- Article published:
- March 14, 2013, 20:37
- Cycling News
Belgian semi-classic to go on with alterations
The unusually late winter weather in Northern Europe has led organisers to alter the course for the Handzame Classic, leading to the removal of a section of hills added to the parcours this year.
The same snow led to the cancellation of the Nokere Koerse on Wednesday, but tomorrow's UCI 1.1 race is still due to take place, albeit on a slightly easier course and on roads wide enough to allow for better snow removal.
The bad conditions eliminated a number of sharp climbs in the mid-point of the race near Westouter that were introduced for the 2013 edition.
"Last night we thought we could still go with the new course," said organiser Bert Pattyn, "but a new snowfall prompted us to change our decision."
The race will commence from Bredene as planned, but rather than head into the hills, the riders will go straight through Oostende and Torhout, and then complete nine local laps for a total of 190km.
The harsh late-winter weather has led to the cancellation of a number of European races, including the Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, GP di Lugano, Dwars door Drenthe and Nokere Koerse.
- Article published:
- March 15, 2013, 00:21
- Alex Malone
Drapac Professional Cycling looking to defend overall title
A fitting end to the year at Tour de Okinawa and a promising start to the 2013 season with a stage win at the UCI 2.2 New Zealand Cycle Classic was confirmation for Thomas Palmer (Drapac Professional Cycling) that he was back on track after spending many months off the bike due in 2012 to illness. Sensitivity to a range of foods held back the three-time junior track world champion for much of 2012 but now he's back on track and taking aim at the upcoming Tour de Taiwan.
Palmer was forced to spend nearly months away from training and racing in 2012 due to a combination of issues that he believes stemmed from his dietary choices. He made dramatic changes in an attempt to find his old self and while many of it seemed basic in his eyes, he needed time to adjust to what he called a "pretty intense" period.
"I really concentrated on my digestion and diet," Palmer told Cyclingnews. "I took out a lot of foods that I was sensitive towards. I took back gluten, complex sugars... It was pretty intense to start with during last year and that was the real reason why I couldn't ride. I was being so strict with my diet that there was no way I could the energy requirements to train, let alone race. That's why I took the time away from the bike to first get my health back to normal and then work back from there.
The Drapac sprinter started the year with the Australian National Team at the Tour Down Under and raced for part of the year before realizing he wasn't right. Palmer was understandably nervous when he finally returned to proper training and racing later in the season but believes it won't be long for him to get back into the kind of condition that has made him one of Australia's most promising sprinters.
"Coming back to racing I was pretty nervous. I didn't know if I was going to be half as good as I was before, or better or absolutely terrible. The main thing I learnt was while I hadn't had adequate training, once my health was right I was straight back to my best level."
He returned to racing at Goulburn to City, took out the Wollongong round at the NSW Grand Prix, finally captured the road race at the Tour de Okinawa - after winning the prologue in 2009, 2010 and 2011 before the race was reduced to a single day for 2012 - and kept racing until the NZ Cycle Classic in January this year. That was essentially the end of season after stopping part way through last year start.
"Okinawa was probably my first result after all that sickness. There were a lot of races in January and I got the one win at Wellington but for me I saw that as the end of my 2012 campaign, in a sense," Palmer told Cyclingnews. "Because of the sickness I didn't have that conventional end of season break so that [Wellington] was kind of the end of the season for me."
Palmer, who is currently studying for his Arts degree at University in Canberra just wants to get on with showing his full potential in 2013 and that means winning bike races. Taiwan will be his first chance to do just that before targeting the Tour of Japan later in the year. The racing in Taiwan is difficult to predict, according to Palmer whose teammate Rhys Pollock won the 2012 edition after finding himself in the right moves throughout the opening stages before taking over the race lead on Stage 4.
"With the team that we are taking this year we have guys who could do exactly the same [as Pollock did] last year. I would love to say I'm going there to chalk up some wins but at the same time it could turn out like last year," he said.
"This is the start of my season and obviously I want to start by putting my best foot forward. What I'm intending to do is really get back and be able to reach my full potential with a full season. Like everyone, I want to win bike races. If I'm going to move forward in the future to a bigger team and look to become a professional bike rider then the only think for me to do is win bike races. I'm looking to win as many races as I possibly can.
