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First Edition Cycling News, Monday, January 31, 2011

Date published:
January 31, 2011, 13:00
  • Kreuziger ready to take on Giro

    Roman Kreuziger is looking forward to the Giro d'Italia
    Article published:
    January 30, 2011, 11:47
    By:
    Hedwig Kröner

    Astana co-leader plans to become a true Grand Tour contender in 2011

    Roman Kreuziger is ready to take his career to another level. The new Astana co-leader will challenge for the overall victory at the Giro d'Italia this year, without the team's captain Alexander Vinokourov and therefore as the squad's sole spearhead.

    The 24-year-old Czech has finished in the top ten of the Tour de France these past two years and already won the Tour de Suisse and the Tour de Romandie in the past, so the new objective is a logical step in his career as a pro rider.

    "I've come to a stage in my career where I feel I can take up responsibility. I will go to the Giro to win it," said Kreuziger at the team presentation in Monaco on Friday. Even though he has never participated in the Italian Grand Tour, his five years at Liquigas and the fact that he lives in Italy make him feel confident as he faces the challenge.

    "It might be new to me, but I'm not scared," he commented. "I know the Italian mountains. I'm confident we can do very well, and I'm very motivated. I think for the first time trial we will be good, but once we get to the mountains we will be with the best," he added, firmly believing in the striking power of his team at the Giro's stage one collective race against the clock and his subsequent striking power in the first mountain stages.

    The choice of his new team was also a logical one, said Kreuziger. Leaving Liquigas, where he has raced the past five years in the company of Ivan Basso and Vincenzo Nibali, was necessary in order to push his career forwards.

    "I looked at all the positives and negatives, and after five years in the same team I preferred to change, because I was missing a driving force. I needed new input to motivate myself again. With the experience of Vinokourov and Martinelli, I'm sure I can still grow a lot. From that point of view, Astana was the best option.

    "There are a lot of people with a lot of experience in this team. Martinelli, and the sports directors, have achieved a lot in the past. I think they will be able to help me win a Grand Tour."

    To achieve this, Kreuizger is ready to learn and even to change his riding style, considered by many as too passive. "I was often told that I wait too much for the others to move in races, and Vino will teach me how to attack at the best moment, to become an actor in the races."

    As regards the rest of the season, Kreuziger did not know yet whether he will go to the Tour de France in support of Vinokourov, or target the Vuelta instead. "It really depends on the Giro, and how I come out of that. It's such a hard race. I think for me it might actually be better to race the Vuelta," he revealed, even though Martinelli had said the decision was completely open.

    The Czech seemed very satisfied with his new position and happy about his team choice. "Compared to last year, Astana has a lot of new riders and the team has become more international," he said. "It's a young team but we also have the experience of guys like Fofonov, Stangeli, Vino... That's very important.

    "Some guys like Vaitkus and Tangert had health problems, and they are coming back now. I saw them at the training camp and they are already in good shape. There are also a lot of young, talented Kazakhs. I believe the team will be very strong in all races."

     

  • Page, Johnson, Powers and Driscoll suffer mixed fortunes in Sankt-Wendel

    American Jonathan Page trains on the St. Wendel, Germany world championship course.
    Article published:
    January 30, 2011, 18:42
    By:
    Brecht Decaluwé

    US men affected by punctures and crashes

    The US-riders suffered mixed fortunes at the 2011 cyclo-cross world championships: Jonathan Page flatted while riding in the lead group, Tim Johnson crashed out of the race, Jeremy Powers (Cannondale) struggled while hopping the barriers and James Driscoll (Cannondale) had an off-day.

    In the large group that sprinted for eighth place at more than two minutes behind winner Stybar, veteran Belgian Bart Wellens (Belgium) held off Christian Heule (Switzerland), Tom Meeusen (Belgium), Gerben de Knegt (The Netherlands) and Jonathan Page (USA). Page probably had his best legs of the season but punctured while riding comfortably in the lead group at the start of the third lap. Page faced an uphill battle to close the gap after also losing a lot of time before he could take a new bike.

    “You have championships riders and consistent riders. I'm a little bit of both. I'd rather be good on a day like today instead of being consistently good. Despite starting from third row I immediately got to the front. I felt it was a great day for me and that was all I could ask for. Unfortunately I flatted right after the pit. On the climb I felt like a scooter on the highway,” Page said.

