- Article published:
- January 5, 2013, 22:30
- Stephen Farrand
Spaniard also considering adding either the Giro or Vuelta to program
Alberto Contador has confirmed he will target victory in the Tour de France in 2013 and has said he will soon decide if he will also ride the Giro d'Italia or the Vuelta a España.
Giro d'Italia organiser Michele Acquarone continued to try to convince Contador to return to the Giro d'Italia while both were in Dubai for the opening of the Dubai Cycling Course this week. However, logic seems to indicate that Contador will defend his Vuelta title and perhaps use his home Grand Tour to peak for a shot at the world championship on the hilly and testing course in Florence, Italy.
Contador missed the 2012 Tour de France because he was serving a ban for his positive test for clenbuterol from the 2010 Tour. He rode and won the 2011 Giro d'Italia while waiting for a final verdict from the Court of Arbitration for Sport but was then disqualified from the result as a consequence of being found guilty of doping in 2010. He seems indebted to the Giro d'Italia organisers RCS Sport but is clearly keen to return to France and prove he's the best stage race rider of his generation.
"I have a lot of dreams and objectives for 2013 and my biggest objective this year will be the Tour," Contador told Cyclingnews in Dubai.
"I haven’t decided my full race program yet. I haven't decided 100% if I do the Giro or the Vuelta. But what’s sure is that my season will centre on the Tour."
Contador is expected to attend the official presentation of the 2013 Vuelta route in Vigo on Saturday, January 12 before traveling to Argentina to ride the Tour de San Luis. He will study the race routes, his goals and talk with team manager Bjarne Riis before making a final decision on the second Grand Tour of his 2013 season.
"Hombre. It's not an easy decision because there are a lot of factors," he explained.
"The 2011 Giro d'Italia was too hard. To do both (the Giro and the Tour) was really difficult that year. This year’s Giro is much more straightforward, with fewer kilometres of racing per stage, so that could make it better to build for the Tour than the Giro of 2011. Later this month I'll sit down with the team and we will decide. Then we’ll organise things."
After competing in San Luis, Contador will return to the Middle East to ride the Tour of Oman, followed by Tirreno-Adriatico and Critérium International. He virtually ruled out riding the Ardennes Classics.
"I'd rather focus on Critérium International. I've ridden it but never been at my best. It's a good, prestigious race and I'd like to have a good shot at it. I'll also be able to ride the roads of the Tour de France Grand Depart, which is important."
Riding in Dubai
Contador spent a week training in Dubai and celebrating New Year in the Emirate, with his wife Macarena and some friends. He tweeted a photo of himself training in the sun and Contador won the exhibition race sprint race against Vincenzo Nibali and Ryder Hesjedal on Friday night. He was keen to take part in the new Dubai Tour announced for 2014.
"I think the creation of the new race is good news; anything that creates interest in the world of cycling is good," he told Cyclingnews.
"It's very important in these countries that there's more interest in cycling. There's the Tour of Qatar, the Tour of Oman and if we have the Dubai tour too, it's good for cycling. Things aren't great in Europe at the moment because a lot of races don't have sponsors and so can't continue. That's another reason why this race is important."
"The winter weather in Dubai is perfect for training at this time of year. It's about 25C. A friend in Madrid sent me a photo at 10:30 in the morning and it was zero degrees. That’s a huge difference."
Contador was relaxed and jovial in Dubai, joking with Nibali and Hesjedal before their early season race and enjoying a boat tour of the Dubai skyline.
He has passed the last two winters under a cloud, fighting against a ban for doping and then serving his time for much of the 2012 season. Contador made a strong comeback in the late summer, winning the Vuelta and getting his career back on track.
"It's been a happy winter, but not because I won the Vuelta," he pointed out. "Maybe not every one will agree with me but happiness in life is not about if you finish first, second or third in the Vuelta, but for other, more personal reasons. That's why I try to enjoy every moment in life and live every day to the maximum. In that sense it's been a good winter and I'm ready for the new season."
- Article published:
- January 5, 2013, 23:54
- Jane Aubrey
AIS graduate rides for Great Britain at Jayco Herald Sun Tour
The appearance of Australian Richard Lang on the Great Britain National Team at the Jayco Herald Sun Tour has been cause for some confusion.
