- Article published:
- December 30, 2012, 15:03
- Alasdair Fotheringham
Basque squad signs foreign riders for first time in team history
Samuel Sanchez has said that the Euskaltel team had no choice but to break with its 18 year history and sign a number of riders with no links whatsoever to Basque cycling for 2013. Sanchez hopes the new arrivals will help spark a ‘change of mentality’ in the team.
Until now only riders born in the Basque Country or with strong links as an amateur rider, as was the case for Sanchez (born in Asturias but whose formative years as a cyclist were in Euskadi), were allowed to sign for Euskaltel. In 2013 the team will include eight foreign riders, ranging from Greek Ioannis Tamouridis to Africa Tour 2012 winner Tarik Chaqufi of Morocco, who have signed for the orange-clad squad along with Spaniards Jon Aberasturi (Orbea), Gari Bravo (Caja Rural) and Juanjo Lobato (Andalusia).
Sanchez explained to Spanish newspaper MARCA that although the team will stay faithful to its Basque roots, the new signings were “something we had to do if we wanted to stay in the WorldTour.”
“[Sponsor] Euskaltel wanted to be part of the top cycling league and Igor [Gonzalez de Galdeano, team manager] has achieved that. There’s nothing to criticise, because the foundation of the team is still formed by Basque riders or who raced as amateurs there, like me,” he said.
Sanchez says that he feels a change of direction was necessary in the team’s overall strategy.
“The WorldTour is very demanding and we have to change our mentality and race like a top-flight team, which is what we are in the WorldTour. We have to race to win and if not then remember that second, third and fourth places are also very important.”
Sanchez himself had four weeks off the bike after the Tour of Beijing before starting to build his form for the 2013 season, mixing intensive bouts of gym work with training rides. Although his crash in the Tour de France and subsequent injuries stopped his defense of his Olympic title, followed by another bad crash and abandon on stage three of the Tour de Poitou-Charantes in late August , Sanchez insists that his 2012 season was as bad as many believe.
In the first part of the year, the Euskaltel veteran secured an overall victory in the Tour of the Basque Country as well as a stage win and second place in the Volta and seventh in the Amstel Gold Race and Liege-Bastogne-Liege. And with a second place in the Tour of Lombardy to round off the year, it could have ended a lot worse, too.
“After my second fall [in August in Poitou-Charantes] I wouldn’t have bet a single euro on me making it to the World’s and helping Valverde get a medal,” Sanchez said, “so I can’t complain.”
“I was going very well in the Tour de France, but I do recognise I didn’t have the form to win it. [Bradley] Wiggins [Sky] and [Chris] Froome [Sky] were both superior to the rest. What I was after was a top five result, to be in the fight for the podium.”
“Losing my chance to race the Games, though” - where Sanchez would have defended his gold medal from Beijing - “was my biggest disappointment. I had a lot of interest in that because the Games only come round once every four years.”
Sanchez, now 34, still has another three years signed with Euskaltel but when asked if he thinks of pulling down the curtain on his career in Rio’s Olympics he says it feels “a long way off. But [Alexandre] Vinokourov turned 39 just after winning in London, so why not?”
For next season, nothing yet is decided, with Sanchez only making a final choice when the Vuelta route is published on January 12th. The Giro, though, remains a possibility: “I haven’t won a stage or finished on the podium there yet, and even if it does not happen next year, I’ll be sure to try for one in the next three,” he predicted.
- Article published:
- December 30, 2012, 20:36
- Cycling News
Canadian finds a home after Spidertech ends
The Belgian Pro Continental team Accent.Jobs-Wanty today announced the signing of former Canadian road champion Will Routley. The 29-year-old was in the market after his Spidertech squad announced earlier in the year that it would not field a team in 2013.
Routley joins other new arrivals Davy Commeyne (Landbouwkrediet-Euphony), who will debut the team's new kit in the cyclo-cross race in Baal, Belgium on January 1, Jans Roy (An Post Sean Kelly) and sprinter Danilo Napolitano (Acqua e Sapone). Also new to the team are former trainees Benjamin Verraes and Tim De Troyer.
