- Article published:
- February 19, 2012, 19:51
- Daniel Benson
First stage race for Sky's Australian
Richie Porte (Team Sky) wrapped up the overall at the Volta ao Algarve in Portugal, then quickly highlighted his team’s efforts in helping him secure his first GC win Europe, telling Cyclingnews that his teammates' sweat had "made him look good".
The Australian signed for Sky at the end of 2011 after serving two years with Bjarne Riis at Saxo Bank and has quickly formed a strong relationship with his new teammates. The transition has been made easier by Bobby Julich. The American worked at Saxo Bank during Porte’s first season with Danish team in 2010 and has made an instant impact on Porte’s progress.
“This win feels great,” Porte told Cyclingnews.
“I’m in a new team and to come here and win your first race, it doesn’t get much better than that. I have to give full credit to the guys here out on the road. I was just putting the icing on the cake and they made me look good to be honest.”
“I knew my form was good. I’d been training, but hats off to Bobby Julich, who I worked with at Saxo Bank. I was reunited with him and he’s been incredible and looked after me. He’s changed my training around a little bit and it’s nice to come out have this result.”
Porte’s final year with Saxo Bank saw the Australian devoted to Alberto Contador’s services in both the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France. It left him with few options to race for himself.
“Sky has shown a lot of faith in me. I had a good 2010 but last year wasn’t as good so full credit to the team,” he told Cyclingnews.
“There’s no hard feelings [with Saxo Bank]. We had the best rider in the world on our team and that’s what you do, you support him. It would have been nice to have gone to some smaller races and tried the GC but I’ve come here this year and even though there’s a star line-up, some of them sacrificed their own chances. Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins were supporting me and that’s how this team operates.”
Porte and the majority of Sky’s Algarve squad will head to France in the coming weeks for Paris-Nice, a key event in their programme and for team leader Bradley Wiggins.
“It won’t be too much of a different team to this one, and we’ll go there with Bradley and it would be great to repay him for all the help he’s given me at this race. We’ll see what happens at the race but common sense is that I’ll support him. He’s one of the best stage racers out there.”
- Article published:
- February 19, 2012, 23:34
- Barry Ryan
RadioShack-Nissan rider takes podium spot in Oman
An impressive ride on the queen stage to Green Mountain was enough to propel Tony Gallopin (RadioShack-Nissan) onto the final overall podium at the Tour of Oman.
Better noted for his abilities on the flat, the Frenchman came home a surprising 5th on the summit finish, securing 3rd place overall and the white jersey of best young rider in the process. Ahead of Sunday's final stage, Gallopin told Cyclingnews that he had initially battled to limit his losses on the climb in order to bolster his squad's chances of winning the team classification.
"It was a nice surprise," Gallopin said in Al Khawd. "I was already happy to just to have done a few sprints here, and I was more concerned with helping Jakob Fuglsang yesterday and maybe then trying to be the third man for us on the climb for the team classification. I really didn't think I'd be in the top five on the stage."
As it turned out, Gallopin hauled himself over the line just 37 seconds down on stage winner Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) and in front of the likes of Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and his teammates Fuglsang and Andy Schleck.
Gallopin explained that he had rarely had occasion to test himself so fully on a major climb over the course of his professional career before Saturday's stage.
"I often work for the team and then finish at my leisure on climbs like that, but yesterday I had the opportunity to test myself," he said. "I really don't have a lot of references at this level. I'd done well on a big mountain once before alright, at the Tour de l'Ain on the Grand Colombier"
Nibali began the attacking at the foot of Green Mountain, and once Gallopin realised that Fuglsang's overall ambitions were ebbing, he gave chase himself, battling with FDJ-BigMat pair Sandy Casar and Arnold Jeannesson all the way to the top.
"Jakob and I didn't discuss it, but when three or four riders started to go clear, I realised that we needed to go after them," he recalled. "When I saw that Jakob was a bit further behind again, it was up to me to keep going."
After spending the past two seasons in the colours of Cofidis, Gallopin is a new arrival at the RadioShack-Nissan squad, where his uncle Alain is part of the management team. A rider with long-term aspirations of making an impact in the classics, Gallopin is keen to observe life in the court of Fabian Cancellara at close quarters this spring.
"The priority is to learn from Fabian, and beyond that maybe have a go in some semi-classics or other races, if the opportunity arises," he said. "But the main thing is to be around Fabian as much as possible and learn as much from him as I can.
"Seeing as I'm young, I'm not going to be doing all the classics. That said, I hope to be there for the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, and maybe Amstel, which I really like."
Later in the year, Gallopin hopes to return to Valkenburg for the world championships, although he expects a place in Laurent Jalabert's Olympic thinking will be more complicated.
