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First Edition Cycling News, Saturday, April 3, 2010

Date published:
April 03, 2010, 1:00 BST
  • Former prodigy Vastaranta back in action

    Former teammates Jukka Vastaranta and Jussi Veikkanen, both of Finland, talk to TV reporters.
    Article published:
    April 02, 2010, 20:00 BST
    Jean-François Quénet

    Finn returns to racing after three years of early retirement

    Finland's YLE TV station paid a visit to Brittany in the west of France to report the return of the country's cycling prodigy Jukka Vastaranta, who is racing again with Greek continental team SP Tableware after three years of retirement due to back problems.

    On the start line of the Route Adélie in Vitré on Friday, Vastaranta recalled fond cycling memories as he chatted with Finland's current best racer, Jussi Veikkanen, from Française des Jeux.

    "I had stopped cycling because I had big back problems," sais Vastaranta to Cyclingnews. "I couldn't breathe anymore. During my last season with Rabobank three years ago, I was suffering, but I tried to go on for two more months with Jartazi."

    A runner up at the 2002 junior World Championship in Zolder behind Frenchman Arnaud Gérard who is still Veikkanen's teammate at Française des Jeux, Vastaranta looked like the next big thing as he joined the Rabobank feeder team and was successful in the pro ranks straight away.

    He won Brussels-Opwijk and the Ardense Pijl in 2003. During his two years with the Rabobank Pro Tour team in 2005 and 2006, he was third overall in the Tour of Luxembourg and won a stage at the Elektrotoer. With Jartazi in 2007, he finished eighth at the Etoile de Bessèges. He was obviously talented, but his body wasn't playing along.

    "I've worked in a bike shop in Tampere since I retired from professional cycling," Vastaranta said. "I've had four hours of specific massage for my back every week since. Last year, as I got better, I raced again as a mountain biker. I still would like to see how I can go at professional races."

    He hopes that SP Tableware's race program will work out for in July and August, when the team will take part in several category 1 stage races in Spain and Portugal. At the age of 26, Vastaranta is not too old for cycling, but as much as he's one of the most evident talents of the decade,...

  • Jelly Belly sweeps Thailand opener

    Former Garmin-Slipstream rider Mike Friedman will be the team's captain and brings ProTour experience to the squad.
    Article published:
    April 02, 2010, 20:30 BST
    Kirsten Frattini

    Kelly Benefit Strategies' defending champ Bajadali sidelined

    Jelly Belly presented by Kenda rode into the victory and the top five places at the opening stage of the UCI 2.2 Princess Mamackakri Sirindhon's Cup Tour of Thailand on Thursday, April 1. The squad will look to strong overall performances with Kiel Reijnen and Will Routely during the next five stages.

    "I anticipated a win but not the top five places," said Directeur Sportif Danny van Haute. "From the riders to the staff, we were happy but remain very calm because the next five days will be hard to keep the yellow jersey. Yes, we have the numbers now, but I think every team here in Thailand is going to be riding against us."

    Kiel Reijnen won the prologue followed by his teammates Michael Friedman, Will Routley, William Dickenson and Jonathan Chodroff.

    Routely and Reijnen are in top form having recently placed third and fourth respectively in the Redlands Bicycle Classic, a four-stage event that kicked off the National Racing Calendar (NRC) in the US.

    Kelly Benefit Strategies fields four riders

    Another US-based team competing in the race is Kelly Benefit Strategies with a four-man roster. Its defending champion Andrew Bajadali did not start the race due to a knee injury.

    "He sustained a knee injury after training camp," said Jake Erker. "We pulled him from the Thailand roster to have as much time as posisible to recover the knee for bigger goals in May. His recovery is going well but we didn't want him to push it over there."

    Heading into the first stage, Neil Shirley and Alex Candelario were sat 10th and 11th after their respective prologue performances. Daniel Bowman and Cheyne Hoag are also competing.

    "In Thailand we are just getting started," said Directer Sportif Jonas Carney. "In the prologue, our guys rode well despite not really being time trial guys. Today, in the first road stage the field split and we had all four of our guys in the first group of about 50 riders."

  • Astana with cards to play in Flanders

    Andrey Grivko (Astana)
    Article published:
    April 02, 2010, 21:32 BST
    Richard Tyler

    Gasparotto, Grivko, Davis to lead Classics charge on Sunday

    Astana will head to the Tour of Flanders in an unusually rich vein of Classics form, with Andry Grivko and Enrico Gasparotto showing good condition at this week's Three Days of De Panne.

    Grivko finished second overall at De Panne, thanks largely to his impressive third place effort on the race's weather-lashed stage two. Gasparotto, too, came away from the Belgian stage race with a third place finish on stage one, two days after he finished 24th on debut at Gent-Wevelgem.

