- Article published:
- August 28, 2011, 10:12
- Cycling News
Mixed fortunes for Rabobank riders on stage 8
Bauke Mollema of Rabobank finished third on stage of the Vuelta a España to move up to ninth place overall. The Dutchman crossed the finish line in San Lorenzo de el Escorial only nine seconds behind stage winner and new overall leader Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha).
“I was hoping for victory,” Mollema said on the Rabosport website. “I started well in front, but unfortunately I couldn't follow Rodriguez at the very steepest part. But in the last hundred-two hundred meters, I was a bit faster and could still pass two men.”
The final kilometer was very hard, the 24-year-old said. “You only come across such steep roads once a year and there were some cobblestone sections. It was really crazy, but this kind of explosive work is good for me.”
His result made him optimistic for Sunday's mountain stage, which he called “the first real mountaintop finish. The Sierra Nevada was not steep enough, there we arrived with thirty men."
Freire abandons with breathing problems
Rabobank will have to without sprinter Oscar Freire for the remainder of the Vuelta, however. The Spaniard came into the race with breathing problems, which had seemed to improve, as he finished third in Friday's sprint. However, the difficulties returned on Saturday and he was forced to abandon, and will miss out on two crucial weeks of racing miles ahead of the world championships.
“On Friday, he finished the stage with breathing problems and fatigue, but this morning it seemed that he had recovered and we all thought that he was going to continue to improve in the race,” Rabobank manager Erik Breukink explained to TVE. “However, this morning [Saturday] on the first ramps of the Puerto de Mijares, his problems returned and he took the decision to pull out.”
- Article published:
- August 28, 2011, 10:56
- Cycling News
Scarponi riding into form at Vuelta
Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) admitted that he expected to lose time to Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) on the steep finish to stage 8 of the Vuelta a España at San Lorenzo de El Escorial on Saturday.
While Rodriguez duly fulfilled expectations by bounding clear on the climb’s most vertiginous slopes to take the stage and the red jersey, Nibali’s performance was below his own usual standards. The Sicilian failed to stay in contact with the strongest chasers, and came home 32 seconds down on Rodriguez in 23rd place. He explained afterwards that his cause hadn’t been helped by his positioning at the red kite.
“It was a hard stage. In the finale I had to make a big effort and I also got a little bottled up,” Nibali told Gazzetta dello Sport. “But that’s ok, I had expected to lose something to Rodriguez on finishes like this.”
Nibali was a faller on the previous stage to Talavera de la Reina, injuring his right shoulder blade and hip, but he was reluctant to blame Saturday’s sub-par showing solely on his injuries. He now lies 4th overall, 45 seconds down on Rodriguez.
“Maybe it has to be taken into account a little, but I don’t want to look for excuses,” he said. “For the time trial [on Monday – ed.] I’m counting on being 100 percent again.”
Scarponi shows his hand
While Nibali struggled to find his rhythm on the sharply-pitched haul to the finish, his fellow countryman Michele Scarponi enjoyed his best day on the Vuelta to date. The Lampre-ISD rider was the first of the contenders to strike in the final kilometre, anticipating Rodriguez with an early attack of his own, and although he had to give best to the rampant Spaniard, Scarponi was quietly content with his second place finish.
“It was the only way to try and beat him, but they had designed this finale especially for him,” Scarponi told Gazzetta. “He’s more explosive than me and he showed it.”
Rather than attempt to follow Rodriguez’s fierce burst on the 27% slopes of the final climb, Scarponi followed a sensible rhythm to the line and succeeded in limiting his losses to 9 seconds. He now lies 5th overall, 51 seconds down on Rodriguez.
“In this Vuelta, Cordoba was the only place where I made a mistake. I wasn’t in the right place when Nibali attacked on the descent. But I feel my form growing, I’m confident. There’s still a very long way to go.”
- Article published:
- August 28, 2011, 12:10
- Cycling News
Frenchman on missing out on cobbled classics
Yoann Offredo (FDJ) lines up at the GP Quest France-Plouay on Sunday looking to make amends for his injury-hit spring classics campaign. The young Frenchman impressed at Het Nieuwsblad and Milan-San Remo, but a finish line crash at Gent-Wevelgem ruled him out of the remainder of the classics.
