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First Edition Cycling News, Monday, February 13, 2012

Date published:
February 13, 2012, 0:00 GMT
  • Vink's horror year at altitude firmly behind him as he renews chase for Pro dream

    Michael Vink celebrates victory in the RaboDirect national Road Cycling Championships in Christchurch.
    Article published:
    February 12, 2012, 23:00 GMT
    Alex Hinds

    20-year-old New Zealander hopeful Belgian stint will bear fruit

    He’s broken national records in every junior age group he’s raced in, won a handful of national titles and recently finished ahead of the elite field at the 2012 New Zealand championships, but 20-year-old Michael Vink is still yet to break into the elite ranks of professional cycling.

    A frustrating year with Trek-Livestrong, that helped launch the career of countryman George Bennett, proved far less fruitful for Vink who struggled to adapt to the American squad’s base at altitude in Boulder, Colorado, making his 2011 almost a complete write-off.

    "I had blood tests before I left [NZ] and after I came back," said Vink to Cyclingnews. "Despite living at altitude all season, my body had never adapted – my blood levels were the same.

    "It was obvious all year that I wasn’t right, and by the time the season was finished I sort of realised what was wrong. By then I couldn’t do anything about it."

    But in a new season and a new year, a composed Vink has his eyes still firmly set on "getting the results he needs". Though the Livestrong chapter of his career is now closed, his pursuit of that elusive contract remains as stubbon as ever.

    "I’ve always been motivated by the challenge. Whatever I’ve done I’ve wanted to be the best I can, and for cycling that means turning professional. So that’s always been the goal."

    To that end, Vink, who also has Dutch heritage, will ride in Belgium this year with the amateur VL Technics team where he hopes to make inroads in the UCI 1.2 races the team will be competing in. The Beverbeek Classic is the first on his calendar, and one the young talent believes he can do well in while he is carrying the southern hemisphere's summer form still in the legs.

    Belgium, he hopes will...

  • New look team for An Post-Sean Kelly in 2012

    The An Post Sean Kelly team plans its strategy.
    Article published:
    February 13, 2012, 1:20 GMT
    Cycling News

    Top riders retained, while young riders bring freshness to outfit

    The line-up for the 2012 An Post-Sean Kelly Cycling team was revealed in Brussels on Thursday, with an 18-man team announced, that includes 10 new signings.

    Team manager Kurt Bogaerts is excited about the squad he has put together and the fact the team has kept several of their top riders that they expected

    "I think the squad looks very strong this year. We were able to keep riders like Bagdonas and McNally, who had done enough to make the next step up to the Pro Tour. However, circumstances changed and although I was disappointed they didn’t get their move it means we retained two good riders."

    There will be a strong Irish contingent once again as Mark Cassidy, Sam Bennett and Ronan McLaughlin have all been re-signed, as well as a permanent return to the side for Connor McConvey who re-joined the setup at the end of last season. Talented young Irish rider Sean Downey has also penned a one year deal with the team.

    "My first few weeks with the team have been really enjoyable. We had a couple of great training camps in Calpe and then racing in the Etoile De Besseges last week was a tough, but good experience. I’m hungry for more of these opportunities to show what I can do," Downey said.

    2011 An Post Rás victor and Tour of Britain stage winner Gediminas Bagdonas has been retained by the team after a proposed move to the ProTour fell through. While Liverpudlian Mark McNally has also inked a new one-year deal following the collapse of his move to Europcar. Jonathan Bellis links up with the team after his stint with Saxo Bank finished at the end of last year.

    "We had an excellent year in 2011 with some outstanding results and I expect us to be at that level again this season," added Bogaerts. "We have made plenty of new signings with a lot of talented young riders coming on board, so for some it will be a case of developing them...

  • Schedule change opens up Langkawi return for Serpa

    Jose Serpa and Androni Giocattoli manager Gianni Savio.
    Article published:
    February 13, 2012, 9:03 GMT
    Cycling News

    Tour regular set to join formidable looking Androni team in Malaysia

    As a result of the cancellation of two Italian races, the Giro di Sardegna and the Giro del Friuli, Colombia’s José Serpa has had a change of program that will see him return to Malaysia to take part in his pet race, the Tour de Langkawi, from February 24 to March 4.

