- Article published:
- October 4, 2010, 09:56
- Les Clarke
Irishman unable to go with late attacks
Having finished seventh overall in the Vuelta a España last month, Nicolas Roche was one of the dark horses heading into the world championships but admits that a long season left him tired and unable to go with the finale attacks that decided the race.
The talented Irishman made the first selection when the peloton split with five laps of the punishing 15.9km Geelong circuit remaining but couldn't follow the moves when attacks started coming thick and fast with two laps to go.
"I was in the front until two laps to go and the legs were okay but it's just that the distance was that bit too long, a bit too hard and after such a long season every effort counts. I was just running a bit short," Roche told Cyclingnews.
With only two other teammates, one of which was in the early break [Matthew Brammeier], Roche didn't have a big backup crew but wasn't looking for excuses after the race. He admitted that he was extremely tired after his Vuelta exertions and that meant it was just a case of asking a little too much for too long.
"I was riding close enough to the front so it wasn't like I needed someone to always bring me back up like a proper Classic - I can't use the excuse of lack of teammates," he said.
"I was feeling good but the race was just that bit too long. My condition is okay but I'm just not recovered completely [from the Vuelta] and it was just a little too long."
Having ridden the Tour and the Vuelta in the same season for the first time, Roche said without hesitation that 2010 had been the best season of his career thus far. While he continues to develop year-by-year, his goals have increased with his progression in stature and he's optimistic he can back it up with results in 2011.
"I'd like to now go and get a top 10 in the Tour and maybe come back to the Vuelta with higher ambitions," he explained.
"I wasn't far off the top five [in the Vuelta] this year and I had a not-so-great performance in the time trial which kind of handicapped my top five because I think I could have made it. I still have a few things to work on, which is good because it means that I'm still a work-in-progress."
- Article published:
- October 4, 2010, 10:15
- Susan Westemeyer
Belgian still has a fear of crashing after return from injury
The world championship course in Geelong was tailor-made for Tom Boonen. Unfortunately the Belgian sprinter missed out on the chance of winning a second rainbow jersey because he is recovering from a knee surgery. Boonen won the Worlds title in Madrid in 2005 on a similar course.
"You only get two or three chances in life to be world champion. This was perhaps my second," Boonen admitted told Sporza.
"Hindsight is always easy, but if I had been fit, I would surely have been in the final group,” he said. "Whether I would also have won, that's a different question."
The QuickStep rider didn't watch much of the race, as he was riding in the Circuit Franco-Belge. “I only saw the last two kilometers. And then the rebroadcast. I'm not an early bird!” he said.
The Belgian said that he was happy for new world champion Thor Hushovd.
“He deserved to be world champion. I had already seen that he looked very sharp in training.” Both riders live in Monaco, and Boonen expects to congratulate Hushovd for his win there, later this week.
The short French-Belgian stage race was Boonen's first competitive race since the Tour de Suisse in June. Although the first three stages ended in mass sprints, he did not participate in any of them and he did not start the final stage.
The good news was that his knee didn't hurt. "I can go home with a good feeling. The knee did not act up and I never had to force myself."
The bad news, though, was in the pouring rain on Saturday, “I noticed that a certain fear has crept into my head: the fear of crashing again. It will take some time before that feeling is gone.”
Boonen will continue with his autumn program of racing but doesn't expect to win this year. "Next week Paris-Tours is on the program. Just riding it to the end would please me very much,” he said. “It's about going into the winter with a good feeling.”
- Article published:
- October 4, 2010, 11:48
- Richard Tyler
Young Omega Pharma-Lotto rider seals Franco-Belge
Adam Blythe gave his Omega Pharma-Lotto squad a boost as his sealed his first overall stage-race victory as a professional at Franco-Belge on Sunday. The result gives the Briton a confident finish to his neo-pro season and he told Cyclingnews he hopes to carry his good form to this weekend's Paris-Tours in support of teammate, Philippe Gilbert.
Blythe, who turned 21 on Friday, celebrated his birthday in style by winning the first and third stages of the race on his way to overall victory in the four-day tour. His first stage win had been his first as a professional and his eventual six second victory over Sep Vanmarke (Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator) saw him add his name to a list of former overall winners that includes fellow sprinters Tyler Farrar and Robbie McEwen.
