- Article published:
- May 17, 2012, 21:30
- Cycling News
Veteran Dane claims crafty success in Giro's hilly stage
Lars Bak (Lotto-Bellisol) scored a superb lone stage 12 win in the Giro d'Italia today, blasting away 1.7 kilometres from the finish line in Sestri Levante for his first-ever individual Grand Tour victory at 32.
Bak was part of the HTC squad that won the team time trials in the 2011 Giro and the 2010 Vuelta a Espana, but today was the first time he was able to soak the limelight up in a Grand Tour in his own right.
Riding the 155-kilometre stage as if it were a one-day Classic,strength and strategic timing both played their part in netting the former Tour du Porvenir winner and triple national time trial champion Lotto-Bellisol's first Giro success of 2012.
"I tried to save my energy right until the end, because I knew this breakaway was going to make it to the finish, the climbs weren't so hard," Bak said afterwards.
"I could see that [Sandy] Casar (FDJ-Big Mat) was the strongest of the other breakaways, he was always closing down the attacks, and he'd won stages in the Tour de France, so I knew I had to watch him. And [Jan] Bakelants (RadioShack-Nissan) is also fast."
"The attacks [by the break] were brought back three times, and then I came from behind and went for it. I got 200 metres, then 300 metres. They hesitated a bit, then a bit more, but then I was away, I'd taken my chance."
As Bak pointed out, he's not a climber or a sprinter so he has to get in breakaways. However, he is a good time triallist, and after getting away, he certainly exploited that skill to the full in the crucial last part of the run-in to the finish.
"I've maybe won 10 races in my career, but I've almost always won them from late attacks," Bak said. "So I knew what I had to do."
"I'd like to thank my sponsors, Lotto-Bellisol, too. They kept their faith in me after I broke my hand during the Classics season and couldn't race. They said I should do the Giro instead, but without any pressure. And that was perfect for me."
Next up after the Giro for Bak is - probably - the Tour de France, where Bak will work for team leaders André Greipel, Jurgen Van Den Broeck and Jelle Vanendert. But with a Giro win in his stage, he's also had his own chance to shine in 2012.
- Article published:
- May 17, 2012, 22:19
- Laura Weislo
Orica GreenEdge rider fighting for Amgen Tour of California finish line
Robbie McEwen is in his last race as a professional at the Amgen Tour of California, and after kicking off his experience in the pro peloton in 1995 at the Tour Dupont he hopes to make it to Los Angeles to finish his career on the opposite coast. Yet the looming mountains will provide a formidable obstacle for the three-time Tour de France green jersey winner.
"I'm trying to get to that last stage in L.A. Today shouldn't be a problem," he said of the time trial, "It's a 25 percent time limit, but the two days after this are seriously hard. There are big mountains, small time cuts, and it is a very hard race."
McEwen will transition from a racer to a technical advisor for the Orica GreenEdge team, with his first big focus being the Tour de France where he will fine-tune the sprint stages and lead-out for Matthew Goss.
"Once this race is over, I think first I'll go home and enjoy some time with the family, and not having to get up early and get out and smash myself on the bike to make sure I'm in good enough shape to get through the races."
McEwen began his career back on the east coast in 1995 at the Tour Dupont when he was still an amateur racing with the Australian national program. "That was the first big race where we got to race the big name pros. I think they called it a Pro Am just so we could race. The rest were all pros, and we were up against it. We had a great time, and that was my first ever trip to the States. I haven't been back since 1996 at the Atlanta Olympics. It's been a long time in between there."
It was only coincidence that led him to end his career in the same country in which it started, however. He signed on with GreenEdge as a rider but with the agreement he would transition into a sprint coach for Matt Goss and his lead-out train, but McEwen said he still had something to offer on the bike first. "I was pretty keen to ride because I still enjoy racing, but they offered me a possition as technical advisor, in simple terms 'sprint coach' also working with the young guys, mentoring and guiding them.
"They wanted me to be done riding before the Tour de France so I could go into that role as technical advisor, going scouting the finishes at the Tour. I started looking at the calendar to see where would be a good place to stop and I didn't want it to be a little, nondescript race. I wanted to go out in a big event, even if it is a very tough event, with very limited opportunities for a rider like myself. I thought this would be a good one. After the three Grand Tours, the Tour of California is one of the biggest races on the calendar."
