- Article published:
- February 21, 12:52
- Alex Malone
Blanco sprinter hails perfect partnership with experienced Brown
The weight of expectation proved no hindrance to Blanco sprinter Theo Bos who pulled on the first race leader's jersey at the Tour de Langkawi after taking out the opening stage with a long-range sprint into Kulim. Bos was clearly confident coming into the sprint and opened his charge to the line earlier than expected having noticed a gap behind him after the final corner.
The cause for Bos' early jump and anticipation to do so was largely in part due to the hard work carried out by his Blanco teammates and his final man Graeme Brown's.
Bos arrived for his debut at the Malaysian race after a recent string of early-season results at Volta as Algarve just the week prior. The Blanco sprinter won Stage 2 and wore the race leader's jersey for a day and came into the 10-stage race with plenty of confidence.
"I think it's really important [to win]. There was good competition even if it wasn't the best race for me. It was pretty hilly but I think it gives me a lot of confidence. The first stage I finished third, my teammate won and I could have won. I won the second stage. It gave me great confidence winning on a hard stage like that and a good feeling for this race. I'm happy I can continue winning."
While he took his first stage win in a seemingly comfortable fashion, the 29-year-old was hesitant to suggest he would achieve a similar feat to Andrea Guardini (Astana) who holds the record at Langkawi with 11 stage wins.
"I know Brownie won a lot of stages and Andrea also. I don't know what the competition was like over the past few years but hopefully I can repeat this tradition," said Bos.
"But I think it will be difficult to do that," he added.
"Today, luckily everything went to us. We have a good team and made it happen. It's going to be difficult to do this every race. We have to try and see. Every day is new and of course, more would be nice but I think there will be other sprinters winning here as well."
While Bos remained humble after his stage win, his crushing blow delivered to the other sprinters was no fluke. The partnership with Brown is something which a lot of the other sprint teams lack, according to Bos and he expects the two will spend a lot more time together this season. Brown was the former record holder for the most stage wins at Langkawi, having amassed 9 wins from 2002-2005, before Guardini overtook the Australia last year.
"It's always hard to say 'yeah I expect [to win]'. I never expect to win easy and we have a lot of respect for our opponents and we look if they are in good shape and what team they have.
"Brownie is helping me but also helping [Mark] Renshaw. Mark and I are the two main sprinters in the team and sometimes he's in my squad and sometimes he's in Mark's squad. He has a lot of experience and we have a lot of experience together - which is important for sprinters. We are going to work together a lot this year."
With Bos not expected to retain the yellow jersey past Stage 3, tomorrow offers up the next opportunity for success. The plan for the coming stage, a short 117.8km route, was a simple one.
"We try to make it a bunch sprint. Hopefully we can repeat what we did today again. That would be perfect."
Blanco will have to tackle the 560m, Cat2 climb in tomorrow's stage before thinking about setting up the sprint victory. The climb tops out just before the 50km point, leaving just under 70km to pull back anyone hoping to upset the sprinter's day.
- Article published:
- February 21, 14:20
- Cycling News
African riders eager to take on first Belgian race
Team MTN Qhubeka comes to the professional peloton with a vastly different background from the other teams. Fifteen of the 21 riders are African, and the team wants to deliver the first African World Champion. The team got its European season off to a successful start with Gerald Ciolek's fifth place finish last weekend at the Trofeo Laigueglia, and now looks to do well Saturday in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.
And if the team does well there, it dreams of a wildcard invitation to the Tour of Flanders. “If we get on the podium Saturday, that is a very real chance,” sport director Jens Zemke told Het Nieuwsblad.
The South African-based team moved up to the Professional Continental ranks this year. “We have an average budget, but our mission attracts large companies: Trek, Samsung, Skoda, Vermarc and MTN, the largest telephone company in Africa.”
The team's mission statement requires that at least two-thirds of the riders be African, and so the team features nine South Africans, three Eritreans, an Ethiopian, an Algerian and a Rwandan. Ciolek will lead the team again on Saturday, but five of the eight riders are African.
