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First Edition Cycling News, Monday, March 24, 2014

Date published:
March 24, 2014, 0:00 GMT
  • Cavendish disappointed after faltering in Milan-San Remo sprint

    Mark Cavendish survived the climbs but lost out in the sprint
    Article published:
    March 23, 2014, 18:33 GMT
    Cycling News

    Manxman finishes fifth after going early

    Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) came to a stop after the finish line in Milan-San Remo and slumped over his bike, gasping for breath and fighting disappointment after going tantalisingly close to a second victory in the race.

    Cavendish fought all day in the wind and rain and managed to stay in the select group of 27 riders that fought for victory. He managed to move up to the front of the group coming into the finishing straight and then started his sprint early after following Sacha Modolo (Lampre-Merida). However after 300km of racing in the rain, the Milan-San Remo sprint is uniquely difficult to get right.

    "I'm real disappointed. I felt incredible today. I felt super on the climbs but then not really in the sprint," Cavendish said at his team bus.

    "I'd like to say I miss-timed my sprint but I don't think I had another option when Modolo went. It was the only option I had to go then. It was too early."

    "Maybe in other conditions, if it wasn't so cold, I'd have a bit left and could stay longer but I really started to sprint and my legs just stopped. I sat down; I thought maybe I could go but then Kristof came back so fast that I couldn't even have got second, I just gave everything to the line and all I could manage was fifth."

    Cavendish was not looking for excuses. He knew he had performed far and above expectations.

    "We gave it everything, there's no excuses today, we gave everything," he said.

    "I didn't win. If I could come up with something that would've made for a better result, I'd be disappointed but there's nothing I could've done differently today. It was just four guys who beat me in the end."

    "I'm hugely disappointed but I can take some positives from this for the rest of the season. It's only really you guys (the media) that don't think I can be there...

  • Video: Kristoff hits his lines on the big stage at Milan-San Remo

    Alexander Kristoff (Team Katusha) wins Milan-San Remo
    Article published:
    March 23, 2014, 18:46 GMT
    Barry Ryan

    Norwegian wins Lungomare sprint for second successive year

    It would be easy to describe Alexander Kristoff’s scene-stealing Milan-San Remo victory as a surprise, but then that would overlook the fact that he trod the very same boards with such confidence in last year’s race.

    Twelve months ago, on a similarly sodden and grey Sunday afternoon on the Lungomare Italo Calvino, the Norwegian unleashed a powerful effort to fend off Mark Cavendish in the sprint for 8th place, but this time around, he topped the bill.

    After holding onto the leading group on the Poggio, Kristoff held his nerve admirably in a typically frenetic finale to La Classicissima, and then outkicked Fabian Cancellara (Trek) and Ben Swift (Sky) to the line, while Cavendish – who was a shade too far back as the sprint began, perhaps – had to settle for fifth place.

    "Of course it’s a little surprise as I did not win the big classics or races like this before, but I was always up there," Kristoff said in his post-race press conference. "I was 8th here, 4th in Flanders and 9th in Roubaix, so it’s not a big surprise.

    "I didn't expect it myself but I knew if I was good and lucky that it was not impossible. And also the team said that I could make a good result. I believed in it, but to actually win is something different, eh?"

    Given that this ought to be the last Milan-San Remo before the belated insertion of the Pompeiana in the finale in 2015, the race was billed as something of a last-chance saloon for the fast men to triumph on the Riviera, and all eyes were duly on Cavendish and André Greipel as the main group shrunk in size on the Cipressa and Poggio.

    "I tried to follow and stay in the pack, I didn't think about the others: I just wanted to survive the Poggio," Kristoff said. "I felt good but I didn't know about the others, because...

  • Cancellara satisfied with second after taking on the sprinters in Milan-San Remo

    Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing)
    Article published:
    March 23, 2014, 19:36 GMT
    Stephen Farrand

    Spartacus opts not to attack on the Poggio

    Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) vented his anger and frustration upon finishing second at Milan-San Remo by waving his arm in the air next to his bars.

    The powerful Swiss rider had opted not to attack on the Poggio and played his hand in the sprint finish. He had the speed to beat Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) and a host of other big name sprinters but could not quite match Alexander Kristoff's perfectly timed sprint.

    "When it's a sprint finish like that, you've got to give it a go," he said to journalists after climbing on the podium with Kristoff and third placed Ben Swift (Team Sky).

    "Finishing second means you're the first of the most disappointed riders. And I race to win, not to finish second or third. But if I look back at the race, I think I can be satisfied. I gave it everything and the team did a great job. That's important to me."

