- Article published:
- December 11, 2011, 10:08
- Jane Aubrey
Dutchman hopes to take on mentoring role for the likes of Bobridge
Casting an eye over the GreenEdge roster, Pieter Weening's name is like a beacon at sea – a climber surrounded by men built for speed.
Aged 30, Weening made the giant leap from Dutch powerhouse Rabobank where he'd ridden since an espoir and now stands as arguably the most experienced international recruit for the WorldTour debutants.
"Rabobank is a good team, everything was always well organised and stuff like that but it was the moment to look for something else, something different, for a new motivation," Weening told Cyclingnews in Melbourne. "This is a new team so it all starts from the ground zero. You know everyone is well motivated and that's the main reason I chose GreenEdge."
Admitting to feeling stale after 11 seasons with Rabobank, if there was a hiccup in Weening's long-running relationship with the team, it came in the lead-up to the 2010 Tour de France when he didn't make the cut for the nine-man selection, leaving the Harkema-native "angry" and perplexed over management's decision. He now seems philosophical over the chain of events and denies it planted the seed of thought to move on.
"I always worked very well with Rabobank and sometimes some riders are disappointed because you have enough riders, it just so happened that I fell out of the nine riders for the Tour," he said. "Of course everybody wants to be in the Tour but I also understand that it's not possible to do every year."
The team with the 'Australian DNA' has come under scrutiny throughout the process of unveiling their roster ahead of their inaugural season, especially from local media scraping for the next Cadel Evans, the next bona fide Grand Tour winner. Where were the genuine general classification contenders for GreenEdge? The team's general manager, Shayne Bannan has remained steadfast in his approach, responding that this was a long-term project and the likes of Jack Bobridge and Cameron Meyer will fit the bill down the line. For now, the goal remains the one day classics and stage wins in Grand Tours.
So where does Weening fit in this line-up having well-and-truly burst onto the scene in 2005 with his victory over Andreas Klöden on a tough eighth stage of the Tour de France? For starters, he isn't at all concerned over the possibility that he could find himself isolated during some of the longer climbs throughout the season.
"I think there are some young riders coming up, like Jack Bobridge, so I don't think I'll be the only one," the Dutchman explains. "Also for them it's a good opportunity to learn."
Apart from Weening, the outfit's ability to tackle the larger cols of Europe remains a largely unknown and even unconsidered quantity. There is also the question of what fruits the considerable climbing talent of Daniel Teklehaymanot will bear, given the opportunity.
The 2011 season was a good one for Weening, returning to the winner's circle after a barren 2010 with victory on the 191 kilometre fifth stage between Piombino and Orvieto, claiming the maglia rosa which he'd wear for four days. In 2012, it's the Tour de France if he's "good enough" and the Vuelta a España that he's eyeing in terms of three-week epics.
Beginning his season in Mallorca in February, Weening will then move on to the Giro di Sardegna later that month before ramping things up for the stretch from Volta a Catalunya through to the Tour de Romandie.
"The biggest thing in that part of the season for me is to be good in the Ardennes, like Amstel and Liege, those are the main goals for me in the spring season."
- Article published:
- December 11, 2011, 10:54
- Cycling News
Australian broke pelvis, back, ribs in women's Giro d'Italia
Rochelle Gilmore is ready to race the Jayco Bay Classic on New Year's Day, a goal which last summer might have seemed impossible for the Australian. But the 29-year-old has fought her way back from serious injuries in a crash at the women's Giro d'Italia, which saw her learning to walk again.
Gilmore was among those going for the final sprint in the fifth stage, when she was involved in a mass crash, hitting the pavement hard with her right hip. “I got right up and rode across the finish line and sat down after the race,” she told the Sydney Morning Herald. A few minutes later, “I stood up to walk to the car, which was two or three steps away, and I couldn't.”
She was told that x-rays were negative and that she may have broken some ribs. But about a week later, things were getting worse and she returned to the hospital. There it was finally determined that she had multiple fractures of the pelvis, a small fracture in her spine, and indeed, three broken ribs.
