- Article published:
- March 30, 2012, 00:49
- Cycling News
"Presumption of innnocence" to be respected by the team
Following confirmation yesterday that a decision is due over whether to charge any of the 32 people named in the final report into the long-running Mantova-based doping investigation, BMC Racing Team has said via a statement that they are yet to be "notified or contacted officially" regarding the case.
"We will take no action regarding Alessandro Ballan or Mauro Santambrogio unless we receive an official request to do so from an appropriate authority (i.e., WADA, UCI, CONI or the Italian Cycling Federation)," said BMC Racing Team general manager, Jim Ochowicz. "Throughout its entirety, both riders have fully cooperated with investigators. For both riders the presumption of innocence is to be respected also by the team."
The investigation focused largely on the activities of Nigrelli and the Lampre squad in 2008 and 2009, and damning transcripts of phone conversations implicating Alessandro Ballan were published in Gazzetta dello Sport on the eve of last year's Giro d'Italia.
As was the case when news of the investigation first broke in 2010, Ballan and his teammate Santambrogio were both pulled from racing by BMC before returning to action a number of weeks later. Ballan appeared before an Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) panel to discuss the matter last summer.
According to reports in Gazzetta dello Sport and lagazzettadimantova.it on Wednesday evening, the 32 people who were named in Antonino Condorelli's final report in April 2011 will learn in the next three months whether or not they will be charged with offences including the trafficking, prescription, administration and use of prohibited substances.
The matter now passes from the Mantova public prosecutor to a preliminary hearing judge, who will announce a date for a hearing within the next four months. At that point it will also be decided who is to be prosecuted and who is to be absolved.
- legal case
- Article published:
- March 30, 2012, 05:20
- Daniel Benson
Vaughters says it's up to RadioShack, QuickStep and Liquigas to control the race
Jonathan Vaughters has announced that Sep Vanmarcke will be Garmin-Barracuda's sole leader at this year's Tour of Flanders. The Belgian rider has had a breakthrough season with victory in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, followed by 7th in Dwars Door Vlaanderen and 5th in E3 Harelbeke.
"Sep is going to be the sole leader in Flanders. With the parcours this year, it's a race of attrition and strength, not tactics, so the best chance is to focus on the strongest rider, as opposed to playing a broader tactic, like you can in Roubaix," Vaughters told Cyclingnews.
Last year Garmin headed into the race with a three-pronged attack consisting of then world champion Thor Hushovd, Heinrich Haussler and Tyler Farrar. However with the Norwegian now at BMC and Haussler and Farrar unsuited to the harshness of the new Flanders course, Vanmarcke will shoulder the burden as the team's only leader, something Vaughters believes his rider is well capable of.
Starting with his win in Omloop Vanmarcke has proved to be one of the strongest riders on the Spring Classic circuit. However with Fabian Cancellara and Tom Boonen to contend with, the young Belgian will be competing against the two Classics riders of their generation.
"I think the race will come down to legs not tactics. I don't see any other clear favorites.
"Sep will have to be a bit better than he was in E3 in order to contend. He was the only guy that could follow Boonen's attacks, but just barely...and he paid for his tenacity following those attacks later in the race. In Flanders he'll need another two per cent, or he'll need to be very intelligent and miserly with his energy."
While Vanmarcke started the spring in fine form the likes of Boonen have improved their fitness since the early skirmishes in Omloop. Vaughters doesn't believe that Vanmarcke's form has dropped since that race in February and that his best may be around the corner.
"He only race five days before Omloop and he didn't do Gent Wevelgem or De Panne. Bonnen, on the other hand has had almost 40 days of racing now. So, I think Sep will be in peak form, the question is whether his peak is good enough to match Cancellara and Boonen.
"What is clear is that RadioShack and QuickStep, along with Liquigas, will need to take responsibility for the race. Our team, with Millar and Ramunas out with broken bones, will not be the one to assume control."
