- Article published:
- January 12, 2012, 18:10
- Cycling News
Will Basso or Nibali lead team at Giro d'Italia?
The Liquigas-Cannondale squad was presented at the headquarters of Citroen Italia in Milan on Thursday, but it remains to be seen whether Ivan Basso or Vincenzo Nibali will be in the driving seat at the 2012 Giro d’Italia.
After skipping the Giro to focus on the Tour de France last year, Basso has already confirmed that he will return to the corsa rosa this season, but his teammate Nibali has thrown his hat into the ring in recent weeks. Team manager Roberto Amadio has clear ideas about who should be behind the wheel in May, but he insisted that the riders would have their say.
“We’ve studied the routes of the grand tours and it’s clear that the Giro is better suited to Ivan while the Tour, with 100km of time trialling, is better for Vincenzo,” Amadio said. “But it’s clear that we also have to listen to our athletes’ desires and Vincenzo has told us that he wants to ride the Giro d’Italia. After the Classics we will evaluate his condition and take the final decision.”
Basso explained that his early-season preparation will be similar to 2010, when he went on the capture his second Giro d’Italia victory. “It’s my big objective for the first part of the season and my programme is very like the one I had in 2009 and 2010,” he said.
The veteran was also adamant that he would be happy to have Nibali alongside him at the Giro, as was the case two years ago when both men finished on the podium in Verona. “We’ll follow two different programmes and then the staff will decide, but certainly having him alongside me would be a big advantage.
“I’m the first to recognise Vincenzo’s development, and I reckon that if he rode the Giro, he would be the favourite. I’d be happy to ride the Giro with him.”
Nibali pointed out that, for now, the Tour de France was the only grand tour pencilled into his programme. That was also the case in 2010, however, but the Sicilian was drafted into Liquigas’ Giro squad at short notice when Franco Pellizotti fell foul of the UCI’s biological passport system.
“We’ll decide on the Giro further down the line, but for now I only have the Tour de France in my plans,” he said. “It will be an important year for me, and I’ll be looking to win races, because in 2011 I didn’t win any and I want to get going again.”
The young Slovak talent Peter Sagan, meanwhile, is set to make his Tour de France debut in July. Still two weeks shy of his 22nd birthday, Sagan rattled off three stage wins at the Vuelta a España last year.
“With Peter we’ve decided that he still needs to develop steadily, but this development will also see him take on a big stage race, the Tour de France,” Amadio said.
- Article published:
- January 12, 2012, 20:19
- Cycling News
Asian-based Pro Continental squad presented in Beijing
The presentation of the Champion System Pro Cycling Team Wednesday in Beijing was not only the first introduction of the squad to the world, it also illustrated the world of opportunities representing the new venture.
With 18 athletes from 10 countries, the Champion System team embodies a number of firsts in competitive cycling: the first Asian-based Pro Continental squad, and the first time a cycling apparel company is both the owner and title sponsor of an elite international team.
"From day one, we have always supported cyclists throughout Asia and now we have decided to take that support to the next level," Louis Shih, executive manager of the Champion System Pro Cycling Team, said. "As the owner and title sponsor of the team, we are excited to see our elite athletes compete against the world's top professional cyclists while at the same time developing future Chinese stars in the sport of cycling."
The Champion System squad is comprised of riders from China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Estonia and the United States. While the team will contest all the major races in Asia - such as the Tour of Langkawi and the Tour of Beijing - a main goal of General Manager Ed Beamon will be to expose his eight Asian prospects to top-tier racing in Europe and North America.
"We're about to embark on a historic journey and it is thanks to Champion System, the Chinese Cycling Association and all our sponsors, especially Fuji," Beamon said.
The way Beamon describes it, the Champion System team is opening a new frontier for professional cycling. Along the way, that means opportunities for western and southern hemisphere riders are being created, but the biggest opportunities are for Asian riders, Beamon said.
"For the first time in the history of the sport there is an opportunity for a group of Asian riders to have the opportunity to race against the best riders in the world all over the world," he said.
It is also an opportunity for the team's bike sponsor, Fuji, to link its past and present, said Milay Galvez, sponsorship manager at Advanced Sports International. Fuji Bicycles evolved from the Nichibei Fuji Cycle Company, Ltd., a bicycle manufacturer established in Japan in 1899.
"We have deep, deep roots in Asia," Galvez said. "Working with Champion System is a great opportunity for us as a brand because of our roots, that the team is the first professional continental team in Asia and Champion System is developing technologies like we are."
