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First Edition Cycling News, Friday, February 25, 2011

Date published:
February 25, 2011, 0:00 GMT
  • Cyclingnews launch YouTube channel

    The Tour of Oman peloton in action during stage three.
    Article published:
    February 24, 2011, 12:01 GMT
    Cycling News

    Subscribe to our channel for video highlights, interviews and more

    To accompany our push into the wonderful world of video Cyclingnews has launched its very own YouTube channel.

    Now you can catch all our latest video interviews, race highlights, and behind the scenes action from the world’s toughest sport.

    For now you can enjoy our coverage from the Tours of Oman and Qatar, where Phil Sheehan interviewed the likes of Mark Cavendish, Pippo Pozzato, Christian Vande Velde and many more. We’ll be uploading more of our back-dated coverage from races like the 2010 Amgen Tour of California in the coming days so stay tuned.

  • Roberts and Majka sign for Saxo Bank-SunGard

    Tanya Denver Memorial Award for highest placed South Australian went to Luke Roberts (Milram).
    Article published:
    February 24, 2011, 13:48 GMT
    Cycling News

    Australian finds team after Pegasus debacle

    After being left without a team following the failure of the Pegasus project to get off the ground, Luke Roberts has signed for Saxo Bank-SunGard for the 2011 season. It will be the Australian’s second spell with Bjarne Riis’ outfit, after riding for the then CSC squad from 2005 to 2007.

    Roberts spent the 2010 season with Milram but the German sponsor withdrew from the sport at the end of the year. He then found a berth with Pegasus, but his hopes of competing at the highest level with an Australian team came to nothing when Chris White’s outfit was denied a ProContinental licence due to its failure to provide sufficient financial guarantees.

    “I'm extremely grateful that Bjarne Riis has offered me this opportunity, and I really want to repay the trust the team has shown me in a difficult situation," Roberts said.

    Roberts won gold in the team pursuit at the Athens Olympics, a success that opened the door for him to step up to ProTour level with CSC and he is pleased to return to the fold.

    "Bjarne was the first team owner offering me the opportunity to ride on the ProTour back in 2005, and I have learnt a lot from the way he approaches things and runs the team,” Roberts said. “It’s an honour for me to be back."

    The Australian enjoyed a strong season on the road with Milram in 2010 and took the mountains classification at January’s Santos Tour Down Under, and Saxo Bank manager Bjarne Riis believes he has picked up something of a bargain in the versatile Roberts.

    “He is a real pro, strong and experienced, and he is a rider that you can rely on in all kinds of races,” Riis said. “He has experience from Grand Tours and...

  • Boom to co-lead Rabobank at this weekend's Belgian races

    Lars Boom (Rabobank) at speed
    Article published:
    February 24, 2011, 18:54 GMT
    Daniel Benson

    Dutch team on a roll

    Lars Boom will co-lead a buoyant Rabobank team into this weekend's road races, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. The Dutch outfit has sprinted out of the blocks in 2011 registering nine victories and 17 podium places, and with Boom leading the team alongside Sebastian Langeveld, they'll be hoping to keep that momentum going as the European racing scene finally shifts towards the Spring Classics.

    "My form is good and I'm feeling fresh and well," a muddy Boom told Cyclingnews after reconnoitring the final sections of the Omloop course today.

    "The team is strong and we've got a good bond going. Everyone is in good shape."

    It's not just hyperbole: the team began their season in form with the under 23 world champion Michael Matthews winning at stage at the Tour Down Under. That was followed by Boom winning the opening stage of the Tour of Oman, and while he faded due to illness as the race progressed, Theo Bos and Robert Gesink both won two stages as Gesink took the overall.

    In the last two days, Oscar Freire won two stages at the Ruta del Sol.

    "I started with a win but we had a great Tour of Oman throughout the team. We hope that we can continue that this weekend and into all the Classics in the upcoming months. The whole team is ready for it, and so am I."

    "This is the opening weekend of the Classics, and for every team it's important. On a personal level, I had a really good winter and I'll try and go as far as possible. Lets see what happens."

