Leopard Trek looking for their first major Classic victory
Leopard Trek team leaders Fränk and Andy Schleck have played down the idea that Liège-Bastogne-Liège is a race between just them and Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) but made it clear they are determined to try stop the Belgian completing a rare Ardennes hat-trick.
Facing a string of questions about if and how they can beat Gilbert, the two came close to losing their patience during a press conference in their hotel overlooking the Spa Francorchamps motor racing circuit.
Andy insisted he is riding to win but also pointed out that the world will not end if he doesn't.
"For me it's a race I want to win. I'm working a lot to be 100 percent on Sunday. But if I don't win, there's nobody who is going to kill me or anything like that," he said.
"I don't necessarily have to win but I'm here to win. I've been working many months for these days, so I won't go on the start to be second. Of course I want to win. But asking if I have to win is a strange question. It's not that the team will stop if I don't win on Sunday..."
Leopard Trek is the new super team in professional cycling but has yet to win a major Classic. Fabian Cancellara dominated on the cobbles but was out-maneuvered by stronger and more numerous teams. The Leopard Trek team for Liège-Bastogne-Liège includes Jens Voigt, Jakob Fuglsang, Fabian Wegmann, Maxime Monfort and the Schleck brothers.
The riders bristled with pride when asked if they felt they were under pressure to win a Classic. Andy believes the team is just missing a little bit of luck and hopes to 'crack the nut' on Sunday.
"I don't feel extra pressure because of that (being a major team)," he said.
With less than 48 hours to go until the start of Liège-Bastogne-Liège the majority of the racing peloton made the most of the fine spring weather during their reconnaissance over key sections of the route.
Leopard-Trek with the Schleck brothers at the helm will be hoping to end their classics duck but if they're to make the top step of the podium they'll need to beat the man of the moment Philippe Gilbert (Omega-Pharma Lotto). The Belgian has won his last three races including Amstel Gold and Fleche Wallonne. On Sunday he'll be looking to complete a rare triple by winning the race he's been aiming for all season.
However the field is one of the deepest in recent years and the likes of Dan Martin, Ryder Hesjdal (both Garmin-Cervelo), Igor Anton and Samuel Sanchez (both Euskatel) and defending champion Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) will all be looking to play a part.
Starting in Liège, the 255.5km race will head south to Bastogne before following the Luxembourg border back north towards Liège and the finish a few kilometres beyond the departure point an Ans. The parcours is what makes this monument so great. The road north to Ans is like a constant slap in the face, twisting and providing a rollercoaster ride over the final 100km.
The 10 key climbs of Liège-Bastogne-Liège: Km 71.5 - Côte de Saint-Roch - 1.0km climb to 11% Km 157.5 - Côte de Wanne - 2.7km climb to 7.3% Km 164.5 - Côte de Stockeu (Stèle Eddy Merckx) - 1.0km climb to 12.2% Km 170.0 - Côte de la Haute-Levée - 3.6km climb to 5.6% Km 183.0 - Col du Rosier - 4.4km climb to 5.9% Km 195.5 - Col du Maquisard - 2.5km climb to 5% Km 206.0 - Mont-Theux - 2.6km climb to 5.9% Km 220.5 - Côte de la Redoute -...
Clarke and Cliff-Ryan return to defend overall titles
National Racing Calendar's (NRC) USA CRITS Speed Week seven-round omnium is set to kick off at the Terrapin Twilight Criterium held on April 30 in Athens, Georgia. Last year's omnium winners Hilton Clark (UnitedHealthcare) and Theresa Cliff-Ryan (Colavita Forno D'Asolo) will return to defend their respective titles against the quality competition registered to race.
"I'm really excited to get back to criterium racing again because I love them," said Cliff-Ryan. "I'm trying to break into road racingm but I started with crits so I'm excited about that. I will only be able to do half of them because I'm going to the Pan American Championships in Colombia. But, we will have riders doing the whole thing. Winning the overall depends on how everything turns out. I think Colavita Forno D'Asolo will want to go for the overall title again, whether it's me again or one of my teammates, we will be very happy to win it again."
The series will start at the Terrapin Twilight Criterium and move on to the Historical Roswell Criterium held on May 1 in Georgia. Round three will take place at the Beaufort Memorial Classic held on May 3 in South Carolina. The high-speed racing will continue at round four's Downtown Walterboro Criterium held on May 4 in South Carolina and round five's Spartanburg Regional Classic held on May 6 in South Carolina. The last two rounds will include the Dilworth Criterium held on May 7 in North Carolina and the Global Imports Sandy Springs Cycling Challenge held on May 8 in Georgia. The Terrapin Twilight Criterium is also the first race on the USA CRITS Championship Series.
The two US-based UCI Professional Continental Team Type 1-Sanofi Aventis and UnitedHealthcare will field riders to contest all seven rounds of criteriums. The teams are eligible to compete in NRC criteriums, which were added to the UCI Criterium Calendar, according to code 2.7.005. UnitedHealthcare looks to have the strongest team on paper with eight riders that...
