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First Edition Cycling News, Monday, April 25, 2011

Date published:
April 25, 2011, 1:00 BST
  • On the start line: Liege-Bastogne-Liege

    A nervous looking Philippe Gilbert heads to the start
    Article published:
    April 24, 2011, 10:10 BST
    Stephen Farrand

    A photo gallery from the start of La Doyenne

    The sun was shining yet again in Belgium as the riders gathered for the start of Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

    Most of them were relaxed, ready to race but perhaps slightly pleased to have reached the end of an intense month of Classics racing. Some will head to Switzerland for the Tour de Romandie or begin their final build-up for the Giro d'Italia but for many it is almost time for a well-deserved break.

    Big favourite and local hero Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) was mobbed by the crowds and the media at the start. He seemed to take it all in his stride but there were occasional glimpses of the pressure on his shoulders.

    Leopard Trek, Katusha and Astana have strong teams that will try to isolate and then attack Gilbert. If he manages to beat them all and complete a rare Ardennes hat-trick, he has promised to head back to the La Redoute climb and celebrate with his fan club, who are holding a big barbecue on the climb.

  • Evans, Phinney to ride the Tour de Romandie

    Taylor Phinney shows off his US time trial champion's skinsuit
    Article published:
    April 24, 2011, 11:40 BST
    Stephen Farrand

    BMC riders back in action after injury

    Cadel Evans and Taylor Phinney are recovering well from injury and have been confirmed as part of the BMC team for the Tour de Romandie stage race that begins in Martigny, Switzerland on Tuesday.

    Evans hurt his right quadricep when he crashed on March 31 while riding near his home in Switzerland. He has not raced since finishing eighth at the Vuelta a Catalunya March 27. The former world champion said he's feeling "90 to 95 percent" recovered from the injuries suffered in a training ride crash last month.

    Phinney is back in action after a recent set-back with a knee that affected his winter training. He will target the opening 3.5km prologue time trial and the Swiss race will be vital build-up for the Amgen Tour of California.

    "I want to take it day-by-day and find out what level I'm at and from that make a plan of what I can contribute to the team," Evans said in a statement issued by the BMC team.

    "The hardest part will be people expecting me to go there to win it. You have to be realistic. I've had four weeks of interrupted training – it's not what I'd planned and not at the level I wanted to go to Romandie."

    The full BMC roster for the Tour de Romandie: Cadel Evans, Amaël Moinard, Steve Morabito, Taylor Phinney, Ivan Santaromita, Michael Schär, Johann Tschopp and Danilo Wyss.

  • Schlecks graceful in defeat after missing out at Liège-Bastogne-Liège

    Andy Schleck (Leopard Trek) consults with Philippe Gilbert (Omega-Pharma Lotto) on the road to Ans.
    Article published:
    April 24, 2011, 18:38 BST
    Stephen Farrand

    Leopard Trek brothers praise Gilbert

    When Andy and Fränk Schleck arrived back at the Leopard Trek team bus after Liege-Bastogne-Liege, the many fans and VIP guests gave them a round of applause. Team owner Flavio Becca praised them for trying to beat Philippe Gilbert but the two brothers admitted that there was nothing they could have done to stop him winning and insisted they rode the best they could.

    "He was stronger than us today, there was nothing we could do. He was cool and collected. He's classy," Andy said, sportingly praising Gilbert's performance, despite an altercation with a Belgian cameraman just after the finish as he tried to congratulate Gilbert.

    Andy forced the attack on the Cote de la Roche aux Faucons climb with Fränk and Gilbert was the only one able to go with their double attack. They outnumbered Gilbert two to one but he was stronger than both of them.

    "I did the move but it wasn't the winning move. The winning move is when you can raise your arms in the air," Andy said with regret.

    "Unfortunately I couldn't do that but I'm happy with my day. I'm happy with my condition. This is the first time this year that my form is peaking to a good point. I couldn't beat Gilbert today, he's better but I'm going to the Tour to win the Tour. We're two different kinds of rider. I believe it was a nice (race) for the public and for our team."

    Andy insisted Leopard Trek followed the right race strategy throughout in seeking to isolate Philippe Gilbert by making his Omega Pharma-Lotto team work early on.

    "I don't think we did any mistakes,” he said. “Lotto had a lot of pressure on them to ride early and they used good riders early. We tried to isolate him. We...

