Frenchman faces first cobbled campaign with Lotto-Belisol
On signing for Lotto-Belisol last autumn, Frenchman in exile Tony Gallopin endeared himself instantly to his hosts by shyly expressing a fondness for Flemish beer over red wine. When it comes to matters on the road, Gallopin’s tastes are also distinctly Belgian, although it remains to be seen if he will ultimately produce his finest vintage on the cobbles of Flanders or in hills of the Ardennes.
While over at BMC, Philippe Gilbert and Greg Van Avermaet have made firm decisions this year to narrow their focus in the spring, the 26-year-old Gallopin is content to continue to explore his possibilities in all of the Classics for the time being. As he sees it, unless you are part of the very upper echelon of potential winners, there is little point in limiting your options.
"For me personally, I prefer the Flemish Classics but then the Ardennes races – Amstel and Liège especially – probably suit me better," Gallopin said in Oostkamp on Thursday afternoon. His spring programme is a full one: he lines up at E3 Harelbeke on Friday and Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday before tackling the Tour of Flanders, Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
"Maybe in two or three years, if I’m really capable of winning one of them, then I’ll have to make a choice, but for now I still want to learn and I need the experience. I like all of these races and right now I don’t want to dedicate myself to just one unless I can really win it."
Not that Gallopin’s first foray on the cobbles in the colours of Lotto-Belisol will be a purely exploratory one. The Frenchman impressed during his two years in the...
Colombian says form slowly arriving for Giro tough stage
As the snow fell remorselessly on the peloton of the Volta a Catalunya in the stage finish at Valter 2000, a shivering Nairo Quintana (Movistar) rode slowly round in circles after crossing the line before finally pulling to a halt, pulling on some dry clothing and talking to a small group of journalists.
Fifth on the stage at five seconds behind stage winner Teja van Garderen (BMC), Quintana was unable to repeat his 2013 victory on the Volta's toughest summit finish of 2014. Even so, he remains in fifth overall and said he was pleased that he had managed to cross the line in the midst of the favourites, slightly behind Van Garderen, race leader Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) but slightly ahead of Chris Froome (Sky).
Quintana has been ill after a reconnaissance of a couple of the Giro stages following Tirreno-Adriatico, and - between coughs - said he still feels "a little ill because of that. Let's hope I get over it soon and I can keep building towards the Giro as I want to."
"But either way the road to the GIro is going well, the important thing here was to be sure the team was in good shape, and that's certainly the case."
"I ended up losing a few seconds in that sprint," he recognised, "but it was a very tough day, the snow affected all of us a lot."
"We went up the climb very fast, with a lot of attacks, there was also a bit of poker-playing between us favourites and finally the American [van Garderen] attacked. We've all been together and that was good. Contador went for it a bit, so did Froome, but it was Van Garderen's attack that worked out the best."
Asked about the rest of the Colombians in the race. and how they had performed collectively, he answered...
French sprinter facing competition from Demare at FDJ.fr
Nacer Bouhanni has vented his disappointment at not being selected for FDJ.fr's squad for Milan-San Remo, revealing he is considering his options for the future.
The Frenchman's contract ends this season but he faces competition within the FDJ.fr team from fellow sprinter Arnaud Demare. Bouhanni won the opening stage at Paris-Nice but Demare was named as team leader for Milan-San Remo while Bouhanni was sent to ride the Cholet - Pays De Loire race in France. He quit Paris-Nice after hurting his knee but he is recovering quickly and is due to ride Criterium International at the weekend, while Demare races the Classics in Belgium.
The two French riders are set to fight for the protected sprinter role at the Tour de France. However according to the L'Equipe newspaper, Demare could have an edge on his teammate and is about to sign a new contract with FDJ.fr that will run until the end of 2016.
"I was really upset not to be selected," Bouhanni told L'Equipe. "I don't understand why because my race program had been established a while back. It was team decision. I've tried not to think about it too much but Milan-San Remo was a real goal for me. It's a race that I have always dreamt about but I didn’t get a chance to ride it."
Bouhanni has won 20 races during his four-year professional career but has yet to ride the Tour de France. He is desperate to make his Grand Boucle debut this year.
"I hope so. Especially because it goes past my home area in the Vosges," he said.
After missing out on selection for Milan-San Remo, Bouhanni is keen to talk about his own future with FDJ.fr team manager Marc Madiot and hinted that several other teams have already approached him with...
Cancellara, Sagan and Boonen set to clash once more
On Sunday Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) and Peter Sagan (Cannondale) will lock horns in the 76th edition of Gent-Wevelgem.
Having switched to Sunday from its previous mid-week slot, the race has become a reliable guide to form ahead of the Tour of Flanders which takes place a week later. It is also a highly coveted race to win in its own right. It typically offers sprinters with a chance of success but in recent years there has been a blend of fast finishers and plucky attackers who have claimed victory. Sagan won alone in 2013 after attacking from a small group.
The race route has been modified for this year to pay respect to those who lost their lives in the First World War but the Kemmelberg remains an integral part of the course with the climbs of the race virtually untouched. It should again make for a finely balanced affair as the likes of Cannonale and Omega Pharma-QuickStep look to isolate the pure sprinters before the finish.
