Says he has no feelings about being placed 3rd following Contador’s DQ
Euskaltel team leader Samuel Sánchez is set to return to race action this weekend at the Vuelta a Andalucía after an off-season when he underwent surgery to repair a nagging hip injury and, more recently, was promoted to third place in the 2010 Tour de France as a result of his friend Alberto Contador’s disqualification from that race.
Speaking to La Voz de Asturias as the prepared for Andalucía at a training camp in Alicante, the 2008 Olympic road race champion laid out his plans for the season, which he hopes will include the defence of his Olympic crown in London this summer. “I can’t wait to get back to racing because this winter seems to have been especially long due to the bad weather. I’ve spent a lot of time travelling to southern Spain in order to train and now it’s time to see if I’m on the right track again,” he said.
Sánchez is confident his winter preparation will set him up for another good season, especially having recovered particularly quickly from his mid-November surgery. “The surgeons managed to cut down the post-recovery period quite incredibly. Just 10 days after the operation I was able to get back on the home trainer,” he explained. “I hope that the first win isn’t too far away because this is going to be a complicated year and I want tackle it in the same positive way as usual.”
Following Andalucía, the Euskaltel team leader, who turned 34 last week, is scheduled to ride the Vuelta a Murcia, the Volta a Catalunya and Vuelta al País Vasco, then rest for a time before starting his build-up to the Tour, which is set to include an appearance at the Critérium du Dauphiné. His hope is that this will set him up for a summer at least as good as last year’s, when he took a stage win and the King of the Mountains title at the Tour.
“The first thing I need to do this year is to achieve the same condition I had last year. Once the races start to come I will begin to think about objectives. We are starting the season with the idea of improving on last year, but that is going to be very complicated,” he admitted. “But the least we can do is try.”
He added that receiving the mountains jersey on the Tour podium in Paris last year was a moment that he will never forget. Another highlight of his career was that Olympic win in Beijing. He knows selection for the Spanish team will be tough, but hopes he can make the cut. “The selector knows that he can count on me and I hope to be among the five riders who will be going out to defend the title, but it’s still too soon to talk about that,” he said.
One rider who definitely won’t be in London is Sánchez’s good friend Alberto Contador, whose ban runs until August 6, effectively sidelining him from the Games. The imposition of that ban also resulted in Sánchez being promoted to a podium finish in the 2010 Tour with Contador stripped of the victory, but the Spaniard says he is not happy with the situation.
“I think that the penalty imposed on Alberto was unjust and excessive, especially when they recognized that he had not doped. Finishing third in that way does not make me happy, as I’ve got no memories and emotions of the moment. It’s come out of the blue without me being able to savour it,” he admitted.
Looking further down the line, Sánchez said he is unlikely to line up in the Vuelta a España this season, but said that the two stages in his home region of Asturias are likely to be decisive. He expects the stage to the new Cuitu Negro summit to be particularly tough. He added that he expects to return to the Vuelta in future seasons with the goal of going for the title.
“We have 15 wins this season if you count the wins from Zdenek Stybar,” Lefevere told Cyclingnews.
“They all count and I’m very happy. It shows that the team has worked very hard over the winter and I hope that we can keep going like this. We have some new riders and some new staff, but the team is going well. Maybe we needed this small facelift though.”
In the off-season, Lefevere was one of the most active managers in the transfer market. Having had a disappointing 2011 and with a shortage of WorldTour points, the team hired a raft of riders including Leipheimer and Tony Martin. While the American has hit the ground running, Martin has had a slower build-up. A slight knee injury over the winter disrupted his training but he is currently racing the Vuelta ao Algarve, in Portugal.
As the defending champion he will be looking to make a strong showing, but Lefevere admitted that the time trial world champion may have to wait until next month’s Paris-Nice before finding his best form.
“Maybe he’s a little bit behind last year but he’s hoping to be ready for Paris-Nice. That’s the first major race, it’s Paris Nice after all, but it’s also part of the WorldTour so we’ll be hoping to pick up some points there too.”
