- Article published:
- April 9, 2010, 18:35
- Richard Moore
Flanders ride a breakthrough for the Briton
For David Millar last Sunday's Tour of Flanders represented a breakthrough. The Garmin-Transitions rider was a late attacker, and at one stage a challenger for the podium, but, five days on and on the eve of Paris Roubaix, he finds himself looking back rather wistfully, with a mixture of satisfaction and regret.
"I'm split," said Millar. "I'm over the moon at the ride and what I did, but I can clearly see the lessons I have to learn. I was badly placed for forty of the critical kilometres, when I kept chasing back on. I walked up the Koppenberg, and was never really at the front until the very end, when everyone else was knackered.
"I hadn't done any reconnaissance," continued Millar. "I didn't have time, because I was too tired after [the Three Days of] De Panne (which he won). So a lot of those climbs were new to me. I'd never done Paterberg, Koppenberg, Molenberg... and it became shockingly obvious how important it is to know the course intimately. Added to that, I wasn't getting enough bottles - I kept losing them.
"Those are the negatives," added Millar. "The positives are that I was one of the strongest there. I had no problem picking through the groups, and when Philippe [Gilbert] countered behind Tom [Boonen] and Fabian [Cancellara] in the crosswinds, I was at ease; I was able to follow and watch.
"I was just waiting for the perfect moment to go. And when I went, it was on a section of road that, oddly enough, I knew really well - I'd done it twice in De Panne - and so I knew the next climb [Tenbosse]. Which only goes to show how important the rece' is - the one bit of road I knew, I attacked on."
When Millar was joined by Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) and Bjorn Leukemans (Vacansoleil), he "became aware I was racing for the podium. The guys behind weren't going to catch us. It was an amazing experience. I thought, I'm in the finale of the Tour of Flanders. If you'd told me that last year I'd have thought you were insane. It was a wonderful awakening."
Approaching the Muur, however, "the lights went out. In 5km I went from feeling great to having nothing left. I was getting cokes from the neutral car, but it was too late. I was like an old man climbing the Muur. I think I must have had one of the slowest times up there. It was horrifying."
But could the "wonderful awakening" belatedly alter the course of Millar's career? He says that it's possible he could spend his final years as a rider focusing on the classics: "People have always said that I tick all the boxes, especially in a race like Flanders. It just goes to show what happens as a sportsman if you get pigeonholed when you're young. But yes, I'd love to finish my career being a classics rider."
First, though, is Paris Roubaix - only Millar's second start in the Queen of the Classics. A reconnaissance of the final 90km on Thursday left him "terrified," but he is looking forward to his first proper shot at the pave. "It scared the shit out of me," said Millar. "Arenberg blew me away, and there were times I thought: oh god, what have I signed up for?"
- Article published:
- April 9, 2010, 19:37
- Jean-François Quénet
French sprinter wins Circuit Sarthe finale, second victory of race
Anthony Ravard from Ag2r-La Mondiale collected his second stage win at the Circuit de la Sarthe-Pays de la Loire in Sillé-le-Guillaume on Friday. Despite many breakaways and a very difficult finale with a steep and narrow climb where no team car was allowed to drive, the short sprinter who was hired by Vincent Lavenu from Agritubel proved himself to be worth a spot in the pro peloton.
"It's always useful to have a sprinter in a team," Ravard said. "I hope this win gives confidence to my team to work for me and to Lavenu to select me for the races I want to take part in. Some team managers think it's not worth hiring a sprinter because Mark Cavendish is the best in the world but there are many races without him and still ending with bunch gallops.
"At Paris-Nice, there's space for about three sprints. William Bonnet proved this year that it's possible for a French sprinter to win a stage. I don't think that I'm less fast than Bonnet. Today there was a 400 metre long steep climb and I managed to resist and be there for the final sprint. I almost did it yesterday as well."
