- Article published:
- August 7, 2011, 22:42
- Pierre Carrey
Tour of Poland's boss has already organised track Worlds in 2009
Following the success of the 68th Tour of Poland, organiser Czeslaw Lang hopes his country can host the road cycling world championships in a middle term perspective.
"It's my dream," Lang told Cyclingnews, Saturday, on the final day of his race in Krakow.
Poland has never hosted a road world championship since the competition's creation in 1921. Only two editions have happened in Eastern Europe: 1928, in Budapest (Hungary) and 1981, in Prague (Czechoslovakia).
Lang, a vice-Olympic Champion in 1980 and the first Polish rider to have turned professional, thinks his compatriots "are ready for the world championships". He has observed that "there more and more people every year" along the parcours of his race.
"The last stages of this year's Tour of Poland could offer a great parcours for the world championships," Lang says. Alongside stage 7 in Krakow, Poland's cultural capital, stage 5 around Zakopane could be ideal for such an event.
The 40.3km undulating circuit, dominated this year by Peter Sagan after a small bunch sprint, is famous in the country as the Tour of Poland has organised several road stages and time trials there in the last decades.
Based in southern Poland, in the Tatras Mountains, Zakopane is the main ski resort in the country. The town, very ambitious, has led several campaigns to host the Winter Olympics and still hopes to attain that goal.
For his part the "Team Lang" company has experience with UCI events. It works not only on the Tour of Poland but also on some championships: the European road championships, in Kielce (2000) and the track world championships, in Pruszkow (2009).
Lang said, however, he needs "to talk to the Polish cycling federation" about his projects.
Happy to see his race improving, he's careful though. "On the cyclosportive that we organised on stage 6, there were 1.500 participants, two times more than last year," he said. "It shows cycling is growing in Poland. But it's still in a development phase. Teams, organisers, riders: we will all have a lot to learn."
The trigger for an official road world championship candidature could be the emergence of "a big Polish rider in the next few years, or even better: the creation of a Polish WordTour team," Lang said.
- Article published:
- August 8, 2011, 00:19
- Cycling News
Sky Australian says final stage "panned out perfectly"
Simon Gerrans (Sky) claimed his first win of 2011 at the Tour of Denmark on Sunday, nine seconds ahead of Leopard Trek's Daniele Bennati. It was the Australian's first general classification victory since the 2006 Herald Sun Tour along with his first stage race win in Europe.
Gerrans took the yellow jersey on Stage 3, extending his four second lead out to eight seconds with a fifth placing in Saturday's penultimate time trial stage before coming under attack from the Italian. With time bonuses up for grabs in the day's intermediate sprints, Gerrans had the speed to beat Bennati on the uphill sprint and so extended his lead to nine seconds. That left Bennati chasing the stage win although he had to settle for 11th after Rabobank's Theo Bos took out the bunch sprint to the line.
"Today's stage panned out perfectly for us. Leopard controlled the peloton for the first sprint with the goal to reduce back my advantage so I think it was a huge blow to their confidence when I outsprinted Bennati and extended my lead by one second," Gerrans said.
"My teammates did a fantastic job throughout the whole stage controlling the peloton and making sure I was well protected".
"It's a huge thrill to stand on the top step of the podium in a European stage race," he added.
Team Sky also took out victory in the teams classification with Alex Dowsett and Dario Cioni finishing fifth and sixth overall respectively.
Sky DS Marcus Ljungqvist was happy to see the team combine to great effect in helping Gerrans to victory.
He said: "It's a really good result. A very nice win for Simon and for the team. Like always without the help of the team it is difficult to pull something off so it was great to see."
Ljungqvist explained that the first intermediate sprint played right into Gerrans' hands.
"They [Leopard Trek] had to fight for it and work hard to get the intermediate sprint," he admitted. "It was a perfect one for us. Simon nipped in front of Bennati and took a bit of his morale I think.
"But Bennati could have still won the race with the 10-second bonus on the line so it wasn't over until the finish. The rest of the team they did a great job supporting and taking care of Simon, making sure he was in position at all times.
"We were joking that we started a bit slow in this race but as it has gone on it has been really good. All in all a great result."
Adding to the sweetness of the win was the fact that Gerrans was able to emulate the achievements of his mentor, Phil Anderson who won the Tour of Denmark in 1988.
"Not only is this my first stage race win in Europe but it's also the first of Phil's palmarès I've been able to replicate," he said.
