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First Edition Cycling News, Friday, March 22, 2013

Date published:
March 22, 2013, 0:00 GMT
  • Gilbert leads BMC’s charge for first Monument win

    Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing Team) tried a solo move but ran out of gas on the Poggio
    Article published:
    March 21, 2013, 17:50 GMT
    Daniel Benson

    BMC rider hopes to make final selection

    Philippe Gilbert (BMC) has been here so many times it's no wonder that the answers seem to reel off the tongue with relative ease as he and teammate Taylor Phinney address the media ahead of E3 Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem.

    Phinney, hot off the back of an impressive performance at Milan-San Remo, is well versed with the press too, greeting individual journalists as they enter the room, before admitting that he will play a "wildcard" role for the upcoming races. With Paris-Roubaix the main focus of his spring, the demand is that he proves Milan-San Remo was no fluke if he is to garner a leadership role at BMC, a team that has often cared more for status and reputation than present day form.

    For Gilbert there are the inevitable questions over form, Tom Boonen's fitness, and his recent quotes on the Belgian national flag.

    The three-time Monument winner heads into the double header of E3 Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem with a firm focus on next week's Tour of Flanders and is using Friday's E3 as a final dress rehearsal.

    "Tomorrow's race is maybe more important for me than Gent-Wevelgem because it's mostly on the same roads of Flanders. It's maybe the last test we can do. For me it will be important just to get in one last race of long distance," Gilbert said at BMC's pre-race press conference in Kortrijk.

    Exactly a year ago, an uncomfortable Gilbert was holding court in the same room. Sick, without form, he sat shifting in his seat as Thor Hushovd - also sick, and George Hincapie talked about the team's Classics aims. Given their poor showing and how Alessandro Ballan saved the team's bacon with a string of crucial performances, Gilbert was pleased to simply be back to somewhere near his top form.

    "My form is much better,"...

  • Boonen hoping to be back in the mix in E3 Harelbeke

    Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma - Quickstep)
    Article published:
    March 21, 2013, 18:50 GMT
    Cycling News

    Omega Pharma-Quickstep captains ready for Flanders warm-up

    It has been more than half a year since Tom Boonen raised his arms in victory at the end of a road race, but the Omega Pharma-Quickstep rider is hoping to put a winter's worth of health-related dramas behind him and get back in the mix at the front of the race in tomorrow's E3 Harelbeke.

    The race takes in many of the same roads as the Tour of Flanders, with the Paterberg and Kwaremont climbs providing a selective moment in the final 40km, and followed by the Knokteberg and Tiegemberg as the final obstacles before the finish line back in Harelbeke.

    "Harelbeke is one of my favorites ever," Boonen said today. "I won here five times, and every time when I am at the start of the race or in the final it's something special for someone like me, who really likes this kind of parcour."

    Last year, the E3 Prijs Harelbeke was the start of an unprecedented Classics romp by Boonen, who followed his victory here with triumphs in Gent-Wevelgem, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.

    However, a difficult off-season has meant the 32-year-old's 2013 has gotten off to a slow start. Boonen's last victory was in the Paris-Bruxelles last September, although he was part of Omega Pharma's world title winning team time trial squad. After first suffering from a serious intestinal infection over the winter, and then being hospitalised for an infected elbow in January. After dropping out of the delayed Milan-San Remo, the Belgian champion is ready to show his stripes at the front of the races.

    "This week I had good training here in Belgium. I am really looking forward to the next two races,...

  • Phinney 'an observer' on BMC for E3 Harelbeke

    Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing)
    Article published:
    March 21, 2013, 19:38 GMT
    Jane Aubrey

    American testing himself for possible Tour of Flanders selection

    Taylor Phinney (BMC) heads into E3 Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem high on confidence and could easily be the best-placed rider from the team to deliver a result.

    Riding with a purpose, that being Paris-Roubaix in a fortnight's time, Phinney claims to be the "wildcard" in the BMC pack this weekend with Philippe Gilbert, Thor Hushovd and Greg Van Avermaet the protected men in the outfit.

    "You never know what's going to happen," he admitted on the eve of E3 Harelbeke, eyes wide and expressive, before laughing. "I was just kidding."

    He considers himself to be an "observer" to his more-experienced teammates, specialists in the fine art of traversing the cobbles and successfully executing the tactics to claim the biggest one-day races of the calendar.

    "What they do with preparation and also in the races and the positioning and how they call on teammates," Phinney said.

    "Paris-Roubaix is a lot about knowing the roads, knowing the cobbled sections, being in the front when it matters. Most of these Classics races are about that. It's kind of being an observer and taking as much in as I can."

