- Article published:
- May 15, 2011, 14:42
- Cycling News
All-American team gunning for stages
Kelly Benefit Strategies - OptumHealth heads into the Amgen Tour of California with an all-American line up packed with stage winning potential. Michael Friedman, formerly of Garmin and Jelly Belly, is hoping to make an impression on the race through breakaways, and he is aware that he will suffer on the tough mountain stages.
In this exclusive video for Cyclingnews Friedman and his teammate Alex Candelario talk about the week ahead, and how they are hoping for poor weather.
- Article published:
- May 15, 2011, 16:19
- Kirsten Frattini
Updated: Race to start at 1:15 p.m. PST
Update: Stage 1 of the 2011 amgen tour of california to start at 1:15 p.m. PST
"After monitoring weather conditions overnight and this morning, while consulting with public safety and race team officials, organizers of the 2011 Amgen Tour of California have announced that the current and projected weather conditions will allow Stage 1 of the race to start at 1:15 p.m. PT at the original start line in South Lake Tahoe. Race officials will continue to pay close attention and monitor the course and all other conditions. If at any time it is determined to be unsafe to continue, the race will be neutralized."
Amgen Tour of Califonria race organizers announced this morning that they would shorten stage one from 191km to roughly 80km, with several hours delay, and the stage pushed back to 1:15 pm PDT in South Lake Tahoe. They made the decision based on the safety of the riders after overnight snowfall combined with freezing temperatures made for dangerous race conditions.
AEG Sports President, Andrew Messick, told Cyclingnews that the morning wind chill was 10 degrees Fahrenheit and, “too cold for the guys to race”. He also noted that if at noon the conditions had not improved, the race would start on Monday in Squaw Valley, which was the original start of stage two.
Today's revised route will have the peloton begin in South Lake Tahoe and race on the west side of Lake Tahoe, along the original course, for a total of 80km and it will finish at the Northstar at Tahoe Resort. The original course was to complete one and half laps for a total of 191km.
Garmin-Cervelo's Jonathan Vaughters spoke with Cyclingnews in the morning, and predicted hard racing if the stage were to go forward.
"I thought it would be a reduced bunch sprint - a long stage on a sunny warm day I think it would have been a Thor [Hushovd] versus [Peter] Sagan sprint from a 50 rider peloton. The way it is, it could be different: a short stage, going right over the climb, I think the group will be smaller and it will be more aggressive because everyone wants to stay warm."
Vaughters, a Colorado native, is no stranger to riding in cold conditions, but he said the wet roads and icy wind will make for uncomfortable conditions for the riders.
"This is going to suck, I can tell you," he said motioning to the wet pavement. "It's not the air temperature, it's the cold icy spray. I've ridden in Colorado down to freezing when it's dry, but this..."
The predicted winter weather was discussed amongst race organizers and officials, teams and riders for several days leading into the stage one start. However, the previous day’s sunny and warm climate made it hard to believe that such a prediction would become a reality.
Several contingency plans were developed depending on the severity of the predicted winter storm. Race organizers sent out a pre-race press release on the eve of the race start that stated they would make a final decision on the stage parcours at 9:00 am, one and half hours prior to the originally scheduled race start.
One of the contingency plans discussed in the opening press conference was to shorten the stage to include racing on only one side of the Lake Tahoe, the east side, which is lower elevation and even as sever as cancelling the stage. A prologue was also rumoured to be a contender for the revised stage one.
- Article published:
- May 15, 2011, 18:14
- Barry Ryan
New pink jersey downplays Etna dominance
Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-SunGard) may have seemed like he was from another planet on the slopes of Mount Etna on stage 9 of the Giro d’Italia, but the new maglia rosa delivered his opinions on the day’s events in rather less celestial surroundings.
He faced the media in an impromptu press conference held under a gazebo next to the finish line, with reporters huddled around a beaming Contador, wrapped up against the wind. After such an exhibition of dominance, the question on everyone’s mind was a simple one – is the Giro d’Italia already over?
“No, the Giro has just started,” Contador insisted politely. “It’s really hard and anything could happen in this race.”
