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First Edition Cycling News, Monday, May 14, 2012

Date published:
May 14, 2012, 1:00 BST
  • Sayers: Amgen Tour of California could be "wild west"

    Sayers looks on the brighter side
    Article published:
    May 13, 2012, 16:47 BST
    Laura Weislo

    Opening stages unpredictable

    With a US base in Northern California, the BMC Racing Team and its director Mike Sayers of Sacramento have a distinct advantage of having intimate first-hand knowledge of the Amgen Tour of California's opening stages. Giving his analysis of this year's course, Sayers said the results on the key stage to Mt. Baldy at the end of the race will be affected by the surprisingly difficult opening four days in addition to the time trial and Big Bear stage which precedes it.

    "I think that every stage is hard except for the last stage," Sayers told Cyclingnews. "Every stage is going to have some part in the general classification, whether it's a stage that decides it or not, the long term effect is going to accumulate as the week goes."

    Beginning in Santa Rosa with a loop out to the Pacific Ocean and back that includes a total of more than 6,000 feet of climbing, the race then heads down from San Francisco into the Santa Cruz mountains. Stage three features Mt. Diablo and Patterson Pass in the East Bay before the finish in Livermore, and the Sonora to Clovis stage undulates over the entire course. There isn't a single flat stage until the final day in Los Angeles.

    "I'm lucky, I've been able to see every stage. Some of the parts I had forgotten about or roads I hadn't been on before, I was pretty surprised at how difficult the stages are, from the very start until the end of Saturday," Sayers said.

    "I don't think there's enough sprinters or sprint teams that are strong enough to control the race. They don't want to use their GC guys to control the race, so I think it could be a little wild wild west here. There's not going to be a lot of control, and teams are going to have to be switched on.

    "I don't know if the GC guys will actually lose time, but there's the potential for someone who's not on the...

  • Rodríguez closes in on pink in Giro d’Italia

    Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Katusha Team)
    Article published:
    May 13, 2012, 18:34 BST
    Alasdair Fotheringham

    Spaniard second in Giro after netting time bonus

    Joaquím Rodríguez (Katusha) took another small but important step towards the Giro d’Italia’s pink jersey after he clinched third place in the sprint of around 20 riders behind Domenico Pozzovivo (Colnago-CSF) and Beñat Intxausti (Movistar).

    The eight second bonus the Katusha pro netted as a result enabled Rodríguez to leapfrog ahead of Saturday’s stage winner Paolo Tiralongo (Astana) and squeeze Ryder Hesjedal’s advantage to within single digits - nine seconds.

    “I felt better than yesterday [Saturday],” Rodríguez said afterwards as he looked back at a very successful first two mountainous stages, “the climb suited me a lot more even if Astana and Liquigas were going all out.”

    Despite his excellent position overall, he preached caution, saying “we’re barely into the second week, it’s too early to say what’s going to happen, I’m going to stay calm for now.”

    As for Saturday’s climb to Rocca di Cambio, Rodríguez said “I wasn’t well-placed, and I wasn’t so comfortable on the climb. I could have fought for the victory, but the important thing is I was ahead.”

    He is equally satisfied with the first eight days of racing, “because in all the major Tours I’ve done so far, I’ve always been on the backfoot, for one reason or another, in the first week. This time it’s different.”

    “I’ve also had a very good first part of the season”- with a victory in Fleche Wallone as the high point - “so I can be a bit more relaxed about the Giro. Whatever happens, the pressure is off.”

    Asked if he thinks he can take the jersey at Assisi, which finished with a steep, cobbled, climb...

  • Hesjedal stays in Giro lead despite difficult final climb

    Champagne for Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda).
    Article published:
    May 13, 2012, 19:40 BST
    Alasdair Fotheringham

    Canadian says he “buckled down” to defend lead on Colle Molella

    Ryder Hesjedal remains in pink for a second day running - Garmin-Barracuda’s fourth day leading the Giro 2012 so far - and the Canadian was keen to correct some inaccurate media reports that he had no interest in being in that colour by the time the race reaches Milan.

    “I’ve always believed in myself, I want to clarify whatever [previous news] story ended up going out saying I wasn’t here to win the Giro, I was here to try and be in the pink jersey [of leader].”

    “I came here to ride my best and give my best effort, and that was the goal so I feel like I’m doing that. Right now, I’m winning the Giro d’Italia so I’m happy with that.”

    “I didn’t set any goals for this race, simply to do my best and see where that put me. That’s what I’ve done in the past.”

