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First Edition Cycling News, Saturday, April 26, 2014

Date published:
April 26, 2014, 1:00 BST
  • Rodriguez set for Liège-Bastogne-Liège

    Joaquim Rodriguez in obvious pain after crashing during the Amstel Gold Race
    Article published:
    April 25, 2014, 19:15 BST
    Alasdair Fotheringham

    2013 runner-up overcomes crash injuries to tackle 100th edition

    The 2013 runner-up of Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) has confirmed his presence in the 2014 race despite crashing both in last Sunday’s Amstel Gold Race, where he had to abandon for a second straight year, and again in Flèche Wallonne.

    Second in Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 2013 and also in 2009, Rodriguez suffered chest injuries after crashing and abandoning in Amstel Gold. He then fell heavily close to the finish in Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday, although he could complete the race, albeit more than four minutes down on winner Alejandro Valverde.

    Katusha told Cyclingnews on Wednesday evening that a final decision on his participation in Liège would not be made until after Friday. Following a 100 kilometre reconnaissance by Purito and his team-mates of the Liège-Bastogne-Liège route, the Russian team issued a press release saying Rodriguez was definitively going to take part on Sunday.

    "I feel much better than I did in the last few days," commented Rodriguez in the Katusha press release.

    "I still have pain in my chest because of my crash in the Amstel Gold Race last Sunday, but the pain is less than on Wednesday. The second crash at 4 kilometers from the finish of the Flèche Wallonne had no additional consequences. I was almost at a stand still when it happened.”

    “For the moment I don't know what to think of my ambitions for Sunday because today I did not dare to go full gas on the climbs as I still felt the pain. Our osteopath Hans Friedl treats me very well and he is convinced I can be good on Sunday. I hope so as well. If I can do a pain free Liège, I can show how hard I've worked for the last months. I won't give up. I never do."

    Katusha for...

  • Nibali weighs up chances for Liège-Bastogne-Liège

    Vincenzo Nibali and Astana get a first hand look at La Redoute
    Article published:
    April 25, 2014, 20:46 BST
    Alasdair Fotheringham

    29-year-old guardedly optimistic about La Doyenne

    In last year’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) was fresh off winning the Tour of Trentino and in the final part of the race the 29-year-old Italian was able to lead the peloton up the Cote de Saint-Nicolas.

    But by his own admission, whilst he clearly had the endurance and stamina for the finale of Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and his hard work in the bunch earned him huge cheers from on a climb known as Liège’s ‘little Italy’ because of the number of long-term Italian residents living there, Nibali said he lacked the ‘explosivity’ in his legs to make a last-minute acceleration that - ultimately - often makes the difference between a winner and a top finisher in an event like La Doyenne.

    Fast forward 12 months and the Astana pro is still cautious about his chances in Liège-Bastogne-Liège despite finishing a solid 52nd in Amstel Gold last week and a promising 14th in La Flèche Wallonne.

    Nibali finished 23rd in last year’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège, but he has a strong track record prior to that. He was second in 2012, eighth in 2011 and tenth in 2008. It’s a credit to the rider that he also finished 113th, the last rider on the Liège-Bastogne-Liège classification that year as a neo-pro, way back in 2006, when others in his position would surely have abandoned.

    “I’m not sure about my condition for Liège yet. It’s going to be a difficult race, that’s for sure,” Nibali told Cyclingnews.

    “I’m on a very different race program to last year when I was building towards the Giro. It wasn’t ideal...

  • Wiggins goes deep at the Giro del Trentino

    Bradley Wiggins (Sky) was prominent on the final stage of the Giro del Trentino.
    Article published:
    April 25, 2014, 21:43 BST
    Stephen Farrand

    Team Sky rider tests his legs before the Tour of California

    Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) stopped almost as soon as he crossed the finish line near the banks of snow on Monte Bondone and gasped for air after going deep on the 19km climb above Trento on the final stage of the Giro del Trentino.

    He finished a minute behind stage winner Mikel Landa (Astana) but was only 23 seconds behind overall winner Cadel Evans (BMC) and only 18 seconds behind Michele Scarponi (Astana), a big improvement over previous stages where he was tasked to working for his team.

    While Evans and Scarponi are both targeting the pink jersey at the Giro d'Italia and used the Giro del Trentino to polish their form, Wiggins arrived after a spell of dieting and training in Mallorca following Paris-Roubaix. He is still several kilograms heavier than when he won the 2012 Tour de France but put up an impressive performance on the twisting 8% climb up Monte Bondone.