Routley was Canadian champion in 2010, but has since scored top results in Europe, including a second place in the 2011 Tro-Bro Léon and third on a stage of the Ruta del Sol this year. He was ninth overall in the Tour of Turkey.
He made news in November by writing an impassioned essay about dopers, condemning the decisions of the riders who were revealed as cheaters by the US Anti-Doping Agency's investigation into the US Postal Service team, including his compatriot Michael Barry.
- Article published:
- December 31, 2012, 01:24
- Cycling News
Team Bikebug looking like real contenders for overall series honours
Young sprint sensation Caleb Ewan understands that a repeat of his results at last year's Bay Crits will be difficult to replicate. The Sydney-born 18-year-old won two stages in the four-race series and finished second overall - to eventual winner Allan Davis. This time around Ewan will join Saxo-Tinkoff's Jonathan Cantwell in the Bikebug squad for this year's Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic.
"It will be harder this year I'm sure," Ewan said.
"No 17-year-old would go down to the Bay Crits expecting to win. My goal last year was to stay in the race and not get dropped as that's what happened to me the year before, so I certainly went better than expected."
Ewan most recently won a silver medal for Australia in the under-19 road race at the UCI World Championships in Valkenburg and vented his frustration on the line. Coming into the first races of the year, it's expected he'll be vying for victory if the opportunity presents itself.
Cantwell announced he will remain with the WorldTour squad for 2013 but not before contesting the three-day series, reduced from four in the previous edition with former Rapha-Condor rider Richard Lang and upcoming track rider Jack Edwards filling the final spots on the team.
Edwards is part of the New South Wales Institute of Sport and impressed the field at the two-day NSW Grand Prix in early December at Cronulla and Wollongong. The powerful 16-year-old, who will turn 17 in the middle of 2013, may prove to be a valuable teammate at the Bay Crits.
"Since he's stepped up to Under 19's Jack has been going really well. He told me he was beating Glenn O'Shea and Archibald from New Zeland down in Tassie and they both went to the Olympics. He's big and strong and has a good kick. We'll see who's going the best after the first stage and then work for them."
"We have a pretty good team this year," said Ewan of his team which has a perfect mix of youth and experience.
Ewan will ride the Bay Crits, starting on January 1 before refocusing on his first attempt and the U23 Australian National Championships. The nimble sprinter is a good chance for the criterium title - while also looking to contest the road race in the preceding days.
"For me this year is a stepping stone to the nationals. I was too young to ride it last year, so could concentrate on the Bay Crits. Still, I'd like to win the hotdog circuit in Geelong."
- Article published:
- December 31, 2012, 03:47
- Cycling News
UCI president says Lance Armstrong will be forgotten
UCI president Pat McQuaid has blamed "mischievous" reporting behind many of the accusations and allegations that have been directed towards himself and the sport's governing body. McQuaid reportedly believes he has done everything possible in the fight against doping and that while the UCI has introduced many measures to combat doping, the landscape is constantly changing.
The UCI has been somewhat on the back foot when it comes to anti-doping measures however, McQuaid told The Irish Examiner that nothing more could be done to catch the former seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong.
"The UCI tested Armstrong and his team so many times, it was always negative," said McQuaid to The Irish Examiner.
"WADA [World Anti-Doping Agency] tested him, always negative, USADA [US Anti-Doping] tested him, always negative. AFLD [French National Doping Agency] tested him, always negative, CONI [Italian Olympic Committee] tested him, always negative.
"So the fact that the results were always negative, you ask could more have been done? No it couldn't, simple as that.
"There's been a lot of that as time goes on; the UCI introduces new tests and then the landscape changes," McQuaid added.
"We're not a police force. My attitude since day one is ‘do whatever it takes'. I don't see any reason why I should step down, to let somebody in [who] maybe doesn't know as much, or is as capable, or isn't as passionate, or as dedicated. I think I am the best man."