With his prime challengers Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) 1:21 and 1:28 behind, respectively, the Spaniard is not yet out of sight, especially with such a demanding two weeks still to come.
However, the ease with which he ripped clear of the group of favourites and the emphatic way in which he deposited Scarponi from his back wheel were proof that Contador is on song, even if his post-race comments were typically low-key.
“I’m very happy as I showed I have good legs,” he said. “It was risky, but it went well.”
The climb of Etna is by no means the most demanding of this Giro, with the opening half of the haul to the summit little more than a lengthy drag. As Lampre-ISD pulled the group of favourites up from the base of the volcano, Contador knew that he would have to bide his time before looking to snap the elastic.
“I was keeping an eye on Scarponi,” Contador said. “I knew that I would have to attack between the 8km to go mark and 5km to go.”
And so it came to pass. With a little of 6km to race, Contador duly surged to the front of the group of favourites. Scarponi bravely – or foolishly, depending on how you look at it – attempted to follow, grinding a big gear, but ultimately he wilted under the ferocity of Contador’s acceleration.
While Jose Rujano (Androni Giocattoli) put up stout resistance until the final steep pitch to the top, Contador paid him little heed, and was to all intents and purposes alone against the mountain and the rising winds.
“It was a very risky climb because there was a very strong wind,” Contador explained.
Pistolero no more?
Contador kept his emotions largely in check on crossing the line, with the trademark pistolero gesture conspicuously absent. When quizzed after the finish, however, he explained that there was no mystery as to why the pistol stayed in its holster – he simply didn’t know if he was at the head of the race.
“I didn’t know if there were still some riders ahead of me,” he smiled. “I didn’t think about the pistol at all but I hope to be able to do it another day.”
Regardless of what he knew about his position on the road, Contador must have known that he was riding into the overall lead as soon as he felt his rear wheel wriggle clear of Scarponi’s grasp.
“I hadn’t thought about taking the pink jersey today,” he said. “The important thing was to try and make the difference on the rest of the riders. From the day after tomorrow, anything could happen with this maglia rosa.”
Looming over Contador’s Giro, of course, is the spectre of the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s deliberations over his positive test for Clenbuterol at last year’s Tour de France. With a decision not expected until June, Contador is free to race and he dedicated his win on Etna to those who have supported him since news of the case broke last September.
“The support of my fans has been incredible, they are the ones who gave me the strength to continue training,” he said. “I also dedicate it to my family, who has lived everything I have gone through at close quarters and to my team, which has supported me in the best way possible.”
- Article published:
- May 15, 2011, 19:04
- Cycling News
World Anti-Doping Agency offers support to UCI
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has announced it has opened an independent investigation into the source of the leak that led to an internal working document from the UCI being published in French newspaper L’Equipe last week.
The so-called suspicion list, or index of suspicion, rated the 198 riders that started the 2010 Tour de France on a scale of ten to help better target riders for anti-doping testing during the race.
The rankings were said to be based on a combination of the blood tests taken just before the start of the Tour de France and the blood values from the rider’s biological passport. However the UCI did not explain how the individual ranking for each rider were calculated.
The publication of the list sparked uproar amongst the riders, with David Millar calling for some heads to roll at the UCI after the leak. Riders managed by the Belgian-based Celio Sport & Image company and others, are looking at the possibility of suing the UCI for defamation of character and damages.
In a statement, WADA said it would offer its full support to the UCI as it also carries out its own investigation into the embarrassing leak.
“WADA Director General David Howman informed his Executive Committee and Foundation Board at a meeting in Montreal that WADA would give its full support to the UCI, which will also have an investigation, to try and identify the source of the leak.” the WADA statement reads.
- Article published:
- May 15, 2011, 20:36
- Jean-François Quénet
Warm welcome in Sicily for local heroes
Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) was smart to not try and follow Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank) when the Spaniard attacked with seven kilometres to go to the top of Etna on stage 9 of the Giro d'Italia.
Michele Scarponi tried to follow but paid the price for his effortsni. The “shark from the strait” rode like he did at last year’s Vuelta a Espana when Ezequiel Mosquera dropped him on the Bola del Mundo, but Contador isn’t Mosquera and Nibali didn’t come across this time around, following his own pace.
