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First Edition Cycling News, Monday, February 8, 2010

Date published:
February 8, 2010, 09:00
  • Cervélo TestTeam penalised for pushing in Qatar TTT

    Cervélo set off in the Qatar opener. They would be penalised for pushing during the stage
    Article published:
    February 7, 2010, 14:45
    Stephen Farrand

    Haussler judged to have pushed teammate, race jury hands team one-minute penalty

    Cervélo TestTeam set the second fastest time in the opening team time trial at the Tour of Qatar but just hours later the entire squad were penalised one-minute for pushing.

    The decision by the race jury meant Cervélo officially finished last on the stage, 1:08 behind winners Team Sky and now has very little chance of overall success in the race.

    Cervélo opted to ride a double line formation in the team time trial to help then fight the strong winds but it cost them dearly.

    The judge following the team, Jinshan Zhao of China, said that mid-way round the 8.2 kilometre course, Heinrich Haussler pushed Gabriel Rasch after taking a turn on the front. Chief judge Enrique Gonzalez Martinez agreed and, in spite of the short distance of the stage, enforced the International Cycling Union (UCI) rule which prescribes a one-minute penalty for pushing.

    Haussler and Rasch were also fined 200 Swiss Francs and the team's riders dropped from top-ten overall to positions now outside the top-100 in the overall standings.

    Directeur sportif Jens Zemke, Heinrich Haussler and Gabriel Rasch made a desperate plea to the judges to overturn their decision but the judges refused.

    "I touched Rasch but I didn't push him. He didn't gain any advantage," Haussler said, dismayed about the decision.

    "I'd just done a turn on the front and was moving back, when the wind blew us together, I put my hand out to avoid crashing. It's a crazy decision but the commissares are the boss of the race."

    Zemke initially suggested that the Cervélo Test Team might pull out of the race. However, he eventually accepted the penalty.

    "It's a very hard decision. Heinrich pushed him for safety reasons, not to get an advantage, but to avoid a crash. Next time maybe they have to crash…" he said.

    "We were really happy with second place it was a big success for us to beat teams like Garmin. Now our motivation goes down. We will have to try and show something special to make up for it but it's really hard to win overall when you start in last spot."

    The Tour of Qatar continues on Monday with the first 147 kilometre road race stage from the Camel Race Track to the Qatar Foundation near the capital Doha.

  • Wiggins celebrates on debut with Team Sky

    Bradley Wiggins answers questions
    Article published:
    February 7, 2010, 16:32
    Stephen Farrand

    Briton reveals attention to detail as the secret of success

    As Team Sky celebrated winning the Tour of Qatar team time trial and posed for photographs on the podium, Bradley Wiggins was especially happy to have won with the new team and let out an ironic shout of "Sky Rules!"

    Someone in the crowd replied with "Sky's the limit" and every one of the riders laughed as they savoured their third success of the season following two wins in Australia.

    The Tour of Qatar marked Wiggins' debut in Team Sky colours. Wearing the all-white British national time trial champion's skinsuit, he stood out from the other riders in black Team Sky kit and played a big part in bringing the team home and inspiring his younger teammates.

    Wiggins has tasted success with the British Cycling team on the track. Now that same mentality and attention to detail has been applied to a professional squad, and Team Sky showed how vital it can be in technically difficult events like team time trials.

    "This was our objective, we came here to win this. Anything but a win would have been really disappointing," Wiggins said after the team's fast ride.

    "That's what this team is about. We specialise in putting game plans together for an event that is so controllable in so many ways. The Tour Down Under was a fantastic start and now this is where the big boys come out to play."

    "We really analysed the wind in the last few days and we had a game plan for that. At every one of the seven roundabouts, everyone knew where they had to be on the road. We kept saying truck and trailer. Whoever was driving the juggernaut was thinking about the rear end of it too and making sure there was room for eight guys across the road in the wind."

    "It's all little bits of attention to detail, instead of thinking, 'We'll just go flat out and it's only the Tour of Qatar'. I think the approach and the process is important for everyone. We did that, we executed and we won the bike race. For us this was important. Cycling's about wining bike races."