One of them is Ferakalsi Debesay, of Eritrea, where, he says, everyone rides a bike. “For fun, for transportation but also in competition.” The racing culture is deeply ingrained in the land, he said, as it “came along with the colonizer, Italy. Cycling is the number one sport in Eritrea.”
He laughingly calls his homeland “the Belgium of Africa. Only, we have no cobblestones. And it's warmer. "
Debesay is a natural climber, as he says his landsmen are “destined for endurance sports. They are frailly built and they all live at altitude.” His goal? “A winning ride in the Tour de France. When? "About two years."
Algerian Youcef Reguigui doesn't look to the Tour but to the one-day Classics, wanting “a great team and a great race win. Paris-Roubaix, Milan-San Remo, I don't know.” Saturday will not be his introduction to cobblestones, as he already rode the U23 Tour of Flanders. “But in the pros, it's still something else.”
Reguigui, 23, must also balance his personal beliefs with his career. As a practising Muslim, "I must pray five times a day, but you can slide those hours. And I follow Ramadan. Not from July 9, as is prescribed this year, but in December. After the cycling season. "
- Article published:
- February 21, 16:10
- Pat Malach
Canadian targets Worlds, 2016 Olympics after London snub
Two-time Canadian national criterium champion Leah Kirchmann is ready to tackle her third professional season after a year in which she had to overcome the one-two punch of suffering a broken collarbone shortly after finding out she hadn't been selected for the Canadian team that would compete in the London Olympic Games.
Although the broken bone put her out of racing for more than a month and kept her from defending her 2010 and 2011 criterium titles, the news that she hadn't been selected for the London squad may have hurt even more.
“It was disappointing, honestly,” the Optum Pro Cycling-Kelly Benefit Strategies rider told Cyclingnews during a break from team training camp last week. “But at the same time, I know I'm still young and have lots of racing years ahead of me. So I'm looking forward and I'm definitely targeting the 2016 Olympics. I have four years to build up, and I think I'm in a good position to try and qualify.”
That kind of determination do doubt helped Kirchmann finish the Nature Valley Grand Prix's stage four Uptown Minneapolis Criterium after cracking her collarbone in a pileup near the start/finish very early in the race. Kirchmann not only finished that stage in 34th place, she raced the entire Menomonie Road Race the next day – finishing 19th – before finally giving in to the pain and not starting the Stillwater Criterium on the final day.
But not all the news was bad for Kirchamnn last season. She opened her 2012 account with third overall at the Merco Cycling Classic omnium. She backed that up with a win at the Optum-sponsored Old Pueblo Criterium, part of the USA CRITS series, in Tucson, and then brought home a silver medal for Canada from the Pan American games road race in Argentina. She dueled Ina-Yoko Teutenberg (Specialized-lululemon) at the Exergy Tour in Idaho, coming in second and third to the storied German sprinter. She won the two-day Airforce Cycling Classic omnium and finished fourth at the Liberty Classic before the injury at Nature Valley.
Kirchmann returned to racing at the end of July and closed out the season with a podium finish at the Blue Ribbon Alpine Challenge in Aspen after leading out teammate Jade Wilcoxson for the win. She also won the sprint jersey at the Energiewacht Tour in Holland and the Best Young Rider jersey at the Tour feminin de l'Ardeche in France while riding with her national team.
It's been a long trip for the rider who got into mountain biking as a 13-year-old looking for a way train for her cross country skiing competitions.
“I started skiing when I was about five years old,” said Kirchmann, who hails from Winnipeg. “My whole family was into skiing, and I raced until I was about 18. So all growing up I was racing across the country and doing nationals. I was kind of competing year round doing skiing and cycling in the summers. As soon as I started racing I really loved it and had a lot of fun kind of racing the boys and starting to beat them. With every year I got more and more involved, eventually into road racing as well.”
Kirchmann found success on the road in the amateur ranks and signed with Rachel Heal's Colavita squad in 2011. She had a breakout season that year, winning the Airforce Cycling Classic, the Menomonie Road Race stage at Nature Valley, the overall at the Joe Martin and her second consecutive Canadian criterium championship. The season-long results earned Kirchmann the runner-up spot on the NRC rankings behind teammate Janel Holcomb.
