characteristics would suit the way I race because he certainly wouldn’t be looking to wait for a sprint with Boonen. He’d be trying to make the race hard and selective,” Ballan said. “Maybe if he had been with the three of us in the finale on Sunday at Flanders, it wouldn’t have ended up in a sprint and it might have suited me better.”

    After winning E3 Harelbeke, Gent-Wevelgem and the Tour of Flanders, Tom Boonen is the stand-out favourite for Paris-Roubaix, and Ballan believes that the rebooted 2012 version bears comparison to the Boonen of three or four years ago.

    “I remember the Roubaix when I got to the velodrome with him and Cancellara [2008 – ed], and his sprint was remarkable. He gained 20 metres straight away and it was game over, and I think he’s back to those levels,” Ballan said. “He’s already won seven races now too, so there isn’t any burden on him to chase results. He has a very strong team, and he can start off calmly because he has already done his bit.”


    While Ballan’s classics challenge unfolds on the cobbles of northern Europe, south of the Alps the legal proceedings surrounding the Mantova-based investigation into alleged doping practices at his former Lampre team continue to fester in the background.

    In both 2010 and 2011, Ballan was temporarily pulled from racing by his BMC team due to his implication in the inquiry, and it is understood that a judge will decide in the next three months if Ballan and up to 31 others should face charges relating to their contact with the Mariana Mantovana pharmacist Guido Nigrelli.

    “It’s a never-ending story, I don’t want to think about it,” Ballan said. “I want to think about the race and the victory, and if the victory arrives, enjoy it.”

    For now, however, Andy Rihs’ team is content to let Ballan lead the line at the classics, in spite of the news emanating from Mantova in the week before the Tour of Flanders, a period that was made all the more trying by the sudden death of his father-in-law.

    “The team has always supported me. I have to thank them,” Ballan said. “They’ve always been in my favour. It’s absurd that it’s been going on for three years.