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First Edition Cycling News, Monday, February 18, 2013

Date published:
February 18, 2013, 22:00
  • Evans confident for new season after good start in Oman

    Cadel Evans started his season in Oman
    Article published:
    February 18, 2013, 08:31
    By:
    Stephen Farrand

    Still recovering from virus that affected 2012 season

    Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team) was not quite able to match Chris Froome (Team Sky) and Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) on the climbs at the Tour of Oman and finished third overall at 39 seconds. But after being out of action for almost six months following a difficult 2012 season that was affected by a low-impact and therefore difficult to diagnose virus, he was rightly satisfied to the start of his 2013 campaign.

    The tough but quietly-spoken Australian has worked hard during the winter to start the new season on the front foot and show he is not yet ready for retirement, despite turning 36 on February 14.

    "I was hoping for a little bit more, but in the scheme of things and comparing to how I was last year at the Tour de France, the Olympics and in Colorado, it's a bit of a relief to be where I am now," Evans told the journalists present in Oman.

    "I'm not fully, fully, recovered but certainly enough to be back at the front. I'm a little bit away from the win but it's a good place to start and bears well for the rest of the season. I like to start the season in good shape. Not everybody does but I like to, because it puts you in a good frame of mind and puts your team in a good frame of mind."

    Evans has been accumulating energy as he waited for his body to recover from the virus. Like a coiled spring, he is now ready to bounce back.

    "I didn’t touch my bike for six weeks, and when you watch the races and see the results, and the motivation is still there, it accumulates inside you, it motivates you," he said.

    "Cycling is very intense and so some time away gives you perspective and lets you reflect about how you do your job, how you handle the physical and the mental approach, all the factors that go into your performance. The new energy helps you go back and make thinks better. Guys like Lance Armstrong and Laurent Jalabert came back as better riders after they took a break. I hope the same happens to me."

    Evans will follow a traditional race programme and build up for the Tour de France, targeting Tirreno-Adriatico, the Tour de Romandie and the Criterium du Dauphine before July.

    "I'll probably also ride the Ardennes week but I've got a particular teammate eyeing those races. But I'm happy to be a special domestique that week," he joked, indicating to Philippe Gilbert, who at the time is sat in the same room and facing a similar barrage of question from journalists in French.

    Tejay's challenge

    Evans is determined to be team leader at the Tour de France. His understudy and heir at BMC, Tejay van Garderen, stepped up when Evans struggled last year, finishing fifth and taking the best young rider's white jersey. However Evans warns the talent young American about becoming overly ambitious, reminding him, perhaps from personal experience, of the difference between winning the Tour de France and a minor prize like the white jersey.

    "Transitioning from white jersey to Tour winner in a year, that's never happened in history, has it? Ullrich aside and perhaps Merckx," Evans pointed out, highlighting the difference. "I think Tejay has started off in a good position but at his age, I wouldn't want those expectations personally."

    Evans may feel his young teammate breathing down his neck and knows his time is ticking away. But he insists his enthusiasm and experience will keep him going. Perhaps not until he is 40 but at least to the end of his substantial BMC contract in 2014.

    "When you get older, you accumulate what you didn’t know before. When you're young, you have a lot of energy and desire. Sometimes that makes up for the lack of experience but cycling is a sport where experience counts a lot," he explained.

    "I'm still learning and every year is different and every race is different. People and especially the media like to talk about me being 36, about being one of the oldest Tour winners. They ask me when I'm going to retire. But I love what I do, I'm motivated, I feel young when I ride and look forward to racing. My wife doesn't want me to do it for ever but I'm enjoying it and consider my age just a number."

     

  • Hushovd angry at Armstrong for doping

    Thor Hushovd (Team BMC)
    Article published:
    February 18, 2013, 09:41
    By:
    Cycling News

    Says American "dragged the sport through the mud"

    Thor Hushovd is angry with his former friend Lance Armstrong, saying he has “dragged (cycling) down into the mud and destroyed all credibility for us who remain."

    The BMC rider said he was “amazed by the scope” of Armstrong's doping, and emphasised that he himself has a “clear conscience.”

    “I am very pissed at Armstrong and others who have played us for fools,” he told nrk.no.  “I have cried going over the mountains because it hurt so much,” he said.

    “Lance built the sport up to something big, but has now dragged it down in the mud and destroyed all credibility for us who remain. At least those of us who rode with him.”

    When asked if he had ever doped, the Norwegian replied, “The only thing I can say is that I know that I'm sitting here with a clear conscience. Meanwhile, people who have doped said the same thing before, but in my head, and here I have it safe and fine,” pointing to his heart.