The 31-year-old's next race is the GP Plouay later this month, which he won in 2009.
- Article published:
- August 8, 2011, 02:36
- Pierre Carrey
Katusha rider says his "mental problems" are over
The Vuelta a Espana might be a new start for Alexandr Pliuschin. For his second grand tour start after last year's Tour de France, the Moldavian Champion seems to be indeed relaxed and self confident.
"We will have a very strong team at the Vuelta", he told Cyclingnews. "My main goal is to support our leader Joaquin Rodriguez as far as possible and offer him the best possibilities to win the race."
Twenty-four-year-old Pliuschin, recalled he felt very stressed up until one year ago and struggled in his career's management: "I have had some mental problems."
A vice-World Champion in time trial and Classique des Alpes winner in 2005, as a Junior, Pliuschin didn't shine in his first two pro seasons with AG2R-La Mondiale in 2008 and 2009. He says: "When you are strong in juniors and can't race at the same level once you've turned professional, when you have some crashes, it's not so easy..."
A newcomer to Katusha in 2010, he started feeling better but still faced "adaptation problems" in the first six months.
"The team - Andrei Tchmil, the staff, the other riders - gave me a lot of support", Pliushin confided. "They say I should take it easy and take it year by year."
"Now I feel much better, with no stress.”
As a result of this new start in his career, Pliuschin came third in July, on Tour of Austria's stage 4 to St.Johann/Alpendorf. Early August he showed himself in three breakaways at the Tour of Poland, exhibiting his blue, yellow and red national jersey (that he wears for the third time in four years).
"I'm in a good shape", he said. "I did a long training camp in the mountains before, so I miss a bit of freshness but I try to reach my best level for the Vuelta".
Pliushin seems to have accepted his domestique's position in the team. "One day I hope I can do well in big races, but now I can help my leaders on Classics or stage races".
An all-rounder, Moldavian notably won the Under-23 Tour of Flanders, in 2007.
To explain his good feeling with Katusha, Pliuschin not only praised the careful attitude of his staff but the Eastern atmosphere too. Although Katusha is obviously a very political project with Russian funds, which decided for example to have a 100 per cent Russian roster on the last Tour de France, the Moldavian representative says he "is in the same situation as a Russian. Everybody is equal in the team."
- Article published:
- August 8, 2011, 03:07
- Jane Aubrey
Veteran signs two-year deal with Bannan project
Stuart O'Grady is the latest recruit for Shayne Bannan's GreenEdge project, the veteran signing a two-year deal with the squad hopeful of gaining a UCI ProTour licence for 2012 and beyond.
In a statement provided by the team, O'Grady said that it was an opportunity a long time in the making:
"To ride for an Australian team has been a dream of mine since I turned pro way back in 1995. I wasn't sure such a team would come around before I retired but I'm glad it has," he said.
"I've been racing for a long time and seen the evolution of Australian cycling from guys like Phil Anderson, Neil Stephens and Patrick Jonker to myself as part of the generation that followed and now we've got an impressive group of young riders coming through.
"For a country where cycling is a relatively small sport the progress in such a short period of time has been incredible."
The project's financial backer, Gerry Ryan told The Australian last week that: "Stuey has wanted to be a part of this project since we first went public with wanting to put a team at the Tour de France, back in Adelaide last January."
O'Grady spent five seasons with Saxo Bank before moving to Leopard Trek for the 2011 season, along with many of his teammates including the Schleck brothers, Fabian Cancellara and Jens Voigt. The South Australian said that such long-term relationships made the decision to join Bannan at GreenEdge a difficult one.
"I've spent quite a few years supporting the Schleck brothers [Frank and Andy] at the Tour de France and Fabian [Cancellara] in the classics and doing that job alongside Jens Voigt we've been like a family. It's been a privilege racing with those guys and leaving Leopard-Trek to join GreenEdge has been the hardest decision of my career," the South Australian said.
The 2007 Paris-Roubaix winner is the perfect fit for the team in its inaugural seasons with Bannan indicating that GreenEdge would be best-placed to focus on the Classics.
"Perhaps in four or five years we'd like to develop into a stage race team, but I think it's important to be realistic about the whole process," the general manager told Cyclingnews earlier this year.
Today's news follows the announcement last week that GreenEdge had secured the services of Jack Bobridge, along with Cameron and Travis Meyer from Garmin-Cervelo, and multiple African champion Daniel Teklehaymanot. Bannan said that O'Grady's experience will prove to be a valuable asset to some of the younger members of the team.
