- Article published:
- March 28, 2010, 21:44
- Jean-François Quénet
Criterium International win a sign of things to come?
Despite 11 seasons as a professional, Pierrick Fedrigo admitted he was amazed to win the 2010 Criterium International ahead of a host of established Grand Tour riders. A winner of two Tour de France stages, ProTour event GP Plouay and the French championship, the 31-year-old Bbox Bouygues Telecom rider was still surprised to have triumphed in Corsica.
"I feel like a kid," he said with a grin. "When I’m in a race with [Cadel] Evans, [Alberto] Contador and [Samuel] Sanchez, I’m not used to attacking them."
However, attack he did with less than three kilometres to go in the climb of the Ospedale on Saturday's opening stage. He rode a decent time trial on Sunday afternoon to score the 13th best time, just ahead of Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) and Lance Armstrong (RadioShack). His time trial performance was more than enough to hold on to yellow, with 14 seconds to spare over Michael Rogers (HTC-Columbia). It also meant the two second bonus he received after finishing third on Sunday's flat morning stage weren’t critical to his overall win.
"I rode the time trial instinctively," said the Bordeaux native. "I threw the radio away before the start because it wasn’t working well. I found the motivation by reading the record book of the Criterium International in the team bus before warming up. I said to myself that my name had to be added to this list."
Fedrigo becomes the first Frenchman to win Criterium International since Laurent Brochard in 2003.
Can success breed success?
Observers of Fedrigo's career often believe that his physical capacity exceeds that of his motivation for racing. In 2008, cut his season short in mid-September, only to realise the error of his ways when he witnessed Alessandro Ballan's victory at the World Championship. Just four weeks earlier, he had defeated the Italian at GP Plouay.
Last season, Fedrigo nominated himself as a candidate for the French team at the World Championship in Mendrisio, Switzerland but again pulled the plug at the Vuelta a España on stage 11 because he wanted to go home and see his children. And, one week ago, questions were again being asked when the team captain of Bbox Bouygues Telecom chose to race the UCI1.2-ranked Classic Loire-Atlantique (where he finished third) and the French Cup GP Cholet-Pays de Loire, instead of Milan-San Remo.
"The level of the races I took part in was largely inferior to the La Primavera, but maybe they made me a winner today," he said.
Fedrigo accepts the reproach of his critics, but is vague about any potential plans to improve his status. "Maybe I should ride less to win more, like some of the big champions do," he said on Sunday. But that would mean training more and that’s obviously not his cup of tea.
He said he is open to change and envisages a to move to a foreign team when his contract with Bbox Bouygues Telecom runs out at the end of this year. "Slowly but surely I'm building my record book," he said, after securing the 20th victory of his career since turning professional with Crédit Agricole in 2000.
Fedrigo also has general classification victories at the Tour of Limousin and the Four Days of Dunkirk under his belt, but, "The level of the Criterium International was much higher than these races."
Fedrigo said he wants to confirm at Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège that he’s not just an intermittent winner.
- Article published:
- March 29, 2010, 00:00
- Daniel Benson
Danish dynamo dumped out of Wevelgem finale
Matti Breschel (Saxo Bank) crossed the line in eighth place at Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday but it could have been a different story had he not flatted in the final 20 kilometres.
One of the leading protagonists in the 210 kilometre Classic, the Dane made the final selection of riders on the day’s final climb, and with a strong sprint he stood a good chance of picking up his second victory in a week, after he won Dwars door Vlaanderen.
“It’s shit but that’s what happens in cycling,” he told Cyclingnews. “It’s part of the game.”
Breschel skipped yesterday’s E3 Prijs Vlaanderen - Harelbeke and showed his freshness and form throughout today’s race. He was the first rider to breach the gap to Daniel Oss and Maxim Iglinskyi (Astana) with around 50 kilometres to go. He then dropped everyone on the final ascent of the Kemmelberg, and although he carved out a small gap, he sat up and waited for the rest of the favourites.
He was joined by Daniel Oss (Liquigas), George Hincapie (BMC Racing Team), Bernhard Eisel (HTC-Columbia), Sep Vanmarke (Topsport-Vlaanderen), Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Jurgen Roelandts (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Maxim Iglinskyi (Astana), Alexandr Kuchynski (Liquigas) and Oscar Freire (Rabobank).
The leaders sped towards Wevelgem but disaster struck when Breschel punctured. The Dane was forced to wait for a new wheel and but as the leaders disappeared from view, so did his chances of clinching victory.
