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First Edition Cycling News, Monday, September 17, 2012

Date published:
September 17, 2012, 03:00
  • Ellingworth on Mark Cavendish's future

    Tour of Britain leader Mark Cavendish (Sky) in action during stage 5.
    Article published:
    September 16, 2012, 08:14
    Daniel Benson

    Coach wants what's best for sprinter

    After last week’s confirmation that Mark Cavendish would begin negotiations to end his Sky contract, his coach Rod Ellingworth has told Cyclingnews that the rider’s Tour de France ambitions are central to any proposed move to a rival team.

    Ellingworth has been an integral part in Mark Cavendish’s development as a rider, from unpolished junior to world champion, and the Sky team coach’s modest demeanour belies the instrumental role he has played in Cavendish’s career.

    “It’s totally up to him. For me, I just want Mark to perform and to do what he does best,” Ellingworth told Cyclingnews at the World championships in Valkenburg, Holland.

    “It’s up to him then on where it’s best to be. That’s my interest for him. If it means him going then he has to go. From talking from a British cycling point of view as a British cycling coach, Mark’s a winner and he needs to go to a team where he can win bike races and it’s as clear as that really.”

    Ellingworth is not the first member of Sky’s fraternity to speak openly about Cavendish’s future. Dave Brailford lit the torch paper in July, telling the BBC that a move from Sky was a possibility after Cavendish was left isolated in a number of sprint lead-outs. Bradley Wiggins echoed his boss’s sentiments, adding that he could understand why Cavendish would depart after only a year of his contract at Sky.

    “Whether he stays at Team Sky or goes anywhere else, as long as he can go and win bike races that’s what he needs to be able to do. And if he doesn’t feel like he can win bike races at Team Sky then maybe he has to move on. We don’t know yet. Nothing is done and nothing is sorted yet. There are a lot of rumours, a lot of rumours.”

    “Do I want him to stay at Team Sky? Of course, I’d love him to stay at Team Sky.”

    “I just think that goals change. From a very positive experience at the Tour de France and being part of a yellow jersey team I think he really realised how much he loves the Tour and I think he’s been grappling with that for years, ‘do I love the Tour, yes or no?’ I think he absolutely loves the Tour de France and I think he wants to be a big winner in the Tour de France. That’s where he harbours that kind of feeling, which is fair enough. I think he really wants to beat Eddy Merckx's stage record, which is great if he can.”

    Cavendish’s Tour was by no means a failure. Despite isolated moments during several lead-outs he came away with three stage wins and, barring crashes, he could have equalled 2011’s tally of five wins. The green jersey did elude him, with Peter Sagan proving a worthy winner and Sky understandably concentrating on their yellow jersey campaign.

    “He had a bit of bad luck but all year he’s had a few ups and downs and a bit of bad luck but I don’t know. I think he’s had really good support throughout the year. You track the season, some of the ups and downs, and considering he was in that jersey and everything else, I think the guy has done a fantastic job. I think he’s had some real big hits in terms of crashes, an illness that continued on, which impacted at Milan San Remo, so you take all that into consideration. I think he got massive support,” Ellingworth added.

    But support is more than just placing eight men on the front of the peloton in a lead-out. Away from the television cameras that broadcast Tour stage finishes, Cavendish has benefited from Sky’s entire marginal gains programme as well as the support and backing at this year’s Olympic Games.

    “He knows he’s never had that level of support before and he knows that if he goes he could potentially never have that level of support again. I think he wants to win bike races and he needs a full team around him to win bike races. That didn’t happen at the Tour but I think everyone knew it wasn’t going to happen at the Tour. I think it was that he realised that he loved the Tour de France and he wanted to win more.”

    The number of suitors courting Cavendish depends on who you speak to. By all accounts, Omega Pharma-QuickStep lead the way, while GreenEdge – who offered Cavendish a contract in 2011, BMC and even RadioShack are reported to be interested parties. Katusha recently removed themselves from the speculation by stating they would not make a move for the sprinter. The reported one million pound buy-out clause could prove a complication but Cyclingnews understands that negotiations between Sky and Cavendish have yet to take place.