Estonia's Jaan Kirsipuu is leading the Champion System Professional Cycling Team on the bike. The 42-year-old veteran sprinter will use his experience as a rider/coach. His accomplishments include four Tour de France stage wins, wearer of the yellow jersey for six days in 1999 and holder of the green jersey, plus more than 120 UCI victories.
"It's not a comeback, it's another part of my career," Kirsipuu said. "I have a different task."
"In the very beginning, Champion System has always had a passion and commitment to competitive cycling and I think this team represents somewhat a culmination of that dream," Beamon said. "Hopefully, we will take this team to the Tour de France and the WorldTour and we'll carry the hopes and dreams of a lot of Asian and Chinese kids along with it."
- Article published:
- January 12, 2012, 20:45
- Cycling News
Canadian due to give birth in mid-July
2008 Olympian and 2012 Olympic hopeful road cyclist Erinne Willock of Canada announced on Tuesday that she will put her Olympic dreams on hold as she and husband Tony Zarsadias are expecting the birth of her first child, only days before the start of the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
"The last couple months have been quite a bit different than I had envisioned since the last Olympics. To say I've switched gears is a big understatement. I have very quickly gone from having complete focus for the 2012 Olympic year to now having a healthy and happy pregnancy being my new and exciting reality," said Willock, who competed for Canada at the 2008 Olympic Summer Games in Beijing and at the 2006 and 2010 Commonwealth Games.
Willock, an integral member of the Canadian Women's Road Cycling Team, boasts an impressive cycling resume, which includes several victories on the professional racing circuit and many Top 10 at UCI World Cups throughout her career.
"I will definitely miss racing in 2012, as this is such an important year. Nevertheless, I'll be cheering on my teammates from both Team TIBCO and the Canadian Cycling Team. You can be sure that I'll be glued to my computer and TV checking the latest results, race reports and live coverage. There is so much depth in women's cycling right now, especially Canadian Cycling, that it will be a great year to be a fan," said Willock.
Speaking to her teammates of the Canadian Cycling Team, Willock is confident that Canada will thrive at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, this summer and bring home some medals.
"To my teammates on the Canadian Cycling Team, I want to wish you all the best of luck! I am very excited to watch you all excel. For those who are vying for those precious spots on the Olympic Team for London, I hope you enjoy the experience, and more importantly have medals to bring home to show me!"
Denise Kelly, head coach of the Canadian Road Cycling Team, will miss Willock in the peloton this summer. "Erinne is an undoubtedly an outstanding cyclist - one of Canada's finest. Her outgoing personality and aggressive racing style will definitely be missed this summer in the peloton across the world, and I join the staff at the Canadian Cycling Association to wish her a safe and healthy pregnancy. We are looking forward to enhancing our development programs with this new cyclist that will be born this summer."
Willock won the 2011 Women's Prestige Series and was second in the GC at the Redlands Bicycle Classic and Nature Valley Grand Prix.
- Article published:
- January 13, 2012, 08:23
- Jane Aubrey
What Team Sky has on hand in Adelaide
The Tour Down Under, held in Adelaide, Australia is around 16,000 kilometres from Team Sky's service course in Belgium.
The first race of the UCI WorldTour has the potential to be an expensive one for competitors and so teams generally try to keep their equipment to around the 400 kilo mark. Compare that to the 6000 kilograms of equipment that is in most team trucks in Europe and it's obvious that team are travelling light for the first race of the year.
In this video, Sky mechanic Filip Tisma talks us through what he has on hand in Adelaide to keep the team running as smoothly as possible along with the practicalities. This is his second trip to the Australian stage race and past experience has paid off. \
In 2012, he has just one groupset on hand at the race, compared to the five he usually has in Europe. Sky are also travelling with half the amount of race wheels with 29 sets on hand, for the two Pinarellos available for each rider.
Click on the video below to get the full rundown from Tisma, along with a tour of his working environment at the Tour Down Under village.
- Article published:
- January 13, 2012, 10:59
- Mark Robinson
Young Team Sky rider maturing on and off the road
Speaking to Cyclingnews at Team Sky's winter training camp on the Spanish island of Mallorca, Ian Stannard has revealed that he is ready to translate the big strides that he has made in recent weeks onto the road when his season gets underway next month. The 24-year-old from Chelmsford, England, enjoyed the best year of his career to date in 2011. A stage victory at the Tour of Austria and a late season top five finish at Paris-Tours were the highlights, while he was also part of Sky's Vuelta team that helped deliver podium spots for Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome. And sandwiched in between all that was a crucial role for Team GB at the Road World Championships where new Team Sky colleague Mark Cavendish took gold.