    The silver medallist from the 2007 world championships didn't give up and bounced back from a distant 27th place. Being the top US-finisher in twelfth place brought little consolation for his bad luck. Though far from his second place in 2007 his result was probably one of the best US-results for the Elite Men category in recent years.

    “Afterwards I kept going, giving everything to leave it out there. I caught [Niels] Albert who was struggling and then rode most of the race on my own. I made one mistake and crashed hard on my shoulder. Apart from that I could've been a little bit further up,” Page said.

    “On the last lap I could've gone with Wellens but some guys were blocking the way. I had to choose between risking to blow up my engine or save it for the line.”

    Half a minute behind Page, Jeremy Powers (USA) finished sixteenth. “It could've been a little bit better. With four laps to go I crashed when hopping over the barriers like an idiot and I flatted. I'm happy with the result though. It's a good end to my season,” Powers said.

    Tim Johnson was unlucky too. The former US-champion crashed out of the race at the end of the fourth lap when he seemed to touch wheels with another rider on the athletics track. Johnson hurt his ribs and he was taken to the nearby hospital for a check-up.

    “That didn't end up the way I'd hoped or pictured. [I was] smashed in by someone on the track. [It] left me without spokes and boof-down,” Johnson twitted.

    James Driscoll (USA) didn't have a great day and he ended up finishing 27th. “I wasn't feeling fresh,” Driscoll said.
     

  • Evans rates Schleck and Basso as top Tour de France rivals

    Cadel Evans (BMC) will begin his season at the Giro del Friuli.
    Article published:
    January 30, 2011, 22:23
    By:
    Barry Ryan

    Australian will begin season at Giro del Friuli on March 3

    Cadel Evans (BMC) has nominated Andy Schleck and Ivan Basso as his biggest rivals at July’s Tour de France. The Australian also expressed his satisfaction at his first season as a BMC rider.

    “Certainly Andy [Schleck] on paper will be the first guy everyone is looking at,” Evans told Cyclingnews at the BMC training camp in Denia. “Then with Ivan [Basso] back in the Tour again and not riding the Giro, Liquigas has a really good team for the three-week races as it showed at last year’s Giro.”

    Like Evans, Basso also trains under the guidance of the Mapei Centre in Castellanza, Italy but there will be no quarter asked or given come July, in spite of their shared experiences and relationship with the late Aldo Sassi.

    “We’re looking at the same goals and we’re using pretty much the same tools to go about them, so in the end, in some ways I suppose we’re closer,” Evans said. “But then at the same time, if I want the Tour de France, I have to beat a guy like Ivan Basso. But with everything, especially in the last 12 months or so with the Giro and Ivan and Aldo [Sassi], in other respects, I feel there’s a different rapport with Ivan than with some of my other competitors.”

    The Mapei Centre’s general manager Aldo Sassi lost his battle with cancer in December and Evans is now coached by Andrea Morelli. He admitted that while his professional collaboration with the centre continues as before, on a human level he is still coming to terms with the loss of his friend.

    “It’s more or less business as usual [in terms of training], but to go there now without Aldo, the air and the feeling at Mapei is unfortunately completely changed,” Evans said.

    A successful first year at BMC

    Evans is now facing into his second season at the BMC team and will race considerably fewer days in the first part of the year as he tapers his preparation for the Tour de France. However, he is pleased with how his busy debut season with the team turned out, and compared the experience positively to his five years in the Lotto team set-up.

    “I was often forced to ride races I didn’t want to do and go for the general classification when I would have been better off training or something [at Lotto],” Evans told Cyclingnews. “But these things happen...”

    At BMC, Evans has enjoyed more of an input into the composition of his race programme and he feels that both parties reaped the benefits of such a relationship in 2010.

    “BMC and I have a lot of faith in each other, which goes a long way,” he said. “I think especially when you’re working for things like the Tour, when someone has 100 percent faith and trust in you and you have 100 percent faith and trust in them, it’s a lot easier to do big things and I think that’s probably the main part of it.

    “We went in with small ambitions but we worked well and we came out with, in some ways, probably more than we went in with.”

    The Tour de France was one of the few low points in a season in which Evans honoured the rainbow jersey with a string of strong performances, including victory at Flèche Wallone. The hairline fracture of his elbow sustained in a crash on stage 8 of the Tour would ultimately cost Evans both the yellow jersey and any hopes of a high overall finish. However, he admitted to being somewhat nonplussed by the admiration he earned for continuing in the race until Paris.