  • Gilbert nets historic quadruple in Liège-Bastogne-Liège

    Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) celebrates on crossing the line.
    Article published:
    April 24, 2011, 19:35 BST
    Brecht Decaluwé

    All cycling monuments are within the reach of Belgian rider

    With a glorious win in La Doyenne, one of cycling's five monuments, Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) completed a unique quadruple string of victories in the Ardennes week. The 28 year-old Belgian, who comes from the region near Liège, today became the first rider ever to win the Brabantse Pijl (La Flèche Brabançonne), Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège in a single season.

    In 2009, Gilbert quadrupled his wins at the end of the season, taking the Coppa Sabastini, Paris-Tours, Giro del Piemonte and the Giro di Lombardia. "This is a level higher and added to that is the fact that it all happened on home soil. It's the most beautiful week of my life. It's unbelievable what I pulled of this week. I enjoyed all moments and it was fantastic," Gilbert said.

    Gilbert credits his unprecedented form to his years of experience and peaking at the right moment. "Mentally I did all I could to be ready for this week. For months I've been working to get in this shape. Since the start of the season I felt every week that I was getting closer to my top form. On the way to Liège I got a third place in Milan-San Remo and a ninth in Flanders, which should have been much better."

    He also asked his team to limit interactions with the media to formal press conferences, which he said, "allowed me to focus on the race and stay with my teammates so we could create an atmosphere that led us all in the same direction. It's the...

  • Bad luck for Vinokourov in his last Liège-Bastogne-Liège

    Alexander Vinokourov (Astana) will ride his last ever Liege-Bastogne-Liege on Sunday
    Article published:
    April 24, 2011, 23:13 BST
    Pierre Carrey

    Retiring Astana captain hopes Gilbert will replace him

    Alexandre Vinokourov, who confirmed Friday that he will retire at the end of the year aged 38, looked highly disappointed after his finish in Liège-Bastogne-Liège. "There's nothing to say, I only had bad luck", he told Cyclingnews. A winner of the race in 2005 and 2010 was well-positioned when he broke two spokes on his back wheel with about 20km to go.

    The mechanical incident happened on the La Roche aux Faucons climb, just as Philippe Gilbert was responding to the decisive attack of Fränk and Andy Schleck. Vinokourov took the bike of his teammate Maxim Iglinskiy but lost too much time to rejoin the front of the race. He crossed the line 32nd, 1:43 behind Gilbert.

    "I did my best to come back but it was not possible", Vinokourov said. "I felt pretty strong, though. It's really a pity but that's life." His directeur sportif Lorenzo Lapage confirmed that "Vino had legs to do a big performance".

    Another of Astana's leaders, Roman Kreuziger, went on to claim fourth place and the team launched numerous attacks, notably with Rémy di Gregorio and Enrico Gasparotto. "The team was very strong", observed Vinokourov. Lapage added Astana was "a great team for Ardennes classics".

    Just after the finish, Vinokourov paid a tribute to Gilbert, who is almost his neighbour in Monaco. "This success makes him one of the biggest riders in the history. Chapeau!"

    Asked by Belgian TV if Gilbert could join Astana next year, Vinokourov smiled: "Why not? We have to find the money now." Cyclingnews understand Astana is one of the seven squads which is trying to sign the Belgian.

    Next week Vinokourov will ride the Tour of Romandy alongside Kreuziger. It will be his first participation in the Swiss race in his 12 year career. "It's a good way to use my good form. We want to win." Vinokourov's schedule includes then the Critérium du Dauphiné and the Tour de France.

  • Clignet to direct Nature Valley pro ride men's team

    Jacob Mueller was the top placed man selected to ride from the Nature Valley Pro Ride competition.
    Article published:
    April 25, 2011, 0:28 BST
    Cycling News

    Tips team will be "psyched and ready to perform"

    Multiple world road and track champion Marion Clignet will coach the Nature Valley Pro Ride men's team at the Nature Valley Grand Prix. She and women's team coach Michael Engleman will conduct a five-day camp for their squads before they compete in the Nature Valley Grand Prix, the top-ranked race on the USA Cycling National Racing Calendar.

    Clignet won a world title in the team time trial (1991), the individual pursuit (1994, 1996 and 1999) and the points race (1999 and 2000) and was an Olympic silver medalist in the individual pursuit in 1996 and 2000. Following her retirement from competition, the dual American-French citizen became the first woman to coach a men's professional team (Bbox-Bouygues Telecom).