“When Contador attacked, he was really strong”, Nibali said after the stage.
“I kept my rhythm and I accelerated in the final kilometer when I realized that Scarponi was off the back. At least I wanted to gain some seconds on him (17) but Contador was significantly ahead. He was actually one step ahead of anybody else today.”
This was a special stage for the Sicilian, as he grew up in Messina where the stage started. They cheered for Giovanni Visconti as well.
The Farnese rider was part of a seven-man breakaway, wearing the Italian champion jersey in the Giro that celebrates the 150th anniversary of the unity of Italy. “It’s been a beautiful day”, Visconti said. “I’ve been touched by the encouragements of the crowds.”
Sicilian fans knew that Visconti has been suffering from a knee injury. They brought a huge plate of canolli – the famous creamy Sicilian desert – to Nibali and Visconti who were the guest stars of the Processo alla tappa, the famous TV show that follows the stage broadcasting on RAI television. But the riders didn’t touch the sweets, as it didn’t fit with their diet, they both said.
“Today was an important stage”, Nibali continued. “I’ve only missed the capacity of acceleration that Contador has. When he opened the gun, we all watched each other, except Scarponi who paid for it later. I knew the climb, I knew the roads, these were my training courses in the past. I’m looking at doing the best I can in every stage. We knew that the strongest rider would conquer the pink jersey here on the Etna. If Contador goes like this, it’ll be hard to beat him.”
Responsibilities are now on Contador’s shoulders with two weeks to go. “He has a good team”, Nibali told Cyclingnews after the Processo alla tappa.
“He’s got Jesus Hernandez, Daniel Navarro and Volodimir Gustov to escort him in the climbs, he has Matteo Tosatto to drive him on the flat. Saxo Bank remained hidden today but they have the capacity to control the race.”
Nibali keeps the ambition of winning the Giro after the Vuelta, but he’s realistic about the difference in the opposition. “This is a different race for me than the Vuelta last year”, said “the shark”. “Here I’m expected and applauded since the start in Turin but I remain serene.”
- Article published:
- May 15, 2011, 21:26
- Daniel Benson & Laura Weislo
Poor conditions leave organisers no choice
Stage 1 of the Amgen Tour of California was officially cancelled due to severe weather conditions at the start in South Lake Tahoe. The stage had already been pushed back by several hours due to heavy snow fall and driving winds as organisers fought to save the day's action.
The stage had been shorted from 191km to roughly 80km, with several hours delay, and the stage pushed back to 1:15 pm PDT in South Lake Tahoe. Organisers made the decision based on the safety of the riders after overnight snowfall combined with freezing temperatures made for dangerous race conditions.
“We were monitoring weather conditions up until the predicted 1:15 p.m. PT start time, and we just couldn’t safely put the riders out on the course with the current forecast,” said Andrew Messick, president of AEG Sports. “We appreciate the support of all the fans that came out to the start line in South Lake Tahoe, and we hope they understand and respect our decision, but when the safety of riders and fans is involved, there is no leeway. We are looking forward to seeing everyone at the start tomorrow in Squaw Valley.”
As the race was being cancelled, three-time champion Levi Leipheimer addressed the crowd from the sign-in stage and said:
“The riders discussed as a group and we just don’t feel comfortable riding knowing what can happen, especially in light of what happened last Monday. We still have a full week of racing ahead of us, so we want to make sure everyone is healthy. With the weather conditions the way they are, racing today is just not possible. On behalf of all the riders, we apologize and appreciate everyone’s support and understanding.”
Lars Boom (Rabobank) spoke to Cyclingnews at the start, just before the stage was cancelled.
"It was sunny when we were signing in and now there is another squall moving in and it's cloudy and snowy right now. With what just happened in the Giro d'Italia, we're wearing black wristbands, it might be ok now, but you don't know what's going to happen 10 minutes down the road. I will stay with the team and follow their decision."
Once the stage had been cancelled teams began leaving, former US road champion, George Hincapie told reporters that the correct decision had been made.