    “People can say you’re capable of this or that depending on past performances and so on, I’m just focussed on doing my best and we’ll see how the race develops.”

    Although he didn’t look comfortable on the second category climb, and was all but off the back on one occasion, ultimately Hesjedal clung onto the group of favourites and came through well.

    “It was a tough day, the tempo that was set [on the Colle Molella for] three kms at 10 percent, that was tough,” he recognised. He pointed out that a lot of riders more suited to that kind of climb were in trouble on what was “an all-out effort at the end of a grinding day.”

    “I just really had to buckle down and keep in contact and defend the jersey and that was it, I was able to get over the top and do that.”

  • Roche seeking AG2R-La Mondiale's first season win in Amgen Tour of California

    Nicolas Roche (AG2R - La Mondiale)
    Article published:
    May 13, 2012, 21:45 BST
    Laura Weislo

    Irishman hoping to come good ahead of Tour de France

    It's been a tough start to the year for Nicolas Roche and the AG2R-La Mondiale team: it is already May and the team is the only WorldTour squad which has yet to rack up a victory this year. Roche hopes the team can turn their luck around in the Amgen Tour of California.

    The Irishman showed great promise as a Grand Tour rider with solid rides in the 2010 Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana, where he finished 15th and 7th, respectively. His Vuelta performance was his country's highest Grand Tour result since the days of his father Stephen Roche and countryman Sean Kelly.

    However, since then Roche's career has been hampered by illness and injury. Last year his Tour de France was impacted by a crash in the Critérium du Dauphiné, but he bounced back to take a stage victory in the Tour of Beijing, but that was his team's last win. Falling ill after Paris-Nice, Roche struggled in the Volta a Catalunya. Now, he's feeling the pressure to not only score a victory but to score points toward keeping AG2R in the WorldTour is mounting.

    "I'm hoping to be competitive and come out of Tour of California with a result," Roche told Cyclingnews. "Hopefully I'm already on good condition. The team's going to ride aggressively, go for the breakaways and hopefully get a stage win.

    "I'll take it one stage at a time, but stage 1 will already be a tough day. I can't see it being a full bunch sprint. If it's a small group sprint, I can go OK there, but there are some stronger riders like [Peter] Sagan, which are specialists in that case. It's going to be tough to get a win, but the whole team is focused on it."

    Roche in theory would share the responsibilities of...

  • Video: Pozzovivo the economist, Giro stage winner and overall contender

    Domenico Pozzovivo (Colnago-CSF Inox) crosses the line.
    Article published:
    May 14, 2012, 0:52 BST
    Jean-François Quénet

    Colnago-CSF Inox climber victorious for first time in home Grand Tour

    Domenico Pozzovivo's Giro d'Italia stage victory today was a career first for the diminutive Italian and for it to take place at Lago Laceno in the Campania region of southern Italy was extremely meaningful in the tumult that the country is currently experiencing. The Colnago-CSF Inox rider's own life is a success story of a young man who moved from the south to the north of Italy for cycling and conducted his studies at the same time.

    Two years ago, Pozzovivo's family travelled to Rome where he read his thesis in economics: "Southern politics from the unity of Italy up to now". Since then, the degree holder has been known as "Dr. Pozzovivo". His interests go way beyond the realm of competitive cycling, however, as the 29-year-old Italian is a self confessed weather forecast addict while also professing a love of history, technology, economics and politics.

    "I don't belong to anti-political movements," he said after winning at Lago Laceno, possibly in response to the numerous recent votes at Italian town council elections in favor of former comic and blogger Beppe Grillo. In the past, Pozzovivo expressed his sympathy for the centre-left "Partido Democratico" of Pier Luigi Bersani. At the post-race press conference, he supported the current Italian government led by economist Mario Monti. "This is the only medicine to get out of the economic crisis we're facing," he said.

    Pozzovivo noted that cycling helps him combine his other passions. "Every cycling season is a history of Italy and Europe," he said. "I love nature and the mountains. I'm a climber. My job allows me to enjoy it all. Now I've won a stage at the Giro d'Italia. It puts my morale very high.

    "People say that it is an easier Giro this year. I'd say it's a more human...

  • Haussler needs results at Amgen Tour of California

    Heinrich Haussler (Garmin-Barracuda) leads Jens Keukeleire (GreenEdge) over the cobbles
    Article published:
    May 14, 2012, 1:40 BST
    Laura Weislo

    Garmin-Barracuda rider's Olympic qualification hanging in the balance

    Garmin-Barracuda's Heinrich Haussler is running out of time to prove himself to his national selectors, and needs results at the Amgen Tour of California to have a chance at being named to Australia's team for the Olympic Games in London.