    "I was always told I'd never make it because I was too heavy at first and then because I had epilepsy," she said. "So I had a few points to prove as I worked my way up the ranks. I'll be able to answer questions the guys might have on racing in Europe, training, and pushing themselves to the limit, which has always brought me great pleasure! If nothing else, I think they'll be psyched and ready to perform."

    The Nature Valley Pro Ride is cycling's version of "American Idol." The top amateur men and women selected at six qualifier races across the country are invited to join the Nature Valley Cycling Team. Besides the camp, Nature Valley Pro Riders earn free entry into the Nature Valley Grand Prix, generous travel stipends, team clothing, housing, ground transportation, and staff support for their composite teams. They will also receive pro-level recognition before, during and after the events, including pre-race call-ups and participation in promotional and media appearances.

    Clignet said there are a number of benefits to conducting a training camp before the Nature Valley Grand Prix, June 15-19. The camp will begin in Menomonie, Wis., site of the fifth stage of the Nature Valley Grand Prix. Riders and staff will then move...

  • Guardini half way into his Giro d’Italia job

    Andrea Guardini (Farnese VIni-Neri Sottoli) wins stage 1 of the Tour of Turkey
    Article published:
    April 25, 2011, 1:22 BST
    Jean-François Quénet

    Bets on two stage wins in Turkey with DS Luca Scinto

    Andrea Guardini is a betting man. After his second stage win at Le Tour de Langkawi in his professional debut with Farnese Vini-Neri in January, the 22-year-old Italian got assistant directeur sportif Stefano Giuliani to promise to quit smoking on the premise that he leave Malaysia with five stage wins, which he did, after taking the final stage in Kuala Lumpur.

    Now at the Presidential Tour of Turkey, there's a deal for him: "I've told him that he'll get a start at the Giro d'Italia if he wins two stages in Turkey," DS Luca Scinto revealed. "Except [for] Cavendish, the five best sprinters in the world will be present!"

    After only one stage in the Turkish event, he has done half of the job as he outsprinted Tyler Farrar and Kenny van Hummel. "Now I'll approach the coming stages with serenity," Guardini told Cyclingnews in Istanbul. "We'll see how I come out of the Turkey and that will determine whether or not I'll ride the Giro d'Italia after that. It's not only a question of winning two stages here in Turkey."

    Prior to flying to Istanbul, Guardini thought: "At least three stages suit my characteristics." But it might well be five, with the precedent set by Andre Greipel on a pretty similar course last year.

    As he scored his seventh win of the year after five successes at Le Tour de Langkawi in Malaysia and one at the Tour of Qatar, he tops once again the tally of race wins (in UCI category 1 and above) ahead of Alberto Contador, Philippe Gilbert and Thomas Voeckler who have six each since the beginning of...

  • Hong Kong rider Choi steals the show in Korea

    Ki Ho Choi in the leader's jersey
    Article published:
    April 25, 2011, 2:41 BST
    Steve Thomas

    New generation comes to the fore

    In a surprising and classy twist to the show young 20-year-old Hong Kong national team rider Ki Ho Choi turned the tables on his elders, and highly experienced rivals, to take the overall victory in this year's Tour de Korea, a UCI Asia Tour race.

    The nine stage Korean race always features a strong international field, with teams from the UK, Australia, New Zealand the USA and all lining up against the leading Asian registered teams in a hilly and chilly race. The main fight for the GC had been expected to come from the likes of Team Type 1, Rapha-Condor Sharp, and the Tabriz Petrochemical Team from Iran, who feature a number ex-ProTour riders on their roster, and are often the dominant force in Asian racing.

    The opening stage saw a six rider break go clear with TPT's German strongman Tobias Erler taking a convincing stage win, with his 'climbing strong' teammate Markus Eibegger not far behind. To all intents and purposes it seemed as though the Iranian squad had set the mould for the race, and were as dominant as ever in controlling the following six stages.

    Following the tour's rest day the race headed north, along a mountainous near 200-km stage. Freezing rains decimated the field, with some 30 riders failing to make the finish. With immense climbing power to hand, the Iranians had been expected to shred the race on this stage, but instead their two leading riders were to falter a little, allowing near-unknown Hong Kong rider Choi to take the race lead by 37 seconds from the Austrian rider Eibegger, who rode for the Pro-Tour Footon-Servetto team last season.

    Even in Asia few people give the HK team a second glance on the road – apart from their start rider Wong Kam Po that is, who has won just...