    After the criticism, a response on the road

    Wiggins was criticised during the winter for wanting to quit his contract with Garmin and ride for Team Sky. In a biting soccer analogy, he had responded by comparing Garmin to minor British soccer team Wigan, while describing Team Sky as Manchester United.

    He replied word for word to recent comments by former Garmin teammate David Millar, but was also happy to let the result on the road do the talking.

    "What a great start. After all the bullshit, after all the ifs and buts, he said this, he said that. To get on the road in a Sky skinsuit and do a performance like that, sums everything up," Wiggins said.

    "After all that Wigan and Manchester United stuff, we've just won the Champion's League."

    Maybe the first stage at the Tour of Qatar is not the Champions League, but it was still a very impressive start to Wiggins' season.

  • Roche chasing big results in 2010

    Nicholas Roche (AG2R La Mondiale) and Daniel Lloyd (Cervelo TestTeam)
    Article published:
    February 7, 2010, 17:14
    Shane Stokes

    Slimmed-down Irishman wants to step up a level

    By his own admission, Nicolas Roche is normally an athlete who takes a couple of months to ride into form. He has shown promising early-season condition in his first race, though, going on the attack on yesterday’s fourth stage of the Etoile de Bessèges with several other riders.

    While Roche played down the significance of the move afterwards, the fact that he was able to go clear when a substantial chunk of the peloton went backwards on the hilly stage shows that he means business. He and his four breakaway companions were caught just three kilometres from the end of the stage, but he’s hit the ground running in his first race of 2010.

    “The idea for the first few days was to take it handy, to get the rhythm back,” he said after the stage. “Then yesterday [Friday] I tried on the last climb to open up a bit for today. Today, I told the team I wanted to attack on a few climbs to get everything going.

    “I attacked when there were three riders out in front. I caught one guy [another chaser] on the climb and he took my wheel. They were five of us. Hoogerland wasn’t pulling as his team-mate had the jersey; even though he was losing the jersey, he still wouldn’t ride.

    “We got caught with less than three kilometres to go, but I was happy enough as I said I wanted to do a good days work. Going up the road is nothing to be excited about, as such, but I was happy enough that I was climbing okay, that was more important. I don’t feel great yet, but it is good to know that I am going okay even though my form is not as good as it can be.”

    Roche had a strong 2009 season, taking five top-ten results on stages of his first Tour de France, as well as finishing 23rd overall. The Irish road race champion rode well in several other events, but wants to step things up a level in 2010. With that in mind, he’s worked on keeping his race down in the off-season.

    “I am now more or less a kilo over my Tour weight. I was a good four kilos heavier at this time last year, so hopefully it will make a different to my climbing,” he said prior to the start of Bessèges.

    Last year, former world number one Sean Kelly pinpointed this area as one that Roche should work upon if he wanted to become a GC contender in major events. With overall placings of 13th in the Vuelta a España and 23rd in the Tour de France, the potential is clearly there.

    “I think he could be a good Grand Tour rider if he was able to become a little lighter,” Kelly told Cyclingnews. Providing Roche pares off another couple of kilos between now and the Tour – and doesn’t lose strength in doing so – then he should benefit from a better power to weight ratio on the cols.

    Roche stated prior to the start of Bessèges that his goal in the race was simply to find his rhythm prior to a slightly bigger target. “Next week I am doing the Tour of the Mediterranean so hopefully that will go well,” he said. “The Tour of the Med is a bit more important than this week’s race, as normally it is a warm-up for me. Bessèges is normally a sprinters’ race so I will try to just get the legs going and put things back in order.

    “There are two stages that I would like to do well in at the Tour of the Med,” he continued. “There is a finish in Biot, which has a one and a half kilometre uphill sprint finish. That is one of the stages that I would like, and it is also about two kilometres from where I used to live before and it is five kilometres away from dad’s hotel. So it is a place I know really well, like my home.

    “Then the other one would be Mont Faron, of course, because it would be the first mountain stage of the year. I want to see how I am compared to the other riders.”