“Everyone wants to play a role there; Sylvain Chavanel, and Tom Boonen wants to win a stages, too. We’ll have to see how things go, talking about tactics is very easy but there will be a lot of riders fighting for the win.”
Former Paris-Roubaix winner Servais Knaven settled into the role of director sportif at Sky over a year ago, and the Dutchman has made the transition from bike to team car appear seamless. Popular with the riders, knowledgeable on race tactics and still hungry for success, he’s the archetypal team player.
In 2012, he has been reunited with Mark Cavendish. The two rode together just as Knaven’s career was beginning to wind down and Cavendish began his trajectory to the top of the sport.
Both men are currently at the Tour of Oman where Cavendish is on the hunt for stage wins, and in this exclusive video Knaven talks about the world champions form and fitness.
He also describes Cavendish’s character and how it has developed since his first year as a pro. Finally, with one eye on the Olympics, Knaven details Cavendish’s chances ahead of London 2012.
After showing its faith in Marcel Kittel off the bike in recent weeks, Project 1t4i put its trust in him on the road on Thursday, and the young sprinter responded by galloping to victory in front of a top-class field on stage 3 at the Tour of Oman.
Iwan Spekenbrink's team also pointed out that Kittel was not under investigation as a suspect and that the method in question was not prohibited at the time. In spite of that vote of confidence from a team noted for its commitment to credible cycling, Kittel admitted that he had been affected by the furor surrounding the television report.
"When I saw my name on German television, it was really a shock and it was definitely one of the hardest days of my life," Kittel said after his win in Oman. "The whole week and still here again, I think a lot about that, but I also tried to explain myself as well as possible.
"I spoke with a lot of newspapers to make clear what happened there because I have nothing to hide, and I got 120 percent support from my team. I hope that's clear now for everyone."
Kittel opened his season at Étoile de Bessèges the week after the report aired, and while he took a morale-boosting stage victory there, a sterner test awaited him in Oman, where Mark Cavendish (Sky) headlines a star-studded roster of sprinters.
After Sky had controlled affairs on the long, steady descent from the stage start in the foothills of the Al Hajar mountains on Thursday, Project 1t4i added some impetus to the pursuit of the day's early break when it hit the front of the pack as it began the flat run-in to Muscat. Aiding the world champion's team in its endeavour to ensure a bunch finish was a very visible demonstration of the belief Project 1t4i in its young sprinter's athletic abilities.
While Kittel was forced to pick his own way through the tumult of the final kilometre, he stressed that his team had protected him throughout a technical finale in which the peloton tackled a number of sharp corners and roundabouts.
"It was very hectic in the last five kilometres and really important to stay in the front," he said. "My teammates did a really good job to bring me to the front with three kilometres to go. Albert Timmer and Koen De Kort came to me and brought me to the front. From there it was difficult to stick together, so I had to fight for myself in the last kilometre, but it wasn't a big problem. They did a great job today."
Kittel will have at least one additional opportunity to add to his bounty before the Tour of Oman is out, but the main goal of his early-season is Paris-Nice. The German must surely be hopeful that some big performances on French roads will rubber stamp his team's passage to the Tour de France in July.
"I hope we can go to the Tour de France and if that's the case, then that is the highlight of my year," Kittel said, smiling.
Before he left the podium area for a waiting team car, Kittel was asked to name the biggest influence on his career. Given the backdrop to his win, it was no surprise that he grabbed the opportunity to thank his team once again. "I think the biggest influence on me is my team. They supported me 100 percent during the race. For me as a sprinter, that's the most important thing."
The 2012 USA CRITS Championship Series returns for its sixth year, encompassing 11 top-shelf criteriums throughout the country and offering $50,000 in overall prize money.
This year the series welcomes four new events to its race line-up including the 2012 kickoff - the inaugural Delray Beach Twilight Festival on March 10 in Delray Beach, Florida.
"We're beyond excited," said Delray Beach Twilight Festival race director Chelsea Midlarsky. "Since we're a first year event, it's an honor to kick off the series. We have a great one-kilometre course that will go through our prime shopping and restaurant district during our high tourist season. It's going to be a great way to introduce cycling to a lot of people who don't know the sport."