Adding Luke Davison to the mix
The Drapac squad has always had a number of good sprinters in its ranks but Palmer was the only ‘pure' sprinter until Luke Davison signed for the team at the end of 2012. Davison took out the National Road Series last year on the back of a brilliant season that included winning Goulburn to Sydney, the overall at the Tour of the Murray and a further 10 NRS stage wins.
Adding another fast-man to the roster is a smart move according to the Canberra resident Palmer who says it will give the team options throughout the season and ensure there's a fresh-legged sprinter for every race of the year.
"Obviously no one rider can race everything so it means we will have a good, fresh sprinter ready to race throughout the season. It's definitely going to bring better consistency to the team but for the first half of the season at least I think the program has worked really well with me doing the first few races and Luke focusing on the track.
"I'm starting with Taiwan and after that Tour of Japan which is a big objective for me as well. But I'll have to see what the calendar has in store for the second half of the year."
- Article published:
- March 15, 2013, 02:06
- Cycling News
Team doctor named by Rasmussen investigated
Team Blanco has found no evidence that its team doctor Dion van Bommel was involved in doping and will not take action against him, NOS.nl reported today.
Van Bommel was one of three doctors named by Michael Rasmussen in a recent interview, together with Geert Leinders and Jean-Paul van Mantegem as being aware of his doping. The Danish rider stated van Bommel was not directly involved in doping, but was one of those who handed out certificates for cortisone use.
Team boss Richard Plugge said the organisation launched an internal investigation into van Bommel, including interviewing him and doping authorities.
"It's all very clear. There was nothing," Plugge said. "There is no reason to have to take action. That also says something about how we should judge Rasmussen's words," said Plugge.
- Article published:
- March 15, 2013, 03:44
- Jane Aubrey
Relaxed, scoring results and racing Oceanias
Chloe Hosking has always said it like it is. 2012 began in a blaze when she called UCI President Pat McQuaid "a d**k" for his comments regarding the status of women's cycling but she let her legs do the talking back in Europe, winning Drentse 8 and Halle-Buizingen, emotions spilling over. However towards the end of the season, the wheels had come off. Out of contention in the women's road race at the Olympic Games, she recovered her confidence somewhat to win a stage of La Route de France but later that month, the Canberra-based sprinter learned that her contract with Specialized-lululemon was not going to be renewed. Two months of living in limbo followed, unsure of her next move.
"It was definitely a roller coaster, that's a good way to put it," Hosking told Cyclingnews. "For me, the big thing was that this is still really what I want to do. When you didn't have a contract it would have been so easy to say, I'll just go back to Australia and finish my university and get a real job. That wasn't what I wanted.
"I still feel like there's a lot more to achieve. It was a good reality check and it's given me a lot more perspective."
In signing with Norweigan outfit Hitec Products, Hosking has fallen on her feet and with three years of racing with "one of the best teams in the world with the best riders in the world" under the Highroad / Specialized-lululemon banner, is now hoping to pass on some of her own lessons to the younger members of the squad.
While many athletes struggle off the back of an Olympic year, without that all-consuming goal of selection and for a select few, a result, driving them on, Hosking believes that the renewed perspective that has occurred out of the back end of last season has resulted in a better approach to her racing. The 23-year-old is focused on consistency throughout the season for Hitec, with the UCI Road World Championship course in Tuscany not playing to her strengths.
"It doesn't matter what bike race you win it still feels just as good," Hosking explained.
"It's a matter of still trying to win races and also making sure that I really enjoy my cycling and have a balanced approach," she continued. "Last year was such a stressful year with selection and everything post Olympics so for me I've been trying to be more relaxed and for me that reflects in my riding."
So far, Hosking's new outlook is working. A stage win and a stint in the lead at the Ladies Tour of Qatar before finishing second overall; top 10 in Drentse 8 and then fourth in the first World Cup race of the season, Ronde van Drenthe. Her experience in Qatar however, showed that while Hosking is now racing for a different team, some ties are not easily broken. Hosking has long looked up to German veteran and former teammate Ina Teutenberg so it was not surprising that the former under 23 criterium champion sought her guidance after Kirsten Wild (Team Argos-Shimano) took the Australian's race lead.
"I really enjoyed racing and working with Ina," said Hosking. "And we still have quite a close relationship. I know I can always email her and ask for advice and she's more than willing to give it.
"In Qatar when I lost the yellow on the second last stage I emailed her and asked her: 'How do you think I can win this?' She came back to me straight away and was always willing to give me advice. I feel really fortunate that I still have that relationship with her. I had three years with that team and I really enjoyed my time there racing with the girls but it's a good time to move on."