Gilmore was told it would be six months before she could walk again, but only 20 days after the diagnosis, she was up on crutches. Miraculously, she was able to race again as early as September, and even rode in the World Championships.
Her first goal for 2012 the Jayco Bay Classic starting January 1, with the BikeExchange.com.au Dream Team. “We've won it the last three years and to be honest, if we don't win this year, we'll be really disappointed.”
Her main goal of the year, though, is the London Olympics. Surprisingly, it would be her first time. “As far as the Olympics go, this is my chance, I haven't had a chance like this where I'm in my strongest years, and the course really suits me … I'll treat this as my big chance and I'll give it everything.”
Gilmore is not just a cyclist but also a successful businesswoman. She owns the BikeExchange.com.au Dream Team, for which she rides in Australia, and is the leading force behind her European team, Team Honda.
- Article published:
- December 11, 2011, 12:29
- Cycling News
Hopes to ride Giro d'Italia on return to Saxo Bank
Anders Lund's goal for 2012 is quite simple: “I certainly would like to win my first race in the upcoming season.” Lund, who will ride for Saxo Bank next year, will look to the Giro d'Italia, starting in his homeland of Denmark, as a good possibility.
Lund, 26, told feltet.dk “The desire is there and it is certainly also in me. So although there will be many tasks during the season, it will also be a focus for me. So I simply must find my chance during the season and I will be ready to exploit it.”
He still does not know whether the Giro will be on his race calendar. “It would be really great to ride the Giro at home, but I do not yet know my program.”
The Dane had previously ridden with Saxo Bank from 2008 to 2010, before joining Leopard Trek last year. “I have come back to the team and now should just find my place. So I'm waiting to see how the managers deal with me and I must exploit the opportunities I am offered.”
It would be his fourth time at the Giro, having ridden it for Saxo Bank all three years that he was with the team. “To ride a grand tour has previously proved rewarding for me, and especially riding the Giro could give me a good base for the rest of the season.”
- Article published:
- December 11, 2011, 17:24
- Jane Aubrey
Lithuanian set to break out of the shadows of Bagdonas and Navardauskas
GreenEdge may have its fair share of sprinters heading into their debut season, but if there's one flying under the radar, it's Lithuanian Aidis Kruopis.
Shy and unassuming, the 25-year-old is not yet as well known as his compatriots Gediminas Bagdonas (An Post – Sean Kelly) and Ramunas Navardauskas (Garmin-Cervelo) but in joining GreenEdge and working under the tutelage of long-time idol Robbie McEwen, Kruopis is hoping to make his own mark in 2012.
It's Kruopis' first trip to Australia, and having spent a little over a week with his new team in Canberra, where the squad was based for bio-mechanical testing and the odd long training ride to Thredbo in the Australian Alps, he traveled to Melbourne for the team's official presentation where he spoke with Cyclingnews. The sun is out, and just down the road, there's some carollers entertaining some kids lining up to have their photo taken with Santa Claus. It's an atmosphere that appears to leave Kruopis in a near state of flux.
"It will soon be Christmas so I'd prefer it to be snowing," he said. "It's nice, it's a different culture and also the weather."
Kruopis will begin his season with the Tour of Qatar and the Tour of Oman, a sprinter's paradise.
"I've wanted to go there for a long time so it's a dream come true," he told Cyclingnews. It seems a long way from his breakthrough in 2009 when, unsigned, he took his first professional victory in Izegem in West Flanders besting a field of 268 riders. Up until then, Kruopis had followed the same path as that of Bagdonas and Navardauskas, racing for Belgian UCI Continental team Klaipeda – Splendid in 2007, before moving on to Kazakhstani outfit Ulan in 2008 , and then Lithuanian Continental squad Team Piemonte in 2009.