    After the Tour of the Mediterranean, he will ride the GP dell'Insubria and GP Lugano in Switzerland, then head to Paris-Nice, Volta a Catalunya, Route Adelie, Paris-Camembert, Amstel Gold, Flèche, Liège, and the Tour of Romandie. Roche will then take part in a short training camp before riding the Dauphiné Libéré, the Irish road race championships and, hopefully, the Tour de France.

    “The idea is to build up the condition slowly until Paris-Nice, and then have a nice time in March and April. I will be going to Paris-Nice, Catalunya, the Classics and Romandy to try to get a result in one of those races.”

    With runner-up placings on stages of the Vuelta and Tour de France, Roche has gone close to a big victory. He’s now 26 years of age, coming into his prime, and is determined to start topping podiums in 2010.

    “A few years ago, if I had to lay out my goals, I would have hoped to have double my wins by now,” he said. “When I took my first win on a stage of the Tour de l’Avenir, I thought that would get things moving. I said, ‘okay, this is it. My confidence is rising and I am going to win ten races next year,’ but that didn’t happen.

    “I am running behind my own schedule. Hopefully I will win a bit more. That’s something that I need to do – I have to get some wins now. I’ve shown I can get good results, but I need to move up the next step and get some victories.”


  • Merckx shrugs off cancer claims

    A healthy looking Eddy Merckx talks to Fabian Cancellara in Qatar.
    Article published:
    February 7, 2010, 18:38
    Stephen Farrand

    Cycling legend looks healthy as he watches the racing in Qatar

    Eddy Merckx has confirmed to Cyclingnews that he has never had intestinal cancer despite a report in a Belgian newspaper claimed that he had admitted to the illness during an interview.

    The Sud Presse newspaper claimed on Saturday that Merckx had admitted suffering from intestinal cancer a few years ago when he suddenly lost weight and said that he has had to be careful what he eats and drinks ever since.

    Merckx looked healthy as he watched the opening stage of the Tour of Qatar and dismissed the report in Sud Presse with a shrug of the shoulders and a few harsh words.

    "I never talked about intestinal cancer during the interview. I don't understand why it was written in the paper," he said to Cyclingnews.

    "I talked about some stomach problems during a big interview I did with a soccer coach but all I said was that I didn’t drink champagne or white wine anymore because it doesn't suit my stomach."

    "But I still drink red wine and as people can see, I'm in good health."

    Merckx is widely recognised as the greatest-ever professional rider, retired from racing in 1978. He recently sold his frame building business and gone into semi-retirement.

    However, he is a key part of the organisation that created the Tour of Qatar and watched carefully has his son Axel directed the Trek-Livestrong Under 23 team in this year's race.

  • Cycling mourns for Ballerini

    Franco Ballerini after Paris-Roubaix
    Article published:
    February 7, 2010, 21:56
    Cycling News

    Racers, friends, teammates saddened by his passing

    The news of Franco Ballerini's death reached the Tour of Qatar just minutes before the start of the opening team time trial.

    Some riders heard the news before they began the stage but many others, including eventual winners Team Sky, only found out after they had celebrated victory on the podium.

    Everyone was shocked and race organizers have announced that a minute's silence in memory of Ballerini will be held before stage two on Monday morning.

    Many riders expressed their condolences via Twitter.

    "I think that everyone who has the luck to know Franco Ballerini feels like a piece of his heart has died today! An hug to his family!" Liquigas rider Manuel Quinziato wrote from Qatar.

    Robert Hunter: "I just been shocked by the news of Franco Ballerini's passing! He taught me so much about being a pro, a person I'll never forget!!!"

    Lance Armstrong: "So sad to hear of passing of Franco Ballerini. Raced many years w/ him. Cool guy and great champ. Leaves behind a wife and 2 kids. RIP, FB."

    Charly Wegelius: "Today is a sad day. My heart is with the children and wife of Franco Ballerini. He was a gentleman and a true champion."

    Italians remember Ballerini

    In Italy, the news of Ballerini's sudden death shocked the cycling family. Ballerini was loved by everyone for his understanding character and genuine affection.

