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First Edition Cycling News, Friday, February 21, 2014

Date published:
February 21, 2014, 0:00 GMT
  • Rodriguez ready to light up Oman mountain stages

    Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) will start his 2014 season at the Tour de San Luis
    Article published:
    February 21, 2014, 9:15 GMT
    Stephen Farrand

    Spanish climber looking for a second victory on Green Mountain

    Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) has made it clear he is ready to go on the attack and light up the decisive mountain stages at the Tour of Oman.

    The pocket-sized climber won the mountain stage to Jabal Al Akhdhar (Green Mountain) in 2013 but finished fourth overall to Chris Froome (Team Sky).

    Froome is making his season debut in Oman but Rodriguez has already completed the Tour of San Luis in Argentina and the Dubai Tour. With the Giro d'Italia his first Grand Tour objective of 2014, 'Purito' is looking for a solid start to the season before easing back, targeting the Volta Catalunya on his home roads, the Ardennes Classics and then the Corsa Rosa

    "I'm pretty happy with my form so far," he told Cyclingnews in Oman before Friday's stage to the Ministry of Housing and Saturday's finish on Green Mountain.

    "Perhaps I'm not quite as fit as the same time last year because then my first peak of form was planned for Liege-Bastogne-Liege. This year things are different because I'm targeting the Giro d'Italia. But my forms not bad. I don't know if it's good enough to do something special but for sure we'll be up there."

    "I'm up for it and want to win again on Green Mountain. Why not? I don't think Froome is as fit or as lean as he was last year. Contador isn't here either. I won last year and so why can't I win again?"

    Rodriguez will be vigilant on Friday's hill finish but is focused on the Green Mountain finish.

    "It's the stage that will decide everything," he warned.

    "It's a very hard climb, especially so early in the year. The gradient (5.7km at 10.5%) and being so early makes it one the toughest climbs we do all year."

    "I like it because it's the final decisive stage, I like it because...

  • Savoldelli says he never saw doping at Discovery Channel

    Former Giro d'Italia winner Paolo Savoldelli
    Article published:
    February 21, 2014, 9:50 GMT
    Barry Ryan

    Former Giro winner dismisses Danielson's USADA testimony

    Paolo Savoldelli has insisted that he never used doping products and described Dr. Michele Ferrari as “the best trainer there is” following a two-hour hearing before the Italian Olympic Committee’s anti-doping tribunal in Rome on Thursday. The Italian also claimed that there was no team doping system in place at Discovery Channel, where he raced in 2005 and 2006, and looked to distance himself from the testimony provided by Tom Danielson to USADA on the matter.

    The double Giro d’Italia winner, who retired at the end of the 2008 season, was summoned by CONI last month “following the development of investigations underway for violation of the anti-doping rules.” Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Savoldelli confirmed that he had been questioned about the US Anti-Doping Agency’s investigation into the doping system in place at the Discovery Channel team of Lance Armstrong and Johan Bruyneel.

    “I never used doping products. I’m tranquillissimo, very calm,” Savoldelli said, according to Gazzetta dello Sport. “If I wasn’t calm, I wouldn’t even have come. I’m not registered anymore and I haven’t raced for five years.”

    Savoldelli downplayed speculation that his was one of the redacted names (“Rider 1”) in the testimony provided by former teammate Tom Danielson to USADA on the doping programme in place at Discovery Channel. Danielson described how “Rider 1,” a fellow Ferrari client, had organised a system for obtaining EPO during the 2006 Giro d’Italia. “I went to Rider 1 and asked him if he could help me with EPO for the...

  • New start and more white roads for 2014 Strade Bianche

    Peter Sagan and Moreno Moser pulled of a famous 1-2 in Strade Bianche
    Article published:
    February 21, 2014, 11:05 GMT
    Cycling News

    RCS announce new route and 18 teams

    The eighth edition of Strade Bianche sees the race move to a new start and will include two more sectors of “white roads”, organiser RCS has announced.

    The 2014 race remains around Siena but it will begin in San Gimignano, which is nearly 50 kilometres west of the race’s previous start in Gaiole in Chianti. The move makes the race nine kilometres longer than last year’s edition.

    A total of 10 sections of white roads will be tackled by the peloton. While the number of kilometres raced over the Strade Bianchi has been reduced, from 57.2 to 45.4, four of the sectors come in quick succession.