    “Maybe it was inevitable that he would join us in terms of him being the world champion,” Ellingworth said when asked about Cavendish’s move to Sky at the start of 2012.

    “I think he did have to come to the team, to experience it. He did, and he’s certainly not unhappy with the team, and he knows the organisation of the team is the best he’s ever had. I don’t think that he want to leave because he’s unhappy. It’s just a little change in direction on what he wants to do.”



    World championships
  • MTN-Qhubeka to become Africa’s first Pro Continental team

    Adrien Niyonshuti (MTN Qhubeka)
    Article published:
    September 16, 2012, 11:26
    Barry Ryan

    Hopes for Tour de France ride by 2015 and first African world champion

    MTN-Qhubeka will become the first African team to obtain Pro Continental status in 2013 and the ambitious squad has designs on participating in the Tour de France within two years.

    At a presentation on the eve of the world championships in Valkenburg on Saturday, UCI head of sport Philippe Chevallier confirmed that MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung will be granted a Pro Continental licence for next season, and he lauded the development as proof of cycling’s global progress since the establishment of the continental circuits in 2005.

    “In 2005, we only had two events on the African calendar, but it has developed over the past seven years,” Chevalier said. “To have a good African team like this will be great for African cycling and perhaps will inspire other teams.”

    The South African-registered MTN-Qhubeka squad was founded in 2007 and has competed at Continental level in recent years, as well as funding women’s and mountain bike outfits. Team principal Douglas Ryder is determined that his squad – 70% of which will be composed of African riders – will progress to WorldTour level in due course.

    “We’re registering as Africa’s first Pro Continental team and ultimately we want to produce an African world champion,” Ryder said. “Look at athletics – African distance runners are the best in the world, so why not cyclists?”

    Confirmation of MTN-Qhubeka’s elevation to Pro Continental level follows Friday’s announcement that Gerard Ciolek will join the squad from Omega Pharma-QuickStep for 2013. The team, which has a budget of €3.5 million, will also include Ignatas Konovalovas (Movistar), Andreas Stauff (Eddy Merckx-Indeland), Italian neo-pro Kristian Sbaragli and two additional European signings, yet to be announced.

    The team’s primary sporting aim is the promotion of African talent, however, and the majority of the squad will hail from the continent. Riders on the roster include Adrien Niyonshuti of Rwanda, who competed in the mountain bike event at the London 2012 Olympics, and South Africans Jay Thomson and Louis Meintjes, currently at Lotto Belisol.

    Departing the team will be Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg, however, with the South African – winner of two stages at the Tour of Portugal last month – headed for Argos-Shimano.

    In 2013, MTN-Qhubeka’s African riders will be based in Lucca, Italy, with Ryder explaining that living and training in a collective environment will help to facilitate their transition to life in Europe. “It’s difficult for riders to go from living in a third world country to living in a first world country.”

    Aiming for the Tour

    MTN-Qhubeka’s calendar for 2013 has yet to be established, but Ryder is set to have talks with both ASO and RCS in the coming weeks as he unveils his project to the world. “The dream is to take the first black African riders to the Tour in the modern history of the race,” he said.

    While riding the Giro or the Tour in the team’s first season at Pro Continental level will prove difficult, the stated objective is to reach La Grande Boucle by 2015. In the meantime, MTN-Qhubeka will look to ensure that the team’s riders and the message they embody will make an impact in the international peloton.

    While primary sponsor MTN is Africa’s largest telecommunications company, the second name on the team’s jersey is not a commercial entity but rather a volunteer organisation with cycling at its heart. Qhubeka, an Nguni word meaning “to progress,” is a non-profit organisation which provides bicycles to children in Africa in return for community and environmental work.

    “Out of 16 million school going children in South Africa, 12 million walk to school, often on journeys of over two hours each way,” Ryder said. “Providing bikes is a way of addressing the issue, but Qhubeka provides a hand up rather than a hand-out.”

    As well as providing African cyclists with a platform to perform on the world stage, therefore, the team will also raise awareness of the Qhubeka programme and its mission in Europe and beyond.