"There was definite concern for safety on the course. There is a really fast descent it could be a bit dicey. At the end of the day we had to prioritize safety. The way this sport's going, I think it's important that everybody agrees on final decisions, and we support the organisation and supports the teams. We need to race again tomorrow.”
"At the end of the day it’s the organizers that makes the final decision, but there was a lot of back and forth about neutralising the GC or neutralising the whole stage, they just decided the safest decision was to not do it at all and we have to respect that."
Cyclingnews recorded the following video a few hours before the start in Tahoe:
- Article published:
- May 15, 2011, 23:37
- Barry Ryan
Astana man impressed by pink jersey’s strength
Roman Kreuziger (Astana) continued his strong start to the Giro d'Italia with an intelligent performance on the slopes of Mount Etna, but he admitted after the stage that it would have been dangerous to follow Alberto Contador's explosive rhythm in the finale.
The Czech fought toe-to-toe with the likes of Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) and moved into the white jersey of best young rider, but thought better of attempting to match Contador when he accelerated 6km from the line. Speaking to Cyclingnews before making his way down the volcano, Kreuziger marvelled at Contador's show of force.
"It was impressive, I saw the size of the gear he was using when he went," Kreuziger said. "I turned around and I still had two teammates, and I didn't even try to go after him because I didn't feel I could."
Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) managed to make it across to Contador's wheel, but he would soon crack under the strain of the Spaniard's relentless pace. Kreuziger believed that Scarponi's struggle was vindication of his decision to follow his own tempo.
"I was worried that I would have destroyed myself and I wouldn't have made it to the top," he admitted. "But Scarponi went after him and we saw how he ended up."
With Contador seemingly in a stratum all of his own up front, Kreuziger focused his attentions on the race within a race behind, and his toughest moment on Etna would come just before the finish.
"I suffered more when Nibali went with a kilometre to go, it was hard to go and get him," Kreuziger explained. "Then I closed down Arroyo, but unfortunately in the sprint, I wasn't able to take any bonus seconds."
The new pink jersey Contador was adamant afterwards that the Giro was not over, but the sight of his overall rivals marking one another behind might have suggested otherwise. Kreuziger was reluctant to resign himself to defeat but acknowledged that Contador is on top of his game.
"We knew already at the start that Alberto was arriving here very strongly," Kreuziger admitted, before sounding an optimistic note. "But there's no need to be down about that because it's a very tough Giro and anything could happen still."
After stalling slightly in his final year or so at Liquigas-Cannondale, there has been discernible steel about Kreuziger's resolve in his debut season at Astana. Surveying the carnage on Etna after Contador's eruption, Kreuziger was quietly pleased that this harsh Giro was already beginning to separate the wheat from the chaff.
"Today was a very tough stage and I'm glad that we went that hard because that way we were at least able to see who's up there and who isn't," Kreuziger said. "For my morale coming into the rest day, it was important that I was there.
"The Giro started today, and it's from now on that it starts getting hard."
- Article published:
- May 16, 2011, 01:28
- Cycling News
Australian sprinters miss the time cut
The two ascents of Mt Etna proved too much for veteran Australian sprinters, Robbie McEwen (RadioShack) and Graeme Brown (Rabobank) who both finished outside the time cut.
"Didn't finish on time (way out actually) on Mt.Etna stage," said McEwen via his Twitter feed. "Giro over for me. Haven't felt good at all. Home, recover & rebuild for June."
The pair finished 59:35 down on the time by stage winner, Alberto Contador.
HTC-Highroad's Mark Cavendish was sparred a similar fate, by a margin of just 30 seconds, 33 minutes ahead of the Australians. Cavendish was escorted to the finishline by teammates Alex Rasmussen and Mark Renshaw while Sacha Modolo (Colnago - CSF Inox), Adam Blythe (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Russell Downing (Sky Procycling) and Danilo Napolitano (Acqua & Sapone) were also in the group.
"Well my legs exploded more violently than the f%&king volcano we were racing up today," said Cavendish via his Twitter feed. "Mount Etna. Twice. In 1 stage. Not nice."
Renshaw wasn't impressed either claiming: "That wasn't cycling today, that was going to hell and back... twice."
Two sprint stages remain for Cavendish following Monday's rest day – stage 10 and 12.