Confidence is the key for riders like Ravard to win. He was led out by Christophe Riblon who just returned from Copenhagen where he collected the silver medal for the Madison race with compatriot Morgan Kneisky. "Christophe did a fantastic job for me today and the team was great," Ravard said. "When I passed the Colnago-CSF riders, I heard a crash behind me. I think I have improved both speed and endurance. I've worked a lot on my speed at home recently and I have completed the Tour of Flanders which makes me resistant all the way even where there are hard climbs in the last kilometres of a race."
Ravard promised he won't be satisfied with two stage wins at Circuit de la Sarthe-Pays de la Loire and he'll keep going with high ambitions. "On Sunday I'll do Paris-Roubaix and I hope to make the early break," said the former Bouygues Telecom and Agritubel rider. "After that I'm scheduled for the Giro d'Italia, which means I'm gonna do a Grand Tour for the first time. If I go well, I have a chance to ride the Tour de France as well. Cavendish can't win all the time..."
- Article published:
- April 9, 2010, 20:16
- Cycling News
No bones broken for Rabobank climber
A crash on the penultimate descent in the fifth stage of the Vuelta al Pais Vasco dropped Rabobank's Robert Gesink from third to eighth place overall. Early worries of a broken hand bone did not hold up, and the Dutch rider is expected to be at the start of Saturday's closing time trial.
Near the end of the stage, the peloton climbed the very steep Alto de Aia twice, and Gesink went down on the descent between climbs. Earlier former stage leader Amets Txurruka (Euskaltel) went down on the same spot, and a number of other riders crashed there later.
Gesink's front wheel slipped away, and he went down on his elbow and hip. He received four stitches in the elbow. He also complained of pain in his hand, which was slightly swollen, but team doctor Peter Essveldt said that there was no fracture.
The 23-year-old had gone into the stage in third place overall, only one second behind leader Alejandro Valverde. He managed to finish the day only 1:07 behind winner Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) and is now in eighth place overall, at 54 seconds.
Other than the crash, “everything went according to plan,” directeur sportif Jan Boven said. “We don't blame anybody. He rode well and if you look at the place where Robert crashed and more riders also went down, then you can just say it was plain bad luck.”
- Article published:
- April 9, 2010, 21:43
- Daniel Benson
Sky manager balances road and track commitments
David Brailsford joined the Team Sky camp on the eve of Paris-Roubaix, in Belgium today. The team manager had spent the last few months focussing on the Track World Championships in Denmark with Team GB but ahead of Roubaix called on his team to perform to their best ability in the squad's first ever 'Hell of the North'.
"From a team's perspective what do we want from this weekend? We only ask for one thing and that's that the lads do their best and if they give their best we're happy with their best. That will be enough to make them competitive. If every one of these guys gets off their bikes and says I couldn't have done any more that's success and the rest will follow. That's genuine and that's how we try to work," he said.
"In terms of the actual riders and the performance so far, if we take the past as a predictor for the future, and you look at the recent results, you'd expect a very strong performance at the weekend. That makes us very happy."
Sky has had a successful start to their debut season within the professional ranks. They've been victorious in eight races and last month won a wild card place in the Tour de France, where they'll hope to propel Bradley Wiggins to the top of the overall.
"From my perspective if we take a broader look at things in this moment in time we're very happy and I know that our partners are very happy with the progress of the team and the performances and the results. To that end I think we're going into this weekend in a really good place," he said.
"I think across the board everyone has committed themselves really well. It's been about the riders, trying to give these guys voice, to try and make it a team for them and while its a very easy thing to say it's a difficult thing to do. So we're working hard to try and stick to our values."
Balancing track and road
Team GB was beaten into second place during the recent world championships, although the performance was a marked improvement on their 2009 medal tally. However, Brailsford believes his personal role is to oversee success on both track and road and that neither should be compromised. "One of the challenges of my role is that I've been preoccupied with the Worlds in Copenhagen. But the important thing is to have team who I trust, can delegate to and rely upon to work in the way I want to move forward."
With the Worlds out of the way, Brailsford and his management team of Steve Peters and Shane Sutton can turn their gaze back to the road, where Scott Sunderland has been leading the team. "Now that the Worlds are out of the way Steve, myself and Shane have hit the ground running. Shane is in Spain right now and from now on we'll be getting some much more hands-on time."