    Hushovd said that he “was amazed by the scope” of doping at the former US Postal team.  “It's crazy what Armstrong and the team have done.  Such systematic doping, something I had never imagined. The way he acted and the arrogance he has shown to those who spoke the truth, is shocking.”

    Armstrong was stripped of his results going back to 1998 after USADA found him and his US Postal team guilty of systematic doping. Armstrong lost all seven of his Tour titles and confessed to doping in January.

  • Hoogerland out of hospital and planning May return

    Johnny Hoogerland is seen to after his crash in the 2011 Tour de France
    Article published:
    February 18, 2013, 10:13
    By:
    Cycling News

    Vacansoleil rider recovering from ribs, spinal and liver injuries

    Johnny Hoogerland left hospital on Sunday and has returned home to fully recover. The Vacansoleil-DCM rider, who was seriously injured when hit by car whilst training, hopes to be back racing in early May.

    Exactly two weeks ago he was hit by a car in Mallorca and spent time in intensive care with five broken ribs, fractures in his spine and liver injuries.  He was able to return to the Netherlands on Wednesday.

    His return to racing is dependent on the liver injury fully healing. The team had reported that the liver was either bruised or torn. Hoogerland expects to train for four to six weeks before racing again in May.

    This week he will rest and start his rehabilitation. “I am delighted to be able to return home and will begin with walking and exercises from the physiotherapist,” he said on the team website.

    Team manager Daan Luijkx is eager to have his rider back again, but is willing to take the needed time. “Of course we will miss him this spring, but he's motivated and in good hands to get up there again soon.” Hoogeland will have not only the help of the team doctors and coaches, but also a mental coach and dietitian “to bring him back so that he can show what he is capable of as a rider.”

  • Boom continues Blanco's strong start to the season

    Lars Boom (Team Blanco)
    Article published:
    February 18, 2013, 13:02
    By:
    Cycling News

    Blanco rider second overall in Haut Var

    Lars Boom is more than happy with his stage win at the Tour du Haut Var. It was a big day for the Blanco team, with Boom finishing second overall and teammate Laurens ten Dam third.  “I've never been so good at this stage of the season,” Boom said.

    It was Boom's second win of the season after he also claimed the stage two time trial of the Tour Med earlier this month. On Sunday, he and ten Dam were in the day's break, and stayed away until the end. They finished with the same time as race winner Arthur Vichot (FDJ), who had bridged up from the peloton shortly before the finish.

    "Immediately after the start, I felt confident. Laurens and I initiated the early breakaway and controlled the climbs. Eventually, there were only five riders fighting for the stage win. When I started the sprint I gained a few meters, enough to win the stage”, Boom said on the team's website.

    His next race is Saturday's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, where he is now considered one of the favourites.  “That creates trust,” he told the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf.  “I will do my best to ride for the title there.”

    The 27-year-old will skip Milan-San Remo and will ride Strade Bianche and Tirreno-Adriatico, before turning his attention to the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.

    "I'm comfortable in my skin and I am very motivated, as is everyone in the team. We need to find a sponsor, that would give us a push to do give something extra,” he concluded. “And I'm another year older and therefore stronger.”

  • Dan Martin: Now I have the needed belief

    2011 Giro della Toscana champion Dan Martin (Garmin-Cervelo) on the podium.
    Article published:
    February 18, 2013, 15:30
    By:
    Daniel Benson

    Garmin climber aims at Ardennes

    After a consistent 2012 in which he claimed top tens in Fleche Wallone and Liege-Bastogne-Liege and finished his debut Tour de France, Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) is confident he can bring his results up to another level in 2013. At 26, and with a number of Garmin’s team leaders approaching the end their careers, Martin will be handed more responsibility in 2013 as he takes aim on another strong showing in the Ardennes.

    Martin has been tipped for success ever since his days at VC La Pomme when he impressed as a talented climber. A move to Garmin in 2008 followed and the Irish climber has progressed ever since. However due to injuries, illness and an element of fragility, Martin has often been erratic in seasons past. Scintillating form at the Tour of Poland in 2010 and 2011, a stage win in the Vuelta in 2011 and impressive shows at the Tour of Beijing and Classics last spring, for example, have been punctuated with dips in form. This difference, according to Martin, is that he now has the "belief" of a team leader.

    “I’m learning all the time in terms of a team leadership role. The last couple of years I’ve had results of a team leader at times but maybe my maturity levels and way I conduct myself with my teammates hasn’t been there,” he told Cyclingnews.