"I know that for the Olympics, Laurent Jalabert wants riders who do the Tour de France and this year that's going to be hard for me on this team," Gallopin said. "So I'm probably looking more to the worlds in Valkenburg to be honest."
Winner of the Coupe de France in 2011, the 23-year-old is aware that racing and winning with the same consistency outside of his home country will be crucial to his future development.
"I won the Coupe de France last year, but my best win was the stage I won at the Tour of Luxembourg two years ago because the level was higher," Gallopin said. "That said, I think winning in France when you're young is a good step for what is to follow."
With Nacer Bouhanni, Arnaud Démare and Arnold Jeannesson also impressing on the Arabian Peninsula, allied to the performances of Thibaut Pinot and Pierre Rolland in 2011, French cycling seems set to enjoy something of a resurgence at international level in the coming years. "I think ours is a generation that doesn't have complexes about racing against foreign riders anymore," Gallopin said.
- Article published:
- February 20, 2012, 01:20
- Cycling News
Fifth overall for GreenEdge's key classics man
GreenEdge's all-important lead-up to classics season continued at Tour du Haut Var where Simon Clarke defied mechanical dramas to post his second 5th placing in as many stages in the south of France.
Jonathan Tiernan-Locke (Endura Racing) secured overall victory with his narrow win over Team Type 1 – Sanofi's Julien El Fares on the second and final stage. Remarkably, Clarke was 13 seconds behind Tiernan-Locke, a consistent result given the Victorian also finished in 5th on the opening stage, 11 seconds off the pace. Clarke finished 5th on general classification, 18 seconds behind Tiernan-Locke.
Clarke told GreenEdgeCycling.com: "Hence my riding at 150 cadence for the last 10 k[ilometres]. I only had the 19 cog to ride up the 26 per cent hill at the finish. Unfortunately that ruined my race."
Teammate Simon Gerrans had been active earlier in the day, part of a 16-man break which highlighted the 205.4km stage. The escape was neutralised inside the final 30kms however, Gerrans along with Benoît Vaugrenard (FDJ-BigMat) and Guillaume Levarlet (Saur – Sojasun) persisted for another 10kms before being brought to order.
"We rode really well today," Clarke said of the team effort. "With Simon Gerrans, we have a clear and strong captain on the road. The group that's here will ride the hillier classics together. We all have a fairly similar program, and it's important that we get to know each other and learn to work well as a group for all the races we have together in the next few weeks. I can definitely take away some positives from the way the team rode this weekend."
GreenEdge has made no secret of its ambitions for the classics, and with Mitch Docker set to miss the spring due to injury, a rider like Clarke will no doubt take on extra responsibility with an eye to assisting Gerrans to the success in the Ardennes Classics that he long craves. Gerrans has a solid history at the races in Belgium and Holland, finishing third at Amstel Gold last year and also boasting top 10 finishes at Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 2009.
Former under 23 national champion Clarke showed just a hint of his capabilities in 2011, racing in Belgium for only the second time in his career in his debut at the Tour of Flanders. Clarke was able to anticipate the jockeying for position on the Oude Kwaremont and made a daring move before the peloton hit the climb. He was joined by eventual second-place-getter Sylvain Chavanel (Quickstep) and quickly found himself in the lead group on the road.
"I'm happy with my condition," noted the 25-year-old following Haut Var. "When you have good condition, you want to make the most of it. It's disappointing when something like bad luck prevents you from doing that. Hopefully it's a sign that I can have a good spring."
- Article published:
- February 20, 2012, 03:23
- Alex Hinds
Colombian says he feels "happy" with progress after long rehabilitation
Nearly eight months after suffering severe head trauma and a fractured skull due to a crash in the Tour de Suisse, Mauricio Soler has made a major milestone in his recovery, by finally taking back to the bike.
According to reports from website Mundo Ciclistico, Soler took a short ride around his parent's house in the Colombian countryside not far from his own home in Ramiriqui, and looked generally comfortable. It's a significant moment for Soler, who struggled with simple cognitive functions such as breathing, swallowing and talking in the wake of the accident.
He has followed a strict rehabilitation regime since his return to Colombia in December, which has included a variety of physical and mental therapies. Though with still a significant amount of work ahead of him the former Tour de France King of the Mountains said that he was "really happy just to have been able to ride a bike again".
"It was one of my big goals, alongside seeing my son again," said Soler. "Cycling is something I really love. Mentally I feel better than ever, and I'm improving further day by day."
Soler, 28, was placed in an induced coma shortly after the Tour de Suisse accident, with doctor's initially unsure whether he was going to live. He underwent surgery in hospital in St. Gallen, Switerzerland, where he began basic rehabilitation, before he was moved to a private hospital in Spain in July.
The Colombian told the assembled media upon his return to Colombia that he was unsure whether he would ever ride professionally again, citing the importance of recovery the most critical thing above all else.