In the extended interview with McQuaid, the Irishman reaffirmed his stance that he would not be resigning from the position he's held at the top of the UCI since 2006. Further to his refusal to step down, McQuaid pointed-out former professional and journalist Paul Kimmage for having a "personal vendetta" against him while also noting "michevious" reporting behind many of the accusations directed towards his role.
"I've done nothing to warrant resigning. All I've done since I became president is fight doping as best I could. All I've done is fight doping, promote the sport, working 365 days of the year for the sport," he said.
"It's a personal vendetta he's got against me and the only way he can pull me down is to associate me very closely with my predecessor Hein Verbruggen, doping and Lance Armstrong," said McQuaid regarding Kimmage.
"That's the only way he can see to bring me down. This year hasn't been easy for me. It's been difficult and I've put up with a huge amount of criticism, most of which is unjustified but that's the way the media operate."
The independent commission charged with investigating the UCI in the wake of the USADA Reasoned Decision was also on the President's list of gripes, firing back at suggestions he was involved in setting the reference terms for the report.
"The next step is seeing what the independent commission come up with," said McQuaid. "But, by the way, there's more mischievous reporting there. That commission was set up to investigate us and how we handled the Lance affair.
"There's been mischievous statements coming out from the likes of Jaime Fuller saying the UCI set the terms of reference and gave them to the commission - the UCI did not set the terms, the commission themselves set the terms of reference.The first I saw the terms of reference was an hour before they went public by the commission!"
McQuaid has a strong belief the sport of professional cycling will move forward, citing the damning light shed on Armstrong's US Postal and Discovery Channel team days as something which will be eventually forgotten.
"There's nothing to hide from my point of view. I do believe, either way, come 2013, Lance will be forgotten anyway. The sport will move on."
"Look at Wiggins this year. I think the sport is in a very good position. Cycling shouldn't be judged on the Lance Armstrong story. It should be judged on the Olympic Games. 1.5 million people for the road race, the Velodrome was the hottest in terms of atmosphere. The BMX was hugely successful, the mountain biking was hugely successful. The sport is in a great place and is growing.
"So I don't think this is going to have any huge negative effect on the sport. Things are going in the right direction."
With numerous teams and sponsors pulling out of the sport and disassociating themselves from cycling, it may take some time for everyone to forget the years of Armstrong's reign.
- Article published:
- December 31, 2012, 10:52
- Cycling News
Italian ready to take on Wiggins and Nibali in May
Ivan Basso has put his disappointing 2012 season behind and is convinced he can be a contender in the 2013 Giro d'Italia against likely rivals Bradley Wiggins and former teammate Vincenzo Nibali.
Basso was 35 in November and has been a professional since 1999 but has cancelled his problems of 2012 and is optimistic for the new season ahead. Basso finished fifth in the Giro d'Italia but was unable to leave his mark on the race and was only 25th in the Tour de France, while helping Nibali try to take on Team Sky.
Doubts that he might be passed his best clouded Basso's summer but he bounced back to win the Japan Cup in October, giving Liquigas-Cannondale one final victory before becoming Team Cannondale in 2013.
"I'm feeling good because I ended what was a difficult season as I wanted (with a win at the Japan Cup). Things didn’t always go as I wanted in 2012. But I've stopped thinking negatively about it all and stopped trying to understand what happened," Basso confided to Gazzetta dello Sport in an end of year interview.
"(Team mnager) Roberto Amadio played a key role in my change. He's really supported me and he's given me the tranquility I need to prepare for 2013. He's taken away the need for me to make up for last season. I felt destroyed after the Giro d'Italia. I'd expected things to be very different, especially in the last three days in the mountains. But on the Stelvio I could only produce 350 watts, which is disgusting. My head was blocking my legs. I couldn't shake off the disappointment for a long time. I eventually stopped looking for reasons why it happened. Now I'm fine."