This season will be Kirchmann's third under Heal, who she credits with the team's ongoing success on the domestic scene.
“She's an awesome director,” Kirchmann said. “She is extremely organized and always has really great race plans and very specific jobs for all of us to do. She's really good at building team spirit and camaraderie.”
The team is hoping that success will carry the women's squad overseas with a spot in the UCI team time trial world championships, which the Optum women's team is now eligible to compete in with its move to UCI status this year. It's incentive enough to inspire the sprinter to try and hone her skills in the race against the clock.
“My strength up to this point has really been sprinting,” Kirchmann said. “So I decided this year would be a great year to kind of start focusing on the time trial, and as you get better at time trialing that will also improve other areas as well, and then, especially with the team trial possibility, it just makes sense.”
She's also motivated by the return into the fold of former Colavita teammate and fellow sprint speedster Lauren Hall, who raced with TIBCO-To the Top last season.
“I'm really excited to be back racing with her,” Kirchmann said. “She has a great upbeat attitude, and she's really fun to race with, so we'll have a lot of cards to play in races.”
- Article published:
- February 21, 17:01
- Cycling News
Six wild card teams to join 19 ProTeams
Amaury Sport Organization (ASO) announced the complete list of invited teams for its 2013 edition of Paris-Roubaix, set to take place on April 7. The famous cobbled Spring Classic will be run for the 111th time.
Nineteen of the 25 teams are UCI ProTeams according to the sport's rules. Katusha, which recently was granted ProTeam status by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), is among the 19.
Six wildcard teams were also selected: French teams Bretagne - Séché Environnement, Cofidis, Solutions Crédits, Sojasun and Team Europcar plus Swiss team IAM Cycling and German team Team Netapp - Endura.
ProTeams for 2013 Paris-Roubaix
AG2R La Mondiale (Fra)
Astana Pro Team (Kaz)
Blanco Pro Cycling Team (Ned)
BMC Racing Team (USA)
Cannondale Pro Cycling (Ita)
Euskaltel Euskadi (Esp)
Garmin - Sharp (USA)
Katusha Team (Rus)
Lampre - Merida (Ita)
Lotto Belisol (Bel)
Movistar Team (Esp)
Omega Pharma - Quick Step Cycling Team (Bel)
Orica - GreenEdge (Aus)
RadioShack - Leopard (Lux)
Sky Procycling (Gbr)
Team Argos - Shimano (Ned)
Team Saxo - Tinkoff (Den)
Vacansoleil - DCM Pro Cycling Team (Ned)
Wildcard teams for 2013 Paris-Roubaix
Bretagne - Séché Environnement (Fra)
Cofidis, Solutions Crédits (Fra)
IAM Cycling (Sui)
Team Europcar (Fra)
Team Netapp - Endura (Ger)
- Article published:
- February 21, 17:53
- Barry Ryan
No call from the UCI over Katusha's WorldTour place
Michele Acquarone arrived in Ireland on Thursday to confirm that the 2014 Giro d’Italia will begin in Belfast before visiting Armagh and Dublin, but he said that the precise details of the three Irish stages will only be decided after further discussions with teams and riders concerning logistics.
The greatest potential obstacle to bringing the Grande Partenza to Ireland was the new UCI regulation barring Grand Tours from having rest days during the opening week, which means that the Giro and its caravan will have to travel from the finish of stage 3 in Dublin on May 12 to the start of stage 4 in Italy the following day.
While that hurdle has been negotiated, Acquarone and RCS Sport are still pondering whether to include a time trial in Ireland, and whether that time trial – team or individual – will take place in Belfast on stage one or in Dublin on stage three.
RCS has already held discussions with the teams’ association AIGCP and riders’ association CPA concerning their preferences for the Irish start, and the details will be confirmed shortly after the conclusion of this year’s Giro.
“We have three different plans for the Irish stages and now we just have to choose which is the best plan for everybody. It’s possible we could start with a time trial or have one on the third day before travelling to Italy,” Acquarone told Cyclingnews in Belfast. “We’ve already spoken about it and already defined almost everything. When you start the Giro so far away and without a rest day before returning to Italy, you have to talk about it with the teams and riders first.