"We will we see what will come after that."
- Article published:
- February 20, 2012, 09:00
- Cycling News
Luxembourg project to complement Bontrager-Livestrong as feeder team
The eleven riders of the Leopard-Trek Continental team and triathlete Dirk Bockel have been presented to the press at an event in Garage Losch, Luxembourg. The team will act as development squad for the WorldTour RadioShack-Nissan outfit, complementing and adding to the existing Bontrager-Livestrong team.
"We've always had a strong belief in Luxembourgish cycling and wanted to invest in it by obtaining a continental licence as well," said Flavio Becca. "With this young team we are able to structurally search for talent and provide experience and training to young and promising athletes, not only from Luxembourg but also from other countries."
RadioShack-Nissan general manager Johan Bruyneel added that the creation of the new team had come about spontaneously during the discussions over the merger with the former RadioShack and Leopard-Trek teams.
"We were convinced that the creation of a development team on the continental level was the ideal way to search for talented young riders and coach them so that one day maybe they can be part of the ProTeam."
"The team roster is built up around eleven riders, coming from seven different countries," says director Adriano Baffi. "The majority of them are still U23 riders, so this is really a project for the future. With Bob Jungels, Alexandr Pliuschin and Giorgio Brambilla we have three absolutely bright prospects to lead the team on the road. Our goal is for the 2012 season to be an ideal learning experience for each one of the riders. I am really excited to see them grow in terms of endurance and experience."
Uniquely, the team will also be supporting the ambitions of a triathlete in Dirk Bockel as Cyclingnews reported in January. Bockel, currently ranked 5th in the world in Ironman triathlon, has placed in the top ten each time he has raced in the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii, beginning with his successful debut at the Bejiing Olympics in 2008, where he raced for his home country of Luxembourg.
"This team is a beautiful project and it's amazing to work with such fine staff and equipment," said Bockel. "I'm confident that we will obtain some good results over the season. I am one of the leaders of this team, of course, but our main goal for this season is to give the younger riders race experience."
Leopard-Trek Continental for 2012: Bob Jungels (Lux), Alex Kirsch (Lux), Joel Zangerle (Lux), Pit Schlechter (Lux), Giorgio Brambilla (Ita), Eugenio Alafaci (Ita), Alexandr Pliuschin (Mda), Jesus Ezquerra (Spa), Oliver Hofstetter (Swi), Julian Kern (Ger), Fabio Silvestre (Por), Dirk Bockel (Lux)** .
Bockel's focus will be triathlon.
- Article published:
- February 20, 2012, 09:52
- Cycling News
German sprinter has found confidence again after years of drought
Germany seems to have an endless school of talent when it comes to sprinting: After André Greipel, Marcel Kittel and John Degenkolb, Gerald Ciolek of Omega Pharma-Quick Step has now shown that he is in the mix again after winning a stage at the Tour of Algarve in Portugal on Saturday. The 25-year-old returned to his winning ways after almost two years of drought as his last victory was a stage at the 2010 Tour of Bavaria.
"This victory feels really good. It's an incredible feeling as I hadn't won for so long," Ciolek told Velochrono. Indeed, the German went through a frustrating phase of his career after having been one of Germany's greatest talents from 2006-2009 when he first became U23 World champion and then won a fair amount of races in his time with T-Mobile and Team Highroad. In 2009 he joined Team Milram, and even though he took a stage at the Vuelta a Espana that season, a performance decline was already on the way.
Looking back, Ciolek explained that he was happier now at Patrick Lefevere's squad, which he signed for in 2011, than he ever was at the German team. "I feel really good in this team. I really like the international atmosphere that reigns there, contrary to Team Milram which was too German. An atmosphere in which you feel good is very important, as you feel that the team does everything to make the essential changes which really make the difference. The team gives me opportunities and it's up to me to make the most of them. The staff counts on me and that gives me an enormous amount of confidence."
Last year Ciolek gradually improved his performances after he joined Quick Step. "Once I had adapted to my new team, my legs started to feel good but I had some difficulties and in the first few months, I couldn't fulfil the expectations. Step by step, and with the team's confidence, I came back to a normal level in the sprints," he explained.
At the end of last season, Ciolek's confidence received a boost when he was able to finish ninth at the GP du Québec, 30 seconds behind the unbeatable Philippe Gilbert on a challenging course. "That was certainly the one race that I want to remember from the 2011 season. I was in very good form. It was a difficult race, but I became aware again of my capacities. I know that I'm not a sprinter like Cavendish or Greipel, but when you've had difficulties in the past, this sort of result is really good for your morale."
Now Ciolek looks forward to a season that he started in the best possible way. "I look forward to the Spring races. As of Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne, all the events I will take part in are potential objectives. Then, I really want to do something in Tirreno-Adriatico and Milano-Sanremo. I really like these races."