"He can teach our guys stuff on the road that simply can't be communicated from the team car sitting behind the peloton," he explained.
"And you don't stay at the top end of any sport for as long as Stuart has without doing something right. He won a silver medal at the Olympics in 1992 when Travis Meyer and Jack Bobridge were only three-years-old so there's a lot he can teach our younger guys."
It's a role that the man himself plans to relish.
"There'll be a lot of young guys on the squad and Shayne [Bannan] understands the need to have someone to guide them," O'Grady said.
"There's no point having the biggest and shiniest ship in the ocean if you don't have a captain to steer it and I've think I bring plenty of experience at steering the ship."
- Article published:
- August 8, 2011, 07:24
- Kirsten Frattini
American unsure of his future
Craig Lewis was in disbelief when he learned that his HTC-Highroad squad was disbanding at the end of this season. His reaction was on par with many who were shocked that the long-standing number one-ranked team in the world was unable to secure a financial backer or a future in professional cycling.
"How can a team with so many victories from so many different riders over the last four years not find a backer?" Lewis told Cyclingnews. "The sport is obviously poorly viewed among almost every major company in the world. I just don't understand why."
HTC-Highroad, run by Bob Stapleton, won close to 500 races in its four-year existence. However, despite there being some very dedicated sponsors within the cycling industry, dollars are spread thin and the battle continues for teams to find funding each year.
"One would think that when the number one team, as far as victories, goes onto the open market that each and every one of them would be at the top of the list of every director," Lewis said. "I hope this is the case."
Lewis alluded to part of the problem being the sport's more recent doping scandal with widely publicized investigations such as the Telekom and Festina affairs, Oil for Drugs, Operacion Puerto along with Food and Drug Administration's Jeff Novitzky's current investigation into the former US Postal team, among others. However, he noted that cycling is one of the only sports that is trying to clean itself up.
"Sure there are the doping stories, but at least this sport is doing something about it," Lewis said. "I still feel the return on investment is massive in cycling, and I wish corporations would start to see that again. A lot can be done, and with the sport in the position it is in currently, now is the time to build back up."
HTC-Highroad ended its final Tour de France with Mark Cavendish dominating the sprint stages and winning the green jersey. Lewis believes that the disbanding of HTC-Highroad will provide for a more balanced racing and tactics amongst the peloton.
"I think there will be a bit of a shift in the racing next year," Lewis said. "Maybe more balanced out. Mark Cavendish and HTC were always forced to do all of the work on sprint days. With HTC gone, a lot of teams will be even as far as putting in the necessary work to win races now. Cav's team will still be looked to, but will it be as strong and as successful as HTC was? Only time will tell."
As for Lewis, he is current recovering from a broken left leg and will not be able to compete in the upcoming Tour of Utah with his HTC-Highroad teammates. News of the team folding came as another blow to the rider, who is unsure if he will find a contract elsewhere next season. He will next compete at the two WorldTour events Grand Prix Cycliste Quebec and Montreal in September.
"I am personally in a tough position as I am not currently racing," Lewis said. "I need the directors to see how well I race during the Giro d'Italia, and the events before that, to know that I will be a huge contribution to their team in 2012 and beyond. Not an easy task in the ‘what have you done lately' world."
- Article published:
- August 8, 2011, 10:14
- Cycling News
UnitedHealthcare rider completely recovered after crash at Nature Valley GP
Any question marks over Hilton Clarke’s (UnitedHealthCare) form going into the Tour of Elk Grove were well and truly answered as the Australian powered to victory on the third and final stage in Chicago.
The Tour of Elk Grove was Clarke’s first race back since suffering a separated shoulder in June at the Nature Valley Grand Prix.
"It feels great to be back, I separated my shoulder seven weeks ago and I thought Elk Grove might be a race that I could be ready for," said Clarke. "It is a favorite race of mine and I trained and trained for it. My shoulder felt good this weekend. I just wanted to pick up where I left off, jump back in with my teammates and make a difference. Yesterday it all clicked and I knew I was going to have a good one tonight."
Clarke, a former overall winner at Elk Grove, praised the work of the UnitedHealthCare ‘blue train’ after another textbook lead-out.
"The guys raced so great today and they took me to 50 meters to go and I finished the deal," said Clarke. "This has been a great weekend of racing for us, especially to deliver two stage wins, it’s very special."
Team Director Eric Greene was also happy to see Clarke back to winning ways after his injury absence from the team.