Kruopis shifted again in 2010, this time alone to Palmans – Cras, before eventually making the step up to the Pro Continental level this season with Landbouwkrediet. Kruopis says that the constant moving has a lot to do with looking for growth and development, much like he is looking to do with GreenEdge.
The 25-year-old even tried his hand on the pines for a while before deciding that the road was where his talents were best-suited. "I also liked that but I was in the national team for a couple of years but it's not very good," Kruopis said. "There was problems, so I quit."
Kruopis initially took up the sport of cycling at the age of 12 when his school friends dragged him along for a ride. When Cyclingnews suggests that he probably beat them, he just laughs.
In scoring his biggest victory to date in 2011, at the second stage of the Tour of Belgium in Ypres, Kruopis gained a lot of confidence in his own ability. Kruopis finished ahead of a host of top line sprinters in a bunch kick, including Andre Greipel and Tom Boonen. In a show of pure strength not unlike that of his German counterpart, it was a win that gained the attention of RadioShack, but it was GreenEdge where Kruopis believed he could make the most of burgeoning career.
"It's a really good team and it's for the sprinters so there's a good chance to [take] stage victories – for me also," he said. "It already feels like I'm part of the family. I've really enjoyed every moment so far."
His win tally for 2011 also included victories at Omloop van het Waasland – Kemzeke, Grote 1-Mei Prijs, and finally the 213 kilometre Schaal Sels.
"I will see how everything works," Kruopis said of the season ahead on the new WorldTour team. "At first I will be in the second team and will be a sprinter also but maybe later I will help [Matt] Goss for the lead-out. I don't know how I will develop.
"I just want to make myself higher from last year and to grow up a little bit and to get more experience in every way."
- Article published:
- December 11, 2011, 18:39
- Cycling News
Italian dreaming of Worlds selection
Diego Ulissi (Lampre-ISD) is aiming to continue his progress next season after a successful 2011 that saw the young Italian talent take a stage victory in his debut Giro d’Italia.
“I’m asking for another step forward from myself,” Ulissi told Gazzetta dello Sport. “I know that people expect a lot. But I must continue with calm, without disappointing and without overdoing it.”
A double junior world champion, much was expected of Ulissi when he turned professional with Lampre at the beginning of the 2010 season, but he recognised that it was an opportunity to learn.
“The first year as a professional was like being in school,” he said. “I reset everything I’d done in the underage categories and put myself at the disposition of the leaders. I covered and I helped, and all the while I looked to learn some of the secrets of the masters. Not only from Scarponi and Cunego, but also from Mori, Righi and Spezialetti, all people who live in the peloton.”
Ulissi’s second campaign in the peloton was “like university,” he continued. “I raised the standard of the quality of my races and adversaries.”
Most famously, Ulissi took Giro stage victory in Tirano after Giovanni Visconti was disqualified for impeding him in the final sprint, but the Tuscan had already been encouraged by a strong showing on the final day of Paris-Nice, when he finished second behind Thomas Voeckler.
“I was in a two-man break with Voeckler, the wrong person at the right time. Or maybe the right person at the wrong time,” he said. Overall victory in the Tour of Slovenia in June was further confirmation that the 22-year-old had adapted to live in the professional peloton. “That was thanks to Petacchi, who had made me swear to hang tough.”
Ulissi’s 2012 season will get underway on home roads in Tuscany at the GP degli Etruschi, before he fine tunes his winter preparation with a spell at altitude at Mount Etna. Like last year, he will race Paris-Nice before Milan-San Remo, and then head to the Ardennes Classics, but his Grand Tour plans have yet to be decided.
“We’ll see. It’s more likely to be the Giro than the Tour, it depends on what the leaders want to do,” he said. “I should be in the group that escorts Scarponi, either towards a pink jersey or yellow one.”
In the second half of the season, Ulissi will aim to do enough to book his spot on the Italian team for the world championships in Valkenburg. Part of Paolo Bettini’s experimental selections for the 2010 Giro del Veneto, London-Surrey Cycle Classic and the GP Prato, Ulissi’s ambitions have been scaled upwards for 2012.