    Grivko, Gasparotto and Australian Allan Davis will now form the leadership group in Astana's line-up for Flanders, a race which, in the past, has not been given a great deal of priority by the Kazakh team. The squad's omission from next week's Scheldeprijs Vlaanderen means the team will head to the Flanders start in Bruges with an extra dose of motivation.

    "Hopefully we can come away with a good result [at Flanders]," Davis told Cyclingnews before the start of the individual time trial at De Panne on Thursday. "We've got a few guys with pretty good form: Gasparotto, Grivko and, hopefully, myself. The team's done really well so far throughout this season so it would be nice to keep it going."

    Astana's presence at the Belgian Classics so far has also far outstripped their experience. Of the team's three captains for Flanders only Davis has raced the event before, in 2008 for Pro Continental squad Mitsubishi - Jartazi. However, Gasparotto's and Grivko's respective moves away from Italian teams Lampre and ISD-Neri, have allowed them to take a closer interest in the northern Classics.

    The Astana roster for Flanders will include Maxim Iglinsky, who finished seventh at Gent-Wevelgem after creating a selection of 10 riders on the Mont Noir. His brother Valentin will also join the team.

    Davis will also have his brother, Scott, as a companion during the race. The elder of the two Davis brothers has been brought in to replace Assan Bazayev, who was...

  • North American teams take on Vuelta Ciclista al Uruguay

    It was anyone's guess on the line but Martin Gilbert (Kelly Benefit Strategies)
    Article published:
    April 02, 2010, 21:52 BST
    Kirsten Frattini

    SpiderTech's Gilbert take stage 8 victory

    Kelly Benefit Strategies, SpiderTech p/b Planet Energy and Aerocat are taking advantage of some down time in their national racing series to participate in the UCI 2.2 Vuelta Ciclista al Uruguay's 10-day stage race that kicked off on March 26.

    Kelley Benefit Strategies brought last year's overall winner Scott Zwizanski who hopes to defend his title before the conclusion of the race in Montevideo on Sunday, April 4.

    "At the moment, we are fourth and ninth overall in Uruguay and first in the team GC with three long stages to go," said Directeur Sportif Jonas Carney. "So far we have not been as successful as we were last year, but the race is not over yet."

    Kelly Benefit Strategies, SpiderTech p/b Planet Energy and Aerocat have all placed inside the top 10 in stages throughout the race this week. Defending Champion, Scott Zwizanski rode into a second place in the stage seven 35.5 km time trial. His teammate Jesse Anthony placed fifth in the stage two road race.

    "Our guys did not time trial as fast as we expected or the guys from Uruguay went a lot faster than we expected, not sure which," Carney said.

    KBS divided its team amongst the Vuelta Ciclista al Uruguay and the Princess Mamackakri Sirindhon's Cup Tour of Thailand. Both are UCI 2.2 events.

    "Last year we won the team GC and overall in Thailand," Carney said. "We also won the overall in Uruguay in addition to five stages. It was a great experience for our team. Everything just clicked for us in both races last year. These international UCI races suit our teams capabilities and style. Especially the 2.2 races. The rosters are only five to six guys and so the racing tends to be super aggressive and dynamic. It's a lot different from racing NRC stage races in the US."

    Bauer predicted SpiderTech stage win

    SpiderTech's Directeur Sportif Steve Bauer was banking on his team's ability to pull off a stage win this week. It was Martin...

  • HTC-Columbia women look to retain Flanders title

    Ina Yoko Teutenberg (HTC-Columbia) descends one of the technical sections today.
    Article published:
    April 03, 2010, 10:36 BST
    Daniel Benson

    Arndt, Teutenberg determined to gain back top team ranking

    HTC-Columbia will be aiming for a third-straight victory in the women's Tour of Flanders on Sunday with defending champ Ina-Yoko Teutenberg and Judith Arndt, the winner in 2008. They'll be supported by a strong team, including Noemi Cantele (Italy) and Linda Villumsen (New Zealand).

    "To win you need to be fit, have luck on the day, not crash, be there when it matters, have a good team and, of course, have good instinct," Teutenberg told Cyclingnews before Arndt added, "I think we're ready."

    Teutenberg won 23 races last year and has spent the last few weeks racing in California, where she's built up a good base of race miles and won the recent Redlands Classic.

    Arndt, meanwhile, finished eight in the first women's World Cup event, Trofeo Alfredo Binda, last month. It was her first race since her season opener at the Tour of Qatar in February.

    "I feel good that I'm here and I could train well. My season has just started and I've only had one race and that was last weekend and Tour of Qatar, but that was so long ago," said the 2008 champion.

    Last year the race was marked by good conditions and little wind, with a group of 18 riders finishing together. This year the conditions favour a different ending, with wind and rain expecting to create a much harder and selective race.