    Paolo Bettini rushed to the hospital in Pistoia after he heard the news. He and Ballerini had competed in several rally events together, as pilot and navigator. They were very close after winning two world titles and a gold medal at the 2004 Olympic in Athens.

    "I've lost a great friend, a brother," Bettini told Italian media after comforting Ballerini's wife Sabrina.

    "Ballerini had risked his life a thousands times in races. He rode Paris-Roubaix without a helmet (when they were not obligatory) and dived down descents in the Dolomites, but he never had any problems."

    "Destiny took him now while he was enjoying himself because he really enjoyed car racing. He was the one who got me into rally racing. Yet he was always careful after safety. He never took any risk."

    Cipollini struggles to take in the news

    Ballerini had only been national coach for a few months when Mario Cipollini won the world title in Zolder in 2002.

    "I just can't get used to the idea that Franco is dead. I just keep thinking that something will bring him back to life," Cipollini told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

    "I keep thinking of all the moments of joy we shared together and especially in Zolder in 2002 when he created the perfect tactic and created the perfect team to give me the world title."

    "Every high-level athlete like Franco always seeks out thrills, even after they've retired because it helps them feel competitive, that's how Franco explained his passion for rally racing. He still felt the adrenaline flow and as well as using it as national coach, he also let it out in car races."

    Ballerini was very close to former Italian national coach Alfredo Martini. The veteran coach took his fellow Tuscan under his wing and taught him all he knew about uniting the Italian riders together into a strong team for the world championships. The two would often travel to races together and consult on team selection before the world championships.

    "Franco was like a son to me. He came to my house two or three times per week for a coffee, to say hello or a chat. He was one of the family. I'll always remember that when the Italian Cycling Federation President asked me for a list of possible candidates. I told him, 'I'll give you just one name: Ballerini.'"

  • RadioShack camp continues in Spain

    Haimar Zubeldia waits for his team-mates at the start of the team's second training ride.
    Article published:
    February 8, 2010, 12:55
    Cycling News

    Popovych, Armstrong absent from Calpe camp

    All but two of RadioShack’s riders are taking part in the team’s European camp in Calpe, Spain, with Lance Armstrong and Yaroslav Popovych the only riders absent. While Armstrong is at home training around Austin, Texas, his squad is training in Spain for a week until some of the riders head for Volta ao Algarve which starts on February 17.

    The RadioShack team has been split in two for the training rides, with the classics team separating from the remaining riders. Fumiyuki Beppu has joined the outfit for the first time, having been released from his Skil-Shimano contract last year to join the American squad.

    Cyclingnews has already published images from the first day of the team camp on Friday, however these images are from day two when team manager Johan Bruyneel sent the riders on a four-hour ride, north towards Valencia. Riders whose flights to Spain had fallen into the long-haul category were sent back to the team hotel early while the remaining riders pushed on for a final hour in the local hills.

    To see the full gallery click here.

  • Schleck upbeat despite injury

    Luxembourg's champion, Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank)
    Article published:
    February 8, 2010, 14:29
    Daniel Benson

    New problem not a huge setback, Saxo Bank rider says

    Despite pulling out of the Challenge Mallorca with a knee injury on Sunday, Andy Schleck is not worried about derailing his Classics or Tour de France campaigns. Schleck pulled out before Sunday's start with an inflamed knee and travelled home to Luxembourg. The Saxo Bank rider may yet return to Mallorca to train next week.

    Speaking to Cyclingnews at Mallorca airport Schleck remained optimistic: "It's not really a huge setback to be honest. In cycling you're either sick or not sick. Injured or not injured but when you have something you have to get off the bike and get it taken care of and fixed."

    "Of course I wanted to race here. Especially when I saw all the guys getting ready and getting on the team bus but I'm happy I've got this problem now and not in a month's time from now," the 24-year-old said.

    Schleck arrived in Mallorca after a two week training camp in Fuerteventura and a quick pit stop back in his native Luxembourg. After three days of intense training with his brother Frank, Jens Voigt and Laurent Didier his knee began to restrict his

    "I trained for three days and then the next day I felt pain and needed to see what it was. Our doctor arrived yesterday and he and the hospital have told me that I have an inflammation under my knee cap and it needs some days rest."