Brailsford believes that managing his track and road commitments is possible due to the structure within their set-up. "Quite honestly, you have to focus on one thing or the other and if you try focus on two things at once you end up diluting and neither is optimal. So I put all my focus on the track for a couple of months."
Asked if riders such as Michael Barry or Juan Antonio Flecha cared if the track team were successful and if they needed full-time support from Brailsford, he said "That's true, they don't give two hoots but you've got to be careful, my job is to create a structure that allows the riders to perform regardless of my presence. The executive of a major company isn't in everyone's office. You've got to have strong senior and middle management.
"My responsibility is to come in and look at the working practices, are the riders getting what they need. I not going to coach or train them but I'll will sit down with them and discuss how we can make it better."
Brailsford confirmed that James Murdoch, Chairman and Chief Executive of News Corporation, is likely to attend the race on Sunday. News Corporation owns Sky and has heavily invested in cycling. Murdoch is yet to join the team at a race but is rumoured to ride in a team car during the race.
"He may well visit the race as part of the team. He's a keen cycling fan and I think it's race he'd enjoy. It'll be his first race."
- Article published:
- April 9, 2010, 21:55
- Stephen Farrand
War of word with Boonen continues
Fabian Cancellara is the favourite for Paris-Roubaix but he insists the pressure is on his rivals' shoulders and believes that could help him take a rare Flanders and Roubaix double.
Cancellara achieved the first major goal of his season last Sunday by dropping Tom Boonen on the legendary Kapelmuur and winning the Tour of Flanders alone.
Boonen has pointed out there is no Kapelmuur climb on Sunday's route, hinting that he won't be dropped, but in a growing war of words, Cancellara reminded everyone that he had already dropped Boonen on the flat when he won the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke.
"After the victory I think a few things have changed in Belgium," Cancellara said with a hint of malice at a final pre-Roubaix press conference in Belgium on Friday afternoon.
"I've won a lot of races but so many people asking me for autographs in the street here was a new thing for me. My goal was Flanders, I got it, but Roubaix is one of the five Monuments, so I want to win it again. Me and the team have to honour the race by giving our all.
"The pressure is on him (Boonen) now, and for sure his team, but it's also on the rest of the peloton too. Not on us. If you look how we've been riding since Waregem, with Matti so strong, with the whole team strong, we showed what we can do. Now maybe we can risk a bit more than other teams because our pockets are quite full. But we're still hungry and looking forward to Sunday."
Motivation for a rare double
Cancellara is already looking forward to a break from racing and is perhaps mentally tired after a successful but intense spring. But becoming one of the few riders to win the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix has given him the extra motivation to keep going.
"My biggest motivation is to make the double and make history," he said. "There are three or four Belgians who have done it and then this one non-Belgian, a Swiss guy, in 1923, quite a long time ago. For me, the most important thing is to go with my team and do the best we can. Do the race we want to race, so that we can be even happier than we were before the race."
Cancellara is happy to share his moment of success with his Saxo Bank teammates. He knows that their support was vital last Sunday in Flanders and will be just as important this Sunday in Pars-Roubaix.
"With our team you have a hard life..." he said of all the hard work their riders face in each race.
"But with Matti going good and Stuey [O'Grady] so good and experienced, the team is ready and so I feel safe. The important thing is to stay calm because that can give you the power at the end of the race. You can be strong but you need the team. I won Flanders and Matti has won but you can never forget what other people in the team do in the first 100km. They cover breaks and bring us to the front. They do hard work because they sacrifice themselves in the first 150km of the race. But that's the way to do it if a team wants to win. I'm so proud that we're all ready to fight to win together on Sunday. I think that gives us a mentally advantage."
Cancellara is just hoping that he can and his teammates can wake up on Sunday morning and be as strong as he was in the Tour of Flanders.
"I don't know if I can but I hope, I pray for that. A few days ago I felt bad but now I feel different to last week before the Ronde. When you have nothing to lose you can try everything. That gives me and the team more strength to show what we can do."