    “I could continue, so I did,” he said. “I certainly had much higher ambitions than 26th on GC. That’s not a place I’m proud of finishing but it wasn’t a bad result.”

    Evans refused to be drawn on where he might have finished were it not for his crash, but acknowledged that he was strongly placed when he sustained his injuries.

    “I don’t know about being up there with Contador and Schleck, but I certainly would have been better than 26th,” he said. “Going in to the Morzine stage, I think I had a 1:30, 1:20 lead on Contador, which is something no GC rider had had on Contador since he’s been riding the Tour de France, so it was an enviable position.”

    Fewer racing days in 2011

    After starting last season in January at the Tour Down Under, Evans will make a slower start this time around. He will debut at the Giro del Friuli on March 3, before riding Strade Bianche. Evans took an epic stage win at the 2010 Giro on Tuscany’s dirt roads but he will not be praying for similarly wet conditions in March.

    “If it’s not too cold, I don’t mind if it rains just as much as the others,” he joked. “But I think one of classics guys will have more of a presence at Strade Bianche than I will.”

    Evans will then proceed to Tirreno-Adriatico. Later in the spring, Amstel Gold Race and Flèche Wallone will feature on Evans’ schedule, although he will only decide on his participation in Liège-Bastogne-Liège closer to the race. As anticipated, he will then forgo the Giro d’Italia in order to build up to the Tour de France.

    In spite of the reduced number of racing days prior to the Tour this season, Evans acknowledged that he finds the notion of using a race to train as somewhat of an anathema to his way of thinking.

    “I like to race, I like to race at the best of my ability and if I can race good from February to October I’m happy to do so,” he said. “I don’t go in the gruppetto that many times during the season. The one day that I do during the year, everybody is looking at me and asking me what the hell I’m doing there.”

    Off the bike, one of Evans’ deepest interests is the cause of the Tibetan people. While leading the Tour in 2008, he brought widespread exposure to some of the issues surrounding the country by sporting an under-vest that featured the Tibetan flag, and he continues his work in a more private sphere.

    “I don’t do so much publicly, but I have my connections and I try and help out the Tibetan child I sponsor in Nepal and a school that has to raise a lot of money,” he said. “I’m still working on a few things, just on a less public level.

    “It’s a country that’s always intrigued me. I’m still yet to visit. I’ve been to Nepal, but I’m yet to cross into Tibet but in the near future I’ll be there.”

  • Matthews set for European World Tour races after Tour Down Under

    Michael Matthews (Rabobank Cycling Team) beats Greipel and Goss
    Article published:
    January 31, 2011, 05:13
    By:
    Jane Aubrey

    Rabobank lauds best ever result in Australia

    After surpassing all expectations in his debut World Tour race, Michael Matthews' 2011 race schedule is now expected to change significantly according to Rabobank director sportif Adri Van Houwelingen.

    Matthews' performance was just one element of a team effort which Van Houwelingen described as Rabobank's "biggest achievement at the Tour Down Under so far."

    The reigning under 23 road race world champion took out the Tour Down Under's third stage from Unley to Stirling and was narrowly beaten by Movistar's Francisco Ventoso on stage five to Willunga. The results aided in Matthews finishing fourth on general classification, nine seconds behind winner, Garmin-Cervelo's Cameron Meyer.

    "He [Matthews] surprised the whole world including our team because it was his first World Tour race – he wins one stage and then beaten by centimetres in another and fourth overall," a pleased Van Houwelingen told Cyclingnews. "It's a big result for him and also for the team."

    Matthews was also shocked at the results: "I definitely did not expect it coming in to this, with so many good riders here," he told journalists following the Tour Down Under. "I was in pretty good form coming off Bay Crits and Nationals, so I was pretty confident that I would go alright, but definitely not two podiums."

    Impressive results bring new opportunities

    So pleased was Van Houwelingen with the 20-year-old's results that he predicts the Australian can look forward to a slightly more difficult schedule in 2011.

    "He has conducted himself fantastically here - Michael is an exceptional talent," he said.

    "I have to work his schedule out with all the other team directors because we've seen now that he's a strong guy and he can perform well in a World Tour race so I expect him to do the same in European World Tour races; perhaps his schedule can change a little bit because so far we've scheduled him for the smaller races in Europe."

    A delicate balancing act

    Matthews certainly had the legs coming into the Tour Down Under following the Jayco Bay Classic. The Rabobank neo-pro won the second stage in Portarlington to claim the leader's jersey – a position he maintained until the fourth and final stage where he narrowly lost to Matthew Goss.