    The peloton will enter the second section along the route at kilometre 48 and leave section five at kilometre 84. RCS technical director Mauro Vegni believes that this run of gravel sections will make the race more of a challenge.

    "The Strade Bianche is a jewel in the international cycling scene. This year the route is technically more difficult than in the past, given the greater number of sections of earthworks at the start.”

    There are some changes to the second half of the route too, with the race avoiding Buonconvento. The sections of Monte Sante Marie makes the cut from last year route. It is the only one with a five star difficulty rating and could easily scupper someone’s chances of victory.

    Le Tolfe is the 10th and final section of the day. The three star piece of road is challenging but short, at 1.1km. It begins with a steep descent, before rearing up again and reaching 18% gradients on the small climb. Once they exit Le Tolfe, the riders will have 12km to go to the line.

    The finish towards the Piazza del Campo in Siena remains the same. With gradients up to 16% in the final two kilometres before the line, it is not a straightforward finish. Few races have ended with more than once rider sprinting for glory.

    Strade Bianche began in 2007 as the Eroica, inspired...

  • Colombia team suspends Largo over non-negative

    Luis Alberto Largo Quintero (Colombia)
    Article published:
    February 21, 2014, 12:11 GMT
    Cycling News

    Neo-pro runs afoul in out-of-competition test

    The Pro Continental Colombia team announced on Thursday that it has provisionally suspended its rider Luis Alberto Largo Quintero over a non-negative anti-doping control.

    The 23-year-old neo-professional was notified by the UCI that he had returned an adverse analytical finding in an out-of competition control taken on January 22 in Villongo, Italy, shortly after he had arrived in Europe to start the season with his new squad.

    General Manager Claudio Corti immediately suspended the rider upon learning of the news, "reserving the right to take any other action as soon as the circumstances will be clarified", a team press release stated.

  • Agnoli: My links with Nibali are still strong

    Astana leader Vincenzo Nibali and teammate Valerio Agnoli
    Article published:
    February 21, 2014, 13:39 GMT
    Barry Ryan

    Closest domestique's Tour de France place uncertain

    Valerio Agnoli’s dedication to Vincenzo Nibali’s cause was illustrated by the scene atop the Tre Cime di Lavaredo on the penultimate day of last year’s Giro d’Italia, when his Astana leader sealed overall victory by punching his way clear on the snow-banked final climb.

    On crossing the finish line some minutes later, Agnoli swung over to the side of the road by himself, leant over his handlebars and wept openly. When a television reporter drew close and asked if the tears had been caused by struggling through the frigid conditions and spitting snow on the climb, Agnoli blinked at him incredulously. “No, these are tears of emotion,” he said, his voice wavering. “I'm just so happy for Vincenzo. I'm ultra-happy for Vincenzo.”

    Having followed his leader from Liquigas to Astana ahead of last season, Agnoli was Nibali’s bodyguard in the peloton during the Giro’s opening week and, along with Tanel Kangert, ended up playing a more important part in the mountains than perhaps had been anticipated, as illness limited the contributions of others on the team.

    It was something of a surprise, therefore, when it emerged that Agnoli may not reprise the role at this year’s Tour de France, where Nibali will challenge Chris Froome for the maillot jaune. The Astana squad has assigned Agnoli to ride the Giro d’Italia in support of Michele Scarponi, who leads in Nibali's absence. This week’s Tour of Oman apart, Agnoli will ride a largely separate programme to Nibali in the opening half of the season, and his participation in the Tour is in doubt.

    The account of their...

  • Wiggins will ride Volta a Catalunya instead of early Belgian classics

    A bearded Bradley Wiggins (Sky) placed 6th in the Ruta del Sol prologue
    Article published:
    February 21, 2014, 15:04 GMT
    Alasdair Fotheringham

    Sky rider to skip Dwars door Vlaanderen and Gent-Wevelgem

    Bradley Wiggins (Sky) will miss out on two Belgian classics originally planned as part of his Paris-Roubaix preparation in favour of more stage racing this spring, as the Englishman will tackle the Volta a Catalunya from March 24-30.

    Wiggins had initially aimed to race Dwars door Vlaanderen on March 26 and Gent-Wevelgem on March 30, but his cobbled Classics campaign has now been cut back to the Scheldeprijs (April 9) and Paris-Roubaix (April 13). Currently taking part in the Ruta del Sol after kicking off his season at the Mallorca Challenge, Wiggins will still take part in Tirreno-Adriatico alongside Chris Froome before heading back to Spain.