    Serpa debuted as professional in Langkawi back in 2006, and has been a regular of the 2.HC race ever since. His greatest success came in 2009 when after four attempts he finally took out the overall victory. Team manager Gianni Savio said that the forced change in Serpa's program was perhaps a blessing in allowing the climber to return to the race that has given him so much success.

    "Serpa was initially scheduled for these two Italian races following his results last year: he finished 2nd in the Sardegna and won the Giro del Friuli," said Savio.

    "It's funny though, the Tour de Langkawi organisation have done me a favour because it gives me the opportunity to send Serpa to Malaysia once more. I’m delighted to add José to our line-up in a race that is close to both his and my heart."

    Serpa will join previous winners, José Rujano and Yonatta Monsalve in the squad, creating a formidable line-up.

    "As always, we’ll do our best to honor the race but we’ll have to be even more attentive of what our rivals will be doing in the flat stages [with only one Mountain day in this year's race," said Savio. "Tactically, I think it won’t be easy."

    Serpa recently completed the Tour de San Luis where he finished 6th (5th after the Contador decision).

  • Tiernan-Locke: I could have won on Mont Faron

    Tour Méditerranéen champion Jon Tiernan-Locke (Endura Racing)
    Article published:
    February 13, 2012, 9:58 GMT
    Hedwig Kröner

    Endura Racing rider overjoyed with overall victory

    Jonathan Tiernan-Locke scored the biggest victory of his career so far at this weekend's Tour Méditerranéen. He won the first and final stages as well as general classification. The leader of his British Endura Racing team finished off the French stage race by blasting away at the foot of the final climb, the Col de Gardes.

    "To take this victory at the beginning of the season is definitely a morale boost for me and for the team. it makes people believe in what you can do," Tiernan-Locke told Cylingnews on Monday morning.

    Racing alongside several WorldTour and Professional Continental teams, the 27-year-old and his Continental team could have been intimidated going into the final stage, but the British rider saw no reason not to ride at the front of the bunch, looking for the best possible position ahead of the last ascent.

    "It was a real fight to the base of the climb, also because the route had changed. A lot of guys weren't sure of the difficulty of the final climb, so everybody wanted to be in front. It was almost like a lead-out for a sprint into the final climb! My whole team was fighting to keep me out of the wind and up front," he continued.

    "As a small team, you have to fight hard for a placing in the peloton, and that was definitely the case yesterday. It's normal: Endura Racing is just a small team compared to the WorldTour teams."

    With his victory, Tiernan-Locke felt that he had finally had the chance to make a name for himself. "Yes, I think so. I've only raced WorldTour teams three times in my life, twice in the Tour of Britain and now this. In Britain last year, I made the most of it [finishing fifth overall and taking the...

  • Omega Pharma-Quick Step wanted to sign Cavendish for 2012

    World champion Mark Cavendish (Team Sky) wins stage 3
    Article published:
    February 13, 2012, 10:54 GMT
    Cycling News

    Manxman went to British team instead of following DS Holm

    Brian Holm brought six riders from HTC-Highroad over to Omega Pharma-Quick Step, but one of the biggest names didn't make the jump with him.  The Belgian team wanted to sign World champion Mark Cavendish, but the British connection proved too strong.

    “We  tried with Mark Cavendish, but there was so much pressure from England from the British Olympic Committee and Sky , that it was impossible to pick him up,” team manager Patrick Lefevere told the Jyllands-Posten newspaper.

    Holm was ready for a new challenge after the demise of the US-based HTC-Highroad team, and his contacts to the riders was one of the reasons Lefevere was so eager to have the Dane as a sport director. “He was important for me so that I could get people like Tony Martin into the team. Brian was the first who came and then was followed by the riders,” Lefevere said.

    In all, six riders came over with Holm from HTC-Highroad: World time trial champion Tony Martin, Peter and Martin Velits, Bert Grabsch, Frantisek Rabon and Matthew Brammeier.

    Holm had too much of a good thing at HTC-Highroad. The team simply won too much. “We won between 50 and 80 races a year and when we did not win, it was a bad day. I sensed that it could not go on like that. There should be something new. We were all spoiled all,” he said.

     “I would be lying if I said that it has not been good for my motivation. I had been at T-Mobile since 1993, and now there are new challenges. It's fun to try something new and have a completely different setup.”

    He added that “Quick Step is the last team I would have mentioned, if you had asked me a...

