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First Edition Cycling News, Monday, March 3, 2014

Date published:
March 03, 2014, 0:00 GMT
  • Berhane could become the first Eritrean to ride the Tour de France

    Natneel Berhane (Europcar) signs in
    Article published:
    March 02, 2014, 15:15 GMT
    Sadhbh O'Shea

    Europcar rider looking to continue good form in Langkawi

    Natnael Berhane (Europcar) may become the first Eritrean to ride the Tour de France this July. Berhane has enjoyed a good start to the year where he won the La Tropicale Amissa Bongo, the first African to do so, and was belatedly awarded the Tour of Turkey victory.

    His directeur sportif Andy Flickinger confirmed that Berhane was under consideration to ride la Grande Boucle. "He's a very good rider and a very good climber, and I think that he will be a leader in the future. He is doing his first Grand Tour. We don't know yet which one. Maybe the Tour de France or maybe the Vuelta a España," he told Cyclingnews. "If he does a Grand Tour it will be his first, so he will open his eyes and work for the leader."

    Berhane's performances have earned him African sportsman of the year in 2013, beating footballers Yaya Touré and Didier Drogba. African cycling as a whole has had a boost this season, but Eritrea is enjoying growth. Berhane's compatriot Daniel Teklehaimanot became the first Eritrean to ride the Vuelta in 2012 when he rode for the Orica-GreenEdge team. There are now six Eritreans on the professional circuit.

    The quietly spoken Eritrean rider joined Europcar at the beginning of last season, after attracting their attention by winning a stage of the 2011 edition of the La Tropicale Amissa Bongo. He first came into the public consciousness when he won the queen stage at the Tour of Turkey. Berhane went on the finish second, but later inherited the race when the winner Mustafa Sayar tested positive for EPO.

    Due to the time it took to confirm that Sayar would have the victory stripped from his palmarès, Berhane only found out the week he won in Gabon, making him one of the few riders to win two stage races in the same week. Nonetheless, he was happy to add another victory to...

  • Sky caught out by Boonen in Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne

    Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Sky)
    Article published:
    March 02, 2014, 16:49 GMT
    Barry Ryan

    Knaven questions why other teams failed to chase

    Opening weekend giveth, and Opening weekend taketh away. Twenty-four hours after a cohesive team performance helped Ian Stannard to victory at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Team Sky were caught out by Omega Pharma-QuickStep’s forcing on the Oude Kwaremont at Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne on Sunday.

    QuickStep, of course, were themselves out to make amends for a disappointing outing at the previous day’s Omloop, and the empire struck back in devastating fashion. No fewer than five of the men in black were in the winning ten-man move that formed with 70 kilometres to go, and Tom Boonen crowned the afternoon by sprinting to victory.

    Back in the main peloton, Sky and Lotto-Belisol were the first teams to try to marshal the chase, for Edvald Boasson Hagen and André Greipel, respectively. Alexander Kristoff’s Katusha team also put their shoulders to the wheel a little later, but they were unable to make significant inroads into the Boonen group’s advantage. In the end, Sky’s best finisher on the day was Edvald Boasson Hagen, who rolled home in the main peloton in 38th place.

    “I think Lotto did what they could and we did what we could, but I think other teams could have started working a lot earlier,” Sky directeur sportif Servais Knaven said afterwards. “Giant-Shimano and FDJ only came to the front with one lap to go with 1:10, when you know it’s too late. I don’t know why they waited that long.

    “I think if everybody had started riding together after Kwaremont, then there was a chance. But if you have five QuickStep and three Belkin in front, you are 100 percent sure they will ride together, they will never stop. And that’s what happened.”

    By dint of its place on the calendar,...

  • Boonen breaks record at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne

    2014 Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne winner Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma Quick Step)
    Article published:
    March 02, 2014, 18:50 GMT
    Brecht Decaluwé

    Pressure is off after becoming the most winning rider in Kuurne

    With a powerful sprint victory, Tom Boonen concluded a magnificent Omega Pharma-Quick-Step team performance in a windy Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne on Sunday afternoon in Belgium. At the age of 33, the Belgian star is starting to break several records. In Kuurne, Boonen grabbed his first record of the season, becoming the first rider to win the so-called donkey race three times. The win in Kuurne came one day after an off-day during a chilly Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

    "It was a sprint of dying swans, after 70km on the attack. I'm glad I won it because otherwise it would've been a disgrace," Boonen said.