Given the event is not sanctioned by the UCI, and that Lang holds a dual Australian-British passport, the Sydney-born 23-year-old was eligible for a guest spot on the team. Lang spent 2012 riding for the UK-based Rapha Condor - Sharp and with quite a few of the British National team unavailable with track duties ahead of the world championships in Minsk, it was an opportunity Lang couldn't pass up.
Whether this week's stint could signal a more-permanent move, was something Lang was unwilling to rule out.
"Who knows?" he told Cyclingnews.
Lang's form is building nicely ahead of next week's Cycling Australia Road National Championships, then, he will return to the UK for the Raleigh 2013 team presentation where he will race this season. Heading into the Sun Tour's final stage at Arthurs Seat, Lang is out of contention for the overall but the fast all-rounder showed plenty of promise on the tough Stage 1 which was very much a form-guide for the nationals, finishing 10th.
2012 was as much about Lang finding his own feet, as it was about delivering impressive wins for Rapha Condor at the East Yorkshire Classic circuit race and the Leases Park circuit race. Lang graduated from the Australian domestic Budget Forklifts outfit, into the highly successful Jayco-AIS program where he rode until 2011. While he's not about to knock the Australian development program, he does admit that he felt restricted by its confines.
"Last year was the year I've learned the most about myself," Lang explained of his time at Rapha Condor - Sharp. "I really took control of what I was doing. While I was with the AIS, you're sort of, not dictated [to] but you're told what to do with your training and that kind of thing.
"I don't believe I fitted the mould," he continued. "I enjoy cycling a lot more when I have my own flat and take a little bit more control of my own things. It did provide me with awesome opportunities. It is a really good platform and I did learn a lot racing in Italy. But I do enjoy having my own space.
"The program's second to none. You can't complain about that."
Lang remains firm in his belief that the UK route is the best path for him if he is to achieve his goal of turning professional. In 2013, Lang will be one of four Australians at Raleigh, joined by Lachlan Norris, Sam Witmitz and Mark O'Brien.
"I think you always plan to try and turn pro sooner but it is a hard game," he said. "You have to be patient and the UK is a good move for me. My girlfriend can work and still pursue her own goals and I can still pursue mine - it’s a good compromise."
- Article published:
- January 6, 2013, 09:43
- Jane Aubrey
New Zealander set for his 12th professional season
Beginning your season on January 1 can result in a precarious juggling act between the need for intensity and measuring that same fervour when a long season in Europe beckons. Lotto Belisol's Greg Henderson wouldn't have it any other way heading into his 12th season as a professional.
Henderson took on the Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic from New Year's Day before racing the Jayco Herald Sun Tour which has proved additionally challenging due to a heat wave which struck Victoria in recent days.
"It's quite a fine balance at the end of the day," the 36-year-old Henderson admitted. "Doing the Bay Crits, okay, they're only an hour but you try and ride them as easy as possible but they're not easy, are they? Straight into prologue and then straight into 45 degrees yesterday [stage 1], so you've got to be careful because you can absolutely cook it and then it can be hard to recover from a hit out like that.
"I'm lucky I'm old enough, I know my body... Maybe it sounds selfish but genuinely I have to be careful because you can do yourself quite a bit of damage and it's a bloody long season."
The addition of Henderson to the Lotto Belisol sprint train went a long way towards helping André Greipel secure 19 victories in 2012, something that was evident from the first WorldTour event of the season, the Tour Down Under. The majority of the sprint train had ridden together at the Highroad set-up, and that familiarity proved to be a winning formula. Henderson said that with that fact in mind, it was important for the team to revisit some of the basics to ensure that success continues.
"What happened at the end of the year was that we got to know each other so well that the team meetings were becoming shorter and shorter," he explained to Cyclingnews. "We need to start talking again - this is your job, this is where you finish, this is where you start. Just to get it back in the brain that this is really important that that's where you're finish line is."
Following the Sun Tour, Henderson will head back to his native New Zealand to race the national road championships next week before returning to Australia to prepare for the Tour Down Under, where Greipel will be in line for his third overall victory and the Kiwi plans to be "bombing". Lotto Belisol will have "three or four days" of preparation together before the event gets underway on January 20 with the traditional warm-up criterium. It's not a lot of time when you consider that Henderson was absent from the recent training camp and it's now been several months since the combination raced together, but he says that it's all the time that's required.