- Article published:
- May 18, 2012, 03:30
- Laura Weislo
General classification begins to take shape in time trial
After four days of bunch sprints, the general classification is finally starting to evolve in the 2012 edition of the Amgen Tour of California: the race lead has been assumed by time trial winner David Zabriskie but his 34 second lead over second placed Tejay van Garderen and even the 2:50 he has on last year's winner Chris Horner may not be a big enough buffer when it comes to the Mt. Baldy mountaintop finish.
While Zabriskie has twice claimed second overall here, he didn't feature last year when the key stage finished on Mt. Baldy, coming in 14 minutes behind Levi Leipheimer and Chris Horner. He admits that the important gap is not the 2:50 Horner lost, but the gaps between all of the climbers. However, last year he was in a very different position coming into the Mt. Baldy stage, and he's not giving up on the idea that he can win the overall, although he won't give his odds.
"Definitely. I'm not going to lie down and give it away," Horner stated. "David Zabriskie is going to fight until he's lying on the ground almost dying. I can't give you a percentage number because I don't like math."
Zabriskie's director Jonathan Vaughters said the performances of the other contenders won't affect his team's tactics. Robert Gesink is 38 seconds behind and a notable climber, Van Garderen, who is also strong on the climbs and who held Garmin's GC rider Tom Danielson to 28 seconds on Mt. Baldy last year, and Peter Velits of Omega Pharma-Quickstep and Levi Leipheimer are 49 seconds and 1:44 back. Additionally, Vincenzo Nibali is at 1:52 and as the only Grand Tour champion in the race, he is always going to be a threat in the mountains.
"You sort of forget about one guy and have to focus on somebody else. Honestly, it doesn't really affect our game plan at all," Vaughters said. "We'll see how tomorrow plays out. I can tell you we're going to do X, Y and Z tomorrow, but the other teams will have a plan, too, so you sort of have to adapt on the fly to what they're doing as well. We're here to win the overall, and we're going to have to sit down tonight and carefully plan out whether defending the jersey makes sense to try and win the overall race, or if playing some riskier tactics makes sense, and I don't know the answer to that yet."
Van Garderen thinks that the Big Bear stage may not prove to be decisive for the overall, but it will be a long, stressful day.
"Tomorrow will be a stressful, interesting day because there is a hard climb pretty early on in the stage and I'm guessing that the breakaway is going to go there," he said. "When you have a breakaway going out of the climb it's the stronger riders and not the lucky riders. That means in order to catch it back you have to go a lot harder. It's just going to be a grind all day tomorrow. Yeah tomorrow is going to kill the legs but the group coming to the finish may be like 15 guys - maybe there's a chance for a time bonus sprint, but the real show down is going to be on Mt. Baldy."
The BMC rider is feeling good about his form at the moment, but finds it difficult to assess the other riders considering the climber's haven't attacked any of the earlier stage's climbs.
"We really haven't gone full gas on some of the climbs," he said. "But from what I've seen Danielson's looking really good. Horner, of course, is looking really good. Talansky's looking good. And Rabobank, they've always been present at the front but it's hard to tell until you really go full gas on the climb."
One of the unknown quantities is Velits, who has been on a Grand Tour podium in the 2010 Vuelta a Espana, and has been given the green light by Leipheimer to ride his own race for the overall, but he said he didn't want to think about racing for the final win quite yet.
"Until the race is over, maybe a few things can happen in this race," he mused. "But this race is a first race for me after not racing to rest, so it's not about racing for the GC, it's how it feels for me and how the legs are.
"The most important races are coming for me, but of course I will do my best on Mt. Baldy to move up in the GC. But I am not saying I am in perfect shape here, and I am not saying I am aiming for the overall. I am simply trying my best and if and when I have the legs I will go for it."
Meanwhile, Horner has not given up on his aspirations for the overall, even though his time trial showed his form is not quite there. He hopes his legs will come around and maybe he can be given a little leash on the climb tomorrow or Saturday because of his large deficit.
"I'm sure everyone's going to have to watch Talansky, Zabriskie, and Gesink. If I can put them in the red, if my form comes back maybe they'll let me go, maybe I can get a stage win and get on the [final] podium. [2:50 is] a lot of time to make up. I'm going to have to become very good."
Horner said the time loss isn't going to change how he approaches the final stages, it only means the impetus will be on other teams to do the work now that they have nothing to defend.