    "I could have finished fifth or even crashed out. I'm not a sprinter but after 294km, I was able to beat the likes of Cavendish and other sprinters, so that's satisfying. There was only one rider who finished ahead of me and unfortunately the finish came too soon for me to get past him. But Katusha deserved to win. They did a good race, too."

    In the past, Cancellara has attacked on the Poggio, forcing a split in the peloton and a vital selection. However his effort has often cost him dearly in the sprint and he has finished second or third in each of the last four editions of La Primavera.

    He won with a late solo attack on the flat road, two kilometres from the finish, in 2008 and decided that it was then futile to attack on the Poggio.

    "The Poggio is like a motorway, where you go at 40kmh. I don't make the mistake of attacking there anymore," he...

  • Nibali laments lack of allies at Milan-San Remo

    Vincenzo Nibali (Astana)
    Article published:
    March 23, 2014, 20:45 GMT
    Barry Ryan

    Astana rider’s solo move on Cipressa snuffed out in finale

    The move had been all but advertised in the morning newspapers but there were still no takers when the blue jersey of Vincenzo Nibali bounded clear on the Cipressa in the finale of a rain-soaked Milan-San Remo.

    Speaking beforehand, Astana manager Giuseppe Martinelli had predicted that in the absence of Le Manie, the Cipressa would prove more important than ever before given the amount of riders who needed to find a way of divesting the peloton of the pure sprinters.

    Instead, Nibali was left to his own devices when he attacked three kilometres from the summit. At least three times, he turned and peered back into the gloom behind him in the forlorn hope of finding reinforcements before grinding on alone. Although Nibali briefly set Italian hearts aflutter by opening a gap of 50 seconds after the descent, he was ineluctably swept up on the lower slopes of the Poggio and finished the race in 44th place, 3:15 down.

    “I had spoken with a lot of guys in the peloton, especially with [Peter] Sagan. He told me that he wanted to attack on the Cipressa but when I went myself, I saw that none of the riders who wanted to make the race hard on the Cipressa were following me,” Nibali said through chattering teeth as he sat on the steps of his team bus afterwards.

    Nibali would later take to Twitter to bemoan the lack of aggression from his fellow non-sprinters, asking “where are the riders with the balls [tactfully represented by a pair of emoticons] of once upon a time?” before quickly stressing that his were words of encouragement rather than of criticism. He was diplomatic on the pavement of the Via Roma, however, when asked whether his rivals had been lacking the courage or the condition to track his move.

    “Maybe it was a lack of courage, a lack of legs or maybe because of the cold, I...

  • Sagan suffers in the cold and rain at Milan-San Remo

    Peter Sagan had strong support from his team
    Article published:
    March 23, 2014, 22:30 GMT
    Stephen Farrand

    Cannondale leader not happy with tenth in the sprint

    Peter Sagan (Cannondale) seemed to have done everything right during the seven hours of racing at Milan-San Remo, but then like a tenor failing to hit the right note, he was unable to find his often winning sprint and became an also-ran in the dash to the line, finishing 10th.

    Sagan had been well protected by his teammates throughout the race, but he was alone in the front group that fought for victory on the San Remo sea front. He was forced to fight for the best wheels and stay on the wheels in the final kilometres and so was badly placed when the sprint began. He tried to come up behind Mark Cavendish, Sacha Modolo and Gerald Ciolek but the rain seemed to have extinguished his sprinting powers and the afterburners failed to ignite.

    "This is not the result I expected but I suffered a lot the cold and the bad the weather. It was really not easy to perform as I wanted in the finale," Sagan said before heading home to his new base in nearby Monaco.

    "I felt my legs blocked, and I wasn't able to sprint strong. It was a hard day, not so different compared to last year. I'm disappointed with this result but I have to accept it and look forward. I did my best in this condition and, with my team, we managed the race as we wanted."

    The Cannondale team was 100% dedicated to setting up Sagan, using their seven riders to control much of the race. Several green jerseys dragged the peloton across the Lombardy plain and up the Passo Turchino to control the breakaway and others also did some sterling work on the Capo Mele, Cervo and Capo Berta.

    Alessandro De Marchi deserved a special mention in dispatches for the way he attacked on the Cipressa with Sagan on his wheel, sparking an important selection on the climb through the olive groves and putting a lot of the...