"It's more of an experience thing," Henderson suggested. "I've done it that many times. I'm getting old now obviously. I actually remember telling them [last year] who they'd be racing down the back straight from Sky. I knew Sieberg would be racing Geraint Thomas down the back straight, and I said to him 'you have to be first into the corner.' And he did. Greipel won it by four bike lengths."
With any luck, the team's success should run into 2014 and Lotto Belisol management are already discussing a contract extension with Henderson beyond the end of this current season.
"If people start poaching from our lead out train then they'd have to juggle it all around again," he said. "Marc Sergent's not stupid. If he can keep us together and keep us happy, which we are, why not?"
- Article published:
- January 6, 2013, 10:53
- Cycling News
FDJ rider hopeful of participating in camp next week
Thibaut Pinot’s pre-season training has been interrupted by a bout of tendonitis in his right knee and the FDJ rider has been ordered to take three days off the bike.
“I went out for a ride with Arthur Vichot and Anthony Roux and after two or three hours, I couldn’t pedal any more,” Pinot told L’Équipe. “I don’t know where it’s come from, I haven’t changed anything, neither my cleats nor my shoes…”
Pinot is currently in La Môle, in southern France, in search of warm weather training miles and he admitted that he was frustrated to have to take time out so early in the year. The 22-year-old is nonetheless hoping to be a full participant in FDJ’s training camp in Corsica, which gets underway on Tuesday.
“It’s twenty degrees, there’s a lot of sun and so it’s frustrating. The days are long,” said Pinot, who still plans to reconnoitre the opening stage of the 2013 Tour de France, from Porto-Vecchio to Bastia, on Wednesday morning.
Pinot won a fine stage at Porrentruy in the 2012 Tour and became the youngest rider to finish in the top ten in Paris since 1947. He is expected to start his 2013 season at the Grand Prix La Marseillaise on January 27, followed by the Tour Méditerranéen, which begins on February 6.
- Article published:
- January 6, 2013, 12:04
- Cycling News
BMC rider to return home after training crash
Alessandro Ballan is set to be released from hospital in Spain in the coming days although it remains unclear as to when the former world champion will be able to return to racing.
Ballan suffered a double fracture of his left femur in a crash on the final day of BMC’s pre-Christmas training camp, and he also had to undergo emergency surgery to remove his spleen. The Italian has been in hospital in Denia since December 20.
"Once Alessandro is back in Italy, we'll make sure everything went well during the flight. Depending on the outcome of that evaluation, we can determine the next step in his rehabilitation,” said BMC chief medical officer Dr. Max Testa.
Ballan spent a week in intensive care before being moved to a normal hospital ward. BMC are already resigned to being without Ballan for the spring classics, although general manager Jim Ochowicz expressed his hope that the 33-year-old would be back in action as soon as possible.
“We are extremely pleased at the rapid progress that Alessandro has accomplished while under the excellent care of the Hospital Dénia Marina Salud," Ochowicz said. "We look forward to having him back in the races in the coming months."
Ballan himself admitted that he is simply looking forward to returning to his home in the Veneto, given that he has been away since the beginning of the BMC camp in December.
“Training camp started in mid-December and then I couldn't be home and together with my entire family for the holidays,” he said. “So I'm very appreciative of the support from Dr. (Dario) Spinelli and the BMC Racing Team and the medical care I received here in Spain. Plus, all the messages of encouragement have given me more strength every day."
- Article published:
- January 6, 2013, 13:49
- Daniel Benson
5-hour Energy/Kenda hoping for California, Colorado and Utah invitations
Frankie Andreu has told Cyclingnews that he has no concerns over managing Francisco Mancebo as part of the 5-hour Energy/Kenda Racing Team. The team was formed through a merger of the Kenda/5-hour Energy squad run by Inferno Racing and On the Rivet Management's Competitive Cyclist team. Andreu had formerly managed the Kenda squad, while Mancebo rode for the Competitive Cyclist team and won the National Racing Calendar (NRC) in 2012.
The match of Andreu with Mancebo raised eyebrows when the merger of the two squads was announced last month. The Spaniard was linked to Operación Puerto in 2006 and was prevented from riding the Tour de France that year. He retired that season and escaped a suspension, but he returned to professional cycling within a matter of months and despite never returning to the WorldTour level, he has been a consistent presence on the US domestic racing scene.