"Now I don't have to light it up on the bottom of the climb, the riders who are on second or third on GC have to do that, maybe I can play off that and get a stage win."
- Article published:
- May 18, 2012, 04:29
- Laura Weislo
World under 23 champion talks to Cyclingnews in Bakersfield
Luke Durbridge finished 0:01:01 back on David Zabriskie (Garmin-Barracuda) not only finish 7th at the Amgen Tour of California's fifth stage, but also charge up the general classification and take a firm hold of the lead in the young rider's classification on Thursday.
The Orica GreenEdge Australian who is reigning under 23 time trial world champion, as well as national senior champion, had targeted the stage and did not disappoint. Earlier this season, Durbridge finished eighth in the time trial at the Three Days of De Panne then went on to win the chrono at the Circuit Cycliste Sarthe - Pays de la Loire on his way to overall victory.
"I think in every time trial you go into you always want to go for the win, but you don't really know until you get out there how you really feel," the 21 year-old told Cyclingnews.
Durbridge said that the heat not only provided a physical challenge but also a mental challenge.
"I gave it everything to the line but, Dave Zabriskie's a class bike rider," he surmised.
Durbridge will now dedicate himself to the services of general classification hope Cameron Meyer.
Watch more of Luke Durbridge's interview by clicking on the video below.
- Article published:
- May 18, 2012, 05:27
- Laura Weislo
Time trial win nets Garmin-Barracuda rider race lead
David Zabriskie took advantage of the hot and windy conditions in the Bakersfield time trial to claim the stage win and overall lead in the Amgen Tour of California on Thursday. The course was well suited to the Garmin-Barracuda rider, benefitting those who can put out plenty of power: fairly flat, no technical turns and new pavement that sapped the speed of lesser men.
"It was a very hot, very windy, very desolate part of California, but it is the kind of course I like. I was very happy to get this stage, to win it, get it done, I've been waiting for it."
Zabriskie was beaten at the first time check by BMC's Tejay van Garderen, but ended up 34 seconds ahead of the younger American. "You gotta go out hard and you have to finish hard," Zabriskie said. "I was happy I didn't blow up. Some of that is just concentration.
"This was a really good course for me. Any course where I don't have to get out of the of the aero bars is to my advantage," he said later in the press conference. "My position is pretty good in the wind so I was welcoming the wind."
- Article published:
- May 18, 2012, 09:01
- Pat Malach
Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies rider living the dream
When the Amgen Tour of California rolls out of Palmdale Friday for the 186.3km stage ending with the climb to Big Bear Lake, 25-year-old King of the Mountains leader Sebastian Salas will get to spend at least one more day living his dream.
"All these guys I've seen over the last couple of years winning some of the biggest races in the world, and I'm up there beside them," said the second-year pro for Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies. "It's just unbelievable."
Salas jumped into the day's major breakaway on stage 1 and then grabbed the polka dot jersey from Spidertech-C10's David Boily on stage 3 when he got into his second breakaway of the race. He currently leads Boily, a fellow Canadian, by just eight points in the KOM battle. Garmin-Barracuda's Alex Howes is 24 points back.
"Coming into the race, I had some good performances at Joe Martin and the Gila," Salas said. "So I knew I had some good climbing legs coming in. Getting into that breakaway on the first stage was instrumental in getting the necessary points to get this jersey."
And now that Salas has the jersey with only two stages remaining that offer KOM points, he and his Optum team will be putting their all into keeping it for him through Sunday's final 72km jaunt from Beverly Hills to the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles.
"Right now it's going to be a little bit more of a defensive game to try and get some more points tomorrow and the next day," he said. "My teammates have been so helpful 100 percent of the time, covering stuff and making sure I'm in position in case something goes up the road with Boily or someone else who's a threat to the jersey."
And if Salas doesn't make it into the breakaways, his teammates could also be there to help by getting in and trying to keep the points from his KOM rivals. "That's always one of the tactics that we can put into play either tomorrow or on Mt. Baldy," he said. "So we might be doing that."
It's all pretty heady stuff for the rider who said he only got into cycling three years ago after trying a few triathlons for fun. "I wasn't really training seriously for them," he said. "But just being on the bike and training on the bike -- I loved it. And so that's pretty much (how I got into cycling)."