    The Belgian explained - somewhat jokingly - that a lot of pressure had just fallen off his shoulders. "This win is taking away a lot of questions and provides me with one quiet week until Paris-Nice. All the expectations about my so-called good form are now confirmed. Once you've won, it's possible to say that it's very important, that it's indispensable for the upcoming weeks. Before the opening weekend, I already knew I was going well. Yesterday didn't change that. I know I can't handle the cold. I even threw up during the race because my stomach was cramping. That's never going to change. It was the first time I had rain this season and that came as a shock. It didn't have anything to do with form. It was an accident de parcours."

    Boonen said that the hoped his win and the broken record were the start of something "beautiful". "I'm a happy man. Hopefully, I can remain healthy for about two weeks, add some percentages in Paris-Nice and then the big races can come."

    Despite its UCI category 1.1 status, Boonen explained that he regarded Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne as one of the biggest Belgian one-day races. "There's two...

  • Hofland emerges as the new kid on the block at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne

    Moreno Hofland (Belkin)
    Article published:
    March 02, 2014, 20:09 GMT
    Brecht Decaluwé

    Belkin pro shows promise as runner-up to Boonen

    Finishing as runner-up in a tough edition of Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne doesn't come by accident. At the tender age of 22, Moreno Hofland emerged as one of the hot prospects for the future.

    On Sunday afternoon, Hofland survived the cut during the ascent of the famous cobbled Oude Kwaremont climb and ended up riding in an elite group of 10 riders. The group featured five riders from the Omega Pharma-Quick-Step team, including top gun Tom Boonen and that ended up to be too many for Hofland and his two Belkin Pro Cycling teammates Sep Vanmarcke and Maarten Wynants. In the final sprint, Hofland sat on the wheel of Boonen. He managed to get out off it and gain ground back on Boonen but came up short by half a wheel.

    "He was strong, Tom Boonen," Hofland said, laughing. "I came quite close, but there was a gap when he launched his sprint. I knew it was a headwind, so I had to come out late but he was a bit too strong for me but that's nothing to be ashamed of; it's Tom Boonen who beat me."

    Last week, Hofland won the fourth stage in the Vuelta a Andalucia (Ruta del Sol) in a bunch sprint. Now he's excelling in the Spring Classics.

    "I felt good the last few weeks but I didn't expect to be that good. Finishing on the podium for the first time in a one-day Classic is super nice. I can't wish for more. If you would've said this a month ago I would not have believed it."

    "I was the dedicated sprinter and the goal was to survive during the race and sprint for the victory while Sep and others would try to go in the breakaways. I felt really great and managed to follow these guys on the Oude Kwaremont. Riding along with these guys is really special. We reached the top and there was a gap. I looked around and saw Tom Boonen,...

  • Youth prevails at the Tour de Langkawi

    Johan Esteban Chaves (Orica - GreenEDGE)
    Article published:
    March 02, 2014, 21:30 GMT
    Sadhbh O'Shea

    Kudus, Bolivar and Chaves lead the way

    While there might be some grumblings of discontent amongst fans about today's stage winner of the Tour de Langkawi, the real race was behind him. That race was between some of the future stars of cycling.

    Merhawi Kudus (MTN-Qhubeka), Isaac Bolivar (UnitedHealthcare) and Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEDGE) finished second, third and fourth respectively on stage 4. All are in their first year as professionals, with this being the first race for both Kudus and Chaves.

    The Eritrean Kudus was the one to ignite things on the final climb, forcing many out the back. "When we got to the bottom of the climb, everybody was tired and I just decided to go by myself," he said. "When I attacked at the beginning of the climb, the whole race was behind me and he (Pourseyedi Golakhour) followed me. 15km to go alone is difficult. I am really happy because this is the first race for me as a professional. I am really happy."

    Kudus is only 20-years-old and joined MTN-Qhubeka at the beginning of this season. He spent 2013 as a stagiaire for Bretagne-Séché Environment and rode with the World Cycling Centre, with whom he won a stage of the Tour of Eritrea and the overall classification of the Tour de Côte d'Or. If stage four of the Tour de Langkawi is anything to go by, we can expect much more from this young rider.

    Behind the Eritrean was, unsurprisingly, a Colombian. The Colombians have been returning to their former glories...