He was joined by another group including team-mate Baden Cooke, Christian Knees (Milram), Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Transitions) and Luca Paolini (Acqua & Sapone) but despite Cooke’s heroic efforts to close the gap it was all for nothing.
“I still felt I had some power left and we tried to close the gap but after I had a puncture they went flat out at the front so I couldn’t get back on,” he said. “Cooke did great for me and tried to close the gap.”
Despite the disappointment, Breschel will still head into Flanders and Roubaix as one of the favourites.
“I felt good today so it’s a pity but anyway I’m good and I’ll be there for next week,” he said. “I’m confident ahead of next week. I feel better and better and I feel I have some power on the cobbles.”
Breschel will also need to balance his own ambitions with those of team-mate and winner of E3, Fabian Cancellara, who has repeatedly said he wants to win Flanders for the first time year. “We have to see, be honest, talk together and stay loyal,” he said.
- Article published:
- March 29, 2010, 07:47
- Richard Tyler
Youngster makes the most of his Classic escape
Belgian Sep Vanmarcke pulled off a surprise coup at the 2010 edition of Gent-Wevelgem when he sprinted to a second place finish on Sunday afternoon.
The little known Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator rider couldn't overcome Bernhard Eisel (HTC-Columbia), but was able to upstage compatriot Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) in the sprint into Wevelgem.
"I'm pretty happy, I'm only 21 and I didn't expect this," Vanmarcke told Cyclingnews afterwards.
Racing in his first full season for the Belgian Professional Continental squad, Vanmarcke held his own in a ten-man selection formed on the final ascent of the Baneberg. However, Vanmarcke's passage in the group wasn't entirely without incident and at one point in the escape he was chastised by Oscar Freire (Rabobank) for missing turns.
"I was having a bad moment. He said 'if you can't come through, go to the back of the group'," said Vanmarcke. "I dropped to the back and recovered for a few minutes and then started pulling again."
Ironically, it was Freire who would eventually lose touch with the lead group as Vanmarcke readied himself for the biggest finish of his three-year professional career. Although his final position would eventually be decided in a sprint, Vanmarcke had attempted to avoid direct confrontation through an attack three kilometres from the finish.
"Everyone was looking at each other so I said 'why not'. I had a gap of 100 metres and I could hold the speed, but then I had cramps and the others came back to me," he said. "I banged my legs with my fists a few times and fortunately was able to recover enough to sprint."
In his post-race press conference, race winner Eisel expressed admiration for his young rival's performance. "He was fighting all day, he started to struggle with 30 kilometres to go, but it was a good attack at the end; he put up a nice fight," he said.
"I hope he's one for the future, for your sake," said Eisel to the assembled media, adding with a laugh, "But for me I hope not."
- Article published:
- March 29, 2010, 08:11
- Brecht Decaluwé
Belgian star misses out at Gent-Wevelgem but keep the faith
For the first time in history the Belgian public haven't witnessed a win from one of their compatriots during the five first spring classics races on home soil. As for the Omega Pharma-Lotto team, it has been had a lacklustre season as well, with no wins yet in 2010.
The team entered last weekend's racing with some riders suffering from a virus and the team was forced to line up with only six riders at the E3-Prijs Harelbeke, which is considered to be the final rehearsal ahead of the Tour of Flanders. During that race only Greg Van Avermaet managed to get in the picture but in the finale the team was nowhere to be seen.
Luckily for the Belgian team there's Philippe Gilbert, who's gained a lot of confidence during the end of last season when he won a series of high-profile races. During Gent-Wevelgem, Gilbert showed that the team can remain confident and count on him for the Ronde. Gilbert finished third and another positive note was the presence of teammate Jurgen Roelandts in the lead group of six riders; the former Belgian champion was a great support for Gilbert. Roelandts was pleased with his performance and confirmed the team had been slightly panicking coming into this race.
"Of course we didn't win but that was very hard against Bernhard (Eisel). I believed in my chances for the sprint but when we started he immediately made the difference. I didn't come back on him and Vanmarcke, I was dead," Gilbert admitted. Sixty kilometres before that during right after the first ascent of the Kemmelberg, considered to be one of the toughest climbs in Flanders, the race was set on fire by the Liquigas team. Gilbert and Roelandts ended up chasing in a second echelon.
"After descending the Kemmelberg I lost position and when we turned into the crosswinds we were surprised by the acceleration. The peloton was on a long line and it broke a few spots ahead of me. It took time to organize the chase. We had to work hard to get back to the front," Gilbert said.
