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First Edition Cycling News, Monday, April 26, 2010

Date published:
April 26, 2010, 1:00 BST
  • Kroon surgery scheduled for Monday

    BMC Racing Classics expert Karsten Kroon.
    Article published:
    April 25, 2010, 11:21 BST
    Cycling News

    BMC star goes under knife for facial injuries

    Karsten Kroon, who suffered facial injuries in a nasty fall during last Wednesday's Fléche Wallonne, will undergo surgery tomorrow [Monday] to rectify damage done in the accident.

    The Dutchman took ninth in last Sunday's Amstel Gold Race and was looking for another top 10 in La Fléche when his race was brought to an abrupt end courtesy of being collected in a crash when Team Milram's Dominik Roels slid across the road on a sweeping bend.

    It initially appeared as though Kroon merely suffered bruising and inflammation around the facial muscles. After a trip to a dental surgeon, the prognosis was not so benign.

    "I went to a surgeon yesterday and he had no good news. My cheek was hit by the impact and is damaged on the inside; it should be corrected otherwise my face won't be symmetrical (if it had already been before)," said Kroon on his website.

    "As far as I understand it, the zygomaticum (bone below the eye) contains a hole where the facial nerve runs through it. This hole is the most vulnerable area and here it's been broken in half across, meaning the facial nerve is trapped.

    "What is really annoying is that the right side of my face feels deaf and I feel a stabbing pain in that hole. Because the sinus bone is broken there is blood in the frontal sinus. My nose is broken and the nose is crooked and the bone has moved. Everything will be corrected with this surgery," he continued.

    He described the proposed procedure thus: "There will be one or two titanium plates put in the cheekbone; one from my mouth (from the inside, leaving no scar tissue on the outside) and probably one under my eye, where the surgeon will make an incision in the direction of a wrinkle so the scar will heal nicely. Not fun, but it must happen."

    Kroon added that he's in a lot of pain but overall he's handling the situation okay and feeling optimistic about his chances of a solid recovery.

  • On the start line at Liège-Bastogne-Liège

    The riders look at the sky to see if it going to rain
    Article published:
    April 25, 2010, 11:23 BST
    Cycling News

    The riders line-up for the start of La Doyenne

    The centre of Liège was loaded with team buses on Sunday morning as the peloton gathered for the start of the 2010 Liège-Bastogne-Liège. The 258 kilometre event marks the last race in the month-long series of spring Classics, and as the oldest and toughest event of all, it is revered in the professional peloton and attracts some of the biggest stage race and one-day specialists.

    After a week of clear blue skies there were a few drops of rain at the start in Liège as the last of the teams signed-on outside Liège's town hall. Alberto Contador's Astana teammates wasted no time with the protocol as their team bus deposited the riders at the foot of the sign-on stage. In contrast, Cadel Evans' BMC Racing Team missed arrived too late at the sign-on podium and all the riders are likely to receive a minor fine from race organiser, Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO).

    Last year, Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) claimed a solo victory at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, after launching a powerful attack on the Côte de la Roche aux Faucons. Schleck and his brother Fränk have promised another day of attacks on the côtes that distinguish the race, including the legendary Côte de la Redoute and the final Côte Saint-Nicholas.

    While both the Schlecks are counted amongst the favourites, Amstel Gold Race winner and local hero Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) has assumed the mantle of outright favourite here in Liege. The Belgian was again greeted with enthusiastic cheers by his many fans, but appeared nervous as he lined up on the start line. Former winner Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) looked relaxed, as he p to add to his 2006 and 2008 titles at the race.

    Valverde's former teammate Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) finished second last year, 1:17 behind a solo Andy Schleck and will be hoping he has the form to go one better this season. The USA's Chris Horner (RadioShack) and Canadian...

  • Evans rides strong, misses out on Liège podium

    World champion Cadel Evans (BMC) is on fine form in the Ardennes classics.
    Article published:
    April 25, 2010, 19:21 BST
    Stephen Farrand

    World champion satisfied with spring campaign as Giro looms

    Cadel Evans (BMC) thought he had found the decisive move at Liège-Bastogne-Liège when he jumped across to Philippe Gilbert and Alejandro Valverde on the second part of the Cote de la Roche-aux-Facons, but the trio failed to catch Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) and Alexandr Kolobnev (Katusha). Evans eventually finished fifth at 1:04, beaten by Valverde and Gilbert in the sprint for third place.

    As he downed a bottle of water near the BMC team bus and gasped for breath immediately after finishing the race, Evans admitted he was wrongly placed just before the Roche-aux-Facons climb and outnumbered by stronger teams, but was satisfied with his performance.

    "I was good. I was a little bit unlucky and didn't quite play the right cards," he said.

    "I had a bit of a lapse of concentration leading into the Roche-aux-Facons, but I got back to position good enough. Then it was going and coming back, going and coming back. The only thing I lacked was a teammate. There were a couple of pairs there. There were two Astana, two Caisse d'Epargne and two Saxo Bank. I was on my own and so I had to wait there and gamble a little bit.