    The squad’s management staff will feature a distinct influence from the former Cervélo TestTeam, with Jens Zemke as head sport director and Thomas Campana as manager. Brent Copeland also joins as a sport director, while Jean-Pierre Van Zyl will oversee the MTN-Qhubeka feeder team, which will be run in partnership with the UCI World Cycling Centre, and will race on the African calendar with African riders.

    “It’s difficult to put together a team like this from South Africa, so we’re fortunate to have people that the European peloton trust and that has helped us to put the team together,” Ryder said. “But this is Africa’s Pro Continental team – it’s not about selling a product.”

  • Team Specialized - Lululemon wins opening title at Worlds 2012

    Specialized-lululemon en route to victory in the team time trial.
    Article published:
    September 16, 2012, 12:32
    Daniel Benson

    German team wins women's team time trial

    The favourites delivered in the women’s team time trial at the World Championships with Team Specialized - Lululemon taking gold ahead of Orica-AIS and AA Drink - Leontien.NL Cycling.

    Trixi Worrack, Ellen van Dijk, Ina-Yoko Teutenberg, Evelyn Stevens, Amber Neben and Charlotte Becker set the fastest time at each of the intermediate time checks and despite Orica holding them to less than a second after 11.9 kilometres, the advantage stretched out to 24 seconds by the finish. According to Stevens it was a case of practice makes perfect.

    “We came out in April to preview the course and it’s been huge focal point of the season. We knew the course inside and out. It was a technical course, you had to go fast on the flats, fast on the climbs but not too fast. A lot of the time Ina and Ellen were powering along on the flats and Charlotte, Trixi, Amber and myself were setting a tempo on the climbs. We practiced it a bunch this week. It’s exciting to target something and then get the win,” she said.

    While the majority of the competition lost riders early on, Specialized-lulemon were able to keep all six riders together until the ascent of the Cauberg, with Teutenberg swinging off after one final pull on the front.

    “The goal was to win,” Stevens added.

    “Ina did an incredible turn leading into the Cauberg and that was the plan to give us all a bit of a breather. We finished with five today but the goal was just to have the fastest time.”

    At the recent Ladies Tour in Holland Orica had pushed Specialized-lulemon all the way, finishing within 19 seconds over a similar course.

    “We knew that it would be a tight race and for sure,” Teutenberg said.

    “After 10 km were weren’t expecting a 30 second lead. That would have been wishful thinking. We knew we had to put the pressure on and then keep it up. We knew it would come down to three or four teams and that it could be really tight.”

    World championships
  • Worlds team time trial win whets Boonen's appetite

    Tom Boonen leads his Omega Pharma Quick Step team onto the podium
    Article published:
    September 16, 2012, 17:21
    Barry Ryan

    Belgian motivated for road race

    Tom Boonen got his rainbow week off to the best possible start when his Omega Pharma-QuickStep squad took victory in the inaugural elite men's team time trial at the road world championships in Valkenburg on Sunday, but the Belgian maintained that his motivation will not have been tempered ahead of next weekend's road race.

    Just like in 2005, Boonen has now won the Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix and a world title in the same season, but there were no rainbow jerseys on offer for the team time trial winners on Sunday. Perhaps with that in mind, the 31-year-old gently dismissed the notion that his startling 2012 haul - which also includes Gent-Wevelgem, E3 Harelbeke, the Belgian championship and Paris-Brussels - already constitutes the best season of his career.

    "It's a good season, maybe in the top three in my career but every season is different," said Boonen matter-of-factly. "I had a few good wins in the spring, I was national champion and now I have a good last part of the season but next Sunday is a different race but it doesn't matter what you've won before. You take the start like everyone else and try to win the race."

    The tactical minutiae of how Boonen and his national team co-leader Philippe Gilbert decide to dovetail their efforts will doubtless dominate the column inches in Belgium in the coming week, but on Sunday evening in Valkenburg, he was happy to focus on paying tribute to the efforts of his Omega Pharma-QuickStep teammates in what was a demanding team time trial.

    On a rolling 53.2km course that included the climbs of Lange Raarberg, Bergseweg and the Cauberg, Omega Pharma-QuickStep dosed their effort to perfection to hold off the spirited BMC challenge by just three seconds. At the end of a season that has seen the squad positively transfigured after a lacklustre 2011 campaign, Boonen described a change of mentality that had permeated the set-up in relation to time trialling.