  • Lampaert follows in the footsteps of Boonen

    Sprint classification winner Yves Lampaert (Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise)
    Article published:
    March 02, 2014, 23:59 GMT
    Brecht Decaluwé

    Fourth place for Topsport ride at Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne

    The young men from the Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise team managed to leave a strong impression in the Belgian opening weekend of racing.

    On Saturday, it was Kenneth Vanbilsen who managed to feature in the front of the race deep into the finale of the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. On Sunday, 22-year-old Yves Lampaert did even more as he was sprinting for the win as he was part of the strong lead group at Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne which also included eventual winner Tom Boonen. After crossing the line, Lampaert expressed both his satisfaction and disappointment about finishing fourth. Following in the footsteps of Tom Boonen, Lampaert used a waterfall of words, speaking spontaneously in a style reminiscent of Eddy Planckaert and Nico Mattan.

    "I felt good today and the result reflects that. What matters is the result at the finish. I'm a bit disappointed because I felt the podium was possible. I was extremely nervous but at a certain moment you have to get over it and think about the finish. In the end I'm satisfied, finishing fourth amongst top riders like Boonen and Vanmarcke."

    At 75km from the finish, the race was decided on the cobbled Oude Kwaremont climb when a small group of riders distanced the peloton. Five men from the Omega Pharma-Quick-Step team were present, three men from the Belkin team, Johan Vansummeren (Garmin-Sharp) and Lampaert.

    "I thought the rest of the peloton was on our wheel, but during the descent I looked back and noticed there was a sizeable gap. We turned around and the co-operation was optimal. I felt good and did my turns...

  • Romain Bardet wins La Drôme Classic

    Romain Bardet shows off the new kit, which has much more brown than last year
    Article published:
    March 03, 2014, 1:10 GMT
    Cycling News

    Frenchman's final kilometre attack successful

    Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale) won the 2014 edition of Drôme Classic with a late attack, soloing away to victory ahead of Sebastian Delfosse (Wallonie-Bruxelles) and Gianni Meersman (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) for his first win of the year. The victory comes off the back of success in Oman where the 23-year-old won the best young riders jersey.

    Bardet's victory was the fourth win of the year for Vincent Lavenu's team and second for the rider from "Haute-Loire" since turning professional in 2012.

    "It's a collective success that rewards the work of a whole group. We came close to the victory yesterday [Sud Ardeche] and we took the start this morning with the same desire to succeed. I want to thank all my teammates without whom this victory would not have been possible," Bardet said after crossing the line.

    "There's really a great atmosphere in the team. Everybody works with the same mind and we are all very motivated and glad to meet up, riders and staff. We have fun together, outside and on bike, and results follow."

    With strong wind and steep climbs, the parcours and weather promised a tough second edition, but first race after snow forced the cancellation of last year's race. After 40 km a break had well and truly been established with 36 riders present which then swelled to 52 by the 60km mark. The Verandas Willems team did the bulk of the work to bring the peloton together again so that by 80km the race was altogether.

    On the last categorised climb of the day, which came with 10km left to race, six riders went clear gaining a 30 second advantage. The group was...

  • Belkin "proud" of podium places at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne

    Moreno Hofland (Team Belkin) hits the front
    Article published:
    March 03, 2014, 4:00 GMT
    Cycling News

    Teamwork behind Hofland and Vanmarcke results

    Despite seeing Moreno Hofland narrowly lose to Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) in a sprint for the victory at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, Belkin's sport director Nico Verhoeven was buoyed by his team's performance as Sep Vanmarcke crossed the line in third place to give the Dutch outfit two spots on the podium. Maarten Wynants sixth place gave the team three riders inside the top-ten.

    Hofland already has one win under his belt in 2014 courtesy of Stage 4 at the Vuelta a Andalucía but couldn't hide his disappointment at losing the sprint as he punched the handlebars on his Bianchi in frustration upon crossing the line.

    The 22-year-old quickly realised that in fact he had put in a top effort. "When Boonen beats you, you don't have to be ashamed of yourself, but immediately after a race it's not very pleasant, of course," said Hofland post-race. "A few moments later I realised what I had done. Tom Boonen is not just another rider."

    "It went from left to right in the sprint and, when Boonen accelerated, I was boxed in a bit."

    Having made it into the break, Hofland had taken several pulls on the front, costing him energy. "There was no other option," said Vanmarcke. "In the last 15 kilometres, Moreno was able to save some energy, but before that, there was no way that he could just sit and wait for a sprint. The peloton could have caught us, especially because Van Summeren and Lampaert were all by...