"It couldn't have gone much better really. Two stages, one just before my birthday, one the day after it and then the overall. I couldn't have asked for much more," Blythe told Cyclingnews.
Blythe was able to retain his race-long hold on the overall despite a late scare on the final stage. A puncture on the penultimate lap of the race's closing circuits had left him wondering whether his yellow jersey would be lost.
"I was really nervous. Luckily Olivier Kaisen had lost contact with the group on the last lap and just as I was getting my wheel changed he came past me," he said. "He helped me over the top of the climb and did an amazing job to ride me back onto the peloton. A couple more guys from the team were waiting at the back and they took me up the bunch and to the front. Without them I wouldn't have been there in the end."
Omega Pharma-Lotto has enjoyed a far more successful season this year that last, but Blythe's victories meant he became just the third member of the squad to top a podium in 2010, after Philippe Gilbert and Matthew Lloyd. With several significant roster changes to occur for the Belgian squad in 2011 - including the arrival of André Greipel from HTC-Columbia - Blythe indicated that both his and the team's moral is strong.
"Everyone was really happy after the race. I think everyone was happy to work for me and give 100 per cent for me in the race, so everyone was over the moon with the result," he said.
"At the start of the year I just wanted a stage win in any race. I've tried to be consistent throughout the year and my form's slowly been coming. I won the first stage and that was it, I'd reached my main goal. Then I won another stage and had a chance at the overall. For me, confidence-wise, the overall victory and the second stage win have helped as I didn't think that it would be an option."
While his sprint success at Franco-Belge proves his ability to win professional races, Blythe has no allusions about what to expect in his sophomore year. The arrival of Greipel will give the team a big-name sprinter, but the Blythe is looking forward to sharing the workload.
"I think the team is going to be one of the best you could have. We've got [Philippe] Gilbert for the Classics, well, Gilbert for anything really. Jurgen [Van den Broeck] for the overall at the Tours and then André for the sprints," he said. "It's going to be one hell of a strong team and I think we're going to have a lot of opportunities in a lot of races."
Blythe will close his season next Tuesday at Putte-Kapellen but will line-up two days earlier at Paris-Tours. With a tough new finale for the French semi-classic he's realistic about his own chances of success and will instead support Philippe Gilbert's bid for a third consecutive win at the race. The Belgian said he will decide on his participation in the race upon return from the World Championships in Australia this week, but Blythe thinks he'll start.
"I think Gilbert will start because he's won it two times in a row. Hopefully he'll arrive [for the race], but we've just got to see what happens. I know the last 20 kilometres of it has changed for this year so it's going to be very, very hard."
Blythe's only race prior to Paris-Tours will be Binche-Tournai-Binche in Belgium on Tuesday. "I'm pretty confident, I'll just have to see how my legs feel tomorrow. Putte-Kapellen is pretty much a sprinters race so hopefully I'll have a chance there as well."
- Article published:
- October 4, 2010, 11:57
- Daniel Benson
Says Norwegian will be a good ambassador for the sport
Gérard Vroomen has praised Thor Hushovd on his winning ride in the Worlds and believes that the Norwegian will be an excellent ambassador for the sport over the coming twelve months.
Hushovd pulled on the rainbow jersey after a thrilling finale to Sunday’s race. After seeing multiple attacks from the Belgians, Russians and Italians fail, Hushovd powered to the win with a trademark sprint on the uphill drag to the line.
“It was quite amazing,” Vroomen, co-founder of Cervelo and the same-named team, told Cyclingnews.
“The course obviously wasn’t as easy as some sprinters thought so that left it to Thor to pace himself perfectly and get to the line within shooting distance. There wasn’t that much TV camera work in the group behind but I guess he was one of those pushing the pace to get back on the descent. Winning the sprint was awesome. It’s exactly what he set out to do as far back as the January training camp.”
One of Hushovd’s first actions upon crossing the line was to pick up his Cervelo bike and kiss it – a marketing dream for Vroomen who will surely use the image to push his brand next year. However, the cold side of sales and marketing aside, Vroomen clearly has a soft spot for Hushovd, who has ridden Cervelo for the last two seasons.
“What he did at the finish, that was pretty funny. In the last two years he’s become a bit of a different rider. He’s worked so hard and we’ve helped to give him that opportunity so I think that he’s one of those riders that really appreciates what people do for him and never complains or finds excuses. I think that was his way of expressing that.”