    "Time trialling is not a Belgian thing you know," Boonen said wryly. "We wanted to put some efforts in it. It's always nice when you win Classics and it puts you a little bit at ease for the rest of the season but it's not bad to have some different goals too, beyond always trying to go well in the classics."

    Such was the strength of Omega Pharma-Quick Step's sextet - Boonen, Tony Martin, Sylvain Chavanel, Peter Velits, Niki Terpstra and Kristof Vandewalle - that all six riders survived the final haul up the Cauberg and reached the finish line together. Boonen labelled Martin as a "machine", but noted that Niki Terpstra's demands for specific time trialling equipment had also played an important part.

    "This was one of those victories I never expected to have - first of all, because the race didn't exist," Boonen said, grinning. "In any case, we didn't have the team for it [team time trialling] in the last few years. But last year, we started thinking about it and we started working on it and look at us now. There's been a change of mentality going on and I'm happy to be part of this team. It was a real team effort, not only from the riders but from everyone."

    Before leaving the press centre with his teammates, Boonen was asked to place the emotions of this collective victory in context amid the garland of individual wins he has stitched together during his career, and his response was succinct.

    "It's the same feeling, eh? It's happy," Boonen said. "Happy is happy."

  • McQuaid hails world championship team time trials as success

    Edvald Boasson Hagen, Alex Dowsett, Juan Antonio Flecha, Sergio Montoya Henao, Ian Stannard and Geraint Thomas (Sky)
    Article published:
    September 16, 2012, 19:12
    Daniel Benson

    UCI President plans to grow both the men's and women's events

    UCI President Pat McQuaid hailed the trade team time trials at this year's road world championships a success but said that more would be done in order to grow both the men's and women's events. The women's event was won by German outfit Specialized - Lululemon, with Omega Pharma Quick Step claiming the men's race.

    "I was very pleased with today. I knew for some weeks or months that the teams were approaching this very seriously. There was wonderful participation from all the teams and when you see a close finish like that it's good for the race," he told Cyclingnews.

    "It's an event that will grow in importance and strength in the coming years."

    The UCI President said that the events were introduced in order to improve the depth of the world championships and give trade teams an opportunity to compete in a set of events that have previously been dominated by national teams. However McQuaid added that trade teams would never race in the road or individual time trials races.

    "This was part of a whole project about changing the whole week of the world championships. Instead of having a worlds just over the final weekend we wanted to try and create a bigger event for the cycling family, for the whole week," he said.

    "There has been comments made by some individuals that this would be the thin end of the wedge that and that in years to come the elite race would be for teams and not nations but that absolutely would never happen. This is an event for trade teams, the rest are for nations. There's too much history with the worlds cycling championships to start playing around with it."

    Although both team time trials took place over different distances and with unequal prize money – the men's fund stretched to 100 000 CHF, while the women's sits at 30 000 CHF – McQuaid added that parity would be sought in the future.

    "This was also a very good event and a very good promotion for women's cycling. That's something that will continue to grown. This event has the capacity to help grow cycling in the long term and we'll continue to work on that. I would like parity, and that's something we'll look to deal with in time."

  • Cauberg misunderstanding costly for Phinney and BMC

    Alessandro Ballan, Philippe Gilbert, Taylor Phinney, Marco Pinotti, Manuel Quinziato and Tejay van Garderen (BMC)
    Article published:
    September 16, 2012, 20:41
    Barry Ryan

    BMC lose out on team time trial gold by three seconds

    Trailing Omega Pharma-QuickStep by just nine seconds at the final time check of the road world championships elite men's team time trial, the BMC team was still working in harmony and steadily clawing back ground in the final 13km-long run-in to Valkenburg. But as the road pitched upwards on the final climb of the Cauberg, their efforts would become more dissonant and their hopes of gold were dashed.

    The strongest climber in the BMC line-up, Tejay van Garderen gladly took up the baton on the Cauberg and began to conduct the orchestra, which still had all six of its players in situ, but the young American may have underestimated his own strength. Manuel Quinziato and Marco Pinotti soon found themselves unable to keep pace with his brisk tempo, though with the finish time determined by the fourth rider to cross the line, BMC still had the quartet necessary to record a winning time at that point.