    Typically the race has been split on the Muur-Keppelmuur in the town of Geraardsbergen. Last year, race favourite and winner of Trofeo Alfredo Binda, Marianne Vos, launched a move along with Nicole Cooke. Both Arndt and Teutenberg believe that the Dutch woman will be the favourite and that the Muur could be the critical climb once again.

    "Last year we were a big bunch but it was warmer and it wasn't windy but the conditions will make a big difference on Sunday. I don't see it ending with a big bunch. As for dangers, you have to look at Vos and Emma Johansson," said Teutenberg.

    "We have other riders on the team but we'll do...

  • USADA suspends Zirbel for two years

    Tom Zirbel (USA) impressed everyone with a fourth place finish.
    Article published:
    April 03, 2010, 11:01 BST
    Susan Westemeyer

    American accepts ban but still denies doping

    Tom Zirbel has been suspended for two years by the US Anti-doping Agency, after testing positive for the steroid DHEA at the US Pro time trial championships last August. The 30-year-old said he accepted the ban, but continued to maintain his innocence.

    Zirbel rode for the US-based Continental-ranked Bissell Pro Cycling team from 2006 to 2009. He was planning to ride for Garmin-Transitions this year, but the contract fell through due to the positive doping test. He had been notified in February that he would receive the ban and at that time announced his retirement from the sport.

    Zirbel placed second in the time trial championship, and fourth in the Worlds time trial race. Those and all other competitive results after that race were disqualified. DHEA is an anabolic steroid.

    Writing on his blog, Zirbel said that he accepted the sanction, although it hurt. “Nothing has really changed: I will still continue to have testing done to try and figure out how this all happened in the first place and I still won't be racing. The only difference is that by accepting this sanction, I may actually gain a little credibility with USADA. I really am trying to work with them so we can make sure this doesn't happen again."

    “And if I can walk away from racing forever, maybe people will be more willing to listen when they know I have nothing to gain personally. I'm not lobbying for change to save my own career, I'm lobbying for change to save the next clean athlete's career. In the meantime, I may actually be able to move on with my life and start this next chapter that I've talked about.”

  • Liquigas to attack the Tour of Flanders with three leaders

    Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas).
    Article published:
    April 03, 2010, 12:22 BST
    Daniel Benson

    Quinziato, Bennati and Oss the protected riders for the Italian team

    Manuel Quinziato believes the Liquigas-Doimo team head into Sunday's Tour of Flanders with one of the strongest line-ups in the race despite not having a clear team leader. The Italian squad’s line-up for the Classics includes Daniele Bennati, Aleksandr Kuschynski, Daniel Oss and Quinziato and the Italian believes that their strength in depth gives them more than one card to play.

    Liquigas is one of the most successful teams this year, with 15 victories to date. At San Remo they were in the thick of the action but then Bennati failed to finish off the job in the final sprint. At last week’s Gent-Wevelgem, Liquigas forged the first main split in the race on the Kemmelberg, with several of their riders making the lead group. However their hard work wasn’t enough to secure a podium place, with Oss finishing highest in fifth place.

    The core of Liquigas’s team took part in the Three Days of De Panne where they used the tough Belgian conditions to hone their fitness before this Sunday’s race.

    “We don’t have the single individual who is really strong but we have a very strong team and we will try and play our cards as best we can,” Quinziato told Cyclingnews. “We’ll be aggressive. We have nothing to lose and we have the strength to break the race apart."

    Quinziato pinpointed himself, Oss and Bennati as the team’s protected riders but that they would work together and talk during the race in order to capitalise on whoever had the best legs.

    “I’m improving my condition,” said the Italian, who finished tenth overall in De Panne. “I wish it'd been a bit better during the first stage but I've since felt better. For Sunday I’ll be ready hopefully with the same shape and form as last year."

    Oss did not start the final time trial at De Panne. He has already raced thirty days this year, half as much as he raced in the whole of...

  • Lazer Helmets to debut snap-on Aero Shell cover

    Katusha riders will sport these specially finished polycarbonate helmet covers at Ronde van Vlaanderen to help protect their heads from cold wind and rain.
    Article published:
    April 03, 2010, 12:52 BST
    James Huang

    New tech on display at Flanders

    Katusha team riders will arrive at the 2010 Ronde van Vlaanderen ready for inclement weather with Lazer's new Aero Shell helmet cover. The snap-on polycarbonate skin easily and securely attaches to the company's top-end Helium model with no tools or fasteners – yet is removable on the fly with one hand – and seals all of the upper vents from both wind and water, thus largely eliminating the need for additional hats or skullcaps in many conditions.

    Lazer has equipped the team with special versions of the Aero Shell complete with commemorative 'Ronde van Vlaanderen' graphics but production versions will ultimately come only in clear. Other colors may be pending depending on consumer demand.

    Retail price will range around US$20 and we anticipate these will prove quite popular come 'cross season.