Hushovd is already one of the most popular riders amongst his peers and cycling fans and Vroomen believes that he will wear the stripes as world champion with the same dignity that epitomised Cadel Evans this year. Like Evans, the Norwegian is a rider who competes almost all-year round.
“I think he’ll be a really good ambassador for the sport. First of all the sport will never have any problems with him. That’s a good start if you look at the last week of crap we’ve had. Second, of all he’s a guy that rides from February to October so the jersey will be shown a lot, just like I think Cadel Evans has done an amazing job this year of representing the jersey, Thor will do the same. Even yesterday, I think Cadel did a great ride so hats off to him too.”
Next year Hushovd will swap his Cervelo TestTeam surroundings for those on offer at Jonathan Vaughters’ Garmin-Cervelo’s team. The partnership between Garmin and Cervélo will see the Norwegian competing on a Cervelo bike.
“We like to share,” joked Vroomen.
“The Worlds was one of the things we’ve not won before, perhaps one of the only things in the sport, so it’s great to win it and have Thor in the jersey. I’ve not really thought about what the jersey will look like next year but it’s great to see a world champion riding a Cervelo bike.”
With Garmin set to show of their first world elite road champion, Vaughters Tweeted, “Rainbow/Argyle.... Oh man.... The imagination runs wild.”
However the test between Vroomen and Vaughters’s partnership could be tested even at this early stage, with Vroomen telling Cyclingnews he would need a preview of the jersey.
“I don’t think it would be wise to let Vaughters have complete control of the jersey,” he joked. “
We’ll have a look before and get a sneak preview, for sure.
- Article published:
- October 4, 2010, 14:36
- Peter Cossins
Basso joins those paying homage to 2006 Tour de France winner
2006 Tour de France winner Oscar Pereiro bowed out of professional cycling at an emotional homage to his colourful career during the Criterium Internacional de la Comunitat Valenciana.
Although a recent operation to correct a long-standing problem with his right wrist meant that Pereiro was unable to take part in the day’s racing, the 33-year-old Spaniard was his usual relaxed and easygoing self as he mixed with fans and signed dozens of autographs despite heavy bandaging around his wrist.
“I’ve enjoyed my last year of racing with Astana, but it is time to move on and let my place in the peloton go to a younger rider who wants to make a name for himself in the sport,” Pereiro told Cyclingnews.
“I’m definitely not going to be coming back again next year. I’m not sure exactly what the future holds but I’ve been enjoying doing commentary work on cycling and also other sports such as football, and I would like to do more of that.”
Tribute was also paid to Valencia rider José Enrique Gutiérrez, who was a colleague of Pereiro’s on the Phonak team. His best result was his second place finish to Ivan Basso in the 2006 Giro d’Italia, before both men were implicated in the Operación Puerto blood doping scandal.
Basso was among the group of professional riders who took part in the racing at the Valencia criterium. Resplendent in his pink jersey as 2010 Giro winner, the Italian was edged out for victory in the elimination race by Caisse d’Epargne’s David López. However, the Italian’s better finish in the earlier points event gave him the overall title on the day.
As is always the case, Valencia event organiser Javier Castellar came up with an interesting challenge for his star performer. After having Oscar Freire compete against a racehorse and Alejandro Valverde lose out to a dog team in previous editions, this time Basso was pitted against Spain’s national inline speed skating champions, who also beat the Italian in a sprint.
Once the racing was completed, Pereiro, Basso and Gutiérrez were paraded down the finishing straight in the back of a vintage Mercedes. All three were called up onto the podium, where Pereiro and Gutiérrez made farewell speeches.
Pereiro, a regular visitor to the Valencia event, paid his own tribute to Castellar, presenting him with the Astana jersey he wore during the Tour of Poland, which turned out to be his final competitive appearance.
- Article published:
- October 4, 2010, 15:20
- Susan Westemeyer
Tour winner say it would be difficult to accept a ban
Alberto Contador says he expects the International Cycling Union to resolve his case quickly, in “eight or ten days,” as he continues to protest his innocence in a series of interviews.
The Spaniard has revealed to Eurosport that while he has received support from many sources, he has heard nothing from his current team Astana nor from former teammate Lance Armstrong. He said he now has basically no relationship with the Astana team. “I have no communication with them.” Contador has signed to ride with Team Saxo Bank in the coming year, and while “they are holding neutral”, they have indicated their support for him.