- spring classic
- Ronde van Vlaanderen
- Article published:
- March 30, 2012, 09:05
- Cycling News
Live on Cyclingnews from 11:30 CET
Join us live in Rotterdam, at 11:30 am CET, for the presentation of 1T4i's new sponsor.
- Article published:
- March 30, 2012, 09:24
- Cycling News
Russian suffered only minor injuries after being hit by car
Ivan Kovalev was not seriously injured after being struck by a hit-and-run driver in Australia earlier this week, the Russian Cycling Federation has announced. He will likely be able to participate in the UCI Track World Championships in Melbourne, but not in all the disciplines as earlier planned.
Kovalev was hit by the car and thrown over its bonnet. The driver fled the scene but was subsequently apprehended.
"His injuries are minor so he should be fit for the championships," a Russian Cycling Federation spokesman told the Reuters news agency.
"He will probably have to miss the team pursuit but should be available for individual events."
The Russian team, including Kovalev, won the silver medal in the team pursuit at the 2011 world championships.
- Article published:
- March 30, 2012, 10:28
- Barry Ryan
Tougher course may not mean tougher race, says Slovak
It’s sometimes easy to forget Peter Sagan’s tender years, but the Liquigas-Cannondale rider’s first memories of watching the cobbled classics on television are a stark reminder of how far he has travelled since turning professional two years ago.
“Tom Boonen was the first one that I knew as the strongest for the classics, so he stuck in my mind,” Sagan told Cyclingnews in Kortrijk, as though Tommeke’s first triumphs on the cobbles belonged to some distant, sepia-tinged era.
“I watched the classics when I started off cycling, they were always on Eurosport. To be honest I would have watched Paris-Roubaix more than the Tour of Flanders, but I can see now how important Flanders is too.”
On Sunday, Sagan will do battle against Tom Boonen on his home patch at the Tour of Flanders, but any inhibitions the 22-year-old may have had when he turned professional in 2010 have been loosened by the steady flow of success he has enjoyed since. “It affected me at the start to be alongside a rider like that, but now when I ride with him I don’t see him like that anymore, I’m more used to it,” he said.
Sitting in the bar of the Kennedy Hotel in Kortrijk, which Liquigas shares with Omega Pharma-QuickStep as its classics base, Sagan nursed an espresso as he mulled over his performances in the build-up to De Ronde. At both E3 Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem, he went on the offensive rather than bide his time for the sprint. Given that he then managed a close second behind Boonen in Wevelgem, he could have been forgiven for regretting his impetuousness.
“I certainly made some errors on Friday and on Sunday but a second place isn’t too bad and in the end I think Boonen was stronger in the sprint, what can I say,” said Sagan, who admitted that his rally off the front with Fabian Cancellara had cost him some energy for the finale.
“But my directeurs sportifs agreed that if I hadn’t gone in the break with Cancellara, maybe they wouldn’t have started riding hard in the group behind and Cavendish could have got back on.”
While Cancellara has famously struggled to find willing accomplices in breakaways in the classics in recent times, Sagan had no qualms about taking turns on the front with the Swiss rider after they forged clear on the Monteberg at Gent-Wevelgem, explaining that it didn’t sit with his racing philosophy.
“If I go in a break, I want to try and win, but it’s not nice if someone else pulls me along for 30km and then I beat him in the sprint. I don’t think that’s right. Even if he’s stronger and taking a few turns means that I finish it second, it’s always better that way than doing something else.”
Looking to De Ronde
On Tuesday’s opening stage of the Three Days of De Panne, Sagan was again on the offensive, but this time he kept enough under the saddle to win the sprint in Oudenaarde. Mindful of the main event on Sunday, however, he opted to sit up in the finale of stage two and surrender his leader’s jersey, shedding with it the obligation to ride the final day of the race.
“We raced because we want to do some preparation for Flanders,” he said. The implication is clear – the Slovak expects to be in the thick of the action on Sunday, when the race tackles the testing circuits over the Kwaremont and Paterberg.