In this exclusive Cyclingnews video, we pick 10 riders to watch out for. Defending champion Peter Sagan makes the cut but the Cannondale rider hasn’t quite hit the form of twelve months ago and with a returning Tom Boonen and a motivated Fabian Cancellara, Gent-Wevelgem could prove to be one of the most exciting one-day races of the season so far.
Cannondale leader looking to overcome Milan-San Remo disappointment
Peter Sagan is in Belgium for his season debut on the Flemish cobbles and narrow roads at the E3 Harelbeke race. The Cannondale team leader will also ride Sunday's Gent-Wevelgem as he looks to put the disappointment of Milan-San Remo behind him.
While most Classics contenders got an early-season taste of the Flemish roads at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, Sagan took a break between the Tour of Oman and Strade Bianche.
Sagan will clash with Cancellara again at E3 Harelbeke, with Tom Boonen leading Omega Pharma-QuickStep. Other names to watch for include Filippo Pozzato (Lampre-Merida), Greg van Avermaert (BMC), Sep Vanmarcke (Belkin), Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Sky) and possibly even Alejandro Valverde (Movistar).
"If I'll be able to repeat the same performance of last year I will be happy," Sagan said in a press release from the team.
"I don't want to predict any result or to promise anything - these are tough races with strong contenders, I just need to perform at my best. I've said many times I like Belgium races and I want to aim high. This is my goal and I'll try to chase it. I'm really concentrated and the disappointment for Milano-San Remo is set aside."
Sagan will have support from a solid Cannondale team that includes Oscar Gatto, who finished eighth in Wednesday's Dwars door Vlaanderen won by Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Maciej Bodnar, Kristjan Koren, Ted King, Alan Marangoni, Paolo Longo Borghini and Matthias Krizek.
Many of the big names return to racing at E3 Harelbeke this Friday, after taking a short break following Milan-San Remo.
Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) was in hot demand by the huge crowds that descended on Harelbeke. The Belgian looked strong earlier in the week and will be looking to add a sixth win to his record. Joining him in the team is Niki Terpstra, who won Dwars door Vlaanderen earlier in the week.
As ever, QuickStep is fielding a strong team, but they will have to take on the likes of Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) and Peter Sagan (Cannondale), who come back to racing at Harelbeke. Cancellara won here in commanding style last season, beating Sagan by more than a minute. The Swiss rider is on strong form again this Spring and could upset the home crowd.
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) returns for more punishment on the cobbles. The Spaniard got his first taste at Dwars on Wednesday and replaces the injured Jose Joaquin Rojas to get a second go on the pavé.
With a strong field once again for the WorldTour race, we will get our first real insight into who is going well ahead of Flanders in jut over a week.
American to return from illness at Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday
BMC manager Allan Peiper remains hopeful that Taylor Phinney will make an impact in the cobbled classics in spite of the illness that forced him to skip Milan-San Remo and has kept him sidelined since.
Phinney was provisionally pencilled in to return to BMC’s line-up at E3 Harelbeke, but the team instead decided to hold him back until Sunday’s Gent-Wevelgem. The American is due to arrive at BMC’s classics base in Kortrijk on Friday evening.
“He’s coming in today for Gent-Wevelgem. He was feeling better yesterday in training and he’s coming up here full of motivation for the next couple of weeks and we’re glad to see him back,” Peiper told Cyclingnews in Harelbeke. “On Sunday he’ll be starting at Gent-Wevelgem, which is good.”
Phinney developed flu symptoms less than 48 hours before the start of Milan-San Remo, and while the decision to withdraw him from La Classicissima was a straightforward one, timing his return to action has been a more nuanced process. Concerns over the two-week gap to Phinney’s last race are countered by the desire to ensure that he is fully recovered before he re-enters the fray.
“You’ve got to find the balance. There’s no point in bringing him here if he’s not ready,” Peiper said. “I think it’s a fine line because he felt good out training yesterday but possibly a couple of days extra just to get really on top of it is important for him. We’ve still got a week to Flanders and two weeks to Roubaix to get a bit of work done, so hopefully he’ll be at the level.”
From BMC’s perspective, Phinney’s illness is all the more frustrating considering a fine start to the season...
Belkin are still clinging to the hope that Lars Boom might be able to return to racing before the cobbles Classics end in just over two weeks. Boom has been out of action since he fractured his elbow in a crash on the second stage of Paris-Nice.
"We are hopeful, but we are also realistic. We have to see. I can't really give you a 100% answer whether it's a yes or a no," Belkin team manager Richard Plugge told Cyclingnews at the start of E3 Harelbeke.
Boom was meant to be racing this weekend at E3 Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem. He didn't take the start in Harelbeke, but the team remain hopeful that he can recover enough to ride Gent-Wevelgem. He has been out on the bike over the last couple of days, but Plugge admits that the pavé is an unknown quantity for Boom with the injury.
"He's training a lot already. He's done some hours yesterday and the day before," said Plugge. "Today He is training again today and he will have some tests and then we will see. We can't predict. Cobbles are something else than asphalt and breaking an elbow is a painful experience. We have to see how he manages."
If Boom does make it back he will form an integral part of the classics team and will be looking to improve on his 11th at the Tour of Flanders, and assisting Sep Vanmarcke in his bid for glory at Paris-Roubaix a week later.