- Article published:
- February 13, 21:40
- Barry Ryan
After five years, Italian back in the WorldTour with Cannondale
He can hardly have envisaged that the partnership would have lasted quite as long as it did, but new Cannondale arrival Oscar Gatto says that he has no regrets about spending the past five seasons riding at Pro Continental level under the tutelage of Luca Scinto.
Gatto began his career in the ProTour with Gerolsteiner, but dropped down a level to sign for ISD (later Vini Fantini and now YellowFluo) in 2009. In spite of interest from the top flight in the intervening period – his reputation was burnished by his stage victory at the 2011 Giro d'Italia – Gatto remained in situ until the beginning of this season.
"During the five years with Scinto, I was still always able to do a lot of WorldTour races," Gatto told Cyclingnews. "Maybe not every year, but we usually did the Giro d'Italia, Paris-Roubaix and the Belgian classics, so for a rider of my characteristics, it suited me quite well to stay in the team. What's more, I was always treated very well on the team. But then this year, I had the chance to make a bit of a change, and I grabbed that opportunity."
Gatto's memorable Giro win at Tropea three years ago, when he punched his way clear in the sinuous finale and then held off the pursuing Alberto Contador on the approach to the line, was the keynote win of his time in fluorescent yellow, but it was a more recent win – last season's clever triumph at Dwars door Vlaanderen – that sealed his transfer to Cannondale.
"That Giro stage win was back in 2011 and maybe people were starting to forget it a bit," Gatto said. "But winning that race in Belgium last year brought me back to the level that I had been at before. It added to my value as rider, and ultimately, it's probably what allowed me to come and sign for a WorldTour team."
Scinto himself maintained that Gatto's development had been stunted slightly by Filippo Pozzato's year-long cameo with Vini Fantini in 2012, conceding that Gatto had been inhibited somewhat by the addition of a high-profile leader.
"No, I was very happy to ride with Pippo, first of all because he's a friend," Gatto said. "Besides, when you've got a strong rider on your team, you can always learn something from him, and I certainly learned a lot from Pippo. Sure, having a rider like that could preclude you from riding your own race 100 percent, but I'm convinced that once a rider shows he's going well, he'll always find space."
Finding the freedom to shine in Cannondale's line-up for the classics could be problematic, however, given the presence of Peter Sagan. Second in Milan-San Remo and the Tour of Flanders last year, and primed for a tilt at Paris-Roubaix in 2014, the Slovak is the undisputed leader.
"We know already that for certain races, Peter will be the leader, and that's only right," Gatto said. "But races like that are always full of difficulties and twists, so you never know when you might end up with an opportunity for yourself."
In any case, the early part of Gatto's season is designed squarely around performing strongly on the cobbles, and he is pencilled in for a full tour of duty in Belgium this spring, from Dwars door Vlaanderen through to the Tour of Flanders, while Paris-Roubaix may also figure on his agenda.
Although he didn't race in the Middle East last year, Gatto maintains that the Tours of Qatar and Oman are the best possible early-season preparation for the classics. Omega Pharma-QuickStep's exhibition of echelon riding has been the standout feature of the week, but though impressed by Tom Boonen and company, Gatto was hardly surprised.
"Every year, they're the patrons of the race, so I can't say I'm shocked by how it's been this year. When I first did this race back in 2007, and you could see the same superiority from them," Gatto said. "But Qatar is certainly a particular race and, fortunately, a unique one too. But in any case, it's very useful for me ahead of going to Belgium."
- Article published:
- February 13, 22:28
- Cycling News
Back in the peloton after breaking collarbone in Australia
Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) had intended to start his season racing in Adelaide at the Tour Down Under but after breaking his collarbone just hours after he landed in Australia, the former French champion was forced to fly home. Voeckler had targeted the Volta ao Algarve as his return to racing but as healed better than expected allowing him instead to make his 2014 racing debut at the Tour Méditerranéen Cycliste Professionnel.
John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) won his first race of the year in a sprint finish as Voeckler crossed the line almost 7 minutes behind in 138th place.
"I struggled more than expected. I had not expected that there would be wind [so] I struggled more than expected, the advantage is that I can only get better," he told L'Equipe.
Voeckler's early season aims remain the Ardennes hoping for a good a week after last year's disappointment. Voeckler crashed out during the Amstel Gold Race but made a swift return to racing. Voeckler told Cyclingnews after breaking his collarbone in Australia that there was no obligation to return to racing in any haste. The Volta ao Algarve begins on February 19 in Faro with a 160km stage to Albufeira.