- Article published:
- February 20, 2012, 10:50
- Cycling News
BMC leader satisfied with his form in view of real objectives
After having fine-tuned his form at the Tour of Qatar and the Tour du Haut-Var, Philippe Gilbert feels ready to tackle his first objectives of the 2012 season. Expected to make a move on Sunday's Haut-Var stage finish atop the Mur de Fayence, the BMC leader preferred to sit back in the bunch, hinting that his first fight for the victory could be at this week's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in Belgium.
"This parcours was much too hard for a February race," he jokingly told Sportwereld as he reached the finish on Sunday. "It wasn't only the last climb [with peaks up to 26 percent gradient - ed.], but before that it was already too much [a total of 3000 vertical meters for the stage - ed.]. On the last ascent, I pushed a 39x25 gear, but it felt like I was riding the big ring!"
Still, the Belgian was satisfied with his condition in view of his coming targets. "The problem is that you can't really compete with the guys that have Haut-Var as an objective," Gilbert explained. "Take the Brit who won: I don't know the boy, and I may not ride against him again this year [Jonathan Tiernan-Locke]. My conclusion of Sunday's race is that my condition is good. I came to this two-day race in order to sweat, training for what is to follow. Mission accomplished."
In the South of France, Gilbert was able to fight off a respiratory infection. "I had some problems with my sinuses," he continued. "I had a cold coming up. But on Sunday my legs felt much better and I think that by sweating, I was able to fight it off."
Ahead of Milano-Sanremo, Gilbert's first real goal this year, he will take part in next weekend's Belgian season opener, the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (formerly Het Volk). On Thursday, he and his BMC teammates will be riding the last part of the route. "We'll ride the last 80 kilometres," he confirmed. "It's very important to ride after this winter and the last cold weeks. Last year, I made the mistake of not scouting the route - I've learned from it. Whether that will lead to success is another question. My first big goal this year is Sanremo, but I won't let it go by if there is an opportunity. But when I see how Tom Boonen rides at the moment..."
- Article published:
- February 20, 2012, 11:55
- Daniel Benson
Still no confirmation on Giro d'Italia, Tour de France plans
Fränk Schleck continued his 2012 racing season finishing 59th in the prologue at the Tour of Andalucia, on Sunday. The RadioShack-Nissan-Trek rider is using the race to gauge and improve his form ahead of the main objectives in his season.
However, the 2011 Tour de France podium star is still unable to confirm his race schedule beyond the Spring Classics, with speculation rife that he may ride the Giro d’Italia in May.
“My form is okay. I had a long break at the end of last season but I’m feeling good. I’ll see how I go at Andalucia,” Schleck told Cyclingnews.
“From there I’ll go to Paris-Nice, Criterium International and then Pais Basque and then the Classics. It’s a good programme for me with not that many changes.”
Fränk, like his younger brother Andy, is part of the new-look RadioShack-Nissan team since the start of the year. The squad was a merger between RadioShack and Leopard Trek with the majority of the team’s big hitters remaining with the 2012 squad.
At the team’s launch in January all concerned were quick to play down any rifts, pinpointing how well the team would fit together. And so far the squad has picked up team classification wins at the Tour Down Under and the Tour of Oman.
“The team has been really good. We had the whole team training together. I can’t talk for all the riders but everyone appeared to gel really well. You can see from the few races we’ve done that we’ve raced well as a team.”
Schleck’s relationship with team manager Johan Bruyneel will be vital in the coming months. The rider had a strong bond with Bjarne Riis at Saxo Bank and especially with Kim Anderson throughout his career. Schleck’s relationship with his new boss appears professional.
“Things are good with us. We never had any issues and I don’t really have to introduce him, He’s won a lot of Tours and he’s got a lot of experience. The combo of Johan Bruyneel and Kim Andersen working together is going to be great. They know a lot about tactics and we believe in Johan, who can help us be the best and bring us further than we’ve ever been before. We’ve got a good relationship, he’s brought in some new ideas.”
But there still remains a question mark over Fränk Schleck’s race programme post-Ardennes. At the team presentation Bruyneel would not rule out sending the rider to the Giro as the team’s overall threat for the race. Such a move would not relinquish Fränk from a Tour de France spot but it would conceivably leave the team with Andy leading the team at the Tour, and Fränk riding in a structured support role.
All speculation, of course. Bruyneel may simply be playing the media and laying down his authority to the Schleck brothers.
“I’m not going to confirm anything,” Schleck told Cyclingnews. “I don’t know if I’m going to do the Giro. It’s not decided yet. Maybe it’s not the best way to prepare for the Tour de France if you ride the Giro but I can’t confirm anything yet.”