From Delray Beach, the series continues with another new event one week later on March 17 - the Athlete Octane Old Pueblo Grand Prix in Tucson, Arizona. The Presbyterian Invitational Criterium in Charlotte, North Carolina is the third stop on the USA CRITS schedule, taking place this year in April instead of July.
America's most beloved criterium follows Charlotte, when professional cycling returns to downtown Athens, Georgia for the 33rd Terrapin Twilight Criterium. The series then heads north to St. Louis for the return of the Tour de Grove, to be followed by another brand new USA CRITS event - The Lake Bluff Twilight Criterium just outside of Chicago.
Also returning to the USA CRITS fold this year is the Rockstar Games Harlem Skyscraper Cycling Classic in New York City. Cincinnati, Ohio's Hyde Park Blast is stop number eight followed a week later by the Iron Hill Twilight Criterium in West Chester, Pennsylvania.
The racing then shifts to the western part of the country with the return of the Exergy Twilight Criterium in Boise, Idaho, before wrapping up with the USA CRITS Finals held in Vail, Colorado.
"We're excited to be a part of the USA CRITS Series this year," said Tour of Vail race director Dieter Drake, who also organizes the Tour of the Battenkill. "We've been working for over a year to bring back the magic of the old Coors Classic to Vail. It's an excellent venue for such a prestigious series final and we hope our weekend-long professional and amateur event will be an attractive destination for racers and spectators."
In addition to separate cash awarded at each event, men and women riders in the USA CRITS Series accrue points towards individual and team classifications. The series' points leaders will don the orange jersey of the overall leader following each event, with the final winners crowned in Vail taking home the overall purse.
Luke Keough (Team Mountain Khakis p/b SmartStop) and Erica Allar (RideClean presented by Patentit.com) won the men's and women's individual overall titles in 2011, while Team Mountain Khakis p/b SmartStop and Colavita/Forno d'Asolo p/b Cooking Light claimed their respective men's and women's team classifications.
While the USA CRITS Series traverses the nation, cycling fans the world over will be able to enjoy all of the action from stop to stop with live streaming coverage provided by Inside Cycling TV.
Visit USACRITS.com for all the latest information regarding the 2012 series throughout the season.
2012 USA CRITS Championship Series
March 10: Delray Beach Twilight, Delray Beach, FL
March 17: Athlete Octane Old Pueblo Grand Prix, Tucson, AZ
April 14: Presbyterian Invitational Criterium in Charlotte, NC
April 28: Terrapin Twilight Criterium, Athens, GA
May 12: Tour de Grove, St. Louis, MO
June 1: Lake Bluff Twilight Criterium, Lake Bluff, IL
June 19: Harlem Skyscraper Cycling Classic, New York, NY
June 30: Hyde Park Blast, Cincinnati, OH
July 7: Iron Hill Twilight Criterium. West Chester, PA
July 14: Exergy Twilight Criterium, Boise, ID
September 30: Tour of Vail, Vail, CO
Sprinters rarely take kindly to defeat and the best of the current generation is no exception. When Mark Cavendish (Sky) crossed the line a frustrated eighth on stage 3 of the Tour of Oman on Thursday, the Manxman headed promptly and silently for his team car.
Cavendish appeared to be hemmed in during the final sprint, and he was a forlorn spectator as Marcel Kittel (Project 1t4i) cruised to victory up ahead. The world champion already has two wins to his name this season, but was clearly disappointed to have missed out on the chance to add to that tally in Muscat.
While Cavendish sat in his tent, stewing over the whys and wherefores of his defeat, his teammate CJ Sutton talked reporters through the finale of a day that ended in disenchantment for Team Sky.
The Australian was charged with leading Cavendish out in the finale, but he explained that the technical nature of the run-in made it difficult to form a cohesive unit. As the road narrowed inside the final 10 kilometres, the battle for positions become ever more intense.
"I wouldn't say we got lost, we just lost a few positions," Sutton said. "It was all just a bit of a blur really, trying to look behind and make sure Cav was there and safe on the wheel. We did everything we could, it just wasn't good enough.
