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First Edition Cycling News, Friday, February 22, 2013

Date published:
February 22, 2013, 0:00 GMT
  • Bos with a good feeling after Langkawi victory

    Theo Bos (Blanco) pulls on the yellow jersey at the Tour de Langkawi
    Article published:
    February 21, 2013, 12:52 GMT
    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,...

  • MTN Qhubeka facing various challenges in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

    Debesay and Ciolek still on the front of the group
    Article published:
    February 21, 2013, 14:20 GMT
    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...

  • Kirchmann thinking big in third season with Optum

    Leah Kirchmann (Optum) will be marked in the sprints this week.
    Article published:
    February 21, 2013, 16:10 GMT
    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...

  • Paris-Roubaix selects 25 teams for 111th race edition

    The moment the breakaway moved clear on the Orchies sector during Paris-Roubaix with Tom Boonen in the lead. About an hour later, he raised four fingers in the Roubaix velodrome to equal Roger De Vlaeminck's number of victories at the Hell of the North.
    Article published:
    February 21, 2013, 17:01 GMT
    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)
    FDJ (Fra)
    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)
    Sojasun (Fra)

  • Acquarone on possible time trial at the start of the 2014 Giro d'Italia

    Michele Acquarone.
    Article published:
    February 21, 2013, 17:53 GMT
    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...

  • Eneco Tour, Tour of Poland target of UCI team size experiment

    Jacopo Guarnieri (Liquigas) wins Tour of Poland stage three
    Article published:
    February 21, 2013, 19:40 GMT
    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 Czesław 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.

  • Gallery: NetApp-Endura recons Omloop Het Nieuwsbald course

    Team NetApp-Endura trains for the Omloop Het Nieuwsbald
    Article published:
    February 21, 2013, 22:05 GMT
    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

  • Sohrabi grateful for year with Lotto Belisol

    Mehdi Sohrabi returns to the Iranian-registered TPT squad for the 2013 season
    Article published:
    February 21, 2013, 23:17 GMT
    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...