- Article published:
- April 9, 2010, 22:52
- Jean-François Quénet
Spaniard downplays Tour de France chances
Luis Leon Sanchez (Caisse d'Epargne) claimed his fourth win of the year with the overall classification of the Circuit de la Sarthe-Pays de la Loire on Friday, adding to his stage 5 victory in the Santos Tour Down Under, the time trial at the Tour of Algarve and the opening stage of the French stage race held in the Loire valley.
The Murcian was no stranger to this event as it was one of the first races of his pro career back in 2004 with Liberty Seguros. "I remember it very well," Sanchez said with a large smile. "I always tried to win a stage but I realised I had a lot of work to do to become a successful pro rider."
He referred to stage 2 of the 2004 Circuit de la Sarthe from Vallet to Montreuil-Juigné where he went away with Ukraine's Yuriy Krivtsov - who was the king of the mountain this year while Sanchez claimed the yellow jersey - after only 20 kilometres into the 198km long race. With 35km to go, Krivtsov dropped him.
"He was riding at the limit of his capacities, it's admirable how much he has progressed since," Krivtsov (Ag2r-La Mondiale) told Cyclingnews at the start of the final stage at the Abbey of Epau in Le Mans.
A double stage winner of the Tour de France and the current world's number of the UCI ranking, Sanchez could have taken the Circuit de la Sarthe as a training ride. "Initially I came here for training for the Ardennes classics," the Spaniard said. "I didn't want to remain for too long without racing. But I happened to be in the lead after stage 1, then I was happy to honour the competition. But it was hard. I want to give big thanks to my teammates. The race was very difficult to control and they've done a great job."
Following an early three-man break containing Pierre Rolland (Bbox Bouygues Telecom), Stéphane Augé (Cofidis) and Maxime Médérel (BigMat-Auber 93), two riders of the next move were a threat for Sanchez's lead: French champion Dimitri Champion (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Rémi Cusin (Cofidis) who were only 28 seconds down on GC. "Fortunately other teams also wanted to ride for the stage win," said Sanchez who took second place behind Anthony Ravard.
"Cycling is strange sometimes," the Caisse d'Epargne rider added. "I went to the Tour of Catalunya for the win and it didn't work out. I came here to take it easy and I was busy all the way trying to win. It's good though. It gives me motivation and confidence for the classics. Liège-Bastogne-Liège is the race that inspires me the most but we also have Alejandro Valverde in the team. He won it twice already. We have to speak before I set any goal. I have to take a rest first."
Sanchez is often compared to Miguel Indurain, the five-time winner of the Tour de France, because of their similar build and skills as a time triallist and climber. Indurain won Paris-Nice at the age of 25 and his first Tour de France at 27. Sanchez will turn 27 at the end of November this year and he won Paris-Nice last year. Indurain also took part in the Circuit de la Sarthe the year he won his first Tour de France (1991).
"I know the time is right but I don't want to talk about winning the Tour de France," Sanchez said. "There is Alberto Contador, now! What I'm doing here after taking the first position of the world ranking just shows that I've done a good work during the off-season and my team trusts me. I'll take a long rest after the Ardennes classics and I'll resume racing at the Tour de Suisse prior to the Tour de France."
- Article published:
- April 10, 2010, 00:55
- Kirsten Frattini
Sevilla doubtful team still exists
Rock Racing is registered to compete in the Vuelta Mexico Telmex as an amateur Mexican-based team, listing a roster of eight riders including Oscar Sevilla. However the Spaniard says he will not be competing with his former team and hopes to find an alternate squad for the eight-staged race.
The Vuelta Mexico Telmex is set to kick off on April 18 in Veracruz and conclude on April 25 in Reforma.
“For Mexico, I’m enrolled with Rock Racing but I don’t believe that I will race with them,” Sevilla told Cyclingnews. “I believe that Rock Racing does not exist anymore. I’m hoping to race but with another team there.”