    “That’s experience though and you get that from being with the older guys and seeing how they lead the team. That’s something I benefited from a lot more than in previous years because I had a lot more days of racing with the experienced guys. They showed me how to talk to my teammates in races, and I think I grew up a lot.”

    “I showed a lot more consistency last year though. In the past, my results have been erratic but last year, even when I was bad, I was there or thereabouts. Physically and psychologically I’ve progressed as a rider. It’s mainly a level of belief that I was lacking before. I’m not afraid of people. There’s respect there but not fear.”

    Martin began his 2013 campaign at the Tour of Med. Despite picking up a head cold the Irishman was set to finish the race until his bike - along with all his teammates – was stolen before the fifth stage. It forced the entire team out of the race. Despite the set back Martin has recovered from the cold at his base in Spain, and has pinpointed Tirreno as his first serious objective of the year. The field in the Italian stage race is easily to best it’s been in years, and the event will be an important marker towards the Ardennes Classics.

    “This year we’ve decided to change it up a bit and give me a chance of riding Tirrreno,” Martin told Cyclingnews.

    “It’s always been a race that I’ve wanted to do and it’s a beautiful course will all the best riders in the world going there this year. It was my initial aim for the start of the year but with the sickness I’m not sure how it’s going to go. There’s not much pressure though and the Ardennes is still the main aim for the first part of the year.”

  • UCI confirms 19 WorldTour teams for 2013

    Team Katusha time trials
    Article published:
    February 18, 2013, 16:02
    By:
    Cycling News

    Katusha wins appeal, UCI grants status

    The UCI has confirmed that they will allow 19 teams in the WorldTour this year. The news comes after Katusha won their case at Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), having previously been denied WorldTour status by the sport's governing body.

    The UCI announces 18 WorldTour teams each season and this year their Independent Licence Commission rejected Katusha for "ethical reasons" in December. The team were handed a ProContinental status in January but pushed ahead with their appeal to CAS.

    "The UCI today announced that exceptionally there are 19 registered UCI ProTeams in the 2013 season. The decision comes further to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruling of 15 February 2013 which upheld the application of Katusha Management SA to be registered as a UCI ProTeam for the season 2013," the UCI said in a press release.

    Last Friday, CAS upheld Team Katusha's appeal of the UCI's decision not to issue the Russian team a WorldTour licence, stating, “According to the CAS decision, the application of Katusha Management SA to be registered as a UCI ProTeam for the season 2013 of the UCI World Tour is granted.”

    The decision means that the UCI will not review the WorldTour status of teams in order to facilitate a rigid structure of 18 teams. However, this will place pressure on several races that have already chosen their line-ups. For example, RCS has already allocated wildcards to teams for the Giro d'Italia, and Katusha were not among those selected. Their WorldTour status means that the Giro will have to invite a 23rd team into the race or retract one of their wildcard entries, something they have already ruled out. 

  • Nineteen WorldTour teams "the only solution" according to Vaughters

    Garmin-Sharp manager Jonathan Vaughters was present in Milan for the unveiling of the new leaders' jerseys for the 2013 Giro d'Italia.
    Article published:
    February 18, 2013, 19:25
    By:
    Cycling News

    Garmin-Sharp manager advocates for longer-term team franchises

    Garmin-Sharp Team Manager Jonathan Vaughters said that following Katusha's late admission to the WorldTour, the UCI's decision today to have 19 teams in cycling's top league for 2013 was, at this stage of the year with the season already in full swing, "the only solution". But in the mid- to long-term, he called for a restructuring of the regulations governing admission to the WorldTour to avoid incidents like the prolonged saga over the Katusha team.

    A member of the Professional Cycling Council (CCP) which took the vote today that increased the WorldTour to 19 teams, as well as president of the teams association, the AIGCP, Vaughters told Cyclingnews that he had supported the measure rather than reduce the WorldTour back to 18 by removing another squad after Katusha's inclusion.

    "If you think about it, doing anything else mid-season - if they [the UCI] had pulled out another team, that team was going to appeal to CAS [the Court of Arbitration for Sport] as well and then [assuming the appeal succeeded, they would have had to pull another team, and it would just have gone round and round," said Vaughters. "It's just not reasonable to do it any other way."

    As for any possible opposition from the race organisers over having automatically to admit 19 rather than 18 WorldTour teams, Vaughters said "I think Katusha, because of their strength as a team, more often than not, would have ended up being a wildcard squad anyway. And so, therefore I don't think that many races are going to be too heavily burdened by this."

    "For those races which chose not to have Katusha as a wildcard, that is going to place them in a difficult situation. They'll either have to carry the [financial and logistical] burden of one extra squad or reduce their wildcards by one. That's certainly something that's regrettable, but from what I can see, the race organisers are generally taking on that burden in a gentlemanly way."