Andreu, who admitted to taking EPO during his career and testified against Lance Armstrong as part of USADA's investigation into doping at US Postal, has reformed his reputation as a team director with a zero-tolerance stance against doping and as an advocate of clean sport. The merger of the two squads brings together Andreu's stance with a rider who has never been sanctioned for his own links to Puerto.
"On the Rivet were able to bring over riders and I was able to bring over my riders too," Andreu said when discussing the merger. "They've had a strict anti-doping policy that I support and when I get there I'll make sure we're all on the same page."
"I know what Mancebo's done in the US in terms of racing results but that's because that's where I've been directing. He's been strong here, sometimes riding liking Superman, but other times he's been vulnerable. He's been up and down. The other thing I know was that he was fourth in the Tour de France . I don't remember him from when I was racing and the first I really became aware of him was when he got fourth in the Tour. I paid more attention though since he's been in the US.
"I know that there's the association of his name with the Puerto documents but I don't know enough about how direct that link is or when his name was mentioned in the documents. I don't know. It's not like I've researched the guy. He's been with On The Rivet for three years and now he's part of the one squad that we're bringing together.”
Andreu added that he'd had several discussions about issues that needed raising with the formation of the new team, including the stance on anti-doping. However, he added that following meetings with the team's owners, he had no concerns about working with Mancebo in 2013.
"No. I don't. I don't have any concerns of him riding now. I’ve spoken at length to the On The Rivet guys and I've brought up my concerns and they've addressed them in a way that I thought was correct. They understood my concerns and were all on board with what I had to say about running a clean team for everybody. It's not just about Mancebo, it's about all the riders. I don't want to single him out, it's the same for everyone. I trust that On the Rivet were doing the correct things since he's been racing for them in the US. The most I can do is have a conversation and follow these guys around and say it's this way or the high way. And it's in all the contracts, too, which most teams have now. There's no tolerance, so if you do anything you're going to be fired.
"There weren't really concerns but his name was associated with Puerto and so I wanted to address that and if they've had conversations with him about his past. I need to learn a little about his past and talk to him about his past."
Make or break
The new squad will hold its first training camp next month in Georgia and will follow this up with a team presentation. It's a make-or-break year for the new team though. Both former teams missed out on several important invitations to the biggest races on the US calendar and Andreu admits that another repeat of those circumstances could harm the sponsorship situation.
"At the moment I'm trying to find some races in March. We'll be focussing on the NRC that Mancebo won that last year. We'll try and repeat that with him or one of the other guys on the team. I have some really strong, talented guys on the team this year. Our main emphasis is to try and get the invitations to the main races that we've missed out on in the last couple of years. California, Colorado and Utah, that's everything for the sponsors and it's been proven in the past that if you don't get into those races, the sponsors aren't happy and they're not too willing to stick around.
"If we don't get into the bigger UCI races, I think this will be a make or break year for sure. These big races have so much power and control, and I feel for them because it's a hard selection, but you have to share that selection process with other teams."
- Article published:
- January 6, 2013, 18:06
- Cycling News
Four-day event begins on February 28
After a successful introduction into a four-day stage race in the spring of 2011 for the elite men's event, the Merco Cycling Classic presented by Mercy Medical Center announced that the women's Pro/1-2 event for 2013 will change from a three-day omnium to a four-day stage race, to be called the Dignity Health Medical Group Merced Women’s Stage Race.
The women's four-day race takes place in Merced, California from February 28-March 3, the same dates as the men's race. It had originally been anticipated that women's racing at the 2013 Merco Cycling Classic would be restricted to omniums on stages 2, 3 and 4, but thanks to additional sponsorship, event director Doug Fluetsch was able to proceed with the organisation of a concurrent four-day women's stage race.
"We knew Alicia Bohlke and Dignity Health Medical Group Merced were interested in our event in terms of sponsorship but there wasn't a great fit until the opportunity of the women's stage race evolved," Fluetsch explained. "Dignity Health Medical Group Merced recruits new physicians to our new, state of the art hospital, Mercy Medical Center. So the fit with our presenting sponsor is fantastic. Without their support we would not be able to offer what we are."
Fluetsch is aiming to put together a field of some 75 riders for the inaugural running of the women's stage race at the Merco Cycling Classic, something he believes would provide a platform for the consolidation of the event in the years to come. Registration for the race opens next week.