On the eve of the Tour Méditerranéen, Voeckler explained his objectives for the French event. "I'm here to race again, I will not take any risks, I especially want to get miles into my legs," he said.
- Article published:
- February 14, 00:22
- Cycling News
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- Article published:
- February 14, 05:30
- Zeb Woodpower
Australian ready for step up to WorldTour level
Jack Haig (Avanti) had set his sights on winning a mountain bike medal at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow later this year. However, having won the best young rider jersey at first the Tour Down Under in January which he followed up with another white jersey at the Jayco Herald Sun Tour, Haig is adjusting to the fact that his future in cycling is on the road.
A last minute cancellation of the Herald Sun Tour's final stage up Arthurs Seat dashed the 20-year-old's chances of going for the stage win along with the opportunity to improve upon his third place overall.
"Winning the race would definitely have been nice but more of chance just to test myself against some of the best guys here. Simon Clarke, who has won the king of the mountains jersey at the Vuelta [a España] and was seventh at the world championships last year, is a pretty accomplished bike rider and [I would have liked] to have the opportunity to showdown with him up the climb," Haig explained.
Haig was keen to show that his performance at the Tour Down Under wasn't a one-off and that he can back up his performances. "A lot of teams spoke to me after the Tour Down Under and the main thing I worried about was not me being able to back up and really just being a one-off thing at TDU and it maybe being a bit of luck and I'm really pleased that I've come here the real deal.
"I want to make it to the WorldTour, I feel like I'm ready to make that jump and that showed on that stage that we got away, it was really tough and I was able to make that decisive move at the end. I think that as long as I can keep backing up throughout the year then feel like I can and it would be good step for next year."
Haig has been in discussions with several teams regarding a 2015 contract and he told Cyclingnews just where he'd like to end up next year.
"Outside of people contacting me, I'd always say the top three teams that I'd like to go to are probably Sky, BMC, Omega Pharma-Quick Step and maybe Orica-GreenEdge in there as well. I'd probably put my first pick as Sky, having Richie [Porte] and Nathan [Earle] there would be great. Nathan and I are really great friends and I'd love to go and race with him some more."
The confidence from riding the Tour Down Under gave Haig the feeling that he is ready for the step up to WorldTour level.
"I'm probably not going to try to do too much NRS racing, talking again to the teams at TDU, they were really keen for me to get more European racing under my belt. I see the natural progression for me is to go overseas where the WorldTour teams are."
Balancing MTB ambitions with road racing success
The mountain bike is Haig's first two-wheeled love and he has had to come to terms with the fact that his impressive rides on the road bike have meant that getting out on the mountain bike is becoming too complicated.
"I didn't really give myself enough credit at how I would go on the road and I'm starting to enjoy road cycling more and more. TDU sort of confirmed to me, that's what I want to do. Before I was still unsure and I was like 'maybe I'll try to do a full year on the MTB' so now it's getting closer and closer to me pulling the pin on doing Commonwealth Games as well as getting road cycling in."
Haig is the latest in a line of Australians who started on the mountain bike but in order to make racing their career, have had to make the switch to the road such as Cadel Evans and Nathan Haas.
"Beforehand, I wasn't sure about road cycling but I've come around a lot more. Don't get me wrong, I still love mountain biking and I'd like to say that I'll always own a mountain bike, always still do a couple of races but there is just no support there.
"Dean [Clark] does an amazing job at the Torq team to develop young Australians but to make that jump on the mountain bike is so much harder than doing it on the road because there are teams like Avanti who give you that step. Opportunities like Tour Down Under, Herald Sun Tour as an UCI race let you put your name out there and I really want to make a job out of it. I want this to be my career."
Racing and riding his bike is what Haig wants to spend his time doing and as he explained, at the end of the day, if it has two-wheels then he's happy.
"I don't want to have to go out and work a nine-to-five job, I love riding my bike and if that means I have to ride on the road which I'm enjoying more and more, so be it."
When racing in Australia, Haig is part of the successful Avanti squad whose alumni in the WorldTour includes Garmin-Sharp duo Nathan Haas and Steel von Hoff and Sky's Porte and Earle. While Haig contemplated signing with Drapac, he explained that team manager Andrew Christie-Johnson wants to see him excel.
"Here, Andrew is happy to see me go and he wants me to go the next level so I'm really pleased I stayed here. All the guys in the team I'm great friends with, and all the support I get from Andrew and Avanti is great."