“There isn’t an enormous hurry about deciding on the specifics of the stages. The important thing is to ensure that the riders get on the plane in time to go and race in Italy the following day, and we know we can do that. We’re tranquillo about the transport, so now it’s just a question of finding the solution that is best suited to everybody.”
Katusha the 23rd team
While Acquarone and his RCS team have plenty of time to fine-tune the logistics for the Giro’s Irish start in 2014, they have been forced to work within somewhat tighter time restraints to find room – quite literally – for a 23rd team at this year’s race.
Following Katusha’s successful appeal for reinstatement to the WorldTour last week, the UCI announced on Monday that cycling’s elite division would now feature 19 teams, meaning that the Giro – which has already distributed its four wildcard invitations – must now carry 23 teams. Acquarone was disappointed that the UCI had not taken the time to communicate its decision to RCS beforehand.
“It was such an important decision but there wasn’t even a telephone call. I’m surprised that nobody called us and that when I called, nobody called back,” said Acquarone.
Katusha’s late addition is estimated to incur €150,000 in costs for the Giro organisers, but Acquarone said that he was more concerned by the logistical implications of the situation than the additional expense.
“You can absorb the costs – money problems can always be solved,” Acquarone said. “The problem is more to do with the quality of the event. Today I don’t know if I’ll be able to have 23 teams on the boat to Ischia for the third stage of the Giro, for instance.
“The logistics are already complicated there, so imagine if you had a similar situation coming here next year. That’s a problem. The agreement was that the WorldTour would have 18 teams. But with 19 teams, it’s become our problem and we have to find a way to make it work.”
Under Acquarone’s stewardship, the Giro and RCS Sport’s other races have placed great store on allocating their wild cards at the beginning of the season. While he maintained a diplomatic front, it is clear that Acquarone wishes that the make-up of the WorldTour could be established with similar swiftness.
“I’m not saying the UCI works badly and I’ll never say that, because I understand how complicated their work is. I’ll just say that there’s a problem and it needs to be resolved immediately.”
- Article published:
- February 21, 19:40
- Laura Weislo
Races considering six rider teams proposed by Pro Cycling Council for 2013
The UCI has confirmed to Cyclingnews that the two WorldTour races invited to take part in an experiment using six-rider teams are the Eneco Tour and Tour of Poland.
The UCI's Professional Cycling Council this month approved a project to test using six-rider teams and a new system of bonus points based on intermediate sprints.
The organisers of the Tour of Poland also confirmed to Cyclingnews they are considering taking part in the experiment, and the race’s general director CzesÅaw Lang is expected to give a final decision to the UCI in the coming days.
Even if Lang agrees to reduce team size to six riders, race spokesperson Mirco Piermarini said the number of teams would not be increased for the 2013 edition, because of the start in Italy. The race will have 23 teams, 19 WorldTour squads and four wildcards, but could see a greatly reduced peloton.
“In my opinion it is a way to change the racing dynamic because this kind of decision can help all the riders that are not in a strong team, or they haven’t a strong team in some race to have a chance to compete in the general classification,” Piermarini said.
“The second very important point is the safety of the race.” A peloton of 138 riders instead of 184, “is easier for the organizer to guarantee the safety, but is more safe for the riders as well to ride in a smaller group in my opinion.”
The race will consider increasing the number of teams to 25 for future editions, should the test prove successful.
- Article published:
- February 21, 22:05
- Cycling News
Team kicks off Classics season with Omloop and Le Samyn
Team NetApp-Endura will start its Classics season with two Belgian races: Omloop Het Nieuwsbald on Saturday and Le Samyn next Wednesday.
The Omloop Het Niewsbald covers 200km, starting and ending Gent. To date, the race has been a challenge for NetApp. So for 2013, the team was beefed up specifically for the Classics. It has also been preparing in a new way with the recent races in Qatar and Oman.
"Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is a very difficult race and demands very close attention on our part. We've added riders to our squad of Classics specialists, who should be well suited for this type of race. Nevertheless, the cobblestone sections and climbs that riders must face in some races like the Tour of Flanders should not be underestimated," said Jens Heppner.