    The 22-year-old's start to the season has been impressive, with third overall at the Tour of Qatar; two top 10 finishes in Oman and then seventh at Milan-San Remo last Sunday, with a late attack off the Poggio in a bid to catch the lead group in an applauded show of strength. It was a performance that exceeded even his own expectations.

    "Weather conditions like that are already going to suit me because I have a knack for pushing through stuff like that," Phinney said. "And also just the craziness in the day - I got caught up in it. While it was easy to complain and say we shouldn't be stopping or we should continue I got caught up in the...

  • Finish atop Manayunk wall to spice up Philadelphia Classic

    Cesar Grajales (Bahati Foundation) attacks half way to Manayunk to claim the overall King of the mountains.
    Article published:
    March 21, 2013, 21:55 GMT
    Pat Malach

    Revived race on UCI men's and women's calendars

    Professional bicycle racing in Philadelphia is officially back on the calendar with the Philly Cycling Classic scheduled for June 2. Organizers confirmed this week that the men's and women's UCI 1.2 races will take place separately on a shortened course that starts and finishes at the top of Manayunk Wall.

    Race Director Robin Morton promised a more dynamic course back in January when a new organizing group announced plans for a revived Philly race, and the Manayunk-focused route with a finish up the iconic 17 percent grade that rises sharply off the banks of the Schuylkill River should radically shake up what has often proved to be a sprinter's race.

    "I think it will have much more of a European classic kind of feel, more of a festival and less of an expansive start/finish area," Morton told Cyclingnews. "It's going to be exciting."

    Although further details and an official course map will not be released until next week, the new route will be a big change from the 23.6 kilometre International Cycling Championship course, which began on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway around Logan Circle, then took riders north along Kelly Drive, up the Manayunk Wall, back down to Kelly Drive and over Fairmount Park's Lemon Hill before heading back to the finish line on the Parkway. This year's half-mile blast to the finish on Manayunk Wall will provide stark contrast to the former race's closing circuits on the wide-open Parkway.

    Women will race for equal prize money

    Changes for the women's UCI event include equal prize money for the first time in race history and an early start so that the women can have the course to themselves. The women will start their 60-mile race at 8:30 a.m., with the men's 120-mile event following at noon.

    "That was something that we really pushed for," Morton said. "Obviously when they run at the same time it makes the day shorter and is better for the city in terms of resources...

  • Renshaw looking at weather to predict Gent-Wevelgem chances

    Blanco sprinter, Mark Renshaw (Blanco)
    Article published:
    March 21, 2013, 22:35 GMT
    Jane Aubrey

    Blanco sprinter not keen to repeat frostbite from Milan-San Remo

    Mark Renshaw will ride in a support role for Blanco during Friday's E3 Harelbeke, and the Australian sprinter is on the fence over whether he can be a factor for Sunday's Gent-Wevelgem.

    Blanco's "big cards" for the Tour of Flanders warm-up are Lars Boom and Sep Vanmarcke but with the atrocious conditions of Milan-San Remo still all too fresh in Renshaw's mind, the 30-year-old is keeping one eye on the weather forecast.

    "If it's like San Remo then it will be hard for me to be a factor," he admitted to Cyclingnews. "If we race in conditions like that again, then the organisers need to look at measures to protect the riders because what I saw on Sunday, they didn't really put it on TV... You saw pictures but it didn't give a true indication of how bad the problems were."

    Snow and temperatures hovering around the zero degree mark are forecast for Gent-Wevelgem and given Renshaw has three fingers which are showing signs of frost bite, he is not keen for a repeat. He believes that the decision not to continue in Milan-San Remo made by Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quick-Step), a definite contender for E3 Harelbeke, was valid and could easily pay off in the form of a sixth victory in the semi-classic.

    "That was a very smart move," Renshaw said. "It will be the same guys that are always around the mark - Cancellara, Boonen, Sagan, he'll get marked out again. He's shown that he's really on top of his game and people don't want to go to the finish with him."

    A better 2013

    Renshaw's season has appeared far more settled and assured than in 2012: he claimed two podiums at the Tour Down Under before taking just his second win as a designated sprint leader at the Clasica de Almeria in late February. Renshaw credits the...

  • Vanmarcke talks Classics, anti-doping and the TUE process

    Sep Vanmarcke and Tom Boonen
    Article published:
    March 22, 2013, 9:44 GMT
    Daniel Benson

    Blanco rider on racing clean and his aims for Flanders and Roubaix

    Sep Vanmarcke (Team Blanco) has been given the all-clear by doctors to ride E3 Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem as he bids to rescue his spring campaign from the clutches of injury.

    The classics specialist took a tumble during Tirreno-Adriatico and it was first feared that surgery might be needed on his right knee. However a period of rest, coupled with a gentle recovery means that the 24-year-old will have a chance to return to full fitness before his main objectives at the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.