    The results led to expectations, however. Would Matthews lead the team, or compatriot Graeme Brown?

    Brown was definitely leader out on the road but as the race evolved, Van Houwelingen said all eyes were soon on Matthews.

    "Before the race we wouldn't put the pressure on him but during the race it was coming," he said. "You win a stage and you're in the general classification – if you want it or not the pressure is coming."

    Previous years had seen a Rabobank outfit solely focused on getting Brown stage wins. This year it was a stronger, more organised bunch of men in the bright orange kits despite some misfortune along the way.

    The annual Tour Down Under challenge of two ascents of Old Willunga Hill was seemingly easier with Laurens Ten Dam and Pieter Weening in the mix. Tour de France stage winner Weening, despite continuing in the event after coming to grief along with a dozen other riders ahead of the stage two finish in Mannum, would not threaten the general classification. Ten Dam was there until the end, the highest finishing climbing specialist on general classification, placing fifth - just a second behind Matthews.

    "It's always easier as a team director when the results are there to motivate the riders to do their job and I must say, all the guys did a great job," Van Houwelingen admitted.
     

  • Millar: Garmin-Cervelo is like a hit squad of talent

    David Millar is looking forward to a return to the Classics
    Article published:
    January 31, 2011, 09:20
    By:
    Daniel Benson

    Scot will miss best friend White but admits riders must man-up

    David Millar believes that despite the loss of Matt White, Garmin-Cervelo is still one of the strongest teams in the UCI’s WorldTour.

    The Scot was speaking on the first day of the team’s final training camp, the first public occasion since White was dismissed for sending former Garmin rider Trent Lowe to Dr Luis del Moral.

    “It’s like a hit squad with so many excellent guys here. We’ve got, on paper, one of if not the best one day Classics teams and one of the best grand tour teams. It’s pretty impressive,” Millar told Cyclingnews.

    “My wife said this morning while I was getting ready, ‘you look like a proper cycling team’ but we’ve kept our spirit, our relaxed attitude and we don’t take ourselves too seriously. We’ve not gone corporate but we’ve got that global international level.”

    Millar was instrumental in bringing White to the team in 2008, persuading the Australian to hang up his wheels and become a directeur sportif. White could have continued his racing career for at least one year at that point but Millar, along with Jonathan Vaughters, singled him out as management material. However, White’s judgement in sending Lowe to del Moral – a former doctor at US Postal – contravened Garmin’s policies on anti-doping and outside medical help.

    “Losing Whitey was horrible. He’s one of my best friends. It came as such a shock, it came at us hard and it’s going to affect us for a long time. He was such a loved figure in the team and so charismatic but you’ve got to move on and I think we’ve got a lot of good guys.”

    “The new guys didn’t really know him but for us long-serving guys it will take quite a bit of time. I persuaded him to become a directeur sportif, so it was my responsibility. When Jonathan and I were creating the blue print for the team one of the things we couldn’t figure out was what sort of directeur sportif we wanted. Whitey was perfect, really fresh and personable.”

    The decision to fire White was made well before the finish of the Tour Down Under, with Vaughters flying from the team’s base in the US to meet White in Australia. Just after White was told of his fate a conference call was made between the team’s remaining management and the riders – including Millar – who were in Girona, Spain.

    “There was no choice and that’s how we roll,” Millar said when asked if the correct decision had been made.

    “We have very strict policies and that’s the team we are. We had a very large responsibility in the cycling world not to let people down and not to lose trust in us. A lot of people would have said he was the spine of the team so it was a massive decision but we’ve got to man up and carry on.”

    “It’s all just so weird,” Millar added.

    “Trent is such a lovely guy and Whitey and all of us put so much time in him and looked after him. Okay, some will say we didn’t look after him because Whitey sent him to del Moral but genuinely I think Whitey was helping him. There’s no way Whitey would ever want any of his riders to dope but Trent had a rough couple of years, found himself with the wrong people and look where it’s ended up. It’s bad for everybody.”

    Man-up

    Despite the loss of White, Millar is keen to get his season underway. 2010 was arguably his greatest year since turning pro as he racked up a number of strong performances in the Spring, including an impressive win in the Three Days of De Panne. In the tail end of the season he peaked again, claiming a silver in the Worlds time trial and gold in the Commonwealth Games equivalent. In between all that he started all three Grand Tours.