    One rider Rabobank will have to do without is their main Classics hopeful Matti Breschel. The Dane signed from Saxo Bank at the end of 2010 but has been plagued by knee injuries. He will miss this weekend's racing as he continues...

  • Rabobank to ignore radio silence at Het Nieuwsblad

    Lars Boom
    Article published:
    February 24, 2011, 23:54 GMT
    Jane Aubrey

    UCI says race will be cancelled

    A split looms in the peloton for Saturday's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad with several teams planning to protest the UCI's radio communications ban, according to Dutch television station NOS.

    UCI president Pat McQuaid has reacted angrily to the news, saying that if teams attempt to use radios, the Belgian race will be cancelled and the results will be null and void, much like the first race of the Challenge Mallorca series earlier this month.

    "If that happens then there is no race," McQuaid told NOS Sport. "Then we will withdraw our backing and the riders will not be insured."

    The UCI began the roll out of the ban last year in 1.2 and 2.2 level races (including all U23 races and women's stage races), and has been extended in 2011 to cover all races ranked 1.HC/2.HC and below, and will continue to World Calendar races in 2012.

    Rabobank is one team set to defy the ruling, with Lars Boom claiming that the rider's points of view are simply not being acknowledged by the governing body.

    "We will start with earpieces," Boom told NOS Sport. "It's important that we are heard and decisions aren't just taken behind a large boardroom table, which we just have to say 'yes' and 'amen' and 'obey'."

    BMC will not be participating in the protest this weekend, despite General Manger Jim Ochowicz's belief that, "Race radios belong in the sport to provide safety and communications."

    "We will not jeopardise the goodwill of race organisers by participating in any type of negative action," he said in a media release. "However, we immediately call upon the UCI to sit down in good faith with the appropriate partners to work...

  • Antón leads Euskaltel's Almeria effort

    Igor Anton (Euskaltel-Euskadi)
    Article published:
    February 25, 2011, 1:16 GMT
    Cycling News

    One eye on the Ardennes for classy Spaniard

    Igor Antón will lead the Euskaltel-Euskadi team at this weekend's Clásica Internacional de Almería as the Spaniard looks to continue preparations for the Ardennes classics in April.

    Antón briefly led last year's Vuelta a España before a crash forced him out of the race, winning stages four and 11 in Valdepeñas de Jaén and Pal respectively.

    The 27-year-old also took fourth in last season's edition of La Flechè Wallonne in addition to seventh in Liège-Bastogne-Liège and a top 10 overall at the Tour de Romandie, marking him out as one of Euskaltel's best Classics and general classification riders.

    He'll go into this year's Ardennes Classics one of the men to watch after last season's exploits, likely forming a two-pronged attack with classy teammate Samuel Sanchez, who is a proven performer in one-day and stage races. Rubén Pérez will also provide strong support and act as a back up plan, much like he did at the 2010 Clásica de Almería, where he finished ninth.

    Antón will be joined by Mikel Nieve, Rubén Pérez, Alan Pérez, Mikel Landa, Ion Izagirre, Miguel Minguez and Jonathan Castroviejo, who replaces Koldo Fernández after the latter broke his collarbone at the recent Vuelta a Andalucía.

  • Contador's lawyer reveals defence strategy

    Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank Sungard) was the focus of media attention.
    Article published:
    February 25, 2011, 3:44 GMT
    Jane Aubrey

    Less than one per cent of Spanish cattle are tested for Clenbuterol

    Alberto Contador's lawyer has explained that the Spaniard escaped a doping ban for Clenbuterol because he was unaware he ingested the substance, via a piece of filet mignon, during the 2010 Tour de France.

    Earlier this month, the Royal Spanish Cycling Federation decided to overturn its recommendation to ban Contador for a year following his positive test.

    Article 296 of the UCI's anti-doping regulations says that an athlete can be exonerated if they prove that they had inadvertently ingested a banned product through no fault or negligence on their part and Contador's lawyer, Andy Ramos, has told The Independent that this proved to be the catalyst for the Spaniard's acquittal.