Leopard Trek rider inspired by Vansummeren's Paris-Roubaix win
Maxime Monfort of the Leopard Trek team has been inspired by the recent race scenarios at the 2011 Spring Classics. Even though he is "just" a domestique to Fränk and Andy Schleck at the upcoming Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the Belgian has ideas of his own that could perfectly fit into the overall race strategy of his team.
"Of course I'm ambitious for Liège," the climber told the Gazet van Antwerpen. "But more for my team Leopard than for myself, which is logical considering that the Schlecks are part of my squad."
Still, Monfort conceded that he could well imagine the event unfolding as surprisingly as the Tour of Flanders, won by Nick Nuyens (Saxo Bank), or Paris-Roubaix taken by Johan Vansummeren (Garmin-Cervélo). Both victories went to riders considered outsiders, racing in the shadow of the true favourites.
"You never know, Paris-Roubaix gave me some ideas. Why should I not be able to do what Vansummeren did? He had Hushovd as a leader, but he was in the early break that finally made it to the finish. That's what I dream about," admitted Montfort, who nevertheless remained realistic.
"It would be a fantastic moment, but afterwards I'd return to my spot inside the team. I know I could never become a real Classics rider."
Monfort's characteristics as a rider have made him more suited to week-long stage races and Grand Tours. He finished 11th in the 2007 Vuelta a Espana and won the 2010 Tour of Bavaria. Still, he knows that his greatest asset is that of being an excellent teammate to his leaders.
"Riders who win regularly have something more than Vansummeren and myself. We need a good portion of luck to snatch a race that favours us. I will never be on the level of someone like Gilbert, for instance."
Scarponi beat Tiago Machado (RadioShack) by seven seconds, with Luca Ascani (d'Angelo & Antenucci - Nippo) third at 33 seconds.
“Fourth in the Giro di Sardegna, third in Tirreno-Adriatico, second in Catalonia, first in Trentino… Thinking about the Giro, maybe I’ve got my calculations wrong,” Scarponi joked to Gazzetta dello Sport, before insisting that he was not at 100 percent in Trentino: “Here I wasn’t really brilliant, I still wasn’t at my best.”
In spite of his recent run of form, Scarponi did not approach the Giro del Trentino with thoughts of victory, but he did not hesitate to grab the opportunity when it presented itself.
“As we were going along, partly to measure myself and partly to evaluate the others, I took the opportunity,” he said.
In order to top up his form ahead of the Giro, which begins in Turin in two weeks’ time, Scarponi will now head to a training camp at altitude at Val Senales in the Dolomites.
“I’ll be training on the climbs, checking out the roads of the Giro, with Niemiec, Marzano, a masseur and my wife Anna,” Scarponi explained. He will not Sunday's Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
Unsurprisingly, Scarponi identified Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Sungard) and Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) as the...
Race director calls for more consistency from fellow organisers
Giro d’Italia director Angelo Zomegnan has called on race organisers to take a more severe stand against riders whose doping past might damage their races. With the start of this year's Giro d'Italia just two weeks away, he has revealed that he has been in regular contact with anti-doping investigators in Italy, as the Mantova, Padova and other cases progress.
“Not all organisers adopt the same rigour that has been put in action by RCS,” Zomegnan told the Tuttosport newspaper. “If we want to get away from a sometimes embarrassing situation, we must not mix the sacred with the profane. Some organisers are out of control and don’t maintain a constant line of behaviour. I don’t mean to replace the institutions, but I want to guarantee that the races organised by us are true because they are clean.”
“The mother of an imbecile is always pregnant, so I’m certainly not calm, but if nothing else I’m at peace with my conscience,” Zomegnan explained, using a colouful Italian turn of phrase. “I'm in constant contact with the investigators.”
Zomegnan also reflected on his decision to exclude Riccardo Riccò from the...
Leopard Trek hoping for a little luck in the Ardennes hills
Philippe Gilbert may be the huge favourite for Liège-Bastogne-Liège but Andy Schleck and his Leopard Trek teammates are determined to try and beat the Belgian with an aggressive race strategy in the hope of isolating him from his Omega Pharma-Lotto teammates.
At the Leopard Trek pre-race press conference, Andy and Frank Schleck again insisted Gilbert was beatable but warned that the ‘Doyenne’ of the classics is not just a battle against Gilbert.
“He’s beatable. It’s 260 kilometres; it’s not an easy race but don’t just want to beat Gilbert; we want to win the race,” Frank said.
“For Gilbert it doesn’t have to be a really hard race. For us, it has to be,” Andy pointed out. “We cannot sit back and wait. He can win in a sprint of 100.”
Leopard Trek has got close to victory in the cobbled classics with Fabian Cancellara but just came up short. Andy Schleck is hungry to land the team’s first big win and believes they just need a little luck to be able to crack the nut of fortune.
"We're just missing a little bit of luck to win a Classic. We could have won I believe three or four Classics if we'd had a little bit of luck, it's a big factor in cycling. You need it and we haven't had it yet but I'm sure one day the nut will open and we will win." he said on video.