“I had reconnoitred the routes in Belgium, everybody spoke of nothing else but those races, and then I couldn’t even do them…” Offredo told L’Équipe. “In the beginning I thought I’d done all of that for nothing, but you never train for nothing. I’ve progressed mentally, I learned about myself.”
Such was Offredo’s disappointment at missing out on the main targets of this season that he was unable to bring himself even to watch the cobbled classics on television. “I didn’t watch cycling or talk cycling during the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix,” he said. “Sometimes, I’d crack and switch on the television for two seconds before pulling myself together.”
Long noted for his relative detachment from the allure of the Tour de France, Offredo admitted that he has revised his opinions slightly after witnessing the impression this year’s race had made on the French psyche in July.
“This year, I felt the impact of the Tour more than ever. There was this feeling that everything stopped for three weeks,” Offredo said. “For now, my priority is the classics, where I have a lot to win and a lot of progress to make. But if I win Het Nieuwsblad and the Tour of Flanders next year, then I’ll go and do the Tour! It’s an indisputable rite of passage for a rider.”
Before that, however, Offredo is bidding to finish his season strongly, and he will lead FDJ’s challenge at the GP Ouest France-Plouay on Sunday, where he finished 3rd last year. Like many, he expects his former teammate Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) to be the man to beat.
“He’s the bogeyman of the classics and compared to last year, there are fewer sprinters who can climb here,” Offredo said. “That’s going to change things, but for me, it’s not necessarily a problem. If I’m not impatient, I won’t be too far off.”
Rather than serving as a deterrent, Offredo suggested that Gilbert’s dominance in 2011 has been a source of encouragement, and he admitted that the Belgian rider is something of a role model.
“I have the impression that he rode a bit like me when he started with La Française des Jeux: he attacked from distance, often fell short and above all picked up placings,” Offredo said. “I empathise with that tenacity, and also with how he prefers the classics to the Tour. He’s certainly a model for riders like me.”
- Article published:
- August 28, 2011, 13:53
- Pierre Carrey
French escape artist plays the role of domestique
Frenchman Pierre Cazaux is so well assimilated in the Euskaltel-Euskadi team that he is racing the Vuelta a España with a Spanish flag on his number.
"It's a bit annoying," said Cazaux, laughing. "The organizers made a mistake, and I asked them to correct it. As everyone in the peloton looks at the others' numbers to see what their name is, some people will really think I'm Spanish!"
Technically, Cazaux is something other than simply French or Spanish, however: he is Basque. Based in Cambo-les-Bains, the little town at the foot of the Pyrenees where a stage of the 2006 Tour de France started, he moved to the Basque team from FDJ last winter.
In Euskaltel's roster, the 27-year-old rider is one of two Frenchmen, alongside former under 23 world champion Romain Sicard, who was forced to skip the Vuelta due to a muscular disorder. "My work is to be a domestique and I quite like it," Cazaux told Cyclingnews.
In a team of climbers, he is of the very few to support his leader Igor Anton on the flat sections. Iñaki Isasi and Amets Txurruka, an uphill expert who is recovering from injury, are also devoted to that role.
Cazaux has two characteristics, therefore, that are not typical of an Euskaltel-Euskadi rider: his nationality and his skills as a rouleur. The team uses him both to reinforce and open itself. For his part, the rider suits the Basque mould through his shy, loyal and humble attitude, his mastery of Spanish, and the job he does so scrupulously.
Cazaux says he's literally a water-carrier for the team. “The heat has been very strong since the first day of Vuelta, so I go to the team car about seven or 10 times a day to collect bottles for everyone”.
Although Anton has struggled in the opening week, and is 3:28 down in general classification, Cazaux seems to be confident in his leader's chances. “He targeted a place between fifth and first and he's really motivated for that,” the Frenchman noted after the Sierra-Nevada stage, when his leader was already 2:44 off the pace.
However, Anton's difficulties might well create some opportunities for his domestique. Cazaux might be allowed to leave the bunch more often than it was previously planned and do what he certainly likes the most in cycling: break away.
