Having helped set up Alberto Contador for the win in Vuelta al Pais Vasco and made it into the main break at Amstel Gold, it’s fair to say that Rory Sutherland is making all the right noises and doing all the right things as he looks to secure a place in Tinkoff-Saxo’s Tour de France team.
The Australian all-rounder is into his second season with the Danish WorldTour team and has his sights firmly set on making his Tour de France debut this July, but despite his impressive start to the season he is aware that selection will not come down to Bjarne Riis simply picking the strongest eight climbers to support Contador.
“I go through until Liege and then have a break in May. It’s been full on for the last month. The team is starting to figure who goes where after that, what Alberto needs and what Alberto wants,” Sutherland told Cyclingnews at the start of Amstel Gold.
“I think everyone wants to ride the Tour. We have 29 riders on the team and all of them want to do it. You want to do it more when Alberto is riding well, of course you do but you also need to be able to fill a specific role so it’s not necessarily about the best nine guys. It’s about the best nine guys who work together in different areas. You can’t take nine of the best climbers and forget about the flat or middle mountains.”
“I think I’m in the long list for it and we have around 14 riders ready to go but people get sick and injured so you never know.”
That long list will be narrowed down over the coming weeks. Sutherland will skip this year’s Giro d’Italia – a race he took part in last year – and focus on training in May. He’ll then be sent to either the...
A look at the Orica GreenEdge rider's bike for the Ardennes
Tour Down Under winner Simon Gerrans heads into the Ardennes Classics as one of the main favourites. The Australian former winner of Milan-San Remo may have had the odd health set back in recent weeks ,but according to his team he’s in flying form and should be one to watch in Amstel Gold Race and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
He’ll be skipping Flèche-Wallonne mid-week but his two Ardennes’ outings will be ridden on his 2014 Scott Foil.
Decorated in the Australian national colours to illustrate his status as national road race champion, it’s a bike that’s as distinctive as it is aerodynamic.
In this exclusive video for Cyclingnews, shot on the eve of Amstel Gold Race, Orica GreenEdge technical director, Lars Teutenberg takes us through Gerrans’ bike set up, which includes Shimano Dura-ace C50 wheels, Dura-ace 11-speed, Continental tyres - the Pro Limited tubulars, and a full Shimano 9070 Di2 groupset with a large 11-28T cassette.
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The Polish rider, who took fourth here last year, started the final ascent of the Cauberg in second position with compatriot Michal Golas leading him. That turned into somewhat of a disadvantage within a matter of seconds, however, when Samuel Sanchez (BMC) launched a decisive move with three kilometres remaining. Isolated and now on the front, Kwiatkowski was forced to reel the Spaniard in with Simon Gerrans and Alejandro Valverde glued to his wheel. With Sanchez caught, Gerrans issued his own acceleration, and again Kwiatkowski was forced to chase.
"I felt great and I had so much support from my teammates. You could see Golas supporting me really well and I started the Cauberg as well as possible by trying to follow Samuel Sanchez. Then there was the attack from Gerrans and the attack from Gilbert was pretty impressive," Kwiatkowski told Cyclingnews as he sat on the steps of the Omega Pharma team bus afterwards.
"I did what I could today," he shrugged, "but we lost Tony Martin in a key moment and I missed him at the end and I was pretty nervous. We were trying to control the gap to the breakaway and then we lost Stybar from that move and started to pull but what can I say, I did my best."
Until the final climb up the Cauberg the race had followed its standard blueprint of a war of attrition. QuickStep did not place a rider in the early break but did send Zdenek Stybar into a dangerous move that contained among other Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC). The Czech rider was...
Three Amstel Gold Race wins and a world title on Dutch climb
Eighteen months after his triumph on the Cauberg in the 2012 World Championships, Philippe Gilbert (BMC) proved once again that, when in top form, he is all but unbeatable on the Netherlands’ best-known climb as he claimed victory at Amstel Gold Race.
Gilbert’s third victory out of his last five participations in the Dutch classic (he was 5th last year and 6th in 2012) was not only thanks to his strong form and faultless positioning; a fine sense of collective strategy on BMC's part also played a big role in netting Gilbert the fifth Ardennes Classic of his career.
After BMC teammate Greg Van Avermaet's dogged bid to keep his break up the road began the final part of the process of wearing out Gilbert's rivals, a powerful dig by Samuel Sánchez as the road began to steepen at the foot of the Cauberg weakened them still further.
Finally when Gilbert himself streaked away a little higher up, the other contenders were unable to respond to what was a very similar scenario to the 2012 Worlds. As in 2012, Gilbert opened a gap on the climb and then hammered home his advantage on the 1.7km plateau to the line that followed.
Gilbert, with the rainbow bands glinting on the ends of his BMC jersey sleeves, crossed the line alone again and was once more the star attraction of the winner’s press conference. Questions comparing Sunday’s victory with his successful quest for the rainbow jersey 18 months ago just a stone’s throw away were all but inevitable.
“It’s a Classic with the same high level of riders as in the Worlds,” Gilbert answered. “The best are here, just as they were back then.
“I was in a good position at the foot of the Cauberg, then it was planned that...
Garmin talisman confident he can ride in La Flèche Wallonne and Liège
Dan Martin's Ardennes aspirations took a knock on Sunday when he pulled out of Amstel Gold Race due to a lingering knee injury and the symptoms of returning from training at altitude. According to the Garmin-Sharp rider, he has been managing an injured right knee since the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya at the end of March.