Basso was banned for his involvement in Operacion Puerto in 2007 and always avoids questions about his past. He worked closely with the late Aldo Sassi at the Mapei training centre when he came back, with Sassi convinced Basso was clean when he won the 2010 Giro d'Italia. Basso will be followed by the Team Cannondale coaching staff in 2013.
Basso has been clocking up the kilometre on his bike since his birthday on November 26 and will spend the New Year in Valencia, Spain, training with fellow veteran Stefano Garzelli.
"You can't compare the weather to where I live (Cassano Magnago, Varese) and the roads are great," Basso said. "I've also got a friend here – Stefano Garzelli – he's almost 40 but is as enthusiastic as a neo-pro."
Cannondale team leader
With Nibali moving to Astana, Basso is the team captain at Team Cannondale for stage races, with Peter Sagan and Moreno Moser leading the Italian-based team in the classics. Basso confirmed he will again target victory at the 2013 Giro d'Italia and so Nibali will become is big Italian rival.
"Nibali is a big loss because he's the Italian rider that can guarantee the best results for Italy in stage races. Now he's my number one rival. No problem, I know how to deal with it," Basso said, revealing the competitive nature that hides behind his friendly nature.
Basso never thought about leaving his current squad, feeling it is 'his' team.
There are always offers for good riders. But I've always had faith in this group of people. I don’t like to change teams often, " he said. "This team has its own soul and identity that I think I've contributed to. It feels like a taylor-made suit for me. The sponsor has changed but the team spirit is the same."
Asked to make a prediction for the best rider of 2013, Basso picked Alberto Contador for stage races and teammate Peter Sagan for the classic. However he predicted he will be a podium contender at the Giro d'Italia, throwing down the gauntlet to Wiggins and Nibali.
"The favourite for the Giro depends who else rides but it could be Wiggins or Nibali…" he said.
"But I see myself in the top three and for the others to beat me, they'll have to be at 110%."
- Article published:
- December 31, 2012, 15:45
- Cycling News
Team Sky and Omega Pharma-Quick Step most successful teams
Andre Greipel was the most successful rider of 2012, winning 19 races during the season, while Team Sky and Omega Pharma-Quick Step both racked up 51 victories.
Greipel top the rider list ahead of Peter Sagan (16 wins) and Mark Cavendish (15). Tom Boonen and Marcel Kittel both won 13 races. Bradley Wiggins was the most successful stage race rider in terms of quality and quantity, winning 12 races in 2012, while Joaquim Rodriguez won 10 races on his way to becoming the world's number one ranked rider.
Greipel has been one of the most consistently successful sprinters since moving to Team Colombia in 2008. In 2012 he again started winning sprints at the Tour Down Under in January ended his season in October with tenth place at the Münsterland-Giro in Germany. In between he won races in every month of the year except March. 'Gorilla' flexed his muscles three times at the Tour de France, winning back to back stages in Rouen and Saint-Quentin and then in Le Cap d’Agde. It was by far Greipel's best Tour thanks to the excellent work and lead to from his dedicated Lotto-Belisol teammates.
Sagan won his haul in the first half of the season, with his five stage wins at the Tour of California and four wins at the Tour de Suisse a clear sign of what was to come at the Tour de France: three stage wins and dominant victory in the green jersey points competition.
Cavendish wore the rainbow jersey with pride while at Team Sky but his tally was hit by the British team's decision to target stage races with Wiggins. Cavendish claimed he could have won more and the lack of support lead to his move to Omega Pharma-QuickStep.
His arrival at the Belgian team should mean they win even more in 2013. Omega Pharma-Quick Step dropped Levi Leipheimer after he confessed to doping earlier in his career but won races with 19 different riders in 2012.
Tom Boonen won the most, taking a Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix double after one of his best ever spring campaigns that also included wins a Ghent-Wevelgem and E3 Prijs Vlaanderen – Harelbeke. Tony Martin won the Tour of Belgium and the Tour of Beijing, and ended the year as world time trial champion. The team won nine different national titles and also celebrated becoming the first ever world champion team time trial champions.