    When Taylor Phinney began to waver further up the climb, however, BMC were left in a quandary, and their calls for van Garderen to alter the timbre of his pressing were drowned out by the cacophony of noise from the roadside. Alessandro Ballan and Philippe Gilbert eventually succeeded in relaying the message to van Garderen, and Phinney managed to latch back on for the final 1.5km-long push to the line, but that accidental deviation from the hymn sheet would prove costly - BMC came across the line in second place, just three seconds down on Omega Pharma-QuickStep.

    Phinney conceded after the race that the breakdown in communication on the Cauberg had perhaps cost his team a world title, although he stressed that over a technical 53.2km course, there was a myriad of moments where the race had been won and lost. "For sure, people will point at the Cauberg because it was near the end but a lot of time was made and lost in the 51 kilometres before that," Phinney said.

    Phinney was spotted in animated discussion with van Garderen after the race, but he laughed off the suggestion that he would fall out with his close friend and fellow Lucca resident over events on the Cauberg.

    "I definitely was not agitated at Tejay," Phinney said. "It was so loud on the Cauberg that it was almost impossible for him to hear anything when I was yelling at him. I started struggling and was weaving a little bit on the bike, and he thought that was a sign that I was about to pull off, so he kind of came around me. At the end, we were all just disappointed because it was two or three seconds.

    "I guess I was maybe a tiny bit mad at him but only because he can climb better than me and therefore he made me hurt a little bit on the Cauberg, but I'm definitely not mad at him anymore. That's bike racing, we all make each other hurt and we grow stronger bonds because of that."

    Phinney had been one of BMC's strongest performers on the flat sections of the course, and he had put in a lengthy turn ahead of the Cauberg, perhaps not anticipating that he would be one of only four survivors over the top of the climb.

    "I went into a whole new realm of hell on the Cauberg," he said. "When we got there, and I looked back, I saw that I was the fourth rider, so I just had to dig deep as much as possible and limit our losses. I slowed the team down a little bit over the top but when you're in that situation, you just have to push through it and hope that the finish line comes quickly."

    In spite of his disappointment at missing out on gold, Phinney was able to take heart ahead of Wednesday's individual time trial, where reigning champion Tony Martin has singled him out as his most dangerous rival. After twin fourth places in the road race and time trial at the London 2012 Olympics, Phinney will doubtless be keen to end his recent run of gallant near-misses. "Today just gives me extra motivation ahead of the time trial," he said.

    Indeed, by the time he left the press conference, Phinney was already able to raise a smile, firing a friendly warning at reporters as he exited stage left: "I don't want to see any headlines saying that Taylor is mad at Tejay, alright?"

    World championships
  • Rogers ruled out of Australia's road team through illness

    Michael Rogers (Australia)
    Article published:
    September 16, 2012, 23:06
    Daniel Benson

    White pleased with Orica-GreenEdge bronze

    Orica-GreenEdge claimed third in the men's team time trial at the World Championships on Sunday, finishing behind Omega Pharma - QuickStep and BMC. The Australian team were consistent medal contenders almost throughout the 52.3 kilometre course, only dropping down to fourth place at the second time check. Despite finishing with the minimum of four riders, team director Matt White was pleased with the squad's performance.

    The Australian WorldTour team had targeted the win prior to the race but like Orica AIS team, had to settle for a place on the podium.

    "It was a good course but slower than a lot of people predicted. The guys were saying that the wind was a lot stronger than yesterday and it was a grind," White told Cyclingnews.

    "It wouldn't have been fun to finish fourth. Championships are about medals and it's satisfying to get one. We came here to win, like a few other teams, but some teams went too fast in the middle section, and we were steady through there. Those other two teams [BMC and Omega Pharma - QuickStep] were able to increase their pace in the second half of the race."

    White will now turn his attention away from trade team duties and concentrate on Australia's efforts in the men's elite time trial (Wednesday) and road race (Sunday). The road team will be led by Simon Gerrans - a pre-race favourite after his wins in Milan-San Remo and the recent, Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec. However the Australian team have been forced to make one change, with Michael Rogers ruled out through injury. White has yet to name a replacement.