“That's really my thing,” he confirms, but there is no hubris in that way of riding: “To be in front is not only good for me, but for the team too, because the guys don’t have to lead the peloton. Somehow I'm still a domestique when I'm in a break.”
Euskaltel's coach and directeur sportif, Josu Larrazabal, praises Cazaux' attitude and engine. “He's a great domestique for us. His endurance skills and his constant good mood are very helpful in the team.”
The coach notes, however, that “We don't see Pierre so often in the results.” In three seasons as a professional (two with VC Roubaix, one with FDJ), he has never done better than a fourth place finish in the Classique Loire Atlantique. Larrazabal reckons that such a situation is typical of an escape artist who isn’t blessed with a burst of speed.
In his debut season with Euskaltel, Cazaux has shown himself in long breakaways on numerous races, including the Vuelta a La Rioja, Vuelta a Asturias, Giro d'Italia, Brixia Tour and Tour of Poland, and he expects to break his personal record soon: a 190-kilometre break with Ukrainian Ruslan Pidgorny in the GP Fourmies two years ago.
Cazaux feels comfortable in his position as a baroudeur and domestique at Euskaltel, whereas in France, the usual approach in cycling is to give every rider wild cards or leadership rather than assigned roles.
Two weeks before the Vuelta, though part of the twelve-rider short list, he was uncertain if he would be on the start line, but he trained to be ready to give his best, whether it would have been in Spain or at GP Ouest France-Plouay. The Vuelta a Espana represents a special motivation this year, however, as the race’s entry into the Basque Country, for the first time since 1978, is a sort of tribute to the whole Euskaltel-Euskadi set-up as well as an added pressure.
“It's a beautiful challenge,” Cazaux said. “We hope to win the stages and also to bring Anton in the leader's jersey to our supporters. We know a lot is expected of us.”
There is no better testament to Cazaux’s sense of belonging to the Euskaltel culture than that use of "we". The Vuelta's organizers could have printed a Basque flag on his number to avoid any confusion.
- Article published:
- August 28, 2011, 19:46
- Cycling News
Englishman looking forward to Salamanca test
Bradley Wiggins (Sky) explained that he went “into time trial” mode near the summit of La Covatilla as he put time into red jersey Joaquim Rodriguez and many of his overall rivals on stage 9 of the Vuelta a España.
The British champion moved up to 13th overall after finishing in fourth place behind Ireland’s Dan Martin (Garmin-Cervélo), and was hugely impressive in setting the tempo at the front of leading group in the closing kilometres.
“Today had originally been about me trying to limit my losses as much as possible to guys like Van den Broeck and Rodriguez but I surprised myself,” Wiggins admitted afterwards. “I didn’t think I’d be as good as that as it was the first all-out summit finish I’d done since the Dauphiné. Obviously Sierra Nevada came earlier this week but everyone cancelled each other out a bit on there.”
After teammate Chris Froome’s pace-setting pegged back Dan Martin and reigning champion Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) with 2km to go, Wiggins himself took over at the front and succeeded in dislodging Jurgen Van Den Broeck from the leading group. In the finishing straight, Martin cleverly picked his moment to slip clear and take the stage, while Bauke Mollema (Rabobank) assumed the overall lead after finishing second.
Wiggins lies a minute off the Dutchman's red jersey, and will be expected to make further strides in the general classification in Monday’s 47km time trial around Salamanca.
“I’m delighted with how things went and once I saw people were in difficulties behind I went into time trial mode and tried to take as much time off them as possible,” Wiggins said. “Tomorrow is where I am expecting to make the most of my gains and everything I earned here was a bonus – it was a fantastic finish and it couldn’t have gone any better.”
Wiggins was fulsome in his praise of Froome, who finished ahead of Vincenzo Nibali in 5th place, and lies just behind Wiggins in the overall standings. “The team were brilliant again as well and Froomey is shining; he’s really come to the fore now and has proved his worth.”