Team Sky focused much more on stage races, with Wiggins winning Paris-Nice, the Tour of Romandie, the Critérium du Dauphiné and of course the Tour de France. Richie Porte won the Volta ao Algarve, Michael Rogers won the Bayern-Rundfahrt, while Edvald Boasson Hagen won the Tour of Norway and the GP Ouest France – Plouay classic, and Lars Petter Nordhaug won the GP de Montréal in Canada. 12 different riders won races for Team Sky in 2012.
- Article published:
- December 31, 2012, 17:19
- Cycling News
Change of schedule due to earlier illness for Belgian champion
Although Tom Boonen has recovered from a severe intestinal infection earlier in December, he will not take part in the Tour de San Luis in Argentina on January 21 as previously scheduled. According to Nieuwsblad.be he will be replaced by his new teammate Mark Cavendish.
Boonen made his start to a highly successful 2012 season in the Tour de San Luis, showing his form early with a second place in stage 2 and then capping off his trip with a win on the final stage. He then went on to win two stages and the overall classification in the Tour of Qatar and then claim a historic Tour of Flanders - Paris-Roubaix double.
Boonen fell ill in late November and was hospitalized for three days due to an infection, missing his Omega Pharma-Quickstep team building activity in Slovakia. He rejoined the squad for its training camp in Spain in mid-December, but the team decided that the time missed due to illness meant he would start his season later. He will instead head to Calpe, Spain for more training on January 2.
Cavendish and Boonen will team up for the first time in February, at the Tour of Qatar.
- Article published:
- December 31, 2012, 18:15
- Cycling News
Signs ethical code, will start Tour Down Under
The Astana team has reinstated Kazakhstan's Andrey Kashechkin after he signed the team's internal code of conduct. He will now be free to start in the Santos Tour Down Under on January 21.
The team announced the provisional suspension of Kashechkin on December 28 after he refused to sign the document, although no specifics were given regarding which provisions he objected to.
Astana is in the process of trying to improve its image, although its current incarnation escaped 2012 relatively unscathed in the doping-scandal filled year. Its only incidents this season were the suspension of Albert Contador which dated back to his 2010 Tour de France with the squad, and the arrest of French rider Remi di Gregorio in an investigation into illegal practices during his time with Astana in 2011.
The team has struggled to shed the weight of its past doping connections: in 2007, Kashechkin and now-team manager Alexandre Vinokourov both were found positive for blood transfusions, while Matthias Kessler tested positive for testosterone.
The team purportedly brought in Johan Bruyneel to clean up its image in 2008, but he is now the subject of a possible lifetime ban for organizing doping at the US Postal Service Team. That year the team sacked Vladimir Gusev for irregular blood values but avoided any doping positives.
In 2009, Bruyneel was joined in the team by Lance Armstrong, whose return from retirement brought both increased media attention and scrutiny to the squad. The French agency OCLAESP launched an investigation into syringes found in the team's waste at the Tour de France.
The investigation was eventually dropped, and Bruyneel left with Armstrong to form the RadioShack team in 2010, leaving Contador as the Astana team's sole leader for the Tour. Bad news for the team struck again when Contador was found positive for clenbuterol in a control taken on the race's second rest day.
In 2012, the US Anti-Doping Agency's investigation into Bruyneel and Armstrong revealed in shocking detail how riders skirted doping controls and continued to cheat while not testing positive, including rider testimony from the Astana team of 2009 which implicated Bruyneel and then-team doctor Pedro Celaya.
USADA's report and the Padova investigation into Dr. Michele Ferrari also cast suspicion upon riders from Astana, including Vinokourov, but the team seems to be determined to put doping behind it.
In addition to implementing a code of conduct, the Astana team has petitioned to join the Movement for a Credible Cycling (MPCC), stating that past practices in cycling "have put the reputation, image and viability of the sport at serious risk. Neither the doping practices nor the environment that served to enable them can ever be allowed to happen again.”