    Looking further down the road, Vaughters said, "My personal position is that this selection procedure [for the WorldTour] should not be a yearly process."

    "This process needs to occur once. There need to be more permanent franchises in cycling. Cycling suffers from constant upheaval and that puts it on the back foot."

    "You need to take on these battles once and then it's done. Have it reviewed after that at certain junctures for sure, but it can't be a year-to-year process." On top of that, Vaughters said, "The selection criteria needs to be defined, understood, transparent and public and WADA-code compliant."

    "It's difficult when the ethical criteria are somewhat obscure. A more open process would be helpful, as well as one that can be put through the rigour of CAS and be successful."

    "I don't have all the answers, I'm the first one to say that, but the less often you can have this licencing process, the better."

  • Gallery: Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies' two-pronged attack

    The Optum Pro Men's cycling team
    Article published:
    February 18, 2013, 21:09
    By:
    Pat Malach

    Men's and women's teams train in southern California

    Entering its second year of fielding both men's and women's pro teams, Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies focused on keeping the momentum rolling during its recent training camp along the Pacific Coast Highway and in the nearby coastal canyons of Southern California.

    The training camps culminated Friday night when former pro rider and TV commentator Todd Gogulski presented the 2013 team at the American Honda Museum south of Los Angeles.

    The seven-year-old men's program, run by Minnesota-based Global Circuit Sports Management, added a women's team last year and bumped that program up to UCI status this year after a successful inaugural run in which the women won both the individual and team rankings of USA Cycling's National Race Calendar.

    In its first season riding under the title Sponsorship of Optum after a five-year run as Kelly Benefit Strategies, the men's team earned berths in the Amgen Tour of California, where rider Sebastian Salas took home the KOM jersey, the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, the USA Pro Challenge in Colorado and the UCI Team Time Trial World Championships. The Optum men also finished second in the NRC team rankings and took home the US Criterium National Championship with Ken Hanson.

    Both teams enter the 2013 season with key core groups intact and several promising additions.

    Men will head overseas for early season racing

    Although the focus for the men's UCI Continental team will remain the North American domestic calendar, the team will send a squad to Portugal and Spain to compete from mid March through the beginning of April. Optum is also hoping for invitations to several other early season international stage races like the Vuelta Mexico.

    Performance director Jonas Carney said the reasoning behind the international trips is twofold: providing valuable experience for developing riders and helping prepare the team for its eventual goal of stepping up to the Pro Continental level and racing in Europe.

    “We always want to dabble a little bit in Europe so that if we end up having the ability to make that step and race there at some point that we're ready to do that,” Carney said. “I think it's hard to just be a domestic team and then say, 'OK, now we're gong to Europe.' We've done enough European trips now that we kind of have a network over there and know what we're doing. If we're going to make that step, we're ready. So we always kind of want to make one or two trips.”

    International competition is also the best way to prepare the team for the Amgen Tour of California, which Carney says remains the team's first big goal.

    “We're hoping to win some races in March and April,” he said. “But we're really hoping to put on a good show in the Tour of California.”

    The 17-rider roster Carney and assistant director Eric Wohlberg will guide this year is two riders smaller than last year. Veteran's Andrew Bajadali and Reid Mumford retired this season, but 2013 additions Eric Young and Bjorn Selander should help pick up the slack. Selander spent two years on the ProTour level with RadioShack and came on the market when Spidertech abruptly folded after the 2012 season. Young, coming to the team from Bissell, is the 2011 US criterium champion.

    “They're both incredibly talented guys who at the end of last year were looking for a team,” Carney said. “I didn't personally expect to be able to recruit guys like those two, but it just happened that some teams folded and there were a lot of good riders on the market. They were my first two picks as far as who was available. I wasn't expecting it, but it just happened and I'm really, really happy about it.”

    Young will join 2012 US criterium champion Ken Hanson in providing ample weapons for the team when the races finish in a bunch sprint, a development that gives Carney, a former bunch-sprint specialist himself, plenty to work with.

    “It's always good to have more sprinters,” Carney said. “Ken was great for the whole season last year, but it's hard to count on one guy to be good all the time. People get hurt, people get sick. So it's always good to have two sprinters. It'll enable us to have a go-to pure sprinter at each race if we have to split the squads, and then when we go to something like the US criterium championships we've got a dual threat and we can lead both guys out. It just makes the team much more dangerous.”

    Optum also added a cyclo-cross program for the first time last season and brought on board 'cross specialists Jeremy Durrin and Mitchell Hoke for 2013.