    Wiggins finished three and half minutes ahead of teammate Kanstantsin Siutsou, who will lead Team Sky at the Giro d'Italia along with Dario Cataldo. Wiggins was strong throughout the Giro del Trentino, indicating that he will be a contender at the Tour of California and can play a vital role in Chris Froome's Tour de France squad.

    Wiggins did not hang around after catching his breath, and quickly rode to the Team Sky bus down a two-kilometre descent so he could make a quick get away and catch a flight home. He was no doubt satisfied after looking to test his form.

    Directeur sportif Dario Cioni was pleased with Wiggins' performance. Team Sky cleverly placed Philip Deignan in the break of the day, forcing BMC and other teams to chase because the Irishman was well placed overall.

    "We had a meeting before the stage and the execution was perfect," directeur sportif...

  • Gerrans on upward trajectory ahead of Liège-Bastogne-Liège

    Australian national champion Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge)
    Article published:
    April 25, 2014, 22:18 BST
    Daniel Benson

    Australian aims to raise his stock in last year of Orica-GreenEdge contract

    After his third place in the Amstel Gold Race, Simon Gerrans returns to the Ardennes for the challenge of Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday. The Australian, and former Milan-San Remo winner, skipped La Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday in a bid to save his strength for Sunday.

    Liège is a race that by his own admission doesn't suit him as well as Amstel. Nevertheless he will line up as Orica-GreenEdge's leader, boosted by improving after bouts of illnesses earlier in the spring.

    "My form is good I think. I've had a few days at home to freshen up and I'm really to go for Sunday. I showed in Amstel though that I'm in pretty good shape so I'm looking forward to Liège now," Gerrans told Cyclingnews from Orica's training base just outside Liège.

    "I've not done Flèche for the last few years now and the thinking is that if I'm going pretty deep in Amstel, doing Flèche would then make it hard to go to Liège. I think it's better to do two out of the three but three in a row is tough if you're going for the win all in three."

    Gerrans' best results in Liège-Bastogne-Liège came in 2006, when he finished 6th, but he has made it into the top 20 on several occasions.

    "It probably doesn't suit me as much as Amstel does and I think my results show that. I've been on the podium three times in Amstel and I've been in the top ten in Liège. The route doesn't suit me as well but I feel like I'm in good shape and my form is improving."

    Gerrans began the 2014 season in flying form. As the leading home nation rider on Australia's biggest cycling team, the Tour Down Under was always going to be a priority. He...

  • Evans happy to be back at his best ahead of Giro d'Italia

    Cadel Evans (BMC) with the spoils of the 2014 Giro del Trentino.
    Article published:
    April 26, 2014, 3:15 BST
    Stephen Farrand

    BMC rider laughs off the idea of riding Liège-Bastogne-Liège

    Cadel Evans became the first Australian to win the Giro del Trentino after he and his BMC team controlled his rivals on the final mountain finish on the hairpins of Monte Bondone overlooking Trento. It was Evan's first stage race victory since the 2012 Criterium International.

    Evans finished fifth on the final stage, 41 seconds behind winner Mikel Landa (Astana) but was ahead of his nearest rivals in the surge to the line. The final classification showed he beat Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r-La Mondiale) by 50 seconds, with Poland's Przemyslav Niemiec (Lampre-Merida) third overall at 1:01.

    Evans followed Vincenzo Nibali in the list of Trentino winners and was immediately asked if he felt he could also go on to win the Giro d'Italia as Nibali did in 2013.

    "I hope to maintain that tradition," he said after having a little laugh at the idea.

    "In the Giro there are more days of racing, more uphill days and a stronger field, I'll have to be better to win the Giro. But I've got margin to improve and so I'll work towards that."

    Pushed further to talk about the Giro d'Italia, Evans named Joaquim Rodriguez and Nairo Quintana as his big rivals for the Corsa Rosa.

    He was reminded that his contract with BMC ends this year but he put off any talk on the matter and the future of his career, at age 37, until after the Giro d'Italia. He was just happy to be back to his best in time for the start of the Giro in Belfast on May 9.

    "My contract is about to run out but I'm not," he joked. "Time will tell regarding my contract."

    "Above all in 2014 I wanted to return to my normal level. Since 2012 I've had an up and down period with the virus I had in 2012 and...

  • Landa enjoys his day out at the Giro del Trentino

    Mikel Landa (Astana) atop Monte Bondone.
    Article published:
    April 26, 2014, 10:18 BST
    Stephen Farrand

    Basque climber ready to work for Scarponi at the Giro d'Italia

    Mikel Landa took advantage of Astana's numerical advantage on the climb of Monte Bondone on the final stage of the Giro del Trentino to attack alone, pass fellow pure climber Louis Meintjes and go on to win just the second race of his professional career.