When asked by Cyclingnews what he wants to achieve on the road, Haig stated that "I'd like to have a big one-day race like Liège–Bastogne–Liège on there but also have a grand tour where I've won hopefully a hilltop stage and place in a time trial and be up there in gc.
"If I can have that at the end of my cycling career, I'd be over the moon."
- Article published:
- February 14, 08:36
- Barry Ryan
Current contract will probably be my last, says Trek rider
Fabian Cancellara has said that he is likely to retire from professional cycling when his current contract with Trek Factory Racing expires at the end of the 2016 season.
Speaking in Doha on Thursday evening, Cancellara revealed that his existing three-year contract would probably be his last, and he confirmed that he had no intention of racing into his 40s like his fellow Trek rider Jens Voigt or former teammate Chris Horner.
"I have a three-year contract and then it's over," Cancellara said. "I have a three-year contract and in my opinion it doesn't look like there will be a fourth or fifth year because it will be sixteen years as a professional. I don't feel tired although once in a while I feel tired, and that's normal. That's not going against Jens or Chris Horner but you will not see me riding the bike at their age."
Asked if he would be tempted to extend his career in order to ride as deluxe gregario for a younger rider – as, for instance, Pedro Delgado did with Miguel Indurain – the 32-year-old Cancellara confirmed that it was his intention to bow out at the very top of his game, although he reiterated his belief that he still has three more seasons left at that level.
"I think of course I will stop on the highest level," he said. "In my situation, I can't wait until I'm down here, that's normal. I could stop now and I would not have a problem to find new ambitions, but I would still miss something. I feel like I'm not finished yet with what I want to achieve. There's still some time left, but there's many options after and I'm not scared of that."
Cancellara laughed when it was pointed out that the projected end to his career would coincide with the world championships in Qatar. Incidentally, Cancellara's eternal rival Tom Boonen this week confirmed that his career would continue until the Qatar 2016 Worlds at the very least.
"My agent says in business to look three months is a long time and you look already three months," Cancellara joked. "I'm not looking now to 2016."
The Swiss rider did acknowledge, however, that he has already put some thought into what he will do after he hangs up his wheels, and confirmed that he would look to remain closely involved with professional cycling.
"I want to bring something back to cycling," Cancellara said. "I have a few ambitions to bring cycling back to another level, and this will be the next thing I do.
"I think cycling is now somewhere a political mess with all the new things that are coming. We have still this big mess with the races and the rules. I think I will be a strong opinion-maker afterwards. Now it's difficult because I'm still a rider, because when you talk as a rider you get singled out. But when you finish, you're free with what you want to do."
The precise nature of Cancellara's post-racing role in cycling remains unclear, although it is understood that it is likely to include an involvement with the Tour de Suisse organisation. InfrontRingier, the sports management company which represents Cancellara, will take over the organisation and marketing of the Tour de Suisse from 2015, and is already the official marketing partner of Swiss Cycling.
Cancellara is currently competing at the Tour of Qatar, the second leg of a three-race stint in the Persian Gulf. He admitted that he was tired from nine consecutive days of racing - he also raced the Dubai Tour last week - but was confident that his early-season work would bear fruit by the time the classics come around.
"On the end, I know where I want to reach. I have my datas, we have our things under control," he said, adding: "This not April, this is February and there’s still a long way."
- Article published:
- February 14, 09:40
- Alasdair Fotheringham
Italian star recalls ‘Il Pirate'
February 14th, the tenth anniversary of Marco Pantani's death, will be a difficult day for Italian cycling, and in particular for those riders - of whatever nationality - who knew Pantani directly. Former Giro winner Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Merida) raced alongside Pantani in 2002 and 2003 and he described ‘the Pirate' as an "inspiration for me when it came to the mountain climbs and how he tackled them."
"He was an example for me, I was a schoolboy when he was racing" - at his peak - "and so for me he was an idol," Cunego told Cyclingnews this week.
"There's only ever been one Pantani, very few riders are even slightly similar to him. We raced together a bit, we talked too. He was a nice person despite everything that was said and written about him."
Cunego recalls he was at home when he heard the news of Pantani's death, and that "despite all the rumours, nobody expected it to happen. He had been through a hard time, people criticized him, but only he knew what happened."
For Cunego himself a decade later, racing in 2014 will be similar to previous years in terms of the number of days, although his schedule is only decided up until June. He will do Tirreno-Adriatico, the Ardennes Classics and the Giro d'Italia. "After that I'll have a break, then we will see what I do in the second part of the year. The Tour is definitely not on the schedule, but the Vuelta could be an option."