Sagan’s experience on the old finale over the Muur and Bosberg was limited to one crash-blighted appearance last year, but he wondered if the tougher course would lead to a less aggressive race. “I’ve heard it will be harder and we’ll do three laps where there are those climbs. We’ll see. If it’s harder it means that it will be slower, I think. Or at least I hope,” he joked.
“In my first years at Liquigas as a professional, before the big races I was always a bit stressed, I was thinking about how the race might go. It wasn’t very good, but now I get there more relaxed and I try not to think too much about what’s going to happen in the race.”
Not surprisingly, Sagan anticipates that those same figures he watched battling it out on television a few short years ago will be the men to beat this time around, namely Boonen and Cancellara. “It’s always the same riders every year who show they are strong, and that they have the class to do well in these races,” he said.
Yet while the Boonen-Cancellara duel seems set to dominate the build-up to the race, a potential tactical stalemate between their teams could yet play into the hands of a cabal of other contenders, Sagan included. “You could have a situation like Nuyens at Flanders last year,” he said. “It could be that where two come up against one another, a third might slip away and win.”
- Article published:
- March 30, 2012, 10:44
- Daniel Benson
Spekenbrink presents new sponsor in front of Tour and Vuelta organisers
At a press conference in Rotterdam this morning, Iwan Spekenbrink revealed that the Argos North Sea Group have become the new title sponsor for his Project 1T4i cycling team. The sponsorship deal lasts 3 years and the team will race as Team Argos-Shimano, with their first race this weekend at the Tour of Flanders. With Tour and Vuelta organisers in attendance at today’s press conference, the news marks an important moment in the development of Spekenbrink’s team as they reach for WorldTour status and selection for the world’s biggest races. As a Pro Continental team they will need to rely on wildcard invites to this year's Tour and Vuelta but having raced last year's Vuelta - and picking up a stage - they are among the favourites to receive invites for both races in 2012.
“This means a lot to the team’s development,” Spekenbrink told Cyclingnews.
“This isn’t’ an extension to Skil-Shimano, it’s a new start. The team is more ambitious, it has more staff, better riders, a better programme at the highest level and is active on the highest level in the biggest races.”
The Argos North Sea Group has until now focussed on a B2B platform but with a desire to reach consumers in Europe they selected the sponsorship of a cycling team in order to project their image.
“The good this is that we’ve clearly worked out with them that we’ll maintain our important principles,” Spekenbrink added.
The team, a pro continental outfit, pride themselves on a philosophy of clean sport and rider development and while they have improved their line-up each winter with a number of strong signings, Spekenbrink has maintained that his team compete on a platform of clean cycling. The team’s sponsorship with Skil ended last winter and the team have raced the opening months of the season as the 1T4i squad. The term applied to the team’s ethos of inspiration, integrity, improvement and innovation.
“I’ve very proud that the sponsor has chosen to work with a team with such principles but we have to be in the WorldTour races, That’s very, very clear. And we can do that.”
“I am very happy that I can finally mention the name of our new main sponsor. The entire team is awfully proud that we have succeeded in committing a European multinational who will enable us to develop further in the coming years. Moreover, we find it very important that Argos wholeheartedly underwrites our team’s core values; Team spirit (1t), Inspiration, Integrity, Improvement and Innovation.”
Jan Dirks, Argos’ director for Branded Sales & Marketing Europe added: ‘We have decided to sponsor this team because Argos and 1t4i have a lot in common. Both the team and us are relatively new kids on the block, operating in a mature environment. We both are very ambitious, we want to be leading in Europe by challenging established competitors with innovative concepts. And we both have the courage to stand out from the crowd."
- Article published:
- March 30, 2012, 11:31
- Daniel Benson
Cancellara versus Omega Pharma-QuickStep
Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep)
The Belgian rediscovered his mojo during the winter and after a spirited start to the year has only improved over the last fortnight. His wins in E3 and Gent-Wevelgem were both markers of form and intent, while a tepid run at San Remo remains the only low point so far. Having raced over 30 days this season, more than any other pro according to CQ ranking, he’s at his peak.