Salas raced in 2010 with the the elite amateur H&R Block team out of British Columbia, the same year he set the record for the Grouse Grind, a 2.9 mile mountain trail run in Vancouver that had previously seen its best time set by former Olympian and two-time World Mountain Running champion Jonathan Wyatt of New Zealand. Salas returned in 2011 to set an even better unofficial time outside of the race. After that he competed in Colorado's USA Pro Challenge with Team Exergy, and then shortly thereafter signed with Optum for this season. Now his goals reach all the way across the pond to the European peloton.
"That opportunity would be amazing," he said. "But I still have a lot to learn and a lot of growing as an elite athlete. So I still have years of development."
In the meantime, Salas is focused on holding the polka dot top all the way to L.A.
"I'm going to give it 100 percent," he said. "And my team's 100 percent behind me, so we're going to do it. I've been dreaming about
it all week now. This is the biggest race I've ever done, and my legs have been recovering pretty good every day, so the jersey must be giving me something."
- Article published:
- May 18, 2012, 10:03
- Jean-François Quénet
Directeur sportif on Katusha leader's chances of victory
Former HTC-Highroad directeur sportif Valerio Piva has found a new role at Katusha: rather than targeting stage wins with the likes of Mark Cavendish, he now directs Joaquim Rodriguez in defence of the pink jersey at the Giro d’Italia. With nine days to go in the corsa rosa, he gives his Spanish protégé a 50 per cent chance of winning the overall classification in Milan.
During stage 12 to Sestri Levante, Piva and Rodriguez discussed tactics with 65km to go and decided to let Sandy Casar take over the lead for a couple of days but the Liquigas-Cannondale team made the opposite decision. With the excuse of keeping Ivan Basso out of trouble by racing at the front of the peloton, they maintained the pressure on “Purito” who has to attend podium ceremonies, TV interviews, doping control and press conference every day that he’s in pink.
“But every day, Joaquim’s confidence is increasing”, Piva told Cyclingnews on the Italian Riviera.
“He’s living nice days of his life with the pink jersey. However, the real tests will be on Saturday and Sunday when the Giro will hit the mountains. I haven’t seen anything yet. All the favorites have done their best to hide themselves so far. The only one who didn’t is Joaquim but it’s normal that he came out in a stage that suited him so well [stage 10 to Assisi]. I don’t know who is likely to go well in the climbs or not. We haven’t raced in the mountains yet this year. On Sunday, we’ll have a clearer picture about who is declining and who is improving.”
Piva added that Rodriguez has a 50 per cent chance of winning the Giro d’Italia this year. “He’s got an advantage: he’s ahead of everyone else on GC”, the Italian coach said. “It’s important to not let oneself caught by panic or euphoria. Joaquim has made a little mistake by attacking the day before Assisi, but it’s a harmless mistake that won’t count at the end of the Giro.”
After working for years with anglo-saxon sprinters, Piva, 54, discovers life at the helm of a squad dedicated to make a Spanish climber an overall winner. “I have some experience in stage races though”, he noted.
“Grand tours aren’t that different from shorter stage races. I knew Rodriguez as a rider, and now I've discover him as a person. He’s very intelligent and very open minded. He’s good at creating a team around him. The group is very attached to his ambition. The domestiques are totally committed. Now Joaquim is mature enough for winning a grand tour. He’s serene.”
- Article published:
- May 18, 2012, 11:00
- Cycling News
Rabobank rider “exuberant” over results and good form
Robert Gesink of Rabobank is better known as a climber than a time trial specialist, so finishing fourth in the Amgen Tour of California left him feeling “exuberant”. The Dutch rider is now third overall, 39 seconds behind race leader David Zabriskie (Garmin-Barracuda).
“I had long been eager for a good result, and when it comes in a time trial, the feeling is even more exuberant,” Gesink said on the team website. Coming into the stage, “I knew that my form is in order.” The winds on the second half along the “long boring roads” was more difficult, but “I had a good feeling after I finished about what I had done.”
It was his best result after breaking his leg last September in a training crash. “It's just a nice feeling when you have worked hard and you can also see the result. It is very smooth on all fronts. Uphill the old feeling came back a bit.
“I'm not there yet, but it is smoother than earlier this spring. Now it also shows that the way back to the top is a long one. It takes time after a broken leg. Longer than I hoped, but not longer than I expected.”
He admitted that maybe he was too impatient, “but I'm an athlete. I do a lot. Cycling is my life.”