Speaking to Cyclingnews on the last day of the Mallorca Challenge, the 32-year-old refuses to specify what his objectives will be in the Giro, saying "first I have to find myself, to be competitive and up there in races. If that happens, there'll be no problems. I wanted to be relaxed, not have too many big objectives from the word go.
"But in any case I'm working well, the weather's been good here and I'm riding at the level I wanted to."
The arrival of Chris Horner in the Lampre-Merida team at the last minute "is very important, the same as Rui Costa. They're riders who are very experienced, and we'll see how our roles work out. Right away from these first race things have been going well with Chris. He's a good guy and he knows what he's doing and his race strategies are very sound."
- Article published:
- February 14, 10:47
- Cycling News
Australian fails to secure new contract
Allan Davis has decided to hang up his wheels and retire, after being unable to find a contract for 2014.
"I would have liked to keep going for a few more years, but it's just not an option the way things are," Davis told the Australian Associated Press.
"I have to turn the page and get on with the next chapter of my life. I have to find some source of income for my family and move on. It's just bad luck and bad timing."
The 2009 Tour Down Under winner has been searching for a new team, after Orica-GreenEDGE chose not to keep him on. Davis has spent the last months searching out a new contract, but finally admitted defeat.
With many teams folding and several others under even stricter budget restrictions, finding a team this winter has proved a difficult task. Higher profile riders such as Chris Horner and Samuel Sánchez were only able to secure contracts in the last month. While some, like Thomas de Gendt, have seen their pay packets severely slashed so that they could continue their professional careers.
Davis says this has been one of the toughest winters for out of contract riders. “I've never seen it like this and I've spoken to a lot of blokes who have been around twice as long as I have - they also haven't seen it like this," he explained. "It's just one of those things that's out of the riders' hands."
The Australian turned professional in 2001 with the Mapei-QuickStep team. During his 13 seasons as a professional Davis has made a number of notable performances and taken some 29 victories.
Among those performances were his a bronze medal at the World Championships (2010), second at Milan-San Remo (2007), gold and bronze at the Commonwealth Games (2010 & 2006) and his overall victory at the Tour Down Under.
"I'm very proud of what I've achieved on the bike, so I can walk away with my head held high," he said. "It gives me a lot of happiness, knowing what I've done.”
Despite having previously hoping to race this season, Davis remains positive about his future. "I have a few fingers in a few pies and I will let it unfold a bit, make sure I choose the right path now," said Davis.
"All my experience is on the bike and that's what I'd love to continue doing."
- Article published:
- February 14, 13:13
- Cycling News
Unclear if evidence will be given to CIRC
Lance Armstrong’s former soigneur Emma O’Reilly claims to have evidence of the UCI’s complicity in the former rider’s evasion of anti-doping.
According to a report published on the Mail Online, O’Reilly is said to have heard Armstrong talking to ex-UCI president Hein Verbruggen.
“We were in the team car at the end of the race,’ O’Reilly told the newspaper. The race in question was the Rheinland-Pfalz Rundfahrt in 1998, where the American had just won the overall classification.
“I was about to drive Lance and one of the other riders to the airport. Lance called Hein and said words to the effect of, “That race commissar, I never want to see that guy again”.
“And he was being serious,” O’Reilly continued. “And you could sense that Hein was taking it seriously, too. It wasn’t a friendly chat. It was a serious conversation, and the impression I got was that Lance was being listened to. I said there’s no way you should be able to do that.”
After discussing it with Armstrong himself, O’Reilly confirmed that “Lance remembers the incident just as I do.”
O’Reilly also claims that former US Postal Johan Bruyneel received a tip off regarding an issue with a sample given by Armstrong. According to the report, the phone call to Bruyneel was made using a mobile belonging to one of the Texan’s teammates.
The former soigneur has previously made statements regarding Armstrong’s relationship with the UCI and it’s president. O’Reilly was present when the team discussed getting a backdated prescription, after he had tested positive for cortisone.
Verbruggen admitted to the Associated Press, last November that he may have discussed the positive with Armstrong. However, he has always strenuously denied having an improper relationship with the rider.
Currently, the UCI are funding a CHF3 million commission into uncovering cycling’s doping past. On Tuesday they issued a call for anyone with information to come forward. It is unclear if O’Reilly will discuss incidents such as these with the Cycling Independent Reform Commission.