    "It was a pity not to have the numbers there in the end but we've had a bit of rough time with Karsten (Kroon, who crashed in Fléche Wallonne) and Santambrogio (suspended by the team after being implicated in a doping investigation in Italy). There were a few things beyond our control. I'm happy with how the guys rode, though. There were a couple of young guys here and for them it was the first time they've ridden Liège. That was impressive."

    Right move, wrong combination

    Evans powered across to Valverde and Gilbert at just the right time. The gap was just 15 seconds at one point but they never managed to catch Vinokourov and Kolobnev. Evans revealed that Valverde stopped doing his bit in the chase and then attacked on the Saint Nicolas as he rode for third...

  • Schlecks left frustrated at Liège-Bastogne-Liège

    Frank Schleck (Saxo Bank) en route to a top-ten finish.
    Article published:
    April 25, 2010, 19:21 BST
    Richard Tyler

    Fränk forced to finish race on Nicki Sørensen's bike after mechanical

    Saxo Bank's Andy and Fränk Schleck both recorded top-ten finishes at Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday, but were left frustrated with their respective results after Fränk was forced to finish the race on a teammate's bike because of a mechanical problem on the key climb of the Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons.

    The brothers finished in the same five-man group, more than a minute down on race winner Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) and runner-up Alexandr Kolobnev (Katusha), and three seconds behind Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne), Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) and Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team). Andy finished sixth, while Fränk finished one spot ahead of Alberto Contador (Astana) in ninth.

    "I wasn't quite satisfied, because we were better than the result," said Andy Schleck after the race. "Today Fränk was really unlucky to have a problem with this bike there at the worst possible moment of the race. Still, he was super strong and he came back; we almost caught the guys in front of us for third. I felt good for the sprint and finished first of my group, but everyone was looking at me today. I tried everything I could; I attacked, but it didn't quite work out."

    Fränk had completed the final 20 kilometres of the race on Nicki Sørensen's bike after he realised his brakes were rubbing on the penultimate climb of the race, the Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons. Despite his misfortune, he was able to regain contact with the lead group. He admitted he had tried to conceal the mechanical issue from his brother as Andy launched an attack at the base of the climb.

    "I had to change the bike, so I swapped with Nicki, but its very difficult to go on another rider's bike," said Fränk after the finish. "I didn't say anything about it on the radio because I wanted Andy to attack anyway, with or without me. So he had to attack and I thought 'okay I've got to go full gas to get up there'. I...

  • Horner runs out of gas in Liège

    World champion Cadel Evans (BMC) and Chris Horner (RadioShack) tackle the La Redoute.
    Article published:
    April 25, 2010, 20:20 BST
    Richard Tyler

    American finishes eighth in confusing Classic finale

    Chris Horner (RadioShack) equalled his best result at Liège-Bastogne-Liège with an eighth place finish on Sunday, but admitted he had lacked the strength to improve any further on that result.

    "I just didn't have the legs today," Horner said, moments after crossing the finish line in Ans, Belgium. "I don't know whether it was too much training or what. This week is always tough, with Amstel, Flèche and then today."

    Horner crossed the line with Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank), Igor Anton (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Frank Schleck (Saxo Bank) and Alberto Contador (Astana). The quintet finished 1:07 behind winner Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana), 1:01 behind second placed Alexandr Kolobnev (Katusha) and just three seconds shy of Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne), Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) and Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team).

    Earlier, Horner had formed part of a significant peloton, which remained intact over the Côte de la Redoute and the Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons. On Saturday, Horner had predicted the latter climb to break the peloton into "ones and twos", however, by the base of the final climb, the Côte Saint-Nicolas, he was still part of a group of around 30 riders.

    Horner admitted weather conditions had contributed to the relative peace within the peloton until late in the race. "There was no cross wind, it was pretty much all headwind," Horner said. "That made it quite a smooth race early on."

    The Saint-Nicolas proved to be the peloton-splitting climb as Horner linked up with his eventual finishing group to chase down Valverde, Gilbert and Evans, who were in turn battling to chase down Vinokourov and Kolobnev. At the finish, Horner appeared surprised to learn that Vinokourov had won the race, having used former-teammate Evans as a reference point for the race situation in the final 10 kilometres.

    "Oh, well there you go," said Horner after being informed of the winner. "That...

  • Hesjedal satisfied with Ardennes campaign

    Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Transitions)
    Article published:
    April 25, 2010, 20:37 BST
    Stephen Farrand

    Stomach problems on Saint Nicolas spoil Canadian's day at Liège

    Stomach problems affected Ryder Hesjedal's performance in Liège-Bastogne-Liège but as he prepares to head home to Canada for a break, the Garmin-Transitions rider knows he has stepped up a level as a rider after a string of consistent results in the Ardennes Classics.

    Hesjedal finished 13th at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, 1:18 behind winner Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) but was second in last Sunday's Amstel Gold Race, and tenth in Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday.