    “It’s better. It’s not perfect because there’s still fluid on the knee and I need to ride with tape but I’ll start E3 and we’ll see how it goes. I didn’t train for eight days so that’s definitely not good. I did some swimming, the first few days just my arms and then with my legs, just a little bit but of course that’s not the same as riding the bike,” Vanmarcke told Cyclingnews at Blanco’s team base on the outskirts of Ghent the evening before E3.

    “This week I started training again and I did one session of four hours. Some efforts were painful but they said that would be the case for the first few weeks. That was three days ago and every day it’s getting better. If I accelerate I feel it but we’ll see on the climbs. I don’t know how my knee will react or how my condition is.”

    Vanmarcke signed for Blanco after two seasons at Garmin which culminated in a superb victory at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad last year. In a spring that saw Tom Boonen and his all-conquering QuickStep team rule the roost over the competition Vanmarcke’s success stood out.

    “So far it’s been great for me,” he said when asked about his transition from Garmin to Blanco.

    “They’re really professional and everything is planned really well. I get along with the riders and it’s going well. It’s easier to...

  • Tour of Britain 2013 route announced

    Jonathan Tiernan Locke wins the Tour of Britain
    Article published:
    March 22, 2013, 10:08 GMT
    Sam Dansie

    First summit finish and longest ever TT mean race will be hardest yet, say organisers

    The 2013 Tour of Britain will feature the race’s first summit finish, a 16km TT in a safari park and – another first for the event – a ladies’ race preceding the men’s final stage in the streets of London.

    The eight-day race, celebrating its 10th anniversary in its modern incarnation continues to build upon the assertion that it delivers an ever-harder event, and the 6km climb day 6 to Haytor on Dartmoor - billed the ‘sting in the tail’ by race director Mick Bennett at Thursday’s launch - is the centrepiece.

    The UCI ranked 2.1 event – actually the shortest of the past ten editions at 1, 045km – starts on 15 September in Peebles in the Scottish Borders will finish with 88km on a city circuit centred on Whitehall on 22 September.

    Along the way, the race visits tough terrain in the Lake District on Stage 2 – also the longest day at 225km – Wales, the South West and the leafy lanes of Surrey.

    Bennett said the two tough opening stages – both over 200km – followed by a mid-race time trial on stage three in Knowsley Safari Park on Merseyside would be a tough test for the riders: “There’re flashpoints on virtually every stage,” he said.

    “The change for us is that we usually put two relatively flat easier stages at the beginning of the Tour. This second day finishing Kendal and going up Honister Pass and all that makes it very difficult day – and then there’s a ten mile time trial to follow it. The flashpoint for me would be how they all come out of stage two,” he said.

    For the first time too, the race will also visit Snowdonia with a finish in Llanberis on stage 4.

    The race will also visit perennial host towns including Caerphilly in Wales, Stoke-on-Trent in the Midlands and Guildford in Surrey on the penultimate day, where world champion Mark Cavendish won in front of large crowds last...

  • Ulissi: I don't feel inferior to Moser and Nibali

    Diego Ulissi (Lampre - Merida)
    Article published:
    March 22, 2013, 11:07 GMT
    Cycling News

    Lampre rider elbows for space in Italian press

    After soloing to victory on stage two of the Settimana Coppi e Bartali in Sogliano al Rubicone on Thursday, Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) issued a pointed reminder to the Italian press regarding his own standing.

    Junior world champion in 2006 and 2007, Ulissi turned professional in 2010 and won a fractious Giro d’Italia stage in Tirano the following year. With Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Moreno Moser (Cannondale) dominating the headlines in Italy over the past twelve months, however, the 23-year-old Ulissi admitted that he has felt overlooked at times.

    “I’m either neglected or forgotten,” Ulissi told Gazzetta dello Sport. “I’m not looking for headlines, the wins are enough. I’m not looking for invitations on stage, the road is enough. But when people talk about points of reference for the new Italian cycling, I feel excluded. People talk about Nibali, about Moser and about others who are younger than me. Nothing against them, but in my own way, I don’t feel inferior. I don’t think I’m strongest, but there are some races where I am.”

    Hailing from Cecina, near Livorno, Ulissi has enjoyed a consistent start to the new campaign. He lost out only to Peter Sagan (Cannondale) at the GP Camaiore, placed 4th at the Trofeo Laigueglia, and is fresh from a solid 7th place finish at Paris-Nice. “My condition is growing. At Paris-Nice, I got some big results: I was 5th on two stages, 7th in the Col d’Èze time trial and 7th overall,” he said.

    Gazzetta colourfully noted that “Ulisse has an epic surname, and every one of his victories is a...