  • 2012 GP Herning cancelled

    Podium (L-R): Michael Reihs (Team Designa Kokken), René Jørgensen (Team Designa Køkken) and Allan Johansen (Team Designa Kokken). Photo ©: Kenneth Møller Kristensen/
    Article published:
    February 13, 2012, 11:27 GMT
    Cycling News

    Danish organiser lacks sponsor, GP Himmerland also in difficulty

    The Grand Prix Herning, Denmark's biggest one-day race, has been cancelled. Due to the lack of a sponsor, the UCI Cat. 1.1 event - which would have this year celebrated its 20th edition - will not take place, Danish website reported.

    The Europe Tour race was scheduled for April 28. "But there have been no financials to it because we have not found a sponsor. We have not had one in the past two years and it has cost the club money. And we have no desire for more," Herning bike club representative Frank Hyldgaard told, however hoping that the race will take place agin in 2013.

    The GP Himmerland, which should be carried out on April 29, could also experience some difficulties as teams would be less likely travel to Denmark only for one event, instead of two.

    Finally, the Danish national team for the Worlds could see its number of riders reduced as calculated that more than 20 percent of the UCI points needed for a 6-man team had been gained at the GP Herning last year.

  • Saxo Bank show support for Contador

    Kisses for Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank)
    Article published:
    February 13, 2012, 12:02 GMT
    Peter Cossins

    Uses banned team leader to promote their services in L’Equipe ad

    Saxo Bank have shown their support for Alberto Contador by using the Spaniard to promote their online banking services in an advert that appeared in Sunday’s edition of L’Equipe. The full-page ad featured Contador on the verge of taking a stage win with a huge smile on his face and framing the Saxo Bank name on his jersey. The slogan across the image reads: “Opportunities often present themselves in times of crisis.”

    Further down the page, the Danish bank’s ad reads: “We support clients in their moments of success and also of difficulty, and this is equally valid for our riders.”

    There was also support for Contador closer to home. More than 2,000 people joined a demonstration in his hometown of Pinto, south of Madrid. Many wore masks and took up the chant, “We’re all Alberto Contador!” Early in the afternoon, the man himself made an appearance after returning from his training ride. He thanked the demonstrators for their support.

    There was also a much smaller demonstration in Valladolid. Around a 100 cyclists carried banners showing their support for Contador, including Vuelta a Castilla y León organiser José Luis López Cerrón, who bought the much-debated steak that Contador ate the night before his positive test.

    Many others have also expressed their support for Contador in a variety of ways. Pinto’s football team has changed its team strip to pink and yellow colours to honour the Spaniard’s 2011 Giro and 2010 Tour victories, which have been stripped as a result of his ban. Pinto’s council has passed a resolution declaring the town’s support for its most famous son.

  • Farrar in classics state of mind at Tour of Oman

    Stage 4 was a frustrating day for Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Barracuda) as he flatted inside the final 5km and finished 14 seconds behind Boonen..
    Article published:
    February 13, 2012, 13:27 GMT
    Barry Ryan

    American on sprinting and media expectations

    A full complement of sprinters line up on Tuesday for the Tour of Oman, but while Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Barracuda) is among their number, the American admitted that at this point of the season his mindset is that of a classics rider rather than a pure fastman.

    Based in Ghent and a fluent Flemish speaker, Farrar is equally proficient at negotiating the nuances of training in his adopted homeland. He understands that the slate grey days of the Belgian midwinter are better suited to tempering one’s steel for the cobbled classics rather than sharpening speed for the bunch sprints. That said, Farrar surprised himself by marrying sharpness to endurance at last week’s Tour of Qatar, where finished a solid second overall.

    “I’ve done very little sprint training, so I didn’t expect to be flying there. Now after Qatar, hopefully it’ll be a little bit better,” Farrar told Cyclingnews in Bandar Jissah on Monday. “But living where I live in winter, it’s not realistic to really be doing a lot of sprint training. I’ve been focused on my power and on being ready for the classics. The sprint will come around in the next few months, and once we get through Paris-Roubaix, then I’ll focus 100% on the sprint training."

    Over the years, racing in the Arabian Peninsula in February has slowly become an essential part of the classics contender’s preparation. Alternatives may not be lacking on the Old Continent, but Farrar pointed out that this year’s extreme weather in Europe meant that coming to Qatar and Oman was even more important than normal.

    “If you...