    Although he's taken a fourth place this year in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, and had a couple high finishes in the Volta ao Algarve and Paris-Nice, his results have not matched those of previous seasons which included a Paris-Nice stage win and a second in Milan-San Remo (2009), a Tour de Suisse stage win in 2010 and two stages in Tour of Qatar and the Paris-Nice points jersey in 2011. On the opening stage of the Tour of California, Haussler was second behind Liquigas-Cannondale's Peter Sagan.

    There's intense competition for the Olympic squad, and Haussler is under pressure to show he's worthy of the team in California, but any results will have to be achieved on his own. Cycling Australia's selection panel will take into account results up until June 17.

    "The team is here for the general classifcation, so I will have to do my own thing in the sprints, but if you look at my past results I've shown that I can find my own way," he told Cyclingnews at the start in Santa Rosa.

    Haussler tried to avoid using a curse word to describe the start of his season, but noted his disappointment in his Classics campaign. "I'm not happy with the way the season's been going. But I've gone back to basics to get back on track: I've been at altitude training, and now I'll race here, go back to altitude, then do Tour de Suisse and then do more training. I've got to get some massive results to qualify for the Olympics.

    "If I don't make the team, I hope to be...

  • Rodriguez: You can still call me Fast Freddie

    Fred Rodriguez (Team Exergy) in action during stage 4 of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge.
    Article published:
    May 14, 2012, 3:17 BST
    Laura Weislo

    Exergy captain takes third in Santa Rosa sprint

    It's been five years since Fred Rodriguez last claimed a major international stage race victory in the US when he won the Stone Mountain stage of the Tour de Georgia, but he showed his speed is slowly coming back after his retirement in 2009.

    The three-time US Pro champion and winner of a stage in the 2004 Giro d'Italia, now riding with the Continental Team Exergy sprinted to third in the opening stage of the Amgen Tour of California in Santa Rosa on Sunday.

    The sprint followed a hard chase for the fast men after the peloton split with 40km to go on the final king of the mountains prime on Coleman Valley Road.

    "It was chaotic," Rodriguez said. "Boonen and myself and a couple sprinters came off on Coleman Valley and we had to chase and only came back in the last 10-12km."

    Rodriguez found his way to the front, avoided a late crash and put himself onto the wheel of the man who would go on to win the stage, Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale).

    "I jumped a little too early," explained the 38-year-old. "My legs were tired from chasing back on, so I just didn't have it today, but it's nice to get back to this level of racing again."

    Rodriguez stepped away from racing after spending two seasons with the Rock Racing squad, choosing a domestic program over his former European romping grounds in order to be with his young family. While he has been busy mentoring the young riders of the Exergy squad, helping to develop young sprint talent Logan Loader and racing the USA Cycling National Racing Calendar events, Rodriguez was pleased to find his speed up to the task of going up against the WorldTour teams.

    "It takes a little bit of this higher intensity to get your legs back under you so I'm pretty happy with that. Today...

  • Video: Leipheimer hangs tough but suffers Amgen Tour of California opener

    Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-Quickstep)
    Article published:
    May 14, 2012, 4:40 BST
    Laura Weislo

    Omega Pharma-Quickstep captain says he won't win the overall

    The opening stage of the Amgen Tour of California kicked off in Levi Leipheimer's home town of Santa Rosa today, and the Omega Pharma-Quickstep captain, who was nearly not able to compete in the race because of a five-week old broken leg, made the front selection on the day's biggest climb. Despite this promising performance, Leipheimer insists he cannot win the overall classification.

    "I was hurting at the end, I definitely realized I'm not going to win this race," Leipheimer said to Cyclingnews. "That dawned on me today, I was suffering on [the] Coleman Valley Road [climb]. The good news is there were only 25 riders at the top and I managed to make it."

    Despite being encouraged by his form, Leipheimer said in order to win you have to start the race at 100 per cent. "And that's definitely not where I am. The goal along the way is to stay motivated and have success down the road."

    Just three weeks ago Leipheimer was having trouble even walking and wasn't able to train, so for him to be at the start line was not only a huge relief for his hometown fans and the race organisation, it was a morale boost for Leipheimer. "I thought I'd be dropped on Coleman Valley, so I'm happy to be where I am."