    He rode well for most of Liège-Bastogne-Liège and was well placed over the key Côte de la Redoute, 35 kilometres from the finish, but was then struck by stomach problems on the Côte de Saint Nicolas with just six kilometres-to-go.

    "I don’t like to make excuses but my stomach was pretty bad near the end of the race. I really suffered and once my stomach was bad, I was focused on just keeping it together," he said.

    "260 kilometres is a big effort on the body and I was pretty rough and shaken up. Earlier I was comfortable and felt a lot better than last year on the [Côte de la] Roche-aux-Faucons and was able to stay near the front. I just lost contact on the Saint-Nicolas when there were a lot of guys putting in digs. It was hard and there was so little time to come back before the finish, so that was it. What can you do when it comes down to one thing like that?"

    Next, the Tour of California

    Hesjedal was rightly proud of his consistent performances in the Ardennes Classics. He will now enjoy some time at home in Canada before preparing for the Tour of California and then the Tour de France.

    "I think this is my 29th race day of the season and I've been popping round the top ten most of the time. I'm pretty pleased with that," he said.

    "I can't be more pleased to get through this week. I go back to Canada this week, then take a little break before the Tour of...

  • Gilbert loses out after tough battle in Liège

    Philippe Gilbert gives it his all in his attempt to bridge across to Vinokourov and Kolobnev in the closing kilometres.
    Article published:
    April 25, 2010, 21:09 BST
    Brecht Decaluwé

    Belgian finishes fourth, likely to assume lead in UCI world rankings

    Belgian star Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) finished fourth at Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday, having carried the title of favourite into the race after winning Amstel Gold-Race one week earlier.

    The 27 year-old Walloon rider rode a home race in the Ardennes and left his mark on the 2010 edition of the event. In the end however, Gilbert fell short of victory, as Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) and Alexandr Kolobnev (Katusha) rode clear to claim the first two places. The Kazakhstan and Russian rider had snuck away after counter attacking Gilbert's own attack with Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) and Alberto Contador (Astana) on the Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons.

    "I was quiet good today. I joined Andy Schleck when he accelerated on the Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons climb, but still Contador came back, and then the rest. Then I was on my own while others had several cards to play. The attacks were flying around and I couldn't react to everything. To respond to those attacks I needed another teammate. Jurgen Van den Broeck was good, did all he could, but he wasn't 100 per cent," Gilbert said.

    Gilbert had made a final bid to bridge to the leading pair in the closing metres of the Côte de Saint Nicholas, six kilometres from the finish in Ans. He attacked chase-group companions Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) and Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team) as the trio came to the summit of the final climb of the race.

    "I tried to return on my own on the last climb but Valverde and Evans came back. We were not going slow on the last climbs but the two in front had a good gap and must've been going fast," Gilbert said. "I'm finishing just off the podium. It would've been fun to be on it, but finishing second, third or fourth doesn't matter that much, it's the victory that matters most."

    He also paid tribute to the winner, Vinokourov, who, like Gilbert, lives in Monaco. "It's the first or second victory [this...

  • Kolobnev happy with Liège podium spot

    Alexandr Kolobnev (Katusha) and Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) speed to the finish in Ans.
    Article published:
    April 25, 2010, 23:19 BST
    Brecht Decaluwé

    Russian no match for Vinokourov in final kilometre

    Deep into the finale of Liège-Bastogne-Liège two Alexandres led the race, working together to hold off the pursuit by Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Caisse d'Epargne) and world champion Cadel Evans (BMC). The leading duo of Alexandr Kolobnev (Katusha) and Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) managed to head into the last kilometre together, but Vino dropped Kolobnev with a last desperate attack in the final uphill section before the finishing straight.

    Afterwards, the Russian runner-up didn't regret missing out on the victory in the finale, a situation that happened as well during both the Amstel-Gold-Race and Flèche Wallonne earlier this week.

    "It was hard and I was completely finished," said Kolobnev. "I did my best in all classics. I really tried but I missed a bit of luck to win this week. Today I didn't do anything wrong, I did what I could. Maybe if I would've sat on Vino's wheel we could've lost the whole race so I pulled the same like Vino.

    "In the end he was stronger than me. I couldn't follow him," Kolobnev said about Vinokourov's attack in the final kilometre. If Kolobnev had stayed with the Kazakhstani a sprint would decide the win, tipping the advantage to the Russian's favour. "We knew that if we would arrive together I could beat him. He was afraid of me but I was afraid of his attacks, too. When he had attacked earlier on the Côte de Saint-Nicolas I was already on my limit. Anyway, it's a nice podium with Vinokourov and Valverde there."

    After riding for several international teams Kolobnev moved to the Russian Katusha team in 2010. For now it seems like the move proved to be a successful one. "Of course I have more freedom now. Although actually the first objective today was to keep [Joaquim] Rodriguez in first position of the [ProTour] ranks, but I had my own chance, too, when Vinokourov went.

    "We got away after the downhill of a climb [Côte de...