For more than ten kilometres the gap was about half a minute but on the Mont des Cats, Gilbert joined Enrico Gasparotto (Astana) in a counter-attack. Surprisingly the Belgian was unable to keep the Italian's wheel. "He hit that climb and he was going really fast. I lost contact but luckily I managed to bridge up later, but after that I was really tired. Surprisingly Gasparotto wasn't present in the decisive breakaway so he probably dug too deep back then. You always have to save something for later," Gilbert added a´by way of a tip.
Together with Roelandts the Belgian team had two fast riders up front but they were no match for Columbia-HTC's Eisel. "I wasn't super strong today and I knew that the finish didn't suit me, since it's not false flat or uphill. I told Jurgen that I would work for him but he told me that he wasn't feeling good enough, so he tried to set me up for the sprint. Of course we were all at our limit after such a race." Gilbert said.
In the sprint Gilbert was on Eisel's wheel but eventually he didn't get any closer to the Austrian and even his young compatriot Sep Vanmarcke passed him. "Sep rode a great race. Physically I knew who he was but actually I didn't know his name. We rode together in the Tour of Qatar and I often tried to read his name from his frame plate but that didn't succeed," Gilbert laughed while confirming that now he knew who Vanmarcke was.
Though Eisel was a well-deserved winner the strongest man in the race was Saxo Bank's Matti Breschel. The Danish champion dropped Gilbert and the others during the second ascent of the Kemmelberg but punctured out of the lead group later on. "We had all the trouble keeping up with him and then he asked us for support but I don't think he realized how strong he was," Gilbert said.
Together with Fabian Cancellara, Tom Boonen, Juan Antonio Flecha and Filippo Pozzato, the Dane is a top favourite for the Tour of Flanders. Thanks to the convincing performance from Gilbert and Roelandts, the Omega Pharma-Lotto team will be more confident to fight against these men during the Tour of Flanders next week. But like Gilbert said, "a lot can change in a week."
- Article published:
- March 29, 2010, 08:43
- Daniel Benson
Sergeant admits team is already looking for sprinter for next season
Another race, another missed opportunity and Omega Pharma-Lotto are still looking for their first win of the season after Gent-Wevelgem. However team boss Marc Sergeant isn’t about to push the panic button yet, although he admitted that the team will need a competitive sprinter for next season.
Today Lotto had two men in the final break, with Philippe Gilbert and Jurgen Roelandts making the final selection of favourites. However with Roelandts struggling and a flat final 30 kilometres in which Gilbert had no opportunity to attack, the chances of the Belgian team winning were slim. Gilbert eventually claimed third, but with the season almost a third in, everyone in today’s press room was beginning to ask the question, just when will they win a race?
“We had two guys in the front, but Roelandts told me with 12km to go that he had nothing left and they were going 60 kilometres per-hour in the last hour, so there was no where for Gilbert to attack and Eisel was too quick,” Sergeant said at the finish.
“Look, there’s always pressure. We try to work as professionally as we can. At the beginning of the season we had three or four training camps and we did everything we could, now it’s the riders who have to ride.”
“You, the journalists and the man in the street point and say no wins but we knew that in advance and if you don’t have a fast sprinter… We don’t want to burst Gilbert by making him win a stage in Paris Nice. He has to prepare himself for the Classics because that’s where he wants to be good.”
As for the morale of the team, Sergeant suggest that all wasn’t well, but that the management were doing their bit to help raise spirits.
“Everyone was a bit depressed especially after yesterday, so we tried to laugh it off. That was only way to deal with it, they knew it wasn’t good. We have to work for the next race.”
That next race is Flanders, where Gilbert will have the perfect terrain to claim that elusive win for the team. However, he’ll have to beat riders like Tom Boonen, Fabian Cancellara, and Juan Antonio Flecha, and although he has the talent, a victory is certainly not a done deal.
“You needed a fast sprinter in the fast group, but Flanders will be a different story and there Gilbert will have the things he needs, cobbles, more climbs and more distance. Here it was like a carpet at the end.
“Cancellara was very strong yesterday (Saturday), he was so impressive. Boonen is good, Flecha too, so there are lots of guys that are good. So if you put those guys together in the last 60 kilometres at Flanders it’s going to be fireworks. Nice for cycling, isn’t it?”
Sergeant is already looking at strengthening the team in the winter, and will be hoping to sign a top-level sprinter, although he wouldn’t be drawn on any names. “We need for sure, one very fast guy because that takes some pressure and guarantees you some wins. Even a win in Algarve, or Qatar or Oman, it’s a win. But we’ll look back over things after Liege. If we have one win by then and it’s a big win then everyone will forget.”