Rock Racing registered eight riders with Sevilla, Francesco Mancebo from Spain, Glenn Chadwick from New Zealand and Víctor Hugo Peña from Colombia. The four riders renewed their previously existing contracts with the team for 2010 before it was denied a professional license from the International Cycling Union (UCI)
The roster also includes Carlos Alzate from Colombia and three Mexican riders Ignacio Sarabia, Luis Fernando Macias and Juan Pablo Magallanes
Rock Racing was a US-based Continental team during 2007-2009. Team owner Michael Ball made several attempts to upgrade the squad to Professional Continental status however, his request was denied by UCI for the final time last month. The team was also denied a Continental license.
Ball announced the squad would continue at an amateur level and hoped to compete in as many events as the down-graded status would allow. Since then, Sevilla has sought after a new team to race with but has not found a contract yet.
“I’m doing very well, training hard and I have really good physical condition right now,” he said. “Now I hope to find a new team for this season in Europe or in the USA. I hope to race many more years because cycling is my life.”
The 20 participating teams are ISD-Neri, Amore y Vita, Boyaca Orgullo de America, Team Type 1, SpiderTech, Kuota Indeland, CKT Temit Champion System, Concordia and Raleigh. Mexican-based teams include Arenas Tlaxcala, Canel’s Turbo, Prodeg-Cedaj Guanajuato, Orven, Empacadora San Marcos, Tequilla Afamado and Vera Cruz and National teams from Venezuela, Cuba and Guatemala.
- Article published:
- April 10, 2010, 00:58
- Brecht Decaluwé
Belgian pleased media storm has blown over
Quick Step’s Stijn Devolder is looking for dry conditions at Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix, having never contested the event in wet conditions previously. Devolder joined his team on a reconnaissance of the Paris-Roubaix route on Friday in preparation for team-mate Tom Boonen’s bid for a third consecutive title.
"Hell was dry, and it'll be the same on Sunday but more dusty,” he predicted. “The wind directions will be very important. For now it's a headwind but that'll turn slightly into a crosswind. I'm checking the weather forecast regularly these days. I've never raced Paris-Roubaix in the rain so I hope it stays dry.
"My legs are better than last week,” he added. “Today it was important to develop good sensations on the cobbles and actually those sensations were better than last year."
The 30-year-old received a lot of criticism before the Tour of Flanders, but he answered those with a strong performance in support of Boonen. On Friday afternoon it seemed like the storm surrounding Devolder’s performance, which many felt had deteriorated after his 2009 Tour of Flanders win, had blown over.
"I hope that I can pull off a grand performance on Sunday,” he said. “I'm relaxed now after the media storm that struck me going into the Tour of Flanders; a lot was coming my way that last week. Of course I didn't enjoy that but storms always come to an end.
“Now it's time to focus on the race and I'll be riding it like I did during previous editions,” he said. “I hope to win but if that doesn't succeed my world isn't coming to an end. It's the last race of the spring Classics season, but not only for us. These races are our goals but not every year can be like the one before."
Devolder admitted the Quick Step team could end up without a major win at the spring Classics this season. Devolder kept the pressure away by pointing to other teams without results.
"I'm confident that we'll have a strong team on Sunday and we'll be giving the other teams a hard time," Devolder said. "During the finale it will be important to have many guys in front while Fabian Cancellara and his team will have to do the dirty work.
“It's possible that Cancellara will be good again and then tactics will be futile,” he added. “Anticipating his accelerations will be hard but other teams will try to do something early on. Sunday's a new race though and I will be needed for sure.”
Devolder was clearly unhappy with the new strict measure Police will enforce at the Carrefour de l'Arbre pavé section. His fan club usually sets up a beer tent on the meadows next to the famous pavé stretch, which is no longer allowed.
"The big spring Classics like the Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix are national feasts, public amusement,” he said. “The images from last year at the Carrefour de l'Arbre were mythical and this year that won't happen again on such a mythical sector. Actually I don't know what went wrong. My supporters caused trouble? I wouldn't know what my supporters have to do with all this.
“I'm a bit annoyed with those ridiculous measures,” he added. “I'm convinced they'll have to reduce them during the next editions. It's too bad because it's one of the two most beautiful races of the spring season... make that the whole season."