    The Basque climber will play a key domestique role for Astana teammates Michele Scarponi and Fabio Aru at the upcoming Giro d'Italia but earned his moment of glory with a strong ride in the final part of the 19km climb up to the ski slopes on Monte Bondone.

    "When there was 10km to go, no team was really controlling the race and so Scarpa (Scarponi) told me to give it a go. I went with Pellizotti and Meintjes and then the MTN-rider got away alone, I went after him, got across to him and dropped him." Landa explained in the stage winner's press conference, mixing Spanish with words of Italian he has picked up from Scarponi and Aru after a recent two-week training camp at altitude.

    Landa rode with the Euskaltel-Euskadi between 2011 and 2013 and moved to the Astana squad after the Basque team dissolved. He won a stage in the Vuelta a Burgos but only collected a series of placing in 2012 and 2013.

    He is happy to play a support role at the Giro d'Italia for Astana.

    "We're all going to work for Scarpa," he said.

    "I'll start the Giro ready and motivated to help the team win the pink jersey. If I get a chance I'll try and win a stage too but for now I'm happy to have won here."

  • Valverde looking for late birthday present in Liege on Sunday

    Alejandro Valverde on the podium
    Article published:
    April 26, 2014, 11:56 BST
    Alasdair Fotheringham

    Spaniard top favourite together with Gilbert

    Alejandro Valverde had the quietest of celebrations of his 34th birthday on Friday in the Movistar team hotel near Liège. But on Sunday the Spaniard has high hopes of a much more spectacular cycling fiesta and that he will be cracking open the champagne in style after taking his third win in Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

    Following Valverde’s Flèche Wallonne triumph, a victory in La Doyenne would be his second Ardennes Classic in five days, and after winning both races in 2006, it would also be the second ‘Ardennes double’ of his career.

    Valverde, like so many other Liège-Bastogne-Liège contenders, did a reconnaissance of the course on Friday, in Movistar’s case from the foot of La Redoute to the finish. And as he told Cyclingnews, he thinks the return of the Cote de Roche aux Faucons and the Côte des Forges climbs in the final part of the race “will make it a much harder finale. It changes things quite a bit.”

    “But my morale is good, particularly after Wednesday’s win, where I felt in top form. Sunday’s a very different kind of race, but I’ve already shown I could do well there too,” - with his most recent result in Liège-Bastogne-Liège a third place in 2013 as well as wins in 2006 and 2008.

    “One worry I have is the weather, hopefully it’ll stay dry” - and his birthday wish looked set to come true, with forecasts improving steadily as Liege’s 100th edition draws closer. On Saturday morning some wet weather was still forecast for later in the weekend, but for Sunday afternoon only light showers rather than the earlier predictions of a downpour.

    Touted by many as a...

  • Meintjes goes close to victory at the Giro del Trentino

    Louis Meintjes (MTN-Qhubeka) was second on Monte Bondone and 5th overall at the Giro del Trentino.
    Article published:
    April 26, 2014, 13:10 BST
    Stephen Farrand

    South African champion shows he can climb with the best on Monte Bondone

    Louis Meintjes (MTN-Qhubeka) was congratulated by his teammates after his second place on the final Monte Bondone stage at the Giro del Trentino and though he did enough to win the best young rider competition, the South African national champion was disappointed to have gone so close to an important stage victory.

    Meintjes attacked with five kilometres to go on the spectacular but constant 19km climb of Monte Bondone. He opened a 30-second gap on the group containing race leader Cadel Evans (BMC) and the other favourites, but Mikel Landa (Astana) began a determined chase alone.

    With no race radios allowed in the Giro del Trentino, Meintjes had little idea what was happening behind and focused on trying to win the stage. However, Landa gradually got across to him and caught with two kilometres to go. Inside the final kilometre the Basque climber kicked away and opened a hundred-metre gap that allowed him to win alone, 10 seconds ahead of Meintjes.

    The South African national champion showed real character by fighting all the way to the line and managed to finish 30 seconds ahead of the overall contenders. He gained 39 seconds on Fabio Aru (Astana) and thanks to six-second time bonus, it was enough to give him the best young rider's white jersey by just three seconds.

    Unfairly the jersey was given to Aru on the final podium before Meintjes arrived, but he was officially the best young rider of the Giro del Trentino. George Bennett (Cannondale) was third at 2:47. Meintjes also finished fifth overall, 1:06 behind Evans.

    "I'm happy to get second place but I'm also disappointed because I was pretty close to winning the stage," Meintjes told Cyclingnews after taking a drink and wrapping a red towel around his neck.