    "Rogers is sick and out of the road race for health reasons. We'll talk with the selectors on who we bring in but I spoke to Mick today and he's not available. It's unfortunate."

    The loss of Rogers is blow. The team were already without Cadel Evans, Mathew Hayman, and Stuart O'Grady, leaving them with a less-experienced squad of Simon Clarke, Allan Davis, Gerrans, Adam Hansen, Heinrich Haussler, Michael Matthews, Richie Porte, David Tanner and a substitute for Rogers.

    "We're lacking a lot of experience for the Worlds. It's good for the young guys to step up but with no Rogers, Evans, O'Grady and Hayman, they're the four most experienced guys in Australian cycling. Still, we've got a very in-form Simon Gerrans. Half the team hasn't represented Australia in the seniors but now is a good a time as any to start. We'll use either Wesley Sulzberger or Nathan Haas."

    World championships
  • Rejuventation of Omega Pharma-QuickStep continues with TTT world title

    Tom Boonen, Sylvain Chavanel, Tony Martin, Niki Terpstra, Kristof Vandewalle and Peter Velits (OmegaPharma - QuickStep)
    Article published:
    September 17, 2012, 01:41
    Barry Ryan

    47 victories in 2012 and counting

    Omega Pharma-QuickStep demonstrated its widening scope by winning the elite men’s team time trial at the world championships in Valkenburg on Sunday after a decade of being the most consistent collective force in the cobbled classics.

    Established in 2001 as Domo and built around the classics aspirations of Johan Museeuw – who recently confessed to doping throughout his career – the Belgian squad’s seasons have traditionally centred on the first two Sundays in April. But while Tom Boonen again triumphed at the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix this spring, the team’s campaign has been particularly notable for the startling run of success it has enjoyed on a number of new terrains.

    Tony Martin was among Omega Pharma-QuickStep’s spate of new signings last winter as the team looked to broaden its horizons beyond the classics, and his teammates were quick to credit the world time trial champion’s influence on the squad’s three-second victory on Sunday. Described as a "machine" by Boonen in the post-race press conference, Martin looked to downplay his role and insisted that the team’s win was a collective effort.

    "I think that on paper we had the strongest six riders but our job then was to come together as a team and find a good rhythm," Martin said. "The strongest always should think of the weakest and the weakest should think of the strongest. It’s not about showing you are the strongest or the best rider. At the end, we really made a good job and fought together as a team, which was the key to success today."

    Remarkably, given the severity of the course and the positioning of the Cauberg just 1.5 kilometres from the finish, Omega Pharma-QuickStep succeeded in crossing the line with all six of their riders still together. By contrast, their dauphins BMC briefly struggled to ensure that they had the minimum four atop the Cauberg, which may well have tipped the balance in Omega Pharma’s favour.

    "We just wanted to have the fourth rider with the best time," Niki Tersptra said. "We didn’t want to finish with six guys, but everybody had a good day and we made it to the finish." ("Yeah, we tried to drop him but we couldn’t," Boonen interjected.)

    The rejuvenation of Omega Pharma-QuickStep has been one of the season’s most intriguing storylines, and their victory in the Worlds team time trial is perhaps the starkest example of their metamorphosis from the squad that could only clock up eight victories in the whole of 2011. The running total for 2012 currently stands at an enormous 47.

    Boonen credited a change in bike supplier (from Eddy Merckx to Specialized) and "a change in mentality" for the strides his team had made against the watch in 2012, both as individuals and as a collective.

    Team manager Wilfried Peeters, who rode for the team’s previous iterations as Museeuw’s closest domestique, said that the Worlds team time trial had been a special target, with directeur sportif Tom Steels paying particular attention to the marginal gains.

    "Tom looked at the circuit three months ago and made some videos, and sent them to everybody, so everyone knew every corner very well," Peeters said. "I think Tom saw the time trial course 10 times. We came with the whole team after the Eneco Tour and we’ve also put in a lot of work in the last couple of days. Yesterday we did the first 20k very fast, checking every corner."


    World championships