"I’d say I’m in considerably better shape now than I was this time last year," he said. "I think there’s several reasons for that. I’m settling into the team more and the team is finding its way more too with regards to coaching. Also I’ve grown up more as a person and the experience I gained in the Vuelta last year has helped to shape my winter training.
"I had a couple of crashes in training towards the end of last year so when I arrived here in Majorca for our initial stint in December I was a little bit behind the other guys. But I really committed over Christmas and I am seeing the benefits now, especially in my power output."
Being at the Team Sky training camp has really given Stannard the hunger to get started, and finding himself surrounded by experienced teammates such as Juan Antonio Flecha and Jeremy Hunt offers a valuable opportunity to take on board their advice.
"I'm looking forward to getting stuck in now," he said. "All the new bikes and new kit here at the camp just makes you want to race again. Pinarello have produced a new frame for us. We used it briefly at the Vuelta and it was really nice. We’ve made a few extra tweaks off the back of that and it’s riding really nicely, you can see the improvement from the previous years.
"I’m benefitting from a lot of the experienced guys on the team. Guys like Flecha have so much experience that you can’t help but soak it up and take their advice. He’s a great guy to have around. Anything you need to know or that you’re not sure about he’ll help you with. The same goes for Jez. He’s got tons and tons of experience and has seen it all before. He almost knows you as a rider just from observing and can see the signs in the younger riders and relate to how he was a few years ago."
Stannard will be starting his racing year off in the Gulf next month with back-to-back races and will then turn his attention to the Classics, which are always a highlight of the season for him.
"I'm starting at Qatar and then Oman - I’ve done it for the last few seasons and it works well for me," he said. "A lot of the Classics riders tend to do those events as it’s nice weather but hard racing too.
"After Qatar and Oman it’s all still a bit up in the air but it’d be great to be at Milan San-Remo and help Mark [Cavendish] win it in the rainbow jersey. Then after that there’s the big races in Belgium. I really enjoy racing in Belgium. The crowds are so enthusiastic and I love the hard roads and the cobbles. Flanders and Roubaix are the pinnacle of it all and one day I’d love to be up there on the podium."
- Article published:
- January 13, 2012, 11:17
- Cycling News
Agencies maintain the court's integrity
Both the UCI and the WADA have criticised reports this week concerning the Alberto Contador case before the Court of Arbitration for Sport. With the Court's decision expected next week, various press reports this week have questioned the judges' objectivity.
Leopard Trek owner Flavio Becca started the controversy by suggesting a relationship between the fact that Contador's team, Saxo Bank, recently held a training camp in Israel, and the fact that the head judge on his case is an Israeli.
“These are two facts that cannot be separated. At this point I think everything is already decided,” Becca said.
The CAS then took the unusual step of denying any such prejudice on the part of its judges.
On January 11, the AP reported that WADA lawyers nearly walked out of the hearing last November when the CAS denied oral testimony from anti-doping expert Michael Ashenden.
Both agencies expressed their belief in the integrity of the process in separate statements issued late this week.
The WADA “wants to clarify that during the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) hearing into the case of Alberto Contador at no stage did WADA challenge any member of the panel for a lack of independence,” it said.
The UCI “condemns” the publication of the stories this week, and “formally declares that none of its representatives have been involved in any way in this action which it deems incompatible with the good order of court proceedings."
The UCI confirms that it will continue to respect due confidentiality and the legal rights of all parties. Further the UCI reiterates its confidence in the integrity and independence of the Court of Arbitration for Sport and all the members of the panel.”
- Article published:
- January 13, 2012, 12:03
- Cycling News
British team in Mallorca for training camp
Team Sky is making the most of the warm weather and the variety of terrain on the picturesque Spanish island of Majorca this winter, as our exclusive gallery from their training camp shows.
The British team are in the middle of their second stint here, having had a large block of training in the northern resort of Alcudia before the Christmas break. With a team of mechanics, doctors, nutritionists, masseurs and coaches here every base is covered. The team chef has even taken over the kitchen in the hotel, ensuring that all the food the riders eat is carefully monitored.
Majorca is an ideal place to train and offers opportunities for climbing, rolling rides and flatter speed-based rides. There was a focus on lead-out training yesterday, as you will see from the gallery, while today the team are off on a serious climb that will test out the quads and the lungs to the maximum.
