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First Edition Cycling News, Monday, March 29, 2010

Date published:
March 29, 2010, 1:00 BST
  • Fedrigo turns back the clock on Corsica

    Race leader Pierrick Fedrigo was very popular on the start line in Porto-Vecchio.
    Article published:
    March 28, 2010, 22:44 BST
    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...

  • Breschel rues ill-timed Gent-Wevelgem puncture

    Matti Breschel (Saxo Bank) forces the pace on the Kemmel
    Article published:
    March 29, 2010, 1:00 BST
    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....

  • Top marks for Vanmarcke at Gent-Wevelgem

    Sep Vanmarcke (Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator)
    Article published:
    March 29, 2010, 8:47 BST
    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...

  • Gilbert carrying the weight of Belgian expectations

    Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma Lotto) goes on the attack.
    Article published:
    March 29, 2010, 9:11 BST
    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...

  • Omega-Pharma Lotto not panicking yet in search for first season win

    Belgian rider Philippe Gilbert was one of the favourites.
    Article published:
    March 29, 2010, 9:43 BST
    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...

  • Rasmussen blames everyone but himself

    According to Michael Rasmussen teams are starting to circle
    Article published:
    March 29, 2010, 10:26 BST
    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, 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.

  • Contador and Armstrong fire blanks in Criterium International

    Alberto Contador (Astana) removes his arm warmers
    Article published:
    March 29, 2010, 11:11 BST
    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...

  • Beltran must pay Liquigas damages for doping positive

    Manuel Beltrán (Liquigas)
    Article published:
    March 29, 2010, 15:04 BST
    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.