- Article published:
- August 29, 2011, 01:17
- Cycling News
Gerrans collects valuable points for GreenEdge
Philippe Gilbert's bid to become the world's number one rider by season's end was dealt a blow with his 57th placing at Sunday's GP Ouest France-Plouay, with Grega Bole (Lampre-ISD) prevailing in the 248.3km race.
In order to overtake Tour de France winner and rankings leader Cadel Evans (BMC Racing), the Belgian was chasing a finishing position of at least ninth in the Brittany event. The individual rankings of the top 27 riders remain unchanged with Evans (574 points), Gilbert (568) and Alberto Contador (471) making up the top three. Evans will not ride in another WorldTour race this season.
Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervélo) was the big mover with his fourth placing in Plouay, the reigning world champion moving up 16 places to 28th. Australia's Simon Gerrans (Sky), who is bound for fledgling outfit GreenEdge in 2012, collected valuable points with his runner-up finish to Bole – collecting 50 points and moving from 70th position to 33rd.
Spain remains at the top of the country rankings with 1311 points, with Australia (1082) now ahead of Italy (1041) and Belgium (998). There was no changes to the teams ranking with Leopard-Trek still leading on 949, BMC on 874 and Omega Pharma-Lotto on 855.
- Article published:
- August 29, 2011, 02:17
- Jane Aubrey
Lithuanian looking for more individual opportunities in 2012
Lithuanian Tomas Vaitkus is the latest signing for GreenEdge, with Shayne Bannan explaining that the 29-year-old will be more than just one of the team's key domestiques.
Vaitkus joins GreenEdge from his second stint at Astana, having previously ridden for the Kazakh outfit 2008 and 2009. He turned professional with Landbouwkrediet in 2003, and rode for Ag2r in 2005 and 2006. In 2007 Vaitkus rode for Discovery Channel before joining Astana before one season with Team RadioShack.
While he hasn't tasted individual success since 2008, Vaitkus says he's looking forward to more opportunities in 2012 despite the satisfaction he gets out of being a team player.
"People normally just look at me as one of the workers on a team, which is a role I really enjoy and will be a big part of what I do at GreenEdge," he explained in a statement released by the team. "But I also look forward to the prospect of getting a few opportunities to look for my own win even though I get as much satisfaction out of helping a teammate cross the line in first place."
Vaitkus, 2002 Under 23 world time trial champion, brings just two UCI individual ranking points to the table for GreenEdge, which has been vocal in its goal of recruiting well enough to be placed in the top 15 ProTour teams.
"Without knowing exactly 100 per cent what other teams are doing I believe that we're tracking to be in the top 15," team general manager Bannan told Cyclingnews last week, while confirming that 90 per cent of the 28-rider roster has been secured.
Meantime, Bannan believes the triple Lithuanian time trial champion is "more than capable of winning in his own right."
"Look at the races he's won when given the chance," he explained. "He's won a stage at the Giro d'Italia and the Tour of Denmark plus multiple national titles in the time trial and on the road.
"And his versatility gives us so many options. He was in the thick of the action right to the end at the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix this year, he's a solid sprinter, can play the role of a lead-out man for our fastest finishers and we all know how strong he is in a time trial."
- Article published:
- August 29, 2011, 05:59
- Kirsten Frattini
American says he still has grand tour ability
Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack) won his third overall title of the season at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. The American admitted that a mixture of unfortunate injuries and near-wins played a role in fueling his motivational fire for success at the seven-day event that concluded on Sunday in Denver, Colorado.
"This victory means so much to me," Leipheimer said. "The team rose to the occasion to defend this jersey against a super motivated hometown team in Garmin-Cervelo. It took every ounce of our energy to pull it off."
The USA Pro Cycling Challenge leader's jersey jumped around during the first half of the seven-day event. Patrick Gretsch (HTC-Highroad) was the first rider to top the overall rankings following his win at the opening prologue. Leipheimer moved into the race lead following his stage one victory at Mt Crested Butte. However, he lost the jersey the following day during the ‘queen' stage two to youngster Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Highroad). He took back the leader's jersey during the stage three uphill time trial in Vail; a race he narrowly won ahead of Christian Vande Valde (Garmin-Cervelo).