The mood in the camp is largely relaxed, with games of pool going on during leisure hours and plenty of banter during meal times. The camaraderie between the team will be a pleasing sign for the coaching staff and all of the riders have so far agreed that team spirit is at an all time high within the fledgling team. The business done in the off-season has been crucial to this, with contract extensions to important incumbents complemented by key new faces that have settled in quickly. And the coaching staff are steadfastly implementing the riders’ collective and individual targets, preaching the need for patience and careful piecemeal planning.
Yet there is also an inescapable sense that the riders are desperate to be unleashed and test themselves against each other and the rest of the world in proper race conditions. 2012 is set to be the biggest year yet for the team and that sense of excitement, opportunity and responsibility is definitely bubbling beneath the surface. It appears at this stage that the often elusive pre-season balance between measured circumspection and the harnessing of pent-up aggression and enthusiasm has been found by the men and women behind the scenes. With such a long season ahead its importance cannot be understated.
Images provided by Robin Moore.
- Article published:
- January 13, 2012, 14:02
- Mark Robinson
Veteran Spaniard tells Cyclingnews that he's still improving
Could 2012 be the year when Juan Antonio Flecha breaks his duck at Paris-Roubaix? The popular Spaniard, who turns 35 this year, has had a series of near misses in the 'Queen of Classics', with three podium finishes and three other top ten placings. It's a race that he desperately wants to win, and he also told Cyclingnews of another burning ambition when we caught up with him at the Team Sky training camp in Mallorca.
"If I had to choose one race to win now, it would be Paris-Roubaix," he said. "I have been close there many times and to win it would be amazing. I know many Belgian fans would say ‘come on Flecha, the Belgian races are the best’, but for me right now I would have to say Paris-Roubaix would be my dream.
"I’d also really love to do the Tour de France again this year. It would be my tenth Tour in a row. That would make me very proud and I would really think ‘wow, look at that, that’s fantastic'. I know that I would be going there to work for Mark [Cavendish] and Bradley [Wiggins] and that will keep me occupied. But I’d be lying to you if I told you that I wouldn’t like to win another stage at the Tour. I won’t shirk any of my responsibilities to my team, but I can’t hide my desire to win a stage. I won a stage in my first Tour and it felt unbelievably good. I would love to feel that again."
Flecha has an enormous amount of faith in his coaches at Team Sky, and the feedback that he has received from them over the winter has given him confidence that he can still improve, even at this relatively late stage of his career.
"Can I still improve? It's an interesting question," he says. "I really believe that I can. As long as you show desire and want to improve, you will. If you think, even at my stage of my career, that you have done everything and that you can’t get better then you might as well retire. I am still a pro cyclist and I love it. It’s not my business to analyse how I can get better. It’s up to my coaches. If they think I can improve in certain areas they tell me what to do. And they believe that I can. I have total faith in them.
"I feel good at this stage of the winter but the most important thing is that my coaches are pleased with me. They plan exactly how they want me to be in January. The detail that they go into is very thorough. On my last day of training last season my coaches had already planned my first day of this season. Right now my numbers are exactly where they want them to be."
As a Spaniard who lives in Barcelona, Flecha is well-placed to discuss the relative merits of Mallorca as a training base. And despite some initial reservations he has been really impressed with both the location of the Team Sky camp and the meticulous fashion with which the riders' schedules have been planned.
"At first I was a bit sceptical about Mallorca because in the south of the island the geography is all very similar," he said. "But up here in the north you have flat roads, rolling hilly roads and sharp climbs, so there is a bit of everything. It can be windy but that’s ok as you ride with a group and at this time of year the roads are really quiet. At first I was thinking that there may be some better places in southern Spain for the camp but I have been really pleasantly surprised. It’s also just a 20-minute flight from my home in Barcelona so that makes things easy for me.
"The coaches and the sporting directors have prepared everything perfectly. We are doing everything – motor pacing, climbs and flat rides. I loved being here in December and I have loved this section of the camp too. Here we are solely focussed on riding our bikes. There are no distractions and you don’t have to decide anything for yourself. There is no deliberation as to which group you are going to join as you are told what to do. The five or six-hour rides only seem like a couple of hours, and that’s a really encouraging sign."
Fans can expect to see Flecha in action for the first time in 2012 at the Tour of Qatar next month, which has become a traditional curtain raiser for him.
"Qatar is a race that I like a lot," he said. "It’s a really nice race to enter to start off your season because you always stay in the same hotel, the transfers from the airport are small and the weather is usually good. So in some respects it’s a familiar, calm and gentle introduction to the season. I’m also suited to the cross winds that you have there."