This weekend, courtesy of her sister's wedding, Hosking is back at home in Australia and racing the Oceania Road Championships in Canberra. Entry into the event wasn't planned but ever the pragmatist, Hosking decided it was a case of why not and so she'll take her place alongside a quality field on Saturday that includes Carla Ryan, Carlee Taylor, Ruth Corset, Grace Sulzberger and Taryn Heather.
"It was a massive shock coming back to almost 30 degrees after racing at minus two or whatever it was," Hosking explained with the east coast of Australia experiencing a balmy start to autumn. "Family does come first. It's the same races every year and I'm going to have a lot more opportunities to race the ones that I'm missing. My sister only gets married once, hopefully. It was a no brainer."
Hosking's return to Europe at the end of the month will see her take on the five-day Energiewacht Tour in the Netherlands, but despite the stint back at home, she plans to be well-prepared with plenty of speed work on her agenda in the meantime.
"My coach Eric Haakonssen and I will look to be doing a lot of ergo and motor pacing stuff to bring the speed up," she said. "It's a race that I'm really targeting. I've never done it before I've waited two years so I'm very excited. It's Dutch racing. It's going to be fast, it's going to be windy and it's what I love. So hopefully I can continue on what has been a pretty good season so far."
- Article published:
- March 15, 2013, 05:01
- Stephen Farrand
Spartacus hopes to slay Sagan
Fabian Cancellara may not be at his very best this spring but the powerful Swiss rider believes he is again ready to be in the thick of the action at Milan-San Remo and is prepared to do everything he can to stop Peter Sagan stealing his thunder as the king of the spring classics.
Cancellara is now 30 and admitted he is starting to feel his age after a decade of intense racing. He seems to feeling the heat from a new generation of talented young riders that are breathing down his neck.
"Right now I'm not bad. I've done my job, I've done my homework, I've done what I need to do," Cancellara said while talking to the media present in Italy as the days count down to Sunday's Milan-San Remo.
"Tirreno-Adriatico has been an important week of racing. I'm on the way but maybe I'm missing a result. But hey, winning isn't everything."
Sorting out Sagan
Cancellara has failed to land a win so far this season to assure himself and his team of his form and fire a warning salvo to his rivals. Instead he has to watch Peter Sagan dominate many of the races he has ridden.
Sagan is multi-talented and able to win from an attack or in a sprint, while Cancellara has always had to count on his brute force and speed to win big. He won Milan-San Remo with a solo attack inside the final two kilometres in 2008 but was beaten by Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) last year despite forming the decisive three-rider attack with the Australian and Vincenzo Nibali.
Cancellara knows he could find Sagan on his wheel going over the top of the Poggio this year and would have little chance of victory against the super-fast Slovakian. It is evident that Cancellara doesn't like Sagan, that there is far more friction than admiration between the two after last year's Tour de France: Cancellara clearly still hasn't forgiven Sagan for sitting on in the final kilometre of stage one to Seraing and then jumping away and making one of his entertaining victory celebrations.
He makes it clear that he will not repeat the same mistake, promising to 'break it down', to attack and split any group, if he is with Sagan in the finale of Milan-San Remo.
"I respect him as a rider, he's a young talent and it's good we've got some good talent riders. But as I said after the Tour de France, he's still got a few things to learn," Cancellara said with a carefully worded put down.
"I'll ride my race and he and the Cannondale team will ride their race. I have my ideas how I'm going to race Milan-San Remo but I'm going to keep them to myself. It all depends on how the race goes. He wasn't such a gentleman with me, so I'd probably break it down, I wouldn't pull if we got away. It all depends who is in the group but I don't think I'll take riders to the finish like I did last year. No."
Cancellara writes off the chances of pure sprinters such as Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-Merida) and Andre Greipel (Lotto Belisol) but warns of several dangerous experienced rivals.
It's not only about Sagan, there are riders from Paris-Nice, people like Chavanel and Gilbert, Pozzato was riding well at Tirreno-Adriatico, as was Hushovd.
Finding a middle way
Cancellara is now perhaps past his very best. 2012 was a difficult season and left a few scars. He was strong at Milan-San Remo, finishing second but then crashed out of the Tour of Flanders and missed Paris-Roubaix. He had another successful Tour de France, with victory in the prologue and a several days in the yellow jersey but he blew his chances of winning gold in the Olympics time trial after crashing in the road race, while chasing the decisive breakaway.