    In last year’s Volta a Catalunya, Wiggins raced prominently in the first half of the race, launching a strong downhill attack on the opening stage to Calella that split the field apart and taking fourth on the first major mountain stage two days later to Vallter 2000, both finishes which again feature in this year’s race. He finished fifth overall behind winner Dan Martin.

    “I was quite happy with how it worked out in Catalonia [in 2013], I just needed a time trial there, I was only off the pace a little bit by [the race finish in] Barcelona, and with a time trial I’d have been in with a shout,” Wiggins told Cyclingnews.

    While Wiggins’ exposure to the cobbles ahead of Paris-Roubaix is now limited to the sections at Scheldeprijs, he explained that the decision to race in Catalonia was taken with the Hell of the North in mind.

    “I felt like I needed a bit more stage racing to get up to full speed for Paris-Roubaix, and then on for [the Tour of] California,” said Wiggins, who has made the American stage race the second big goal of the first half of his season.

    Wiggins has raced Paris-Roubaix just once since...

  • Froome goes on the attack at the Tour of Oman

    Tour de France champion Chris Froome (Sky) on the attack during stage 3 at the Tour of Oman
    Article published:
    February 21, 2014, 15:53 GMT
    Stephen Farrand

    Team Sky leader ready for showdown on Green Mountain

    Chris Froome (Team Sky) promised he would ride aggressively on the first hilly stage at the Tour of Oman and he kept his word, producing several attacks on the final time over the Bousher Alamrat during stage 4 on Friday.

    He ended the day with little to show for his effort, but proved that he is serious about defending his 2013 overall victory on Saturday's mountain finish on Green Mountain.

    Froome finished 11th in the 22-rider group that just failed to catch Peter Sagan (Cannondale), Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana). Froome was clearly tired after an aggressive finale to the stage but still has his eye on overall victory.

    "Sergio (Henao) tried on the last climb and I tried on the last climb, but each time we got a small gap and then it came back together again," Froome said.

    "It was harder this year because people were attacking into a headwind and that made it easier for people to chase and follow. On the final descent Sagan, Nibali and Uran got away. Behind there wasn't much organisation but we contributed to that. At the end of the day, we're happy to not have lost."

    Showdown on Green Mountain

    Last year Froome finished four seconds behind stage winner Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) on the steep finish of Green Mountain but distanced overall rivals Alberto Contador, Cadel Evans and Vincenzo Nibali. He knows he will have to produce a similar performance this year if he wants to take the race lead before Sunday's final flat stage on the Muscat Corniche.

    "It looks it will all be decided out on the climb tomorrow. Whoever has managed to save their legs, that will definitely come in handy,"...

  • Nibali shows his hand with late attack in Oman

    Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) begins his Tour of Oman
    Article published:
    February 21, 2014, 17:00 GMT
    Stephen Farrand

    Astana leader tests his form as he prepares to become a father

    Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) has admitted he is a little behind with his early season training and his thoughts are more about the imminent birth of his baby daughter than his racing, but he still tried to win stage four at the Tour of Oman by going on the attack in the finale with Peter Sagan (Cannondale) and Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-Quick Step).

    The Italian rode defensively on the final climb of the spectacular Bousher Alamrat highway but took his chance on the descent, aware that Grand Tour rival Chris Froome (Team Sky) might have been hesitant to follow him after attacking on the climb.

    "Peter (Sagan) went for it on the descent and I went after him," Nibali told Cyclingnews after quickly getting changed in a team car at the finish due to the absence of team buses in Oman.

    "I wanted to try and win the stage but I knew it'd be difficult with Sagan there but that didn't discourage me. I rode defensively on the climb, I'm not afraid to admit it because I'm not at 100% of my form yet. But it's good to be up there as I work day after day to improve my form."

    Nibali revealed that he lost any chance of victory against Sagan at a final roundabout with just over a kilometre to go.

    "We all got it wrong but Peter realised we'd made a mistake before us and jumped across the footpath," he explained. "I wanted to follow him but we had to dive round the roundabout and then chased to get back to Peter. That's why the peloton almost caught us.

    Becoming a father

    Nibali laughed off the confusion in the finale, happy that he had shown his rivals and proved to himself that his form is improving even though he is about to become a father.

    "It's always good to test yourself to see how...