"To prepare as best as we possibly can, we took a very close look at the route yesterday and specifically trained there. Familiarity with the route can be decisive in this type of race," Heppner said.
Le Samyn will happen on February 27, starting in the Belgian town of Frameries and ending 110km later in the nearby town of Dour. Five local circuits must be completed at the destination, making the entire route 192 kilometers.
"Last year the race ended in a mass sprint, which is also likely to happen this year. To date we've been able to make quite a good case for ourselves in this race. This year we also hope to ride to a good result," Heppner said.
Team NetApp for Omloop Het Nieuwsbald: Russell Downing, Zak Dempster, Markus Eichler, Blaz Jarc, Ralf Matzka, Erick Rowsell, Andreas Schillinger, Paul Voß
Team NetApp for Le Samyn: Blaz Jarc, Roger Kluge, Johnny McEvoy, Erick Rowsell, Michael Schwarzmann, Scott Thwaites, Paul Voß, Alex Wetterhall
- Article published:
- February 21, 23:17
- Alex Malone
Former Asia Tour winner back to his roots with TPT
It may have seemed like another blow to the convoluted UCI points system but one-time WorldTour rider Mehdi Sohrabi has only good things to say about his one-year contract with one of the world's top-ranked teams, Lotto Belisol. His time in the big league may have been short-lived but the 31-year-old is appreciative for the opportunities of 2012. For this season however, he has come back to Tabriz Petrochemical Team – the 'home' squad for the Iranian-based rouleur.
"For me, the year with Lotto was very good," he told Cyclingnews. "At Lotto all the riders are of very high level, the organisation, everything was very good. One year at WorldTour with Lotto was great. But there is a big difference between Lotto and TPT."
The 2011 Asia Tour champion was picked up by Lotto Belisol for his haul of UCI points and helped the ProTeam to remain in the top-tier for the 2012 season. It was likely that a more experienced European professional missed out on a contract but with UCI and WorldTour points carrying such high value, Sohrabi's biggest asset was what he had already achieved and not necessarily of what he could bring to the coming season.
Sohrabi came out with a promising showing at the early season Tour of Qatar in 2012 however, the results he was accustomed to achieving in Asia never materialised. He rode in some of the biggest races in the calendar including Volta a Catalunya, Tour de Suisse and Tour of Beijing but he was never in contention for victory.
Part of this comes down to the vast cultural differences between his familiar Iranian home and former Tabriz Petrochemical Team and that of the his new surrounds in Europe. Such an extreme change in "everything" meant he struggled for the first part of the year before really feeling like he was starting to feel comfortable in his environment.
"I just had too many problems; spending too long in Europe, no friends or Iranian riders in Europe and so after the races I was always alone," he explained.
"This was a big problem. In the races it's not an issue but the first four-five months were very difficult.
It wasn't just the culture shock that Sohrabi had to deal with but the racing itself was a world away from the Asian scene.
"Different roads, riders, weather, everything. After five months it was fine. I was used to the roads and riders so it wasn't really a problem anymore. In European races there are 200 riders who start and 200 of them are good. In an Asia race there's 120 riders and maybe maximum 50 of them are very strong.
"Asian races also use very big roads so there is plenty of space to move and attack. In Belgium it's all these small roads going left, right, left, cobblestones. It's all very different."
Coming back to the team he spent 2009 through till the end of 2011 makes sense for Sohrabi who's contract with Lotto was not renewed at the end of last season. He isn't bitter about stepping down and if anything, says the year raced over in Europe has changed him as a rider. With Le Tour de Langkawi being his first race of the year he says that while lacking condition to be competitive, his team will certainly look for their chances.
"My level has changed a lot of after one year at the WorldTour. It has come up a lot since Lotto. I also now understand many other things about racing having learned different tactics from Asian and European races. It's 100 percent different.
"This is the first race for me and the team also. It's cold and snowing in Iran now so it's not good for training but there's probably three riders on our team who are still good climbers. We will try for a good result but I think being the first race will be hard.