    With Garmin a much stronger proposition on the road this year, there will be less pressure on Millar to start all three Grand Tours, which will mean skipping the Vuelta and possibly pulling out before the end of the Giro.

    “My programme will be Algarve, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan San Remo. My plan has always been to start the season slower and Tirreno gives me the opportunity to sit back and take it easier and then come good in April to help the guy in Flanders and then be really good for the Giro,” he said.

    “I’m going to the Giro with an open mind and what’s different to other times in the past is that I won’t be turning up in a real trough of condition. This year I’d like to get there pinging and then I’ll have a rest before the Tour.”

    Millar’s final target of the season will be the Worlds again. Last year’s silver saw him lose out to four-time world champion Fabian Cancellara but the Scot isn’t giving up on beating the Swiss star, even if he admits that he’ll need form, circumstances and luck to be on his side for it to happen.

    “You’ve just got to hope that he’s not got that robot form. No doubt 100 per cent against each other he’s going to beat me, he’s just that much better and in the zenith of his career but on the right course and on the right day I can match him pretty well but I need him to be slightly off. That’s just sport, some guys are just on a different planet. I’ll aim for that, Fabian’s off-day.”

  • Saxo Bank Spaniards must go on without Contador

    Benjamin Noval and Dani Navarro enjoy their ride in the sunshine outside Rotterdam.
    Article published:
    January 31, 2011, 10:00
    By:
    Cycling News

    Riis has faith in Navarro, Hernandez and Noval

    Daniel Navarro, Jesus Hernandez and Benjamin Noval all came over from Astana to Saxo Bank-SunGard with Alberto Contador for the 2011 season, to ride in support of their fellow Spaniard. With the 2010 Tour de France winner likely of getting a suspension, they are facing a season without him, but team boss Bjarne Riis still has high expectations of the trio.

    "Of course it is hard for the three to see the problems that Contador is having. And especially for Jesus Hernandez, because he is so close to Alberto," Riis told Ekstra Bladet.

    "I feel confident that all three will emerge as a clear win for the team. They have been accustomed to work for Contador, but they each have so much class that I believe that even without their captain they can help.”

    When the trio was signed, it was suggested that Contador had brought them in more or less against Riis' wishes. But the Dane is now happy to have them.

    "Certainly I can confirm that I have not for one moment regretted that I hired them. And after having got to know them and seeing how they are both personally and athletically, I am sure they will work fine in the squad without Contador.”

    The trio will make their season debut at the Volta ao Algarve, February 16 to 20. "It was here that Contador should also have had his debut and with the form he is in, he would most obviously have been a good bet to win.”

  • Pooley calls for more TV coverage in women's cycling

    Emma Pooley (Great Britain) shows off her gold medal.
    Article published:
    January 31, 2011, 10:20
    By:
    Daniel Benson

    Garmin-Cervélo rider would also welcome the UCI's biological passport

    Emma Pooley (Garmin-Cervélo) is one of the most decorated riders in women's cycling but despite the sport's growth over the last few years, she believes that much more should be done to help develop women's racing.

    The world time trial champion pointed to greater television exposure and UCI pressure as two key areas.

    "There's a huge market out there and it's certainly taken off as a sport in the UK and Australia where I've seen it, there are women riding bikes," she told Cyclingnews.

    "I think it could do with more coverage, essentially TV coverage. People watch men's cycling, they find it exciting and that's the whole point of it. Sponsors pay for teams, not necessarily to have the team that wins, but to have the team that gets their name on the television screen. So if our races are never televised it's less interesting for sponsors," she said.

    Women's cycling certainly has less air time than the men's racing and Pooley pointed to races like the Tour of Flanders as prime examples where the women's side of the sport could benefit if it was given its chance on television. The men's race is televised almost throughout the day while the women, who race sections of the same course and finish on the same straight, have no television coverage at all. Pooley believes that with just one motorbike camera crew, viewers would appreciate the choice between watching both races, especially as the women's event finishes hours before the men's.

    "What would be awesome for women's cycling would be if the main men's races, the big races, had a women's race alongside. So every day the same stage finish, but maybe not the same distances. That would be awesome because the television crews are already in place, the spectators would already be there and it wouldn't cost the organisers much more to put on a women's race in the morning. It would get us infinitely more coverage.

    "Can you imagine if there was a women's race at the Tour de France? It would be amazing for us. I can't really see it happening in the near future, but it would be brilliant. It would get more sponsors into the sport and more women involved, too. I get asked by a lot of women if I'm going to ride the Tour de France, so some people have no clue."