“After three starts in friendly matches, I want a first team jersey,” he said.
- Article published:
- December 11, 2011, 20:16
- Cycling News
Valkenburg course suited to brothers' talents
In spite of the high-profile reinforcements made by both teams ahead of the 2012 season, Andy Schleck does not believe that there will be any particular rivalry between his RadioShack-Nissan squad and the star-studded BMC team of Cadel Evans.
Philippe Gilbert, Thor Hushovd, Marco Pinotti and Tejay Van Garderen were among the BMC signings during the off-season, while the merger of Leopard Trek and RadioShack means that Johan Bruyneel has an embarrassment of riches at his disposal next year.
However, Schleck pointed out that a similar rivalry between Leopard Trek and Saxo Bank was hyped in the media last year, but in reality riders think only about winning, rather than beating any particular rivals.
“We go out there and we don’t want a match against other teams. We got asked last year a lot – ‘Do you want to beat Saxo Bank?’ No. We go there to win the race, I don’t care who’s second, if it’s one from BMC or from FDJ,” Schleck told reporters in Calpe, Spain.
While the Tour de France is the centrepiece of the Schleck brothers’ campaign, Fränk said that the world championships in Valkenburg would be their primary goal at the back end of the season. As a former winner of the Amstel Gold Race (2006), Fränk Schleck knows he has the aptitude for the Dutch course.
“I think that’s going to be a nice course for us,” he said. “It’s going to be very hard, but it’s more or less the course from Amstel, so especially with 260, 270km, that’s going to be really good for us. It’s going to be a real classic. Both of us would like to focus on Ardennes and keep some energy maybe for the last part of the season.”
- Article published:
- December 12, 2011, 04:12
- Jane Aubrey
Gudsell credits Kiwi team for developing young road talent
With New Zealand cycling at an all-time high, it wasn't beyond the realm of possibility that PureBlack Racing could indeed make it to the UCI ProTour and the Tour de France in 2015. That dream was shattered overnight with the news that the continental team does not have the funding to continue heading into the 2012 season.
The team informed riders and staff early on Saturday morning that the team would not be continuing in 2012.
PureBlack Racing rider and team manager Tim Gudsell told Cyclingnews he is "gutted" by the news, a decade into his professional career. The 27-year-old admitted he had switched off from the cycling world for the last few weeks having got married and then gone on his honeymoon, following his final race of the season The Tour of Southland. Unaware the team was facing any difficulty until he was informed at the weekend the team was closing shop, the news has come as a shock.
"So far I haven't had any real positive leads," he explained. "I don't feel ready to throw in the towel just yet. I really enjoyed racing my bike with the team. The team had success and we had a lot of success individually – at the end of the day that's why we do it, we love to win bike races. Hopefully there'll be a spot out there for me to continue doing that."
Gudsell revealed that he didn't believe any riders would be left out of pocket from the 2011 season saying that there was "nothing malicious" in the announcement and that it had simply come down to a lack of financial support.
"Tough economic conditions combined with the impact of the Rugby World Cup and the Christchurch disaster have made it a really tough year to raise funding for emerging sports like cycling and international programmes like PureBlack Racing," said Greg Cross, Business Director of PureBlack Racing in a statement released by BikeNZ.
"We have proven we have the talent, management and technical expertise. What we don't have at the moment is the financial support. This weekend we have had to tell our team that we don't have the funding in place to commit to our planned next step in 2012 at this stage and ultimately this could mean our most exciting road cycling talent will continue to be lost offshore."
Another rider from the squad affected is Australian Joe Lewis, who had only just signed with the team mid-October as his first elite ride having graduated from the Trek-LiveStrong U23 program. At the time, Lewis had several options but under the impression he had secured his future, he admits those opportunities are likely to have dried up.
"Now it's going to be hard enough to find a job, let alone a paid one," he told Cyclingnews.