  • Katusha teamwork key to Kristoff's Milan-San Remo victory

    Alexander Kristoff (Team Katusha) on the podium
    Article published:
    March 24, 2014, 0:15 GMT
    Cycling News

    Third monument win for Russian team

    Alexander Kristoff’s first ever monument win at Milan-San Remo was due to having both the biggest reserve of energy at the finish line and a strong team who dropped him off at end of the 294km race to perfection.

    In the final kilometres of La Primavera, Katusha teammate Luca Paolini drove the remnants of the peloton, which left Milan almost seven hours earlier, into San Remo to see Kristoff become the first Norwegian to win the race in its 105th edition.

    "The team did incredible work. Katusha was absolutely amazing during the entire race - each of my teammates was great. Luca Paolini helped me a lot in the final to get a good position for the sprint. It was a very difficult and unpredictable sprint. A sprint after 300km is different from one after 200km," said Kristoff after the race whose previous best placing at the race was eighth last year.

    "Normally I don't lose much power even on a long stage. I saw [Mark] Cavendish, who started his sprint, so I started mine, too. For the last 150 meters I had super power and was able to hold the others off. I was super happy when I saw I'd taken the win. It was the best moment in my life. Right now I'm enjoying this moment and I'm super happy. It's the highlight of my career.

    Kristoff’s best result prior to the first monument of 2014 was claiming the bronze medal in the road race at the 2012 London Olympics. The win is Katusha’s third monument after Joaquim Rodriguez’s two wins at Il Lombardi in 2013 and 2012.

    The team manager of Katusha, Viacheslav Ekimov, was full of praise for the two-time Norwegian road race champion who joined...

  • Froome back to lead Sky in Catalunya

    Chris Froome is the man to watch.
    Article published:
    March 24, 2014, 3:00 GMT
    Cycling News

    Tête-à-tête with Contador looms as both riders head to Spain

    The first Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Chris Froome (Team Sky) showdown of 2014 will take place at the seven-stage Volta Ciclista a Catalunya, the fourth-oldest cycling stage race in the world, beginning on Monday.

    Neither rider has won the race but the WorldTour event will be a vital test before their expected face off at the Tour de France. Numerous Spaniards have won the race while Robert Millar in 1985 is the only British rider to win the race.

    Despite defending his Tour of Oman title in February, Froome was pulled from Tirreno-Adriatico due to a back injury and took a precautionary break from racing. Richie Porte was then drafted into Sky's team for the Italian race, forgoing his defence of the Paris-Nice title he won last year to the ire of ASO.

    "It's definitely been disappointing to miss out on Tirreno. It was an important race for me and offered me a good opportunity to build on the form I had at the Tour of Oman," Froome told

    "With my back problem though, we felt it was a better idea to play it safe and look at the bigger picture, which is making sure I'm ready for the Tour de France in July. We've erred on the side of caution in that respect.

    "I'm training hard for that right now and looking forward to competing again. It's a very testing race and they've put some pretty hard stages in...

  • Alexis Gougeard proving his worth at Ag2r

    Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r-La Mondiale)
    Article published:
    March 24, 2014, 4:00 GMT
    Cycling News

    First pro win for Frenchman in the Loire

    Ag2r-La Mondiale continued their winning ways of 2014 as neo-pro Alexis Gougeard took out the Classic Loire-Atlantique. The win takes the French team's tally to eight, just one short of their entire tally in 2013.

    The 21-year-old Norman rider went solo having been part of the day's breakaway which included teammate Julien Bérard. Gougeard made the decisive attack 10km from the finish and resisted his pursuers for his first win at the professional level in just his sixth race for the French outfit.

    Last year Gougeard rode with the USSA Pavilly-Barentin team but wore the kit of the French national team at the Tour de L'Avenir where he won the opening prologue by six seconds ahead of Lasse Norman Hansen, who now rides for Garmin-Sharp, and held onto the leaders jersey until Stage 5.

    Gougeard's win so early in 2014 has repaid the faith placed in him by team manager Vincent Lavenu and his excitement at winning was obvious. 

    "I'm really stoked not only for myself but for the whole Ag2r-La Mondiale team. It confirms our excellent dynamics at the moment with the victories we’ve achieved in recent weeks. I wanted to enjoy myself and when I came into the finale, I did not believe it right away but 3km from the finish, I began to tell myself that it was possible," Gougeard said after claiming his win.

    "Since the beginning of the season, I did my job as the best teammate possible. Today, I had a small part to play and its hard to grasp is what I did."

    For the directeur sportif of the day, Gilles Mas, it was a special moment. "In recent years we often had difficulty...