Leipheimer maintained the race lead during the final three stages, which produced bunch sprints won by Italian duo Elia Viviani and Daniel Oss (Liquigas-Cannondale). Upon the conclusion of stage six, race organizers crowned him the overall winner, 11 seconds ahead of Vande Velde, an additional six seconds to Van Garderen, and four seconds to Tom Danielson (Garmin-Cervelo).
"I have to say what a great job Garmin-Cervelo did here," Leipheimer said. "Of course it is their home town and it took some of the best form in my career to beat Christian and Garmin-Cervelo this week. Hats off to them, they are the local favourites and I really appreciate the race they put on. This is one of the best victories of my career, just the way it all played out, taking the jersey, losing the jersey, and really having to pull out one my best performances of my career to take the jersey back and hold on to it. Last and most importantly, my team was fantastic."
Leipheimer's victory marked the third Stateside win of the season for RadioShack beginning with the UCI 2.HC Amgen Tour of California in May, won by Chris Horner and the double UCI 2.1 stage races Tour of Utah and USA Pro Cycling Challenge won by Leipheimer. He attributed the team's success to hard work and strong support from sponsors RadioShack and Nissan.
"We couldn't have hoped for anything better," Leipheimer said. "We couldn't have asked for anything more. We were very fortunate to have had that much success this year. We had twice as many victories as we had last year. It's thanks to great team work and great sponsors, RadioShack and Nissan, that have been behind us the last two years and it made a big difference in our performance."
Season disappointments turn to success in Switzerland, Utah and Colorado
Leipheimer started the season in top form targeting the Amgen Tour of California in May. The sting of placing second in a race he won on three previous occasions was some-what soothed by the fact that it was his teammate Horner, who won the overall title. The team rode away with ample success having won the two mountaintop stages on Sierra Road with Horner, and Big Bear with Leipheimer.
"For sure I was disappointed, California was my race and I worked really hard coming from a low point just five weeks before that just to get to a point where I could win a stage and get second overall," Leipheimer said. "In the end, when it was all over with, I was satisfied because I couldn't have done it at a steeper trajectory to get to that point. A teammate winning was the best scenario, of course I wanted to win, and it was disappointing that I couldn't stay with Chris on the climb on Sierra Road. But, to be first and second and to win a stage, I am satisfied with that."
Leipheimer went on to win his first overall title of the season at the Tour de Suisse. He placed third during the ninth and final stage time trial and gained enough time to win the overall by a mere four seconds ahead of Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD) and Steven Kruijswijk (Rabobank).
RadioShack was on target to have a promising Tour de France with a series of overall contenders that also included Horner and Andreas Kloden, who won the Pais Vasco in April. However, crashes during the first week of the race took Horner, Leipheimer, Kloden along with Jani Brajkovic and Yaroslav Popovich out of contention.
"When you have some near misses and disappointments like that it is fuel for the fire," Leipheimer said. "Switzerland was a pleasant surprise and the Tour de France motivated me more. I had Utah and Colorado on my mind since stage four of five of the Tour when things started to go wrong for me."
Leipheimer went in to the Tour of Utah as one of a handful of race favourites. He took over the race lead during the stage three time trial, where he placed second to Van Garderen. He maintained the race lead through the final two stages and won the overall title, for the second consecutive season, by 23 seconds ahead of Sergio Henao (Gobernacion de Antioquia) and his teammate Janez Brajkovic. That performance was directly followed by the win at USA Pro Cycling Challenge.
His three overall victories combined were won by at total of 38. He attributed the marginal victories to the often-times good luck needed to be successful in the sport of professional cycling.
"Switzerland was one of those rare occasions when you pull it off in the last day by a couple of seconds," Leipheimer said. "I can't say that I clearly won that race because it was such a tight battle, it wasn't a minute or more. I guess I have had luck on my side for the last three of four races."
"Luck is always involved in this sport," he said. "We work really hard 365 days a year. You have to learn to love that hard work and you can't expect to have success all the time. You have to capitalize on it and appreciate it when it comes. That was the situation I am in right now. I have to appreciate that I've won the last three of four races. I just have to soak it in because this is really great."