"I was on such a high looking forward to the year ahead. I had a bit of a downer at the end of last year with a couple of races being canned and I thought that next year I would be good. I wouldn't have to worry about money as much, I'd be living overseas trying to learn the language and doing good races – living the dream which is what we all hope to do."
Having teamed up with Henk Vogels, Lewis had been highly motivated towards getting a result at the Tour of Langkawi – with those plans now up in the air. However, Lewis was concerned for the futures of some of the PureBlack Racing squad with whom he'd been looking forward to riding with in 2012.
"For me it's just me looking after myself, I don't have anyone to support – I feel sorry for all those guys who do. There's probably 15 to 20 guys out of a job, a lot of talented Kiwi cyclists."
PureBlack Racing was essentially filling a talent gap in New Zealand cycling, with much of the nations focus and funding going towards the track program – something Gudsell was really proud to have been a part of.
"Not everyone is a track rider and at the end of the day, road is where you make a career in cycling. We started to see that this year with PureBlack Racing," he told Cyclingnews. "We gave young guys their first opportunity."
- Article published:
- December 12, 2011, 06:02
- Cycling News
New team’s fast men go head-to-head from New Year’s Day
Fledgling UCI ProTour outfit GreenEdge will make their racing debut on January 1 at the Jayco Bay Cycle Classic with a twist to their inclusion with nine riders set to be split between two teams sure to add to the always exciting criterium series in Geelong.
The first will race as GreenEdge and will be led by defending champion, Matt Goss who narrowly took victory over Rabobank's Michael Matthews in 2011. Goss will be joined by tried and tested lead out man and former HTC-Highroad teammate Leigh Howard, six-time winner of the series Robbie McEwen, Wes Sulzberger and Mitch Docker.
"It's definitely going to be an honour to be in the first team and one of the first riders to pull on the GreenEdge jersey and create history when we go and race for the first time," Goss said at the race launch in Melbourne today.
"The team definitely wanted me to do it, and I definitely like to do it. You can really get a sense of where you are at and get a good gauge when you're racing all the best sprinters. Everyone who is going to be competitive at the Tour Down Under is competitive at the Bay Crits."
Meantime, a second squad of GreenEdge men will line up under the Mitchelton Wineries – Lowe Farms banner.
Led by 2004 Jayco Bay Cycling Classic and 2003 Tour de France green jersey winner Baden Cooke, the Mitchelton Wineries – Lowe Farm's team will turn to 2010 Commonwealth Games champion Allan Davis to match the speed of Goss and 2011 U23 time trial champion Luke Durbridge to challenge the grunt of the experienced McEwen.
World team pursuit champion Michael Hepburn will be at home at the world's fastest criterium series whilst 20-year-old Jayco-AIS rider Patrick Lane will complete the five-man team.
Race director John Trevorrow predicts the healthy rivalry will be evident from early on.
"We have all seen the camaraderie between the squad at their first team camp, but there is no doubt that when the racing starts at the Jayco Bay Cycling Classic on January 1, it will be game on," Trevorrow said.
"They are professional competitors. Robbie and Gossy I know are charged to go and I'm sure the expectation from the media and fans will add that little more to the fold.
"We know these boys want to set the winning culture for GreenEdge from the very beginning, but we are not going to make it easy for them.
"The race is really starting to take shape, and their list of challengers is building. We will have plenty of announcements in the coming weeks," Trevorrow said.
The Jayco Bay Cycling Classic, the world's fastest criterium series, will kick off the 2012 cycling calendar from Sunday 1 to Wednesday 4 of January and is the perfect opportunity for riders to polish up before the national championships in Ballarat and the Tour Down Under.
In its seventh consecutive year, Amy's Ride, a fun ride promoting mutual awareness and understanding between cyclists and motorists, will feature on Monday before stage two at the Geelong Eastern Park race. Thousands of cycling fans will band together with sporting stars and celebrities to raise money for the Amy Gillett Foundation.