As for Armstrong, “He has not sent me any message or called me, but I have heard from other people what he thinks about the issue,” Contador said, without indicating what Armstrong's opinion was.
Contador insisted he trusts the anti-doping system and the testing procedure but would struggle to accept any kind of ban.
"People who know me and people who have been working with me know that I'm innocent," he said. "I completely trust the dope test process. I had eight tests during last Tour de France. Scientific evidence supports me."
Asked if he expected a ban, he said: "That's something that I cannot contemplate, especially when you know that you haven't done anything wrong. I don't know what is going to happen but I know that it is difficult to be banned when you haven't done anything wrong. It is really hard to accept that I may be banned."
"I really think people across Europe trust me. It’s a totally unjust situation. I’m a completely transparent person, dedicated to the struggle against doping and the call for anti-doping sanctions against teams. I'm defending my position so ferociously because I'm speaking the truth, the whole truth. I don't want to think that people in France, Germany or on the Tour de France have something against me. I don't want to think that there is something else involved."
- Article published:
- October 4, 2010, 19:12
- Daniel Benson
Agents must pass exam, be certified by their national federation
While the Alberto Contador saga engulfs the world of professional cycling, the International Cycling Union (UCI) has taken measures to alter the way in which the sport operates in a number of other areas with proposals introduced at its Management Committee, held last week in Geelong.
One of the most interesting and important areas of change surrounds rider agents. On September 28, the UCI ProTour Council (UPTC) agreed to a set of resolutions with the aim of regulating the currently complex and often murky world of rider agents.
"In 2011 agents will sit for exams, after which they will receive a UCI riders' agent certificate, valid for four years," read a UCI press release.
"Those wishing to practise this profession must then obtain a riders' agent licence from their National Federation. This request can only be made by people certified by the UCI. From January 1, 2012, all riders' agents must meet these new requirements. The UCI will publish the list of approved agents on its website."
The UCI's Management Committee has also announced that riders' agents will come under stricter scrutiny from January 1, 2012 as a result of a new certification process. Currently the UCI has no idea how many agents work within the sport and according to UCI President, Pat McQuaid, the next 12 months will allow the governing body to gather as much information possible before the roll out in 2012.
"This is something we did work on back in 2002," McQuaid told Cyclingnews. "We prepared a project but it wasn't concluded and we've reactivated it in recent weeks. It's not necessarily about control, these are independent people, but it's to ensure they work within certain guidelines.
"I wouldn't really like to compare how some agents work. We would just like some uniformity on the way they work."
McQuaid concedes that the UCI will never be able to control all agents. For example, some chose to use their parents, some manage themselves, while others pitch for hugely professional bodies to represent their contractual needs. The level of professionalism in cycling is illustrated by the fact that a press officer for one team can act as an agent for a rider on a different team.
"We can't perfectly control the agents. For example, lawyers can represent without having a license or without having done the exam and that's something we can't interfere with.
"However, the aim is to ensure that we have people acting in a more professional way. There has been more activity with agents in the last few years and they're becoming more and more important. There are more and more of them around so we need to have knowledge of who is doing what and how they're operating. Their roles are increasing."
One element that McQuaid hasn't solidified is whether agents would need to disclose their fees when submitting for a license. For example, how much did agent X receive for seeing one of his talents move from team A to team B? Who exactly paid him and did and where did the money go to?
Gerard Vroomen, current team owner of Cervélo TestTeam, has praised the concepts of the UCI but for now reserves judgement as to whether they will be successful. According to Vroomen, it's down to both the teams and the UCI to regulate agents and that the situation cycling currently finds itself in is due to both parties not working together.
"I think some rider agents are pretty amateurish and some are very good. To regulate it would be a good thing but I'm not sure what to expect from the UCI. It could take a couple of years to come into effect," he told Cyclingnews.
"You have a lot of rider agents now that as soon as a rider has one good result they threaten to walk away from the contract and if the team is unhappy then they pretend that the contract is the holiest thing on the earth.
"On the one hand they give us a difficult time over a contract but on the other hand they'll try and get a rider out of someone like Bjarne Riis's team by creating a load of crap. That unprofessional behaviour is certainly something that could be addressed."