Martin, the defending champion in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, came into the Ardennes opener in high spirits. Although he had not taken a win this season, a strong base of racing and a stint at altitude had seen him talk up his chances of success in the trio of races.
Pulling out of Amstel was never part of the plan but the Irishman believes that it was a necessary step with Flèche-Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège on the horizon, and the Giro d'Italia well under a month away.
"Today didn't go to plan but my knee was a bit sore," he told Cyclingnews. "I'm not too worried and it has been getting better and better each day. It's more of a precautionary thing as there's still a bit of a niggle.
"I didn't want to risk the Giro or Flèche and Liège. We'll see the physio tonight and see what happens but I'm not worried about participating on Wednesday and I think I'm in really good condition. I just need to get my leg working properly. You can't pedal with one leg.
"I wasn't feeling good but that's from coming down from altitude. I've not done that before and so I don't know how long my body takes to adapt. I've been down for five days now and by Wednesday I should be feeling great. I'm still feeling a bit lethargic but I'm not worried at all. It was very much a precautionary thing."
Assuming Martin finds his feet with any issues over altitude, he...
Lotto-Belisol pro already second in Amstel in 2012
For the second time in three years, on Sunday Lotto-Belisol’s Jelle Vanendert claimed a runner’s up spot in the Amstel Gold Race - in 2012 behind Enrico Gasparotto, and this time round behind former Lotto and FDJ teammate Phillipe Gilbert (BMC).
“This confirms that my condition is as good as in 2012, I’m back to where I wanted to be,” the 29-year-old commented as he sat next to Gilbert in a post-race press conference. “I’ve had good feelings in training and racing, but I was determined not to over-do things this spring en route to the Classics.”
A broken elbow incurred in the Tour of San Luis and which was still not cured by Paris-Nice, in any case, managed to keep him on a short leash until April.
“I was confident I could do well, but I was never sure how it would finally work out. I went onto the Cauberg in tenth or twelfth position and I knew that an attack for Philippe was going to come.”
“I just hoped that we’d then get to the top of the Cauberg with about eight or ten riders in a front group and I could take advantage of the situation. In any case, I went for second behind Phil and I did OK.”
After a lacklustre Ardennes Classics campaign in 2013, where 13th was his best result, Vanendert believes that he can do well in La Flèche Wallone - “and I’d say it was a race that suits me a lot, although maybe it’s better on the Mur de Huy for lighter riders like Joaquim Rodriguez. I only hope he came through his crash OK.”
His subconscious, at least, thinks he can do even better next Sunday on home soil in Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Asked about his dream last summer in which he and Gilbert claimed the top two...
Hesitation costs Spaniard podium place at Amstel Gold Race
A drained looking Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) admitted after Amstel Gold Race that he and his fellow members of the chase behind winner Philippe Gilbert (BMC) had hesitated too long, to the point where they allowed Lotto-Belisol’s Jelle Vanendert’s to clip past them and take second place.
“It’s just like last year,” was Movistar director Jose Luis Arrieta’s succinct post-race analysis as he clambered aboard the team bus for an Amstel post-mortem with Valverde. “Last year [Roman] Kreuziger got away in the finale [Valverde taking second behind the solo attacker] and this time we got fourth.” In the 2012 Worlds, too, in an almost identical scenario, Valverde had had to settle for bronze on the same finale, also behind Gilbert.
Expectations, though, had perhaps been higher this time round, given that Valverde has had a spectacularly successful spring campaign, with seven wins already to his name in 2014. But ultimately, as Valverde told Cyclingnews, even a podium finish, which would have been his twelfth top three result of 2014, slipped out of his clutches.
“It’s clear that winning is always very difficult and we have to congratulate Gilbert, he was way superior to the rest of us,” Valverde admitted. One rung down in the pecking order decided by the Cauberg, he said, “there was a group of us: [Simon] Gerrans [Orica-GreenEDGE], [Michal] Kwiatkowski [Omega Pharma-Quick Step] and me, but then Vanendert slipped past us in the finale and pushed me off the podium.
“The team raced well, though, and we were up there fighting until the finale.”
The million dollar question, though, is whether Valverde thought the small group of the...
After two top ten places in Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, Geraint Thomas' spring campaign came to an abrupt end mid-way through the Amstel Gold Race when the Team Sky rider crashed out.
In between the success he has had during the cobbled classics - and there certainly has been some - Thomas has repeatedly found himself on the deck.
"I was moving up on the right and there was curb and someone in the bunch swerved right to go for a leak and I just had nowhere to go," Thomas told Cyclingnews as he waited for his teammates at the finish line in Valkenburg.
"That rider took me out and I had a sore arse, back and hip. I felt like I couldn't get much out, so it's not ideal and it's frustrating because I've had a few crashes now and to be honest most of them have been down to pure bad luck."
"That's easy to say but I was taking a drink in Flanders and someone slammed on the brakes, I hit the curb and flew over the bars. Maybe I could have waited until we were out of the town before I took a drink. I don't know."
There was certainly bad luck and unforeseen circumstances in Gent-Wevelgem when a tangle in the bunch caused André Greipel to crash out and Thomas to topple over too.
"It wasn't really a crash but there have been a few of those things and then everyone starts talking about it and it starts to get at you a bit."
With the Classics now over, Thomas has had time, albeit only a few hours at this stage, to assess the situation and his recent run of falls. The Classics always carry more than their fair of accidents, with the terrain, small roads, fighting for position, weather and fatigue all factoring in. Rarely, at this high level, are bike skills criticised though and Thomas has taken a step back in order to...