    As for the cause of the injury Schleck could not be precise but offered alternative training as a possible explanation: "Maybe it was because back in Luxembourg due to the bad weather I've been doing a lot of other sports like cross country skiing. It's possible that my body isn't used to that type of exercise and that this is just a reaction to that."

    Schleck's 2009 campaign was also hit by injury with the Tour runner-up forced off the bike with tendonitis in his ankle. However Schleck confirmed that after a few days of total rest he'd start training again and that his next race would be Ruta del Sol.

    "I'm on the programme to do Ruta and from there I'll do Eroica and Tirreno. It's just this week that's effected. Perhaps I'll even come back here after the knee is fixed and do some warm weather training."

  • Cromwell relieved to start season after turbulent break

    Tiffany Cromwell (Australia) chased Lisa Brennauer (Germany) on her own, but was swept up on the finishing circuit as the bunch accelerated for the sprint prime
    Article published:
    February 8, 2010, 11:38
    Greg Johnson

    Team’s near collapse motivating Australian youngster

    The off season was full of twists and turns for South Australia’s Tiffany Cromwell, who chose to rejoin the Australian National Team program after the Team Skyter she’d signed with for 2010 nearly collapsed. A second twist in Emma Mackie falling ill saw Cromwell drafted into Australia’s lineup for the Ladies Tour of Qatar just four days before it commenced last week.

    Despite the last minute notice Cromwell admitted she was relieved to have her first overseas race behind her following the turbulent off-season. “With everything that happened it just motivated me even more to ride strong and have a really good pre-season build up so I can go into the Classics with the best possible form,” Cromwell told Cyclingnews. “It’s going pretty good at the moment, I’m pretty happy with my early season form. I’m definitely fit, I’ve been doing lots of base kilometres and my power is a lot stronger at the moment, so I can’t really complain.”

    Cromwell wasn’t the only rider to return to the national team ranks after the former Equipe Nürnberger Versicherung team’s new sponsor Skyter fell through. While the powerhouse of German’s women’s squad narrowly avoided complete collapse, Beijing Olympic Games gold medallist Nicole Cooke also joined her Great Britain National Team.

    While Cromwell hopes results this season will bring her a new professional contract, she’s also embracing the opportunity at hand. Returning to the Australian National Team will see her take on more responsibility with helping younger riders develop, an opportunity she’s relishing.

    “The first thing is to try and get a new professional contract, try to get the mid-year changeover,” said Cromwell. “I’m working with national coach Martin Barras who is fully committed to me and is supporting that as our major goal. But also going back to the national team gives me a lot more opportunities.

    “Come China when the Australian Institute of Sport squad comes over to Europe I’ll be more of a general classification rider and I can also help some of the newer girls coming through with race tactics and things like that,” she added. “I think it will be a good opportunity for me to be a bit more of a leader. Going to a professional team is really special, though at the team I would have been with I’d have been more of a domestique worker because we had such a class team. So this is a completely different roll for me.”

    Cromwell described the support she’s received from Cycling Australia and the Australian Institute of Sport as unbelievable. It’s a big year for Australian cycling with the International Cycling Unionn (UCI) World Road Championships to be held in Melbourne on top of being a Commonwealth Games year and Cromwell is hoping to play a role in both events.

    “I’d definitely love to do the Commonwealth Games but the course itself doesn’t suit me because it’s completely flat,” she said. “On the profile it looks like it’s really hard, but if you look at the meterage it’s basically a little hump in a criterium circuit. But they always need workers and I’ve shown that I can ride on the flat and give it my all for the sprinters.”

    “The world championships will be bigger for me, especially being at home,” she added. “After seeing the course there it will suite more of a rider like myself or Ruth Corset. I still see it hard being a sprinter and getting around there, for the women’s race in particular.”

    Cromwell will complete another training camp in Victoria before heading to the Women’s Tour of New Zealand later this month. From there Cromwell will return to Europe to commence her season there, with her early season heavily focused around the classics.