- Article published:
- March 29, 2010, 09:26
- Cycling News
Would be happy to see certain people “dead and buried”
Michael Rasmussen is a bitter man who feels that the cycling world has treated him unfairly. “If some persons were dead and buried, I would probably be happier, but I am not going to hire a couple of Colombian gangsters to make it a reality,” he said.
“Of course it's a big thing, and it's even worse to say it aloud, but I just say what I think and I am not ashamed of that,” he told the Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet.
“I was wrongfully deprived of a sure victory in the Tour de France and it is a huge loss,” he continued. “This naturally brings a violent reaction with it.”
One of the objects of his displeasure is UCI chief Patrick McQuaid, but in an interview with the Danish website Weekendavisen.dk, he also mentioned Tour de France organisers ASO, the Danish Cycling Union and its president Jasper Worre, his former team Rabobank, the Danish government and the Danish sports media.
“I should have changed my nationality back in 2005,” Rasmussen said. “I should have become a Mexican national, so I would never have had any problems with the Danish Cycling Union and its president Jasper Worre.”
Rasmussen was removed from the 2007 Tour de France while leading the race. He was later suspended for two years for violating the whereabouts requirements, having lied as to where he was while preparing for the Tour. He returned the end of last season with a small Mexican team and this year rides for the Italian Continental team Miche Silver Cross.
- Article published:
- March 29, 2010, 10:11
- Cycling News
Neither rider totally up to speed
The expected Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong showdown at the Criterium International turned out to be a letdown, as neither rider sparkled in the race. Contador blamed his weaker than expected performance on allergies, while Johan Bruyneel said that Armstrong lacked race miles.
It became clear on the final climb up to the mountaintop finish of the first stage that the two riders would not play a role in the final overall rankings. RadioShack's Armstrong was dropped early on the climb, finishing 4:51 down in 50th place, while Contador hung on until near the end, coming in at 1:13 down.
Both finished in the peloton with the same time as the winner in the second stage Sunday morning.
Contador topped his American rival again in the closing time trial Sunday afternoon, but was unable to take the stage win. The Spaniard finished second, two seconds behind winner David Millar of Garmin-Transitions. Armstrong was 19 seconds down, in 15th place. The final GC rankings had Contador as 15th, and Armstrong 47th.
Contador, who is plagued by spring pollen allergies, said things went better on Sunday, since it was “a short and explosive effort. The day has been better. I wanted to do well,” he continued, “to fight for victory, and at the end it was a very close time. “
He refused to discuss his rival. When asked about the 17 seconds separating him from Armstrong in the time trial, he responded, “17 seconds is enough, but we shouldn't give it too much importance.”
Armstrong was not as reluctant to voice his opinion on Contador, who had decided to ride the race at the last minute. "If it was a provocation (against me), then it backfired. If it was a simple schedule change because this race suited him better then that was his prerogative," Armstrong said to the Reuters.
"I expected him to be super yesterday (Saturday). I don't know the problem, but it did not work out."
RadioShack team manager Johan Bruyneel didn't appear too concerned over Armstrong's performance. Not only is the seven-time Tour de France winner still recovering from intestinal problems, he has very few race miles in his legs.
“We expected this. This is an explosive race over two days and he’s almost done no racing. When the speed gets high he misses some forces. Already on the second to last climb he told me over the radio he wasn’t feeling so good. Once you have that kind of feeling in the race, you start the last climb with the knowledge that you’re not going to be there anyway.”
Bruyneel looked optimistically to the future, saying, “If we continue to work, step-by-step, without illness and crashes, it will become good.”
- Article published:
- March 29, 2010, 14:04
- Cycling News
Italian Cycling Federation rules on 2008 case
Manuel Beltran must pay damages to Liquigas for his positive doping test from the 2008 Tour de France. The arbitration committee of the Federazione Ciclistica Italiana (Italian Cycling Federation) issued the ruling last week.
Beltran tested positive for EPO after the first stage of the Tour in 2008. He has been suspended for two years, and will be eligible to return this summer, at the age of 39.
“We are very pleased with this decision, which recognises our company as the victim of the recklessness and irresponsibility of an athlete,” said Liquigas Sport chairman Paolo del Lago, according to the Italian newspaper La Repubblica. The case was brought “primarily by the desire to send a strong message against those who destroy cycling.
“Liquigas Sport has always maintained strict internal discipline against doping, and this action proves it. We also believe it is a historic event for the whole world of cycling, as well as an important precedent in the battle to protect the sporting ethic.”
Details of the financial settlement were not released.