"Crashing on a stupid corner last year and losing a great chance of a gold medal was pretty big for me," he revealed.
"That's why I took my time off. I took two months off. It's a lot but I don't feel bad because I needed it; it did me good. I'm not a philosopher but now I see things differently. We don't know what will happen tomorrow and that's why I work hard and why for condition is good.
"Sometimes it's hard to stay dedicated but I think I've found a middle way that works. I'm 100% dedicated to classics but in other parts of the season, I'll also switch races to spend time with my kids, otherwise I'd already have hung up my bike. Life can finish fast, that's why I need to enjoy as well as focus on my racing.
"I'm 30. It's a lot. There are some very young riders in the peloton now and some very old ones like my teammate Chris Horner. He'll be 42 this year but I won't be racing at his age. When I'm 38 or something, I'll be sitting on my couch or helping a team, rather than putting on a number. I'm not counting my years now but you need to find your motivation to get to 100%. I've been at high level since 2006 and so you need to take a break and step back, even if it's a month or two months. We're not footballers. Cycling is a damn hard sport, you have to give it 100%, otherwise you get 'run over' by other guys and you'll achieve nothing."
Andy Schleck is only human
Cancellara's final thought during his meeting with media is for troubled teammate Andy Schleck. Cancellara is focused on the classics but is aware of Schleck's problems and is understanding.
"I saw him this week first time after a long time. I think he's on the way back but he's got to take it step by step," Cancellara suggested. "He didn't have an easy year last year, with the crash, being awarded the Tour de France and then with what happened with his brother. Andy's experienced but he's still young too.
"He needs his time to come back. I still believe in him, as does the team. He apologised after being dropped on the descent during the team time trial. I said: 'No worries, man. Think where you were a few months ago, a few weeks ago, and keep working.'
"Of course when you see Froome, Contador and Rodriguez performing well he feels sad that he can't be up there but I told him not to stress about it. I think he can up there in the Ardennes Classics because I know Andy's engine.
"When you need help, you have to ask for help and that's what he's done. That's why I think he will be back. I always tell young riders to be careful during their careers. You need time to understand what you achieved as a rider. You become famous but sometimes you just want to be left alone. Success changes your life. At the end of the day, we're only human. But that's sometimes difficult for people to understand."
- Article published:
- March 15, 2013, 09:24
- Cycling News
Norwegian focused on the classics
Edvald Boasson Hagen will be carrying the hopes of Team Sky at Milan-San Remo on Sunday, with the Norwegian hopeful of bettering his 25th place from 2012. Paris-Roubaix may be his priority in terms of the classics, however Boasson Hagen ranks Milan-San Remo in his top three, following the Tour of Flanders.
The 25-year-old admits that while he hasn't done a lot of racing so far this season - Tour Down Under, Qatar and Omloop Het Nieuwsblad have so far made up his calendar - he is happy with his form.
"I'm feeling better and better on the bike," he told TeamSky.com. "I haven't had any big results to shout about yet this year but hopefully they will come in the next few weeks. I've been doing a lot of good training and the focus has been on the Classics."
Boasson Hagen made the front group of the race to hit the Poggio in 2012, only to fall back without the assistance of any team mates.
"Last year I went quite well," he explained. "I was in the group all the way to the last climb but I was just on the limit to make it over. It was one of the better Milan-San Remos I've done so hopefully I can be even stronger this year. I want to be in the first group over the last climb.
"I've done the race four times now and I've seen the climbs on a lot of videos. I've always done recons of the climbs so I'm familiar with them.
"You do 200km before the first climb, and 250 or so before the next one, so it's the length before the climbs that makes them hard - and also the speed. They are not really steep but everything you've been through before you get to them makes it tough."
- Article published:
- March 15, 2013, 10:41
- Cycling News
Follow the complete race on CN this Sunday
This Sunday you can tune into Cyclingnews for live text coverage from Milan-San Remo, the first Monument of the 2013 racing season.
Cyclingnews will be covering the race from start to finish, kicking off coverage from 8:30am CET on Sunday morning and taking you all the way to the finish in San Remo.
With Peter Sagan, Fabian Cancellara, Philippe Gilbert, Andre Greipel and Mark Cavendish leading a host of World Tour teams the race one again promises to be a showdown between the best one-day classics riders and the sprinters in the peloton.
For a complete preview of the race, click here.