After two years of running his own team Vroomen has seen a number of new agents flock the sport, as well as super power teams like RadioShack, Geox, Team Sky and the newly formed Luxembourg team emerge as big players in the transfer market.
"I think it goes deeper. It goes to the core of the UCI itself. Last year we had Sky who went against all the rules, talked to all sorts of riders without asking permission from the current teams as they should have done in the UCI rules. The UCI did nothing.
"In fact, there was only one team presentation that Pat McQuaid decided to show up for and that was Sky's. So they were condoning that sort of behaviour instead of taking a strong stance against it. I think it's a good that agents are regulated but it's also to the teams that let the agents get away with it. The teams are so short sighted when they're offered a rider that's still under contract, they think they need him and break him out of his current contract. Then they're surprised when the reverse happens.
"The agents are a problem but only because the UCI and the teams allow them to be a problem."
Strong words but what do the agents themselves think?
Andrew McQuaid, agent to Nicolas Roche, Taylor Phinney and Richie Porte welcomed the news from the UCI, and called for a level playing field.
"Based on what the UCI said in their press release I'm all for it," he told Cyclingnews.
"Cyclists need good representation from people they can trust, this sounds like a good way to make sure they get that and most importantly can trust that the people they choose to represent them are qualified and capable to do so."
Martijn Berkhout, who works for SEG Cycling and represents Danny Pate, Steven Cozza and Thomas Dekker amongst others, welcomed the idea of a level playing field but like Vroomen had his reservations.
"Take for example the standard UCI agreement. Every team is using it but they're all having different interpretations on this agreement. It's not bringing equal rights for riders."
SEG Cycling is one of the biggest players in the world of sports agents. Along with cycling they work in the more professionally regulated world of soccer and basketball. Within cycling they operate with riders from a young age right up to Grand Tour contenders.
"Compared to something like soccer, agents are not properly regulated within cycling," Berkhout said.
Asked if there were currently agents that harm cycling he added: "Yes, for sure. That's why this certificate is important. Then you can sanction an agent or agency."
One thing is certain, the likes of McQuaid, the UCI, and Vroomen would all agree on Berkhout's following statement. However how they interpret it might be up for further debate.
"This sports needs transparency on every side."
- Article published:
- October 4, 2010, 21:28
- Les Clarke
Bole and Brajkovic could be future title contenders
Slovenia demonstrated that it will be a force to contend with in future world championships after Janez Brajkovic and Grega Bole featured strongly in the finale of Sunday’s 260km Elite men’s road race in Australia.
Rapidly improving sprinter and classics rider Bole was the designated team leader, with Criterium du Dauphiné winner Brajkovic also aggressive despite being ill before the race.
"Two days before the time trial I had a fever and I felt really bad – I did the time trial just because I wanted to race," Brajkovic told Cyclingnews.
"After that my condition wasn't getting worse - it was the same each day. I was still feeling weak but I said, 'I've travelled so far for this race, I have to do it'.
"They were saying it [the course] was going to be easy, a sprinter's course, but it was hard. It was fast all day and with those hills it was really hard. Especially for me - I'm a really light rider and I hate these short, punchy climbs...”
"I had nothing to lose so I gave my best and in the finale I felt surprisingly good. We were in the front so the whole team was super today and I'm quite happy."
Hopes for the future
It was the culmination of the work done by a powerful team that included Simon Spilak and Gorazd Stangelj. The team wasn't considered a contender heading into the championships but did enough to warrant that tag in future world titles.
"We have a really strong team and we get along quite well... we raced pretty - everything was perfect. With Grega, I think in the coming years we can get a medal for sure," said Brajkovic.
Like Brajkovic, Bole has enjoyed a stellar season and further enhanced his reputation as a star whose time has come to feature in the year's biggest races such as the Criterium du Dauphiné, where he won stage one.
While he placed 11th at the world championships, he says he's pleased with his season. But hopes for even more in 2011.
"I've had a good year but I had a big crash on the second stage of Paris-Nice I couldn't train for three months," explained Bole. "Then I did a lot of racing: the Tour de France, the Vuelta, and I had good results. This year has been the best of my career."
"We have Alessandro Petacchi and a lot of good riders in the Lampre team in 2011 but I've git some good results this year and I hope next year I can be a leader in some big races such as the Classics."