"The women's stage race will be considered a success if we can attract a quality field of 75 athletes which would then allow us to plan on expansion of the women's event in the future, which is something truly needed for women's cycling today," he said. "We are fortunate to be able to do this."
The addition of the women's stage race is a timely one, as the Merco Cycling Classic – which began life as the two-day McLane Pacific Cycling Classic – celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2013. The men's race extended to its current four-day format in 2011, something Fluetsch maintains is proof of the local pride the race has fostered in Merced.
"20 years ago I would have never envisioned what a race like this would mean to our community and I am genuinely proud of what we have become," Fluetsch said. "The expansion of the Merco Cycling Classic at a time when cycling events and teams are feeling the effects of the struggling economy as well as the challenges cycling as a sport is facing is a testament to what this event means to the community of Merced and central California."
The guest speaker at the 2013 champions' dinner, which takes place after stage 1, will be Davis Phinney, and a portion of the proceeds will go to the Davis Phinney Foundation.
- Article published:
- January 6, 2013, 23:53
- Jane Aubrey
Dumped from the national program, 20-year-old bound for Italy
Late last year, Calvin Watson learned that he would not be riding with Australian under 23 development program, Jayco-AIS in Europe for a second successive year. He was understandably shattered, particularly after a fourth overall at the Giro del Friuli and a number of top 10 results. On Sunday, Watson got one back at his detractors, by claiming the overall victory at the Jayco Herald Sun Tour.
"I came here really wanting to chase a result and prepare for the nationals," Watson told reporters following his win. "I was fuelled by a bit of anger and disappointment being left out of the national program so, I'm happy that I can show them that I'm a real force in Australian cycling."
It was Victorian Institute of Sport head coach Dave Sanders who urged Watson not to dwell on his situation and channel his frustration into the bike. Sanders was struggling to hold back his emotions following his charge's win having guided him since the age of 15.
"This is the big one. It doesn't get any bigger in this country," Sanders said. "Cal's had a couple of setbacks and whatever and he's showed his stuff.
"Put it this way: this is how you demonstrate your ability. In every athlete's life, particularly in cycling, everyone has setbacks, everyone gets let down. Everyone. The Gerrans, all of them... And you've got to come out fighting. You go and get off your backside and do it. That's what he's done. I said to him, 'don't get down in the dumps about this, just get off your backside and do it.'”
The all-rounder Watson in fact had double reason to celebrate, taking the win on his 20th birthday.
Watson laid the foundations for his victory on Friday in the searing heat wave and high winds which affected the peloton en route from Sunbury to Bendigo on Stage 1. He missed out on the stage win there, coming second in a sprint to the finish line in the velodrome to Aaron Donnelly (Huon - Genesys) but it was Donnelly who had had to do all the chasing with Watson out the front of the race in a breakaway and on the attack the majority of the day.
With the general classification largely unchanged after Stage 2, it was left to Watson and his abilities on Sunday's final stage to Arthurs Seat, with just one other rider challenging for the overall title, New Zealander Josh Atkins (Gray's Online New Zealand National Team). Sanders was not alone in the belief that since Watson had something of advantage thanks to the fact that he grew up locally in Frankston and used Arthurs Seat for training on a regular basis.
"It's never over until it's over," said Watson who was riding his first Sun Tour. "When we started climbing Arthurs Seat and I looked back and Josh was out of sight; that was when I really knew I had to suffer those last few kilometres to make it happen.
"I climb this climb twice a week," he continued. "This is my backyard and I couldn't ask for a better place to train because this is what it's all about. I knew the climb back to front. I knew where I could ease off and where I would have to dig deep and every corner and that really played into our hands."
While Watson openly admitted he was the underdog against Atkins, a noted climber, Sanders used the following anecdote to dispel such a theory.
"We took him to the junior Worlds a few years ago," he recalled. "He totally committed to the team. He led out the sprint up the hill, a kilometre out leading Jay McCarthy out who ended up running second and he still ran sixth – uphill, blew them all off the wheel."
After Watson races the Cycling Australia Road National Championships next week, he will head to Italy with compatriot Pat Lane to race for amateur outfit, Team Hoppla.
"We're looking forward to a new pathway and a new beginning and stepping out of our comfort zone and really seeing what we can do in Italy," he said.