    "The [anti-doping] legislation states that a rider is responsible for any banned substance in his body," he said. "But there's a clause that frees him of that responsibility if he can demonstrate there was no intentional negligence. We proved that, and that was the key to his defence. From day one his defence was based around that clause."

    Another key piece of evidence which helped to clear Contador was the small amount of Spanish cattle which are tested for Clenbuterol.

    "We showed that the testing for Clenbuterol in cattle is not infallible in Europe," Ramos continued. "There is a European Union norm – 96/23/CE, dating from 1996 – which states that only 0.25 per cent of cattle should be tested for Clenbuterol. So 99.75 per cent are not."

    Ramos also revealed that Basque authorities traced the supplier of the offending piece of beef back to three possible sources. The meat in question was bought by Spanish cycling organiser, Jose Luis Lopez Cerron, a friend...

  • German team NetApp at home in Belgium

    Team NetApp practices echelons in the kitchen
    Article published:
    February 25, 2011, 9:11 GMT
    Susan Westemeyer

    A photo gallery of the team's service course

    Team NetApp is Germany's highest-ranking team this season, but is an international team, with 17 riders from ten different countries and its home in Belgium. The Professional Continental team has set up its headquarters in Kelmis, Belgium, where it has its service course and a house for riders and an apartment for other staff members.

    Kelmis is, not coincidentally, the adopted home of sport director Jens Heppner but the location has many advantages, as the German explained. “The Eiffel and the Ardennes are right here. If you want to train flat, the Netherlands are very close by. There are lots of riders in the general area, so it is always easy to get a training group together. Plus all the airports are near: Brussels, Düsseldorf, Cologne. Even Frankfurt and Amsterdam aren't that far away.”

    The service course is housed in an old store front, with the team vehicles outside confirming the team's presence. Inside, two mechanics tend to the team bikes and supplies. The large townhouse which the team has rented is more unusual. Up to seven riders can stay at the large, attractive house, with the apartment offering quarters for up to four more.

    “This helps the team to grow together,” Heppner told Cyclingnews. “For a team to work properly, the guys have to be not just teammates but also friends. The relationships are much more intensive because of this.”

    In addition, the riders are responsible for everything there, including washing and cooking. They admit, though, that they have chipped in for a cleaning woman.

    The cooking can be adventurous, as they all take turns, and some are more experienced than other. Michael Baer, for example, has training as a cook, while others are used to having their mums prepare their...

  • Devolder plays down his chances for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

    Stijn Devolder adds star power to the Vacansoleil team
    Article published:
    February 25, 2011, 10:34 GMT
    Susan Westemeyer

    Belgian champion names Boonen and Gilbert as the riders to beat

    Stijn Devolder has admitted that his form is "still not so great" but the current Belgian national champion is looking forward to the first Belgian race of the season with his new Vacansoleil-DCM team. His first goal of the weekend on the cobbles is to forget “the disaster of last year”.

    On Thursday, the Belgian champion finished the Ruta del Sol in 32nd place and then headed to Belgium. His best result was fourth on the second stage. In 2010, Devolder had a week to train in the Belgium but after riding in Spain, he will only have one day to get used to the cold and the cobbles this year.

    “That should be enough for an opening weekend which I am really looking forward to” he told

    In 2010, Devolder, then riding for Quick Step, finished only 131st at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, in the last group, over 13 minutes down. He was one of many who didn't finish Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne the next day. Only 26 riders made it to the finish line on a day of atrocious weather. He is naturally not eager to repeat that experience, especially while wearing the national championship jersey.

    “I hope that doesn't happen again. I think I'm ready, but I'm still not so great. My real races will come the first half of April,” he said.

    However he said that racing this year has “taught me that I am a lot further along than this time last year, he said. “I just want to forget the disaster of last year.”

    Last year Tom Boonen was his captain at Quick Step but is now a major rival. Devolder picked Boonen and Omega Pharma-Lotto's Philippe Gilbert as "the two men to beat. If Tom Boonen is on, I'll try to respond to a breakaway. If I can't, then there's Bjorn Leukemans, my teammate who is even better than me,” he...