In the closing stages of the race, Cavendish had Sutton and Matt Hayman for company, before Jeremy Hunt succeeded in chasing back on after a puncture. Although they managed to keep Cavendish in contention, it seemed that no team had the numbers to dictate terms as the race reached its climax.
"I was just trying to keep Cav out of trouble," Sutton said. "It was all going perfect and we just got lost a couple of times. You have a plan and you try to execute it but sometimes it doesn't always go to plan."
After the stage, Sutton had a brief discussion with Cavendish, but he explained that the Manxman had not been disappointed by his teammates' efforts. "It was just that we were a bit too far back and he said one of the French guys just chopped him and he said he couldn't do anything about it, he just had to freewheel the last 50 metres," Sutton said.
Sky controlled the peloton for much of the stage, with Ian Stannard putting in a lengthy shift to keep tabs on the break of the day, a tactic which seemed to suggest that Cavendish had recovered from his crash at last week's Tour of Qatar.
"I think Cav's still feeling the effects a little bit from the crash in Qatar," Sutton said. "In saying that we've got the fastest guy in the world, it's the first time we've worked together and it's the second lead-out I've done for him. We're getting closer and closer.
"It's the first time we've all raced together, we're just working out the little kinks. In fairness, the whole team was so strong today but we just couldn't finish it off."
Live streaming video of bicycle drag races at Trek headquarters
Cyclingnews and Bontrager have partnered to broadcast what has been dubbed the "Hullabaloo in Waterloo" on February 20, 2012; a bicycle drag race pitting the burgeoning talent of Axel Merckx's Bontrager-Livestrong UCI Continental team against Bontrager's Waterloo, Wisconsin-based development and engineering team.
The event, to be live webcasted on Cyclingnews beginning at 4pm US CST will transform Trek Bicycle's office atrium into a sprinter's stadium as it plays host to a spirited Pros vs. Joes competition.
"I'm really looking forward to seeing Madison for the first time," Said Bontrager-Livestrong rider Lawson Craddock. "Oh yeah, and I guess we have to race some old guys at the factory or something."
"Youth will be served? No, youth is going to GET served," replied Bontrager Brand Manager and Hullabaloo promoter Michael Browne.
Watch the blow-by-blow broadcast live on Cyclingnews to witness who will have the fast-twitch fitness to take the title home.
Strong focus on USA Crit Series and National Crit Calendar
RideClean/PatentIt.com elite women's team will roll up to the start line for the first time in 2012 with two time Olympian and 22 time national track champion Jame Carney as team director.
"The four of us have very lofty goals," team captain Erica Allar said. "Our ceiling of development is still very high and the new structure of the RideClean/PatentIt.com Elite Women's Team creates a great platform for us to impact women's cycling in a way that it so desperately needs."
The RideClean/PatentIt.com Elite Women's Team’s main focus for 2012 will be the USA Crits Series and National Crit Calendar races. They plan to kick off the season, with Allar as defending USA Crits Series 2011 Champion, in Delray, Fl on March 10.
"Our goals this year are fairly well focused," sponsor PatentIt.com’s Steve Lisa said. "Primarily, we wanted to get Jame enough support so that he could put a team of top-notch women in the peloton with Erica as the lead rider.
The ultimate goal is to give Erica the best shot possible to repeat as the women's USA Crit Series champion. In addition, the team plans to double up when possible with the NCC."
The new team takes the place of RideClean/PatentIt.com’ regional men's team.
"We are really excited to be an elite women's team this year knowing that there are not as many women's teams as there are men's," Allar said. "I am very excited about our potential."
The RideClean/PatentIt.com Elite Women's Team’s Roster
Erica Allar - 2011 USA Crits Series Champion
Colleen Hayduk - Third Omnium National Track Championships and second in Under 25 category for USA Crits Series
Hanan Alve-Hyde - Third National Track Championship Scratch Race
Lenore Pipes - Guam National Team Member and seventh overall 2011 USA Crits Series