- Article published:
- March 15, 2013, 12:58
- Pat Malach
Garmin sprinter without a win in 2013
Tyler Farrar said this week that he is properly prepared and ready to find out if this is the year his legs can carry him over the Poggio with the lead group and give him a chance for a top result at Milan-San Remo.
“I've never made it over the Poggio at the front before,” said Farrar, who is in Italy preparing for the 106th edition of La Classicissima after wrapping up Tirreno-Adriatico on Tuesday. “So obviously it's a bit of an unknown for me if maybe this is the year I can climb well enough to make it. That would be nice, but we'll see on the day how the race is going and how everybody is feeling.”
The Garmin-Sharp sprinter has raced Milan-San Remo four times previously, finishing 42nd, 46th and 109th after abandoning the race during his first attempt in 2009. But the list of past winners for the season's first Monument is dotted with the names of many of the sport's top sprinters, and Farrar would obviously like to add his own name to that roll. But you either have the legs to pull it off or you don't, Farrar said, and on Sunday he'll find out which is the case for himself this year.
“It really just comes down to legs in the final hour of the race,” Farrar told Cyclingnews. “It's 300km, so it's really long and guys kind of start coming apart at the seams when they hit the final climbs. The good guys come to the front, and the guys who don't have the legs tend to go away.”
Despite a relatively rough start for Garmin-Sharp this year, including the theft of some team bikes at the Tour Mediterranean and several weather-related cancellations on the European calendar, Farrar said he has had a “pretty smooth” early season build-up for the classics.
“I wasn't at Tour of Med, so my bikes didn't get stolen,” Farrar said, although he did miss Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne when it was canceled because of snow. “I had a pretty good program with Tour Down Under, Majorca, Ruta del Sol, and then a little hiccup with Kuurne on the opening weekend, so I think for me, personally, it's been a really nice, smooth prep for the season and everything has gone exactly as I'd hoped.”
That preparation culminated this week with Tirreno-Adriatico, where Farrar finished 62nd on the now-infamous Porto Sant'Elpidio stage, coming in nearly 10 minutes behind winner Peter Sagan (Cannondale). More than 50 riders abandoned the stage, and the race organizer later apologized for the route's difficulty.
“I think that is probably my record for the steepest road I've ever ridden a bike up, or certainly the steepest road I've ever raced a bike up,” Farrar said. “In addition to the three times up the crazy, super-steep 30 per cent climb, there were several other climbs on that circuit that were up in the 20s, so it was a tough day for sure. To be honest, I think it would make an awesome one-day race.”
The squad Garmin-Sharp is sending to Milan-San Remo will be a mix of the Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico rosters. Farrar will join Jack Bauer, Alex Howes, Robert Hunter, David Millar, Ramunas Navardauskas, Johan Vansummeren and Fabian Wegmann on the start line Sunday. That's a lot of firepower, but Farrar knows that it's up to him to be there in the finale if the race comes down to a sprint.
“The team can help put a sprinter in good position coming into the bottom of the climbs,” Farrar said. “That's really crucial, but then it's just suffer and hope you make it over.”
After Farrar makes it over the Poggio and Milan-San Remo, he'll take four days to recover and prepare for E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke on March 22. Then he hopes to hit Gent-Wevelgem, Tour of Flanders and Scheldeprijs before ending his classics campaign with Paris-Roubaix. Farrar said Wevelgem suits him well and will be a big goal, but he'll likely be supporting teammates like Johan Vansummeren in Flanders and Roubaix. But either way, Farrar said, he'll be going full gas for all his races.
“You don't go into any of the classics at half speed,” he said. “You take every one very seriously, and that's the beauty of the classics. You come into every one completely fresh, and you can dedicate all your energy to it. The goal is to ride well over the next four weeks and hopefully get a few results for myself and some good results for the team.”
After Paris-Roubaix the plan is for Farrar to start shifting back into Grand Tour sprinter mode, including a possible start at the Amgen Tour of California in May as part of his Tour de France preparation.
But for now he's focused on Sunday's race, and like many others he's picking Sagan as the hands-down favorite. Farrar said the Slovakian rider can win from breakaways or a bunch sprint, and his versatility makes him a very dangerous rider. But Farrar was also careful to point out that many others have looked good so far this season, and the race is obviously still wide open.
“That's the thing about one-day races,” he said. “It's all about having the legs that day and the luck. There's always an element of surprise to it, even for the riders themselves.”