Along with a team that possesses enough leadership talent for four WorldTour squads, Boonen also has the strongest array of weapons from any of the top contenders. He can climb, he can attack, he can use his brain and he can sprint.
Sunday’s race could be an historic moment in Boonen’s career. Win and he’ll enter an elite club of four riders who have won the Ronde three times, and cement his place his Classic folklore.
Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan)
Erik Zabel called the new Flanders course the hardest one-day race in the calendar and if such a statement holds true then Cancellara may have the edge over his opposition. The Swiss rider complained about the demands of the new course earlier this year, and rightly so. While he stands as the strongest rider in the race there remains a question mark over his support. Daniele Bennati and Yaroslav Popovich are handy foot soldiers but against Boonen’s henchmen they’ll be out-muscled over 260 km. But Sunday’s race may not come down to tactics, in which case a pure old fashioned war of attrition will decide the winner. While Cancellera may fancy his chances in a direct battle with Boonen, if he’s isolated early on he could find himself making a forced attack from too far out.
However, Cancellara remains the one rider capable of deciding the outcome of the race with a single acceleration. That doesn’t mean he’ll win – see San Remo – but his aggressive nature and even his telegraphed attacks are unmatched in terms of severity and result. Strade Bianche, San Remo, and E3 were all examples of how strong he is this season.
Sylvain Chavanel (Omega-Pharma QuickStep)
Chavanel was already a shoo-in for this list even before his win at the De Panne on Thursday. This year Chavanel may not be given the amount of freedom he was allowed in 2011 but with a second place under his belt, and with his team on a different level to the rest of the peloton, almost anything is possible.
The team have riders for every eventuality but they mustn’t take anything for granted. The smaller teams will attempt to throw multiple riders up the road in an early break and Patrick Lefevere’s men will have to decide whether to pitch in with such a approach or save themselves and bring the move back later in the race. The latter will only work if Boonen can finish off the job, otherwise it merely serves up the race to others. Quickstep will be forced to shoulder much of the responsibility of the race. We picked Chavanel ahead of Niki Terpstra due to the Frenchman's De Panne win and result in last year's race - Terpstra missed the race with a broken collarbone - but the Dutchman can't be ignored. Without a Monument win since 2009, it’s a huge race for the riders and Lefevere.
Filippo Pozzato (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia)
While Boonen has been ticking all the boxes this season, Pippo has followed a different path. A broken collarbone at the Tour of Qatar was a major obstacle but since then he has shown grit and determination. The Italian is often written off as a playboy and a rider who races to stop others winning rather than win himself, but while plenty of his rivals are none to happy to make digs at him, he remains a fearsome competitor.
Since his return from surgery he has improved from race to race with his 9th in Gent-Wevelgem, 6th in Dwars door Vlaanderen and 6th in Milan-San Remo.
His team are also on form and unlike RadioShack and Omega Pharma-QuickStep they won’t be expected to control the race. At E3 Luca Scinto sent multiple riders up the road and such a tactic may be deployed at Flanders. This would force the big teams to chase and provide Pozzato a better chance against Boonen, Cancellara and the best of the rest.
Greg Van Avermaet & Alessandro Ballan (BMC)
With Philippe Gilbert and Thor Hushovd out of sorts, BMC will look to Van Avermaet and Alessandro Ballan to lead the team. Van Avermaet’s form in Flanders isn’t too hot but 5th in both Omloop and Strade Bianche are proof that he can be a factor in Sunday’s race.
With Hushovd and Gilbert un-droppable it will be interesting to see how the team structure themselves. Will Gilbert be protected or will be and Hushovd work for Van Avermaet and Ballan?
The Italian, 2007 Flanders winner, has produced better results than Van Avermaet, with 4th in Strade Bianche, 8th in Milan-San Remo and 9th in E3. Like Pozzato, if Boonen and Cancellara mark each other out of the race, he could be one to prosper.
Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale)
You can almost write Sagan’s race report now: jumps into late unnecessary break, gets caught, and struggles to sprint at 100 per cent. The Slovak is almost the complete one-day rider but what he clearly lacks, as Boonen alluded to last week, is a strong mentor. Sagan’s attack and collaboration with Cancellara at Wevelgem was exciting (although brief) viewing but as one of the strongest sprinters in the world over 200 plus kilometres his chances would have greatly increased if he’d remained calm and glued to Boonen’s wheel. Whoever calls the shots at Liquigas has a lot to answer for, but should Sagan decide that his future lies elsewhere he would surely find QuickStep to be a welcome home. The squad scouted Sagan at an early age but turned him down. With oodles of foreign investment and the team in need of a leader once Boonen decides to pack things in, Sagan would be an alternative to the more obvious choice of Vanmarcke.
Sebastian Langeveld (GreenEdge)
The weakest rider on this list in terms of pedigree but Langeveld is still a danger for the likes of Boonen and Cancellara. GreenEdge’s tactics are uncertain for Flanders. They lack, as do many teams, an outright favourite, but in Cooke, O’Grady, Tuft and Goss they have the spine of a solid squad. One option they have is to throw men up the road in order to anticipate the favourites. Langeveld is a rider on the cusp between considerable threat and super-domestique. These were the races GreenEdge decided to spend their coin on Langeveld for, and with 5th in last year’s race and 2nd in the U23 version he’s an outsider for the podium.
Matti Breschel (Rabobank)
Like Pozzato, Breschel’s stock is on the rise. The Dane has steadily improved over the last few weeks with a number of neat performances. Again, like Pozzato, he’ll need to hope that Boonen or Cancellara has a bad day but with a 6th and 15th in previous editions, and one of the best sprints on this list, Breschel has a chance of at least making the top five. Unlike some of the top dogs included, Breschel probably has just one powerful attack in him so he’ll need to save his powder and hope he picks the right move. Along with Sagan and Vanmarcke he’s one of just three riders on this list who could trouble Boonen in a sprint.
Sep Vanmarcke (Garmin-Barracuda)
The Belgian’s progression last season was overshadowed by Hushovd and co. misfiring until Paris-Roubaix. Still, Vanmarcke picked up 4th in E3 and 20th at Roubaix in 2011, before his highly impressive win in Omloop last month.
Clearly not intimidated by his rivals – “I pay the same amount for a racing licence as the rest,” he told us this week – Vanmarcke is Garmin’s best chance for a podium place.
The biggest question hanging over Vanmarcke is how well he’s sustained his form and whether he’s about to show a slight decline. He was told to peak for Flanders and Roubaix by his team so if Omloop was a starting point he could be the rider to split the expected duel between Cancellara and Boonen.
Stijn Devolder (Vacansoleil-DCM)
Reading Devolder’s name on this list is bit like Evgeni Berzin being included on a list of contenders for the 1998 Tour de France – a rider beyond his peak and with little in the way of results in previous season. Yet for every Berzin there’s a Nick Nuyens – a rider without a result in a number of years who turns in a thrilling performance to shock everyone concerned. Devolder admitted to us at De Panne that he was close to his best form but that his lack of results in the past few years had caused him to question himself. Three years since his second win in Flanders, Devolder and his career are at a crossroads. Out of contract with his team at the end of the year, the Belgian is in the last chance saloon.
- Article published:
- March 30, 2012, 14:50
- Cycling News
Swiss star presents his Trek Domane
The Tour of Flanders may be less than 48 hours away but Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan-Trek) still found time to show Cyclingnews his new Trek Domane bike.
The Classics bike was launched today in Belgium, with a full extensive report right here.
But Cancellara is the rider who will be putting the bike through its paces on Sunday as he bids for his second Tour of Flanders title. Trek and Cancellara have worked on producing the best possible race equipment and the Swiss rider talks about his new bike, including the IsoSpeed in the rear section of the frame.
“There’s no engine,” Cancellara tells Cyclingnews, “there’s just something to give you a bit more comfort.”