"We're proud of Hilton. To see him get the win tonight was great," said Greene. "One thing is for sure, he left no doubt in anyone's mind that his shoulder is healthy and he is back."
- Article published:
- August 8, 2011, 10:48
- Daniel Benson
Quick Step manager claims Van Den Broeck has a contract with BCC
Patrick Lefevere has not ruled out signing both Philippe Gilbert and Jurgen Van den Broeck for the 2012 season. The riders’ futures have been cast in doubt following the announcement that Omega-Pharma and Quick Step are to merge next season, while confusion reigns over contractual rights. Both riders had signed contracts running into 2012 with the current Omega Pharma-Lotto team management company BCC, who will manage Omega Pharma-Quickstep in 2012.
Gilbert has been heavily linked with BMC and Cyclingnews understands that at least one of his key domestiques has already signed for the American team, paving the way for a transfer. However BCC and Omega Pharma manager Geet Coeman have held firming, telling the Belgian press last week that Gilbert had a deal for next year. Coeman told Het Laatse Nieuws: "Gilbert was a free agent if the team ceased to exist, but we are continuing."
Patrick Lefevere has told Cyclingnews that the merger between his current Quick Step team and Omega has been moving in the right direction but that the final make up of the squad would depend on how Gilbert’s case was resolved.
“The merger is going well,” he told Cyclingnews.
“Gilbert’s future all depends on what happens in the coming weeks. In the next week or two a lot more will happen and things will be a lot clearer. I don’t know where he’ll be next season and he has said there are a number of options and we’re hoping that we’re one of them. Honestly though, it looks like it’s between us and BMC.”
“We have 27 riders this year and I think 7 or 8 will be without contracts.”
Lefevere also told Cyclingnews that Jurgen Van Den Broeck was in a similar situation to Gilbert in that he too had a contract with BCC for 2012. It had previously been reported that Jurgen Van Den Broeck wanted to remain with Lotto, who are building their own team after their split with Omega Pharma. However Lefevere admitted that he was still in the market for a stage race rider. Van den Broeck finished fifth overall in the 2010 Tour de France but crashed out of this year's race.
“Why not Van Den Broeck? I don’t think he has a contract with Lotto. That’s what his manager told me. He had a contract with BCC but that’s the contract that runs us. I’ll sit down with his manager later this week,” Lefevere said.
The expereinced Flemish team manager revealed that the deal between Quick Step and Omega Pharma will run for two years, although Omega Pharma had originally pushed for four. The deal does have an option for a two-year extension.
“It was clear that Lotto wanted to start a new team with a strategy more focused on young riders and Belgian riders and Omega Pharma wanted something else," Lefevere said. "The first time we spoke it was because the manager of Gilbert pushed us together because he had a contract. That was before the Tour but for one or another reason we couldn’t find an agreement and they were talking with other companies like Leopard, HTC and Vacansoleil.”
- Article published:
- August 8, 2011, 12:13
- Cycling News
42-year-old Spaniard retires after Vuelta snub
Spain’s Iñigo Cuesta has announced his retirement after racing for 18 seasons as a professional.
The 42-year-old finished his home stage race, the Vuelta a Burgos, on Sunday and has decided to hang up his wheels after his Caja Rural team was not awarded a wild card invitation to the Vuelta Espana. Cuesta lead home a small group of riders at the summit finish at Areniscas de los Pinares and smiled as he crossed the line. He finished 44th overall, 15:09 behind winner Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha).
Last year he started a record 17th consecutive Vuelta Espana and was given the honour of racing with race number one as recognition of his longevity.
“It was a real blow not to get a ride in this year’s Vuelta and when I heard it killed off my motivation,” Cuesta told Marca.
During his long career, Cuesta rode for ONCE, Linda McCartney, Cofidis, Saunier Duval, CSC, Cervelo TestTeam and Caja Rural. Records show he won just three races during his long career: the Tour of the Basque Country in 1998, a stage at the Dauphine Libere in 2000 and a stage at the Volta a Catalunya in 2005. However he was a valued mountain domestique and dedicated himself to helping the likes of Alex Zulle, Ivan Basso and Carlos Sastre during his years as a trusted domestique.
“Each of my team leaders were different but special,” he said. “I have some special memories from each of my 18 seasons but winning the Tour of Basque Country was a great moment.”
Cuesta has yet to decide what he will do after retirement and may stay in the sport.
“After 18 years, I still love cycling,” he said.