    Garmin-Cervélo, like HTC-Highroad, operates at the highest level of both the men's and women's sport. Pooley believes that in the future, the sport's governing body (UCI) could enforce all ProTeams to follow Garmin's and HTC's example and provide a structure for women's cycling, although she admits that the shallow numbers in the women's peloton could restrict progress.

    "Another thing would be for all men's team to have a women's team alongside them. That's something that the UCI could enforce, like they U23 element. At the moment maybe there aren't enough women that they think it's possible, but it's worth thinking about. Just the publicity that would generate at races would get more women involved."

    Anti-doping

    Pooley's move to Garmin-Cervélo was part of the partnership between the 2010 Garmin-Transitions and Cervélo teams at the end of last season. While most of the focus has been cast on whether the likes of Thor Hushovd and Tyler Farrar will gel in the spring Classics, the women's team have quietly gone about their business, training in Mallorca while the men bonded in the Caymans.

    "I'm really happy with the stuff we've kept from the old team, especially obviously the bike sponsor and some of my old teammates, but it's effectively still a new set-up and a new paying agent," Pooley told Cyclingnews.

    "Saying that, I think the culture and the values are actually surprisingly similar between Cervélo and Garmin. The emphasis is on ethos and competing but not necessarily on winning. Of course everyone wants to win, but not at any price. Slipstream has a very strong anti-doping stance and far from pushing doping on their riders they're actually very anti-doping, which is great. Essentially, cyclists are advertising tools so for sponsors it's crucial that we don't cause chaos. I'm really happy with the ethos."

    Cervélo, unlike Garmin, started out as a women's team and added a men's outfit a season later.

    "Obviously, it's a bit different because we've come into an organisation that was already in place and they had a men's team that had been going for several years, whereas the Cervélo team actually grew out of the women's team so we were a bit more central there.

    "I feel like we have to fight our corner and make them realise that we are worth investing in, but I think that will come."

    However it's Pooley's and Garmin's stance on clean riding that seems most intertwined.

    "I wanted something like what they do in my contract because for the last few years we had a monthly blood test at British Cycling, but they were voluntary. They would chase you up if you didn't have it but British Cycling stopped bothering. I did blood tests whenever I was at home in an independent way, with an independent doctor. You need to provide as much evidence as you can. You can't prove that you're innocent but you can be as cooperative and helpful as possible to anti-doping. I'm impressed with our anti-doping policy."

    At present the women's field compete without the UCI's biological passport and are monitored by in and out of competition testing. Pooley is a big advocate of copying the men's testing programme but added that the women's field was cleaner.

    "I would welcome the passport in women's cycling but obviously there isn't much money in women's cycling so I can see why they haven't pushed it. I think more testing would also be great," she said.

    "I think it's a bit of a joke how infrequently I get tested. It's not often. I think I had three out of competition tests last year. I had quite a few in competitions so I don't know whether to take it as a compliment or an insult... but seriously, I do understand that it's expensive to send someone to your house but we fill in all this information on our whereabouts to make it as easy as possible to test us.

    "I think women's cycling is cleaner. There are still cases because people still test positive but I know the races I won last year, I won clean so either my competitors were taking something really rubbish or they weren't taking anything. Most of them were clean from what I know of my competitors and certainly my teammates."

  • Arctic Tour of Norway being planned

    Thor Hushovd cuts his cake
    Article published:
    January 31, 2011, 11:05
    By:
    Cycling News

    World champion Hushovd supports new race project

    Northern Norway is planning its first major international race, the Arctic Tour of Norway. The proposed race was presented last week by organisers, to be run as a national event in 2012 and 2013, then becoming international in 2014.  World champion Thor Hushovd expressed his support for the race.

    “This is the first step towards an international cycling stage race in northern Norway. This means that we have hired people who can work 100 percent with stage races. The cycling federation is interested, the funding is in place and we have a TV company that will produce the broadcasts,” said managing director Knut Erik Dybdal, according to Harstad Tidende.

    The new race would “stretch from Nordland to Finnmark, where the coastal route is an essential part of the program. The riders will be able to live and stay in one place while being transported to the starting line. It is unique," Dybdal said.

    Hushovd, of Garmin-Cervelo,was enthusiastic about the project. “I know there are many foreign riders who like Norway and want to go there and see the country. The midnight sun, for example, is world-renowned. I think it would be great for the riders and television viewers," he told TV 2 Sport.