    “Jeremy Durrin will do some road with us to prepare for 'cross,” Carney said. “And Mitch Hoke will do some 'cross with us as well, but he's a professional mountain biker, so he'll probably spend most of this summer racing his mountain bike for Kenda and then he'll make the transition to 'cross in the fall.”

    Back from the 2012 squad are Hanson, Salas, Jesse Anthony, Alex Candelario, Mike Creed, Mike Friedman, Ian Moir, Mike Sherer, Tom Soladay, Tom Zirbel, Scott Zwizanski and Chad Haga.

    Carney said he would look to older riders like Creed, Candelario and Mike Friedman to help provide leadership on the team, and he tabbed Haga and Selander as the team's most-likely GC threats. Selander's pedigree is well-known, while Haga, who won the Cascade Cycling Classic prologue time trial but crashed out of the race the next day, has flown mostly under the radar after suffering string of bad luck during his first full pro season last year.

    “Chad spent most of last year injured and sick,” Carney said. “He's a huge talent that a lot of people aren't familiar with. From what I've seen it's just a matter of him staying healthy and injury free. If he can stay off the ground this year, I see him as being a major GC threat for us, especially in anything with a time trial.”

    Aside from the Tour of California, the NRC schedule and a handful of international events, the team will target the big late-season stage races in Utah and Colorado, and it hopes to get invited of the new September UCI race in Alberta, Canada.

    Women aiming for NRC success, Worlds TTT berth

    Rachel Heal, the women's performance director, is returning with an 11-rider roster of proven talent and hopeful newcomers. The team lost 2012 National Race Calendar winner Carmen Small, who signed with Specialized-lululemon for 2013, but returns 2011 NRC winner Janelle Holcomb and 2012 revelation Jade Wilcoxson, who was third overall in last year's NRC standings.

    Lauren Hall, who previously rode for Heal on the Colavita team, moves to Optum after a season with TIBCO-To the Top and will help provide leadership in Small's absence. She won two US national championships on the track last season and was second in both the criterium and road race national championships.

    “I think this year I've got kind of my team captains on the road,” Heal said. “And they bring a real mix of experience and different kind of personalities, with Janelle, Jade and Lauren. Janelle and Lauren have a lot of experience between them, and Jade has not quite so much, but she's learning really fast. She has a good race brain, and I think she brings a lot to the table, too.”

    Other riders returning from the inaugural team include reining Canadian road race champion Denise Ramsden, two-time Canadian criterium champion Leah Kirchmann, newly crowned New Zealand road champion Courteney Lowe, Annie Ewart, and Joelle Numainville.

    The team added three neo pros in Amber Gaffney, Brianna Walle and 19-year-old Grace Alexander, a multi-time Junior national champion in both road and mountain bike events. The jump from Junior racing directly to a UCI pro team can be a long one, and Alexander is also working toward an Engineering degree at UC Berkeley, but Heal obviously believes the young rider can make the leap.

    “There aren't that many who do it,” Heal said. “But we noticed her last year at nationals and then Janelle actually raced with her in Europe and had good things to say about her. So we'll give her a go.”

    Both Gaffney, 31, and Walle, 30, are relatively new to cycling but have risen quickly through the amateur ranks over the past two years. Walle, who set the best time during the team's inter-squad time trial test at camp, followed fellow Oregonian Wilcoxson's path to Optum, earning a spot on the Nature Valley Pro Chase composite team and then winning the best amateur jersey at the Nature Valley Grand Prix.

    “It worked out pretty well the first time around,” Heal said of signing the former Pro Chase rider. “I've been told by a few people that Brie is the next Jade, so she's got a lot to live up to.”

    Heal said she believes she's assembled a good all-around team that can compete in every race Optum enters. Holcomb and Wilcoxson are proven stage race threats, while a three-pronged sprint threat from Hall, Kirchmann and Numainville will be formidable. The team will also target the 2013 Team Time Trial World Championships in its inaugural run as a UCI squad.

    Holcomb and Wilcoxson will head almost immediately after the team's training camp to compete with the US national team in Belgium, but the rest of the squad will officially start racing at the Merco Cycling Classic next month.

    The team will head south to Tucson for the Old Pueblo Criterium, an Optum-sponsored event, before regrouping for the start of the 2013 NRC at the Redlands Bicycle Classic April 4-7. The team will focus on repeating last year's NRC success, when it won both the individual series with Small and topped the team standings as well.

    “I kind of feel like as a director I've got a trend to keep going,” said Heal, who directed the Colavita squad for two years before moving to Optum last season. “Each year I've directed we've won the individual and team NRC.”